Cory McKane 0:00
But um, sweet minutes. Alright, so we got a badass robotics founder here in Austin, Texas. We're in the Texas robotics, which I'm gonna ask you about in a little bit. Connor, do you want to introduce yourself to the to the audience? Yeah.
I'm Connor Cropper. I'm the co founder and CEO of pipe robotics. Been working on this technology for the last three years while pursuing my master's degree here at UT Austin as mechanical engineering, focus in robotics. So, came from Lockheed Martin's design engineer over there and realized I wanted to have my own thing he can it's kind of hard to add your own thing when you're building a $90 million aircraft. So yeah, so it's kind of it's kind of like, if you want to have your own business, you want to be financially independent, you want to make an impact on the world, you want to be a cog in a machine. I was like, you know, I got all the fun work. lochia, Locky was funding graduate students to go do a lot of autonomous drone work. Very cool. And I was like, you know, that's all the grad students doing the fun work, you know, so I want to go back to grad school and discipline work nice. That's kind of why I went back and worked on this, this graduate research project for a couple of years. And then what you saw there was a potential for commercializing. So we took some business classes on my NBA hat for a little bit. Went too big kept, kept going. And here we are looking at reasons on getting some fundraising and continuing this runway, so we'll have to get a real job.
Cory McKane 1:24
Nice, man. I didn't realize you're doing your masters and it's funny because we like you're gonna be episode 13 I believe and you're the second Lockheed Martin next employee we've had
doesn't that doesn't bode well for further attention. I
Cory McKane 1:39
know. It was rise. So the rise he's like head of ops now his ex Lockheed Martin talk the same way as you did. Military you know, that
aviator thing was not the hotel but it's like the restaurant that was over there by was campus
Cory McKane 1:58
Yeah, whatever. That was the big outdoor area outside. Yeah. Couldn't hear anybody. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly the most most events out here. Very cool, man. What so so when you're in your master's program, how many hours a week are you spending CEO doing? And how many hours are you spending as a student?
Oh, I have a question. Why I have all my all my credits, like, was at this point. So it's pretty much all that's pretty much all Co Op. It's pretty much
Cory McKane 2:24
okay, when is your master's like end then? Technically?
So I'm working on my on my thesis. Oh, cool. Gotcha.
Cory McKane 2:31
What is the what is the thesis in robotics? What does that mean? Like?
Yeah, so it's, you're basically just going through, you're documenting all the experiments, you did the conclusions from those experiments, okay. The whole point is so so other graduate students, when they come down the line, they have the source material to look to look at when they not just starting from scratch. So a lot of graduate students, the person that professor will tell them is go read this literature from this student that came before and so that's that's the last thing on my radar, but it's also you I got a I got a great co founder in my Dr. Mitch fryer. At UT Austin. He's he runs the nuclear plant robotics lab there for last 17 years. So cool. And he's uh, he's, he's, he's kind of helped me kind of keep this keep this train going. And there's even potential kind of down the line to hopefully spin out some other technologies from from the lab that we're working on. Because we hate to see like robots do like, do like a graduate project, just like on a by industry, and then they just die in the lab. They don't go anywhere. So we're, I think it'd be cool if we could have some kind of company that we're obviously we're focusing on our beachhead market, but it'd be cool to have some kind of a company that helps to get these technologies out of the lab and into the commercial space, kind
Cory McKane 3:52
of like a little like, robots incubated at Coronavirus. Five during download No pun intended. There you go man. Very cool. Yeah. Is your does this ut have equity in Pike robotics center? How does that work when you're building it at the school?
Yeah, it's very, very opportune question because we were at an opportune time the question yes. We are currently in talks with their Office of Technology Commercialization. Okay. signing an option to license we have like the terms of the option okay. So we're going through that that process the lawyers right now
Cory McKane 4:30
does that mean that so options license does that mean that like they have an option to get some of your shares or like they're going to invest for that or like they have seen they're already invest because he didn't use the property or what
Yeah, a little bit a little bit of both. The some of the terms as they talk about
Cory McKane 4:47
they do they do get a
celebrity leaves. He's very proud, founder friendly. And so even helped spin up this Texas Innovation Center in the in the Cockrell School of Engineering that really helps graduates to kind of spin out these technologies from the labs there and so they do want to take some equity that you want to take roughly so yes, no, and I wouldn't I wouldn't have a bad experience I wouldn't be wearing Exactly exactly. But now they're they're great they they want a little bit of royalty they want just kind of a just kind of be part of this and I think they do and asked us about having first participation rights for when we actually do our race.
Cory McKane 5:29
Yeah, I think I think it just like I think there's some investors or whatever you want to call them that are just good to have on your cap table like like even if they had a five 10% Whatever it is like it's just you're like oh you have the University of Texas on your cap table like you know it's a pretty good like that we
don't mind to have that name on apple plus like
Cory McKane 5:49
just future rights like all the all the investments or intros they're gonna give you all the like just mentor connections advisory like future potential like you know, projects you can do at UT and all that stuff where you kind of just locks you into you know, being a part of that's really cool. I'm assuming you went to UT for undergrad
no i i went to the airport scattered for a little bit gotcha realize military was not for for the entrepreneurial minded. That
Cory McKane 6:16
was the same thing with the rise podcast. Kobe did the same thing.
