San Diego-based Brain Corp, the Softbank-backed developer of autonomous navigation systems, has opened its European headquarters in Amsterdam. The reason for the expansion is two-fold: it helps Brain better support partners who do business in Europe, and it helps Brain find additional engineering talent.
“Amsterdam is a fantastic gateway to Europe and has one of the largest airports in Europe,” Sandy Agnos, Brain’s Director of Global Business Development, told The Robot Report. “It’s very business and tech friendly. It is the second-fastest-growing tech community, talent-wise, in Europe.”
Brain hired Michel Spruijt to lead Brain Corp Europe. He will be tasked with driving sales of BrainOS-powered machines, providing partner support, and overseeing general operations throughout Europe. Agnos said Brain was impressed by Spruijt’s previous experience growing an office from “a few employees to over 100 was impressive to us.”
“Under Michel Spruijt’s guidance, our vision of a world where the lives of people are made safer, easier, more productive, and more fulfilling with the help of robots will extend into Europe,” said Eugene Izhikevich, Brain Corp’s Co-Founder and CEO.
Agnos said there will initially be about 12 employees at Brain Corp Europe who focus mostly on service and support. She added that Brain is recruiting software engineering talent and will continue to grow the Amsterdam office.
Brain planning worldwide expansion
The European headquarters marks the second international office in Brain’s global expansion. The company opened an office in Tokyo in 2017. This made sense for a couple of reasons. Japanese tech giant Softbank led Brain’s $114 million funding round in mid-2017 via the Softbank Vision Fund. And Softbank’s new autonomous floor cleaning robot, Whiz, uses Brain’s autonomous navigation stack.
Agnos said Brain is planning to add other regional offices after Amsterdam. The dates are in flux, but future expansion includes:
- Further growth in Europe in 2020
- Expansion in Asia Pacific, specifically Australia and Korea, in mid- to late-2020
- South America afterwards
“We follow our partners’ needs,” said Agnos. “We are becoming a global company with support offices around the world. The hardest part is we can’t expand fast enough. Our OEM partners already have large, global customer bases. We need to have the right people and infrastructure in each location.”
BrainOS, the company’s cloud-connected operating system, currently powers thousands of floor care robots across numerous environments. Brain recently partnered with Nilfisk, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based cleaning solutions provider that has been around for 110-plus years. Nilfisk is licensing the BrainOS platform for the production, deployment, and support of its robotic floor cleaners.
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has 360 BrainOS-powered machines cleaning its stores across the United States. A human needs to initially teach the BrainOS-powered machines the layout of the stores. But after that initial demo, BrainOS’ combination of off-the-shelf hardware, sensors, and software enable the floor scrubbers to navigate autonomously. Brain employs a collection of cameras, sensors and LiDAR to ensure safety and obstacle avoidance. All the robots are connected to a cloud-based reporting system that allows them to be monitored and managed.
At ProMat 2019, Brain debuted AutoDelivery, a proof-of-concept autonomous delivery robot designed for retail stores, warehouses, and factories. AutoDelivery, which can tow several cart types, boasts cameras, 4G LTE connectivity, and routing algorithms that allow it to learn its way around a store. AutoDelivery isn’t slated for commercial launch until early 2020.
Izhikevich recently told The Robot Report that Brain is exploring other types of mobile applications, including delivery, eldercare, security and more. In July 2018, Brain led a $13.4 million Series B for Savioke, which makes autonomous delivery robots. For years, Savioke built its autonomous navigation stack from scratch using ROS.