With a Vision for the Future

By Ross Miller, Director,
Illinois Small Business Development Center


Bobby Hambrick has had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was a child.  “When all of my friends were playing video games and throwing footballs, I was mowing grass and learning the basics of business.  I was mowing about 35 yards a week by my senior year in high school,”  Hambrick confessed.  He started investing in rental property when he was 20 and learned a great deal from that experience.   In 2009, Hambrick founded AutonomouStuff as a dealer for highly technical components to make a vehicle move from one point to another without the need for human interactions.

Hambrick saw a need in the market.  With 30,000 plus fatal automobile accidents and thousands of soldiers who lose their lives defending our country, he began to look for solutions.  Hambrick started to research the autonomous driving systems market.  These systems use both Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) technology to “see” objects in a vehicle’s path.  Hambrick believes that, “Industries will use this technology for convoys, ground support systems, mining, agriculture and many other applications throughout the World.  This technology is great for increasing efficiencies, staying competitive, and most importantly, saving lives.  AutonomouStuff has developed exclusive partner relationships throughout the world with companies that manufacture technology being used or potentially used in autonomous driving systems, active safety, and intersection safety.  In the past, it was difficult for researchers to get their hands on certain technology, now they can simply call AutonomouStuff.  We are the first company to act as a single source for support and distribution of automotive laserscanner technology (LIDAR), automotive RADAR technology, and vision components.  This technology is primarily used as the ‘eyes’ of these robotic systems.”  This industry is expected to grow 10 times in the next few years and Hambrick hopes to be a part of that growth.

A major hurdle in starting the business was overcoming the risks and the insecurity of leaving his full-time job.  Hambrick remembers, “I had a very secure job for a wonderful family-owned company that was willing to provide a secure future.  I could not have done it without the support of my wife; she has believed in me and trusted my crazy ideas from the very beginning.”

Hambrick contacted the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University and met with Ross Miller.  Miller reviewed his business plan and provided assistance with planning the website to make it easier to find on search engines.  The strategies paid off.  “Ross has been very helpful in providing ideas on how to get more web exposure.  Our web traffic has been consistently growing 15-20% each month for the last year,” Hambrick reported.  
In addition to website assistance, Hambrick advocates other SBDC resources, “The SBDC office has also provided guidance when we hired our first employee, when we were looking for a good banker, and even helped get connected to other local businessmen. I highly recommend the SBDC to any small business owner who could use a little guidance.”

Hambrick sees several opportunities in the Central Illinois area. “I would like to see the local community colleges and universities create more emphasis on robotics programs for unmanned systems.  Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu, Mitsubishi, and several others make central IL a perfect place for it.”