Today, restaurant robotics startup Bear Robotics announced it has raised $81 million in Series B funding. The round was led by IMM, with participation from Cleveland Avenue. The new funding brings the company’s total venture capital investment to $117 million.
Bear, co-founded by former ex-Googler and restaurateur John Ha, makes robot servers that help hospitality businesses do everything from food delivery to tables to bus tables. A few years ago, the company began testing its first robot, Penny, at Ha’s restaurant, the Kang Nam Tofu House in Milpitas, California. Since those beginnings, the company has shipped 5,000 robots, many of them last year.
The company has been on a roll lately, winning contracts with big names like Denny’s to Chili’s and a sports stadium or two. Bear’s biggest markets today are in South Korea and Japan, with the US rapidly catching up. With their new funding, the company plans to expand further into the United States, Europe and other Southeast Asian countries.
According to Bear COO and co-founder Juan Higueros, the volume they’ve seen over the past two years is the result of a concerted effort to ramp up mass production in 2020.
“It took us all of 2020 to do that,” Higueros said via Zoom. “We really started to ramp up in the first quarter of 2020 in the United States. It has grown steadily since then and we expect the US market to continue to grow. »
With its new funding, the company will invest in new products and expand into new markets. Higueros said the company plans to create a robot model that can move across multiple floors of a building and create a larger robot model with additional load capacity. Beyond that, he said the company is also starting to think about other ways to automate restaurants to make life easier for service workers.
“Little things like getting your water or getting your refills on order. Things like that can be a bit more automated.
Higueros told me the company has already seen the benefits of working with one of its newest investors, Cleveland Avenue, a venture capital firm founded and run by former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson.
“It’s great to work with them just because of the depth of their bench,” Higueros said. “We’re talking about people who have about 30 years of experience at McDonald’s. If there’s someone you need to know in the industry, they know it.
Although the company won’t disclose the valuation of its last round of funding, Higueros says they’re comfortable where they’re at.
“We got a pretty good bump from our A-series, and we’re comfortable with that,” he said. “There has been a lot of what has happened in the area of assessment over the past couple of years. It was really frothy. But if you go into an assessment that’s out of control, then you put yourself at a disadvantage because you have to climb in there.
“We had a very good year last year. We shipped a lot of robots, and we were even profitable. So we feel good where we are.