Table of contents
- Andromeda Robotics
- Founders - Grace Brown & Tasnim Ahmed
- Melbourne, Australia & Boston, Massachusetts US
- Started in 2022
- 1 (total team size is 3)
- Raised a total of $500k in funding from accelerators, VCs, angels, and grants.
Hey Grace. What’s your backstory?
I grew up in Brisbane and moved to Melbourne for university. I’ve had a lifelong passion for maths and engineering and decided to pursue mechatronics engineering at the University of Melbourne.
When I was younger, I always assumed I would grow up and become a mathematician (I am still a self-proclaimed mathematician). Still, I ended up pursuing engineering as I fell in love with building and programming in high school.
Before becoming a founder, I worked at various Australian space startups that primarily focused on building satellite technology.
As an intern, I was tasked with building a prototype reaction wheel that was used to stabilise a nanosatellite in low-earth orbit. The prototype I built ended up being used and put into production.
This was a fairly significant career achievement, especially for an intern. I quickly fell in love with the industry and learned so much from some of the best leaders in the industry. Those early lessons learnt, I still apply within my own startup today.
What does your company do?
Our robotics startup aims to enhance healthcare through the use of assistive humanoid robots.
Our first prototype, Abi, is an endearing, multi-talented humanoid robot. Abi is designed to help vulnerable demographics, such as the elderly or disability sector, maintain their independence, learn, and socialise.
She assists older adults in assisted living facilities and children in hospitals with daily tasks. She offers social and cognitive support to improve their well-being and overall quality of life.
Abi’s purpose is twofold. First, she is a social artificial intelligence (AI) companion for residents and patients. She is a friend who listens and cares.
Secondly, she is a 24/7 assistant for nurses and carers. She is designed to take on lower-priority care needs such as disinfecting benches, dispensing medication, locating items in a room etc. so that nurses and carers can focus their time on higher-priority care needs and actually caring for patients.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea to start building Abi was inspired by the increasing need for companionship following Melbourne’s covid19 lockdowns and the potential for robotics to meet that need.
I also found I had a lot more time on my hands during this period and wanted to make the most of it to learn as much as I can about robotics. What better way to do that than by building your own humanoid robot?
How did you go about building and launching the business?
The idea for Abi, our humanoid robot companion for aged-care facilities, began as a passion project during our undergraduate engineering studies.
We recruited a multidisciplinary team of engineering students at the Melbourne Space Program who all wanted to build something technically challenging yet fun on their weekends.
As we delved deeper into the project, we realised that Abi had the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for isolated individuals. We decided to turn the project into a business and continue developing Abi to pursue this goal.
We were unsure how to turn our student project into a business. We applied to various startup programs, including Blackbird's Wild Futures and the Velocity Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), which helped us learn the foundations of launching a startup.
This included topics such as building an MVP (minimal viable product), speaking with customers and obtaining product-market fit. We were also accepted into Startmate's Winter cohort, which greatly accelerated our growth and business development.
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
We’ve gained a lot of valuable insights as we’ve grown our business. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is the importance of finding a balance between product development and building relationships with customers and investors.
It’s crucial to keep both moving forward at a steady pace because they are mutually dependent. Without customer feedback or investors to pitch to, a great product alone will not be enough.
On the other hand, it can be difficult to secure the support you need to grow without a solid product to back up your pitch.
While some successful startups have secured funding based on a compelling idea alone. In our experience, pitching a business idea without a physical prototype can be challenging.
That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a balance between product development and building relationships.
What's next for you and your business?
We closed our pre-seed round just before the new year, so we are looking to grow our product before starting paid pilot trials later in the year with aged-care homes and hospitals. We are also currently hiring our first engineers, which is really exciting!
What digital tools do you use regularly?
From a business and tea management side, we use:
- Canva (great for pitch deck building and social media)
- Xero (management for our expenses + budgets)
- Miro (team brainstorming and planning)
- Trello (task tracking and sprint planning)
- Slack (communication)
- Airtable (store and share documents)
- When2meet (plan unscheduled team meetings)
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
The Great CEO Within - Matt Mochary
Zero to One - Peter Thiel (classic!)
7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Steven Covey
Working Backwards - Colin Bryar & Bill Carr
Essentialism - Greg McKeown
The elephant in the brain - Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson
The ones above just list a few of my favourites! There are so many great books out there. I struggle to decide which book to read on a regular basis and have found myself indulging in 4 books at once 🙃
Any podcast/websites that help you run your business?
How I built this with Guy Raz
Y combinator (they always provide really great lessons)
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders
The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett
I usually search for podcasts with specific people (i.e., people I come across on LinkedIn who have usually made a post or shared their opinion on something that really resonated with me. I’ll usually binge all their podcast interviews).
Any quotes you live by?
“Wake up with determination and go to bed with satisfaction"
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
Being a founder is an exciting and rewarding journey filled with opportunities for innovation, creativity, and impact.
You get the chance to build something from the ground up, shape the company's direction, and see the results of your hard work come to life.
You'll have the autonomy to make decisions that align with your vision and values and the satisfaction of growing a successful business that makes a difference in the world. It's not without its challenges, though.
As a founder, you'll have to be prepared to take risks, handle pressure, and overcome obstacles. But that's part of the thrill of being a founder, the feeling of accomplishment when you persevere through these challenges and achieve success is truly unmatched.
What do you do to look after your mental health while being a founder?
When it comes to taking care of my mental and physical well-being, I'm a firm believer in the power of the basics.
Regular exercise, healthy eating, catching those precious Z’s or taking a step back to relax and unwind.
I know for a fact that investing in these simple yet essential habits is crucial for my overall performance.
Of course, like anyone, I have my fair share of moments when work takes over, and I fall off the wagon, but I always make it a point to get back on track and give my body and mind the TLC it needs to thrive.
After all, when I'm feeling my best, I can crush my to-do list and make things happen.
In a few words, sum up what it means to be the founder of a business.
"Being the founder of a business involves taking on multiple roles, one of which is that of a salesperson. You are responsible for promoting your product to customers, presenting your company vision to investors, and showcasing the innovative work and team culture to potential employees."
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
"It's important to establish a supportive network and rely on it during difficult times."
Starting a business can be incredibly challenging, and inevitably there will be difficult lows.
Having a support group in place can make a significant difference in getting through these mental and emotional challenges.
It's something that is often overlooked, but it's essential for your well-being and the success of your startup.