One Broadway, 5th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142

September 28, 2017

3:00 – 8:30 PM


Robotics Connect 2017

Save the date for Venture Cafe’s Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) mini-conference, “Building Markets for Artificial Intelligence”, taking place on September 28, 2017.

From ground, sea, and air, explore Boston firms solving real world challenges and developing the robotics market. This special ‘conference night’ event seeks to bring together the brightest minds who are building, funding, and innovating in the Greater Boston area’s robotics and AI communities.

Come prepared to not only hear the best ideas and see the latest technologies but also to participate in building Boston’s robotics innovation.

Check below for opportunities to participate. Check this page frequently for additional details about this event as they become available.


Brought to the Greater Boston community by:


       Mass Robotics        Sembler by Draper        Boston AI Meetup












3:00 – 8:30 PM   NETWORKING


3:00 – 5:00 PM   OFFICE HOURS




5:30 – 8:30 PM    STARTUP DEMOS


6:30 – 7:15 PM    FLASH TALKS

6:45 – 8:00 PM    SHARK TANK


OFFICE HOURS (3:00 – 5:00 PM)


Early stage ventures and prospective entrepreneurs have an opportunity to sign up for Office Hours during this event. Entrepreneurs may sign up for 30-minute consultations with a variety of experts.

Appointments can be made on a first come, first served basis. Any cancellations will require 48-hour notification in order to accommodate entrepreneurs who have been placed on a wait-list. No-shows are frowned upon in the VenCaf community and we reserve the right to disallow future appointments for repeat offenders.

Sign up for Office Hours here: http://vencaf.org/book-office-hours/

Special Office Hour Appointments (Robotics Connect only)

During Robotics Connect, we will host Boston-area Robotics experts who will advise entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs on building and launching a venture in robotics / AI space.  Reservations will open on September 7, 2017, and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Stay tuned for our announcement on these special advisors for the evening.


Tom Ryden, Executive Director of MassRobotics

Tom Ryden, Exec Dir.,  MassRobotics

Mr. Tom Ryden is the Executive Director of MassRobotics. MassRobotics is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help grow the next generation of robotics companies. Prior to joining MassRobotics Mr. Ryden was the founder and CEO/COO of VGo Communications, Inc. and was the Director of Sales & Marketing at iRobot Corporation. Mr. Ryden is on the board of directors of AUVSI New England and serves at the co-chairman of the robotics cluster of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.

BOOK Tom Ryden





Greg Smith_Dassault_250

Greg Smith, Dassault Systèmes

Greg Smith is the director of community applications and start-up advocacy at SOLIDWORKS tasked to help and promote hardware entrepreneurship, startups, and accelerators. Greg is an entrepreneurial executive with an understanding and experience in multiple areas of business operation. Current and previous adventures include judging and mentoring at MassChallenge, founder, and CEO of Immersive Design, Inc., and strategy director at Dassault Systemes 3DVIA.

BOOK Greg Smith





Bernadette Johnson

Dr. Bernadette Johnson,
Defense Innovation Unit Experiment (DIUX)

Dr. Bernadette Johnson is Chief Science Officer of Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), which focuses on accelerating commercial innovation for the Department of Defense. As CSO, her primary responsibilities are the development of a multi-disciplinary technology corps. Prior to joining DIUx in 2016, she was the Chief Technology Officer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Her responsibilities included the development of the Laboratory’s long-term technology strategy.

BOOK Dr. Bernadette Johnson






Nathan Wiedenman

Nathan Wiedenman, Sembler at Draper Labs

Nathan Wiedenman is the Director of Sembler. Developed from the VBCE Initiative, Sembler is Draper’s focused effort to provide support to and partner with start-up companies across multiple technical domains. Draper has a wide spectrum of facilities, resources, and expertise that can be utilized by start-ups to mature their concepts, refine their prototypes, and ultimately get to market. Sembler empowers startups by leveraging Draper’s extensive resources and 80+ years of expertise in solving the world’s toughest engineering problems.

