Case Studies & Success Stories
Norwalk Havoc Robot League
Founder and former CEO of Datto
Founder, Norwalk Havoc Robot League
CEO, Norwalk Havoc Robot League
The Norwalk Havoc Robot League started as a hobby and then grew and turned into a scenario where a whole new sport is being formalized. What I ran as a single cage in an old building that I bought, has turned into an attraction that draws people from all across the globe. It’s become an international destination for people to come fight their robots. It’s stature is just growing at an exponential rate.
Austin brought me on in the fall of 2021. So, I give him a lot of credit for building a real movement around this and really focusing on identifying a core community upon which we can build. We are seeing this league and the sport surrounding it poised to really take off. My background is not in robotics and specifically not in combat robotics. I came from media and journalism, so what I have been able to see throughout my career is when something is ready to grow or when you’re really onto something. Hundreds of people are coming to compete in these events from around the world. We have had teams from Brazil and the UK. We had a team from South Dakota that packed themselves into a van and drove overnight with their robot parts and came to compete. People fly in from all over the country for every single one of these events. That doesn’t typically happen for something that is niche. People are pouring hours and money into this and it’s just been a really remarkable thing to witness so far. Like Austin said, we’re just really incredibly excited about the potential of this league and see it having a major impact in the sports world.
There was and is a passionate online community for robots just waiting for something like this.
The sport has been made famous by shows like BattleBots over many years but those outlets didn’t provide any real accessible point of entry for people to get involved. When you look at a sport like gaming, that took off because it was easy to get involved. You need equipment that is easily purchasable, a controller and some games and an internet connection. Versus robot wars that were drawing a fan base but there was no way for people to actually develop that into a passion. They were just fans of a television program and the people who did get involved came through programs run through high schools and colleges and having interest in doing it as a hobby. But these were hyperlocal events.
If you weren’t part of those eight friends fighting robots, it would be very hard to get involved. And yet there was so much potential. For me, it encouraged my creative spirit and irreverence and the idea to build something and make it more open. Figuring out how we can open the doors as wide as we can so we can get as many people as possible to come compete but create a structure so that we can make the competition really fun. We can run it reliably and we can produce great content from it. That’s where Kelly’s skill set as a storyteller comes in to build the narrative around all this. It’s really cool that that it has its roots here in Norwalk and we got lucky that we had the space here. It will always have a connection to Norwalk no matter how big this sport gets. It’s a very accessible sport in the sense that you can do it as a middle schooler and you can do it as a somebody who’s 70 years old. Kelly has built out the story and structure for the league. We see all these colleges and schools starting to raise their hand and want to get involved. It is still in its early days and there is going to be a lot built here. It’s a league in the sense that it binds all these different smaller groups together. Most of the other local competitions that exist around the United States happen once a year in a region. We’re happening at a frequency of seven times a year. And we have more infrastructure built out and in place than anybody else, which allows us to run a bigger fight. It enables us to run a more structured event and try to attract the most creative and talented engineers. Yet, it’s a level playing field that anybody can compete in and all you have to bring is creativity.
We want to maintain the ability to grow and be the primary and premier destination for people who want to compete with us. We’re at a turning point now where we feel really confident about the operational side of things to be able to step on the gas around attracting sponsors and businesses. We’ve had a lot of organic traction already from local businesses who’ve discovered us and are really eager to get involved in some way because we align closely with their mission, whether it’s around STEM education, robotics, technology, innovation and more.
When you get to be at ground zero for the birth of a new sport, it’s a rare thing. It is so rewarding because you see it like having lightning in a bottle. We can feel that energy and it’s so rare. We would love to do more with businesses in the Norwalk community and the surrounding area. There are so many ways for us to get involved with businesses of all sorts and sizes. We invite them to come to an event to check it out and see that it might be a great fit for their needs.