35 minutes | Jul 11th 2020

IAM Robotics: Tom Galluzzo

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Tom Galluzzo, Founder & CEO of IAM Robotics, joins us to explain how vital robotics is in supply chain– especially as ecommerce continues increasing.Danny:Alright, so let’s jump into today’s Executive Series interview. I have Mr. Tom Galluzzo, who is the founder and CEO of IAM Robotics. Tom, thank you so much for joining me today.Tom:Thanks Danny really appreciate it.Danny:So I’m excited to jump in and into this episode and learn more about you and about IAM Robotics. So for those who aren’t familiar with IAM Robotics. What do you guys do? I have a venture I have a guess but–Tom:Yeah, so we do autonomous robots for warehousing. And our robots are designed. We have the only robots that are what we call autonomous mobile manipulation robots. The robots are able to drive around the warehouse, and they can actually find and grasp things. So they travel around the warehouse just like a person would when you’re walking around trying to find items to pick when people order things for ecommerce and so forth. The robot actually goes to the individual location, grabs an item, picks it off the shelf. And that’s amazing basically IAM Robotics and that’s so.Danny:Awesome. So we’re going to jump into all the… there’s a huge growth obviously right now, huge talk about automation, digital transformation, all that good stuff. And we’ll get into that here a little bit but before we jump into that I want to learn a little bit more about Tom. I want to learn more about you and your backgrounds. How you got in this industry. Take me back take me take me way back.Tom:Way back.Danny:How did you–Tom:Way back.Danny:How did you get into this?Tom:So I started out my career as an aerospace engineer. I went to school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.Danny:Oh, nice.Tom:I thought I wanted to go planes and rockets and stuff like that. I did my first internship at Boeing. And that was a great experience, but I got to realize that these aerospace projects are really huge. And when I was at school I got a chance to work on some club robotic stuff and we thought we were going to do this drones. We called them UAB back in the day. But we were too afraid of flying and crashing a drone. So we got into these robots that would actually just drive around the ground, basically like miniature, driverless cars. And I just fell in love with the challenge and difficulty of the problem and how much you had to use robotics, AI, computer vision, all that stuff.So that set my career on a course for robotics. And I went to Grad School in robotics where I got to really work on some amazing, really amazing stuff. Back in 2004 and 2005 there was this really huge competition in robotics called the DARPA Grand Challenge. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it but it’s basically it was the first big step into driverless cars. And so my school was one of the schools participating. I was at University of Florida at the time and we actually decided to enter the DARPA Grand Challenge. So it was a really big milestone event in robotics in general. And that was very exciting. And then I ultimately went to Carnegie Mellon University after school to work on more projects for DARPA and then just fell in love with really hard challenging product problems in robotics.Danny:That’s awesome. So you are from- good story, but what I heard is that you basically you’re a rocket scientist. Is that is that what I heard?Tom:I really wanted to do rocket science. Yes it was everyone when we were graduating at the time everyone bought these t-shirts that said, “Well yes, actually I am a rocket scientist,” so–Danny:That’s awesome. See, that, I would almost want to… I don’t have the brain for that at all. I would fail- but just for that, that’s just a great story, a great thing that you could totally use, so… But all jokes, all kidding aside. Tell me, walk me through a little bit of the… you founding IAM Robotics. What was sort of the impetus for that?Tom:Yeah it’s a good question. So at the time this is going back around 2010 I was on a project at Carnegie Mellon working on a project for DARPA as I mentioned. This project was another kind of competition but it was called ARMS. And it stood for autonomous robotic manipulation software. So what we were doing at the time was DARPA. I’m not sure if you’re familiar but is kind of like the R&D group of the Department of Defense.Danny:Yeah.Tom:And they built five identical humanoid robots and they gave them to various teams across the country. And they said here’s the hardware. We want you guys to build the software that basically brings these robots to life. So they took arms and hands and they bolted them all together. But the robots didn’t do anything without the software.Danny:Right.Tom:So our