"When Will I Receive Jennie?" CEO Tom Stevens, Explains
by Tombot Robotics
I’m Tom Stevens, CEO and Co-Founder of Tombot. We’ve created Jennie, who is a fully interactive robotic emotional support animal, and she’ll be the first affordable robotic companion to be FDA-regulated.
Without question, the most frequent inquiry we receive is: when will waitlist customers get their robots? I was able to answer this question in detail during our recent “Weekly Office Hours” - a weekly meeting where we discuss Tombot activities.
Outsourcing Engineering Activities
We reached a major funding milestone last spring, which allowed us to move forward with certain large expenses. One of the strategic decisions we made was to outsource certain engineering activities.
Jennie is a prototype. She's a fifth-generation prototype, and she is what we call a “high-fidelity” prototype, meaning she looks and behaves great - much like the production version. However, her insides are not production-ready, as she is rather fragile.
There's an important engineering process called “production engineering” that prepares robot designs to survive robust handling to pass safety certifications, and ultimately, be efficient to manufacturing scale.
We chose to outsource mechanical and certain electrical engineering elements. We've kept all the software control systems and the data management systems in-house.
Related video: Engineering Updates and Q3 Goals
Reasons for OutsourcingThere are two main reasons to outsource. First, until recently, we were relatively weak at mechanical engineering. And also, Jennie is the first of her kind, so there are a lot of tricky details to work out - particularly in the neck, which gives her tremendous expressiveness. This is why we retained the services of a production engineering firm. Of the five million that we're raising now, two million of our spend will be on the mechanical and electrical engineering elements.
We hit the funding milestone last spring in order to begin those activities. And then looking at our milestones, we made a mechanical engineering addition to our team. This engineer facilitates the liaison between Tombot and the production engineering firm. We were able to successfully begin production engineering in August.
Our first milestone will come in October, when we achieve high-level architectures for all of what we refer to as “first-order” engineering challenges. “First order” means that there is not an obvious approach or existing product. You're basically engineering from scratch.
“Second order” means that there is an approach that makes sense, and “third order” means there are existing products that we can plug in. A good example of an existing product might be a processor chip. We're not making those - we'll be licensing them - just like everybody else in the world licenses computer chips.
The third-order engineering takes existing componentry and plugs it in. Contrastingly, first order is really a blank piece of paper, and we really have to invent something in order for it to work. And the good news is that's going very well: we’re on time and on budget for finishing that phase - our first-order engineering work - next month.
Future Major Milestones
The next major milestone will be alpha production testing in the spring of 2022. “Alpha” means that it looks like and works like the final version. Now, alpha isn't really ready for primetime play, but it will be the first of the versions that comes close. Alpha testing is done with internal resources.
Once we're satisfied, we then go to beta testing. Beta testing will be the first large scale testing of our robots in the field. These tests will be conducted at home with individuals - in assisted living facilities, skilled-nursing facilities, and other locations that are set up to do beta-testing work.
Lastly, we're looking at the summer of 2023 for the very first production Jennie. These will be the first products that we've ever provided to a customer for sale. By fall, we will have shipped 1000 units. And then once we've hit that milestone, we'll raise another round of funding.
This will be a very large round of funding, called our series A, to scale the business. We will be able to bring on additional engineering and operations people working on our next product in the pipeline. This will also include funding the sales and marketing efforts of the company so that we can start producing at very high volumes and get them out to our customers.
Invest in Tombot on StartEngine!
I want to take a moment to thank you for reading today. As we continue to build and grow Tombot, we want to make sure you, our investors, stay involved in the process!
We have Weekly Office Hours, where I host an hour-long webinar. This is an opportunity to provide you updates, and give you a chance to ask us about Tombot or investing.
Your investment is crucial to Tombot and achieving our scheduled milestones. Join our mission and help us bring Jennie the robot to those who desperately need her.
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