When we first wrote about Truebird, the quiet NYC startup building automated micro-cafes, we didn’t have many details about the company or its go-to market strategy. But I had the chance to chat with Truebird Co-Cofounder and CEO Josh Feuerstein this week, who shared with me some more information about Truebird and how his barista ‘bot fit into the competitive robo-coffee landscape.
The first thing I asked him about was about the robotic design Truebird chose. Instead of an articulating arm or a series of rails and grippers, Truebird uses magnetic “pucks” that cradle coffee cups to slide them around a glass surface. While soothing to watch, it didn’t seem to be a particularly fast method for a machine meant to sling morning cups of joe to busy people in high-traffic areas.
“We chose them for a variety of reasons,” said Feuerstein, “Chief among them, we think it is a surprisingly warm and approachable and almost magical experience. For us the experience is really important.” He went on to say that while they are designing for an elegant experience the company is “very happy” with the throughput of the machine.
The machines themselves are smaller than competitors like Briggo and Cafe X. They fit through a standard door and don’t require any plumbing, so Truebirds can be installed easily and in a wide variety of locations.
Truebird is focusing on New York initially, and will deploy five of its micro-cafes throughout the city by the end of this year. While the company is still determining its pricing and business model, it is a B2B play and will partner with high-volume locations like hotels, hospitals, office buildings, etc. The machines will be owned and operated by Truebird, so the company will be responsible for stocking, maintenance and service.
Feuerstein said that at some point, Truebird will probably open a location that is its own dedicated space with “four walls.”
Unlike Briggo, Truebird isn’t going so far as to select and roast its own beans (though Feuerstein didn’t rule out that possibility). Instead, the company is working with roasters in the New York area. Truebird doesn’t offer the same variety of drinks as Briggo or Cafe X as it only carries traditional dairy milk and oat milk.
Truebird is 100 percent backed by Alleycorp and has 15 employees.
Geographically speaking, there are now three high-profile coffee robot companies across the U.S. Truebird in NYC, Briggo in Austin, TX, and Cafe X in San Francisco. This doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game as there are plenty of locations around the country that could use a coffee robot to caffeinate consumers. Heck, the San Francisco Airport alone is getting two coffee robots this year. The only question remaining is which robot serves up the tastiest lattes.
If you’re interested in the future of coffee and food robots, you should definitely come to our ArticulATE Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday. C-level speakers from both Briggo and Cafe X will be there. But we literally only have a handful of tickets left, so get yours today!