How François Simard, Co- Founder And CEO Of Omnirobotic Raised $5.8M To Build Self-Programming Robots For High-Mix Finishing?

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François Simard founded his first innovative company in the manufacturing sector in 2000, specialising in industrial image processing and robot control.

He graduated from the École Polytechnique de Montréal in robotics. He is already passionate about autonomous robots and leads the university’s robot team in international competitions. Mr Simard has an in-depth knowledge of the manufacturing sector and has visited more than 400 production facilities in sectors such as aerospace, military, automotive, food and semiconductors.

Inventor of 2 patents, his passion for artificial intelligence and robotics led him to co-found Omnirobot in 2016. Mr Simard believes that autonomous industrial robots will change the manufacturing industry in the same way that autonomous vehicles will affect transport.

The Omnirobotic offers self-programmed robot technology for spraying and finishing processes with a high mixing ratio.

This technology enables robots to perform unique SEE, PLAN and EXECUTIVE robot motion programs in real time with maximum efficiency and effectiveness for the required process.

Just like autonomous cars or autonomous mobile robots, this technology creates new opportunities for autonomous industrial robots. This new category is starting to take over the production facilities with the ability to automate some of the most complex jobs still done by people, creating productivity and quality of life benefits that we can all share!

In an exclusive interview with the AsiaTechDaily, François says

Mistakes are inevitable: Try to make them as cheap as possible.

Deep technical startups are difficult to load. Try to find income at an early stage in order to be able to participate in the first funding round.

There will be good days and bad days. I do everything in my power to remember this simple fact every day.

Read on to find out more about François Simard and his career.

Tell me about your personal experiences and what motivated you to work for your company.

François Simard: Omnirobotic is my third business. A few years after graduating from the École Polytechnique de Montréal, I founded my first company. It was an artificial vision company that produced inspection and guidance devices for robots in the manufacturing industry. I started to do this because at that time no company in my field was promoting research and development in the field of artificial vision.

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What is your current main product and can you give a product sales history?

François Simard: Our main product is a cognitive and astute platform on an industrial level that enables robots to understand the process they are using.

Instead of focusing on programming the movements of industrial robots, Omnirobotic focuses on developing an AI capable of understanding process and physical boundaries (e.g. joint and collision boundaries) in order to find its own way to achieve the goals set by the manufacturers.

In the beginning we wanted to rent autonomous industrial robots (also called AI). Later we realized that our real value lies in the AI platform and the perceptual system, not in the robot manipulator itself. We have tried to supply the AI platform and the associated equipment on which it runs (OmniBrain™) to complement the industrial robots.

How much money have you raised so far? When was the last financing cycle?

François Simard: So far we have raised more than C$7.5 million, with the last fundraiser in August this year, raising C$6.5 million.

What are the internal decision-making processes that determined the start of fundraising and what logistics are involved? And how many investors did you meet, how did you get to know these investors and which channels worked best for you?

François Simard: We decided to climb when we saw the stairs we wanted to reach. We have met more than 50 investors in Montreal, Toronto, Boston and of course San Francisco.

We have participated in various events such as Collision 2019 and others such as Matchmaking for start-up investors. We have also contacted selected investors. We found the meeting with the investors who shared your thesis much more productive.

What are the main challenges and obstacles in the fundraising process? If you had to start over, what else would you do?

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François Simard: We will focus on investors who share our investment thesis.

What are the milestones for the next cycle? And what are your goals for the future?

François Simard: The demonstration of our platform can be successfully used by our business partners to create added value for end users.

How did you attract users and what strategy did you use to grow your business from start to finish?

François Simard: We started with an offer to rent our autonomous painting robot for 25 Canadian dollars an hour. This came as a shock to the producers of high quality compounds. They can now use robotics, even if they produce a large number of parts in an unstructured environment. This is a radically different value proposition.

We have more demands than we could meet!

That most starters are usually wrong about marketing?

François Simard: This does not give a clear picture of their unique business proposition. It takes some time to identify it clearly, and we fought it first.

How would you like to develop your activities worldwide?

François Simard: We intend to make use of our partner’s distribution network.

By focusing on our core business (robot autonomy), we create new sales opportunities for robot OEMs and robot systems in a market they cannot serve without our technology (highly mixed production). This created an opportunity to work with them.

What are the most common mistakes companies make in their global expansion?

François Simard: It goes too fast with insufficient products and underestimates the cost of the aid.

How do you manage the Kovid 19 flash situation to ensure the survival of your company?

François Simard: Our technologies are relevant to the entire manufacturing sector. Some of our customers are fighting the pandemic, while others are doing well.

In general, the pandemic has had little impact on our business. However, we have a travel restriction that is delaying our sales at the moment.

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The cooperation with our international partners is very useful in the current situation.

What are the most common mistakes founders make when starting a business?

François Simard: Developing a product without being sure that there is a market demand for it.

What is the best advice you have ever received? And what advice can you give to someone who wants to do similar things with you or go in a similar direction?

François Simard: Mistakes are inevitable: Try to make them as cheap as possible.

Deep technical startups are difficult to load. Try to find income at an early stage in order to be able to participate in the first funding round.

What are the three most popular books or movies (series) that changed your life and why?

François Simard:

  • Plex (Google History) tells you how to make a decision based on a database instead of an intuitive feeling.
  • Remote sales. First listen to the customer’s wishes and illustrate how your solution will solve their problem.
  • Steve Jobs’ 1. iPhone presentation – Behind the scenes, a good reminder of how difficult it is to bring a revolutionary product to market, even for a company with a proven track record.

How do you maintain your motivation on a daily basis?

François Simard: There will be good days and bad days. I do everything in my power to remember this simple fact every day.

What are the three most important life lessons your (future) sons and daughters need to know?

François Simard:

  1. Perseverance
  2. Perseverance
  3. Perseverance

Why do you want to be remembered?

François Simard: As one of the founders of a company that makes manual programming of robots superfluous.

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