Yeah, it's not I mean, to be honest, I learned a lot from my time there wouldn't do it again. I'll say that much. Air Force Academy is a little different a different crowd over there. But I'm I got to do some cool so you have to jump out of airplanes got to go to Ukraine to learn Russian got to meet a lot of four star generals and fly gliders and it was just it was cool experience. I ended up going to Texas Tech to finish up which a lot of other ut Longhorns out there listen to this week's Tech Tech the week before last and so it's kind of put their championship dreams to a to a stop that now so we're lucky Martin for a little bit and then after Texas Tech, and now I'm here at UT and one of the I've always wanted to come here, but I finally got here.
Cory McKane 7:03
Are you are you Texas? Like from Texas then or what
else? Tyler? So
Cory McKane 7:10
you set it to a little town called Tyler. Is that the is that Friday Night Lights? Like where it's supposed to be big sin or No?
No. I think it made me think about Tyler, Texas State of Texas was close to Pflugerville where these brownfield product highlights Okay, Taylor Gotcha. Okay, gotcha. Lila Garrity was probably my crush back in the day. Sure enough, she was a cheerleader on that show now.
Cory McKane 7:34
Well, I knew it was filmed around this area, but I didn't know it was like, I thought I thought it was Tyler, but I never really watched the show to be honest. It's on my it's on my list. I'm getting to
him. Ya know, it's, it's a good it's a good show to kind of watch the watch with the girlfriends. I'm
Cory McKane 7:48
like, Oh, I'll tell my girlfriend. So yeah, you guys have Restlet. Appreciate thanks so much. You guys split out of the what is it the nuclear and applied robotics group? So can you kind of dive a little bit further into what that means? Like just like, for students? Is it a master's thing isn't like there's 100 companies like what does that what does that a UT?
What does it what does it look like to have a company at UT?
Cory McKane 8:16
Well, that too, but like what, like, what is the what is the nuclear and applied robotics? Like? What does that encompass like a bunch of companies? Like what does that mean?
So the sort of lab we basically specialize on the kind of automation until dirty and dangerous tasks. So I like that Sass, as I said, no attack tasks. Okay. Oh, gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. Now says he say sad. So people ask about our business model. And it's ours is RAS for robots and servers, gotcha. The new term that's being used around but the new planner, planner box, I'll say NRG. They, like said occupiers funded out about 17 years ago, started at UT after he got his PhD there and was teaching. And so he gets a funding from from like, in people, companies and industry. So like, and also governments. So a lot of what we do is make it easier to inspect and maintain different facilities across a number of industries. So nuclear facilities in New Mexico is one
Cory McKane 9:17
that's one of your personal target markets or the program.
So it's a group of like 17 graduate students. So we're at now so each of those graduate students, including me, it's got to get a certain project to work. And they were funded by either the government or they were funded by an oil and gas company or they were funded by saw some other kind of some other kind of company that has a need for robots to catch up to improve their operations. That's kind of the way it goes. And there's we've got a number of inspection maintenance platforms across the world. There's there's one in this, this be a natural gas producer in Australia, where they actually teleoperated As the robot actually turns valves and checks, checks, gauges, nice. So we actually can actually control that student, our lab who actually can actually control that from the birthplace in Dallas, and then do it in Australia. So that's pretty cool. So yeah, it's a great lab. And we're kind of expanding into a lot of other applications, DOD as well, armies invest a lot of money into into the lab and also a robotics program in general. So
Cory McKane 10:30
yeah, and then and then what is, so we'll get to your actual company. So what does pike robotics do?
Yeah, so we're like the product next gen robotic solution for inspection and service floating around storage tanks. And these are like the big petrochemical storage tanks, the big 150 foot diameter tanks that you see off this off to the side of the road, crude oil and gasoline and any other product that produces like a light hydrocarbon. And that light hydrocarbon is a is a it's like a it's like methane is an example. And so these these floating tanks, they have the seal that prevents the methane from escaping the tank. Gotcha. And so these these seals, they fail over time just due to wear and tear. And so we we come in and provide inspections So like right now they have teams of like human crews to go in like a team of five you have like two people doing inspection. One person spotting and then you have two rescue personnel on standby. Ready to become in case there's an there's an incident so if there's like a respiratory incident, someone loses oxygen or they
Cory McKane 11:36
get like this direct methane hit like just Yeah, I got you. Okay. Yeah, not ideal.
Yeah, no, no, it made me smile. But that was that I'm really, that's that's like the thing that I think the most the impact that we can have on this on this industry is eliminating
Cory McKane 11:53
unnecessary like, was one of the what are the results of that, like, I don't know, the better better word, but like, like long term like lung disease, or like, like, what can happen if you just get like, fucking hit by methane? Like,
yeah, no, I mean, it's, you can, I mean, you can pass out and you can, you can die if you don't have oxygen within within a few minutes. But a lot of there's also tripping and falling hazards associated with it. But there's a stat I like to sail I like like these a lot is there were 1300 deaths from confined space entry since like, 2011, to, like 205 involve storage, tank interiors. And so anything we can do to kind of keep the human out of the space, we're gonna do that. And so our solution uses a robotic walk crawling vehicle, using magnets to hold itself to the wall, and it drives down the tank. And we have another mechanism that opens up the seal, allowing the robot to insert the sensor package inside. And then the robot drives around the, around the tank and collects the data about the integrity of the seal. And so we have a, we use visual methods, we use physical probe method, we also use a lidar based method to look at the integrity of the seal. And so we basically perform the inspection and we give the results to the tank owner and they decide for repair is needed or not. And yeah,
Cory McKane 13:12
just say, You know what I love is that because I had Kobe and jack on the bed now, no. But LiDAR, is it like, well, I feel like you guys have the exact same product, but Well, obviously, it's different. But like, yours is on land, doing like these tanks, and there's doing airplanes as a drone. Like it's like the same kid, same concept. Right? You're both making sure that like the product you're evaluating is safe for use, essentially. Yeah, sure.
