Interview with Sahil Harriram – CEO Elite Robotics
Sahil Harriram’s story shows that age is no barrier to innovation. He and his co-founding team at Elite Robotics started straight out of university, creating autonomous vehicles used for agriculture and mobile services like cleaning streets and delivering packages. Starting with nothing but passion and determination, Sahil, along with a university friend and a childhood bestie have developed this pioneering robotics product and technology platform which is set to maintain our cities of tomorrow and give us the freedom to focus on the things that really matter.
Our platform gives any vehicle with human-like instincts to navigate the world. They are low cost, high performance and don’t rely on expensive hardware. Our vehicles don’t use conventional systems, so we can target situations that wouldn’t be commercially viable for traditional driverless technology. We see a future where service robots using our technology will help clean, deliver packages and monitor infrastructure within our cities.
Born in South Africa, I migrated to Newcastle at age 11. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to be curious about the world, which sparked my fascination in science and technology. Ever since I can remember, I have always been passionate about engineering and building new technology. This led to me completing my Honours in Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Newcastle (UON). During my studies I learnt a lot about Autonomous Vehicle Technology and as I neared graduation, I struggled to find an appropriate job. As a result, I created Elite Robotics with one of my fellow students and his childhood best friend.
Your business and team
We are an early-stage start-up with a team of seven. Most of us are local apart from two that are based in the UK and US. Everyone has their own skills, ranging from engineering to accounting. We mainly communicate with online tools like Trello and Slack, however, time differences do make meetings challenging. Our main business is working with manufacturers and distributors to automate their existing fleet. We then leverage their distribution network to drive our own sales.
We have accessed a lot support during our journey so far including the Slingshot Accelerator, Icon Accelerator (Slingshot & UON), the Regional Incubator Program from the Hunter Founders Forum and the STAR4000 course run by UON. We were also finalists in several pitching competitions including: I2N Pitchfest, Hunter Pitchfest, UON E&I Week and NSW finalists in AusPost Regional Pitchfest . Funds and winnings from these provided us with the initial capital to get our business off the ground. We were also the founding residents at I2N Hunter Street Hub which is a co-working space designed by UON to help local start-ups with resources and support. It has been core to our current success.
Working within the co-working space has allowed us to plug into the local innovation ecosystem to find mentoring and support.
Not having to worry about issues like the cost of living has given me the freedom to focus on building my business without distraction. There is also a really strong innovation ecosystem in the region, which has allowed myself, and my business, to thrive and grow. Without this support in Newcastle, Elite Robotics would never have become what it is today.
Your biggest challenges
Being young and relatively inexperienced has been a major difficulty. We had to work hard to be taken seriously. My advice to young founders is be tenacious about your goals and remember that just because someone doesn’t share the same values as you, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from them. Learn to separate the good from the bad and keep working on yourself and your business.
We are only at the beginning of an extremely long journey that may take at least 5-10 years to come into fruition. We see a broader application for driverless vehicle technology to power robots that will maintain our cities of tomorrow. We see a future where service robots using our Elite Technology Platform will help clean, deliver packages and monitor infrastructure within our cities, giving us the freedom to focus on the things that really matter. Using smart city infrastructure, they will be able to share environment information with each other and with other autonomous transportation vehicles making these systems more efficient, cheaper and safer.