Robin Autopilot Before Shark Tank
Dallas residents, Bart Lomont and Justin Crandall, founded their lawn care company, Robin, in 2015. Described as the “Uber” of lawn services, Robin would subcontract mowing, trimming, and weeding to local companies. In only two years, Robin had lined up 6,000 customers in seven cities.
When Lomont and Crandall decided to investigate innovative new directions for the company, they learned about Roomba-like lawn-mowers that were becoming popular in Europe. Similar to its indoor cousin, a Roomba mower could utilize robotic technology to take the human labor out of yard work. Plus, they were so much better for the environment than traditional gas-powered mowers. In 2017, they decided to include robotic mowing in their service packages and re-named their business Robin Autopilot.
Lomont and Crandall appeared on Season 9 of Shark Tank in November 2017. They would ask the Sharks for $500,000 in exchange for 5% of the company.
Robin Autopilot in the Shark Tank
Shark Tank Season 9 Episode 10
Justin began the pitch by telling the Sharks that lawn care is a $70 billion industry in the U.S. For people who rely on landscaping companies to service their properties, they are often disappointed by unreliable workers, inconvenienced by the loud noise that may wake a baby or interrupt a conference call, and subjected to the terrible air pollution emitted by traditional gas-powered mowers.
Bart then jumped in to announce there was a better way, and on cue, a robotic mower emerged and started to wind its way across a patch of grass, cutting it as it moved. Bart explained that the robot cuts a small amount of grass as it passes, with the clippings falling on the lawn to act as fertilizer. Justin then described how a wire perimeter is installed to keep the robot within the boundary of the property.
The founders told the Sharks that the technology came from Europe, where homeowners there were the early adopters of robotic lawn mowing. Lori asked whether they were selling a product or a service. Each robotic mower cost between $1,800 and $1,900, Justin said, whereas weekly service could cost as little as $17. He went on to explain that the Robin Autopilot service included human crews to take care of jobs like trimming, edging, and weeding, and customer could elect which services they wanted with three different weekly package options.
Backing up a bit, Justin explained that he and Bart had started the company as an “Uber-like” business for lawncare, subcontracting out jobs to local landscape providers who use traditional gas-powered mowers. With that part of the business, they had booked 10,000 jobs per month for $400,000 total, so just under a $5 million run rate. The plan was to convert all of their current customers to a robot mower plan. Lori wondered if the mower manufacturers were trying to sell the mowers to U.S customers and Justin said they were, but if a consumer buys a mower, they would have to find a landscaping company to take care of the extras like edging and trimming. Consumers would be hard pressed to find a company that would quote a competitive rate on only the edging and trimming services. It would make more economic sense for a consumer to purchase robotic mowing as a service rather than a product.
Bart and Justin were asked how much money they had raised thus far, and Justin answered that they had raised $3 million, had 10 full-time staff members, and contracted with 80 crews. They had earned $3 million in sales during the previous year, but aggressive spending had led to a $1 million loss within that same period. Additionally, the company’s burn rate was $100,000/month. Mark asked whether they had broken even, and Justin said they could break even if they stopped investing in the equipment. Mark declared it would be expensive to get into the business.
Lori voiced her concerns. She saw the robot mower as more of a product than a service, and felt she wouldn’t get a return on her investment soon enough. Mark felt the same way and noted the large acquisition and labor costs required to scale the business. Richard didn’t see the $10 million valuation as realistic, and Robert couldn’t see this reaching a tipping point. And Daymond, after praising Lomont’s and Crandall’s efforts, came back to emphasize the large losses. He dropped out, as well. The Sharks wished the two luck and thanked them for coming on the show.
Bart and Justin left the tank but didn’t seem discouraged. They recognized that they had the potential to be a billion-dollar industry in the U.S, and they were going to be the ones to make it happen.
Robin Autopilot After Shark Tank
Soon after the episode aired, Lomont and Crandall sold off the traditional portion of the business to focus solely on service plans that included the robotic mower. Then they began selling franchises, which helped ease labor costs involved with installation, since the local franchisees would take care of the legwork and provide cash flow to Robin Autopilot
While Richard had taken issue with their valuation of the company, the founders found a major investor in MTD products (along with some other investors) that led to the company reaching its valuation target. With the financing, Robin Autopilot was on its way to creating a larger network of franchisees.
In July 2019, Robin Autopilot was acquired by Fahey Group, an Ohio-based holdings company. With that purchase, the company moved its headquarters to Cleveland (where Fahey Group is based) and Fahey Group founder, Logan Fahey, became the CEO. Lomont and Crandall remain as advisors.
Fahey believes that within one to three years, the lawncare market will be primarily robot-based. Large manufacturers have either already entered the robotic lawncare market or are seeking entry. Robin Autopilot hopes to be the industry leader, and its short-term plans involve growing its current franchises to scale.
It will be worth watching to see if the industry will move toward product-based sales – like Lori envisioned – or if the current service model will continue to provide the most growth.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is strictly informational; INSIGNIA SEO is not affiliated with Robin Autopilot, SharkTank, or any of its subsidiaries.