- Autonomous delivery robot company Serve Robotics has closed on a $13 million seed funding round with a roster of investors, including Uber; Delivery Hero-backed DX Ventures; 7-Ventures LLC, 7-Eleven’s corporate venture arm; and Wavemaker Labs, among others.
- The funding will be used to accelerate the company’s geographic growth and support fleet and product line expansion, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- The funding builds on Serve Robotics’ previous funding round in March, led by venture capital firm Neo with participation from Uber and others. That initial round allowed Serve to spin out of Postmates’ robotics division as an independent company, following Uber’s acquisition of Postmates in July 2020.
Serve’s latest funding round shows investor interest in automation and autonomous delivery, as delivery robots offer a chance to make short distances and small orders more profitable by avoiding labor costs associated with couriers. Autonomous delivery could relieve some labor pressure as delivery order volumes remain elevated. About 50% of U.S. restaurant operators said they plan to use automation technology to help fill labor gaps in the next two to three years.
With delivery still above pre-pandemic, a crop of autonomous delivery companies have emerged, such as Yandex, which is partnering with Grubhub, and Kiwibot, which has linked up with Chick-fil-A. Starship Technologies also has expanded, now delivering food on 20 U.S. campuses.
The appeal of delivery cost-saving extends beyond small robots. Domino’s is testing autonomous delivery cars with Nuro, while Chipotle has invested in the self-driving delivery company. Drone delivery company Flytrex has also raised considerable sums of money, most recently raising $40 million in November.
Serve Robotics has a major advantage, with Uber's backing and access to the company's existing delivery infrastructure. It is also likely to get a major boost from its 7-Eleven partnership thanks to the chain’s large footprint and its 24-hour food and alcohol delivery service 7Now.
In a statement, Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief digital officer, said, “This collaboration will allow us to continue our 94-year legacy of innovation and expand our last mile delivery capabilities to make 7Now more affordable, sustainable and accessible for everyone.”
Serve Robotics was founded in 2017 and has completed tens of thousands of contactless delivery in major U.S. cities. Prior to its acquisition by Uber, Postmates rolled out robots in 2019, when Serve was its robotics division. At the time, Postmates claimed the Serve robot could carry 50 pounds and travel 30 miles.