Well it is official - I’m now the CEO of Orbotix (formerly Gearbox) - my 7th company.
Gearbox is a 2010 Boulder Techstars’ “graduate” that I had the incredible opportunity to mentor over the summer. Ian and Adam, the two founders, impressed me so much with their passion and talent that I just found it impossible to stop thinking about their business. We spent a lot of hours over the summer working with each other to focus and refine their idea and during that time we developed a great chemistry. I was honored when they asked me to join their team and today we’re happy to announce that we closed our Series A investment lead by Brad Feld of the Foundry Group.
The idea is simple: we are reinventing the ball. Sounds crazy - so let me explain (mom it is OK if you don’t get it - I tend to make more money on ideas you don’t get).
We all walk around with these incredibly powerful computers in our hands - smartphones like the iPhone and Android. Right now they really only serve as a connection to the virtual world - that is they don’t really control much of the the things we interact with on a day to day basis (actually nothing for most of us). But it seems inevitable that soon - very soon - we’ll be able to control all sorts of things around us. Some things will be common like unlocking doors, changing the channel on the TV and starting cars - but other things - not yet invented, will change our world because we can now separate the compute intensive functions from the physical device. On top of that, the two way communication capabilities will allow us to create inexpensive devices that simply didn’t exist in the past. Think about it - even the most sophisticated remote controls are only one way devices - they send a command and something happens. You change the channel but the remote doesn’t know the channel has changed - it doesn’t even know if it is connected to the TV.
Great so what does all this have to do with balls? Well over the summer Ian and Adam started thinking that simply making your phone a remote control isn’t really a killer app. Most of the apps on the iPhone and Android are games and entertainment - it seems any new device that leverages this powerful computer in your hands will most likely be something that gives the user a new entertainment experience. So they came up with an idea that couldn’t exist before today - they decided to make a robotic ball that is not only controlled by the phone - but now it becomes the object in n number of new games and applications.
It is more than a ball - it is an entertainment platform. We are building an API that lets any app developer control our robotic ball based on what software is running on the phone. Drive the ball through a maze that shows up on your phone but takes place on your living room floor. Then battle your friend by playing a game of sumo on a table top. Play with your cat and have her chase the ball around the house while you control everything from your sofa.
Sounds simple and it should - but it is actually very hard to make on many levels. Basically if we can build and control a ball we can control almost anything.
So we’re just getting going. Checkout our website and blog for progress and follow us on twitter @orbotix.
Now we’re rolling (be prepared for a lot more bad ball jokes).