Build With Robots co-founder wants to put workers 'at the center' - Albuquerque Journal

Build With Robots co-founder wants to put workers ‘at the center’

Some people worry that robots will take away human jobs, but the automated fleet overseen by Matthew Ennis is based on the idea of “putting the worker at the center.”

Ennis is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Build With Robots, the Albuquerque company whose Breezy One models roam around disinfecting such places as the Albuquerque and Houston airports, Los Lunas high schools and the University of New Mexico’s Pit.

The company’s first “co-development customer” was the Albuquerque Sunport and its staff, whose cleaning and disinfecting duties were greatly expanded during the pandemic.

“They had all their normal cleaning jobs, but now they’re also asked to disinfect,” Ennis says. “They didn’t have the bandwidth in terms of being able to do that. We actually sat down with their custodial team many a night and went through how would they use it (the robot), and what were their needs.”

Breezy One was put to work sanitizing the terminal’s indoor spaces, winning praise from airport employees, who said they felt safer coming to a clean work site.

Ennis, a chemist and an entrepreneur, has an affinity for janitorial staffs. Among his jobs while growing up in a housing project in Kalamazoo, Michigan, were loading trucks for a cleaning supply business during the day and waxing the floors of a local mall at night.

He also would clean out apartments when tenants left, sometimes finding piles of highly undesirable remains.

“I think it probably sparked my interest in people doing the work — understanding what they were doing and how do we help them,” Ennis says.

How did you become involved in Build With Robots?

“(Build With Robots co-founder and CEO) Chris Ziomek started it. He had invested in my last entity, NTxBio, so he knew me from that. We actually knew each other from riding and racing (bikes.) If I start going to conferences and I know what everybody is going to say before they say it, I get pretty bored pretty quickly. This has been fun because it’s a new industry. It ties in kind of the ‘workers of the world’ (idea) and the changing nature of their work by bringing them automation tools so they’ll be more effective. And then layering on a science approach to what they’re doing. That’s attractive to me. And so it pulls together a bunch of things.”

What’s next for the company?

A minibot that allows us to disinfect the spaces where the Breezy One is not quite appropriate. We have a retired (fire department) captain from Rio Rancho who’s going after fire stations and ambulances. They’re … also making recommendations about assisted living places, because they go there an awful lot, and it’s about making those environments more safe.”

What has been a difficult experience for you and how did you overcome it?

“From the outside, people would say (it was) ‘Oh, when you’re young, walking into a 7-Eleven with food stamps to get bread’ or whatever. But my mom always made sure there was enough. She provided a lot of love. So even though on paper that was the hard piece, it didn’t feel hard. It felt like what it was. What that time taught me, though, was that I’m not afraid of being poor. As long as there’s connection with people. I think that life is hard, and everybody has struggles. If you’re successful, you have an obligation (to) … support the common good. I’ve had a ton of support from people, my brother and sisters.”

What are your favorite places?

“That’s a really hard question. When I was with Lumidigm, I worked with biometric projects all over the world. But here’s something I learned. One of the places I ended up was Tasmania. I was doing a backpacking trip across one of the more wild sections, and I didn’t see a person for seven days. Not very often do you not see a human being. Day six … I’m going through the forest, and I feel like I’m being watched. I look, and there’s a bunch of wallabies … who were literally hiking parallel through the forest and would occasionally poke their heads out from behind the trees … and look at me. I’m sitting in the tent that night, thinking, ‘This is awesome, but I need to be able to share this with somebody.’ So that was kind of the important piece is finding things that you could share with people. And, thankfully, I learned it as a 20-year-old. Even the entrepreneurial thing is family. Some of the best adventures are when you get a group together, and they pull together. Everybody has a job to do to make it successful.”

Whom do you look up to?

“I’m going to say my wife, my children. They are constant reminders of love and striving and endurance. Historical figures that I find really attractive range from Ben Franklin to Yvon Chouinard, (founder) of Patagonia (outdoor clothing and gear company).”

Is there something you wish you’d done differently?

“I wish I would have known the importance of kindness, and that it’s actually more important than truth. I didn’t know that, or I didn’t feel that until too late in my life. The idea of fighting for what I thought was right took too much of an emphasis over understanding how kindness is really important to everything. You’ve seen people can just deny facts as facts. But don’t debate the facts. Listen to them and let them feel they’re being listened to, and now you have a chance to maybe learn something but also maybe getting to something that’s true. It’s not that truth doesn’t matter, but it’s that kindness actually matters more.”

THE BASICS: Matthew Shields Ennis, 56, born in Warren, Ohio, but grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan; married to Pamela Cheek since 1994; two children, Eliza Rebellion Ennis, 25, and Quinn Wilder Ellis, 18; one “trail dog extraordinaire,” Pecos, a black lab; Ph.D in chemistry, Stanford University, 1995; bachelor’s in chemistry, Bowdoin College, 1989.

POSITIONS: Co-founder and chief strategy officer, Build With Robots, since 2020; interim CEO and investor, NTxBio, LLC, 2019; CEO, consulting and investing, Monsoon Road, LLC, 2015-2019; vice-president of Open Source Intelligence & Media Analytics, Novetta, 2014-2015; CEO, News Imaging Inc., 2009-2014; vice president of business development, Lumidigm Inc., 2004-2009.

OTHER: Board member, University of New Mexico, Anderson School of Management’s Management of Technology program; adviser to a number of companies, including RS21; angel investor in 10 local companies; former board member of New Mexico Technology Council and former president of New Mexico Entrepreneurs Association, among others.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Build With Robots co-founder wants to put workers ‘at the center’

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

No limit: Channel Tres brings tour to Electric Playhouse
ABQnews Seeker
The creative process is one that ... The creative process is one that intrigues Channel Tres. 'I'm always creating and making sure family is good,' he says. 'Creating and writing is ...
APD investigating fatal stabbing
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are investigating a fatal ... Albuquerque police are investigating a fatal stabbing on Sunday afternoon. Officers were called to the area of Kathryn and Maderia SE on a reported ...
Gov. pledges $1.1M for film school, studio in Raton
ABQnews Seeker
The film industry continues to grow ... The film industry continues to grow in New Mexico. It's always been a goal to have film facilities in every point of the state. ...
Longer sentences have failed to reduce violent crime
ABQnews Seeker
Spiro Agnew, who served as vice ... Spiro Agnew, who served as vice president under Richard Nixon, memorably denounced the administration's enemies for their 'pusillanimous pussyfooting on the critical issue of ...
Outdoor rec projects receive $2M+ in state funding
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico Economic Development Department's ... The New Mexico Economic Development Department's Outdoor Recreation Division handed out more than $2 million to 20 projects statewide through its Outdoor Recreation Trails+ ...
Rain or shine, students fight for normalcy
ABQnews Seeker
Homecoming returns after years of pandemic ... Homecoming returns after years of pandemic impacts
NM to be part of 'clean freight corridor'
ABQnews Seeker
Hydrogen network could power trucks throughout ... Hydrogen network could power trucks throughout Southwest
Judge was a 'very generous and caring person'
ABQnews Seeker
Friends and colleagues describe Judge James ... Friends and colleagues describe Judge James A. Parker as a gentleman
Climate-fueled wildfires worsen dangers for struggling fish
ABQnews Seeker
A summer-long mission comes to a ... A summer-long mission comes to a quick end as cutthroat trout rescued earlier this year are released into new digs