Yeah, so we're our whole thing is kind of reducing the cost of these inspections. also improving the accuracy and kind of another very subjective, very subjective inspection. So we're actually quantifying the integrity of the seal looking at the fabric and the fabric tears and the gap between the seal on the wall without any corrosion, that's there as well. And so we're really excited to see what we can offer in terms of improved accuracy, reduce costs, improve safety, just overall easier way to do these inspections, and that's our beachhead market with these floating roof storage tanks. We'll move on to other use cases that are a big pain point for these customers. Well, that's
Cory McKane 14:15
a good that's a good that's a good segue. What is like, like, is it so it's not always gonna be floating around not only the tanks it's gonna be like, like what my I can I can I'm usually good at like, it's gonna be Dolphin enclosures, usually good to come up with and I had nothing and so like, what do you guys where do you go next? Yeah,
no. So I mean, tanks and pipelines and boiler rooms and other pressure vessels, he exchanger heating stacks, just any kind of any kind of asset or like hard physical asset and is any one of these refineries or one of these facilities that needs to have eyes on it or needs to have some kind of ultrasonic testing of it to see if there's any cracks or any corrosion I gotcha caused a big delay in the operation these facilities. And so that's that's what we're when we do our customer discovery interviews we're having, we're asking those like, hey, we know these, these tanks are our problems. We're inspecting them, but what else is going on? And so bathrooms
Cory McKane 15:16
dirty, we got a drone.
We get like we do everything. Yeah, we're not Yeah, we're gonna. That's one of the I took it. I went to this Texas energy weekend in Houston last week. And it was put on by MIT and Greentown Labs. They, they're big. They're big thing was focused on your beachhead market, right? Yeah. Don't try to spread yourself too thin. Pick your niche. Just stay with it. And then you can expand, expand from there.
Cory McKane 15:40
That's a big thing we have on this podcast. So that's like, like to every founder about that. Because I made that mistake for so many years, which is like, why it's taken us this long to finally hit growth is like we I'd be like, oh, yeah, we can do that for you. We can do that for you. Yeah, we got this. Now. I'm like, Nope, we're focused on gyms. Everyone else could fuck off.
When they say no,
Cory McKane 15:57
they literally it's extra time. We've had some people on the podcast that have turned down like multimillion dollar deals, because they they weren't going to lead them to like the billion dollar you know, direction. It's important, man. So what is your I know you're CEO, but like, what is sorry? Actually, I'll take a step back. What is your co founders role? Because he's a professor there. 17 students? Is he like, I know he's a co founder, literally, but like, is he a true day to day co founder? Is he more like a really, really, really impactful advisor?
Yeah. So he's not like on the day to day? Yeah, we are. And we are looking actually, for anyone out there who are looking for another good business co founder so that I can get back in the lab and get to doing what I like. Not that I don't like doing all these all these pr pr sounds. Yeah.
Cory McKane 16:41
I mean, it's not what you're made to do, man, I'd say like, I just like, I'm our CEO, but like, I just off boarded all of our accounting and financial system one hand, I'm like, oh, yeah, I should never be I should never know. That was a fucking waste of my time. Like, I need to be like, handling partnerships and growth. And all the sudden, it's like, I don't know why I was ever fucking dealing with that shit. Like, using like gusto or like, Oh, we're using we're using gusto. But I hired like an accountant to like, manage that stuff. And hiring an HR person to manage the gusto and the payroll and all that stuff. So it's like, one day, I was just like, sitting there, and I have my accounting degree. So I'm like, I know how to do it. And I was doing like our little fucking QuickBooks. And I'm like, why am I doing this? Like, what a waste of my time. There you do it. So I moved it off. And she like, the chicks so good that she sends me a like our p&l sheet and our balance sheet and our talking cash flow. And I was like, Oh, sick, cool, like, done. Whatever, you put everything in my inbox. So anyway, sorry, a quick bit, but that's all we're doing. As always, we don't do anything else. That's like, that's a half of our CEO job. So what what? What tasks do you hate? Like besides accounting? Like, you'd be blind to like, are you just like, I fucking hate fundraising? Because I hate fundraising. Like, like, what do you like? What do you not like about being a CEO? Yeah, I
mean, so let's find out how to get back to the one question. So Dr. Pryor? He's Oh, that's right. Okay. Our lead, like technical adviser. Yeah. So a lot of the solutions that kind of we have for how we're solving those problems cannot come in his brainchild. Okay, cool. He just taps me on like, I go go make this happen. Yeah. But so we were really good team. And we were looking for someone to kind of take the typical kind of weight off our shoulders a little bit. We can focus on the things we're good at. So back to your other question. You said what do you what would i What would I be doing on it? If I didn't have any if
Cory McKane 18:41
you didn't have to do it? Well, what tasks would you get rid of from your life? Oh, I guess better way to put it
when I was when I started on this route with the savannah trust and Ashley Jennings. They were really helped us out. That was kind of getting started and obviously your pitch deck. Yeah.
