Cynthia Yeung, now the former COO Cafe X, posted on Linkedin yesterday that as of last Friday she was no longer with the coffee robotics startup after having worked there for a year and a half. Normally we don’t write about executive shuffles, but Yeung was high up at the company, and her departure comes at a time when rival robo-coffee company, Briggo, is scaling up.
Yeung posted the following to Linkedin yesterday:
Friday was my last day as COO of Cafe X Technologies. I learned a lot from growing the company (now 35+ people) through our Series A and am grateful to Henry Hu, Jason Calacanis, and David O. Sacks for giving me the opportunity to be in “the room where it happens”. I’m proud of the upcoming SFO launch of our new machine (in addition to a few other locations), bringing on more experienced engineering talent, and having built some corporate infrastructure to help the team scale. I’m looking forward to seeing where the company goes next.
One thing that caught our eye is that Yeung said “through our Series A,” but so far, the $14.5 million Cafe X has raised has been publicly referred to as seed and “Seed-1” money, not Series A. We reached out to both Yeung and Cafe X CEO, Henry Hu to see if the company has raised a new round or if there is some other explanation. Yeung directed all questions to Hu.
UPDATE: Hu told us via tweet that they renamed the Seed-1 as a Series A.
— Henry Hu (@supergeek18) August 21, 2019
Regardless, as Yeung also indicates, her departure comes as Cafe X is set to launch its first robot barista at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the company’s first location outside of the city of San Francisco.
But Cafe X’s robot will actually be the second automated cafe at SFO. Earlier this summer, Austin-based Briggo opened its robot Coffee Haus at that airport. In fact, Briggo was initially awarded the SFO contract, but Yeung was instrumental in the inclusion of Cafe X. As the San Francisco Business Times reported last November:
“We are striving to be a very, very responsible employer in San Francisco bringing trade jobs back to the city,” Cynthia Yeung, COO of Cafe X, told the SFO commissioners at the Nov. 6 [SFO Airport Commission] meeting. “And I want to understand why, with so little transparency, this trial program was awarded to a Texas based company?”
High-traffic locations like airports are perfect for robotic baristas because robots are fast, accurate and can operate around the clock. While there are plenty of airports around the world, they will be a battleground for automated food services like vending machines and robot coffee makers. Yeung left just days after Briggo announced it had entered into an exclusive agreement with SSP America to put Coffee Hauses in an additional 25 airports around the U.S. and Canada over the next two years.
While this was probably more of a coincidence, as Yeung indicated on Linkedin, Cafe X is entering the scaling phase of its startup lifecycle — a time when having steady leadership at the top is especially important.
This article originally stated Yeung worked at Cafe X for a year, it was actually a year and a half and this post has been updated to reflect that.