You won’t believe how Mike’s latest guest, Michael Brown, is changing the landscape of high-risk jobs through robotics. This cutting-edge entrepreneur is on a mission to update window washing and building maintenance, an industry that’s been stuck in the past for over seven decades. Join Mike and Michael as they explore the potential of automation in an industry desperate for change. It is so intriguing how robots can enhance safety, efficiency, and provide critical data about building health.
Michael also touches on a crucially relevant issue – the labor shortage in the U.S – and how robotics offers a promising solution. Picture a collaborative cleaning system where robots handle the majority of tasks, working alongside union labor. He also ventures into the potential of automation in markets, real estate, and how robotics can augment human roles in dirty, dull, and dangerous jobs. It is amazing how much we have to gain from this technological advancement.
Michael also shares his predictions for the future of robotics and automation. He’ll take you on a journey through the possibilities of underwater robotics, and how they could potentially streamline maritime, construction, and hospitality sectors. Michael also provides an honest perspective on the challenges of implementing these changes on a global scale. You don’t want to miss it!
- Revolutionizing Window Cleaning Using Robotics
- Disrupting the Window Washing Industry
- The Future of Commercial Cleaning Robotics
- Future of Robotics and Automation
- Automation in Markets and Real Estate
- Robotics and the Future of Work
Connect with Michael Brown:
LinkedIn: Michael Brown
Check out the video version of this episode below:
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Episode transcript below:
0:00:00 – Mike Malatesta
Hi everyone. Mike Malatesta here and welcome back to the how it Happened podcast. On this podcast, I dig in deep with every guest to explore the roots of their success, to discover not just how it happened but why it matters. My mission is to find and share stories that inspire, activate and maximize the greatness in you.
0:00:19 – Mike Malatesta
On today’s episode, I’m talking to an entrepreneur who is committed to using robotic technology to improve the safety of dirty, dull and dangerous jobs around the world. Michael Brown is currently focused on the skyscraper window washing and building maintenance industry, putting his Osmo robot into the baskets that look like they’re floating on the sides of buildings. You’ve seen those there’s always. Look up at those and you’re like gosh. I can’t believe that people are doing that. It’s very scary. It’s sort of like watching the free climb person or someone that’s doing the free diving, where they’re holding their breath for four minutes.
But, anyway, we go all over the place with this one taking on autonomous driving. We talk about unions. We talk about why every day in business is an obstacle and an opportunity and why, ultimately, why, robots are our friends.
0:01:10 – Michael Brown
I knew that automation was coming and I wanted to figure out where I could disrupt a service that needed disruption. In this case, you have a service industry in the window cleaning industry that hasn’t really changed in the last 70 years. There’s no new technology. Originally they were using horsehair brushes, then they went to squeegees because the window washers were. You know, their hands were getting too tired too early. I thought that when I saw it it was such a no brainer that there’s no one that I don’t meet. That’s like, oh my God, how can I not think of it?
0:01:49 – Mike Malatesta
And now here’s Michael Brown. Michael, welcome to the how to Happen podcast.
0:02:01 – Michael Brown
Mike, thanks for having me.
0:02:03 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, it’s good to see you again. We had a brief call before a month or so ago, before Michael’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia, which we are going to spend some time diving into, and yeah, anyway, glad to be back here today. So let me tell you a little bit more about Michael Brown. He is the CEO and chairman of the board at Skyline Robotics and get this Skyline. I love this description. Skyline is a venture backed AI, robotics and industrial automation at Heights company. That’s a really brilliant Tongue twister.
Yeah, it’s a tongue twister, but it’s kind of brilliant how it was put together, and you’ll find out why this automation at Heights is a thing, with Skyline. In his role, michael serves as both the veteran strategic advisor and is leading the expansion of Skyline into the US market. Skyline is an Israeli company. Michael’s 35 year career has been focused on business services and distribution rollups, which, of course, is a natural entryway into AI, robotics and automation at Heights. Right, mike, that’s like perfect.
0:03:07 – Michael Brown
That’s where that’s the precursor.
0:03:08 – Mike Malatesta
Yes, of course. He has led two previous companies with revenues over $400 million, both of which were sold to publicly traded companies, and he spent a lot of his career while leveraging proven models, driving growth, market expansion through business acquisition, cross selling, organic growth everything you need to do to run and grow successful businesses. Additionally, michael serves on the Sanitation Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is the official nonprofit partner of New York City Department of Sanitation You’ll find out why that’s important and holds a degree in information technology from Syracuse University and surgical micro robotics, which is what Michael. What is that?
0:03:52 – Michael Brown
Virtual microbiased. I don’t even know, is that for me?
0:03:57 – Mike Malatesta
That’s fine. It says it on here, okay.
0:04:00 – Michael Brown
He’s not, I’m not going to be conducting any surgery.
0:04:05 – Mike Malatesta
Even if you’ve stated a holiday in Express, you’re not going to be doing that. Okay, not going to be doing that, All right. Well, we’ll let the micro robotic surgery go for a little while. Michael, I start every podcast with the same question, and that is how did it happen for you?
