Meet Simone Giertz, the YouTube robotics star now running her own company

8 Jun 2022

Simone Giertz. Image: With Secure

We met Swedish inventor Giertz in Helsinki and asked her about the inspiration behind her work and plans for her product business, Yetch.

Simone Giertz was in her early 20s when she first became known as the ‘queen of shitty robots’.

The title was inspired by her work in a subreddit called r/shittyrobots where people posted about funny robots that cannot perform the simple tasks they were built to complete.

“I remember seeing these ridiculous things that people built, like sophisticated robots failing at solving simple problems that a human could do very easily,” the now 31-year old told me in an interview at the Sphere22 conference in Helsinki. “I just thought it was hilarious, so I bought into that sense of humour.”

Giertz began her career by posting GIFs of robots she made that “failed spectacularly” at performing simple, everyday tasks – such as this robot that serves you soup. Soon, people began to wonder how she made them, so she took to YouTube to showcase her creative process.

“People started asking about the process and how I made the robots, so I made the videos as companions to the GIFs,” she said.

For something she told began as “kind of an afterthought”, Giertz now has more than 2.6m subscribers to her YouTube channel and has delivered a TED Talk on why people should make useless things.

Born and raised in Sweden, Giertz now lives in Los Angeles and has started her own company called Yetch – a play on the pronunciation of her last name. Yetch marks a pivot away from her YouTube career into a more ‘serious’ product business – but not without the initial charm that made Giertz famous.

“I still try to find those little inconveniences in our everyday lives, but what I’ve started doing now is try to find those everyday problems and try to solve them in more thoughtful ways,” she said.

Pivot to entrepreneurship

Giertz said she is thankful for when she started her YouTube career because of the pressures that come with having your face to the camera as a job.

“I was not a teenager at the time I started, which I’m very grateful for. Getting a very public job at a young age can be very challenging. It was challenging for me as a 24-year-old. I can’t imagine how it must be if you’re 15.”

‘The business of influence or content creation is very, very brittle’

But content creation on a regular basis for sponsored videos wasn’t the only challenge Giertz had to face. She was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour in early 2018, which she revealed to her global followers on YouTube.

Her health conditions, coupled with the pandemic two years later, made her realise it was time to move on from the video creation platform and start something new.

“I went through some substantial health problems and I was like, I can’t. I’m building a very, very tall tower that could topple over at any given moment for all these things that are out of my control.”

It was during the many hours of isolation that Giertz realised she could sell her ‘shitty robots’ and start a new product side of the business to eventually overtake her career as a content creator.

“I used to have a very aggressive travel schedule because I was always at conferences and filming, and suddenly I had time to be in my workshop, time to do something properly. Now, suddenly, I can spend a month and a half building a table,” she said.

“From an entrepreneurial side, the business of influence or content creation is very, very brittle. For one, if I’m not well enough to be in front of the camera or on a stage, all income stops. That’s just not feasible, especially if you want to expand and build something more sustainable.”

‘I’m hoping the product business will outgrow the media business’

This led to the birth of Yetch, her very own product design company with an online shop launched last month.

“The mantra for Yetch has been unique solutions to everyday problems. It really has a lot of the same thinking as the shitty robots,” Giertz said, explaining that YouTube was never an end, but a means to an end – which is now her company.

“I’m hoping the product business will outgrow the media business within the next two to three years,” Giertz said of Yetch, which now includes among its products a ring that also acts as a screwdriver and a jigsaw puzzle with one missing piece.

From YouTube to TV?

And that’s not all Giertz has up her sleeve for the near future. To complement her upgrade from a YouTuber to an entrepreneur, she also wants to be a star on the small screen with her own television show in the works.

“I’m going to film a pilot episode by myself and I’m going to self-fund it. If it doesn’t get picked up, I’ll put a sponsor on it and it’ll be a very fancy YouTube video,” she said.

“In the next five years, what I would love is to have a show that I’m shooting for two to three months a year. The rest of the year I’m focused on the product business and still doing YouTube videos because it’s fun and a way to force me to always try to think of new ideas.”

But, like everyone else, Giertz has her moments of wanting to move far away and do her own thing. “I just want to live on a farm and I wanna run an innovation house and have a prototyping facility where I can go and mess around,” she chuckled, saying Ireland could be a potential destination.

“If I ever write a book, I’ll rent a cabin in Ireland and I’ll just look out at the dramatic ocean and write.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic