Founder Friday

UpDroid's Kartik Tiwari

Welcome to Founder Friday, where we learn a little about the people behind some of the companies doing their thing at Highway1.

Today’s founder is CTO and hardware lead Kartik Tiwari of UpDroid, makers of an easy-to-use modular robotics platform for education and beyond.

Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born and brought up in India, and got my bachelors in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. After graduating, I went to work at Suzuki Motors, India’s largest automotive company, where I sourced parts, designed new ones, and dealt with vendors while working on various car models at different points in their respective development timelines. I eventually left Suzuki and came to the US, where I got my masters in robotic systems development from Carnegie Mellon. That’s where I met Mike Lewis, UpDroid’s other co-founder.

Where did the idea for this business come from?
Our first vision was simply to build a single-board computer. Mike was working at Broadcom and wanted to hack some boards together to build a working robot, but there was nothing out there that could run a whole OS — that was what we wanted to deliver at first. But after going to an incubator and talking to prospective customers and friends in robotics, we came to realize that the whole robot is really what our users need, not just the bare-bones PCB. I played a major role in transitioning from our initial idea to the flexible platform we have now, defining its different modules and figuring out where to draw the lines.

How did you choose which pieces of the platform to make first?
We went back to Robotics 101 and started thinking about what any robotic system should consist of:

  • A module to sense the environment
  • A module to process the environment
  • A module to interact with the environment


It’s the basic workflow of any robotic system, sense, plan, act. After coming up with these three modules, we ended up with:

  • Two cameras to give the robot stereoscopic vision
  • We already had the robot’s brain ready for processing
  • An arm for the robot to manipulate things with
updroid gallery 1440x800

How did you find out about Highway1?
An investor at Cowboy Ventures connected us with David Austin from PCH Access. After talking with David, he suggested that we apply to Highway1 — I think we were right at the end of the application process, and we were fortunate enough to be accepted.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in hardware?
The eternal quandary of getting resources (time, money, headcount) versus managing them in the actual product development process.

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