Sphero appoints new CEO, spins off robotics startup for first responders

Brian Heater

Sphero just announced that it has spun off another company. Once again, the new startup has a decidedly different focus from its parent company’s core of education-focused products. While still a robotics company at its heart, the underwhelmingly named Company Six will create robotic systems designed for first responders and other humans whose work requires them to put themselves in harm’s way.

Also snuck into the press release, almost as an an afterthought, is the appointment of Paul Copioli as the new CEO of Sphero, effective immediately. The executive is an industry veteran who has worked at VEX Robotics, industrial robotics giant Fanuc and Lockheed Martin. Most recently, he was the president and COO of littleBits when the startup was acquired by Sphero.

Copioli takes over after the company’s exit from the consumer space. Sphero has pivoted almost entirely into the educational market, with the littleBits acquisition making up an important piece of the puzzle.

“It’s an honor to lead the Sphero team as we continue to pave the way for accessible robots, STEAM and computer science education for kids around the world,” he says in a release. “With our focus on education and our mission to inspire the creators of tomorrow, Sphero has a long-standing place in our school systems and beyond.”

Spinning off Company Six as its own independent entity is seemingly part of the new focus. The seeds of the startups were formed by former CEO Paul Berberian’s Public Safety Division within Sphero. He has since shifted to become chairman of both companies, while former Sphero COO Jim Booth will head Company Six as COO. Got all that?

Company Six has already closed a $3 million seed round, lead by Spider Capital, with Sphero investors Foundry Group and Techstars also on-board. Like previous Sphero spin-off Misty, information about Company Six is minimal at the time of its announcement. The new company’s site is essentially bare. We only know it will be focused on creating robotic systems for first responders, defense workers and other dangerous jobs. The news echoes iRobot's 2016 spin-off of its military wing, Endeavor. 

Sphero explains:

By applying the experience used to bring more than 4 million robots to market at Sphero, the Company Six team believes it can create products that are not only robust and feature-rich enough for professional applications, but also affordable enough to be adopted by the majority, rather than the minority, of civilian and military personnel.

More news to follow soon, no doubt.