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There are typically two consecutive reactions whenever a startup gets acquired.
Reaction 1: Whoa! They got bought for that much / that little?
Quickly followed by:
Reaction 2: Who’s gonna get bought next?
I’m not immune to this type of thinking. In fact I had those exact thoughts upon hearing the news that delivery service DoorDash acquired robot salad company, Chowbotics earlier this week.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, so we don’t know how much (or how little) DoorDash paid for Chowbotics, and execs weren’t made available to discuss the deal so we only have the prepared statements. Long story short, the Chowbotics robot vending machine can help restaurants expand menu offerings (salads!), and can help restaurants extend their brand reach without building a new location.
This idea of extending a brand without a ton of build out and investment could make more vending machine startups attractive targets to big food/restaurant companies. Slap a logo on a vending machine and set it up in a lobby and voila! Unattended restaurant. But automated vending machine companies could also be attractive because many of them haven’t raised a ton of money yet, so in the grand scheme of things, they could probably be picked up relatively inexpensively.
For their part, vending machine companies could want to be acquired by a big food brand. An acquisition would allow those working on the vending machine to focus on the technology without needing to worry about how they will finance scaling up robot production, nuture business development relationships or run the food side of the business.
We got a taste of this last year when Costa Coffee acquired robot-barista company, Briggo. Those re-branded Costa Coffee Barista Bots can now be deployed in hospitals, airports, corporate campuses — really at any high-traffic facility — without the coffee chain needing to lease a lot of space, build it out and hire staff.
So, which robot vending company might get acquired next? This is all speculation, of course, I have no inside track, but these acquisitions could make sense.
What they make: Smoothies
Funding: $13.5 million (currently running an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise more)
Who might acquire them? Jamba
Why? Jamba and Blendid already have one co-branded smoothie robot operating at a Walmart in California. Smaller, automated kiosks like Blendid’s could help Jamba squeeze into even more places like office building lobbies.
What they make: Pizza
Funding: $1.4 million (equity crowdfunded)
Who might acquire them? Domino’s
Why? Domino’s is almost as much a tech company as it is a pizza company. Piestro’s machine allows it to still sell fresh pizzas (not frozen), and even have them delivered by robot.
What they make: Coffee
Funding: $14.5 million
Who might acquire them? Starbucks
Why? Thanks to the pandemic, Starbucks has already started paring back its dine-in concepts, leaning more in to takeout and off-premises. In addition to serving a multitude of drinks, Cafe X can also serve pastries.
What they make: Ramen
Who might acquire them? Sodexo
Why? Yo-Kai has already started installing machines on college campuses. Sodexo’s vast network of business on colleges could scale up Yo-Kai’s presence quickly. Plus Yo-Kai’s plans self-driving vending machines and countertop ramen device could extend Sodexo’s reach further on campus and into actual dorm rooms.
Again, this is all speculation. But if big food brands are interested in automation either for efficiency or expansion purposes, now might be a good time to buy.
Ember Shuffles CEOs, Jim Rowan Takes Over Consumer Division, Clay Alexander Becomes Group CEO – The executive moves could signal that Ember’s temperature-controlled shipping container is getting closer to market.
Uber Q4: Delivery Up 150% Year-Over-Year as It Expands Beyond Restaurants – Its food delivery business remains the strongest part of the business, a point hardly surprising since we’re still in the midst of a pandemic and restaurant dining rooms remain closed in many places.
Age, Location, Stickiness: Grabango Releases Stats About its Cashierless Checkout – More than 80 percent of visits are repeat visits for Grabango app users, and 45 percent of those are a tenth visit or more.
Survey: Curbside, Drive-Thru Usage High But Long Wait Times Are a ‘Dealbreaker’ – In the last month, 91 percent of respondents said they visited the drive-thru. An additional 67 percent are getting curbside pickup “as often or more frequently” now compared to 45 percent from last April.