Cory McKane 18:56
And I see a classic dude. What What tool would you start with, like Canva or PowerPoint?
I do use Canva it's great tool. I do still have my main master deck and the PowerPoint.
Cory McKane 19:09
I know it's just it's one of those. That's one of those things that I'm gonna it's on the plan, but it's, it's right and right now, we it's not high priority. There's all these different priorities. Yeah, of course. Can't we have our technology brochure that we use in Canva? So it's great to Canva is out there it's free. I want
Cory McKane 19:29
you to sponsor us Canva what are these? What are three I've got a sick Breck spot for this episode is ready for a card but like we need a design sponsor. Both We want your pay with Brax and then yeah, design on Canva Yeah, exactly. You guys Redskin brings in Kevin D to talk a total
partnership. What else do I hate? This venting session. My rent my revenue model, my five year operating model, okay.
Cory McKane 19:55
Every time I love doing that shit, I love doing that. So it's all bullshit. It's like, what do you want to make? It's like, Yeah, we're gonna be doing this much in five years. Okay, have fun, like, cool. Like, it's then when investors ask for a five year revenue plan. I'm like you but you know it's fake. Anyway, you want to see how good you're bullshitting. Exactly, exactly.
One of those that might have been able to MIT and grant Greentown Labs last weekend. They're like, the guy says, fun with spreadsheets. That's what he called it. No, no. It's like, Oh, I'm gonna have this mass market cap here by the Exactly. So yeah, that's another one. What else do I not enjoy? I mean, I love raising stuff. It's the only reason I like it. The only reason I don't enjoy it is it takes away from getting to the end of the final product. I mean, you're never gonna be down on the product. You want to get to your best MVP. Your iterations are Gen threes. You didn't weren't around Gen six at this point. Nice. Yeah. It's, it's, that's the part is knowing, knowing, kind of when to say no to things, does it because you know, I mean, you know, your business and you better than anyone else. Exactly. You can get Ali's advisors on the team. And apologies to any advisors out there that I haven't responded back to emails is it's just, it's just I'm trying to trying to do but I know what to do. You know. So that's, that's it, but I enjoy I enjoy prototyping, but at the same time, I mean, one of the hardest thing about running robotics companies, you know, like you want to you want to be playing in the lab, being a being a manager, people and being kind of a CEO right now. We were talking to Ken and he's just downstairs, he was the CTO.
Cory McKane 21:43
Yeah, he loves it. It's calendar is just like three things. And it's just like, it may be a little his calendar. Actually, he's only thing today that he had to do was do this podcast, and he's like, I'm too busy. Like, it sounds like you guys are really busy. Don't worry about it. But like his his all he does is just like work like 12 hours a day to designing robots. He loves it so much. Are you a true CTO, then like, you think it'd become CTO eventually? Or what do you think I'd
like to be but like, co founder struggle is real and right. Yeah, so that co founder, lab.com or whatever.
Cory McKane 22:20
I have a long story about that. Oops, I forgot yo amitriptyline brought it up. I've been trying to figure out what that website was called for about two years now. Because I remember it back in the day, Mark, somewhere in there. It was somewhere I'll try to tell someone about it. Quick story, basically, co founders Lab is a cool idea. Lots of lots of founders are on it. But no one ever fucking use it. So my I met like 100 people this way. I would find them on co founders lab. And then I would copy their, their LinkedIn. And then I would message them on LinkedIn. And my message said, Hey, I saw your co founders lab. That place sucks. Let's talk on here. And every single person I've got like a 95% response rate. They'd be like, lol Yeah, does suck. We'll solve it here. And the story is one time IDM the guy and I didn't realize it was the founder of co founders labs. He goes, I'm sorry, what? And I was like, Oh ha, just kidding me. Like whatever. And I had DM the co founders lab sucks to the founder, co Ed but then But then he goes, Yeah, you're right. It does suck. And we we hopped on a bull call. And I like became a short term like advisor for like, a guy and I didn't our loan like this sucks. That sucks. That sucks. So it actually turned out well, but they got a free customer. I was like, Yeah, I was like, Y'all have, like 50,000 members that are all sick founders, but no one uses it. Anyways, um, but it's hard to find a co founder. Yeah,
which will trap people out and I'll put the blame on me for the most. Probably don't explain your well I don't task well.
