Author: Michael Green
I’ve been following the progress of a local american company for a few years now. It’s been because of a mixture of professional and personal interest in seeing what they’re up to. This company is called Travelmate Robotics and it was founded in the Las Vegas valley. What follows is an interesting tale of a robot companion that was born as a prototype and progressed into being mass produced. It’s a company that faced hardship and earned success.
Travelmate Robotics launched with a prototype for an autonomous robot suitcase on indiegogo back in 2017. Even back then, they were very ambitious. They developed a new type of autonomous movement system that wasn’t based on lidar or camera vision. Instead, the travelmaterobotics.com robot would be tethered to your phone via bluetooth and use proprietary sensors to follow you. Since then, they have patented this technology. This new movement system alone, makes the company stand out, as I’m sure that other companies will want to license out their tech.
During their indiegogo raise, Travelmate marketed their suitcase as a fully featured robot assistant, which is what it really is. Remarkably, 95% of the robot is empty space which fits your stuff. Their indiegogo was a big success and garnered a lot of media coverage from around the world. That begs the question, what has happened since? Why don’t we see more of these robots roaming around airports and towns?
Since their indiegogo raise, they have managed to raise around 1.5 million USD from angel investors. This has enabled them to go from a prototype, to gaining 12 separate suppliers. Most companies contract Chinese manufacturers to make their product for them and I imagine that Travelmate tried the same at first.
If they did, then they likely faced the same problem that Tesla and Apple did back in the day. That is, when you have complex new tech like an electric car, a robot assistant or the first iphone, then the infrastructure just does not exist to make this tech. You have to create that infrastructure. This is where most projects of this type fail. Especially ambitious ones that create a new market or upend that market.
In Travelmate’s case, they realized this issue and opened their own assembly plant in Thailand right as the pandemic was kicking off last year. This was a smart move that gave them independence and flexibility to make their products.
To recap, Travelmate was able to go from a prototype, to a complex supply chain and their own factory with just 1.5 million in capital raised. That is amazing. This amount of money may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t when you take into account salaries, rent, inventory, cost of goods sold, research and development. And in that time, they have also been able to develop new robots that specialize in cargo, medicine and golf.
I imagine that they haven’t been able to get more than a few hundred units to customer’s hands, just because of the pandemic and the global chip shortage. However, their future looks extremely bright. To bring up the comparison to Tesla again, before they went public, they delivered almost no roadsters. Now, they have the highest market value of any major automotive company, electric or otherwise.
Yet Travelmate is in a better position, despite having comparatively less funding, if you compare both companies when they were at the same stage. I may be jumping the gun a little bit, but I think Travelmate Robotics may be the first successful high tech robotics company to come out of Las Vegas. I’m going to enthusiastically keep track of them, because I think that they will become a much bigger company in the near future. I just hope that they stay in the U.S. and expand manufacturing here!