Kiwibot is a robotic last-mile delivery that designs and manufactures a fleet of mobile robots used for food delivery on college campuses and recently completed over 250,000 food deliveries. Recently, the company announced a tailor-made $10 million financing partnership with asset financing group kineo finance, which would be used for manufacturing and scaling needs, growing its robotic fleet, and further disrupting the delivery-as-a-service (DaaS) industry. To learn more about the company, Pulse 2.0 interviewed Felipe Chavez, the CEO and Co-Founder of Kiwibot.
Felipe Chavez’s Background
Felipe Chavez is the CEO and co-founder of Kiwibot. And Chavez informed me that his career in tech and entrepreneurship goes a long way back to his first startup Lulo, which was a delivery service for university students back in his home country of Colombia – which was successfully sold to a Latin-American unicorn called Merqueo.
“I founded Kiwibot in 2017, a robotic delivery startup that has completed over 200,000 deliveries and has a fleet of over 500 robots. I have managed to expand a fleet of robots servicing over 25 college campuses and businesses in cities like Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburg, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, Medellin, and even Dubai,” said Chavez. “At Kiwibot we plan to expand to more than 1,200 robots by the end of 2022. My mission is to reimagine and democratize robotic delivery by integrating it safely into communities and giving access to everyone regardless of socio-economic background.”
How The Idea For Kiwibot Came Together
With Lulo, the team started out as a business for ordering groceries via cellphone delivery. And this was before Rappi and other related apps. This is was when the team began to learn more about deliveries.
“I was in university at the time, so there was no investment. We tried to make more money than we spent and did everything with our own hands. We developed some interesting technological advances. Lulo was the first Colombian app to accept credit card payments in Colombia. We sold that company to the founders of Merqueo,” Chavez added. “After I finished university, I wanted to do a more ambitious project. I realized that the best place to do deliveries was on a university campus. We started in Colombia and also opened in a university in Chile. Then we formally arrived in the USA in 2017, and in March we launched our first robot. With my co-founders, we started building robots for $80, but they didn’t move. We weren’t sure how we were going to make this bigger. When we came to California, we had a lightbulb moment and built the first large, functional prototype.”
From there, the team built its first proof of concept from a small Target box, a car chassis, and a mobile phone for streaming. After deploying a prototype across universities, the reaction from the testers motivated them to work harder to develop better technology.
Coming to the U.S. was a huge adventure for the team and they intended to expand the work that they did with Lulo. And the idea was to create a startup and make deliveries from students to other students.
Kiwibot officially launched in 2017 and they launched the first pilot at the University of California-Berkeley campus. And the service now enables customers to launch last-mile deliveries at a fraction of the time and cost without having to hire a courier. With recent partnerships, including GrubHub, Kiwibot is committed to a zero-carbon future and aims to create a world where technology, logistics, and delivery are for all.
What are Kiwibot’s core products? Chavez noted that the company’s robots should strive to benefit the community and serve the greater good.
From delivering to mapping and advertising:
1.) Delivery – A last-mile delivery solution for B2B partners in which autonomous robots and a logistic suite solve restaurants’ and retailers’ main pain points.
2.) Mapping – Kiwibots maps city areas and collect data from sidewalks infrastructure, traffic, and consumers to encourage authorities to measure the quality of pedestrian sidewalks and speed up infrastructure improvements.
3.) Advertising – Kiwibots are brand ambassadors that generate revenue from sampling and advertising while moving around a neighborhood.
Chavez pointed out that their robots count on high-driving automation with a system capable of being self-sufficient in most of its operations to reach the pre-established destination while solving problems in various scenarios: walking along the sidewalk, staying focused on the sidewalk, avoiding colliding with objects, people, animals; identifying street crossings, knowing if it is safe to cross; and crossing the street. The Kiwibots are able to accomplish most of their tasks autonomously and only need supervision for very specific, high-risk moments. For the company, safety always prevails over efficiency. When the company carries out technology developments, they always take efficiency into account, but pedestrians’ safety is our priority.
Plus Kiwibot’s high-driving automation robots use a combination of sensors and artificial intelligence to navigate through surroundings and obstacles. And it also utilizes an advanced GPS navigation system with a high-tech satellite solution, to generate virtual maps and establish multiple routes that make it possible to reach a pre-defined goal.
I asked Chavez about what he believes were some of the company’s biggest milestones.
– Kiwibot was the first robot delivery platform that was launched on a college campus.
– The company was also the first company to achieve 50,000 orders.
– From 2021 to 2022, the company went from 20 active robots to building 100 robots per month.
– The company had operations at 3 campuses at the beginning of 2021 and they started 2023 with 30 campuses.
– The company has launched 4 generations of robots, which is pretty impressive when the difficulty of iterating hardware is taken into account.
– Most importantly, the company has a diverse team, very talented and hungry, willing to push the market to be the winners in the last mile delivery.
– The company expanded its contract with Sodexo.
– 200,000 deliveries made and a new partnership with Grubhub
Customer Success Story
I also asked Chavez about a specific customer success story. And Chavez also said that their deal with Sodexo can reflect this success.
“The year 2021 was closed with 3 campuses, 2022 started with 7, and we started 2023 with 30 campuses around the U.S.,” Chavez replied. “Also, we have been very welcomed by the campus’ communities, a recent example is Jacksonville State University.”
The company has raised over $20 million in funding between a Series A round and financing debt. Plus the company had also signed a first-of-its-kind leasing deal as mentioned earlier.
Total Addressable Market
I asked Chavez about the total addressable market that the company is pursuing. And Chavez cited the Global Autonomous Last-Mile Delivery Market size was worth of $11.9 billion in 2021 and it is expected to reach $84.7 billion in 2030, which is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.4% from 2021 to 2030.
Differentiation From The Competition
Chavez explained that they devise their most important strengths into these 3 areas:
1.) The company is operations-focused – When they do deals with customers and when they sign partnerships, they are very good at making them a reality. Actually, more than having robots out there doing deliveries and integrating their platforms and their technology with our solutions, what they offer to our customers is the possibility to build a robotic infrastructure in a very short period of time with flexibility in resources.
2.) The company is very good at relationships – The company’s robot was designed to have a very good relationship with the community. And the company’s robot can fit alongside a wheelchair on most of the sidewalks in the U.S. When the company designed its robots and when they developed the software, they take into account that these robots are going to live with other human beings and that is key to a harmonious relationship between humans and robots.
3.) The company was the first delivery company to be integrated into a department of transportation and they have worked with different cities across the U.S to test how they can implement these robots in all different geographies throughout the population.
Future Company Goals
I asked Chavez about the company’s future goals: “Conquer the gated communities market (we have been doing some pilots in Dubai with Careem) and the integration with smart cities (we are running pilots, but cannot share more information at this moment),” Chavez revealed.