Cory McKane 23:50
It's it's tough dude. Yeah, delegating is tough. Like,
you don't you don't want people to think that you're just giving them I mean, yeah, cool shit work to do. I mean, there's there is bullshit work to do. There's, there's just things that need to be done. And so, but I think we did it a weird way. I mean, we were I was I wanted the antler accelerator right now. It's early stage VC firm, kind of, I guess they're explaining it today their focuses. There's a lot of companies that help with like kind of the series A and things like that. And there's not a whole lot of companies that help with it. Free seed, seed, lob seed launch rounds, but they're calling it the friends and family and fools thing, which I guess they're now calling out the launch company. Anyways, Adler saw a gap in a gap in that market. And so they're stepping in to help provide certain funding and, and help to like in terms of advising people on how to start your business and how to run it and on the very early stage, setting up legal things like that. But their whole thing was like, Yeah, you're gonna find a cool guy like, the five stages of this ideation and the team. So it's tough. It was like we We We knew there was a problem because when we went to go toward the refinery at Phillips 66, and they had these 20 projects that they wanted to automate these 20 operations that they wanted to automate their plants they're like, and they were like, Oh, we're on YouTube. We're like, oh, we can do those two are something that we can do, we can do these. And so we already knew there was a problem. And so we weren't like a solution looking for a problem a lot. A lot of startups. I see. You're like, a lot of people thinking this is a good idea. Let me go. I'm just gonna do this. Because I think it's cool. Exactly. And you gotta fight that. You got to fight that really hard. Yeah, it might be really cool.
Cory McKane 25:36
That was my first startup. I we were a b2c marketplace for fitness programs. And we spent four and a half years building it. Yeah, it was really fucking cool. But it just made no money. Yeah. And I just wasted like four. I mean, I learned so many things, but like it was that exactly. You just mentioned like, I was like, No, I swear, people are gonna love this. And people said, they really want it and we launched it. I'm like, oh, sec, okay. I'll tell ya actually do exactly. learn my lesson, man.
You want to interview people, but you want to interview? Like a few different categories? Where are you gonna interview the person using your product, you want to interview the person supervising the person using your product when interview the CEO of the company, if you're a b2b company, like we are the CEO, the company want to even interview the HR person and one of our big things is improving the environmental social governance scores of all these companies, because like when, like Dow Chemical, or for example, wants to reduce all their confined space entry of these of these like storage tanks and other assets to like, by 2025. They want to get down to like zero. So like
Cory McKane 26:35
that. What does that score? Give a cute strive a little bit more. Yeah,
I don't know a whole lot about it. Okay, that's
Cory McKane 26:41
a brief overview, though. Like What Did We like? Yeah, it's
so as the either the company or the organization started. It's, it's like a way for I guess a lot of companies put on their perspectives, their best perspective,
Cory McKane 26:54
second net promoter score, but for emissions kind of, yes. It's
not an it's not just emissions is it's it's like how they treat their employees. It's how they, how they, how they have they have any environmental disasters, like I guess BP had, like a, like a really literally low. He's a C's quarterback back in the day. I'm sure they can. Yeah, I've heard that wasn't even really their fault. It was like it's supported BP. But yeah, it's basically and how that how they run the company, because I guess the trend these days is people want to eat, they want to eat organic, and they want to invest in companies and make them that make them feel better about themselves. Right. Fair
Cory McKane 27:32
enough. That's what the score is all about. Gotcha. You guys help that score gig, we
have that score? I mean, it's important. I mean, it's, I'm not entirely sure how useful it is. But I think it's I think it's an important score. And I think wish companies and inspection companies use our robot and they'd have a better case for higher score. So that's easy. I'll learn more about it. And I'll get back to
Cory McKane 27:55
why well, why did you guys name it pike robotics? Why is that the name?
I love that question. A lot of people think it's because I was like a Pi Kappa Alpha and feed
Cory McKane 28:05
to your frat where you actually want them.
For this thing from a fraternity boy, they it looks like it looks like they have a lot of fun, but
Cory McKane 28:12
you're like SAE robotics. You're like,
no, it's just like, what we say is just like the back in the day, in medieval times, the first weapon of defense was the pike because it could like fend off.
Cory McKane 28:28
Do That's a good name.
Yeah. Just like just like the weapon of old our tool is the is the first line of defense for helping reduce methane emissions and the storage tanks. So very cool. That's our that's what we're saying. And also, one of the tools that we use to get inside the seal looks like that. Pipe weapon.
Cory McKane 28:48
Oh, gotcha. I think I have that in one of the pictures. We'll put that on fundraising really quick. How has fundraising going for you guys? Like have you raised around or you have the UT stuff going on? Like what were you guys out with that?
Yeah, so like kind of mentioned earlier how we kind of did it back afterwards, right in terms of usually do the ideation and you do the team and then you do the fundraising. And then you go to market and all that. So like filos disclosed disclose the amount of money they gave us, but they say Phillips Yeah, sorry, six. Thank you all for calling for all the help so far and helping us get to this point. They they funded our graduate research project back in early second summer 2019. Okay, and so we that Sponsorship Agreement ended with them and May of this year, but we still have a good partnership with them access to their facilities and tests the robot and all that good stuff. A lot of the development a lot of the raw materials a lot of the r&d time my tuition came from came from their their their money, their investment and UT mine and another guy at UT was working on different robot
Cory McKane 30:00
It's not like a scholarship, they have equity as well in the company. So they
have they have something in the contract about they get a non exclusive right to use the technology, but they're not a robotics company. So they're not going to, they're not going to build it.
Cory McKane 30:13
They're not like a competitor. better one. Yeah.
They will get as like a discount on on the use once this robot is fully certified for explosive environments. They'll get a discount on being able to use use it in their facilities. Very cool. But we got to sort that out when we get down to it.
Cory McKane 30:30
Have you guys started testing it yet? Or where are you guys at?
