When Mostafa ElSayed and Suryansh Chandra decided to quit their jobs to make robots, they had no idea where their leap of faith would take them. The two quickly discovered that building a robot was not as easy as they thought, as it took them a lot of iterations and generations. After one year and about seven prototypes, they finally knew building robots was a better career than architecture. Thus, in 2015, ElSayed and Chandra co-founded Automata, a London-based biotech firm that provides robotic automation solutions to the life science industry. In 2019, the company raised $7.4 million in a Series A round, and in February 2022, it held a series B fundraising round that raised $50 million. The recent funding is aimed at automating the entire lab process. ElSayed, the CEO of Automata, continues working hard to fulfill the company's dreams, and you can learn more about him here.
1. What Led Him to Entrepreneurship
Per the interview ElSayed had with Entrepreneur First, the CEO had not dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. Instead, he stumbled into it after working with a like-minded person who was experiencing the same frustration on the job. ElSayed, therefore, insisted that his entrepreneurship journey is intertwined with meeting Automata’s co-founder, Suryansh. After working together for five years in a satisfying career, it was time to start thinking of making other contributions with their skills; hence, they began their entrepreneurial journey.
2. He Gave Up a Ph.D. Offer to Become an Entrepreneur
Many successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to pursue their dreams. ElSayed was determined to do the same. Although he had already completed his master’s degree in architecture, he was torn between getting his Ph.D. and scratching the itch of entrepreneurship. When he and Chandra received Ph.D. offers, it was time to make a decision that would change their lives. They reasoned that they could go and study for four years then start wondering what to do next. Or, they could become entrepreneurs and scale the heights in those four years. They chose the latter and co-founded Automata.
3. He Studied Architecture to Avoid Math
Most people believe that math is hard, and according to F6S, ElSayed is one of them. He disclosed that he chose to study architecture to avoid math. ElSayed added that even after avoiding math, he found himself incorporating it into his career eight years later. He writes code for a living, and there is a lot of mathematics behind robotics research. Thus, anyone who intends to pursue robotics should have a good understanding of math.
4. His Education
ElSayed got his undergraduate degree in architecture from the American University of Sharjah (AUS), a private university in the United Arab Emirates. AUS is a highly reputed institution offering world-class, American-style liberal arts education to its students. It has such a diverse student and staff population that it has been named the world’s “most international” university. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, ElSayed graduated from the Architectural Association’s Design Research Lab with a master’s degree in Architecture and Urbanism.
5. His Employment Background
The CEO was once a digital software consultant at X-Architects, an architectural studio based in Dubai. While there, one of his notable achievements was helping design the award-winning project, Xeritown. According to Inhabitat, the master plan of Xeritown was proposed to be built in an extension in Dubai called Dubailand. Xeritown was designed to cut water usage. Therefore, non-domestic water would be drawn from recycled greywater and industrial wastewater. The urban complex aimed to create a sustainable model of development of projects.
6. His Work Has Been Displayed in Major Art Exhibits
ElSayed’s contribution to the architectural industry will not be forgotten. Although he has moved on to robotics, his work has been exhibited during various events, including Al Bastakiya Art Fair, the BFI, and Traffic Art Gallery. Al Bastakiya is a popular tourist destination thanks to its art gallery and museum that feature the work of both local and international artists. Besides art galleries, ElSayed’s work has also been featured in architecture magazines such as Mark Magazine, 2A Art & Architecture, and Al Manakh.
7. The Inspiration to Create Eva
Chandra and ElSayed met while working at Zaha Hadid Architects in the research department. According to Business Cloud, the two colleagues started wishing they could have a machine to make building the planes needed for structures much easier. After so many prototypes, Eva was finally born.
8. The Target Customers of His Product Changed
At first, Automata’s target customer for its robotic arms was anyone who worked in a field that entailed moving physical objects. ElSayed and Chandra planned on making the robotic arms as per customers’ preferences. The partners were surprised that the people they thought would be interested in the product were not. Instead, manufacturers had the highest demand for robotic arms, and the co-founders found their inbox full one day as both big and small firms were interested in trying out the prototype.
9. Why He and His Partner Attached a Low Price Tag to Eva
The two reasons that ElSayed and Chandra made Eva were to make automation accessible and affordable to the customer. He said that Automata aims to make its products affordable. The CEO explained that generally, automation is expensive and 90% of the customers end up not getting their needs fulfilled due to limited means. For this reason, the two entrepreneurs ensured that everyone who wanted Eva could afford it. Consequently, they attached a price tag of £4,999, nearly ten times what competitors were charging.
10. He Does Not Plan on Going Back to Architecture
As much as ElSayed’s background is in architecture, he does not intend on going back to being an architect. He has tasted robotics, and there is no looking back. He told Forbes that even if he were to be given a handsome architectural commission, his answer would still be no. His goal is to demonstrate other ways that architects can flaunt their skills.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee