In the whiskey business, older usually means better. But if you’re Beam Suntory, the company which owns such iconic whiskey brands as Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, sometimes new ain’t so bad either.
Which may be why the company recently became a strategic investor in Bartesian, a startup that creates drink mixing robots. While the exact amount of the investment is undisclosed, Bartesian co-founder Ryan Close puts the amount “in the millions.” The Bartesian cocktail mixing robot utilizes capsules to add the flavors and mixers to the cocktail. Close said they would use the money to expand their capsule selection, put the Bartesian into production and for R&D for the next-generation machine.
Beam Suntory isn’t the only investor taking an interest in the nascent robo-bartender market. Last week, Somabar quietly closed a $1.5 million funding round from Tech Coast Angels, an angel investor network focused on Southern California startups. The round was described as “bridge funding,” which means Somabar is still on the hunt for a larger series A round. This most recent investment follows an undisclosed investment in October 2014 and a round of debt financing in May of 2015.
Interest in home cocktail automation isn’t altogether surprising given the size of the $3 billion ready-to-drink (RTD) market. RTDs, premixed cocktail drinks largely consumed at home, provide consumers mass-produced cocktail drinks that lack the specific tailoring or flourishes a bartender might provide. A home drink maker would give consumers a way to mix drinks that are closer to what they might get in a bar.
Not surprisingly, investment interest in robotic bartender technology also extends to the professional market. Monsieur, a startup based out of Atlanta, has been working on a robotic bartender since 2012 and received a $1.2 million Series A investment in February of this year.
And of course, robots aren’t the only game in town when it comes to bringing new tech to mixology. Late last year, Perfect Company, which makes the Perfect Drink scale system for home cocktail mixing, received a $4 million investment from Oregon Angel Fund. Perfect Company CEO Mike Wallace has indicated the company has sold hundreds of thousands of its Perfect Drink products.
Related: See Bartesian cofounder Ryan Close speak at the Smart Kitchen Summit