Will Grubhub Still Use Russian Delivery Robots? Plus a Comment From the CEO of Russian Startup FIBBEE
This is a news site about food robots — you don’t come here for geopolitical news or takes. So I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post. On the one hand, the fate of Russia-based food robot startups is rightfully the least of anyone’s concerns about Russia’s invasion and ongoing attacks on Ukraine.
But because I write about the business of food automation, I feel I should point out tha the Russian tech giant Yandex, which makes food delivery robots has a deal with Grubhub for robot delivery here in the U.S. (Grubhub also has a speedy grocery delivery partnership with Russia-backed Buyk). And that between Russia and Belarus (which may or may not be assisting the Russian military), there are three robot barista startups: FIBBEE, MontyCafe and Rozum.
I reached out to Grubhub to ask if they were continuing their partnership with Yandex, but did not hear back. Delivery robots may seem seem trivial now, but as we’ve seen recently, the robot delivery market is heating up and there are a lot of opportunities for startups to gain a first mover advantage and potentially dominate a market. Should Grubhub or any other U.S. restaurant, college or third party delivery service do business with Yandex? Given the severity of Russia’s actions, the broad array of sanctions, and less problematic delivery robot alternatives, the answer seems like it would be “no.” (Uber cut its ties with Yandex this week.)
I also reached out to Alexandr Khvastunov, CEO of FIBBEE on Linkedin and asked him how Russia’s incursion in Ukraine were impacting his company’s business. With his permission, I am posting the message he sent here:
We look with horror and fear at what is happening now. This tragedic [sic.] affects us all. We are for peace and hope that this will happen soon, but the consequences are catastrophic.
I'm an entrepreneur, and my mission is to build a business and create jobs. We started a project to give people the opportunity to drink excellent coffee for reasonable money. But in the current conditions - the project's development may be under threat, especially the growth of our network in the local market.
We have always looked at developed markets, and this year we planned to open in the US and other markets. Moreover, our project is one of the few in the world, if not the only one, that could build prototypes and, in fact, a functioning new format retail business. We have contacts in different countries and have big plans for the project's development. I think we will do it.
We cannot give up on our dream, and we will do everything to achieve it.
Again, whether or not someone is able to get a robot-made latte is inconsequential compared to the suffering the Ukrainian people are enduring right now. But Khvastunov’s comments provide insight into the mind of at least one entrepreneur in Russia right now.
Perhaps the best thing I can do in my small, automated corner of the world is point is report the facts as it relates to the business of food automtion, and provide you this list of resources assembled by The Washington Post that you can use to help the people of Ukraine.