Artly Coffee Expands, Launches Crowdfunding Campaign
CEO Meng Wang shares details as bean-brewing barista bot hits eight locations nationwide
It’s been about a year since OttOmate checked in with Artly Coffee, the bean-brewing barista bot that used to go by the name Blue Hill Coffee. Since the company closed on its $8M round in 2022, the team has deployed its robots (named Jarvis) to a number of high-end locations: Muji Hudson Yards, San Francisco’s Pier 39, Pike Place, and more. We caught up with CEO Meng Wang as the company kicks off its new crowdfunding campaign.
OttOmate: Meng, it’s great to catch up with you; seems like a lot has happened since OttOmate last checked in on Artly, about a year ago. What are some of the biggest things that have changed since last year?
Meng Wang: Over the past year, Artly is maturing fast. We validated our market fit in multiple scenarios: office spaces, shopping malls, and partner department stores. We've made significant advancements in our robotic AI capabilities, enabling more diverse, accurate, and efficient coffee brewing. We’ve developed and standardized core component manufacturing and assembly, gearing up for manufacturing at a larger scale. Additionally, our brand presence has solidified in our operating regions, with a noticeable increase in customer loyalty and repeat visits. Feedback from our customers has been instrumental, guiding product enhancements and new feature integrations.
OttOmate: Why don’t we start with the big picture: what drew you to the coffee space, and how do you approach automation as a solution?
MW: Sadly, the fast-food industry has eroded the artisanal values associated with food, often replacing quality and craftsmanship with convenience and preservatives. This has led to an impersonal, standardized experience. I envision a world where everyone has access to diverse, premium, organic, artisanal food and beverages and a personal experience. Artly bot can bridge this gap, ensuring quality without compromising the soul of the food.
Living in Seattle, I became immersed in its rich coffee culture. For many, coffee is more than a beverage; it's an experience, a ritual, and a daily source of positive energy.
Our journey into the coffee space isn't merely about automation; it's about recognizing the potential of modern AI and robotics to revolutionize traditionally human-centric tasks. At Artly, our vision is to create a robot that can imitate skilled professionals, absorb and replicate their nuances, ensuring the preservation of the craft.
Steve Wozniak once mentioned the "coffee test" - if we're to develop a robot that mimics human actions and thoughts, it should, at the very least, excel at a barista's job. For many, being a barista is their first job. Our goal with Artly is to make a robot that can pass this test and deliver an authentic coffee experience.
OttOmate: You’ve got about 8 stores, with more on the way; what can you tell us about your expansion strategy, and how you’re expanding?
MW: Our rollout will be in phases. We firstly establish a foothold using our robots in tech-savvy cities where robots are welcomed and the demand for better coffee is high. That is our focus for this year. We analyze customer behavior, gather feedback, and refine our system. Next year we plan to have hundreds of the refined robots deployed. Our expansion is both organic, driven by demand, and strategic, targeting locations where we see the potential for maximum brand resonance.
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OttOmate: What about numbers, what sort of revenue do you project per store? And are all stores fully-owned, or are you also exploring franchising?
MW: We currently project an average annual revenue of $0.3M - $0.4M per store, and our immediate goal is to increase that to $0.5M per store by adding more food items to our locations and improving our coffee drinks. While our current stores are all company-owned, franchising is definitely on the horizon. We are in the early stages of developing a franchise model that would allow passionate entrepreneurs to be a part of the Artly journey.
OttOmate: You recently launched a crowdfunding campaign, what drew you to that form of fundraising?
MW: We chose to crowdfund because it aligns with our mission to democratize specialty coffee with robots. Crowdfunding allows our community and supporters to have a tangible stake in our success.
The current valuation of Artly is based on both our technology's potential and our market presence. The $100M on Artly’s StartEngine page is after an 18% discount for early investors.
The $120M total valuation of Artly is split between Artly AI and Artly Coffee. Artly AI is the B2B side of the company, with the goal of developing a general purpose robot that can do all kinds of labor tasks. Businesses can "hire" Artly bots in a robot as a service (RAAS) model. Artly Coffee is the B2C side of the company, where Artly bots' software and hardware continue to be refined to serve good coffee.
The two businesses complement each other. Artly AI provides the technology that powers Artly Coffee, and Artly Coffee provides a real-world application for Artly AI's technology.
OttOmate: How has the campaign been going so far?
MW: It is off to a good start! We are one of the companies that have the most momentum on the StartEngine platform. Within just 10 days after the campaign started, we raised more than half the maximum for this round.
OttOmate: Any other details people need to know? Any thoughts on what comes next for Artly?
MW:The future is bright! We are in the early stages of democratizing artisan food. Imagine a world where Artly bots not only brew your coffee but also cook your favorite meal. As for our immediate plans, we are focused on perfecting Jarvis' barista skills, expanding our reach, and continuously engaging with our community for feedback and insights.