Wavemaker Triples Down on Equity Crowdfunding (Should Your Startup?)
Also: Mobile ramen, Eurobo fruit harvester, Cartken, Changi and smoooooooothies.
Wavemaker Labs’ Crowdfunding Campaigns are Getting, Err, Crowded
Food robotics incubator Wavemaker Labs has been a big believer in equity crowdfunding as a capital raising mechanism for a long time. Wavemaker portfolio companies Miso Robotics, Piestro, Future Acres, and Bobacnio have all run one ore more equity crowdfunding campaigns over the past few years.
But even I was taken aback when not one, not two, but three different Wavemaker companies all announced fresh equity crowdfunding campaigns within a 24 hour window this week. And they aren’t just going back to the crowd, these startups are all asking for big moola.
Here are the newsy bits:
Flippy parent Miso Robotics (which has already crowdfunded $50M), launched a campaign to raise another $40 million.
Robot pizza vending co. Piestro (which had raised more than $5 million via the crowd) is back to raise $20 million.
Abundant Robots, which makes apple harvesting robots and which Wavemaker acquired the IP of last year, aims to raise $20 million.
But wait! As Ron Popeil used to say, there’s more!
In addition to those three campaigns, Piestro is also already in the midst of a separate campaign to raise $10 million for its 800 Degrees GO joint venture with 800 Degrees pizza chain. And, Wavemaker’s joint venture with C3 for its all-in-one Nommi kiosk is also working to crowdfund $20 million.
Let’s see… that’s (does math stuff, poking fingers in the air, carries the one) — $110 million smackeroos in total that Wavemaker is asking the crowd for.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, I guess.
Wavemaker is filled with smart folks who know what they are doing, but this seems like an awfully big hunka cheddar to bite off.
Equity crowdfunding takes time, money and a lot of work. You need a steady stream of ads, webinars and more to not only attract potential investors, but get them to pony up. Wavemaker is essentially running five full time campaigns right now. On the other hand, Wavemaker certainly has the experience running these types of campaigns and if anyone can pull it off, it’s probably them.
Equity crowdfunding is quite popular in our little corner of the world and Wavemaker isn’t the only company doing them. Blendid, Small Robot Company, Zippin and Flytrex have or are running crowdfunding campaigns as well.
Given all this crowd activity, should you skip the venture capital dog and pony show and dive into the crowd? Well… maybe?
People who do crowdfunding really love it. Kevin Morris, Wavemaker CFO explained why he likes crowdfunding at the OttOmate Pizza Automation Event last November. And Covahne Michaels, VP of Marketing at Blendid extolled its virtues (and downsides) during an OttOmate podcast interview last September. Both say it’s a great way to not only raise investment, but an army of people who are invested in the future of your company. These investors act as extended marketing team and sales funnel.
But I’ve also talked with startup founders who have eyed equity crowdfunding and decided the costs were too high, and the benefits did not outweigh the time and money necessary to run a successful campaign.
Ultimately, whether crowdfunding is a fit for your company will depend on how your own set of circumstances. Just know that just because you’re approaching everyday investors does not make your startup an easy sell.
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A Tale of Two Robot Regulations
Late last week South Korea’s regulatory bodies made moves that would accelerate the arrival of sidewalk robots in that country. South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy will revise the current law, which treats sidewalk robots like autonomous cars. The changes will mean that delivery robots could hit South Korean sidewalks and city streets as early as next year (two years ahead of the original schedule).
Contrast this open arms approach with that of Toronto, which last year banned robots from city sidewalks.
Regardless of the reasons, both locations hold one lesson for all those interested in bringing robot delivery to the masses: There is a difference in being able to do something and being allowed to do it. The best autonomous technology in the world doesn’t mean diddly if it’s prohibited.
Startups, restaurants, delivery services and more should all be working with relevant regulators right now if they want robots to become a real thing.
Yo-Kai Gives Glimpse of its Vending Machine on Wheels
When is a vending machine more like an Uber? When you outfit it with wheels and atuonomous driving capabilities. Yo-Kai Express unveiled the Yatai, its self-driving, hot ramen vending machine earlier this week at a Microsoft event. The Yatai will make its official debut at a Super Bowl pre-party in L.A. on Feb. 12.
This type of mobile autonomy could change the vending machine game. Read on to find out how.
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MiFood is a Plucky European Ag Robot
While restaurants grab a lot of the headlines, farms are facing an even more pressing labor shortage (you can’t run a restaurant if there’s no food to serve). So there is a HUGE opportunity for agriculture robots (see: Wavemaker launching a $20M crowdfudning campaign for Abundant’s apple-picking robots).
Over Europe, MiFood’s robots are already at work harvesting strawberries, grapes and apples on farms in Spain and Poland. Read on to see how MiFood’s robots work, what their human labor equivalent is, and how much they cost.
Cartken. The Small Robot Delivery Company with Global Reach
Perhaps it’s because the founding team is a bunch of ex-Googlers, but for a company making a small delivery robot, Cartken certainly has big, global ambitions. Though Cartken is only officially two years old, the startup now has pilots up and running in Miami with REEF Technologies, on the campus of Erasmus Univeristy in the Netherlands, and a recently signed deal with Mitsubishi to make deliveries in Japan.
I spoke with Cartken Co-Founder and COO Anjali Jindal Naik this week, and she described how Cartken isn’t just thinking big geographically, but each of its pilots represents a different use case. Click through to read how Cartken is differentiating itself in the emerging robot delivery space and what specific part of the tech stack it’s choosing to focus on.
Just a friendly reminder that if you are with a food robot startup or foodservice operation using automation, there’s a good chance I’d like to write about it. So if you’re a PR or marcomm person, email me your pitch!
Makr Shakr’s Robo-tender to Make Drinks at Changi Airport
Well, now I officially have a reason to book a ticket to Singapore’s Changi airport. Later this year the airport will install two of Makr Shakr’s robot bartenders in Lotte Corporation’s Duty Free areas.
Airports are such a good use case for robot bartenders (and F&B robotics in general). Robots can work airport hours (i.e. all of the hours), they are contactless so there is one less vector for disease transmission, and travelers aren’t necessarily interested in artisan cocktails.
A flight to Changi for a robot-made cocktail could be considered a business expense right?
While we’re on the subject, check out the OttOmate Guide to Robot Bartenders!
Blendid + Jamba + Sodexo = Smooth(ie) Operator
I was talking recently with someone at Sodexo who said their biggest issue was labor. Okay, that’s fairly obvious — every foodservice sector is facing that issue. But the emphasis with which they said it was striking. It’s one thing to write about labor crunches and quite another to hear first hand from the people experiencing the problems.
Given Sodexo’s need, it’s worth paying attention to its recent installation of a Jamba by Blendid smoothie robot on the campus of Georgia College. While the robot won’t operate 24 hours a day, students and faculty can get their smoothie fix anytime between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and the robot only requires a person to re-stock ingredients.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.