The tiny, friendly looking robots known for their smiling faces now have even more reason to smile. Kiwibot, the robotic sidewalk delivery robot company, on Thursday announced a new U.S. headquarters, a contract from a major U.S. food services company and the closing of new funding.
The company, based in Colombia, announced it would open a U.S. headquarters in Miami and has raised $7.5 million in a pre-series A funding round that includes five investors. Total funding in the startup is now $14 million.
“As Kiwibot has both cash and contracts in hand, we really appreciate being chosen to help them negotiate with manufacturers, speed up the manufacturing process for the next Kiwibot generation and open up Asia’s markets for the robots,” said Joseph Huang, a partner at Headline, one of the lead investors in the firm.
Another of the investors is Sodexo, which has signed a contract with Kiwibot to deploy the delivery robots on college campuses. Sodexo has been running food delivery pilots with the bots at New Mexico State University, Loyola Marymount University in California and Gonzaga University in Washington. The company will expand that program to 50 U.S. college campuses by the end of the year, totaling more than 1,200 robots.
Kiwibots are coming to a city near you
“The early success of our Kiwibot partnership has shown that automated delivery is not only possible and reliable, it’s desirable,” said Sarosh Mistry, chair of Sodexo North America. “Sodexo is focused on meeting our clients and consumers where they are, and Kiwibot helps us do that. This year more students than ever will benefit from autonomous delivery and we’re pleased to be at the forefront of this emerging market.”
The new funding will go toward expansion of its robotic fleet.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Kiwibot journey. It has a rock star team, cutting-edge technology and an amazing partner in Sodexo. Kiwibot will revolutionize the last-mile delivery business,” said Andy DeFrancesco, chairman of the board of the House of Lithium, another of the investors.
Kiwibot delivery robots have made over 200,000 deliveries to date. The system includes in-field customer support and integrates with any business’ point-of-sale system for delivery of food products. College students using the service on campuses served by Sodexo can also use their meal plans to order food.
“We have been intensely working in the robotic food delivery field for the last five years, and this funding will allow us to expand the business at the speed that the market is demanding,” said Felipe Chávez Cortés, the CEO and co-founder of Kiwibot. “We are set to build the most advanced robot delivery fleet: building 100 robots a month, expanding to exciting locations and connecting with new partners, universities and cities to advance safe and equitable mobility with zero-emission solutions.”
Kiwibot maps routes for the robots, ensuring they are able to traverse sidewalks and streets. The Kiwibot utilizes sensors, object detection and lidar to navigate, although the current models are controlled by humans remotely at least part of the time. The goal is to eventually develop a fully autonomous Kiwibot.