0:04:20 – Michael Brown
Great question. It is a great question and I found it to be just fun. So I had sold my business and I was looking in the robotics field, mostly in the assisted living area. And then I was driving home one day from hockey practice with my son and I looked up at Hudson New York Dards in New York City and I said to myself I cannot believe people are still cleaning windows by hand. And from there I went and did a global search for the technology and then I honed in on Skyline because I thought that they had the best technology and was the furthest along, and I then was able to convince the board to bring on my team and bring in some fresh capital. That’s how a group will happen.
0:05:15 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, so let’s dig into that a little bit. So you were first exploring it from an assisted living perspective. Tell me about what you were thinking there.
0:05:26 – Michael Brown
So in the assisted living space, which is very large in Japan, where they utilize robotics, most of the expense in the labor for assisted living is in the nighttime arena. So when people have to have that 12-hour shift that night, when really the only thing they’re doing is going to need help to go to the bathroom, there are robots that have been made that will assist in getting someone out of the bed to the bathroom and then back to bed. So insurance companies are very incentivized for this, because if you’re, let’s say, leasing that small robot, you’re not having a 12-hour shift of a human trying to pay for that. So from a healthcare insurance, they’re very interested in that. I haven’t really since I joined Skyline. I haven’t even looked at it since 2019. But it was from my standpoint. It’s a huge market opportunity for people.
0:06:31 – Mike Malatesta
In the robotics itself. What prompted your interest there? I mean in your previous business.
0:06:38 – Michael Brown
Yeah, I knew automation. So, being in distribution, we had automation for warehouses in the 80s and 90s and these were what they call pick-to-light and they were carousel systems and different conveyors and so forth. As time has gone on, kiva and Amazon’s the world now it’s a whole different world. But I knew that automation was coming and I wanted to figure out where I could disrupt a service that needed disruption, and that’s what we did in my previous business. We were selling commodity office supplies and the only way we were able to differentiate ourselves was by bringing added value to the end user, or what I would call great service, and we call our company High Touch. So in this case you have a service industry.
In the window cleaning industry that hasn’t really changed in the last 70 years. There’s no new technology that are still utilizing. Originally they were using horsehair brushes, then they went to squeegees because the window washers were their hands were getting too tired too early. And, yeah, I thought that when I saw it it was such a no-brainer that there’s no one that I don’t meet. That’s like oh my God, how can I not think of it? So for me it was more about that aha moment that we all have in some situation, some people take it to the next level and go and say, ah, I want to go figure this out. And other people were like, oh, that would be a good idea in the future. So I’m more of the person that thinks of an idea like oh, and then I’m going after it and I’m looking to really implement it.
0:08:50 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, and I was thinking there are other people who are. Once they see the robotic window washer, for example, they go. I had that idea back in 1977 and they stole my idea.
0:09:06 – Michael Brown
You know that kind of thing. The thing is is that technology really wasn’t available to what we’re using today. So today, you know, we’re using basically almost like an autonomous car, right. So we’re using LIDAR to map the building and then the robotic has the arm, is making its motion to clean, and it seems very easy. But you’re in a multivariable environment, outdoors, where there’s wind, and you have to be able to make sure that you keep the robot stabilized in the basket. And we’re able to do that. We have self stabilization because when it’s doing its motion it’s pushing up against the glass a little to self stabilize it. So you know, it is that technology did not exist five, six years ago.
0:10:06 – Mike Malatesta
And the. I want to dig in more to how it works and stuff a little bit later, but I just you said something sort of matter of factly when you were answering the how that happened question about you know, you saw the window washer. You were with your son, you saw the window washer. You have this epiphany. You start researching, you find skyline. And then you said something like you approach the board and you sort of talk them into your team. So most people don’t have any idea of what that actually means.
0:10:42 – Michael Brown
Sure, so what happened was, once I figured out that I thought skyline robotics was the right company to take my vision to the next level, I met with the CEO and the two founders of the business. And the two founders of the business were really nice guys. One was a technology guy, one was a business development person and they didn’t really you know, they were younger and they hadn’t done business. What’s interesting that I found in the technology world is that no one has a business sense. So they’re, they’re creating this object and they’re not. It seems like they’re not working in tandem with the industry. So what we did was, when we went there, we listened to their model. They originally wanted to be a first-party window cleaner and go direct to every building and take on all the distributors and window cleaners, and and when we listened to that Even though I loved the technology, we said, listen, that we don’t see that model working.
We then went to the board and we gave them a whole presentation on where we thought we could take the product, because the product At the time was a prototype, it wasn’t even commercialized yet and this is in called towards the end of 20 and for us you know, I, 30 years, 35 years experience in distribution services running fairly large companies. My partner, who’s the president, has done three or four steps that startups has had successful outcomes and is Amazing on the understands the venture side. I was more on the commercial banking side so you know he would. He and I were able to walk in and show real, a real plan, business plan of what I would call cradle to grave. So here’s where we would start and here’s where we think it could end.
Mm-hmm and they bought into it and since that time the founders have moved on. We’ve gone from eight employees to 31 employees, 29 of them being in Israel in R&D and operations, and We’ve commercialized the product. We’ve moved, we’ve gotten it into. New York is now open, london we just did last week but we haven’t made any formal announcements yet and obviously we’re working on a lot of new projects all over the world.
0:13:29 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so here you are. You’re a New York Guy. Yeah, been successful running these businesses. You find this skyline. You’re interested in a server Israeli company. Had you ever had done any business in Israel? Had you ever had any?
