This CEO explains why he left the top job at $36 billion Autodesk to head Bright Machines, a one-year-old robotics software startup that's revolutionizing manufacturing
- On Tuesday, the robotics software startup Bright Machines launched Bright Machines Microfactories, which allows users to instruct a machine to assemble and inspect products how they want.
- Bright Machines is only a year old, but it has already booked $100 million in revenue and launched two generations of products.
- Bright Machines CEO Amar Hanspal previously served as interim co-CEO of $36 billion Autodesk, and he shares what he learned.
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Bright Machines, a startup that develops software to automate factory machines and robots, was only founded last May. But already, it has booked $100 million in revenue with customers in automotive, consumer and electronics companies.
Bright Machines has spent the past year building up its team of 400 employees worldwide and building its products. In total, Bright Machines has raised $229 million and is valued at $679 million, according to Pitchbook. It announced its series A funding round of $179 million last October.
And on Tuesday, it's launching its first software-defined product called Bright Machines Microfactories, which is used to assemble and inspect products. This includes the cloud-based software, called Brightware, where users instruct the machine what to do, as well as hardware, called Bright Robotic Cells, that people can plug together like Lego pieces to create assembly lines to perform manufacturing tasks.
"Software defined manufacturing lets us take these machines and make these flexible so you can change the products you're making," Bright Machines CEO Amar Hanspal told Business Insider.
For example, if a company wants to manufacture a toy car one day and a skateboard the next, the company can easily customize the software and put together the required pieces. These microfactories are the second generation of Bright Machines' products. Bright Machines developed these microfactories, Hanspal says, because after all these years, products are often still made in "not-so-smart ways" or made using manual labor.
"When you walk inside a factory, the thing that strikes you is it's still very analog," Hanspal said. "The challenge is all this automation is itself not very automated. Configuring these things and making them work to do the job really requires a special skill set. It takes months to set these things up."
From a public company to a startup
Before Bright Machines, Hanspal actually served as the interim co-CEO at the publicly traded $36 billion Autodesk, which makes computer automated design software used in architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, and more. He recalls that it was frustrating to have to build engineering software from scratch.
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From AutoDesk, Hanspal also learned to prioritize the problems that matter. That's why Bright Machines decided to focus on automating assemblies, Hanspal says, as it's what customers have the hardest time getting right.
"Having run a software company for a number of years, you really have that sense of what software is capable of doing and what kinds of innovation you can bring about," Hanspal said.
Ultimately, he decided to leave Autodesk because he wanted to go after this problem.
"I've been renovating a house for many years and I want to build a house from scratch," Hanspal said. "I want to create something that leaves a fingerprint on the industry. I thought this is one of those big problems that hasn't been solved before."
Still, going from leading a public company to launching a startup has its challenges, Hanspal says. At a startup, there isn't a cushion of thousands of people or billions in revenue.
"When you're running something like this, you're closer to the ground so you feel every bump in a good way and a bad way," Hanspal said. "Everything that goes well, you have a direct correlation to. When there's a challenge, there's not that much buffer."
That being said, he was able to take much of what he learned at Autodesk and apply it to Bright Machines. Bright Machines has a leadership team with veterans from Autodesk, Amazon's AWS, and Google. Already, Bright Machines is larger than most companies at a year old, and it's still growing its staff.
"Being able to apply some of the lessons learned on how you scale businesses and teams has been helpful," Hanspal said. "The first most important thing I've been able to bring over is how you build great things. I'm really thrilled about the quality of people we have."
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