Fox Robotics is a company dedicated to amplifying the quality of life through robotics.
By Katherine Powell, Photos courtesy of Desiree Fox and Fox Robotics
Fox Robotics was founded in Desiree Fox’s garage. She had a simple mission in mind: to improve the quality of life for those in certain professions that often caused unnecessary harm. The automated forklift company creates machines that are able to operate completely autonomously. The autonomous operation allows for human workers to fully manage several forklifts at a time. This not only allows for safety to be at the forefront but helps professionals to elevate their knowledge of the industry in a managerial role. In forklift-related jobs, Fox details how a large portion of injuries that occur are catastrophic. By redefining the corporate structure and the definition of jobs within this industry, integration-free automation technology can emerge.
How did you begin working in robotics?
The company was built on the ashes of grief. We lost our daughter Aurora in a tragic accident. When you’ve lost a child, you realize there’s not one problem that matters anymore, and it creates space to work from your heart. Anything you thought about life changes. My husband and I, at the time, looked at the whole picture and we thought, ‘What do we have to lose?’ We knew we could survive for eight months, and that’s what we did. We brought on our chief technical officer and built the company from there, one engineer at a time.
My husband was a software engineer and came up with the idea of self-driving vehicles that created fewer human safety issues. However, no matter where he brought this idea it failed due to a lack of execution. I had experience in company creation; this is the fourth company I started from the ground into existence. In the beginning, we had enough momentum as a startup, and we were also not held back by large institutions. A key to getting brilliant ideas, like autonomous forklifts, takes excellent talent acquisition. We hire the right people who have the skill set for execution, our recruiting members are very unique and the culture of the company is human based.
I also made it conducive to working mothers and parents. We do anything we can to support this dynamic. I myself have seven children. When you become a mom, you learn how to do something in 20 minutes that would have taken me two hours to do before. I think the key to our success is embracing different diversities. That tapestry is rich and comes from multiple perspectives.
On your website, you describe how Fox Robotics creates “robots that do useful work.” Can you elaborate on this?
The point of a robot is to do useful work. There are a lot of shiny, sexy robots that do shiny, sexy things. Robots that do useful things improve the lives of people globally. It’s the boring, mundane and unsafe work that translates into a better quality of life. With inflation on our heels, it fills jobs that no one wants to do. Now we’re putting people behind a tablet and teaching low-level software skills in air-conditioned offices.
I was at the warehouse late one night, and there were installers there who had experience in this industry. When I described what we were doing, one guy became combative and offended, and I listened. I grew up with a single mother in New York, graduating from college first in my family. I knew he was just trying to put food on the table. I asked him if he has ever been someone’s boss? He said no. I am training people to be the boss of robots; people can now be in charge of a fleet of robots. His whole demeanor swapped, and he asked if we were hiring.
Can you describe the mission of your charity work?
It was really important to me from day one that we work hard to be mindful of people outside of our company. We know that people are suffering around us, and we wanted to cut out any high-level privilege and elitism. Somebody somewhere is grieving and suffering, and the charity came from a place of bereavement. Fox Robotics is intended to send two messages. First, there’s no level of leadership where someone is too good to help another person. Second, you must acknowledge those who are in pain. I call it corporate empathy. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked to customers and seen their eyes light up. It’s this unbelievable feeling of honoring [Aurora]. We’ve used this feeling to create a better quality of life. She pulsates throughout the whole company. It’s such an honor to be able to honor her in this way.
In Aurora’s honor, we donate to Dell Children’s Medical Center. We send out a survey to every employee and ask what they care about. Anything [benefiting]children is high on the list. We’ve supported budding robotics teams, cleaned out public parks and collected toys for children in the foster care system or who may not see another holiday season. It’s all voluntary; we have employees who attend every event and employees who send us a [donation via]Venmo. All is okay. The charity has quickly become ingrained in our corporate culture. I am very proud of this section of our company. We make sure to build robots and corporate empathy side by side.