January 21, 2015      

Wealth of riches: “Some of the country’s biggest and best retailers want to carry Jibo; we’re going to be selective and make sure Jibo sits on the right shelf.”

In Vegas it’s called the jackpot!

Jibo started life with a $5 million investment, then pulled in another $2.3 million from an Indigogo crowdfunding, Jibo, World’s First Family Robot. 4,800 pre-sold! and has now just bagged another $25M. Talk about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth, this little robot is a veritable greenback machine.

“It’s going to be something the world’s never seen before.” —Steven Chambers, new CEO, Jibo, Inc.

The reason: the machine looks and acts like a winner; it has a winning design–and everyone knows it! Cynthia Breazeal (founder and former now-CEO of Jibo) was with us for our half-day conference on consumer robotics at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015, where we tabbed personal robots as the next breakout category for 2015.

See related: CES 2015: Strategy for Making Lots of Money in Robotics

Previously at CES 2014, we picked exoskeletons, and wow, what an exciting year wearable robots had. Not because of us so much, but because exo’s time had come. Jibo’s has as well. The packed house for 2015’s half-day session’s first hour witnessed Cynthia’s Jibo genesis story and next steps (See related story above). In rapt attention, her audience nodded in agreement and smiled. The unspoken reason for all that palpable attention and awe, of course: each knew that this robot was going to be a big winner. If she had passed the hat, it would have been returned full.

“Social robots engage people unlike any other technology,” says Breazeal. “You experience Jibo as a someone, not as a something. We live in a world where our devices provide us with a lot of data and the human engagement side is missing.”

That audience wasn’t alone: CRV, Flybridge Capital Partners, Two Sigma Investments, Formation 8, Samsung Ventures, Fairhaven Capital, Osage Venture Partners and a few angel investors also had listened well to the siren call of family robots, their potential, and how Jibo was the first of its kind. Kaching! $ 25 million suddenly popped into Jibo’s cookie jar.

The Boston Business Journal had this to add: Jibo, Inc. “The Weston, MA-based maker of a social robot by the same name, has raised $25.3 million in Series A venture funding and appointed a former Nuance Communications executive as its CEO.

“The investment round will help the company ramp up manufacturing, hire employees, invest in technology and move into a new headquarters in Boston, according to company executives.

“We’re thrilled about the round,” said the company’s new CEO, Steven Chambers, who was serving as Jibo Inc.’s executive chairman for about a year”

The latest influx of cash brings total funding to date for the company to about $30 million.

The company is seeking to move into between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet of space in the Boston area by the end of 2016. This year, it plans to grow headcount from 15 to about 50, including hiring a head of manufacturing and operations and several hardware and software developers and user experience designers.

build jibo

“Jibo Inc. also plans to invest in technology that could help developers simulate Jibo and program the robot for their own uses.

“It’s the very first step in that developer community to inspire them,” Chambers said in an interview.

“Chambers said the company will begin shipping the robot to consumers late this year (2015), and Jibo the social robot will hit shelves at “major” e-commerce retailers and brick-and-mortar stores beginning 2016.

“Some of the country’s biggest and best retailers want to carry Jibo,” he said, declining to name them. “We’re going to be selective and make sure Jibo sits on the right shelf.”

Chambers held numerous executive-level positions at Nuance Communications including president of sales and marketing, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of worldwide sales and president of the company’s speech division.

“He said he’s thrilled about the potential for Jibo, a six-pound robot that is capable of many tasks including acting as a personal assistant and an “on-demand cameraman,” picking up on cues like movement, speech commands and smiles to know when someone’s posing for a picture.

“The crowdfunding campaign showed tremendous enthusiasm by consumers for having a robot with this type of expressive personality in their homes … and the vision for the product is that we really build and capitalize on all that appeal,” Chambers said. Jibo’s founder and previous CEO, former MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal, will now be the company’s chief scientist. “This allows us to really focus on where our strengths are,” Breazeal said.