Founding his first company, SuperSteam Asia Pacific with his wife, Michelle Seow
Snowballed into the largest cleaning equipment distributor in Singapore
As time passed, fewer people wanted to do cleaning work
Was initially against using robots to clean
How he and Michelle changed their minds about robots
Traveled all over the world looking for the best robots to import
Being underwhelmed with what he found – too big and too expensive
Getting a call from Professor Rajesh Elara Mohan from Singapore University of Technology and Design
Professor Mohan had already taken one of their cleaning machines and added robotics to it
Quickly decided to start a robotics company together and build cleaning robots
Started with 5 engineers and will likely have almost 300 by year-end 2022
The reaction to the robots from the human cleaners was surprising
Who is the competition
What If This Could Be Automated?
You Have So Many Tomorrows
All Roads Led To the Same Destination, Robots
The First Reaction Is Exhaustion
Humans Are Best for Creative Tasks
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:00
Michael Waitze Media. Telling Asia’s Stories.
Michael Waitze 0:08
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Dylan Ng, a co-founder, (I tried man…) and the CEO of LionsBot International. Dylan, thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing?
Dylan Ng 0:23
Hi, Michael. I’m pleased today.
Michael Waitze 0:26
You are one of my best-sounding guests. How do you explain this great sound that you have?
Dylan Ng 0:32
Michael, you are the one who guided us to get the whole audio set up. And it is amazing, great audio come mix. Everything comes to life. I never hurt myself. So close up before
Michael Waitze 0:43
but don’t you feel like it’s a different experience even for you? Right? So imagine what it sounds like to the people to whom you’re speaking? Yeah.
Dylan Ng 0:49
Yes. It’s even myself, I feel I have found it’s like, wow, this is different. And I’ve lived in my own body for the last 46 years. And I never hurt myself like this, right.
Michael Waitze 1:00
And once you do, you can’t not hear it in this way. Like I did a meeting yesterday just on my phone and my air pods because I wasn’t in my office. And I just felt like I had downgraded the entire experience for the other people on the call. I feel bad actually.
Dylan Ng 1:13
Yes. It’s like I’m watching TV in 3d with surround sound. And then after that, it becomes black and white. Yeah, exactly.
Michael Waitze 1:21
Black and white. It’s no like, You’re old enough to probably remember snow on the TV. And yeah, anyway, why don’t we get a little bit of your background before we jump into the robotic part of this conversation?
Dylan Ng 1:32
Sure. My whole adult career has been in cleaning, in a sense that once we graduated from university, we started being an importer and distributor of cleaning equipment, namely steam cleaners. So we brought in a lot of different professional cleaning equipment. And we were selling them door to door. We were selling them doing demonstrations, and we were cleaning all sorts of places. You name it, toilets, factories, night work, morning work, we’ve been there all. And when it came to cleaning, we will always dealing with machinery and machinery always had someone to operate it. And because people operating it. We needed technicians to train the people, we needed to find machines that were easy to use. And we always felt that what if this could be automated. Around 2014, there was some rumblings of let’s make cleaning robots. Let’s automate the industry. At a time I must confess, I was not really a believer yet, I was thinking that now you can take a human odor equation is impossible. But at that time, in Singapore, there was still a lot of human beings, you could still find a lot of people to do cleaning. And as each year went past, we all got older than other people got less. And then it became really urgent to automate cleaning, because we just couldn’t find enough cleaning cleaners. So what we did was we decided let’s bring in cleaning robots. Alright, since we are a distributor of equipment. So we traveled around the world, I went to America, I went to like China, I went to Europe to find the latest and greatest cleaning robots because we want to be ahead of the curve. And what came up was a bit underwhelming, they were either too big or too expensive or too difficult to use, or that we use in very draconian circumstances that you can only go in straight lines and stuff. So it was just impossible. Then I realized some a light bulb turned on in my head.
Michael Waitze 3:32
Let me ask you a quick question first. Yes. you when you started this conversation, you said we when we graduated from university, when we started this company, when we went into cleaning, we started who was this we that we’re talking about? Is I feel like it’s specific people I don’t feel like it’s we’re not using the royal we here, right?
