- Kiwibot, a Colombia-based delivery robotics company, has signed a $20 million contract expansion with foodservice management company Sodexo. The partnership will bring over 1,200 Kiwibot delivery to 50 U.S. college campuses by the end of this year, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- Kiwibot has also raised roughly $7.5 million in funding from five investors, which brings its total funding raised to $14 million since its founding in 2017. The company will use these funds to develop new technologies and expand production, with a goal of building 100 robots a month.
- This contract expansion builds on Kiwibot's campus partnership with Sodexo, which was first announced in August.
Sidewalk delivery robots were gaining traction in the years leading up to the pandemic because they provide a low-cost, last-mile delivery option with less environmental impact than delivery by car. Robotic food delivery became even more attractive during the early months of the pandemic, when most dining options were closed across university campuses.
"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," Felipe Chávez Cortés, CEO and co-founder of Kiwibot, said in a statement.
Kiwibot's continued expansion could challenge market leader Starship Technologies, which has completed over 2 million autonomous deliveries around the world since its founding in 2014 and raised about $42 million in 2017 and 2018. By comparison, as of June 2021, there were 400 Kiwibot robots that had completed 90,000 deliveries.
Kiwibot has also targeted U.S. markets beyond college campuses, launching recent pilots in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Miami and San Jose. The company recently rolled out a new 4.0 model that doubles the number of orders robots can carry at a time, and is working on new functionalities.
College campuses are a priority market for such technology because they provide an abundance of walking paths and defined boundaries without much car traffic. They also feature a captive audience of digital natives who have come to expect food delivery on-demand. For Kiwibot, the audience is also familiar — the company was born at the University of Berkeley, California.
Kiwibot's partnership with Sodexo could provide a major tailwind, as the company serves more than 850 colleges across the U.S. and Canada, and is one of the "big three" campus food management companies alongside Aramark and Compass Group.
"The early success of our Kiwibot partnership has shown that automated delivery is not only possible and reliable, it's desirable," Sarosh Mistry, chair of Sodexo North America said in a statement. "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."