Jibo Names New CEO, Raises $25 Million

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Jibo, makers of an interactive, voice-enabled family robot, has named Steve Chambers, a former executive at Nuance Communications and its executive chairman since February 2014, as its CEO.

Chambers, who has held many top leadership roles at Nuance since 2003, replaces Cynthia Breazeal as CEO. Breazeal, an MIT robotics expert who founded Jibo and launched its initial Indiegogo campaign last year, will serve as chief scientist at the company.

"People are excited about the promise of social robotics in the home," Chambers said in a statement. "As I step into the CEO role, I am dedicated to making Jibo a household name and achieving a user experience the market craves."

"As we look to grow Jibo in the coming year, Steve is the perfect choice to build the business infrastructure for this new breed of consumer robotics company," Breazeal said in a statement. "Steve can focus on building relationships with other pioneers across industries while I bring together the most creative minds in user interaction and social robotics to make what seem like futuristic dreams into real-world possibilities."

To further enable those dreams, Jibo also today announced that it has raised $25.3 million in Series A financing, led by RRE Ventures. Participating existing investor CRV, also the lead seed investor, and existing investors Fairhaven and Osage University Partners join new investors RRE, Flybridge Capital Partners, Two Sigma Ventures, Formation 8, Samsung Ventures, and several others in the round.

Jibo will use the funding to pursue the following endeavors:

  • Campaign fulfillment: This funding will primarily let Jibo fulfill its Indiegogo campaign and to build the first batch of consumer-ready Jibos and beyond.
  • Team growth: The Jibo team will expand its workforce seven-fold, with an emphasis on software, hardware, and cloud development. The company will also look to grow its user experience team and human factors design talent to get Jibo ready for the home.
  • Prototype development: The funding will provide the means to partner with third-party manufacturers to speed the development of advanced prototypes that will help take Jibo from idea to reality.
  • Ecosystem inspiration: Jibo will seed simulator units, then full developer units with SDKs, to the developer community to help drive engagement and expand the portfolio of Jibo Skills.

The company has set an aggressive development schedule, with product testing slated to begin this summer. The developer edition is due for release in the fall, and full public release is slated for summer 2016.

Dan Miller, founder and lead analyst at Opus Research, isn't surprised by the changes at Jibo. For one, Chambers "has been de facto CEO of Jibo for a while," he says.

The new investment, he adds, "sure shows confidence in the whole home robot domain."

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