Dylan Ng 3:50
Well, no, no, no. No, actually, the way was my then girlfriend and now wife, my life partner. So her name is Michelle. She has been the one supporting me on this whole journey. And she’s not just a supporter. She’s also equal shareholder, and CO now the company that’s awesome. So So Actually, she’s my boss.
Michael Waitze 4:11
Exactly. She is whether you like it or not. Yeah. You know, when you were graduating from school, you said you’re 46 that was probably 25 years ago. Yeah, right. Right. So 25 years ago, what are we were 1996. Yeah, in 1996. There were no tech startups. But you know, Singapore was already a wealthy country probably had like GDP per capita of $35,000 per person. It was already building a big financial services industry. It wasn’t I don’t want to say normal, but it wasn’t straightforward for two and a smart graduates to go into the cleaning business. Was your family already in this business? was Michelle’s family already in this business? Like why did you decide to do this? Why cleaning?
Dylan Ng 4:52
Yeah, that was the whole thing is this. I mean, my other company SuperStream is 20 years old this year? Yep. Because we are already late because we had to go to a national service to serve in the army. Yep. All right, but So 20 years ago, if you wind back the clock, what we had was you, right in the follies of you. You have so many tomorrows and there’s no worries at all. There no kids there no pressure every day is a good day. Yeah. So what happened was a we decided, Okay, let’s start a business. You know, we are entrepreneurs, let’s do something. And and it could have been anything. I mean, why church friend was saying that they want to do steam cleaners, or Oh, yeah, that’s good. All right. And I mean, it could have been anything. If he offered us to sell bras, I probably be a bra guy now and or maybe, or maybe CDs or something. But it just happened to be steam cleaners. And, and honestly, when I look back, it really didn’t matter what we did. We just wanted to do something. And we were super tenacious. After starting to sell steam cleaners, we realized how difficult it was.
Michael Waitze 5:55
Yeah, it’s hard work going door to door.
Dylan Ng 5:57
Oh, it’s painful. It’s so painful. And you have to swallow, eat a lot of humble pie. That’s why I’m so fat today. Right? And, and it is really, it really takes a chunk out of you. But it builds up, correct. It builds up the fiber and the spirit. So what happened? Was this, my family like my parents were very supportive. And they will keep telling me, Don’t worry. All right, you can give us a new to Switzerland for studies just give up. All right. My dead body? I didn’t make a wrong decision. It is correct. All right. And, and because of that we never gave up. Yeah, and one thing led to another because selling stinkiness was not sustaining the company. So we brought in other equipment, other equipment led to my equipment. And since we sold more equipment, you needed more technicians to service those equipment. And if you needed more technicians, they needed more sales. And with more sales, he needed more admin people. So it just snowballed into the largest cleaning equipment distributor in Singapore. So it’s crazy.
Michael Waitze 6:58
Wow. And does that company still exist? What was it called?
Dylan Ng 7:01
It’s called Super steam Asia Pacific. And it’s a funny name playing Super steam because our steam cleaners are better than the competition. So it’s super.
Michael Waitze 7:09
And did you go all over the world to find those steam cleaners as well? Do you know what I mean?
Dylan Ng 7:14
Yes, so what happened is, our company is not just selling steam cleaners. But I started with stinkiness. So we are called Super steam. And now steam cleaners is a much smaller part of our range, we sell a lot more other professional cleaning equipment. But we did travel the world. And one thing I love to travel, so when ever I hand down a new factory, or a new supplier for the new latest, greatest cleaning equipment, I got so excited. And also, cleaning has brought me to so many countries. I’ve been throughout Italy, I’ve been throughout Europe, China, many, many parts of China. I’ve been to America, Australia, you know, just hunting for the latest and greatest cleaning equipment. But all roads lead to the same destination robots.
Michael Waitze 7:55
Yeah, robot. So you go out to the world, just like you did 20 years prior. And you say to yourself, I want to find the best equipment, but now you’re looking for robotics machines. And you’re saying, I’m just not impressed. But what was it? Like? If you went to Europe, you went to United States? I’m sure you went to China as well were that were a lot of robots get build. You weren’t impressed. So what did you decide to do? Or do you design your own stuff now?
