An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Thiru Vikram (co-founder and CEO) of Buffalo Automation, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Buffalo Automation – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
As student researchers, our peers were mostly focused on self-driving cars and drone tech, and we saw an unmet need in the marine industry. We started as a research project at the University at Buffalo. We eventually commercialized due to interest from Great Lakes shipping firms.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Funding continues to be a big challenge in Buffalo. Similar autonomous vehicle companies in Boston and San Francisco have raised hundreds of millions of VC dollars with no revenue whereas we have had to contend with angel investors and family offices even with a clear path to sustainable profitability. It is quite challenging when there are exactly zero notable VC firms located in Buffalo in spite of all the buzz recently about the emerging startup ecosystem.
What does the future hold for Buffalo Automation?
Greycraft is our future. We believe electric robotaxis hired on demand on our ridesharing app will become the norm for people wanting to spend time out in the water.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Buffalo?
I think we need to work on ways to attract out of town VCs to set up shop in the area, not just focus on startups with initiatives like 43North. There is a trend where a lot of companies have had to have their management teams present in coastal cities while the rest of the team is in Buffalo due to this. It is also ironic that programs like 43North focus on getting outside companies to Buffalo, often losing them after the first year, whereas little is done to support the companies already here.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Perseverance is the most underrated quality in entrepreneurs. Often, you just have to be around long enough to get lucky. Never give in!