Forbes?Dmitry Grishin, founder of Russia’s Mail.ru, believes that the time is right to invest in robotics technology, and help bring robots to the mass market. He believes in it so much that he recently announced the launch of a $25 million venture fund geared toward bringing robots to daily life.
Grishin is a robotics enthusiast, having studied robotics and complex automation at the State Technical University in Moscow. He says that in recent years most technological advancements have focused on the Internet and similar software -related applications.
Grishin’s launch looks to be a bit on the risky side–even he acknowledges that this is a relatively new field, and that it could be years before any of the initiatives the fund undertakes pay off–but with a wide open space, and the proven success of iRobot’s line of Roombas and various military applications still in the making, there is a great potential here for Grishin Robotics to do some very impressive things.
The fund will be headquartered in New York, but invest globally in areas such as home maintenance, healthcare, education, entertainment?basically any mass consumer market. Grishin remains the head of Mail.ru and will have investors handling day-to-day operations of Grishin Robotics. ?I?m a big believer that robotics will be the next huge industry,? says Grishin.
The robotics industry now is where the personal computing industry was in the 1980s: ripe for mainstream adoption and poised for massive growth, Grishin says. Technology has advanced to make production of robotics much cheaper now.
While it took perhaps $100,000 to build a robot 30 years ago, now it can be built for a fraction of that cost, he says, pointing to things like Smartphone technology, 3d scanners and Microsoft?s Kinect platform. Now much manufacturing can also be outsourced to Asia cheaply, he says. ?People have been dreaming about robotics for the last 40 years, but the key issue was it was very expensive to build robots,? he says.
While there have been major innovation in Internet, Smartphones and personal computing, Grishin believes innovation has been lacking in ?offline? areas that affect people?s everyday lives. He pointed to areas such as air travel and cars, which haven?t advanced as dramatically as other industries. In robotics, there are companies such as iRobot, but there is no clear leader in the industry, he says.
For many venture investors, betting on robotics is not palatable because it is quite risky and can take longer than the typical five to seven years to develop a company. So Grishin?s fund will invest in small to medium sized companies, hoping not only to help build big companies but also bring more interest to the industry, he says. Grishin says he could have taken outside investors for the fund, but decided to just use his own capital for now in order to give himself flexibility in the fund.
If more companies get into the field, like Grishin Robotics, then the chances of innovation increase steadily as more companies work on ventures, and more companies play off each other’s advancements to yield further advancements from there. The end result is more, better, and cheaper robots that do more things, and make the overall robotics market more competitive, which in turn is almost always a good sign for consumers.