Former iRobot exec Paolo Pirjanian joins Calibrate Ventures

The noted robotics technologist will work with the Southern California firm as a venture partner.

Early-stage firm Calibrate Ventures, known for backing automation and artificial intelligence companies, has named Paolo Pirjanian a venture partner to help the firm source robotics and automation tech companies.

Pirjanian is a noted robotics technologist, having helped create technologies for many products including the Sony AIBO and the iRobot Roomba. Pirjanian, a former scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, is currently chief executive and co-founder of Embodied. The Pasadena, California-based company has developed a companion robot called Moxie that promotes social, emotional and cognitive skills in children.

Embodied is a portfolio company of Calibrate, with the firm leading its $22 million Series A round in 2018. Embodied has doubled its employee count in the last year to about 70 and Pirjanian said he is looking to raise a Series B round.

Calibrate co-founder Jason Schoettler told Venture Capital Journal that Pirjanian’s ability to identify cutting edge technologies is key and one of the reasons why the firm added him to its roster of venture partners. The firm’s other venture partners include Aimée Leifer and Daniel Murray.

“Paolo has vetted other potential entrepreneurs for us for years, and this role formalizes the process,” Schoettler said. “This is a positive sign that we’re growing our footprint and we see the marketplace expanding for automation and digitalization technologies.”

Calibrate Ventures was co-founded by Schoettler and Kevin Dunlap. The Pasadena, California-based firm is currently in registration for its second fund, according to a regulatory filing. The firm declined to discuss fundraising.

In addition to Embodied, portfolio companies include Built Robotics and Soft Robotics, as well as Feedback Loop and Parallel Domain.

Schoettler has known Pirjanian for a decade, having previously invested in Evolution Robotics. Pirjanian was chief executive of Evolution Robotics, which developed a floor cleaning robot. Roomba maker iRobot acquired the company for $74 million in 2012, installing Pirjanian as chief technology officer and setting up a West Coast presence for Boston-based iRobot.

Pirjanian said during his time at iRobot, he managed a team of more than 500 people and used telepresence robots to oversee manufacturing and other operations.