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The Pransky interview: Melonee Wise, CEO, Fetch Robotics

Joanne Pransky (Emerald, Kenwood, California, USA)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 16 May 2016




The following paper is a “Q&A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry engineer-turned successful business leader, regarding the commercialization and challenges of bringing technological inventions to market while overseeing a company. This paper aims to discuss these issues.


The interviewee is Melonee Wise, an entrepreneur and veteran robot designer. In this interview, Wise candidly discusses her career journey, including the successes and lessons learned in the transitioning from an engineer to the CEO of two robotic start-up companies in just six years.


Melonee Wise had a love for building mechanical things since childhood. At the age of eight, she built and programmed a plotter out of Legos. Wise received BS degrees in mechanical engineering and physics engineering, and an MS degree in mechanical engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While in school, Wise spent her summers interning at Alcoa, DaimlerChrysler and Honeywell Aerospace. She was able to parlay her passion of building robots when she had the opportunity to work on the DARPA Urban Challenge through her university. From there, Wise joined the start-up Willow Garage as a Senior Engineer in 2007. In 2013, she left her position as Manager of Robot Development at Willow to co-found Unbounded Robotics. When Unbounded unexpectedly shut down 18 months later, Ms Wise gave birth to Fetch Robotics, a manufacturer of autonomous and affordable robots for the warehouse and logistics industries.


Melonee Wise is an ambitious robot engineer-turned-entrepreneur in pursuit of fast-paced career and personal growth, and taking on unprecedented challenges. After interning at three large US manufacturing companies, Wise decided to pursue her PhD until the right company and opportunity came along. In 2007, she was asked by a Willow Garage co-founder to leave her PhD studies and join them as their second employee. Willow Garage, the creator of Robot Operating System (ROS) open source software and the PR2 hardware platforms, would go on to become one of the most significant robot incubators of the decade. Wise was one of the co-creators of TurtleBot, a consumer robotics product developed in nine months, and she helped with the design of the PR2 and ROS. Additionally, while at Willow Garage, Wise created the Intern Program, increasing the number of interns from one to over 60. Melonee Wise spun-off Unbounded Robotics in 2013 and headed Fetch Robotics in 2014. Wise and Fetch recently raised more than US$20 million in Series A funding. Wise holds the patent for a steering column lock assembly and has been honored with the prestigious awards: MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators under 35; The 2014 Business Insider’s 15 Most Important People Working in Robotics; and Robohub’s 2013 25 Women in Robotics you need to know about.



Pransky, J. (2016), "The Pransky interview: Melonee Wise, CEO, Fetch Robotics", Industrial Robot, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 253-257.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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