0:13:46 – Michael Brown
Israel. I’d never done business in Israel, but yeah, it’s a whole. It was a whole. It was Out of my jurisdiction. Let’s say, yeah, where I’ve been meaning, I was mostly a US based National company had a couple different strategic alliances, maybe with Mexico and, I think, with some in Canada, but never on a global scale. So, yeah, this was completely different and there wasn’t a person that didn’t say to me why would you want to get involved in a company that’s so far away from you on a totally different time zone?
Yeah, I said, well, if you can find me a company that can do it in the United States or somewhere else great, but there’s nothing that exists.
0:14:30 – Mike Malatesta
Were you doing other venture capital type investing before this, or was this kind of your first?
0:14:36 – Michael Brown
now. This was my first time trying on the venture side.
0:14:39 – Mike Malatesta
Oh, okay, so you just went all in like let’s, let’s see how complicated I can make this for myself. Hmm, yeah, it’s pretty impressive.
0:14:48 – Michael Brown
Yeah, now we will listen it. The business case is so obvious To so many because it’s not just about the window clean, it’s about the facade health profile. It’s about the developer Understanding the. You know what’s the health of my facade, what you know what is my when I look at my facade. Do I have HVAC leaks? Do I have caulking issues? Optical cameras can tell if you have like a broken glass. But we’re talking about more looking into what I would call the the life of the building, and being able to provide data that has never been given before.
0:15:33 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah. So let’s look at this big picture, because this is really fascinating what you’re doing. So so you, you meet these, these founders. They’ve got a prototype, they have this vision for disrupting the window washing Industry and these and we’re talking about skyscraper type, like large. Yes, guys, skyscraper stuff. But they. But it seemed to me like they were more interested in this cool thing that they made then they. Then they were in like Where’s, how do we actually sell this thing? How do we?
0:16:05 – Michael Brown
Yeah, I think that the product in itself was very cool and was and so forth, and they thought that going building by building, that that was the best way forward. Okay, and when you know, when you’re building organizations, you know that what happens when you have a sales organization what support do you need? What real estate do you need? What technology do you need? What systems do you know? So it’s just, it’s a lot, and what one of the things and it’s the great thing about having historical references that I Knew that I wanted to be what I would call people light on. I wanted to have R&D. I don’t want to be in Manufacturing, I don’t want to have a sales team, I don’t want to. I just want to support the infrastructure, that the ecosystem that exists, and Work with all those parties, whether it be a new construction project or an existing building.
0:17:08 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, and so the that’s very it sounds very smart. I guess I want to go. I just want to go back one second to when you and your son were Driving along. You saw the, the basket, which, right, I think everyone who isn’t in that industry, who has any semblance of a fear of heights Would think, thinks that all those people are nuts. Yeah, right, yeah yeah.
Yeah, I’m sure they are like most I got fine most most service. Yeah, most most people. Right, they’re just people just doing something that they got themselves into at some point and they got really good at it and and they’re doing it.
0:17:49 – Michael Brown
Well, you’d be surprised. It’s a generational. It was a generational job. That’s a firefighter and whatnot, and but 76% of the Workforce for window cleaning is over the age of 40.
0:18:03 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, and so that’s where I wanted to go. Next was it’s not just that you’ve got this cool Robot and you look at it, you go. A normal person wouldn’t do that job. The the reality is the number of people who are willing to do that job is decreasing. Rap it, lee. Okay, so there’s a convergence here, because if you had a robot and there was plenty of people who were willing to, do it.
0:18:29 – Michael Brown
And nobody would care right now in different parts of the world it’s different right. So in the United States we have a labor shortage and because we have better opportunities for young People to go into the workforce in many diversified Types of jobs that are not going to require you being a thousand feet in the air in 120 degree weather, so I think that is a been a big push moving that forward. Because it’s just in the GCC region, the labor is plentiful and is very inexpensive. So for us, we did not run to the GCC for the existing environment because we can’t.
A lot of people initially are like what are the savings? What are the savings? What are the savings? And in New York or it’s a little different it’s I don’t have enough labor. I would love savings, but I’m really interested in the safety. I’m really interested in the fact that you can clean at night and my tenants will be happier because they won’t see someone hang on the side of the basket and it’s not a privacy issue. So it is a very big change that we see happening in the industry moving forward. And what is GCC? It’s like Kuwait, it’s the UAE, it’s Qatar, it’s that Gulf Coast, that whole Gulf Central Region area.
0:20:07 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so let’s focus a little bit more on the US, and then we’ll go back there if you don’t mind. So you’ve got this convergence happening. Where the workforce is aging, there’s not enough new people coming in. You’ve got the technology now Osmo is what you call the robot and you’ve got this path to take. You’ve got the path that the founders wanted to take, which is we’re going to knock on every door, and we’re going to say, hey, we got this great thing, let us try it.
