Ex-Microsoft CTO David Vaskevitch is building an app store for autonomous machines

Gaia co-founders Mehtap Ozkan, David Vaskevitch and Hal Berenson. (Gaia Photo)

As a former longtime Microsoft chief technology officer, David Vaskevitch has seen most of the major computer revolutions.

He’s ready for the next wave, autonomous machines, and is building a platform to get in on the ground floor. Vaskevitch is one of three co-founders behind Gaia, a new Seattle-area startup aims to be a kind of app store for robots.

“Autonomous apps are not going to be like any kind of preceding apps,” Vaskevitch said. “We’re going to build a platform that makes it easier and even practical to write them.”

Gaia, which has raised $10 million, is looking for partners who are building autonomous machines. The startup does not yet have a website.

Vaskevitch said that solving the autonomous software problem will spread the adoption of these independent robots. “Imagine if Steve Jobs had introduced iPhone but not Xcode or the App Store,” Vaskevitch said. “Apple would be a much smaller platform.”

Gaia plans to build a kind of app store for autonomous machines, such as delivery drones and robotic chefs. Above, a test model from Amazon’s delivery drone program. (Amazon Photo)

In recent years, Vaskevitch has been working on Mylio, which is known for a photo management app that “hooked” GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota. Two years ago, Mylio landed $25 million in funding from Chinese investors to build a private cloud.

The Gaia team has borrowed Mylio’s hybrid mesh network to make its vision possible. “Gaia is designed from the ground up for tomorrow’s yin and yang distributed world,” Gaia co-founder Mehtap Mae Ozkan wrote in a blog post in 2017. “Applications can be written just once and still run on a phone, a tablet, in a car or robotic surgeon, in a server or in the cloud.”

Ozkan comes from a venture capital background as the founder of Istanbul-based Golden Horn Ventures. The third member of Gaia’s founding team, Hal Berenson, first met Vaskevitch at Microsoft and also worked on relational databases at Amazon.

One problem the team foresees is that today’s infrastructure — billions of devices connected through the cloud — won’t work with tomorrow’s autonomous machines. Instead, much of the computing power will have to be done locally. “Nobody’s really worked in that problem for the last 20 years,” Vaskevitch said.

In his blog post, Ozkan added: “The good news is that hardware to create the new world is either here or clearly on the way. The challenge is that the software to enable a world like this is almost entirely missing in action.”

At least for now, the startup isn’t diving into the rat race for self-driving cars, focusing instead on an application platform for everything else. Among your future companions: autonomous chefs, security robots and delivery drones.

“Ten or 15 years from now, we’re going to see autonomous machines in our homes, at work, everywhere we go,” Vaskevitch said.

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