Matt Rendall, Ryan Gariepy and Bryan Webb kept me up at night. Repeatedly.
It all started about 3 years ago, when I bumped into Matt at an Extreme Startups pre-Demo Day party in Toronto (H/T to Razor for hosting!). Matt was the CEO of fledgling young hardware startup called Clearpath Robotics. Clearpath’s founders (Matt, Ryan and Bryan) had started the Company shortly after graduating from the Mechatronics Engineering program at the University of Waterloo in 2009. In a short period of time, they had become recognized global experts in the field of unmanned autonomous vehicles.
To be frank, I don’t remember much about the conversation beyond the following two points: Matt kept referring to his co-founders as “Business Partners”…and he looked almost physically ill while lamenting the lack of institutional capital available for teams that were building “REAL businesses”.
Fast-forward 2 years. Having kept in touch with Matt and followed to progress of the Company, it came no surprise to me that he had scaled the business to millions of dollars in revenue, and was generating significant profits for his shareholders. To date, Clearpath had only raised a paltry $300k – something that passes as a rounding error these days for your average sexy startup. Taking the time to dig into the business just enhanced my respect for the business that Matt, Ryan and Bryan had built just up the street from my parent’s house in Kitchener. It seemed too good to be true – great founders, a rock solid business, and an excuse to swing by for some regular home cooking.
Alas, I made a huge mistake. I spent too much time trying to figure out why this amazing company hadn’t raised millions of dollars, trumpeted itself to the press, hired a bunch of flashy names and rushed a product to market amid much fanfare. I managed to talk myself, and our team @iNovia, into a serious case of “paralysis by analysis”. I kept looking for the fatal flaw that, quite simply, didn’t exist. I lost the deal. Then I lost a lot of sleep.
Last summer, Matt and I reconnected once again. I was astounded by the progress the Company was making, and it was my turn to feel almost physically ill at the realization that not only had I missed out on funding a “REAL business”, but also, a “BIG business”. I went home that night and decided that I couldn’t lose anymore sleep over what could have been – it was time to make things right for the here and now.
It is clear that Clearpath Robotics is uniquely positioned to create an absolutely massive business. Clearpath has already established itself as a leader in unmanned autonomous vehicle research by working with almost every top academic institution and industry leader in the space. Overall, the Company has 500+ clients in 40 countries and an incredible network of robotics researchers, developers and partners – including being the leading contributor to the Open Source Robotics Operating Sysyem (ROS) project. Clearpath has now developed the core IP, hardware/software integration expertise and an implementation track record that puts the Company at the forefront a market that is estimated to grow to $65B/year by both BCG and McKinsey over the next 10 years. I am astonished by the possibilities this represents for Clearpath.
I now sleep soundly at night knowing that we have backed the right team to capitalize on this opportunity. I’d like to thank Matt, Ryan and Bryan for putting me out of my misery, and allowing iNovia Capital to finally invest in this fine enterprise. Obviously this is another large investment for us in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and once again a testament to the incredible talent base and community that is being fostered there. I’m excited to be joined in this adventure by the fine folks at RRE, and look forward to watching this next chapter in what has already been an interesting tale.