In How Google Works, Eric Schmidt talks about how the company approached recruiting its top talent that were internally referred to as “smart creatives”. Schmidt shared “These are the folks who combine technical knowledge, business expertise, and creativity”. Steve Jobs often talked about the importance of top talent and how a small company depends on great people much more than a big company does.
Today, I am very excited to share that one our portfolio companies, CyPhy Works (UAS/drone systems), has successfully recruited Kristen A. Helsel to lead their commercial efforts. One of top female hardware executives, Kristen is an established successful leader (and former entrepreneur) who brings a demonstrated track record of new business innovation, industry sales and marketing, and executive management to CyPhy Works. She has had a front row seat for the evolution of the drone space in the USA as the former vice president of sales and business development for Aerovironment’s Commercial UAS business, and in her previous life she also ran Aerovironment’s electric vehicle charging business where she saw that new industry grow from near zero to billions of dollars in the US. Prior to that, she held sales and executive positions with Eclipse Management, Swift Engineering and General Motors. Needless to say, she is at home in the world of mechanical, electrical, hard-core engineering based products.
Kristen is joining Helen Greiner, founder and CEO of CyPhy Works, who is arguably one of the best engineer-entrepreneurs of our country. Helen previously built iRobot to disrupt the commercial and consumer robotics industry, and now Kristen and Helen aspire to do the same in the world of drones. It will be exciting to see what bringing vertical motion to robotics does to the world, from productivity and data based decision making to future commerce and saving lives. It has already been a great experience for me to be associated with CyPhy Works as an investor and a Board member. The team is uber-geek, they hack hardware and software for fun, and nerf-gun fights is how they release stress at work! And women rule the place: 3 out of 5 executive team members, and 2 out of 4 Board members are women.
It is an exciting time for the US drone industry. CyPhy Works is seeing tremendous growth both nationally and internationally. They have partners and customers in varied industries ranging from oil & gas, insurance and mining to package delivery. Kristen is joining to head the commercial activities to build on those relationships and scale operations, including manufacturing, customer support and services. She has already been schooling me on the regulatory landscape around drones and how it impacts commercial potential in different markets. Since I am long-term believer in the drone space, what also excites me is her commitment to playing a leadership role not just for the company, but for the space in general. I have no doubt she will be a voice to reckon with for all drone companies and technology providers.
CyPhy Works is a Silicon Valley funded company that draws upon the strong talent pool in both Silicon Valley but also Boston’s robotics cluster. Kristen will have one foot in Silicon Valley and another in Boston. As a Board member, one of the things I am most proud of is the help I am able to provide to entrepreneurs in building great teams. Executives at portfolio companies become a part of the Lux Capital family, just like the founders and CEOs. Hence, I am excited to welcome Kristen and looking forward to working with her.