Women in Technology Hall of Fame

Helen Greiner

Helen Greiner

Co-founder and Chairman, iRobot Corp.

Inducted in 2007

In the early days of iRobot Corp (NASDAQ:IRBT), co-founder and chair of the board Helen Greiner envisioned robots that would improve life by taking on dangerous and undesirable tasks. Helen brought her vision to life with products like the iRobot Roomba—selling over 2 million units to consumers throughout the world.

The iRobot PackBot Tactical Mobile Robot helps save soldiers’ lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The division is shipping iRobot PackBot robots for improvised explosive device (IED) disposal in Iraq.

Helen is renowned as the CEO of CyPhy Works and serves with the Open Source Robotics Foundation.

Helen’s pioneering instincts and leadership have led the company to become a world leader in the robot industry. In 2005, she led iRobot through its initial public offering and guided early strategic corporate growth initiatives by securing $35 million in venture funding to finance iRobot’s expansion in the consumer and military categories.

Helen created iRobot’s government and industrial robot division, starting with government research funding which, afterward, lead to the first deployment of robots in combat in Operation Enduring Freedom. In part because of the success from these initiatives, Greiner has helped enhance public acceptance of robots as one of today’s most important emerging technology categories.

Helen’s nearly 20 years in robot innovation and commercialization include work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, where she met Colin Angle and Rodney Brooks, who co-founded iRobot with her in 1990.

Before this partnership, she founded California Cybernetics—a company focused on commercializing the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab technology and performing government-sponsored research in robotics.

Helen is highly decorated for her visionary contributions in technology innovation and business leadership. She was named one of America’s Best Leaders by the Kennedy School at Harvard in conjunction with "US News and World Report." In 2016, she received the honor of being appointed as the presidential ambassador for global entrepreneurship by former President Obama.

She was honored with the Pioneer Award from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in appreciation for her work in military robotics. The World Economic Forum has honored Helen as both a Global Leader for Tomorrow and a Young Global Leader.

In 2005, "Good Housekeeping" named her Entrepreneur of the Year, and the consulting and operations firm Accenture honored her as Small Business Icon in its Government Women Leadership Awards.

In 2003, Helen was recognized by "Fortune" as one of its Top 10 Innovators of 2003, and named the Ernst and Young New England Entrepreneur of the Year, with co-founder Colin Angle.

Helen won the prestigious DEMO God award at the DEMO 2000 Conference. In 1999, she was named an Innovator for the Next Century by "MIT Technology Review." Helen has also received the Anita Borg Institute for Women of Vision Award and was named as "MIT Technology Review" Innovators of the Century and "One of America’s Best Leaders" by the Kennedy School at Harvard.

Helen appeared on National Public Radio, CNN, and "Scientific American Frontiers," and she is often quoted as an expert resource in the press. Helen is a frequent speaker at industry events like RoboBusiness, PUSH, and the O’Reilly Conference on Technology. She sits on the Computer Science Advisory Board of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts; is a trustee of the Museum of Science in Boston; and is on the board of directors of the National Defense Industrial Association.

Helen holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in computer science—both from MIT.

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