Like, yeah, yeah, we're. So we went to their pocket City refinery. And up in Oklahoma, it's kind of like little north of Stillwater, West, it's also and we learned a lot from tests up there. And we kind of took those lessons back and brought them brought it back into our latest design, what we're hoping to get back up there before the end of the year, very close. And we're also looking for for tanks and, and San Antonio and corporis and, and Houston area just so that it would be a little bit easier. Tryphon Yeah, so that we got funding from Phillips for that. And then we also received somebody to kind of continue my time at UT through the Texas Innovation Center with Vangelis Ganassi Jennings who I mentioned earlier. And so they provided me a little scholarship to kind of continue working on the business, fleshing out the refining, business model and things like that. And we also received the concept of work from UT. And I just recently to actually have talks with the one of the one of the biggest challenges of this is allowing the operator allowing the robots operating explosive environments. And so you have to have a lot of safety systems on board, which we developed and are now testing because you can't just have to like blow up in the Yeah, one of the things that lightning strikes can come and hit these seals that are preventing the methane from leaking out of these tanks that can cause a fire. So we don't want to create our own lightning, scotch motors moving right, you're gonna have like kind of sparks for that. So you have to do things to get to have systems on board and to mitigate the chance of causing a fire within the tank. Gotcha. So once we get this class one different certification, which the money that we got from YouTube allows us to start having talks and start the process of certifying this robot with these OSHA approved nationally recognized testing lab school, once we have that, we get that stamp of approval, and then gates wide open the start, start capturing capturing some market share with the with these tanks. So we're gonna work with inspection providers, and also work with tank owners to see what's the best way that they want to use this technology. So we're open to kind of figuring out what's good you anytime you enter new industry, you got to you got to play ball a little bit, just know for sure. What's palatable what everyone likes, I mean, just because you have an idea of how to respond doesn't mean that that's like, that's gonna fly with kind of like you've found that with with your veterinarian much
Cory McKane 33:00
so very much so. Well. I mean, it's, it's nice that you guys have ut behind you, like you're not just like blindly going into these companies like you have a head of the robotics and nuclear program, you know, coming in that way. So he started the program to clarify her. Gotcha.
Yeah, so he started the program. There was him in another professor, Dr. Landsberger. Since then, nuclear comes from that initial contract with Los Alamos National Labs. I was what I remember, that sort of like measuring radiation without having to, or gamma radiation without having to send like humans inside.
Cory McKane 33:36
Gotcha. emeriti I only know the whole Excel.
Apologies. That was never my never my project. So I'm sure I'm butchering some of the terminology. Oh, you're good. You're good. No one do a fact show do a fact check from it. But the so yeah, he started that program like 17 years ago. And I think this is first time he's actually worked with the student to kind of spin it technology out of the lab, because it's new for both of us. We're, we're into a lot of this, but with the money from the National Science Foundation talked about fundraising. So we apply for an SBIR grant, which nice if there's any hard physical science, technical founders out there, look into money from the government, because there's a lot out there. The National Science Foundation has these open topics. Ours is robotics, obviously and so if the if the government in terms of the reviewers of these proposals, they see it they think that what you're proposing has value to the US economy or the US government, then they're gonna they're gonna give you money to help you fund the development of this technology so that we can further via I guess it's not a superpower, but yeah, stay on the stay on the cutting edge of technology, which has been our bread and butter for the last 100 years. Whatever
Cory McKane 34:59
you Given I have several buddies that have gotten SBIR, SBIR grants and like it's me, generally it's free money. But I know the process is very daunting. major milestones. Milestones, there's like, isn't there five there's SBIR 12345? Like right or No,
from what I know, it only goes to. Its phase two. They have a phase three, that it's think phase three is just maybe maybe we gotta kick you out. We got something changed. Laurel.
Cory McKane 35:34
How old? Are you? I never asked you. The question. I couldn't ask him. 30 I'm 30 this this this year. So that's yeah, I was like, you can be 25 or you can be like 30 ones with one of those ranges. So you shave. Yeah, you're good. Yeah. Thank you. The two
went out. We went out to the party last night to to do
Cory McKane 35:55
on blessed Sunday night. Okay, gotcha. Yeah.
At the time study house. Yeah. And so I was definitely I didn't shave for that one. So we went out afterwards. And I was like, I was getting this guy, this guy. He can be 30.
Cory McKane 36:13
In Austin, you don't know how to you never know. Yeah. How do you do you guys have competition? If you do like other other people, like out there? Cleaning tanks are like, yeah, so how do you guys differ from those guys?
