CONTENT FROM ALEJANDRO CREMADES | PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 9, 2023
Scott Gravelle has now raised well over $200M to forge the future of manufacturing automation and the next generation of the supply chain.
On the Dealmakers Show Gravelle talked about bringing the right people on board for the journey, picking the right investors for your startup, robotics, running with the best business ideas, and the difference between corporate governance in the US versus Canada.
Learning, Ideas, And Making Things
Scott Gravelle grew up in Canada. A country he says cares for its people. Although it may be notoriously known for its long dark winters, he says that gave him a lot of time to work on things.
Growing up in a blue collar, middle class environment he was expected to get a trade. He initially followed his aunts and uncles into cabinet making. Though always having an entrepreneurial spirit he says he was always looking for ideas and new things to learn.
Scott was working in a hospital as a physician’s assistant, and was initially inspired to become a surgeon. That fork in the road meant either becoming a surgical nurse or a medic in the army. So, on his 20th birthday he entered basic training for the Canadian armed forces.
When the military was making budget cuts they laid him off. So, he went to college to study science in nursing. On graduating, the medical system was making major cuts and were closing hospitals.
While many may be crushed by events like these, Gravelle seems to have found a way to keep on parlaying them into new opportunities.
Next he found himself back in the cabinet making business. This time in California, doing high end interior work. That turned into becoming an accounts manager for a cabinetry company, designing the work.
Looking for a new activity to do, Scott bought himself a longboard. It broke after two days, and the company offered no support. He decided he could build his own, and better. Others soon wanted them, and that thrust him into the manufacturing business, which is a path he has been on ever since.
His company became the fifth largest longboard skateboard manufacturer in the world. Though, it was not a big market, and one which was very seasonal. After five years he threw in the towel. Though he took his experience in automating the manufacturing process, and began a consulting business to help others implement digital manufacturing strategies into their own businesses.
After calling one robotics company for parts, he found out they had just been acquired by Amazon for $775M. That really sparked his interest in supply chain automation, and warehouse automation.
After watching a documentary on ants, he came up with the idea for three dimensional storage.
Even though he was captivated by this new idea, he spent the next two years trying to find a real reason not to do it.
Going from selling $5,000 in skateboards to skate shops to $5M to $50M projects to Fortune 500 companies would be quite a leap. Though he says he would not allow fear alone to be the reason he didn’t move forward.
He looked at the size of the market and its rate of growth. He checked customer interest, and if it was a defensible business. He never found any legitimate reason not to pursue it, so he did, by creating Attabotics.
Today, Scott Gravelle’s top advice for others launching a business of their own is not to be afraid of the biggest, most disruptive ideas. That small, incremental ideas are not safer than big ones.
In fact, he says that “the bigger the idea you have, the more disruptive the idea you have, the more likely you are to find support, and the less likely you are to encounter competition.” So, if you’re going to put effort into anything, “pick the biggest idea, because it’s the same amount of effort as doing the smallest one, but you’ll have a chance of making a bigger difference.”
Today, Scott is the CEO and CTO of Attabotics.
Originally he thought they would just create and then provide the IP to others. Yet, everyone they encountered that was interested told them that they were moving faster in this area than they ever could themselves.
Six years later they now have the hardware and software, 300 employees, and have raised $230M between government grants and equity investments.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Scott Gravelle was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Picking Your Investors
Despite all the technology, Scott says that building a business is still a lot about the people. That’s not just your employees, but also your investors.
They’ve raised a substantial amount of money, as hardware is not cheap or quick to get going. Yet, he says that your needs for investors can change on the journey.
Some of those that are interested in investing in the early stages, may not be the same ones you need later on. Though remember that these aren’t people you can just fire like employees.
He recommends thinking very long and hard about the big vision you have for your business and how those investors will fit in. It should be a long term relationship.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Fundraising and staving off takeover attempts in a crisis
- The future of automation in the supply chain
- The difference in corporate governance in the US versus Canada
- Hiring and managing your team
- When to let people go, even when it is incredibly hard to do so