Chowbotics, maker of Sally the salad making robot, announced yesterday that Rick Wilmer will be the company’s new CEO (hat tip to FE&S magazine). Founder and former CEO Deepak Sekar will assume the role of president and be responsible for technology, products and strategic partnerships.
Wilmer’s 30 plus year professional background is not in food, but rather in more hardcore technology. Previously he was CEO of Mojo Networks, which he led to an acquisition by Arista Networks, and prior to that he was CEO of Pliant, which he led to an acquisition by SanDisk for $327 million.
This is the second bit of CEO shuffling we’ve reported on this week here at The Spoon. On Tuesday, we revealed and Dave Zito was no longer CEO or with Miso Robotics, the startup behind Flippy, the burger making robot. Though we still don’t know the reasons behind Zito’s departure.
A former boss of mine was fond of saying that there are two types of CEOs: builders and scalers. Builders know how to get the product and company off the ground, and scalers know how to guide the company through its next levels of enterprise level growth.
With this chestnut in mind, Chowbotics’ CEO replacement is probably not the last bit of executive shuffling we’ll see in the near term at a food robotics company, and that’s a good thing. It shows that the industry is maturing beyond the building-a-startup stage and into the scaling-a-business stage.
Sekar stepping down comes following a year where Chowbotics’ Sally has been expanding into Europe, finding success in hospitals, and even going off to multiple colleges. But its early mover advantage in the standalone food robot space is quickly evaporating as a new wave of automated food kiosks come to market. Farmer’s Fridge and Fresh Bowl are fresh salad machines coming to market, while high-end vending machines like like Yo-Kai Express and Basil Street Express offer fully cooked meals like ramen and pizza. All of these player will be fighting for prime square footage to feed hungry students, airline passengers and office workers.
Chowbotics will need to scale in order to tip the scales in its favor.