Dylan Ng 8:19
Yes. So what happened was this after we tried importing three different suppliers and selling them, and having our customers give us that look, you know, is the look where the customers roll their eyeballs and say, Dylan, I’m so disappointed.
Michael Waitze 8:32
Yeah, like, right. And we’ve been working with you for 20 years. And you’ve always done done good stuff for us. And now this really?
Dylan Ng 8:37
Yeah, correct. And then they were even suggesting, can I get a refund? You know that that’s when alarm bells are ringing. And we knew this is not right. So we just made the crazy decision. Since we know cleaning. Let’s make cleaning robots. Alright. So when we meet that strategic decision, we did not even have any engineers or any technology know how we just knew cleaning experts in cleaning. So what happened was, within a week, the phone rang. Alright, okay, we’re gonna do this. Alright, we’re just gonna do it. Alright. And then within a week, the phone rang. And on the other line, right? was actually my future co founders lab guy. Alright, so he called us and saying, Hey, our team has made a robot out of a machine we bought from you. Would you like to come down and see it as it of course.
Michael Waitze 9:24
So you talked about somebody in Singapore? Yes. Who had leased or bought or something. One of your steam cleaners are one of the machines I was part of your service line, whatever said, you know, we haven’t the same idea that you’re having. And we’ve actually turned one of your existing machines, which we love, and we know the way it works. And you know, the way it works, we’ve actually turned that into a robot. So we’ve automated it, put some sensors and chips and stuff into it. Yes.
Dylan Ng 9:47
It was a simple automation, but that was our future co founder, Professor Mohammed’s robotics laboratory. So he operated this robotics laboratory at this university in Singapore called Singapore unit. See technology and design we call su TD. And so he was there. He had a team of about 30 Plus engineers, and they did a lot of different robotics projects. So we went down, we saw the robot, we weren’t impressed. Alright, because it was a simple adaptation. And that adaptation was not fully automated, automatic robot. But we realize, yes, this is the answer to our dreams. We discussed with Professor Mohan, we hit it off, and we decided let’s open lies bot together, let’s do this.
Michael Waitze 10:30
What so just out of nowhere, you just said let’s open a robotic development company. Yeah. But where do you? Where do you manufacture? You may remember this, like when you were a kid? Singapore was a center of sort of electronic manufacturing in Asia, right? Yes, but not now.
Dylan Ng 10:47
Yes. So this is the power of just doing it. Alright. So it sounds like a Nike, but this man. So we didn’t think so much. We just wanted to do it. So I’ll give you an example. I’ve done this throughout my life. Even at Super steam, we needed to make cleaning chemicals, alright, because our OEM supplier was to timing us. So so I just went up to one of the chemists, I paid some money to learn how to do it. And I came back and I started doing it, just do it. Right. And now we are the largest cleaning chemical supplier in Singapore for professional use. So it’s really just do it. So with the robots, it was the same thing. Since we did chemicals since we produced our own cleaning some of our own cleaning equipment. Why don’t we just do this robot. So the initial part is very naive. We thought the plan was five engineers should be able to solve this. And it’s not that difficult. It looks lovely. Alright, and then where are we going to produce now let’s make it in Singapore. I’ve got such a big office because we do have a big office and like like, Okay, we’ll cover a place. Let’s just do it. Alright, and what not to be five engineers, has now snowballed to 129. And by June this year, it will become 200. And by December, we are targeting 300.
Michael Waitze 11:56
And they’re all in Singapore, all in Singapore. But are they all Singaporeans? Or did you like Singapore?
Dylan Ng 12:01
And International? Like, for example, we have a development arm in India, and in Europe, and also, we have sales arms in Europe and in America.
Michael Waitze 12:11
Yeah, the sales stuff makes sense. You’re doing distributed engineering work as well.
