Interview with Andrew Mishurenkov
What is your definition of a startup?
I’ve been involved in various startups in the greatest variety of roles. My business ventures had originally always been connected to software development and clients would order startup software development from us. Consequently, I was able to conduct an analysis of several hundred endeavors, a portion of them being successful. My clients would often invite me to take part in them, but for a long time I remained separate from it and didn’t get involved in the projects as a participant. At times, there were very strong projects and teams where I would get involved for a little while as a project participant, and then in 2016, I founded my first very own communication technologies startup.
I can characterize the concept of a Startup from my own first-hand experience: it’s a business in its beginning stages which is built around innovation. In a successful startup, innovation is managed to be developed into a beneficial model. As a consequence, that creates a full-fledged organization that during the first months and years has very active growth. This active growth in particular draws attention to the startups industry while the investors help with even greater acceleration of the growth of the fledgling companies.
What inspired the idea of Sunny’s creation?
In my last job, we created a complex system that tracked the movement of trains and called rescue services in the event of an emergency. The equipment that we developed was very complex and broke down fairly often. Our company’s engineers had to constantly go on business trips in order to repair or update those systems. When the number of packages grew above 200, the repair problem grew particularly acute and there weren’t enough qualified engineers to handle the repairs. We had to train new specialists over and over. Consequently, in the software development department, we thought up a revolutionary solution – we created a remote access device capable of connecting as a human. It was the predecessor of what now lies inside Sunny.
Several years later, the device proved necessary again when a totally different task arose. I was aware that if this solution were made more universal, its use could grow broader as well. I shared this idea with my friend and we started to regenerate that concept. That was what laid the foundation. The idea of the robot in particular surfaced significantly later as a consequence of reflection on the topic of “how to explain this to other people so that they buy it”.
Who is working on Sunny’s launch?
We have a strong team of motivated and inspired people. Participants see the creation of a new way of life as their mission, a life in which robots will help people. Today, the 12 of us are the Sunny family. We work from different countries – America, Canada, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Montenegro, and Ukraine. Over 60 people have invested their efforts into Sunny in the over 2 years that the project has existed.
A huge number of people are helping us who share our passion. Those are experienced mentors, experts, consultants, and volunteers. We conduct a large number of experiments on our audience and we’ve put together a little community.
Our first staff of robot operators is already forming who will become the basis of the Robot’s knowledge and skills.
Did you say family?
Yes, that’s right! We are a family. We call our robot Sunny our child and all of us together are his family. It all started as a joke, but that joke got so far along that we no longer argue that our job is to raise a boy who soon will conquer the world.
It’s no joke, we have two birthdays for him. One of his birthdays is when he actually came into the world while the other date is his age, so that he actually behaves like a fully grown human being. He possibly may grow up and grow old along with his family that he lives in.
How did you put together the first team?
I have known many team members personally for many years before the project began. We have worked with some people on other tasks while we were friends with others. It all started from a phone call in which I shared the idea of creating a universal device for IT engineers with my pal Andrey Rumyatsev. Our conversation went on for longer than 8 hours. Literally the next day, we started brainstorming about what it could be. We started thinking through the concept and looked for different options for its outer appearance. On one of the stages, we thought about a little circle sensor screen, but there were none for sale at the moment. I decided to get some advice from a friend that did engineering development. And we called Yura Polozkov. Yura actively engaged in our brainstorming and over the course of several weeks, we developed our first concept of the device. Several months later, it would taken on the name Sunny. We realized the path that lie before us and it looked like a classic startup. I invited several people from among my colleagues to handle the primary areas of expertise for the project. That’s how the first team took form.
Will your boy Sunny conquer the world?
Most definitely! This is facilitated by 3 strong factors. The first is that man thought up the idea of the robot over 100 years ago and ever since then he has dreamt of having one, and now Sunny has arrived. Secondly, today technologies have become so developed that assembling a robot almost seems like connecting Legos. Thirdly, with the pandemic, the world is going through a revolution of remote work and devices for accommodating life, which is a colossal niche. Those are the three reasons why Sunny will become popular. In more serious terms though, we have of course conducted in-depth research and we know the secret of a proper market in great precision.
Is Sunny a commercial project or altruistic?
Right now, it’s about altruism and emotions, in its ideal form. We are certain that our work will become the next epochal step in the development of robotics and electronics. We are consciously creating such an ambitious product so that it resonates and inspires change in the development of modern society and consumption culture.
The commercial side of it also cannot be ignored. In order to implement such a big idea, we need to make major steps and interact with major companies and governments. That’s where we encounter a serious financial task. At the growth stage, we need investment, and when it comes to growing sales, we are faced with the task of profound quality development.
The project can only be developed in a commercial trajectory. Money is the strongest motivator and it is with money that we will be able to motivate and thank our robot operators so they provide help to the users.
Who are Sunny’s competitors?
We know our competitors very well and we watch them closely. These are large companies with niche products. We break them down into 4 classes of direct competition spheres: 1) remote work, and here the leaders are TeamViewer and Microsoft Holo Lens; smart assistants, such as Alexa and Google Now; quick help services, such as TaskRabbit and GeekSquad; and then there are also user robots like Astro, Papper, and Spot. We track over 80 companies among those segments. Today, our Sunny the Robot is two heads above these analogs, but that advantage can be quickly copied by the giants that have huge budgets. So, we are conducting parallel patent activity to protect each competitive technology.
Which role do you believe robots play in humans’ lives?
Man conceived of the idea of the robot and ever since then he has searched for possibilities in creating one. A huge number of attempts have been made and there have been almost just as many failures. I have dedicated a large amount of time to this analysis. I realized the following rule: a robot must do the same things that a human does. That may seem cliche, but indeed this is what will actually occur – robots will replace practically all the mechanical work that humans do. Man must think and robots must do. Thus, certain industries will fundamentally transform. It is difficult to say how exactly human life will change, but I believe it will be a momentous evolutionary step.
What will you do in the event that people don’t take too well to Sunny or fear him?
There is always risk. Society in certain countries and among certain layers of the population may not be happy about a device like Sunny. Nevertheless, it won’t stop us on our path of bringing to the reality the dream of those who will love Sunny. I think that Sunny will have its own audience that will grow as Sunny’s capabilities develop. Any progress breeds problems. Millions of people have suffered in car crashes, but nobody argues that the automobile wasn’t a revolution of its time.
Which of Sunny’s functions is your favorite one?
What I like the most is playing with his laser pointer. You can control the robot remotely to make it point at objects while the other person acts. I feel like God.
When you get Sunny in your hands, what will you use it for exactly?
My parents live in another country and first and foremost I would want all of us to have these robots. I could help my mom with some affairs that I can’t do for her when I’m far away. I will probably work on crosswords with her for the first time since I used to do it in my childhood.
When people thank you for Sunny, what words of gratitude would you like to hear from them?
“Andrey, thank you. Sunny really helped me out today.”
What are you working on right now besides taking part in the project?
I have 2 active software development businesses. They are represented on an international level under several famous brands. That will be my primary source of income until the Sunny project breaks even. I periodically help startups, most often as a technical leader. For instance, in the end of 2021, we launched a platform for schoolchildren’s parents and teachers to communicate on. Now that project has taken an upward growth trajectory.
A real robot that already today helps people every day! Would you like to have one like this?
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This person is a volunteer or member of the Sunny team. They are making a significant contribution to the development of the project.