Like many startups founders, Anjali Jindal Naik, co-founder and COO of autonomous sidewalk robot maker Cartken, was raised by entrepreneurs. Her parents owned a furniture store in North Carolina, and Naik spent much of high school and high school managing warehouse supplies, an experience that would later inform her current pursuits.
When she graduated from university, Naik’s father gave her some advice: Start your own business; don’t work for someone else.
Following her passion for Bollywood music, Naik built her first company, Saavn, a successful distribution and streaming service for Indian and Bollywood music and content. At Saavn, Naik realized she liked to push the boundaries with emerging technology and experimented with achieving a product-market fit. In 2005, that meant working on cell phone ringtones, and even trying, and failing, to stream Indian concerts to cell phones in the US.
Naik went on to operate and product for a number of companies, most notably Google Express, a shopping service from Google that has since been swallowed up by Google Shopping. There she met the engineers of the company’s Area 120 experimental products incubator, Jake Stelman and Christian Bersch, who would later become her co-founders at Cartken.
Stelman and Bersch were working on Bookbot, a sidewalk delivery robot that would deliver books from libraries. The project, and the pilot at Mountain View Library, was short-lived for business and political reasons rather than hardware or technical reasons – the robot reportedly functioned quite well.
Sidewalks seem to us the best way to get to an origin and a final destination. So that’s kind of where we ended up. Anjali Jindal Naik
That was in 2018. Cartken was founded the following year.
Since then, Cartken has piloted Reef Technology to bring food from Reef’s network of delivery kitchens to customers in Miami, with Erasmus University in Rotterdam to deliver convenience store items to students, and with Mitsubishi to provide indoor and outdoor delivery for Starbucks customers in the United States. a popular mall in Japan.
We sat down with Naik to discuss the benefits of graduating from a tech giant like Google, the rising demand in the robotic sidewalk delivery space, and how a foundation of strong technology can enable new form factors.
The following interview, part of an ongoing series featuring founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.
TechCrunch: What’s your biggest takeaway as a startup breaking away from a bigger parent company like Google?
Anjali Jindal Naik: When you do something under a bigger umbrella, like Google, you do a lot of testing, trialling and prototyping. But I don’t know if it necessarily gives you the nudge that says, “Okay, let’s get this out there and really get away from the safety net of doing this within a bigger company.”
I like to start a project there. But if you really want to get that sense of real entrepreneurship, going out on your own and maybe taking some of the knowledge and the tests you’ve done, and creating something totally new outside of that umbrella is actually the best of both worlds. It gives you a little more confidence that what you’re marketing has had some pre-validation.
I don’t think we’ll ever escape the Google alum title. It’s an important part of our story.
There is a lot of discussion in the industry about the best form factor for autonomous delivery. Why do you deliver to the curb?
I think on the bike path or even on the road there are some barriers to get in. Sidewalks seem to us the best way to get to an origin and a final destination. So that’s kind of where we ended up.
We’ve spent a lot of time working on our form factor to make sure it’s not cumbersome and not a nuisance on the sidewalk for prams, wheelchairs and others who have to share the sidewalk, but that there is enough storage space to store all the goods we need. to be transferred.