Dylan Ng 12:15
Yes. So right now mostly is in Singapore, but because to cope with the growth, you can find enough such experienced insurance. That’s why we are going to India and we are going to euro and stuff. Not the beautiful thing is our co founder, Professor Mohan. He is wunderkind guy. I mean, he has trained so many engineers. And he is, you know, when you’re the teacher, you can see which student is the best fit in that sense. So he managed to recommend a lot of good engineers to us. So when they came in, they all had a few commonalities, one, bright, two, energetic, three, young. And number four, they want to change the world. So I mean, he just managed to find a whole bunch of these people, and we start injecting them in a company, we get them spaced around, because I know cleaning, but I don’t know how to do a circuit board or do the computer code. And they did it.
Michael Waitze 13:06
But this is the thing though, right? Like you’re now if you’re like lions bot, it’s a completely different business than Super steam. It feels like it’s the same because the end product kind of does the same thing. Yes. But now you’re like a deep tech engineering software and hardware business. Yes. Can I ask you this, though? What is it like have you rolled out? And it’s just kind of a yes or no question. But have you rolled out the first robot? Yes, you have.
Dylan Ng 13:31
We have 400 plus robots running around the world now. Right? So 22 countries.
Michael Waitze 13:36
That’s amazing. But do you remember when the first one, not the first prototype, but like the first one that actually came off? The finished production line was done. It’s and it actually worked? Can you tell me like what makes this thing? Different from a cleaning perspective?
Dylan Ng 13:53
Yes. So the two things to that when when you talk about the very first one, it sounds like the birth first child? Yeah. And, you know, what was the number one reaction when it comes up? Because we have all been working through the night and I mean, literally, when a new comer joins land spot, we get them a sleeping bag. Okay, so we take care of our guys, you know, we give them a good regulation sleeping bag. So we have a proper night’s sleep. Alright, so you know, we are really, really into employee welfare here.
Michael Waitze 14:25
A sleeping bag, it’s not a good sign.
Dylan Ng 14:28
So what happened was we were using those sleeping bags on a very regular basis. At a time when our first robot rolled out, we had 13 of us so it was like you know through the night and all that so when you finally see working, alright, the first reaction is not elation. The first reaction is exhaustion is there really only you know I can I can sleep the night and then the next immediate reaction would it work? So so you know that there is always this huge worry like, is it better effect, is it? Does it really work? Is it uncover all the, what we call H cases? Meaning are all the things that could possibly happen? That the reason is this, one of the reasons why we could grow so fast and so quickly was because we, we have no fear. There is no fear of tomorrow. And we are all young. But the next thing we’re worried about is, do we miss out something like we’re doing it so fast? Do we miss out something? Right? So that was the, the other part of the equation?
Michael Waitze 15:28
So what is an edge case in cleaning? Yes.
Dylan Ng 15:31
So in each case, in cleaning, I didn’t know cleaning was so complicated. It’s very calamity like robotics. Yeah, actually, with a human being the human being is the ultimate robot. Because of a human being, you have eyes, you have legs, and hence, you’re able to maneuver everywhere, you’re able to maneuver the cleaning equipment, you put a handle. So they will know each cases, including like, if you see a person you stop, if you need to clean a corner, you clean a corner. So I thought that was obvious until it came to robotics. And the edge cases will be things like, so you need to clean the corner, but there’s a fire extinguisher and then there’s a nother box next to you, you know, so what do you do? Or there are three human beings one to your left once your right one in front of you. So what are you going to do? And then like, for example, if you move you notice that there’s a slight slope, do you stop? Do you continue? You know, do you alert? So there are a lot of permutations that we didn’t quite necessarily understand before.
Michael Waitze 16:28
But do you get to a point where you have to have like a Boston dynamic style robot? Do you know what I mean? Where it’s so like a humanoid, then it can actually do all those things you just talked about? It’s
Dylan Ng 16:38
to be honest, the most important thing in a cleaning robot is a robot that cleans not a robot that’s super sexy. I
Michael Waitze 16:46
don’t care about the sexy part of it. But just this, this idea that I can get into places that maybe a more, what’s the right word, like robust robot can’t get into?
