Turn Your Passion Into an EmpireI knew I wanted to build robots at an early age. I watched Star Wars when I was 11 years old. And pretty soon after that, I was hacking on one of the first PCs and seeing those two going together. So I just knew I'd be doing robots. People built robots in labs when I was in school, and I didn't see that as going far enough. When Ph.D. students got to the end of their programs, all the robot projects they'd put their hearts and souls into would stop. That's no way to build an industry. To do that, you have to create things that really touch people's lives. You need to learn how people react to robots, take their input, and invest profits back into the technology.
Venture capitalists like to invest in things that have succeeded before, but when we started iRobot, there weren't any successes in this industry. We were turned down by every major VC across the country, but we just kept knocking on people's doors until we found the visionary types who understood our passion and agreed there was a market in the making. You want to follow your vision, but the route to get to it will change along the way as you learn more and respond to customers, get more data. To have robots touch people's lives, to have robots make a difference in the world, well, that's a vision. We went one route, but we constantly evaluate where we are and where we want to get. We've sold 2 million Roombas, which is great, but that's only 1 to 2 percent of U.S. households. It's been 16 years already, and we're just getting started.