Yeah, so there are a lot of companies like the tank, the tanks are big. These are big tanks. So they have a number of inspections. Like the main critical one is inspecting the tank floor to make sure there's no like the thickness of it all the way around the around the entire bottom surface area. It's like above like, like point point two inches, point one, five inches, something like that. And so you want to make sure that the floor is really solid. So you don't have any product kind of leaking out. And then because that's it's huge, fine. Yeah, that's, that's bad for business and the health of people in the surrounding communities, stuff like that. So that's there's a lot of companies that are inspecting 10 floors. Apply applied impact robotics, Daikon systems. So they're they're focused on that no square robots working on that as well. And they have a prequel system that they've developed. And we we've been talking to them. But to answer your question about competition, no one's really no one's really working on the seals really work on inspecting the seals. And first market advantage is never really an advantage. Really. I mean, let me teach you that in business class a lot. But in our case, it might be a little bit because
Cory McKane 37:41
we already have robots doing the job. He just did a different job. And I see you're like, I mean, you're like lime scooters, like Uber already made the headway and like renting a vehicle temporarily, like new, different driver, wherever, but then limes like, Oh, I just scan this just like I use my app to get into an Uber. It's like, scanners and then whatever. It's like a different use case. Different a different transportation, you know, someone else made and so like, people already made robots that go into the
bottoms of these tanks. They also crawl on the outside as well. Exactly. If you have robots everywhere, just like you know. And so for longer we know we added jobs
to WhatsApp working here. It gets back up. But yeah, when when I'm able to breathe I
Cory McKane 38:30
feel I don't get I want I want a decent amount of TV at night. But like I just feel like I just work while I'm watching TV anyways, yeah, I try I get very little like quality. I'm not working while I'm watching something time. So anyways, that competition by the comp. So
are so in terms of first market to mover advantage. The what that is the process of certifying these robots is lengthy and time consuming. Just said the same thing, I meant lengthy and costly, very cost,
Cory McKane 38:59
likely time consuming. So much time with buyers. Don't get me started on time
synonyms. So by the time another like, obviously want to use robotics companies could come in and, and make their own version of what we have going on. I think the ability to have like a motion controller that allows us to deal with the friction associated with the mission and maintain a consistent stable motion and also the the autonomous seal integrity computer vision algorithm that we have that along with the safety subsystems on board, it's gonna be really hard for a company to to replicate all those within I mean, we've been on this it's 2019. So yeah, we've had a lot of kind of good headway and our good head start on that. And so it got another company to it. Yeah, I mean, it's just it's engineering all this is just all this just engineering. I mean, the it's, but it's one of those things that it takes time to do it. By the time someone else entered the market, we'd probably have a significant market share of shortening them to other other use cases as well. But that's yeah, that's a good pipeline of talent from that a UT talked about the CO founding services. There's a guy who's thinking about joining me today for this. But yeah, he was he was too busy with classes and everything but for any of the people working working in labs and universities, like, just look around like there's, there's there's a lot of talent just just right to look at his talent. It's just a talent is almost like you sound like you're there people.
Cory McKane 40:30
We know you're not saying that. Yeah. But it's,
I mean, it's people that can go on this journey with because it's a fun journey. It's It's a lonely journey. If you don't have someone, it's so easy. It's even a lonely journey if you have someone because not a lot of people are, are doing this thing. And it's very lonely to do this or are really sick in the head or
Cory McKane 40:49
I there's so many times where I want to text people, sometimes things I'm like, they didn't need to know that. But I don't have a co founder. So I want to tell somebody, I'm just like, hey, we got this. This happened today. And they're like, Oh, cool. And I'm like, why don't tell me I want to get it off my chest. Especially when I have to vent in a negative way. I'm just like, no one cares. Like, I can't tell anyone like I don't have a co founder like a podcast. Yeah. This is me venting as a solo founder, 150,000 followers that we have. That's what we do have that after this episode. Before that, like, like, a couple 100,000. Yeah,
I think someone who made this comment online that they make $85,000 every podcast, it's really, every now and then they go brain, they really don't. They're not very good. Bring that up. So
Cory McKane 41:34
it's nice. So we'll get there
eventually. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So get pipelines out of UT. And then I think we also have some good partnerships with the companies actually, we're the lead manufacturer, the company actually makes the seals.
Cory McKane 41:49
So cool. Oh, very smart. That's where you got to do. Yeah. So
keeping good relationship with them is very important for us. And it also important for them, too, because if the company can also not just make these really world class seals, they go around these tanks, but also have a way to accurately inspect them with better it's easy for these tank owners than done that's that's easy money, man. Yeah, and fill in. Like I said, Phillips is also good partner. So we have we have the technical know how we have the first market advantage. And we also have these really good partnerships with the industry leaders. And so yeah,
Cory McKane 42:26
very cool, man. I think you guys are gonna dominate um, what is it day to day like for you? Because I'm trying to figure out like, how much of a CEO you are like, Are you the guy like working on the robot every day? Like, what is your what is your day to day? Yeah.
That's that's a fun question. Right now. It's mainly just open my my Google calendar. And I see what kind of commitments I
Cory McKane 42:45
Obviously, I was looking for this podcast. I did forget about it until that No, you did. Yeah, no, no. I saw this morning. And I was like, I was like, oh, yeah, I gotta do that. So. But it really is just like we're going to encounter like, I agree to talk to this person. But an ideal day for me would really be having like a stand up meeting with one team, everyone talks about agile methodologies. For software, that's what you can also use for hardware. So it's really having a stand up meeting with your team, letting them know, it's like, hey, we, we've found that this is really important capability to have for the robot. And so let's let's work on developing this making sure that I was an engineer, I'd probably focus on the things that were fun and the things were fun to do. But making sure your team is kind of focused on those priorities that are the most important. Because what we need to do is get to get to our weaknesses, because successfully do a mission around when these big tanks that's, that's the main thing we need to do. And then all the other bells and whistles, not important. Yeah. And so making sure teams focus on the priorities. And so that's that's mainly what it was just on Slack all the time on emails. A lot of times they'll tell me they need certain materials, some buy these materials been in bookstores for these things. And the other part of what I'm doing I mean, UT has been our they've been great. We got a team of Macomb students and some MBA students, engineers and psychology student and law students, as they put together this, Texas Venture Labs put together this team. We have four students that are basically five students are actually doing customer discovery for us. Very cool. Very cool. Yeah, it's actually had a meeting with them for for our camera podcasts, kind of like saying, Hey, we're gonna reach out to these these customers. And really, it's good because it keeps you from doing television. Because you might really think, you know, what, what a customer wants, but it's because you've been the solution so long. Exactly. So they're they're doing this high level understanding to make sure that we're solving the right thing. And so I think that's good. A good thing to have. And so talking with them kind of helping them manage that team giving them the things they need to be successful. And then I do also give myself a technical task. So we're, whether I'm working on some odometry for the robot or improving the motion controller or just doing a test of the robot arm off at UT. Just have our mock up of a tank at UT that we have outside the robotics lab there.
