• Tessa Lau

How Dusty Got Its Name



Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and let me tell you the story of how we came to be named Dusty Robotics.


The time was June 2018. I had been unemployed for three months. I had learned to call myself “independent” (i.e. not affiliated with a company) which kind of had a nice ring to it. I had talked to a number of VCs, each time getting better at telling my story of leveraging my robotics CTO experience into founding a new venture in construction robotics. I discovered that the shorthand VCs use to describe a founder’s affiliation before they’ve formed a company is “NewCo”.


Tessa (NewCo) scheduled a lot of meetings with folks from the construction industry who were willing to spend time talking to a noob. I’d like to believe that my track record as a robotics entrepreneur helped me land some of those initial calls. It was always heartwarming when someone recognized my description of Savioke’s hotel-delivery robots. A few people had even seen a Relay in person. Nevertheless I was amazed by how many complete strangers were willing to take a call with me and tell me all about what they did for a living. I will be eternally grateful to everyone who had the patience to speak with me during those early days.


Some folks were even generous enough to offer up a tour of their jobsites. So I bought a hard hat and steel-toed boots, and drove around to different sites in the Bay Area. I even splurged on a plane ticket to San Diego, where a big homebuilder showed me single-family homes in all different stages of construction.


By summer, I had evaluated and discarded several product ideas, testing value hypotheses with all the people I was talking to. The data converged to two main ideas (materials handling and jobsite cleanup), with neither one being a clear winner. With no better idea in sight, we were leaning towards starting with jobsite cleanup.


It was at this point that our lead investor offered to send us a term sheet. I was blown away that he was willing to invest so early, when we hadn’t even settled on a product idea yet. He’d been following my progress as I dug into construction and quickly surpassed his knowledge of the industry. I discussed the terms with my co-founder and several close friends, and decided to accept the term sheet.


There was just one catch: before he could officially send us a term sheet, we needed to have a name for our company! “NewCo” would have to be officially incorporated in Delaware before it could receive a term sheet. The clock was ticking on that offer to invest, so we didn’t have a lot of time to decide.


My co-founder and I put together a spreadsheet with some company name ideas and asked a few friends for ideas. We started with relevant concepts, like “productivity”, “safety”, “cleanliness”, and “integrity”. We proposed candidate names and spoke them aloud to each other to see how they sounded. (One of the lessons learned from Savioke was that we shouldn’t choose a name that is difficult to pronounce, hard to spell, or challenging to communicate at a noisy conference!) I also checked that each of the domain names were still available.


After a week we had narrowed it down to a few top choices:

  • Integral Robotics: we wanted our product to become a core part of the construction process. We also liked the math connotation.

  • Task Robotics: this would emphasize that our robots are performing tasks, not jobs. Our vision is to take on more and more tasks at the construction site over time.

  • Jobsite Robotics: our robots would be out on construction jobsites, doing useful work. I pictured our branded van pulling up to a job site and unloading our robots, with this logo prominently displayed on the side of the van. Anyone not in the industry would quickly understand what our company does.

  • Dusty Robotics: our robots would have to work in the dusty, dirty environment of a construction jobsite. At the time, we even imagined our first product might be a cleanup robot that swept away all that dust.

To help us choose, I leveraged my newfound construction network and called up a few people to get their impression of each of the various names. Did the name “Integral” mean to them what it meant to me? Would “Jobsite Robotics” give off the professional vibe we wanted? Would they find the term “Dusty” offensive, implying that they, or their industry, is unclean?


The votes were all over the place, with no clear winner. “Jobsite Robotics” pulled in the most votes, but it still felt too sterile to me. The more I considered it, the more I loved the personality of “Dusty Robotics”. It conveys that we know what we’re getting into, but we also don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re willing to call ourselves “Dusty” and we take pride in that.


The more we use our name, the happier I am that we chose it. It’s unique, memorable, and hard to get wrong (although a few people have called us Dirty Robotics). We’ve since shifted our focus away from cleanup, but the environment remains dusty. Our customers are excited to work with Dusty Robotics on pilots and field tests.


Like what you see? Team Dusty is growing. Check out our careers page for more.

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