The Northwest Robotics Alliance aims to drive the creation of automation startups in the Pacific Northwest. (Northwest Robotics Alliance Photo)

A trio of tech leaders joined forces to promote the creation of robotics startups in the Pacific Northwest, encouraged by the advancements in artificial intelligence and the growing demand for labor.

The Northwest Robotics Alliance was co-founded by Aseem Datar, a former Microsoft Azure general manager who joined Madrona Venture Group as a partner in 2021; Firdaus Pohowalla, a managing director at Cascadia Capital who invests in automation and AI; and Jeff Dance, the CEO and founder of tech innovation company Fresh Consulting.

Madrona partner and Northwest Robotics Alliance co-founder Aseem Datar. (Madrona Venture Group Photo)

The launch of the Northwest Robotics Alliance comes amid a growing market for automation, and an ongoing labor shortage. There is also demand for remote and touch-less working methods at scale.

“There is a real need in the market to get systems of automation deployed,” Datar told GeekWire.

Recent advancements in computing, learning models and AI are providing a boost for the sector, he said.

“We are all experiencing a big moment in tech and generative AI is a huge enabler,” Datar said. “We believe that this is only going to accelerate the pace of robotics deployments in a massive way.”

But robotics companies still face difficulties launching due to cash constraints, hardware accessibility, and convincing customers to invest in automated systems, he said.

The Northwest Robotics Alliance aims to establish links between the region’s tech talent, research institutions and corporate clientele. The strategy includes providing access to local resources like large cloud providers and labs, as well as guidance from industry experts and sources of capital.

The Seattle tech ecosystem, long dominated by enterprise software, is home to a number of hardware startups including Aivot, Artly, Picnic and Brinc.

Madrona Venture Group, one of the region’s most well-known venture firms, adopted hardware in its investment thesis. The firm wrote that “robotics is now primed for accelerated innovation and adoption, especially within industrial, manufacturing, logistics, and agriculture.”

Madrona has invested in Seattle startups such as TerraClear, which uses AI and robotics to help farmers remove rocks from their fields, and Echodyne, a radar platform company.

Conduit Venture Labs, a new Seattle-based startup studio that focuses on hardware, invests and incubates companies in the sector.

Northwest Robotics Alliance is hosting its first event, called “The Future of Robotics in the Northwest,” on April 18. It features a keynote talk by University of Washington professor and Cruise engineer Siddhartha Srinivasa, as well a panel discussion by industry experts including Datar.

Source: Geek Wire


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