Cory McKane 45:24
How big is the like,
like, what does it take to like 1212 feet long, cool, we have a kind of a full mock up of, of one of these seals looks like it's like a, it's like a secondary triangle, almost like a secondary seal up here. That's the vapor sling of a primary seal. That's right here that's keeping the liquid that they put in. So the vapor space is kind between our robot operates in that space. So we running tests, and then basically I try to I try to tell my teams like let's just learn something today. Like, like, at the end of the day, what if we didn't if we didn't meet whatever we wanted to get done? It's like, as long as we learned something that we can, like, go to sleep and be thinking about Yeah, I think that yeah, I think that's a good thing to have go to sleep and have like a something something done that you can like kind of ruminate on, think about how to how to solve it for the next day.
Cory McKane 46:10
My problem is like going to bed and having too many things that I did be like shit, can you do
like a ticket like Lexapro and yeah, and he
Cory McKane 46:19
was like, Dude, come on. Melatonin helps, obviously, and
gets us out. Mushrooms once a quarter. Hey, they're
Cory McKane 46:26
never done mushrooms, though. I probably should have I really have a byproduct. Sure. I probably should at some point to tech podcasts. Everyone's on mushrooms. I haven't know some. Like I feel like I would lose my mind on mushrooms though. So I definitely know a guy. I know. He's literally the guy. So do you guys think it'd be in Austin for a long time? Or do you think you're gonna like, I mean, you have like your the whole ut situation here. Do you think you'll eventually expand it like a bigger city
or something like that? Yeah. So I'd love to be an awesome love it. It's great town. Got a ballot board. Our customers aren't using Raiders use scenario. I mean, Beaumont as well. I mean, porpoise, I mean, down there around Bay City. So we probably in the short term, I probably need to move shop a little bit closer, closer to them for a few reasons, just to be able to iterate on the design a little bit faster. And I mean, it also this industries. I mean, there's so I mean, they're, they're on the cutting edge, there are nursing and all these different advanced technologies, not just robotics, but they do they do appreciate kind of the old way of doing things. You see a person you shake their hand and not bullshitting them not selling any snake oil or whatever. So it's a it's a, I enjoy the industry. We went to a trade show in San Antonio originally at the American Petroleum Institute, but whenever there were two years, and it was really, really fun, it's I mean, I mean, talk, talk and drink with them at the at the Grand Hyatt to like 2am was was really fun.
Cory McKane 48:00
Those are the best when you get in post conference like drunk with people. It also it's like, all that stuff comes out the best conversations the best, like, I fucking hate this company. Like, yes. It's not stuff that you can like, tweet about or tell your friends about, but it's just good. It's, it's cool. Like, just, yeah, man. It's cool. So
I like I like the industry, I probably will need to be in Houston at some point, but I'll never know, maybe we're gonna have two houses.
Cory McKane 48:26
That's the goal for this, you know, this company, the
goal is to help people. Sorry, sorry, people help people.
Cory McKane 48:35
You can do both you do both the same time? Well, cool, man. I mean, do you have anything you want to conclude with? We already told the audience that like, if there's people that you know, are looking for a job, especially, you know, in the YouTube area in robotics, like if you're a good co founder role, there ughelli Anything else that you want to bring up?
No, like, like I said, if y'all have any questions, I mean, obviously, I'm really bad about responding to emails sometimes but if you I guess, I guess what they say but if you want like some of the like, even I have to do this to go and like to mentor to talk to who's like, like, do something that they really admire, like donate to their like their their charity or help out for something that they really are really involved in then you can then they'll make time for you right? So yeah, maybe like you want
Cory McKane 49:21
to donate their cars charity. No.
I didn't mean it like that. There's people that are it's this whole process has been really been a humbling experience. I mean, you think you're the smart guy on the block and me you meet the smart guy on the block and
you're not the other thing I guess. I guess I'm just sharing a lesson to this point but no one no one to to not to know when you're doing something that is not your your specialty, right like no one. Don't let your ego get in the way I'm going. I like to know everything I like and How To Do Everything, build everything like the node program everything. But you know, there's only 24 hours in the day and most of those you're sleeping or some of those are sleeping and so it's just just be wary, just be cognizant of that you're just a human and you gotta have like, a limited capacity to do things and that's why a team is so important. You got a team, and then that's, that's, that's, I guess that's the best way I would say. That's why we strive that's why we strive bam. Alright,
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