INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Andrew Archer of Aitheon Tells Us About Developing COVID-fighting Robots and Keeping His Teams Safe during COVID Pandemic Times
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrew Archer: We are well considering all of the circumstances, thank you! Ukraine did a very good job managing Coronavirus as the pandemic grew. My family didn’t see too much of a lifestyle change, most of our focus before the pandemic was around Aitheon, and this continued. The biggest change was not being able to see each other for so long as we are all around the world.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Aitheon.
Andrew Archer: I am originally from the USA, where I was a robotics engineer turned businessman. I had different businesses from robotics to manufacturing until around 2016. As a business owner, it became increasingly hard to be in business with the constant reforms and rising costs associated with doing business there. I realized that the best way to be competitive was to have automation and also the ability to add new technology to the business without changing our software every 5 years. I looked in the market and only found labor-intensive ERP software and a miss-match of complicated tools that I would need to piece altogether. Here I saw an opportunity to create a product every business was looking for. I sold my businesses in the USA and moved to Ukraine after I found the talent there was better than what I was finding in the USA.
How does Aitheon innovate?
Andrew Archer: Aitheon innovates by listening and understanding the core issues businesses struggle with and applying the latest AI, machine learning, and robotics technology to these problems in a modular way. By doing this, our users can graphically connect together and use the different solutions that apply to them without being forced into parts that don’t apply to their business. With this, every business is able to have a tailored solution by them that is easily adjusted as their business changes and automates a lot of their business operations.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andrew Archer: Coronavirus was a very interesting challenge for us. There was a need for new disinfection technology. Our engineering development teams got to work, and in 60 days, we had two new robots for disinfection with an array of different disinfection accessories. We also had a lot of businesses that were forced to move remotely and go through a digital transformation where Aitheon fit in perfectly for them.
As far as coping, the engineering development teams at Aitheon are unorthodoxly hardcore and dedicated. Everyone doubled their effort, and our team was running 16-18 hour days, including weekends, for months to get our solutions out into the world to help people and businesses as much as we could. A word about our working style and tenacity spread, creating a lot of interesting connections, including the swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga visiting us in our office space to see how we were doing all of this (attached picture).
A lot of us are still working this same schedule to date.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andrew Archer: Yes, overnight, our vendor supply chain to build robots stopped and government restrictions set in limiting how we could operate as a business.
Though losing our vendor supply chain, we became very creative, finding new ways to produce our components are working on internalizing as much of the process as possible.
Our teams did not want to leave the office as it would slow us down in helping the people that needed us because of the nature of our work. We decided everyone who was not in the engineering development teams would work remotely and were not allowed to visit the office. Everyone still coming to the office all agreed to isolate themselves and their families contact to only people within the office. We set up carpooling routes and group buying on groceries to limit outside exposure to our team. With this clan mentality, none of the team members or their families had contracted coronavirus during the pandemic’s hardest times.
The lessons we learned were to backward integrate as much of the business as possible and have no outside dependencies. With this, we became much more stable during coronavirus and will have a more competitive advantage in the future.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Aitheon in the future?
Andrew Archer: I have a saying I go by when things get really hard: “It’s not a stressful day, it’s a character-building day.” When you are pushed to the limits of your skills, sleeping 4 hours a day, and the team expecting you to lead them not just through some of the hardest technological feats but through an economic meltdown; You really get to know who you are, what you are capable of and grow. In the end, it’s really a mental strategy you need to create with yourself and project steadfast direction, tenacity, and energy. If you do this, these qualities will resonate with your team.
In the future, I see Aitheon growing beyond a platform and into a business owner society where they come, collaborate, and share ideas, strategies, and technology using our platform as a digital ecosystem.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andrew Archer: There are companies out there doing different parts that compete with Aitheon. Some very large, like Palantir, Siemens, SAP, to name a few.
Our real advantage is being a singular platform that can handle all of the business software, ERP, automation, intelligence, and equipment hardware integration in one holistic solution. With Aitheon, the businesses don’t have to try to patch together a mix of different solutions from different vendors.
Your final thoughts?
Andrew Archer: Everything is possible. The question is: how badly do you want it, and what you are willing to sacrifice to get there. This is the only limitation.
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