Robotic delivery company Starship Technologies – whose fleet of autonomous bots deliver Co-op groceries to customers in several UK towns – has raised $90m to “take on the world”.
The company’s (mostly) self-driving robots have made over six million deliveries of takeaway orders and groceries, for partners including Co-op, Bolt, Aramark, Sodexo, Chartwells and Grubhub. The robots can be found in 80 locations including the US, UK, Germany, Denmark, Estonia and Finland, primarily in suburban areas and university campuses.
The new funding round, co-led by venture capital firms Plural and Iconical will enable the company to “further develop its AI, tech and wireless charging infrastructure”, expand into new regions globally and refine its ‘Delivery as a Service (DaaS)’ product, which sees Starship robots integrate into the delivery infrastructure of retailer partners. The cash injection brings the total raised by Starship to $230m since its creation in 2014.
“Autonomous delivery isn’t some science fiction concept from Bladerunner for decades in the future, it’s a reality for hundreds of thousands of people every day,” said Ahti Heinla, co-founder and CEO at Starship Technologies.
“Building a company like Starship takes at least a decade of perfecting the technology, streamlining operations and reducing costs to make last-mile autonomous delivery viable and sustainable at scale,” Heinla, a founding member of Skype, added. “Now we’re ready to take on the world and with ambitions to build a category-dominating company that can change the daily lives of millions of people in thousands of locations worldwide.”
Starship’s six-wheeled autonomous robots launched in the UK in 2018, delivering groceries in as little as 15 minutes within a two-mile radius of a Milton Keynes Co-op branch. The service has since expanded to Northampton, Bedford, Cambourne, Cambridge, Leeds and Greater Manchester. Residents choose from a range of grocery items on the Starship app, schedule their delivery, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch in real-time via an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to them. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app.
Each Starship robot can run for 18 hours fully charged, and the average delivery takes only the same amount of energy as boiling a kettle for a single cup of tea. The company says its robots use less energy than humans to deliver takeaways, grocery orders, tools and corporate documents to customers’ doors. Starship introduced wireless charging for its robots at George Mason University in the US so the vehicles can recharge autonomously and wirelessly between deliveries.
“Last-mile and on-demand delivery, the most costly and carbon-intensive aspect of the supply chain, has been a stumbling block for logistics businesses across the world, yet demand is growing for rapid deliveries of food and other goods,” Heinla said. “Starship has created the most cost-effective, ethical and sustainable way to deliver goods directly to a customer over a short distance, solving the last-mile delivery industry’s major challenges.”