The company behind cute, smartphone-operated robots that came to symbolize Las Vegas’ burgeoning technology scene is packing up for California.
Romotive CEO Keller Rinaudo announced the move Friday in an email saying the company would move to the San Francisco Bay area to focus on “working in close proximity to strategic partners and hiring brilliant senior talent.”
The company arrived in Las Vegas in 2011 with three founders and proceeded to make a splash on the local tech scene with help from Vegas Tech Fund, an investment fund backed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.
The robots were not only a hit with investors but served as an unofficial mascot for the Las Vegas tech community as it gathered momentum downtown.
“It is definitely a bummer for the entire community; people really liked Romotive,” said Frank Gruber, co-founder of Tech Cocktail, a Las Vegas-based media company that focuses on startups.
News of Romotive’s departure comes on the heels of the demise of EcoMom, another high-profile Vegas Tech Fund company. EcoMom closed in February after the death of founder Jody Sherman, which was ruled a suicide.
But Gruber and others said the Romotive departure can be viewed as a success for the local tech community. That is because after arriving in Las Vegas with little more than founders and an idea, the company was able to find the connections, cash and talent it needed to grow.
The fact Romotive is moving on less than a year after getting $5 million from the prominent investment firm Sequoia Capital validates the role of Las Vegas as a place where startups can sprout.
“It is almost like a graduation,” Gruber said.
Romotive robots consist of a small base that runs on track-style wheels like a tank with a connector for an iPhone or iPod touch.
Once the phone or iPod is connected, the user can control the robot with a laptop computer, iPad or smart phone.
It can move around the house, respond to voices or music and be used to stream video or communicate.
The idea is to broaden the audience for household robotics beyond tech enthusiasts and tinkerers to children and families who will use it to play and communicate over long distances, like a video phone grandparents could use to follow grandchildren around the house.
Rinaudo said in an email Friday he was unavailable for an interview.
But in the announcement email, posted by the website Pando Daily, he thanked Hsieh and other Vegas Tech Fund investors for supporting the company as it grew.
In addition to Romotive, Vegas Tech Fund lists 19 other investments, including Ticket Cake, an event ticket sales website, and Not Safe For Work Corporation, a magazine founded by journalist Paul Carr.
Vegas Tech Fund partner Zach Ware said continued investment in startups will cultivate a community where companies can grow and create jobs without moving from Las Vegas.
“Companies large and small begin to feed off each other as the quantity of these types of upwardly mobile employees increases,” Ware said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285 .