That’s one approach and your approach is different. Your approach is well, let’s go to the companies that are doing this work, who really know. They have the relationships, they have the contracts, they know what the hell they’re talking about and they have the problem. So they have a contract that they is maybe in jeopardy because they can’t find enough people to do the work. And so you’ve chosen the company’s now chosen to go that direction. What is that like? In a market like New York, for example, or any big city market in the US, you’re going to have a union. That’s going to be a unionized job. And so you read about the ports in the US, for example, how anti-technology they are, like they would, I mean in the longshoremen when they negotiate their contracts. It’s like you can’t bring in AI into here. You can’t do that. You can’t bring automation. You can’t bring in more automation than you’ve already brought, for example. There’s a big, big resistance against it.
0:21:41 – Michael Brown
Yes, so the ecosystem. So, talking New York specifically, we’ve worked with our dealer since 2021, is when we’ve made our first deal. We’ve done multiple demos on buildings throughout New York. We train and certify the union labor that is currently working and then it becomes a collaborative cleaning situation. So the robots are doing what I would call the bulk of the cleaning, Okay, and then the skilled labor, the union labor, is working on either A they become a robot technician where they’re running the operation, or B they’re working on geometric cleaning areas that the robot cannot get to. So it’s really so. It’s a collaborative cell. Number one.
The number two the industry has been looking for this type of technology because of the safety issues and people get stuck in these baskets all the time on RIGs and when you have a human life, you’ve got to run there, break the window, get the fire department, bring them out. You have a robot. They’re not that concerned, right? It’s not like this is an emergency. It’s a piece of metal no different than the rig itself. So if the rig is okay and it’s staying there, it’s not going anywhere. So one a lot of people like the fact that you’re taking the human aspect of danger out. There should be a huge cost savings on the insurance side moving forward when there’s enough use cases.
But we’re working hand in hand with the industry to provide the developers and the building owners a better way of cleaning and a better service.
Where you’re now going to move, like I said, commercial cleaning tonight you now are going to be able to get data that you never had before, just on what your workers are doing.
We can at least say, hey, listen, today they were on the side of the building for X amount of hours and they clean all these windows, and when they come here tomorrow they’re going to start on these windows and so forth.
So we’re giving a blueprint of what’s going on, at least on the outside. Now we’re controlling the descent of the basket through the robot as well, so now we’re going to be able to take what we’re calling this facade health profile, and that, to me, so far, has been the biggest, single, most important customer want out there, because no one has. I mean the ESG rules that are coming down all over the world for climate change towards real estate are going to be punitive and are coming very shortly, so they need the ability to say, hey, what’s wrong with my building and I need to be able to fix it. So we want to be able to, instead of buildings getting called, inspected or checked out every five years, every time we do a cleaning, we’re going to be able to give you a report of hey, here’s where we cleaned, here’s what we saw. There’s an action step that you should take to fix that problem.
0:25:23 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so kind of layman’s terms on this. The long term view here is this is much more than a window washing robot. This is basically a and you mentioned ESG and a bunch of things that people probably don’t understand but as I understand it, there are rules coming along that say you are going to have to invest more in your buildings than you previously had to invest, whether that’s to capture carbon or whether it’s to do whatever. You’re going to have to do all of these things, and so that’s the one side, that’s the regulatory side. The practical side is how the hell am I going to do that, like, how do I get and how do you set every five years? Yeah? So in New York.
Because if five years a lot can go wrong. Oh yeah, in five years, right.
0:26:15 – Michael Brown
Oh my God. And how about this? That’s just in New York is local 11 is every five years. In Chicago it’s every seven years and outside of the US it’s every 10 years. So in theory, on a 20 year cycle you might get one or two. Looks at it. I mean, you’re talking about these buildings that have thousands of people in it and there have been, unfortunately, a lot of structural. You know, facades fall on, people, people die. You were in Miami had, you know, collapsed Building just collapsed. Those are the things that we’re trying to bring exposure to so that there’s transparency for both the building owners, the service providers and even the regulators, so they know exactly what they’ve got in front of them.
0:27:08 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, okay, and what about? Let’s just get nuts and bolts here. You bring it, you know, on the projects you’re working on. Now the robot comes in. I don’t think most people know how do you even get the basket, the robot, up to the top? Give us that view.
0:27:28 – Michael Brown
So every building is unique. There’s no building that’s ever the same, so their loading dock might be different, their setbacks might be different, their BMUs might be different, and we have been able to get into every building that we’ve needed to so far. So sometimes we’ll drop the bats from the roof all the way down to the street and we just load the robot in and it gets taken up. So it’s not the setup. The initial setup for a cleaning will take moving everything in and getting it all set up for hours. However, you’re never cleaning a building in one day. The next day it’s a 15 minute setup. You go got to go through a lot of checks and balances before you put the robot out over the side of the building and then you’re getting. You’re picking up that call three and a half hours that was called on the first day and we’re giving an eight hour clean, which is different than in. Listen, no one has to go to the bathroom. No one has to, you know, make a phone call. No one. Someone didn’t have bad food last night and doesn’t feel well, and you know you don’t have any of that.
So what’s happening is that what I call the dirty, dull, dangerous jobs will get automated in what I call bulk, at least in the beginning, because there’s a lot of things that need to happen or, I think, regulators to really have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. So originally they talked about you know, there are drones out there that we’re doing facade health profiles and inspection services. Now, that might work well in California, where you’ve got campuses and whatever. When you’re in a city, flying drones around is not going to work. And if you’re in a country like Israel or any of these countries, from a military standpoint, they don’t want these drones flying all over the place because they think that they’re you know they’re there to do something bad.
