Starship Technologies: Bringing Self-Driving Delivery Robots To Universities

The robotics platform will be expanded to 100 universities over the next two years, filling in the food delivery service gap across the world

21.08.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Starship Technologies
Photo by Starship Technologies

Led by a former AirBnb executive and founded by three Skype co-founders, Starship Technologies is expanding to bring autonomous delivery robots to university campuses throughout the world. 

Starship Technologies is a robotics company designing fleets of robots to deliver local goods in under 30 minutes. The six-wheeled robots include nine cameras and ultrasonic sensors, allowing them 360-degree vision. The robots can move at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour (about 16 km) and can recharge themselves, cross the street, roll over curbs and work at night and in poor weather conditions.

Although they can fully function with human supervision, a team of monitors tracks their progress.

The company’s aim is to transform how goods are shipped and delivered, bringing real value to local customers.

“We want people to pay just as much attention to our robots as they do to their dishwashers,” said CTO Ahti Heinla in a Medium post explaining how the public reacted to the rolling devices in everyday life. “This pattern of silently accepting robots as if they’d always been with us has repeated itself in every city around the world we have operated in.”

Starship Technologies currently provides delivery robots for George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“We have seen tremendous pickup at these colleges and so many universities have reached out to us asking to use our service,” said Lex Bayer, CEO at Starship Technologies and the former CEO of Airbnb Payments, as reported by Tech Startups. “There are no food delivery options on most campuses today, so students take notice. We find that when one university uses our service others notice and we get inquiries from a lot of rival colleges that are in the same area.”

University students order food through an app, and food management company partner Sodexo uses the robots to deliver it.

Although Lex mentioned that the company is not following any specific geographic map for its expansion, it plans to extend to two or three new universities a month with 25 to 50 robots per campus.

“An entire generation of university students are growing up in a world where they expect to receive a delivery from a robot after a few taps on their smartphone,” Lex proclaimed, as reported by Venture Beat. “The reception to our service both on campuses and in neighborhoods has been phenomenal. Our customers appreciate how we make their lives easier and give them back the gift of time.”

Starship has raised $40 million in Series A funding to expand its to 100 universities globally over the next two years. The round was led by Morpheus Ventures, with participation from Shasta Ventures, Matrix Partners, MetaPlanet Holdings, TDK Ventures and Qu Ventures.

“We’ve evaluated the autonomous tech market segment around the world, and Starship is miles ahead of others in bringing advanced technology valued by real paying customers,” said TDK ventures managing director Nicolas Sauvage in a statement. “Starship’s machine learning, computer vision, and sensor fusion is the most advanced we’ve seen in autonomous robotic delivery. We look forward to contributing to the success of Starship in this important and emerging space.”

Based in California, the company has engineering operations in Estonia, as well as offices in Germany, London and Washington DC.

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