Dylan Ng 16:56
Yes. So what we did was we solve it by having a more nimble and slimmer design. So we could quit a lot of places without necessarily being a humanoid, because human beings are not deficient in movement. They’re not efficient in energy. And because a lot more because all the joints in the motors and in cleaning, people want cleaning robots, because they’re effective, they’re affordable. And you know, you use them to eight human beings. It’s not like to show off in that sense.
Michael Waitze 17:24
Yeah, I get it. What has been the reaction from the clients? Right? In other words, like you said, in the old days, and I used to do cleaning when I was in college, so one of my summer jobs was to actually use like a floor buffer, right. So you hold it, yeah, do that thing. And you’re buffing the floor? Yeah. So a lot of these machines have been operated by humans. And you said that one of the one of the problems that you were having, we’re just finding the people that were available to do that this is a problem of society, getting wealthier, getting older, right? So we’re both and Singapore definitely falls into that category. You know, but my feeling about robotics is that it augments humans, it doesn’t replace them, per se.
Dylan Ng 17:57
Yes, you’re right.
Michael Waitze 17:58
So how did the humans interact with the robots that you have? And what was the client reaction? When you said, Look, this robot can do these things. But you still need a human around to do X, Y, and Z? What are those things? And what was the reaction?
Dylan Ng 18:11
Well, robots brought up a lot of emotions and reactions in different people tell me so when our robots came up, because our robots look gorgeous, they have a hair, They’re sleek, they’re really nice. Either that, or we have our new Rex, which is large and strong. So so the design itself evokes a lot of positive reactions where the customers like, wow, this is a piece of art. I love it. Right. So that’s the customer. Is it expensive,
Michael Waitze 18:37
though, to buy that kind of sleek, fancy robot?
Dylan Ng 18:40
Yeah, so we build them to last. So these robots, because they are built to last, we use more premium materials. But if you work it out over the lifecycle and the lifespan of the robot, it’s actually much more affordable than getting cheaper robots. Alright. However, the reaction from the cleaner was surprising to me. All right. So the initial reaction from the cleaner was
Michael Waitze 19:04
mean, you mean the guy or the gal that was doing it? Yeah. Yeah.
Dylan Ng 19:07
Is this gonna take over my job? Right? Right. That’s the immediate reaction. Like, are you a job killer? Are you friend or are you four? Right? So So what happened? That super interesting thing is this, right? So when we first wrote it at jewel is one of the very grand malls in Singapore. It’s beautiful. So what happened was, the cleaners job was to push the trash that was created in the restaurants and in the shop. So they had many loads of trash to hallway. So the robot was hauling the trash for the cleaner. So the initial reaction for the cleaner was, oh, no, I’m going to lose my job. That’s the one. Alright. By these seven, the cleaner was smiling. And because a lot of visitors came to saying we want to take picture, all right, by day 14, it became his robot. Alright, you want to take picture with my robot and the robot had any tiny little hiccups? It was like eight, my robot is down, you know, when are you coming? So So it went from? Is this a job stealer to I can live without this. And that reaction happened in 14 days, it’s amazing. This is the same reaction we’re seeing with a lot of cleaners all over Singapore and across the world, many come in with doubts, because with cleaning is a very traditional industry. And the thing of like, if we don’t have enough people, I just need to work harder. And because they’re responsible people, they will try their best to work harder, but it’s so exhausted. All right, it becomes very overwhelming. However, when you first introduce robots, you know, it’s like, I’ll do it faster on my own. Because it’s true humans writing a machine will be much faster than a robot. If a robot goes the same speed as a human being, we probably hit a few people. Yeah, so we had to go slower. But then they realized that I can let the robot run at night while I’m sleeping. Alright, all when the robot is running in the morning, alright, I can be doing other things. And then it becomes a productivity tool. Because for example, our robots, one person can operate four, five robots easily. So like the robots could be running at level four, level three, level two and level one, while the person is attending to the customer, or doing planning or doing training of his crew at the same time. So it became such a time saver that a lot of cleaners, they got used to it, you know, it became their personal assistant.
