Editor’s Note: As well as anyone could anticipate, 757 Accelerate’s first cohort companies are growing their wings. Two of them, Troopster and SVT Robotics, recently expanded their physical footprints into a new, shared facility in Norfolk.
They’re also sharing their collective expertise to help each other level-up—SVT Robotics is testing one of its robotic packaging systems with Troopster.
On a side note, Troopster also happens to be a former winner of our bi-monthly 757Pitch competition.
This is exactly the kind of stories you’d want to see in a flourishing “startup ecosystem”. Stay tuned as 757 Accelerate commences its second cohort later this month!
Norfolk-based Troopster moves into shared space with SVT Robotics
From Inside Business
By Sandra Pennecke
Troopster has boosted its production of military care packages with some help from SVT Robotics.
The two local companies, which were in the first group of startup businesses selected for the 757 Accelerate program last summer, are now working together.
U.S. Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia Beach) and Bobby Scott (D- Newport News) stopped by the companies’ new location in Norfolk on July 29 for a demonstration of the robotic equipment being tested at the company that packs and sends military care packages.
Luria and Scott followed the direction of Troopster Founder and CEO Chelsea Mandello as they picked and packed a variety of donated items from automated racks into boxes. Handwritten notes on official Congressional letterhead accompanied their boxes.
Mandello started the nonprofit Troopster in 2015 in her Virginia Beach home. Since then, the former Navy photojournalist has sent more than 7,000 care packages to deployed service members through her business.
“It’s very near and dear to me to make sure that troops who are deployed have something from home,” Mandello said.
When she moved her business into a small location on West 24th Street in Norfolk in April 2018, Mandello’s goal was to find a larger location within the next two years.
She’s ahead of that timeline as she and her four employees moved into a space at 730 W. 20th Street in Norfolk occupied by SVT Robotics.
The software company that connects different types of robot technologies together was founded by Michael Howes and A.K. Schultz in 2018. It was previously based in Williamsburg and officially relocated its headquarters to Norfolk at the end of July.
The 6,000-square-foot space – originally one of the first PHR Center Shops, a division of Rose’s department stores – has sat vacant for a decade.
With more than enough space for its 10-person crew, Howes and Schultz decided to make a proposal to Mandello to not only move her office in alongside theirs, but also test their robots with her packaging system.
Grenzebach, a German robot company, loaned the system Troopster is using to SVT on a pro bono basis, Howes said.
Each one of the autonomously driven racks can carry 1,200 pounds of product.
“So if you imagine in the grocery store instead of walking through picking products those shelves coming to you at the front of the store after putting your list in the computer at the front,” Schultz said.
Howes said two benefits of the system are increased accuracy and increased production since up to 12 orders can be filled simultaneously.
“Instead of walking around finding (the items) it’ll bring it right to her,” Howes said. “As Chelsea and her organization grow and they get more and more orders to fulfill they’ll be able to do it with the same amount of people.”
“I think that this is really going to streamline our process,” Mandello said. “This is amazing and it will help us on the personalized packing side.”
From Inside Business
By Sandra Pennecke
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