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Executive shuffle at Heartland Robotics: Paula Long out, Elaine Chen in as head of product development

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 1, 2011 05:10 PM

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Just nine months after joining Heartland Robotics to head up product development, Paula Long is splitting. Heartland chief executive Scott Eckert tells me that Long's last day at the company is Friday, and that she is leaving to explore other start-up opportunities, probably in the IT industry. (Long didn't return a message left at her officer earlier today.)

Long had been a co-founder of EqualLogic, a New Hampshire data storage company acquired by Dell in 2007 for $1.4 billion, just as the company was about to launch its IPO.

Long is being replaced at Heartland Robotics by Elaine Chen, a veteran of start-ups like Zeo, Zeemote, and Sensable Technologies. Chen started work at Heartland this week.

Heartland is high on my list of stealthy Boston start-ups I'm eager to hear more from. The company is working on a low-cost (~$5000), easily-trainable robot designed for light manufacturing and packaging tasks, I'm told, and it has raised $32 million in funding so far — some of it from Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

Eckert says that Heartland has about 35 employees, and is still hiring, primarily for engineers.

From an earlier blog post I wrote about Heartland:

If the robot truly costs $5,000, one visitor to Heartland told me, then companies that haven't previously considered deploying robots in their business would be able to purchase one, see how it contributed, and then either buy more or simply write it off as an inexpensive experiment. "We've seen robots that are expensive and require a lot of customization," said this person. "Those are like mainframes and minicomputers. Heartland believes they're developing the PC of the robotics world."

We'll see...

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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