BOOK Nathan Wiedenman






Bill Drislane_250

Bill Drislane, VP of Engineering, Dragon Innovation

Bill Drislane leads pre-manufacturing strategy for Dragon’s customers. He has 35 years experience in a variety of areas including semiconductor manufacturing, quality, and reliability engineering, as well as factory and manufacturing strategy and management. Formerly the VP of Quality for Euro-Pro (now SharkNinja) and Director Asia Pacific for iRobot, Bill holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Engineering, as well as an MBA, from Cornell University.

BOOK Bill Drislane






 Transparent Hardware Acceleration For Deep Learning

Boston AI Meetup
Indrajit Poddar, IBM

Indrajit Poddar, IBM

Presenter: Indrajit Poddar

Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM

Deep learning techniques are finding significant commercial success in a wide variety of industries. Built on several open-source frameworks such as Tensorflow and Caffe, deep learning capabilities are easy to incorporate into web applications. Jupyter notebook examples, available in open source, can get novice data scientists and engineers up to speed on new neural network architectures, pre-trained models, and public datasets. Large unstructured data sets such as images and videos are perfect input for deep learning methods. However, such types of data impose a lot of demands on computing resources. New types of hardware architectures such as GPUs and faster interconnects (e.g. NVLink) available in OpenPOWER systems are enabling practical speedups for deep learning. This session will show some software and system architectures and live demos showing how developers can easily incorporate deep learning capabilities on accelerated hardware using open source components such as Python, Docker, and Kubernetes.


Advances in Robotic Systems: A Seminar

Presented by Sembler at Draper Labs


Draper leverages its multidisciplinary core capabilities to design and develop advanced solutions to complex, challenging problems. During this seminar, Draper will review their latest programs including the DragonflEye, a first generation backpack guidance system that includes energy harvesting, navigation & optical stimulation on a to-scale model of a dragonfly.

Panelists include:


Tess Bailie, Draper










Ted Steiner _Sembler_250

Ted Steiner, Draper











Joe Register_250

Joe Register, Draper










Abe Schneider, Draper







Successful Exits in Robotics

Presented by Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, and Glovsky and Popeo, PC

Robots are everywhere.  Healthcare, logistics, manufacturing and other critical areas of the economy are being redefined by the robotics and artificial intelligence advances of today’s technology entrepreneurs. With this explosion, we are seeing an extraordinary growth in private investment in robotics companies.  In addition to the increased investment, we are also seeing a flourishing of M&A transactions in the robotics space.  Just as each warehouse logistics robot or copter-drone will utilize different technologies to address unique problems, each robotics company will follow a unique path to its eventual exit transaction. This discussion, led by Mintz Levin’s Marc Mantell, will cover several items on which those considering the sale of their company should focus to maximize the likelihood of a successful exit.


Marc Mantell 250

Marc Mantell, Mintz Levin



Will AI Set A Path Toward Apocalypse or Utopia (Two Experts Debate the Risks & Rewards)

In partnership with Boston AI Meetup


There has always been a discussion about whether we have the ability to control Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it gets more intelligent or whether it will kill us all. On this specific topic, there are people that are more pessimistic like Elon Musk who think that unless we do something then death by AI is inevitable. There are also people that are optimistic like Ray Kurzweil who are confident everything will turnout alright.  Hear two experts debate, from different points of view, what the real risks and rewards are of AI.


Jeff Whelpley

Jeff Whelpley, CTO, GetHuman



Massimiliano Versace 250

Massimiliano Versace. CEO, NEURALA, Inc.


Bryan Healey_Lola_250

Bryan Healey, Director of AI, Lola Travel, Inc.

ROBOTICS DEMO (5:30 -8:00 PM)

Venture Cafe demos are a great way to gain exposure through our online and offline channels. During our Robotics Connect event, Venture Café will give a selection of the area’s startups, inventors and researchers an opportunity to showcase their work to the Boston community.


