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Company: Robin Autopilot

Founders: Justin Crandall and Bart Lomont

Season: Appeared on season 9 in the week 7 episode

Robin Autopilot is a robotic lawn care service. The eco-friendly service provides “customers a powerful way to limit air and noise pollution, impacting meaningful environmental change via their choice of lawn care service,” according to their website. It is convenient, reliable and reduces pollution.

Users simply enter their address, receive a price and choose what type of outdoor service(s) they want. A Robin technician then installs a perimeter wire around the user’s yard and sets up the robot in the desired area, which is regularly maintained.

When Crandall and Lomont originally appeared on “Shark Tank,” they came in asking for $500,000 for five percent equity. Robert Herjavec liked the idea but admitted he didn’t see a tipping point for the company. Lori Greiner viewed it as more of a consumer play and shared her concerns about the return on investment. Ultimately, all five sharks went out and the duo left without a deal.

Crandall spoke with Business 2 Community about Robin Autopilot’s experience on the show and what their next steps are. Take a look at the Q&A below:

Q&A with Robin Autopilot’s Co-Founder Justin Crandall

What was your strategy for navigating “Shark Tank”?

We knew it would be an uphill battle based on our valuation requirements and the fact we offer a service and not a product. We’d hoped the eco-friendliness of the service (i.e. replacing one lawnmower has the same pollution-reducing impact as replacing two cars with Teslas!) would convince Sir Richard Branson to invest, but the sharks’ questions never really dug into the environmental benefits. We probably should have forced the questions back to that topic but it’s hard to control sharks. That, and the robot, kind of stole the show from us!

How has Robin changed since the episode was first recorded? Since it aired?

The biggest changes are:

1) We sold the “Uber-like” business last June to focus 100 percent on robotic mowing. We were literally negotiating that deal during the filming and had fully executed the transaction by the time the episode aired.
2) We created and launched a franchise model in part to address one of Mark Cuban’s biggest concerns regarding the labor required for installation. Since the episode aired in November, we’ve signed and launched our first three franchises in Kalamazoo, Raleigh and Newark, with several more expected to begin service this summer.

Is there anything you would have changed about your time spent in the tank, including your pitch and valuation?

Things move fast in the tank and we couldn’t control the direction of the questions, but overall we’re happy with the pitch we made and the valuation we requested. The sharks didn’t bite at that valuation but last week we announced a major investment from MTD Products and other investors that met our valuation target and also gave us a strategic investor on the robot manufacturer side.

Who’s your favorite shark?

Is that like asking which one bit us the least? :) We enjoyed the opportunity to pitch all the sharks and think they all have amazing entrepreneurial backgrounds. The two we were most disappointed didn’t invest were Sir Richard Branson given his expertise in creating consumer brands and focus on environmental impact, and Mark Cuban given the hometown connection of Dallas and our respect for all he’s done in the Dallas community.

Despite not getting a deal, do you think “Shark Tank” was the right move for your business?

Yes, absolutely. It wasn’t on either one of our “bucket lists” to appear on the show but it will make for a good story for the grandkids someday. The waiting and the first couple minutes in the tank were nerve-wracking but ultimately the experience was a lot of fun. It was also great for our business, especially the visibility we received with potential franchise owners. We’re really enjoying meeting so many fans of the show and helping a few of them achieve their own entrepreneurial dreams through owning a Robin Autopilot franchise.

What are Robin’s next steps?

World domination, one green lawn at a time! We intend to become THE brand in residential lawn care through our network of passionate, entrepreneurial franchise owners and our technological edge in both robots and our patent-pending robot doors.

Where do you see this industry in 5-10 years?

Americans spend $82 billion per year on lawn care services and right now less than $500,000 of that goes toward robot lawn mowing. Robot mowers in Europe are already a billion-dollar industry all by themselves. The U.S. market will be at least that large and we intend to drive that adoption.

What would you say to people who want to start their own business?

It’s harder than you think! That said, the hardest part is the decision to start. Once you’ve made that leap into the unknown you have no choice but to commit to the grind. Success requires a certain amount of grit and optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, but if you keep grinding, good things happen.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to make it on “Shark Tank”?

Get yourself a robot—everyone, even “Shark Tank” producers, love robots! Barring that, be yourself and build something you love with people you respect. Don’t worry about whether “Shark Tank” wants to show your product. Just make sure it’s something that you’re passionate about and good things will happen, perhaps even a call from a “Shark Tank” producer.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length


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