FROM RICHMONDINNO By Megan Corsano
Simplicity, velocity, transparency.
These are the values that automation industry veterans A.K. Schultz and Michael Howes sought to bring to the world of robotics when they launched SVT Robotics in Norfolk.
After spending a career deploying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of robotics and automation technology to the nation’s largest companies, the pair recognized the need for a platform that made the adoption of robots easier and more accessible to keep companies competitive.
“We saw that there wasn’t a problem of selling automation, but rather a lack of software engineers in the market for writing difficult and time-consuming code to connect automation to these different interfaces,” Schultz said. “So we set out to build a platform that makes that process much simpler and way faster.”
Schultz likened this technology to USB: a standardized way for platforms to communicate information to one another, allowing for the quicker adoption of new technology and automation. SVT’s platform eliminates the tedious and delicate rewriting of code to keep from affecting other robots or the enterprise system they take orders from.
SVT Robotics is currently on their third investment round; the 13-member team recently raised $3.5M. With a global list of clients, SVT has attracted the attention of investors including New Richmond Ventures and mega-VC Cowboy Ventures, a prominent Silicon Valley fund.
“[Cowboy Ventures] brings another dimension to our company and being able to plug into a lot of their capabilities of the West Coast is invaluable,” Schultz said.
The company’s clients range across industries, including e-commerce, software and services, food and beverage, apparel and consumer products, and pharmaceuticals manufacturing.
“The beauty of what we do is that it’s not really limited by industry or vertical because the software is required across a broad range of applications,” Schultz said. “That’s what makes us so unique: the adaptability to various markets.”
SVT Robotics’ tech essentially standardizes the language between robots and a company’s enterprise software system. Take e-commerce, for example. When an order is placed online through a type of enterprise system, that information needs to be translated, either manually or otherwise, into instructions to direct a human or robot to pick up the item, package it and ship it out. SVT’s platform essentially breaks down those instructions automatically and translates them into robot actions.
Once a client is onboarded, they have access to any of the previous systems created for any other company’s needs that exist in SVT’s library of “soft-bots.”
The goal is to eliminate 80 percent of the code required to be written by a company to implement that same processing. Companies can now connect their systems to automation without needing the skills to write the code to connect the two.
As the company continues to pull in large-name clients around the world, SVT attributes its success to its beginnings in Hampton Roads. SVT participated in the 757 Accelerate program just before launching in 2018, which gave them access to early funds in Tennesee and New York and their eventual funding from Silicon Valley.
“I’m really excited about what’s happening in the startup community from Richmond to Hampton Roads,” Schultz said. “A few years ago it was a very lean community. Building a startup community is all about sharing and interaction, and being able to now help other founders get their start is exciting.”SVT Robotics co-founders Michael Howes and AK Schultz (courtesy photo)