Friendly Robots: Shaping the Future of Robotic Cleaning – This moment in time

By Dawn Hightree, Cal State University Monterey Bay,  iiED

October 31, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of innovation and entrepreneurship, there are individuals and companies that stand out for their remarkable contributions. Friendly Robots, a robotic cleaning leasing company, is one such entity, and I had the privilege to interview Xiao Xiao, the visionary mind behind this revolutionary startup. This article delves into the fascinating journey of Friendly Robots and the significant impact it’s making in the world of entrepreneurship and technology.

Friendly Robots has taken the cleaning industry by storm with its ingenious use of robots. Their mission is clear: to provide cost-saving labor solutions by efficiently tackling cleaning tasks with autonomous vacuum robots.  They offer a unique solution that combines cutting-edge technology and business machinery to create cleaning services that benefit commercial buildings and provide employees with an exciting place to work.  You can schedule a demo of their cutting-edge robots on their website, or reach them at (408) 656-2137.

The Team Behind Friendly Robots

A company is only as strong as its team, and Friendly Robots boasts a team of skilled individuals who have dedicated themselves to making the company successful. Xiao grew up flying R/C (radio-controlled) model aircraft in Ford Ord.  Xiao uses the combination of finances, technology, and operations as a cornerstone to lead the charge. Alan Cheng; B.S. in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a Venture Partner at Farron, Augustine & Alexander, along with a successful career and educational background in business investments tides the financial lines with Mei Ho, financial manager.  Haoran Xu (Sean) is one of the three engineers on the West Coast team, alongside Kevin Chow and Adam Osborn together combining software, electronics, and mechanical design.  Christopher Lee invests and advises on corporate development and strategies. Billy Sidorick, a cleaning and sales expert, plays a vital role in establishing long-term customer relationships.

Startup Challenge Triumph

In April of 2023, Xiao Xiao, the driving force behind Friendly Robots, won the Startup Challenge Monterey Bay Venture Division, securing a remarkable $10,000 prize. This achievement is a testament to the company’s potential and innovative approach to cleaning services. Notably, Xiao is also part of the 2023-24 Startup Launchpad cohort, which provides ongoing support to further develop his company.

The Birth of Friendly Robots

Xiao Xiao, when asked about how he came up with the idea of Friendly Robots, one of the co-founders and part owner, Andre Zimin, with a background in Marketing came up with the name.  The business idea came from Xiao wanting to bridge technology with the world of commerce along with freedom because Xiao desired to,  “Shape the world that we all engage with”.

Navigating the Startup Challenge

Participating in the Startup Challenge was no small feat, and it required a great deal of courage. When asked about his decision to compete, Xiao shared, “The challenge prize money provided an extra incentive to brave a competition which, for me, is a check-in reflection, “a moment to reflect on where we are.'”

Support from iiED’s Startup Launchpad

The Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED) Startup Launchpad played a significant role in Friendly Robots’ journey. Xiao believes that the continued support of iiED helps maintain stability in an ever-fluctuating business environment. Startup Connect provides a constant inspiration, and it serves as a “checkpoint for maturity” on the entrepreneurial journey with other entrepreneurs. iiED’s support,

exposure, and expertise from experts like Mary Jo Zenk and Brad Barbeau, who have been instrumental in helping Friendly Robots “nail it right.”

In April 2022, Friendly Robots secured the E-Robot prize, receiving a 666k grant from the Department of Energy. Leveraging their sophisticated technology in sensing, inspection, and mapping, they have engineered autonomous robots capable of significantly cutting down energy consumption in commercial buildings. This award affirms their technological expertise in addressing the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions of $50 billion in wasted electricity.  That’s 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions.  That’s return the size of the entire janitorial industry.

Overcoming Challenges

The journey hasn’t been without its share of challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic affected Friendly Robots, as a significant portion of the team couldn’t continue due to the crisis. However, the team remains resilient and determined to overcome obstacles.

Future Aspirations

Looking ahead, Friendly Robots aims to grow its team and technology. They are ready to welcome more customers, are actively seeking demo customers, and aim to connect with individuals and partners in Monterey. The company’s vision is to provide more jobs, foster innovation, and bring value to the community while continuing to grow, in Xiao’s words, “entrepreneurship cross-pollination” and looking to venture into agricultural drone applications. 

The Vision of Friendly Robots

For Xiao Xiao, Friendly Robots is more than just a business.  He is committed to continuing the journey of shedding layers of himself to create the company’s path forward, finding people who share in the vision of Friendly Robots.In conclusion, Friendly Robots is an inspiring example of how innovation and entrepreneurship can reshape traditional industries. It is a company that not only cleans spaces but also cleans the path for future entrepreneurs. Friendly Robots is on a mission to revolutionize the cleaning industry and create a bright future for all.

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