Company Builders: Noah Ready-Campbell, Co-Founder and CEO of Built Robotics

April 07, 2022 / Calibrate Ventures Staff

Built Robotic’s software and hardware is used to retrofit heavy machinery such as bulldozers and excavators to turn them into autonomous, self-driving vehicles. Founded in 2016, Built has launched its technology with world-wide deployments and integrations with the largest equipment manufacturers. Calibrate Ventures first invested in Built in 2017and has worked closely with the founding team to build the company from the ground up. We recently sat down with Built Co-Founder and CEO Noah Ready-Campbell  to get his advice on early-stage company-building.

What drove you to start a company?

I grew up around construction, and even though our needs for building had changed dramatically, the tools we were using to build hadn’t changed in decades. So I started Built to address that technology gap. Construction is the backbone of progress: it builds our world.

What is the first big hurdle you faced and how did you overcome it?

Our first big hurdle was getting a real construction project to use our robots on. It’s not easy to convince someone to try a new technology; getting your first customer is always the hardest. At one point, the robot (which was pretty early in development) actually missed some material to be excavated, so my co-founder Andrew Liang and I wound up shoveling it out by hand for a few hours. Our customer, an excavation contractor who’d been in business for probably 30 years, got quite a kick out of watching robotics engineers doing the work of the robot. But he was happy at the end of the day, which is the most important thing.

Looking back to your company’s earliest days, what is one thing you would have done differently?

If I could start again, I would have focused our initial product on a very specific use case. Early on, we were trying to tackle too many types of autonomy, which was distracting and research intensive. It made it harder to become commercially-viable early on.

On the flipside, what is one thing you got absolutely right?

One thing I never lost sight of was being close to our customers and their needs. It’s always been a core strength at Built to roll up our sleeves and have every member of the team work with our customers on construction jobsites. It creates both expertise and empathy.

What is one milestone you’re particularly proud of?

I was proud to see the launch of our robotic Exosystem last year since it represents years of development from our team, customers, and partners. And for the construction industry, it is the first-ever autonomous upgrade for heavy equipment that is commercially available today. The Exosystem marks one of the most significant new construction technologies in a long time.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new founder, what would it be?

Keep it simple: you have a small team and limited resources, so you have to be disciplined in what you choose to do (and not do). I like to say, “build Hondas not Ferraris.” This is the fastest way to start validating your idea in the real world and making it useful to your customers.

Who do you admire and why?

I admire Elon Musk for his deep technical knowledge and broad interests — plus he is always shipping and making entire industries follow his lead.

What does success mean for you?

Success for me is seeing our robots across the globe helping to build the 21st century: homes, infrastructure, clean energy, and more.

How did you land your first paying customer?

An investor we knew was close with a contractor near San Francisco, and he put us in touch. This was our first project using an autonomous CTL.

What did you learn from your first paying customer?

You have to do whatever it takes to finish the job on spec and on time. Be ready for anything!