Sci-Fi Demo Series: Roam Robotics

Wearable Robots!

My job is awesome! The main reason it’s awesome is that we invest at the earliest stages, and some of the amazing humans we invest in end up building enduring companies. However, the second reason is that I get to see some of the COOLEST Technology in the world!!!

I’ve flown drones, seen blimp drones fly, been hooked up to a VR neuro device that either replaced all my memories with Adam Draper’s or allowed me to move digital blocks with my brain. I’ve had rocket parts brought into pitch meetings, Demos done through old VR headsets and new (over 5 years). However, the demos that always end up being worth it are the ones you have to show up to a location for.

This series over the next few weeks will be dedicated to the most incredible demos I’ve participated in.

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One day in 2016, I was fundraising for Boost VC’s 3rd fund, but our first institutional fund, and I had a meeting with an awesome FoF manager named Chris Douvos. It turns out we went to the same high school, but that’s besides the point. While I had been fundraising, I had gotten into the habit of describing what we invest in as:

“And we look for anything that gets us closer to an Iron Man suit.”

Chris thought for a second and said:

“I have something for you. Would you look at exoskeleton startup?”

Fast forward a month. I'm in front of what looks like a warehouse. And I’m welcomed in the door and walked up to a small open area where there are robotic things every where. Like the startup version of willy wonka’s chocolate factor, but instead of sugar, robotic things: Joints, Air compressors, desks. The team circled up and talked to me for about 20 minutes, but when they said I could try the product… I WENT FOR IT OF COURSE. (I can’t find the photo of me on the machine)

Tim Swift, the founding CEO, has been designing exo-skeletons for a decade. He started by building one for ekso bionics. This product is amazing, but not lightweight and the product costs $100k. So for commercialization, it’s a tough sell. And “exoskeleton” doesn’t accurately describe what ROAM is doing. They are in a different league than Ekso. They have designed lightweight, wearable robotics. They have built little devices that attach to joints and enhance the power and stamina of the joint. If you have knee trouble it could help your knee, if you want to run faster they designed one for your foot.

They walked me down stairs and started pulling tubes and twisting knobs next to a treadmill. The wearable robot needs to be hooked up to an air compressor in order to assist the joints. I hopped in someone else’s boots, that were military boots, and the treadmill started to go. And then I started to jog… To be fair, this was before I ate SweetGreen for every weekday meal, and my endurance wasn’t the highest it had ever been. But we started to run. And every time I would plant my foot, the air from the air compressor would make a quick whistle as it released the ground.

I ran for about a minute, and I was trying to think of how to diligence the wearable robot. Like, “How do I know this is working?” And then all the sudden, as I’m running, the boot malfunctioned, and I nearly fell off the treadmill, because my feet couldn’t keep up as well without the wearable robot. I nearly got launched off the treadmill.

They made a lot of “That’s never happened.” and “This just worked.” remarks, but that just means that I haven’t tried it. I have broken nearly every product that has ever been presented to me in some fashion. I’m like Archie Andrews (from Archie Comics), fun, but things break around me during important Demos.

Roam was a unique deal for Boost VC at the time, but kind of defined what we are today, “The $500k Accelerator for Sci-Fi.” The idea of enabling billions of humans with enhanced power was too good. We have been proud investors in the company for years and over multiple rounds. Tim has been an amazing founder to watch grow and develop… and check out the product!!!