20 July 2022

5 Untruths About Robotics Startups

beer pong - robotics startups

Let’s face it: tech startups have a tainted reputation. It’s largely the result of stories depicted in film and TV. Emerging companies, run by young techies, engaging in workplace eccentricities. Yet, believe it or not, most are a far-cry from what you see in The Social Network or Silicon Valley. Yes, Dorabot’s startup days may be a thing of the past, but having been there, we think we have some authority to speak to the realities of tech companies in their humble beginnings. Here are some of the bigger myths, and what’s true, about robotics startups. 

Everyone is Overworked in Robotics Companies

This is without a doubt the most common assumption made not only about robotics startups, but startups in general. People will be quick to warn you about the overwhelming or unpredictable hours that come with working at a young tech company. It’s one of the predominant reasons why some people choose to avoid taking a job with any startup. 

To be honest, launching a startup is no easy feat. For many, it does become a high-stress environment with unyielding workloads. It’s true that to succeed it requires a folsom effort from everyone involved, especially in the early stages. However, giving a big effort doesn’t necessarily mean kissing goodbye to any semblance of a work-life balance. 

At Dorabot, we definitely have our “all hands on deck” moments. Those times when we look at the clock, and the calendar, and know that our customers are hungry for the solutions we deliver. But, there’s always a sense of compassion and an understanding that work-life balance is incredibly important. Ours is a company that believes well-rounded people are more likely to be better-rounded engineers. 

The truth is that robotics engineering takes an enormous amount of focus. The best way to design, test and deploy excelling solutions is to do so with people who have ample time to recharge. PTO and flexible work hours are more often encouraged in the robotics industry, from what we’ve seen. The common enemy in any highly focused profession is burnout.

For Robotics Companies, It’s All About the Money

You may think that a robotics startup’s priorities are something like, “funding, funding, and more funding.” This is perpetuated by the common idea of “startup survival,” where it’s all about bringing in money to keep your company afloat. Media depictions paint CEOs of young companies as money hungry above everything else, ready to act as ruthless as necessary in pursuit of cash.

As important as it is to have the resources to keep a company growing, no startup can last without a genuine passion for what they’re doing. A lack of enthusiasm about one’s work always shows, and it’s no different for robotics companies. What we’ve experienced is that engineers love working with robots. It’s hard to imagine a robotics company that thrives simply because it’s fortunate enough to be well funded. Even moreso, it’s highly doubtful that a company overly focused on money can be successful recruiting and retaining top talent.

Fostering innovation, lifting the burdens of businesses and their employees, increasing efficiency in every regard—that’s what robotics engineers chase, not dollar signs. 

Beer Pong and Napping Cells

Don’t get us wrong, around 2-3 PM the idea of a napping cell sounds spectacular! Depictions of Silicon Valley tech companies’ quirky practices are widespread. From using their own entirely-made-up and borderline ridiculous lingo to break rooms stocked with pong tables and Whiteclaws. While some tech companies get a bad rap for intensity, the stereotype of the “all play, work very little” culture is also prominent. For many, the word startup conjures images of 20 year-olds sitting in a basement playing video games and dreaming big.

Most robotics follow a work hard, play hard, within reason, type of philosophy. The truth is that our industry has a pretty good mix of young professionals and those with decades of experience. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate, and the desire to create a new type of workplace, but none of it requires an “over the top” approach. Robotics professionals are like people who work together in other industries. We have team-building events, celebrate milestones and share some good times together. To be honest, we don’t get too crazy. We’re more likely to geek out on tech and appreciate our good fortune to earn a living doing something we love.

At Dorabot, we appreciate stand-up desks that allow us to break up the monotony of sitting. Most of us have friends and families and prefer to reserve our wild times for those types of get-togethers. Maybe we’re just maturing, but it seems to be that people in our industry are pretty well grounded. 

A Few Superstars Do All The Work

Another fear that keeps people from pursuing a career at a startup is the belief that they lack any set team structure. It’s unclear who answers to who and which person is in charge of what, so any hope of an even distribution of work goes out the window. A select few take on what needs to get done while the rest ride on their coattails, taking credit for their efforts. 

“Teamwork makes the dream work” may sound cliche, but it should serve as a mantra for startups. In reality, it takes teamwork for a company to evolve from the startup phase and into the big leagues. Team members who are passionate about their mission will seek out places where they can help, rather than sitting by and watching others do the heavy lifting.

In the world of robotics, there are no superstars. It’s a team game. You can’t build a great system without mechanical knowhow, software savvy and a ton of testing. A win is always a team win, and the fear of failure is a healthy team motivator.

All Robotics Companies are the Same

Like all other stereotypes, the idea that all robotics companies are the same is simply false. Robotics startups are a reflection of the individuals who lead them. Of course, they operate in unique ways. It may be easy for outsiders to miss the unique value each company brings, but spend a little time in the industry and it soon becomes clear.

Robotics companies don’t all compete with one another. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and areas of focus that others don’t. Some robotics companies develop systems that are entirely focused on inbound processes. Others on order fulfillment and various ecommerce tasks. While others are focused on wholly unique aspects of the supply chain needs of the industries they serve. Just imagine how different a company that builds robots for food manufacturing is from one that moves materials within the automotive industry. 

Outside of each company’s area of focus is their own individual set of values, and a mission. Every company, even the youngest of them, possesses a company culture that is unique. Yes, there are commonalities between robotics companies. Each seeks to be a catalyst for change. Each strives to bring efficiency and improvement to the workplace, whatever that workplace may be.

So, if this is an industry that runs on innovation, how can we be innovative if we are carbon copies of one another? Every robotics company wants to stand out, not figure out how to blend in with others.

Surprised? Not all of what you hear about robotics startups is true. For every weird and wild story, there are countless quietly successful companies. Robotics requires a level of dedication that comes from being excited about being a role player, not a superstar. The companies that thrive don’t have eccentric toys, but they may have eccentric people—those who are unafraid to envision a better future. It’s not about money or fame, working with robots is about building something great. At least, that’s how it looks to us here at Dorabot.