A few years ago, Lance Lentini was a year out of college when he started working at DEKA Research & Development, a technology development firm. This wasn’t just any engineering firm; it was the incubation hub for Dean Kamen, one of America’s most renowned inventors, responsible for a plethora of inventions such as the Segway, the iBOT wheelchair, and the dispensing technology used in the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.
And it was there, while working on projects like self-balancing wheelchairs and delivery drones, that Lentini started to think about how automation could be used to make food production more efficient. He and a couple of coworkers started to discuss the opportunities and started to imagine what it might be like to work on their own project under their own company.
The only question was, where should they start?
According to Lentini, it was in 2020 that the concept for their first product started to come together. Around that time, Lentini and his eventual co-founders were standing in line for coffee and started to wonder what the reason was for the long wait times.
“After watching people just walk away from the line after waiting so long, we were like, ‘let’s poke and prod and see what’s really going on, what’s the biggest problem behind the counter,'” said Lentini in an interview with The Spoon.
After talking to employees at the coffee shop, they learned that eggs were often the bottleneck in the kitchen as a result of how labor-intensive they are to make. It was then they saw an opportunity to innovate.
“That was where we went down the rabbit hole of designing for restaurant owners,” Lentini said.
Lentini took the first leap. He left DEKA and began working on the idea, and within a few months, he received a small investment from a close friend. Before long, he was joined by his other co-founders (Connor White, Keller Waldron, and Chris Plankey) and built their first prototype. This prototype helped them raise a $2 million seed round in 2021 from Steve Papa, a longtime wireless industry executive and one of the original investors in Toast.
After two years of development, the company, now called Bridge Appliances, finalized its first product late last year, a robot designed to automate the preparation of eggs for breakfast sandwiches named OMM. Last month, the company was granted a utility patent for the technology in the OMM, which covers the process of cooking an egg in an end-to-end fashion in a countertop appliance.
The OMM can prepare two eggs in about two minutes, which means a single machine can handle approximately 60 eggs in an hour. The plan is to place the machines in locations ranging from small mom-and-pop shops that might only make fifty eggs on a Saturday morning to higher-volume locations that do three to five hundred eggs in a day. Those higher-volume locations, Lentini says, will have two or three machines working side-by-side.
Bridge Appliances has set up manufacturing in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, area, and they plan on rolling out the OMM to a set of trial customers over the next few months. From there, the company plans to expand into other areas within the US by the end of 2024 and early 2025. The initial business model will be a “cooking-as-a-service” model, and Lentini says Bridge will charge a nominal fee on a per-egg-cooked basis.
With his first products heading out the door, Lentini can reflect on those early days working as a freshly graduated engineer for a technology pioneer like Dean Kamen.
“Part of the reason we wanted to do this is that we just saw such a lack of innovation in this sector,” Lentini said. “And we were inspired by Dean’s interest and willingness to really try to do moonshots, and we really wanted to give this a try to build the first kind of end-to-end robotic appliances.”
“And we went, and we tried it, and it worked out.”
You can get a peak at the OMM robotic egg cooker in the video below.