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Meet Sean Bielat of Endeavor Robotics in Chelmsford

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sean Bielat.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I became interested in service as a child. My father served in the Air Force, all my uncles and both my grandfathers were veterans as well. I attended Georgetown University to learn more about government and policy and, after graduation, joined the United States Marine Corps. This experience taught me so much about being a good leader, a good listener and most importantly, a good team member. I built relationships that would last a lifetime and it gave me invaluable work ethic and an appreciation for life itself.

After my service, I attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, followed by Wharton School of Business. While consulting for McKinsey & Company, I stumbled upon iRobot Corporation. This was in 2006 when many American troops were stationed overseas and the government had a huge need for robots that could detect and dismantle IEDs. iRobot was incredibly successful at engineering, building, and distributing military ground robots at a really critical moment in American history. I wanted to be a part of this work and I started as director of business development.

Fast forward to today. After a short time in politics coupled with a decade of active and reserve military experience, in early 2016, I helped take iRobot’s defense division private and created a new, standalone company. Now, I’m CEO of Endeavor Robotics, the largest independent supplier of ground robots to the United States Department of Defense.

Has it been a smooth road?
(Laughs) No. When a run for office or active military duty appears on anyone’s resume you can assume, the road has been bumpy at some point.

Here at Endeavor Robotics, we face different challenges as a niche defense technology provider. The United States Department of Defense is our largest client and while that is an honor, it also brings a lot of challenges. There are long lead times and a lot of competition for a limited number of contracts. It’s a very spikey business – with dry spells followed by furious demand. Because of that unpredictability we are working in new sectors that need robotics, including those in the energy and industrial markets, like nuclear plants and large electrical or chemical storage facilities.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Endeavor Robotics story. Tell us more about the business.
Endeavor Robotics is the largest independent supplier of ground robots in the world.

The robots we make are unmanned ground robots (UGVs) which in layman’s terms means that they are remote controlled. Their use is what makes them so important: to create a line of defense between a human and a potentially life-threatening situation.

By the numbers, we have approximately 100 employees, have manufactured more than 6,000 robots, and have distributed to over 40 countries. Plus, 100% of our products are designed, engineered, manufactured, and supported in the United States.

Our customers are primarily industrial workers, police officers, SWAT teams and military personnel and they use this technology to investigate explosive devices (IEDs), communicate or negotiate in hostage situations, or to get a first-look at potentially dangerous situations without putting a human life at risk.

Most of our robots are used in active military situations, like looking for roadside bombs. But there are many other applications. For example, volunteers in Texas reached out last week following Hurricane Harvey requesting a robot that they could use to enter damaged buildings to look for stranded animals in flooded areas. In 2011, we sent robots to Japan to assess the danger in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the damage caused by a hurricane and tsunami.

There are a lot of things to be proud of at Endeavor but I think I speak for all that our pride comes from our client service. When we get that phone call from a military member saying “your robot saved this soldiers’ life today” or from a SWAT member saying “this mission was successful because of your robot” it just doesn’t get any more gratifying.

And what sets us apart is two-fold; our experience and our commitment to building the U.S. robotics industry. We employ the best roboticists in the world. They are the brains and the ‘secret sauce’ lies with our military staff. Over 20-percent of Endeavor Robotics staffers are veterans. From experience, they can tell us exactly how each robot should move, what its capabilities should include, even what color it should be. Their input is invaluable.

Endeavor Robotics other major differentiator is our commitment to keeping our business 100-percent American. All of our R&D, manufacturing and staff is based here in the United States. Much of our competition is foreign owned or designed and developed overseas; we are really proud of our fully American identity.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Without question, the robotics industry is gearing toward more autonomous technology. There is an incredible demand among commercial consumers to have technology that thinks and acts on its own; self-driving vehicles to warehouse robots. In 2002, the Roomba, an autonomous vacuum is what put iRobot on the map as a household name – it wasn’t the fact they were creating these amazing military robots, it was for that cool little vacuum.

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