Sometimes it’s just easier to let people come to you.
That seems to be the thinking as Kadabra (previously Veebie) debuts the second generation prototype of its cubby-filled kiosk. Unlike the company’s first prototype which was a mobile kiosk that could be moved around a city to a different a location every day, the Portland, Maine startup’s latest prototype is stationary.
“Based on the test, we determined that it would be too costly to move hundreds of mobile kiosks around a large city on a daily basis,” Kadabra CEO Steve Sperry told me via email.
Makes sense, particularly for a resource-constrained startup. Creating a fleet of mobile kiosks – with a plan to eventually make them self-driving – is a much bigger (and more capital intensive) idea than simply creating an network of stationary, automated food cubby systems located in different high-volume locations like fast-casual restaurants or office building lobbies.
This second, more achievable concept is exactly what Kadabra is now focused on, and to commemorate the change the company once named Veebie has also changed its name to Kadabra.
“We changed our name because we felt that Veebie, while unique and memorable, didn’t say anything about our company or our concept,” said Sperry. “Kadabra is meant to suggest that the food ‘magically’ appears in the pod, which from the user’s point of view it kind of does.”
But Sperry and his team didn’t just take the wheels off their kiosks and change the company’s name. They also made some pretty radical changes to the product.
“It’s much more sophisticated than our first prototype,” said Sperry. “It’s a fully functional IoT device that can operate without an attendant and is also refrigerated.”
By taking mobility off the table, Perry’s team was able to focus on making a more capable kiosk system that seems almost akin to an Amazon Locker for food. With the new kiosk system, a consumer can order food from local restaurants and have it delivered to the kiosk and then unlock a cubby with their phone. And because the new system is refrigerated, food can be placed into a cubby (called pods) for a much longer period of time.
It seems the Portland, Maine startup has an affinity for cities named Portland, as the company received a $1 million seed funding round in January of this year from Elevate Capital, a VC based in the other Portland (Oregon). The company also decided to launch its second prototype in Portland West, as the new Kadabra kiosk resides within a Portland, Oregon location owned by fast casual salad chain Garden Bar.
The company’s business model relies on restaurant partners that can deliver food to the kiosk, but longer term they are considering letting restaurant companies without food delivery capabilities use their kiosks as a way to reach customers.
“We are also exploring using our pods to solve the “last mile” problem in office food delivery,” said Sperry.
You can see a hero reel below narrated by company cofounder/head of hardware Yona Belfort to hear a little about the second generation kiosk design backstory: