Updated: Nov 16
Meet True Robotics.
In 2022, True Robotics President and Founder Anthony Galgano was fresh out of college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and at something of a crossroads: he wanted to pursue the company he had started at WPI but he also needed to make a consistent paycheck to support himself. WPI’s Business Development Lab (their business-school-sponsored incubator) provided some infrastructure and guidance for Anthony to start bringing his vision to life. He had wanted to start a robotics company since he was 12 years old, and now he was closer than ever, but he still had yet to make his first sale and the kits needed more work. The last 6 months had been spent developing the product and he had only just started testing the kits with end users.
“I decided to do both. I worked 6 am-4 pm at Mercury Systems as an electrical engineer then drove an hour to WPI and worked 5 pm to midnight every day, then dedicated weekends exclusively to True Robotics.”
This was his schedule for the next 8 months; 18 hours of work with around 4 hours of sleep in between; though it was completely untenable and Anthony was constantly exhausted, it paid off pretty quickly. After starting work at Mercury Systems in May, True Robotics made its first official sale on August 30, 2022. Then another October 13th. And another on October 14th. The rapid succession of each consecutive sale was as exhilarating as it was anxiety-inducing; Anthony had to cut down on selling for a couple of weeks because he realized he couldn’t possibly fulfill all of these sales with his current working schedule. After catching up, True Robotics got their fourth sale on October 28th. About a week later, Anthony received word from each of the first 3 schools that their kits all had problems with breakage.
“Then we had to meet with a manufacturer, an experienced machine shop owner in New Hampshire. He ripped our kits to shreds, told us they weren’t ready to be sold, and that we should go back to the drawing board. And I was devastated. He was right though, our kits were garbage. After I got over myself, we did exactly that, completely redesigned the whole kit. Best advice I ever got.”
November 18th marked True Robotics 5th sale, and this time the school ordered 2 full classroom packages: double the money, double the fulfillment. The next few months were pivotal. True Robotics halted sales completely. They did a complete overhaul of their robot kits: worked out all of the electronics, tried a number of different materials for the body, and fixed all of the pieces that broke during assembly. With the new kits ready for action, the issue of fulfillment still loomed, and Anthony’s workload was becoming increasingly unmanageable.
“I was in a fraternity at WPI - FIJI. Most of the brothers were engineers, cuz ya know, WPI. I started hiring them to come in and help. It kind of worked both ways; I got the help I needed and I was also able to provide college students with professional experience in the field they were studying. It gave them context for what they were learning in the classroom.“
True Robotics was bridging the gap between education and the professional world. They were taking rising engineers, giving them hands-on experience with product design, development, manufacturing, and most importantly sales, something most engineers avoided like the plague. The product vs. sales dichotomy was perhaps the steepest learning curve for Anthony, who learned very quickly what his priority should be.
“I realized if I just sold all day, that this could actually be a company. I could R and D for months and make some revolutionary technology but if no one was gonna buy it, I would just be spinning my wheels. It was a hard pill for me to swallow after college; I had spent all my time focusing on the engineering side of things and never thought about how people would actually receive the product. I felt like sharing what I had learned after college with my classmates and fraternity brothers could be really helpful.”
He spent the remainder of that Christmas break coaching friends from his college community on how to design products and how to sell them. From December to January, he and his friends took 150 sales calls. Without even really realizing it, Anthony was giving back to his community.
Conscious or not, that sense of community runs deep in the lifeblood of True Robotics. The idea for the company came to Anthony when he was volunteering at Our Bright Future, a non-profit after-school program founded by his high school soccer coach Kwasi Acheampong. The two met at St. Peter Marian, now St. Paul’s Diocesan in Worcester. Kwasi, an immigrant from Ghana who grew up in a 1 bedroom apartment with 9 siblings, had been mentoring Anthony since the 7th grade, helping him with sports, academics, and in Anthony’s words, “being an adult”. They became very close, speaking and seeing each other regularly even after Anthony graduated. Kwasi tapped Anthony to help with the technical infrastructure of Our Bright Future; he had him design the website, set up all of the social media pages and payment processing as well. When Anthony originally had the idea for teaching kids about robotics through Our Bright Future, Kwasi made him their Director of Robotics. When Anthony pitched the idea of a robotics startup for manufacturing the kits and curriculum himself, Kwasi responded by helping test the prototypes. Proof of concept came when the students obsessed over the robot kits and asked their parents when they could return to learn more about robotics. Their mentor-mentee relationship had graduated to a budding partnership, which made sense: helping each other grow was the foundation of their relationship. Helping out their community just came naturally.
Kwasi and Anthony’s unlikely relationship has since turned into a powerful synergy between True Robotics and Our Bright Future. It was Kwasi who originally taught Anthony about the importance of building long-lasting relationships, and changed his perception about the importance of sales. Through watching Kwasi interact with teachers, parents, and administrators, Anthony realized that sales were not as nasty and transactional as he had thought. Kwasi was just getting to know people, and seeing if he could help them. And it worked. The paradigm of community outreach became the sales model for True Robotics and a rallying cry for Our Bright Future. Anthony is just paying forward everything he has learned from Kwasi to his friends and classmates at WPI.
On the back of the 150 sales calls Anthony coached his friends through, everything started to fall into place in January of 2023. True Robotics had $45,000 in the bank and was set to receive another $15,000 in the coming month. After realizing he had to track all of the finances, Anthony figured out that the company had grossed $68,000 in revenue in 2022. With Kwasi’s help, he had proved to himself that he could make this work. This success had two sides though: his time was becoming increasingly atomized through wearing multiple hats at True Robotics and still working at Mercury Systems. He found himself at yet another crossroads. After telling work that he had a doctor's appointment AND a dentist’s appointment scheduled on the same day in order to just do a demonstration at a local school, Anthony decided to roll the dice and quit his job at Mercury Systems. February 1st of 2023 was his last day, and he was terrified. So were his parents, and many of his friends.
Between February 1st and July of 2023, True Robotics quintupled its revenue. They hired a full-time curriculum designer, a part-time teacher, and about a dozen part-time WPI students for sales and product design. They recently launched a new kit for 4th & 5th-grade students, an online learning portal, and have significantly expanded their curriculum program to include mini-units for accessibility. Anthony’s schedule is a bit more manageable these days. He still spends 12 hours a day working, but it's focused on what he loves.
“I still don't really get paid, but it's fine, I’ll figure that out when I need to. I think our future’s looking plenty bright.”