Michael Waitze 21:32
So are there other places where you feel like you can use these robots? You don’t? I mean, now that you’ve learned all of this stuff, you’ve been working, I guess, for what, seven years on building robots? Yeah. You know,
Dylan Ng 21:41
in robots. Seven years was we brought in robots, but lands by itself would turn for next month. Okay,
Michael Waitze 21:49
so four years of doing all this development. But now that you’ve learned all this stuff, and I mean, obviously, there’s a lot more work to do. And I’m sure you’ve built more than one model. It’s other other places where you feel like you can use the stuff that you’ve learned not just in cleaning, but in sort of supplementary or ancillary industries, where you feel like we’ve learned enough and now we can branch out into other places, because in your in the name of your company, well just go back to it. The original company was called Super seam Asia, whatever. Right? And that was clear what it was. Yes, but Lyons bought, even if you just look at the logo, right? It says nothing about cleaning. It doesn’t say lion spot cleaning, it just says lions bot International. So there’s got to be a bigger goal here. Yeah.
Dylan Ng 22:29
Yes, actually, we do have other markets and these markets we could go in, for example, there’s nothing stopping us from putting like security rated camera lenses on the robot, and it becomes a security robot, or to put a stop shelf scanner module on the robot. So it will clean the floor in the supermarket and scan the shelves do the one thing we want to do now is to fulfill our initial mission. The initial mission is to align support for every cleaning professional. I mean, it’s like I can’t live without my smartphone. Now, if you take it away from me, you know, I do not know how to plan my schedule. Yes. See, very soon, every cleaner, professional cleaner would have robots. And if you take it away, they wouldn’t be able to function without it. And that is good. Because a lot of cleaning 60% of cleaning is floor cleaning and cleaning is repetitive, and monotonous. Yeah, it is. The floor remains there every day. So you just got to clean the same thing everyday. And humans are best for creative tasks. For example, it has a spillage to attend to it, or for example, and on the team deployments, or to handle toilet cleaning, whereas the robots can do the monotonous floor cleaning.
Michael Waitze 23:39
When does this get drilled down to individuals? Like if I want to buy one, the stuff that you’ve built is way too big for like my, you know, my condo? But I’d love to have one, right?
Dylan Ng 23:50
If actually, it really is drilled down to individuals is the AI robots in the Roombas of this world?
Michael Waitze 23:56
Yeah, no, but I don’t want to ruin by my house because it maps it and it sends back my location to the Roomba company just bought something like clean it. Go ahead.
Dylan Ng 24:05
Yeah, so what we do over here is not an upsized robot, it’s really is a totally different thing, completely professional cleaning equipment. So professional means that it has to last for at least seven years. Alright, and it is super strong, super easy to use, and it makes the floor much noticeably cleaner. So such equipment are only suitable for certain private homes. For example, if you have a Dutch in Russia, or you have a big palace in Saudi Arabia, but for most homes, right, it’s you’re presuming
Michael Waitze 24:39
I don’t have a Dutch on Russia. That sounds
Dylan Ng 24:41
sorry. You must have a big batch. I like like not a small Dutch a really big one.
Michael Waitze 24:49
Yeah, I get it because of skip because of scale. Yeah. And I guess there’s not much incentive for you to do this. Look, yes. One of the things that the computer industry tried to do back in the late 70s, early 80s was they tried to design a machine mean that people want it in their homes right in the whole idea for, you know, the Macintosh in the Windows computers were a computer on every desk and in every home? Yes. But I guess for you, the idea is I want to have a robot for every cleaner. And this fits into my philosophy on the use of technology in a way for social good, right? Because it’s, you’re not taking the job away from the cleaner, you’re actually super powering them to be able to clean at the same time while they’re doing something else. Does that make sense?
Dylan Ng 25:28
Yes, You took the words right out of mouth, lens bought gifts, cleaner superpowers, right? We design it so that a cleaner can have their own robot or cleaner can have 20 robots and the robots are running. So the cleaner can do what I call human past tasks that humans are best suited to do. For example, customer service, a big part of cleaning is there’s always a spillage or something that happened. And then the building manager will tax the cleaning supervisor. I’ve got the spillage on owls, one or something. And then it is how many seconds you have to respond. Yeah, right. So so. So they need to do that rather than to focus on Oh, there’s 10,000 square feet of floor or let me clean it again.
