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From startup to acquisition: A founder’s story

Today I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Misty Robotics has been acquired by Furhat Robotics. When Tim Enwall, Misty’s CEO, and I first talked to Samer Al Moubayed, Furhat’s CEO, in the Summer of 2021 we were both blown away by how closely the vision of Samer and the Furhat team matched our own vision for social robotics. We also realized it wasn’t only the long-term vision we were closely aligned on, but the path to how we achieve that vision alongside you, our customers, and other fans of robots. My first two thoughts coming out of that initial call were, “Why weren’t we talking to this great team years ago?” and, “How can we find a way to work closely with them to achieve our shared vision?” I’m so excited we found a way.

Going back to the Summer of 2014 I was sitting on the patio of Golden Road Brewery in Los Angeles, CA with my Sphero co-founder Adam Wilson. It was a typical, beautiful sunny day in LA, and we were there for the summer participating in the Disney Accelerator where we had just started to prototype the Sphero Star Wars BB-8. Adam and I started discussing how we could get more robots out into the world and how we wanted to build a real BB-8 or a real R2-D2—not one that physically looked like them but a robot that was both useful to people and a great companion, like R2-D2 was to Luke Skywalker or BB-8 to Poe Dameron. It wasn’t the first time we had talked about a robot like this—we had both grown up watching Rosie in the Jetsons and dreamed of a day when robots like this would become a reality. But, what made this conversation different, tangible, and exciting was that we started to realize the technology we would need was actually becoming available, and it just might be possible.

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After the production lines were spinning and BB-8 was shipping for Force Friday 2015 (a celebration of the release of Star Wars Episode VII), we finally had time to revisit the idea that hadn’t left our minds since that day in Los Angeles. We started to work with Kyle Wheeler, an amazing artist on our team, to concept what a more advanced robot might look like. We built prototypes and developed control software with engineering genius Dave Hygh, who had written a good portion of the original Sphero firmware. As our excitement grew, we expanded the team with higher-level application software engineers like Morgan Bell, who brought critical experience to the group.

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As the team continued to grow, we realized this ambitious project was going to take all the energy we had. So, in May 2017 six of us spun out of Sphero and into a new company we quickly named NewCo Robotics. At the time of the spinout, Tim Enwall, an experienced entrepreneur and executive in the hardware space, joined as our CEO and helped us develop our branding identity complete with a new name— Misty Robotics. Meanwhile, in an office just down the street from Sphero, we forged full steam ahead on product work, engineering, hiring, and all the other necessary components for building a hardware business.

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We knew that creating a robot for the home and office would be extremely difficult, but we also knew it initially wouldn’t have to do everything, it just needed to do enough to be useful for a handful of tasks. We intentionally created a robot with a friendly design that people wouldn’t be uncomfortable interacting with, a size that also wasn’t threatening, and features like mapping/navigation, voice interaction, and object recognition. We also went to great lengths to make it programmable via APIs and SDKs with the ability to easily add in other hardware or sensors if needed.


In the Summer of 2018, through a crowdfunding campaign, we had our first ~500 customers, and in September of 2019 the first production units made their way to our backers. Because it was a very complex product, we released units in small batches, and by early 2020 we had completed shipments to our backers and customers— who quickly started to share skills with each other— and started building out new company ideas and product lines around the Misty II robot. Then COVID hit. It was a very vulnerable time for us, and like it did for many companies around the globe, it hurt. The pandemic slowed down the company for over a year, primarily because it stalled our customers for this time period. Excited customers that were just kicking off new projects went into firefighting mode and pulled back, as they struggled to learn how to survive in a COVID world. We used that time to continue building out functionality for Misty and we also built out an end use case of our own, the Misty Temperature Screening Assistant.

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By 2021, customers were coming back and really amazing projects were being built. The work done by the St. Vrain School District was incredibly powerful in showing how impactful robots can be with kids with special needs. Misty was also being tested in the homes of senior citizens in Barcelona to help keep elderly people in their homes and out of nursing facilities. Companies like rerobots were building out tools that allowed anyone in the world to log into a Misty remotely, like a real-life development simulator. Then, we met the incredible team at Furhat Robotics.

Furhat, founded in 2014 and based in Stockholm, Sweden, is a pioneer in the social robotics and conversational AI space. Their robot, Furhat, has a friendly face and gives users a familiar way to communicate with the conversational AI powering the use case. I had followed them from afar for some time but never realized how closely our paths were tracking each other in parallel—we really couldn’t have found a better company than Furhat to join forces with. 

Moving forward, in addition to their own products, Furhat will continue to support all of Misty’s customers, manage new sales, and bring innovative functionality to Misty using their powerful technology solutions. I will be moving into an advisory role and look forward to supporting the unification process of these two forward-thinking companies.

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This is a really exciting time, and I want to take the opportunity to thank all of Misty’s customers, supporters, investors, and our incredibly committed team. It has been a rollercoaster ride over the past five years, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. We spun Misty out of Sphero in May of 2017, built a world-class team, brought Misty from an idea to full production, and we’ve worked with incredible customers to build out their applications. But, above all, I’m beyond excited for everything that is still yet to come. Thank you again!

Sincerely,

Ian Bernstein

Founder, Misty Robotics

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