Help, I Don’t Have Enough Data  (A Roundtable on Machine Learning)

In partnership with Boston AI Meetup


Data is the fuel which powers machine learning and always seems to be short supply. In this talk, we’ll look at recent advances in Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) –  how they work and how they can squeeze extra fuel out of unrelated data sets when tackling new problems. Such approaches have huge potential for producing simulations to train Artificial Intelligence (AI) or filling in major holes in datasets. We’ll show some intriguing GAN technology from our research lab synthesizing images of previously unseen sophistication.



Monty Barlow

Monty Barlow, Director of Machine Learning, Cambridge Consultants








Dom Kelly

Dom Kelly, Machine Learning Expert, Cambridge Consultants

FLASH TALKS: (6:30 – 7:15 PM)

Robotics Flash Talks

Subject matter expert in robotics and AI will  These sessions will share 30 minutes of content and leave 15 minutes of networking in these community-generated, lightning sessions.


Sasha Hoffman _250

Sasha Hoffman, Piaggio Fast Forward

Designing the World’s Cutest Robot

Piaggio Fast Forward came on the scene in 2017 with Gita, the world’s first follow-me consumer robot. Sasha Hoffman will lead a session on the unique, design-centric approach PFF has taken to create Gita and why they have chosen to break away from traditional robot shapes, interactions and design. She will describe the company’s philosophy in creating a a high performance, well engineered, intelligent robot that is elegant, intuitive and memorable. Hoffman also will share how user experience and innovative design will be paramount for the success of future robotics products.

Presenter: Sasha Hoffman, Piaggio Fast Forward




Joseph Bates

Joseph Bates, Singular Computing

 Approximate Computing, Embedded AI, and Billion Core Systems  

Machines that do approximate arithmetic offer general purpose computing with the efficiency of specialized hardware (such as deep learning hardware). Software can keep error levels far below what the hardware provides, with little overhead. We demonstrate DARPA-funded prototype hardware, running deep learning and other tasks, and discuss applications developed in collaboration with MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Sandia, BAE, and others. The technology enables 10,000 core embedded devices and compact, practical billion core systems.

Presenter: Joseph Bates, Singular Computing




David Askey, Ascend Robotic

David Askey, Ascend Robotic

Robots that Learn, and the People Who Work Alongside Them    

Ascend Robotics is developing part handling systems that intelligently adapt to the customer’s environment and learn how to manipulate objects within the environment.  The robots retrieve components, provide production line supply, and automated kitting. Join us for a presentation and discussion of advanced capabilities being created and applied for deployment of robots in human-centered spaces.  The session will include example applications, a case study on benefits to both productivity and worker safety, and discussion of the role of learning in enabling truly collaborative robotics. We believe that robots that learn and adapt to the environment and people around them can work closely alongside people and interact with people to perform tasks as a team more efficiently, more consistently, and more safely than a robot or person could perform alone.

Presenter: David Askey, Ascend Robotics




SHARK TANK EVENT (6:45 – 8:00 PM)

Robotics Shark tank will give a select number of start-ups an opportunity to pitch investors on their ventures.

Sign up for a chance to pitch four investors during Robotics Connect. The DEADLINE to apply is September 15, 2017. Five startups will be selected for the final pitch on September 28, 2017.

Apply Here: http://bit.ly/vc-robosharks



Anders Bialek_iRobot Ventures_250

Anders Bialek, iRobot Ventures










Pei Qi _Brain Robotics Capital_250

Pei Qi, Brain Robotics Capital










Deb Kemper 250

Deb Kemper, Golden Seeds










Spencer Irvine_Draper_250

Spencer Irvine, Draper Labs













Interested in sponsoring Robotics Connect? Please contact Chandra Briggman at chandra.briggman@vencaf.org for details.