Brad Feld

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Roomba – July’s Toy of the Month

Jul 09, 2005
Category Books

I’ve always had poor impulse control when it comes to buying electronic toys.  Amazon hasn’t helped, as I can satisfy my cravings with a single click.  While I was listening to Daily Source Code from a few days ago on my run, I heard Adam Curry talking about how the Amazon affiliate feeds from the ad on his site for a Senseo HD7810/65 Single Serve Coffee Machine was making him enough dough to buy his whole family a cup of joe each day ($300–ish / month).  The combination of partially subsidized toys, daily coffee, and the idea that all my really cool toys have a story inspired me to start a “toy of the month” category on my blog. 

July’s toy is a Roomba 4210 Discovery Floorvac Robotic Vacuum Cleaner from iRobot.  Amazon delivered two of them to my house in Homer on Wednesday and I set them up the other day (one upstairs / one downstairs).  We named them after our dogs (Denali is the upstairs one / Kenai is the downstairs one).  We had an old model at our house in Boulder which – like the one Tom Evslin has blogged about – would do its thing and then eventually run out of batteries and fall asleep wherever it happened to be at the time.  No longer – the new ones are super smart and come with a docking station.  When they get tired, they simply find their way back to their docks and recharged themselves (and do a funky robot wiggle dance to get lined up to go into the dock.)

The best part of getting my new robotic pets is watching Amy play with them.  She misses our golden retrievers a lot (ok – I do also) and she’s obsessed with vacuuming so what could be better than watching my wife watch a robotic vacuum cleaner do its thing (very effectively – I might add)?  She even jumped up and down with happiness when the little blue dirt detect light came on and Kenai spent more time getting the dirt I tracked in cleaned up.

iRobot will go down in my history as one of those companies I was too stupid to invest in.  I’ve had plenty of chances to invest in successful companies that I’ve passed on.  David Cowan has a great list of deals Bessemer chose not to do (their anti-portfolio) that went on to be huge winners.  The phrase “Robotic Vacuum Cleaner? – c’mon” comes to mind.  However, I don’t have any excuses here – Colin Angle – the CEO of iRobot – is a frat brother and a friend (when we are old and gray, at least I’ll still be able to say “I was Colin’s pledge trainer.”)  Colin even called me for advice when they were raising a round a few years ago and said “hey Brad – would you guys have any interest in taking a look?”  I thought to myself – “robotic vacuum cleaners – now, my partners will NEVER support me on that one – remember Feld, you’re a software guy” and – after a short discussion with several of them – decided to pass on taking a serious look.

Dumb dumb dumb.  iRobot has sold over 1 million vacuum cleaners, has announced Scooba – the robotic floor washer (er – mop) and – well – is just kicking ass as a company.  Congrats Colin and gang.  Maybe I can contribute a little to helping keep the world cleaner by helping sell a few robots. If you have poor impulse control, a wife that likes to watch robots vacuum, or just want to play with a robot (it comes with a serial port and the rumor is that an API will be released soon), buy yourself a Roomba.