Tend.ai, the Bend-based robotics software startup, announced that it has raised a $2 million seed round, notably all from one Bay Area-based VC. Tend.ai made a big splash a few months ago when the startup announced that it was developing software that allows a robot to monitor multiple 3D printers and other machines in a dynamic fashion.
We’ll dig into that more in a minute, but first Tend.ai’s funding is particularly encouraging not only for the founding trio, but also for other aspiring, high-growth startups in Bend and beyond. Marc Silliman, the company’s CEO and co-founder, says that the significant seed round reveals that Bend companies can go after some of the largest VCs in the world. True Ventures operates a $1 billion fund, has invested in nearly 200 early stage companies and is helmed by several notable entrepreneurs including Toni Schneider, who was previously the CEO of a little business called Automattic, which makes WordPress.
True Ventures partner Toni Schneider jumped on the opportunity and took the whole $2 million round, indicating no small confidence in the potential here.
“It has all the elements we look for,” he said in an interview. “Great team that has worked together before, deep experience, and a really unique, innovative product. I kept talking to people who told me these robots are the future of the industry, but a small business buys one, and then what? This takes something that’s been in use for a while and brings it to a larger user base.”
Schneider has joined Tend.ai’s board, and is a big believer in the power of dispersed teams. According to his True Ventures bio, “at Automattic, Toni also helped create a new type of startup with over 300 employees working together in an ‘office optional,’ distributed fashion from homes and co-working spaces in over 40 countries.”
Tend.ai, whose other cofounders are Robert Kieffer and James Gentes, is in the process of hiring seven people, mostly robotists and computer vision engineers. By adopting a dispersed model, its pool for qualified employees is, well, the world. Taking advantage of the technology that makes dispersed teams possible, is a key way that growing Bend companies are filling their tech talent needs. Silliman says that he’s receiving numerous applications, from people interested in moving to here as well as those wanting to work remotely. “Our average applicant has a Ph.D from MIT, so we have some good choices,” he says.
Now back to what Tend.ai actually does. More from TechCrunch …
Tend.ai’s software allows a robot arm to start, stop and monitor multiple 3D printers and other devices, removing finished products and initiating new prints. That means people running businesses don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to check on a long print, or manually unload all the devices in the morning. It’s a big labor saver.
“Right now, industrial robots are really good at doing things that need to be done a million times exactly the same,” said co-founder and CEO Mark Silliman in an interview. “But going from enterprise to SMBs [i.e. small and medium businesses] is they’re not necessarily as standardized. So making something that works in a dynamic environment is where a lot of our efforts are going.”
The $2 million brings Bend startup total to $23 million raised in 2016. The startup is planning to move out of its BendTech coworking space in the near future. We’ll miss them and their giant robots, but look forward to tracking their progress. Congratulations Tend.ai team!