Michael Waitze 26:11
So you sit in a market where? You know, Singapore, obviously, it’s the financial center for all of Southeast Asia, at least if not for most of Asia. Right. And there’s also the, you know, the Singaporean government is a big supporter of not just startups, but deep, deep tech startups as well. Yes. Do you exist in sort of the startup ecosystem where you can go out to venture capitalists and raise money or to angel investors and stuff like that? Or debt? Can you generate enough money internally, whether it’s from Super steam or from lions bot itself in the sales you have in 22 countries to fund yourself? Like, is there a reason for you to go out and raise money,
Dylan Ng 26:45
actually, it is a hybrid will be do both the internal cash flow is enough for us to grow the company. But if we want to scale, like, for example, every year, we are scaling at least three times the company. So scaling would require pumping in people and materials resources before the cash flow even comes in. So we’ll need some money for that. And the other thing is land spot, we have a goal to become a unicorn company. Because what we’re doing is really different and special. And we feel that we have what it takes to be unicorn, but being a unicorn requires earlier investors to map your value. So if you don’t have outside investments, it would be seen as you’re not a unicorn, your value is unknown.
Michael Waitze 27:31
Yeah, I mean, we can agree to disagree on that. I think if you can find yourself out of even if you raise money, and you want to scale, yes, the valuation of your company is not to me does not define the actual value that you’re providing not just to community, but to the world as a whole. For my money, I don’t really care whether people value me as a, you know, as a billion dollar company or not. It’s just the impact that you’re having. And it seems like you’re having a ton of impact. Like what’s next for you as a team, right? You built all this stuff, you’re rolled out a bunch of robots, you’re going to go, you said you went from five engineers to 100 to 200, you expect to be at 300? It’s a lot of people doing a lot of engineering work is like what is the future? And I’m really curious about this, what does the future look like to somebody who’s sitting in the midst of the robotics industry? Kind of as it just means streaming? Yeah. What does it look like to you?
Dylan Ng 28:21
Now, in the professional cleaning industry, there is a lot of change going on. Robots are the thing in developed countries, because nobody has enough people. What happened was the gig economy disrupted the whole supply chain of human beings. So a lot of people are going to food delivery or becoming an Uber driver. For the same hard work that you put in cleaning, you could only be three times more money. So that’s why a lot of young people are not entering into cleaning. But the next problem is that urbanization and buildings are becoming more and more. And because of that. Less cleaners, more buildings is a disaster. Right? And the need for cleanliness, post COVID is really high, super high. Yeah, people care about cleanliness. Now people talk about frequency of whitebalance. And how you disinfect and the quality of disinfection. So that meets people that need skilled workers. So with all this in mind, it be a perfect storm. There is just not enough cleaners for the world. It just doesn’t exist anymore. Alright, so what a person sitting in the middle of industry will see now is how do I get on this robotic train? How do I deploy the robots? How do I integrate it with my teams? How do I select the right robots? And what features should I look for? Now the change is exactly like from internal combustion cars into electric vehicles. The changes are so similar from normal feature phones, like Nokia into smartphones is a is a sea change. It’s a it’s a tsunami. It’s a total change in industry.
Michael Waitze 30:00
And who’s competing with you globally, right? Like this was not, you can’t be the only guy with this idea. But clearly, you went around the world to see if there was anything good out there. And you couldn’t find anything good.
Dylan Ng 30:11
Yes. So I think there are many competitors. Many of them are smaller startups thinking that five engineers will suffice. So there are a whole ton of those guys. All right. And then there are other startups that are less startups that have one or two products in a market in terms of people having volume products, that less than 10 players. So there are some bigger ones, like, um, some players from China, they have raised a lot of investments, or they want to, like, mass produce robots. So those are what I would call like the, you know, the evil empire and Star Wars with the hordes of stormtroopers, they are everywhere. We are more like a Millennium Falcon. So we have we picked some punch and firepower, but we are a bit more agile. And then there are others in America that also had good funding. So what they do is, they work with other manufacturers of cleaning equipment, and they put the robotic brains in those cleaning equipment. And yet there are others that are making standalone robots. So in terms of the big players, they’re not so many. All right, and Lancelot is rapidly gaining acceptance and recognition and market.
