Thomas Boe-Wiegaard of Polarworks Answers Four Questions for Founders
The uncertainties of entrepreneurship and pivoting from 3D printing to collaborative robotics.
Polarworks is a global company developing an advanced simulation and control platform that reduces the cost and complexity of hardware by making robotics and automation more predictive adaptive, and context-aware.
1. Why did you start Polarworks? Do you remember the moment when you first thought of the idea?
I started Polarworks because the technology was too interesting and exciting to not start a company around, and more importantly, what we didn’t know couldn’t hurt us. Growing up, both my mother and father were entrepreneurs; so I never really saw “work” as the classic 9-to-5 model—it was life and work blended seamlessly. “Find and follow your passion,” was a common refrain in our house, and after many youthful attempts at lemonade stands and tee-shirt businesses, formal education as a mechanical engineer was the result of following my passion for tinkering and building. This led to my first job, in a cubicle, working well outside 9:00–5:00, for an aerospace military defense contracting company. It hit me, with grey industrial carpet below my feet and fluorescent lights shining down, “it’s now or never.” So I decided to commit fully to entrepreneurship, unsure of what the idea would be, but ready to make the space for it.
While living in Norway, I met some absolutely brilliant and inspiring people who were looking to dramatically change the consumer 3D printer market, and we set off to do just that. I did not know it then, but it would be the start of a winding journey taking us to where we are today—seven years later and a very different company than the four original founders scribbling on a whiteboard.
2. How do you see Polarworks impacting how we live our lives?
We pivoted away from 3D printing in early 2018 and focused our core technology on what we considered to be a large, and more stable growth market: industrial robotics, specifically the sector of collaborative robotics. With our background in building simulation environments and proprietary motion control algorithms, we thought, “why apply this to one hardware solution when we can make a software platform that could be applied across an entire sector?” With backing from some of the most forward-thinking investors in Europe (TeleVenture Capital), we built a team to develop and launch a simulation and programming software that would change how industry interacts with machines.
“I think ethical and accessible technology, especially around Robotics and A.I., is a fundamental responsibility of every single person in the company.”
The robotics industry is continuously developing, incorporating new and better solutions for programming and optimization for how we interact with those robots. Polarworks’ software platform will be the interface for this next generation of robotics users. Even with all the progress, the industry has made, there is still a high barrier to success with the current tools and expertise necessary to program and control robots. Polarworks will lower the threshold to robot productivity by making programming easier, faster, and more intuitive. We believe in the power of software; and by making robotic systems more predictive, adaptive, and context-aware, we will see entirely new markets and applications opening in the near-term. These innovations in robotics are a piece of a larger puzzle that is currently shaping how we make, build, ship, and consume goods in almost every industry globally.
3. How has New York and Newlab positively impacted the development of your business?
The community that Newlab has assembled is incredibly powerful for those looking to foster teamwork, build inspiration, set culture, and find the right resources to be successful. There are no guarantees, but surrounding ourselves with the high caliber companies, teams, and individuals that are a part of Newlab has significantly increased our value as a company and ultimately will be one of the keys to our success.
We feel so fortunate to be a part of the community and fully embrace the “pay it forward” mentality that has so clearly been the ethos of Newlab since we started here. It is not often said, but there is a huge gap between the early days of pure excitement from the idea of starting something new, and the nuts and bolts of company-building, raising money, and getting a product to market. The support, and specifically the Newlab team, make bridging that gap much more likely to be successful.
Newlab has been especially valuable in helping facilitate our pilot programs. We are currently looking for case study partners/pilot projects as we work through our pre-release platform versions. We successfully launched our first release in January of 2020 out of the Newlab space, and are currently building the list of partners who we will test Q3 and Q4 launches with. Get in touch to learn more about our ongoing pilot programs.
4. Do you see it as your responsibility to make technology ethical and accessible to all?
Constantly monitoring our development, as objectively as possible, has been super important for the Polarworks team. I think ethical and accessible technology, especially around Robotics and A.I., is a fundamental responsibility of every single person in the company. Three traits that I try to carry with me through each of my emails, calls, conversations, meetings, and interactions are: empathy, integrity, and transparency. Typically, these are applied inwardly towards the team, through our interactions with each other and the company culture that we are building. It is from that perspective that Polarworks aims to hold the highest level of ethical development and full access to our technology.
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