job at Carnegie Mellon was how do you build a robot software that enables a robot to look around on a table, find items, pick them up, move them around completely by itself. And we got pretty good at that. We found that we could actually get robots to see things, grab things, plan how to move them around, pick them up and place them. And so I’m just naturally entrepreneurial. And I started thinking about where in industry are people just effectively being used as just object movers go to a spot, I find an object, I pick it up and I move it. And that led us really quickly to ecommerce and piece picking. And so we started talking with some business owners and they love the idea of robots driving around their warehouses, finding items on shelves, kind of been an industry dream for the past four years, to take AGV robots and put an arm on top and have the robot actually do the picking. So that’s the challenge that we went after. And it’s been incredibly fun and difficult and exciting. And we’ve become now the first company in history to actually deploy mobile manipulation robots that can drive around and find things and grasp them by themselves.Danny:That’s awesome. So alright, obviously an entrepreneurial spirit is there in order to do this. Not just anybody goes and starts a company and whatnot. Did you have that background before? I mean- by background, I mean: were you predisposed to that through growing up? Or was that a foreign thing to you or something that you were very familiar with?Tom:Entrepreneurship?Danny:Yeah.Tom:Yeah I did. I’ve always had that kind of drive for whatever reason to go off and do my own thing. When I was 10 years old I started a business doing magic shows for kids birthday parties. And my mom would help hand out flyers and stuff and get me gigs to go do magic and actually bought my first Nintendo from the from the money that I–Danny:That’s awesome.Tom:Yeah it was basically my motivation. I wanted to get a Nintendo so I had to start a company. But yeah, and then my dad, he actually studies as a pharmacist and he started his own pharmacy when he was 50 years old. And so he kind of had that spirit. And it inspired me to branch out and do my own things as well.Danny:That’s awesome. And the reason why I asked that is because I think that it’s… it’s interesting when we talk to a lot of different founders about what the story is and it’s funny of some, we’re predisposed and had that and others didn’t I know that in my case, because I guess I would consider myself an entrepreneur- because I am. Yeah, I didn’t have that career. It’s funny kind of funny where you mentioned as a kid that you did magic. I just didn’t realize this till later that I had that, I had that entrepreneurial spirit. And I actually did kind of make some money but probably not as gracefully as you did as a magician. I realized later that I became a broker or maybe a distributor. And what I would do is… This is horrible, this is so bad. I would… ice cream, I had the job of collecting the money for the ice cream for lunch when I was probably in third grade.Tom:Yeah.Danny:And so I figured out, I knew that every day there was an average about seven kids that would get ice cream. So I just basically printed off a new- or figured out a new ice cream chart or whatever and just added like 25 cents or whatever it was to each price. And then I knew that anyway it was as long as I collected enough, I can get some ice cream out of that and nobody would ever be none the wiser. Fast forward, I ended up getting my degree in accounting. Now I understand why, so- but I don’t practice it because I realized that was probably a little fraudulent. So anyways, that was too much about me. So, but no, I think it’s– it’s super interesting. So, alright… walk me through the moment I think every entrepreneur has the… they have an idea. And not just one- you have tons. But specifically IAM robotics you had this thing. And it wasn’t just a fly by night decision that you made to say hey I’m going to go start this company. It’s something that you probably thought of and kind of maybe stewed and it took some time to kind of develop. Walk me through that moment in your mind when you said I’m going to do this.Tom:Yeah there was probably multiple moments where I said I’m going to do the same because as this evolved the definition of what this is.Danny:Yeah.Tom:When we started out, we were having… I was on that DARPA project. We were having a lot of difficulties with the robot arm that we were using at the time and we thought, there’s got to be– we’ve got to be able to make a better robot arm than this. And so we started looking at potentially doing that and we were excited about that opportunity. And we thought maybe the challenge isn’t so much building the arm but it’s what you can do with the
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