Michael Waitze 31:22
And these IoT devices as well, you know, what I mean? are like they connected to the internet, do they use GPS is to understand what they are? Can they be controlled remotely? And is there more functionality you’re planning on putting in them? So they become even more efficient, particularly as you get more experienced with this? Yeah.
Dylan Ng 31:37
Yes. So what happens is, the whole concept of a cleaning robot is that they’re always connected to the internet, right? I mean, of course, you can operate them off grid Bajaur, it doesn’t make sense that was a traditional machine. Once you connect the internet, things happen, in a sense that you’re able to monitor in real time, how the cleaning is happening, you’re able to troubleshoot, if you didn’t finish cleaning that day, you’re able to show the customers the very clear, detailed report of where you clean. So we are all on the same page with the customer, the customer can come and accuse us that we didn’t do the job. And on top of that, alright, once connected the internet, you collect all the data, for example, if we run this zone at this time, is it efficient? If we run it in another time? Is it efficient, and you can tweak the efficiency with the data that comes in? So with landslide robots, the amazing thing is that our dealers because we sell to dealers will service the customers, our dealers do not even need to drive down to a customer location to fix the robots. A lot of the fixing can be done in the office to tweet the maps or to change the settings.
Michael Waitze 32:45
And have you been able to build like New Dealers? Right, I guess the question really is, were their existing dealers that didn’t understand or didn’t want to deal with robotics that were just like, let somebody else handle this because it’s just too sophisticated for me. And then other dealers popped up in their place to be like, entrepreneurial, and take over that role.
Dylan Ng 33:03
Yes. So in the cleaning space, right now, you have very established dealers that may be very technologically resistant, right, they don’t believe in it. And then there are younger dealers who are hungry and want to grow. So during the pandemic, it was impossible for us to fly and train dealers. So we did all via zoom. And we open up many dealers during zoom. So now that flights can resume we are doing our best to reach out to each one to go down and visit them and show them that we are live human beings. We’re not robots. Right?
Michael Waitze 33:35
The Dylan’s love Exactly. Well, and do you do business in Thailand? I’m just asking because I’m here. Yeah.
Dylan Ng 33:40
Oh, yeah. Thailand is a wonderful place. But currently, we don’t have any robots in Thailand for now. Mainly because I think our robots are a bit higher price at this moment. Because then meet with I mean, like we designed with a specific sort of customer in mind. But we’re having a whole like a lot of new robots being planned that will be rolled out that I think would be very suitable for a lot of different countries.
Michael Waitze 34:06
Got it? What’s your favorite robot right now?
Dylan Ng 34:08
Okay, my favorite robot is the Rex that is our new robotic came out and why I love it is because there’s not a single straight line on that body or it was all curves. So when we design it we gave our industrial designer that challenge all right, that let’s do something rad man really radical that no one has ever done before everyone straight cuz I want I want what I call juicy curves. So our inspiration was actually juiciness comes from calamari. You know, like, like when eat squid is really juicy. So I wanted cause give me a curvy body. Alright, and he delivered. It was amazing. I can’t wait to see that. Yeah, I mean, and besides that, that robot cleans really well. One robot can do the job of two traditional machines. It runs on the longest record setting time. It can do up to 1011 hours of cleaning. It has the bigger volume than All competitors has a better pressure. It cleans better. So so this is this is a real, like excitement on our part because we didn’t want just a robot to match traditional clinical. We want to surpass traditional cleaning equipment.
Michael Waitze 35:14
Yeah, why not? Okay, Dylan, I think I think that’s a great way to end this conversation. Dylan Ng the co-founder and CEO of LionsBot International. Maybe next time we should have Michelle on or Dr. Mohan on. Yes was really great. Let’s catch up again soon. Thank you so much for doing this.
Dylan Ng 35:29
Thank you, Michael. Have a good day.
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