And the reason why I say that is because when we talk about, window washing is going to become secondary for us. We had to be able to get on the building right and what’s the most done on the side of a building. Well, now, even though and, in fairness, this wasn’t my first thought, my first thought was when a basic window cleaning. But then, as we started to go into the ecosystem and meeting with the developers and meeting with the general contractors and the service providers, they really gave us an education. So we’ve actually brought on advisors. We’ve about nine or ten advisors, all real estate industry or technology professionals, and I’m talking about like CEO of Silverstein, you’re talking about heads of JLL, people that are in that stack, that understand the ecosystem, so that we can work with the industry and not say, hey, listen, we built this, here’s what you need to use, right, because that doesn’t work.
0:31:07 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, and that’s I was thinking get somebody to say yes to something they understand before you try to talk them into some future that they don’t understand, right. Yeah.
Exactly. Yeah, that’s smart. So the robot itself and I thought this was pretty cool when I think we first talked about it was you put it on the side of a building and it’s able to figure out on its own the size of the window, the pressure that it has to put on something that would probably take there’s probably a lot that a human has to know to be in a basket at a thousand feet to do the job well and survive.
0:31:47 – Michael Brown
Yeah, survive. Yeah, we’re literally to your point like an autonomous car if you’ve ever been in like a Tesla on self-driving. We’re mapping the building locally, so we don’t pre-put anything in it. Obviously, the robot’s on the side. It’s scanning the building and seeing what it is, and then you got to think about it, almost like a painting. In between the lines it’s looking for the seals on the side to be able to figure out where the window is, because the windows are transparent usually right. So it’s very hard.
The other thing that we’ve also done is, besides that, because obviously you know there are two ways you could lose a window cleaning job. One is don’t do a good job cleaning the windows and two is damaging the facade. So we also have a lot of sensors. We have what’s called a force torque sensor that doesn’t allow too much pressure to go on the window. We have ultrasonic sensors that shoots out sound waves so that it will bounce off of the building. So that is a calibration. So there’s so many, you know. That’s why I was saying, yes, it seems very easy, but when you’re a thousand feet in the air and there’s wind and everything else, that arm you want to make sure that arm is never going through that window, and you know it’s been tested, it’s been retested and you know it’s now been working this way for about five, six years, okay, since 2018.
0:33:25 – Mike Malatesta
And so the way that it currently works. You talked about how you get the robot up there and everything but now. So you’ve got an operator who just hit start Start. Yep.
0:33:39 – Michael Brown
And they have cameras on the BMU to see that everything’s okay. If they needed to do an emergency stop, they could, but we haven’t had that situation happen. It’s really, and right now in New York, because of regulations, they’ve asked us to keep one human in the basket until there are enough use cases where it says, okay, we don’t need the human basket. But when you look at our videos of all of our proof of concepts, literally the person that is in the basket is sitting in the corner on his phone the whole entire time.
0:34:14 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so they’re not assisting at all.
0:34:16 – Michael Brown
They’re doing it right, that’s just. It’s just there because, for right now, listen, we were the first robotics company to be out on the side of a building in New York City and it can be very dangerous and I don’t I don’t even though we tell them that it works, we show them videos that it works and we could fly them to a different place. They really wanted to see the use cases. So we’ve done five different demos in New York for five major developers, and each one of those, the Department of Labor, has worked with us on that and provided us access to that, and I think that they’re getting more comfortable with the technology, as we haven’t had you know, knock on wood, you know any issues. Okay. Okay.
0:35:09 – Mike Malatesta
So this is really giving us a good, a good insight into the automation at heights thing we talked about at the very beginning. This is so dirty, dirty, dull and dangerous. If you were, since you’re in this I would. I’m going to ask you to be a bit of a futurist, where and I know you can only focus on so many things as a company, but I’ve seen a lot of different robotic things. There’s well, from simple robots that have been in factories, as you mentioned, for many years, which is what Osmo kind of looks like, looks like something you see Exactly and, by the way, we’re using the same robotic arm that’s used in the car manufacturers.
Okay, to some of the like I’d say cooler but maybe harder use case robots like Boston Robotics, I think is the company they make spot and these other kind of really cool. So where do you see like the most likely use cases maybe outside of Skylines or inside of Skylines for robots to replace or augment humans in dirty, dull and dangerous jobs?
0:36:19 – Michael Brown
Sure, so I think that there’s a couple iterations of technology that’s going to happen, but I think you’re going to get to this humanoid eventually and I think Tesla’s really, probably with Optimus, is pretty well ahead of everyone, and so I think that you’re going to see some construction maritime. I think you’ll see some stuff in maritime. We’re actually looking at maritime because you know, cleaning the holes of the ships, because at barnacles will save 30% on gasoline efficiency. So oh yeah.
So, so and, by the way, when I first looked at the business and they told me about maritime, I was like, oh my God, we got to go into maritime because I think it was at the time it was for every day that it gets dried up. It’s a million dollars for those ships and it’s taking about 180 days for them to do it and it happens about every seven years and we estimated that we could take it down to 60 days. So you can imagine. You know those are big numbers when you go down from 180 million to 60 million.
