Reach Robotics CEO hits back over 'scrapheap' story
Nigerian tech entrepreneur Silas Adekunle has hit back at a media report which claimed his company Reach Robotics is ‘battling to avoid the scrapheap’.
The Bristol-based company has filed for administration and laid off several off its staff.
However founder and CEO Adekunle told BusinessCloud that a Sunday Times story claiming the robotics company is ‘under pressure from a creditor and looking for investment or a sale to stave off collapse’ was not a fair representation of the situation.
The 28-year-old said that the filing was a move to buy the company time, a necessity when dealing with the illiquid stock of its ‘MekaMon’ robots.
“Sometimes you file to give yourself just enough time to settle creditors so you're not forced into liquidation where the assets then become at risk,” he told BusinessCloud.
“There is some legal structural entity that has to change to get some deals over the line. The work that's still being carried out and division will still continue, it could just be as a different entity.”
The firm is in due diligence discussions for acquisition, he said, as it repositions itself from a consumer-facing robotics firm to one with education at its core.
While the firm has had to make redundancies, bringing its staff down to around 17, Adekunle said that respecting both exiting and remaining staff has been a priority.
He plans to expand again and is aiming to have one hundred employees by late next year, bringing in the new skillsets required as it repositions its offering.
ReachEdu, the firm’s education arm, combines the firm’s robot and its ‘ReachEdu’ app to teach robotics and coding education to children.
The young entrepreneur said a pilot of the new education arm had gone well with UK schools, and that the firm plans to begin expansion into more countries.
It is currently in the research and development phase of creating next generation robotics positioned for ‘real world’ problems’ too, rather than for toys and entertainment.
“One of the areas we're now looking at is taking some of the IP that we've used in the toy space and in the education space, which is a small robot and sensor platform that can go to places that people can't normally quite get to, because it's very, very small,” he said.
“We're starting to look at how we can use that to solve some problems, or help to solve the problems in the world.”
It is also working on a project called Awari, which means ‘seek and find’ in Yorùbá, the language he speaks in Nigeria.
The project is set to offer a six-week exposure to robotics and coding, with the hope of introducing young people to the technology and forming new young tech communities.
Adekunle said that his challenge is to find a way to maintain a positive cash flow with the robots, while at the same time making a difference in the world.
“We're dealing with physical stuff and physical constraints; time, weight logistics. All of that limits your ability to scale as rapidly as well as a software-only company,” he said.
“As a robotics company cash flow is quite important. You find yourself with assets which are quite valuable but illiquid.
“It's a business at the end of the day and it needs to run, and you learn some hard lessons in there. Part of my challenge over the next few years is to ask how I get the company to a place where we’re making a difference in the world.”