Botrista, which makes the automated, cloud-connected drink dispensing DrinkBot, raised $4 million in Seed funding earlier this year, which has not been previously reported. Botrista Co-Founder and CEO, Sean Hsu shared the news with The Spoon by phone this week, and said the company has raised $4.55 million to date.
Drinkbot is a hardware/software solution for restaurants looking to expand their drink options. The dispensing hardware connects to a library of hundreds of drink recipes (mocktails, juices, fusion teas, etc) in Botrista’s cloud, and restaurants can choose anywhere from 6 – 20 drinks they want to serve at a given time.
In addition to giving restaurants a single machine that could dispense all kinds of mocktails, one of the hooks with the service was that the actual DrinkBot was free. Restaurants buy the ingredients through Botrista and pay per drink ($1.40 – $1.90 each).
Hsu told me that the company’s model has evolved somewhat. The hardware is still free, but now there is a monthly service fee associated with the device in order to maintain it.
According Hsu, Botrista’s free hardware model is paying off. He says that the company now has 20 customers across Northern California, and that the model has been able to generate a profit. But Botrista, like everything else on the planet, was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first month was horrible,” Hsu said, “Because our main customers are restaurants.” But, he said that many of their restaurants adapted with delivery and brought some of that business back. “We got almost 40 percent of our business back,” Hsu said.
Given what’s happened with the restaurants and their uncertain future, Hsu said that Botrista has accelerated its self-service option. This new line of business would be for offices that want to offer employees fresh juices. While this could be a nice perk for employees, there are bigger, more existential questions about the role of actually working in an office going forward as well.
While it remains to be seen exactly what dining out (or office work) will look like, Botrista’s low up-front cost model and fresh capital could help it weather the coronavirus upheavals.