Challenges in Robotics – Fast-growing Colorado-based PickNik Robotics developed a platform that makes robots
Challenges in Robotics – If a robot one day helps you make breakfast or change a diaper, there’s a good chance PickNik Robotics had a hand in it.
The Boulder, Colorado-based company develops software that makes robots smarter, allowing them to make better decisions and perform tasks more intelligently.
Hardware is the easy part when it comes to robotics. “There are a lot of companies that have been providing decent robot arms for a couple of decades now,” says PickNik founder and CEO Dave Coleman. “The real challenge is making them smarter.”
Tackling this difficult problem has mined a huge business opportunity. PickNik earned $2.2 million in revenue in 2020, giving it a three-year growth rate of 966 percent and helping it land at No. 505 on this year’s Inc. 5000 list. Coleman says the company’s clients have included NASA, Google, Amazon, and robotics upstarts like Kindred and Plus One Robotics.
Coleman interned at robotics startup Willow Garage back in 2010. The young company employed many of the industry’s brightest minds: Early staffers went on to found companies like Savioke, which makes bots for the hotel industry, and Zipline, a manufacturer of drones meant to deliver blood and other medical supplies to remote areas.
“That was really the starting point of my whole career,” says Coleman, “being surrounded by all these amazing roboticists.”
During his time at Willow Garage, Coleman worked on creating open-source software that powered robotic arms. After the company folded in 2014, he continued developing the platform, earning money by consulting for clients on how to use it in conjunction with their robots. Demand was so great that he decided to form a business based on the software the following year.
When combined with PickNik’s platform, a robotic arm that previously used to, say, pick up and put down components in factories suddenly is able to better negotiate its environment.