Bartesian, which makes a pod-based countertop cocktail appliance, announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series A round of funding. The round was led by Cleveland Avenue, LLC, with participation from Stanley Ventures.
The Bartesian device has cannisters that you fill up with liquor such as tequila, vodka or rum, which it then mixes with a variety pods that contain different flavorings, juices and bitters. Place a glass underneath and push a button and Bartesian dispenses a perfectly mixed cocktail.
By next-gen kitchen appliance standards, Bartesian is a downright old timer. The product launched on Kickstarter back in 2015, where it raised more than $115,000. In 2018, Bartesian decided that it was in the drink business and not the hardware business and licensed manufacturing to Hamilton Beach. The first units started shipping to Kickstarter backers later that year and became more widely available at retail in December of 2019.
According to today’s funding announcement, the Bartesian system has served more than five million cocktails, experienced 975 percent year-over-year revenue growth in 2020, and grew its subscriber base 30x compared to March 2020.
Without actual numbers, those stats aren’t super helpful in determining the actual success of Bartesian, and one has to wonder how much the pandemic helped boost interest and use in the Bartesian. With bars and restaurants closed and people relegated to their homes throughout much of last year, having a robot bartender like Bartesian on your counter made a lot of sense. With vaccination rates accelerating, bars and restaurants re-opening, and people being able to once again hangout in person, will consumers still want a home drink system?
Ryan Close, Founder and CEO of Bartesian told me by phone this week that while his company did get a COVID bump, it was already experiencing triple growth rates prior to the pandemic (they got off to a nice start by being an Oprah pick in the winter of 2019). Close said that the company has generated more sales in the first quarter of 2021, than it did during the first half of 2020.
The competitive landscape has also changed for Bartesian over the past couple of years. Drinkworks, which is a joint-venture between Keurig Dr Pepper and Anheuser-Busch InBev, and is also a pod-based drink machine, has been rolling out to different states across the country throughout the past year. And Barsys, which foresakes the pods for straight bottle attachments, is another option for the automated cocktail curious.
The one thing going for pod-based setups like Bartesian and Drinkworks, however, is the ability for people to have a full bar in their homes, without a collection of bottles taking up a lot of space. It’s much easier to store a bunch of flavor pods than a variety of juices, bitters and other drink ingredients. Plus, when people do have parties again, guests can easily make themselves a variety of cocktails with little to no mess.
With its new funding, Bartesian says that it will accelerate its growth domestically and internationally, scale up its production and expand its team. One of the investors, Stanley Ventures, is the venture arm of hardware company Stanley Black and Decker, which, Close said, is looking to bring Bartesian to Europe.
Bartesian also announced today actor Mila Kunis has joined the company’s board of advisors to provide guidance on brand strategy and growth.