Coco Raises $36M to Take Its Food Delivery Bots Nationwide

Coco will use this fresh funding to further improve its product and launch in new markets, with the eventual goal of being implemented in every major city in the country. The company is now hiring for tech jobs at its LA HQ, and says it is looking for remote drivers in Hawaii, Nevada and Texas — perhaps a hint of where it will expand to next.

Written by Ellen Glover
Published on Aug. 26, 2021
Coco Raises $36M to Take Its Food Delivery Bots Nationwide
LA-based Coco raised $36M Series A
Photo: Coco

Yet another startup working to make the food industry more techie has raised capital. This time, it’s LA-based Coco, which rolled out its teleoperated delivery robots at the beginning of last year. The company announced Wednesday it closed on a $36 million Series A, which it will use to scale its rapidly growing business.

Coco is one of many startups looking to bring robots into the historically analog world of food preparation and delivery. Just this week Spyce, a robotic kitchen chain based in Boston, announced it is being acquired by popular salad maker sweetgreen. And Picnic, a Seattle startup that created a pizza-making robot, raised a $4.2 million Series A last month, joining the scores of other startups looking to streamline the repetitive tasks associated with food prep.

Food delivery seems to be in the midst of a robot takeover, too. Last year, Nuro, a driverless delivery startup with partnerships with major brands like Kroger and Domino’s, raised a whopping $500 million. More recently, Grubhub announced it was partnering with Russian tech giant Yandex to roll out a fleet of autonomous food delivery bots on select U.S. college campuses this fall.

Of course, Coco hasn’t been around for as long as Yandex, which is often referred to as the Google of Russia due to its size and strength in the country’s tech market. And it doesn’t partner with massive brands like Nuro — most of the 18 restaurants using Coco right now are local to the Los Angeles area, including Umami Burger and Bru’s Wiffle. But the startup claims it has proven to be a leader in the on-demand delivery space over the last year, and has managed to “outperform” other robot companies that have been in the game for a lot longer.

Much of this can likely be attributed to Coco’s unique approach. Unlike other delivery bots like Kiwibot and Starship, Coco’s machines are not self-driving, but instead they are piloted remotely by humans. This allows the robots to navigate dense city environments more quickly and safely. In fact, Coco says its bots have a 97 percent on-time delivery rate, and result in a 30 percent reduction in total delivery time. 

Plus, by foregoing full autonomy, Coco can get its product to market faster because it doesn’t have to deal with the same state and city regulations that bog down companies with self-driving vehicles.

“We have an enormous opportunity to create a better experience for hundreds of thousands of merchants and their customers, today,” Coco’s co-founder and CEO Zach Rash said in a statement. “This is not a research program experimenting with technology to be productized at some unknown point in the future. With this new funding, we will accelerate our mission to bring Coco to every merchant and reshape how local goods are transported within a city.”

LA-based Coco raised $36M Series A
Photo: Coco

And just one year in, Coco has been backed by some of the biggest names in California’s food and beverage industry, including Mendocino Farms co-founders Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero, and Sam Nazarian, the founder of hospitality giant SBE. This most recent funding round was led by Silicon Valley Bank, Founders Fund, and former Y Combinator president Sam Altman.

“There’s a massive opportunity today to change last-mile delivery,” Altman said in a statement. “The Coco team has combined a customer-first product with rapid execution, creating a breakout startup.”

Looking ahead, Coco says it will use this fresh capital to further improve its product and launch in new markets, with the eventual goal of being implemented in every major city in the country. The company also recently told TechCrunch it wants to grow to more than 1,000 employees by the end of the year. Coco has a handful of LA-based tech jobs posted on its Built In page, and its careers page says it is hiring for remote drivers in Hawaii, Nevada and Texas — perhaps a hint of where the company is looking to expand next.

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