Tell me about yourself:
My name is Dr. George Leno Holmes Jr, I am CEO and Co-Founder of Hire Henry. We develop super portable lawn mowers for the next generation of commercial lawn care. My background is in Robotics, my PHD focused on developing medical robots to guide elderly and disabled people. I grew up in St. Louis, where Hire Henry is also currently headquartered. Our team is excited to be participating in the RIoT Accelerator Program here in Raleigh, NC.
I’m very active on LinkedIn and enjoy engaging with the business community.
30 second Elevator Pitch:
Hire Henry is developing super portable robotic lawn mowers for commercial lawn care. Typically when we say robotic lawn mower, people think of the small lawn mower they use to mow their home lawn – our robotic mower (named Henry) is three times bigger yet lightweight and portable – it can easily fold up and fit into the back of an SUV.
This design eliminates the need for large trucks, trailers, and storage facilities for commercial landscapers, allowing our users to grow and scale their businesses much faster than traditionally. Perhaps the other most important point is the huge problem in commercial lawn care – finding young people willing to sit on a riding lawn mower for 10 hours a day in the hot sun. We are hoping that by using technology it will transform the industry by helping companies obtain the labor that they need to grow and scale, while reducing infrastructure costs.
What inspired you to start your company?
I grew up mowing lawns with my grandad Leno Holmes. At the time I had no startup ambitions and planned to become a mechanic. After visiting Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO) in high school, I ended up getting a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Robotics and started to study the industry. My grandfather, now 86 still mows 30 lawns around St Louis, his reaction watching our robotic mower is priceless!
While in school, my Co-Founder, Keiry Moreno Bonnett, and I received a grant from the National Science Foundation I-CORPS program; we conducted one of the most comprehensive studies on the commercial lawn care industry – focusing on the huge labor challenges in the industry and developing a robot prototype to prove feasibility.
Having the technical background, and seeing the large challenge in the industry, it became very clear to us that the future of this industry would look much different than today and unique backgrounds gave us the perfect position to create the future.
What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
I love learning, and constantly putting myself out of my comfort zone – operating a startup constantly requires this level of growth – plus it’s always fun to meet new people in the startup space excited about making an impact on the world.
Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?
Of course! We’re fortunate to have a great group of mentors, given that we have such a strong technical and engineering background, we regularly consult with experts in product design, manufacturing, control systems, collaborative robotics, artificial intelligence, sensor design, modeling, and materials.
We went out of way, via accelerator programs like RIoT, to surround ourselves with mentors having backgrounds in distribution, venture fundraising, supply chain, go-to-market strategies, lean methodologies, accounting, and sales.
Ultimately, our success is going to be driven by these critical relationships we’ve been able to develop.
Any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Don’t delay, jump straight into it. YouTube has completely changed the game with how much one can learn in such a short amount of time. Just this morning I was telling someone how we learned many core aspects of application level robotics from YouTube – the vast majority of my PhD work was theoretical, focused on mathematics and simulation; YouTube helped to add the important hardware education. We got started with simple equipment for $50-$100 – now we are using much more expensive and heavy duty parts for specialized industrial robots, and implementing our own proprietary software.