But I think that what you’re going to see a lot of the automation is in construction is people that are going to be in danger. If you look at. Hopefully eventually they’re going to get to underwater robotics. That to me, could be a real game changer for people because there are so many resources that we don’t even touch it within the ocean. You know it’s being 75% of the time. I think you’re going to see most of the land movers you know what I would call like bulldozers and so forth. I think that’s going to go all autonomous.
But I think that the service aspect of robotics is going to have to be in.
I think it’s going to have to be in a human form look like, because, like right now, they have.
If you see, they have this hamburger flipper or something that’s called I think it’s actually called flipper and they’re using a robotic arm and a lot of people are using robotic arms right now because it’s much easier than to try to build a humanoid. But I think that you’ll see the next generation be five foot six humanoids that are performing cleaning services, performing routine maintenance. You know could be, you know, on the highway, it could be buildings, it could be in your home for cleaning, it could be, you know, lawn mowers, like there’s a lot of different things. But I do believe that hospitality will see a lot of automation in the bar areas and the check-in areas and so forth. So, and a lot of people, to be honest, I think, enjoy not having to deal with the human interaction if they don’t have to. In a lot of cases, it’s just, you know people get frustrated and you know it’s just language barriers or not understanding, and I think that there can be a better service provided to the masses with automation.
0:40:00 – Mike Malatesta
I think you’re. So I’m an investor in this company called Cafe X and they’re a very robotic coffee maker. They make coffee drinks in airports and some other places, and the feedback that we’ve gotten on that company is that they people actually don’t mind not having the barista, they just want the drink the right way. They want predictability, which it seems like they’re willing to give up this whatever, because your interaction with a barista, for example, or any service provider, can make the experience way better, or it can tank it.
0:40:40 – Michael Brown
Wait, and I will tell you this I believe there’ll be way worse, more than it’ll be way better.
Yeah, maybe yeah, and and just, and listen, starbucks has done automation where you can order it and then you can pick it up and so forth. So I see a lot of that. It’s like the drive through windows where I think on streets you’re gonna be able to now literally press a button when you’re walking by with a QR code, and then there’s gonna be a robot that just hands it to you and you just go. So I think that you’re gonna get a lot of efficiency within your life, to start to be able to do a lot more and have more time, because society is gonna continue to get more automated, which is gonna make logistics better. It’s gonna get everyone moving quicker, and so forth, if they so choose.
0:41:29 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, and as far as rolling out Skyline globally, let’s say so. It’s an Israeli company. You talked about some US trials, use cases we mentioned at the beginning you coming back from Saudi Arabia. I’m wondering and you mentioned the GCC what are the what’s gonna be in your mind, right now at least? What’s gonna be the biggest obstacle to growth? Is it going to be different regulations everywhere that you go? Is it going to be, Bull down capital, just about.
So you don’t think that there’s beyond the money. There’s not gonna be an obstacle. That’s difficult to.
0:42:10 – Michael Brown
Listen, every day is an obstacle, right.
0:42:12 – Mike Malatesta
0:42:13 – Michael Brown
And every day, you know. So I live in an obstacle, and I just like to figure out a way to get around it. The capital markets, though, is really the big issue, because the demand that we have we’re getting somewhere between two to three contact forms basic contact forms daily from all over the world, and I’ve spoken to people in Japan, singapore, you name it Peru, belgium this morning, and everyone wants it. Now, not every market is right for us today. So if you look at Europe, for instance and I said we’re gonna announce a deal that we have a term sheet with in London London has more BMU baskets and cranes than all of Europe combined. So when looking at you know focus and density and so forth, yes, I could open up in Belgium, france and everywhere else and open up a new dealer and have one or two going at it. We wanna really. New York was I don’t wanna say guinea pig, but New York was, in fairness, the guinea pig and New York, if you can make it here under these regulations, you’re gonna be able to do it anywhere in the world. This is the toughest regulated market for real estate on the planet, and that’s why we really picked it, because we knew if we could make it here you know it’s the Frank Sinatra if you could make it, you could make it anywhere, and London is fairly similar in regulatory, so I don’t foresee moving across globally for new construction.
On an issue on existing environment, the only issue will be the labor rates, right? So I think that when you look at the low labor rate markets, those will become what I would call secondary markets for us, for the built environment. So, as I have machines, I have machines. As I have machines coming off the lease in the called the first markets, they’ll then make their way to the secondary markets. So it will be. So you need a couple of years to run through a cycle of your products, get it there. But I think that might change once we have the facade health profile built into it, which should be in about a year, because then it’s not about money anymore. Then it’s about how do you have a billion dollar asset and not have any type of transparency from an insurance provider, from anyone, and for very minimal cost you’re gonna be able to have a subscription service that every month you’re gonna have data on your building and you’re gonna know exactly what’s going on.
0:45:23 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, yeah, and that’s one of those things where right now, you’re fighting and I use the word fighting. It might not actually be fighting, but, like a lot of businesses, you’re fighting the regulation to get a chance to do it right, and then the backside of that is you’re hoping to ride the wave of new regulation. To keep like. That becomes the differentiator that really adds the value.
