The word “robot” conjures up images of C3PO and R2D2, endearing characters that even more than 30 years after their creation, have left an indelible impression.
Alas, it’s going to be a number of years before those kinds of humanoids, appealing though they may be, become commonplace, said Frank Tobe, co-founder of ROBO-STOX, an investment firm geared toward the robotics industry, but that doesn’t mean the robotics sector isn’t one that investors should consider.
In fact, Tobe says he believes it’s one of the most interesting places to be a part of for investors with a long-term horizon.
Tobe, a former statistician and computer programmer who served as consultant to the U.S. government, became extremely interested in the robotics sector a number of years ago.
“Through my career, I saw all the changes that were happening so rapidly with computers and the way in which artificial intelligence was developing, even though computer robots are a relatively new phenomenon,” he said. “I decided this would be a great sector to invest in, so I called my broker and told him I wanted to invest in a basket of stocks that were robotics related. He gave me two.”
That was in 1999, and although Tobe shopped around for more options (Bloomberg, he said, later offered him a selection of robotics stocks, 75 of which were duplicates: “companies with Japanese and European listings”), he wasn’t satisfied.
“I decided to go out, do my own research and create my own basket of robotics stocks and share that information with others,” he said.
And in due course, Tobe – whose online blog, www.robotreport.com, soon drew a healthy following among members of the investment community – was approached by financiers to turn his basket of stocks into an investment product.
That’s how the ROBO-STOX was born.
The index features 81 stocks from across the world – many of which are Japanese or from other Asian countries – that have more than $200 million in market capitalization and are sufficiently liquid. These companies represent the best in new robotics technology around the world, Tobe said, and they’re developing automation for anything from unmanned devices for under the water and in the air, to surveillance.