Bobacino Drinks Up More than $1.44M in Equity Crowdfunding for its Boba Tea Robot

More than 1,200 everyday investors participated.

Bobacino, which makes a boba tea drink dispensing robot, closed its equity crowdfunding campaign yesterday, having raised more than $1.44 million from 1,256 investors. This was the first crowdfudning campaign for the company, which is part of Wavemaker Labs’ portfolio.

In its campaign prospectus, Bobacino touted the benefits of its machine including its low cost (compared with opening a traditional store), quick setup time and high margin. The company said its robot is still in the prototype stage, but should cost $50,000, take just 1 - 2 weeks to set up, and provide 31 percent profit margin. Though we won’t fully know how those figures bear out until sometime in the first half of next year when the first Bobacino machine is expected to hit the market. Bobacino had been looking to raise $3 million from this campaign.

With Bobacino’s campaign closing, we’ve reached a kind of unofficial end to the equity crowdfunding season for food robots. Just about all the Wavemaker companies concluded equity crowdfunding campaigns in the past couple of months. Piestro kicked off October raising $5 million from the crowd (it’s second campaign), while Future Acres brought in $1.6 million. Elsewhere, Blendid (not a Wavemaker company), which had raised $2 million in crowdfunding in September, launched a follow up $1.5 million campaign this month to basically include the people who couldn’t get into the first round.

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Bobacino is an interesting case among the world of food robots here in the U.S. as its Founder and CEO, Darian Ahler, is a white guy looking to automate (and cash in on) a drink that is closely associated with Asian culture. This could be fraught in all kinds of ways, so to discuss that idea more, I had a super interesting chat with Stacey Kwong, Bobacino’s Chief Boba Officer last month. From that Q&A(🔒):

OTTOMATE: I’m just going to use [Darian’s] words here. He said he was a“white tech guy trying to step into an Asian community.” I’m wondering if you had any thoughts about that when you first met Darian and saw who was behind Bobacino?

KWONG: That wasn't my initial thought, but after hearing what they were talking about, and looking at the team, that thought did arise in my head. But the more I got to know Darian, the more I got to understand the project. I was like, ‘Okay, this is why they're contacting me because Darian is the robotics nerd.’ He knows nothing about boba and he's never claimed to know anything about boba, aside from how good it tastes. And that's why they reached out to not only me, but a lot of my friends as well in the boba industry. I guess they were trying to pick the right person. And I'm very fortunate they picked me.

But after you get to know the project a little bit, you sort of understand where they're coming from, and you realize, oh, this isn't just a white person trying to profit or make money off of our culture. This is just someone who kind of wants to help and bridge the gap between people who can't necessarily afford to start a full fledged brick and mortar versus someone who can maybe get their hands on a Bobacino kiosk. I think that's the message we want to send to people.

As someone who loves boba tea, I can’t wait to try out Bobacino’s machine to see how its take on the tapioca drink stacks up.

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