0:45:47 – Michael Brown
Correct the value of being able to now do two jobs on the side, and my whole career has been about cross-selling, finding additional services to be able to provide the end user because you’re there. It’s hard, it’s so hard to get a customer, so if you can add more, now listen, there are other services that people have come to us that we’re looking at polishing because we’re on the side anyway. There are also facades that are not glass, brick, stone, so we’re working on all that as well. So we’re really we’re partnering with. We’re partnered with a company called New Hudson Facades, which is a company owned by related. They are a facade manufacturer and we’re working with them for new, for later on down the road projects, and these projects are new construction. They’re anywhere from five to seven years, right, when you really look at it.
I mean 270 Park Avenue, jp Morgan. They started two, three years ago and they’re still not tapped out and forgetting about what they have to do on the inside. So it’s just you know what. These very large buildings have a huge opportunity to become future proof by getting into the automation game, and it’s really the city. New York City looks to be probably one of the first cities that will have it because of this borough based jail program and that, but I think it’s gonna be ubiquitous throughout the United States and around the world. There aren’t other machines that do clean, but there’s nothing that utilizes the current infrastructure, which is the BMU, which has already been approved by regulators. So that’s how we’ve gotten around anything else because we’re like hey, listen, were you using exactly what you guys have regulated on? And we’re fitting into the basket and we’re making sure that we’re following all those rules.
0:47:51 – Mike Malatesta
And you’ve said BMU a bunch of times and I didn’t ask you. I assumed it was the basket mechanism or the basket device.
0:47:56 – Michael Brown
Yeah, they call it building maintenance unit.
0:47:59 – Mike Malatesta
So it’s the quick.
0:48:00 – Michael Brown
That’s on the top. That then lowers the basket for the people to do, whether it be window cleaning, a window replacement, you know inspection services. That basket gets utilized a lot and that’s one of the big operational efficiencies is that they’ll be able to utilize the basket during the day for regular maintenance, while we’re cleaning at night.
0:48:26 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, oh, okay, yeah, that’s so double, yeah, so they get double out of that. Yeah, as you were talking, I was thinking to myself okay, so in a building, so you’ve got tuck pointing, you’ve got, and you could definitely teach a robot, I think, how to tuck point, pressure washing and then, I was thinking about the roofing and talk about a dangerous job.
0:48:48 – Michael Brown
The roofing is and I know there’s a lot of complexity there, but it’s funny, there is a roofing robot out there. There is. I think it’s actually. I don’t think it’s called roofy, I think it’s called like roofing.
0:49:03 – Mike Malatesta
Roofing might be. Roofing might not be roofing might not be. Roofing might not be. You don’t want a roofing robot up there, right?
0:49:09 – Michael Brown
No, you don’t want a roofing robot, but yeah, so yes, that is another great use case, or automation great use case. And listen, and it’s not tomorrow. See when people I don’t think have a good understanding of it’s not like tomorrow, someone’s built this system and it’s ready to go and it’s gonna just take over, like it’s a cool walk run scenario with technology, especially in robotics, and we’re not. Even now, things might move much quicker because of artificial intelligence, but even that, right now there’s what I’ll call the chat, gbt, llm type artificial intelligence, which is really just words. And then there’s the generative AI, where it can start to learn itself and do certain things. Ours is more on the algorithmic code If this happens, do this, if that happens to that, we’re reiterating 250 times a second.
0:50:26 – Mike Malatesta
0:50:27 – Michael Brown
Generative AI. As that becomes ubiquitous, I don’t know how fast things are gonna move right, because I don’t know how quickly they’re gonna be able to be like oh, this is how you do a cold fusion, this is how you do this, or this is how you do. I just don’t know.
0:50:46 – Mike Malatesta
0:50:47 – Michael Brown
So one. I could see rapid technology growth. However, I don’t foresee it in the masses or quite a few years. I mean, I would tell you that I wouldn’t be shocked to see a humanoid robot in McDonald’s within four years. And I’m not talking about like someone that’s got the tray on wheels. I’m talking about someone that looks like a human and behaves like a human and is going to be able to give something, take an order and give them a good experience.
0:51:24 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, it feels like the key to that is being able to have hand movement in the robot. That is really smart and sophisticated, because that’s really the difference between humans and a robot when it comes to. Well, there’s a lot of differences, but one of the biggest differences, right, michael, is that a human can connect their hand with their eye right and they can adjust to what they need to where and it sounds looks simple, right, like, oh, I can’t pick up the can this way. I have to pick it up this way because of whatever. But to tell a robot to do that is very difficult. That’s not, it’s not easy.
0:51:58 – Michael Brown
So and it takes time listening to the line of code. Right, that’s within, embedded within our system. So it does take time, but I will tell you, this technology you know called the artificial intelligence and machine learning and whatnot, I think, if it’s handled correctly, I think we’ll be in good shape.
0:52:23 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, I do too. I’m very bullish. Yeah, me too. So two things I want to ask before we go. First, I just ask this of everybody that’s I see on LinkedIn that has the name of their high school on it, because so few people do. And so you went to Brewster Academy. I put my high school on mine too. That’s why I’m curious about it. Tell me about Brewster and your experience there.
