Starship Technologies, the startup behind wheeled delivery robots designed for sidewalk travel, has raised $25 million in additional seed funding and named Airbnb executive Lex Bayer as CEO, according to a company press release.
Existing investors, including Matrix Partners and Morpheus Ventures, led the new financing and additional investors included Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, Skype founding engineer Jaan Tallinn and former chairman and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Gary Barber.
Bayer was with Airbnb for the last five years, and oversaw business development, payments and Airbnb for Businesses functions during a time when the company’s guest arrivals grew from six million to more than 100 million.
London-based Starship was named Retail Dive’s Startup of the Year in 2016, and soon after earned roles in pilot tests of autonomous delivery by Postmates and DoorDash. A little later in 2017, it announced a similar pilot project with Domino’s.
All seemed quiet after news of those tests surfaced, but in late April Starship announced a commercial delivery service focused on corporate and university campuses. Now, the four-year-old company suddenly appears poised for its next phase of growth.
Starship co-founder Janus Friis said the company is "ready to start deploying our network of robots at scale."
Bayer sounds like an appropriate choice to lead that expansion, considering he has entrepreneurial bona fides from founding online payments company Spare Change Payments, but also has played key roles in fast-growth companies, working with PlaySpan after that company acquired Spare Change and through PlaySpan’s eventual sale to Visa.
While Starship was quiet for much of 2017 and early 2018 after its initial pilot programs were announced, the company claims that its squat robots have traveled more than 100,000 miles in more than 100 cities throughout 20 countries, encountering more than 15 million people along the way.
Now, even as retailers, e-commerce companies and traditional logistics and delivery firms are exploring a variety of different new delivery technologies, including flying drones and driverless vehicles, Starship may have a window of opportunity open in front of it to gain more attention and support. Drone delivery may not be a real factor in many markets anytime soon, and driverless vehicles are facing more scrutiny than ever. By comparison, Starship’s little delivery robots appear ready to roll.