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Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries, the show that explores the future of tech with innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Charlie Anderson, Co-Founder of Burro, an autonomous farming startup that has raised over $12 million in funding.

Key topics discussed in this episode:

  • Charlie’s background growing up on a working farm in Pennsylvania, developing a love for machinery and technology, and a dislike for manual labor in extreme heat
  • The experience of working for CNH, John Deere’s largest competitor, evaluating autonomy companies for potential acquisition, and the realization that Charlie was better suited for the startup world
  • Burro’s product: a computer vision-based autonomous ground vehicle that carries, tows, or scouts alongside people in various agricultural applications, resembling “Disney’s Wall-E or Star Wars R2-D2 for work outdoors”
  • The typical customers, ranging from 4,000 to 10,000-acre farms with high labor costs, particularly in harvesting, and the use of Burro’s vehicles to augment workforce productivity
  • The discussion around robots working alongside people rather than fully replacing human labor, and the challenges of replicating human perception and adaptability in robotics (Moravec’s paradox)
  • The adoption curve within large farming operations, with innovators and early adopters driving initial adoption, followed by wider workforce acceptance as fleet sizes grow
  • The challenges of building a robot that can be easily operated by day laborers, creating immediate value for farm owners, and the importance of tracking autonomous miles per day and per user intervention/complaint
  • The competitive landscape, with many startups in the space but few with a functional, scalable product that can handle the variability of real-world environments
  • The vision of creating a new category of people-scale mobility in working environments, drawing parallels to the evolution of the PC industry with multiple layers and companies building on top of each other
  • The five-year vision of expanding Burro’s platform into various segments within agriculture, construction, solar panel installation, and other areas where people move around, perceive things, and manipulate objects


Focus on Real-World Functionality Over Hype:

In an emerging industry with low barriers to entry for prototypes, differentiate yourself by building a product that can reliably handle the variability and challenges of real-world environments at scale.

Design for Ease of Use and Immediate Value Creation:

When introducing new technology to a workforce, prioritize simplicity, ease of use, and the ability to create value quickly for both end-users and decision-makers.

Track Meaningful Metrics for Continuous Improvement:

Monitor key performance indicators, such as autonomous miles per day and per user intervention/complaint, to gauge system performance, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate value to customers.

Anticipate and Embrace Unexpected Use Cases:

As you build a platform technology, be prepared for customers and partners to envision applications beyond your initial target market. Embrace this creativity and adapt your offering to support a broader range of use cases.

Think in Layers and Partnerships:

In an evolving industry, consider how your technology fits into a larger ecosystem, and position your company as a layer upon which others can build. Cultivate partnerships and integrations to create a more comprehensive and valuable solution for customers.

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