0:52:47 – Michael Brown
So Brewster Academy was interesting. I was a fairly good athlete in high school in most sports, and I was friends with a lot of older people, and all my friends graduated. When I was in, I think, 10th grade, most of my friends graduated, and I really was having a difficult time trying to allocate my social time and my sport time and my school time. So my parents, though, was best to go to Brewster Academy, which is in New Hampshire I was living in New York and I will tell you is one of the better experiences I’ve had, because it really got me prepared for college, for living on my own, for being independent and for following rules. You know that you could be held accountable for that. Your parents, you know, were just like you’re punished here. It was a little different, so it was great experience. I really enjoyed it, and I really only.
I went there for two and a half years because I was playing on their soccer team and they have what they call postgraduate year. So I went back, I played postgraduate year and then, literally January, I went to go work for my father in sales in the oil supply business. I worked from January to August, and then, literally the next day I went to college and that I almost didn’t even go to college because I was loving work so much, but yeah, but then I wound up loving college, so it was okay. But Brewster Academy was a great situation for me and, it’s funny, I just met with them last week and they’re going to be one of two boarding schools in the United States that are going to have a robotics program and they’ve asked me to get involved in that, which I thought was very cool.
0:54:48 – Mike Malatesta
All right. Well, thanks for indulging me on that question. And the last question I have for you is there anything that I haven’t asked you or that you want to leave us with that I should have asked you, you know.
0:55:01 – Michael Brown
I think that education is the most important part of these transformations for everyone, and I think that you know, listen, we’re. You know you can go to our website, which is, you know, skyline Roboticscom, where you can go to me on LinkedIn or Skyline on LinkedIn, and I think what people need to recognize is that we’re trying to save lives. This is not about taking jobs. This is not a bit. At the end of the day, you’ve got hundreds of people dying every year around the world from this, from just window cleaning in these baskets. Now, they’re not reported. In many countries, however, it is happening a lot. Listen, new York, they have. We’ve had one or two deaths in the last, I want to say, two or three years. It’s just not necessary, it’s just. It’s just and I listen.
I also have the same problem with the regulations on, you know, autonomous driving. I mean, here’s something where we know that if everyone was doing autonomous driving, the traffic deaths would go down in a huge fashion. It’s never going to be 100%, though, and so it’s. It’s trying to get. I mean, I guess the most important thing that I could tell people is don’t be afraid of the technology that’s coming to make change. It’s there in a lot of cases to make your life better and if you can be open to it, I think you can really have a high risk reward. Because if, let’s say, your job was doing X and it got replaced by a robot, that job probably, while you might have liked it, probably was a dirty, dull, dangerous job. And you know what, what? What’s? What’s the quality of life for people working in a dirty, dull, dangerous job? Right.
And so yeah.
0:57:18 – Mike Malatesta
And especially if your expertise can be, you know, transitioned to helping to operate the robots or Exactly right.
0:57:25 – Michael Brown
And it’s not. And, by the way, it’s not difficult because really you’re, it’s on off switches. I mean.
I don’t want to. You know, all the coding is in is, you know, in the brain. So for humans, it’s really what I would call the X factor. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I better have a human there, because I don’t need a human on the top of the building either. I could have all these running simultaneously from one. You know not so, but I would tell you that I would leave your, your audience, with couple things. One if you see something cool and you don’t think it’s out there, go out and go look into it. It will be a very inspirational task to take it down and really educate yourself about it. Now, it might not, you might not go out after it, after you’ve figured it out, but if you’re someone that is looking for change and looking to make a difference and and really wants to get out there, there’s, there are so many opportunities out there in automation. People just need to grab ahold of it.
0:58:38 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, I love that advice. That’s great advice. Just do it, just do it. What’s the worst thing you’re going to do is learn something.
0:58:46 – Michael Brown
What’s the worst? Exact what’s the worst thing. You’re going to fail and you’ll get up and you’ll do it again, but that failure will help you with the next situation.
0:58:53 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah Well, michael. Michael Brown, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today and talking to us about skyline, robotics and bruser academy and labor unions and the GCC and Israel and all the things we’ve gotten into. It’s been a fascinating conversation. Thank you for what you’re doing and I wish you tremendous you don’t, you don’t need luck, so I’m not going to wish you luck, just I, just I hope you, I hope to see your, your robots, on a lot of buildings. I hope to see it for the first time myself, which would be very cool to see it in person.
0:59:26 – Michael Brown
My expectations are that you’ll see them on 1133 6 Avenue in April, may doing the doing, doing the job of window cleaners and running autonomously. That’s that. That’s where we’ll be.
0:59:44 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, Well, seven months from now we’ll check in.
0:59:47 – Michael Brown
All right, Well listen very much appreciate your your interview. You really were great and I thank you.
0:59:56 – Mike Malatesta
Thank you, michael. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this show and before you go, I just have three requests for you. One if you like what I’m doing, please consider subscribing or following the podcast on whatever podcast platform you prefer. If you’re really into it, leave me a review, write something nice about me, give me five stars or whatever you feel is most appropriate. Number two I’ve got a book. It’s called owner shift how getting selfish got me unstuck. It’s an Amazon best seller and I’d love for you to read it or listen to it on audible or wherever else Barnes and Noble, amazon you can get it everywhere If you’re looking for inspiration that will help you unlock your greatness and potential. Order or download it today so that you can have your very own copy. And if you get it, please let me know what you think. Number three my newsletter. I do a newsletter every Thursday and I talk about things that are interesting to me and or I give more information about the podcast and the podcast guests that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve had with them.
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