After attempting to sell its technology to major food service companies, cooking automation startup took off Jasper has shifted to direct-to-consumer. In a recent conversation, CEO Gunnar Froh told australiabusinessblog.com about the pivot and gave a general update on the company, a member of this year’s Battlefield 200 at Disrupt 2022.
When Gunnar founded Jasper (as YPC Technologies) several years ago with human-robot interaction expert Camilo Perez Quintero, their motivation was primarily to save time on cooking. After developing robotic technologies to automate cooking processes, they took a business-to-business go-to-market approach, hoping to sell their platform to food and service providers. But the company never got the business grip Gunnar and Quintero had hoped for.
The company flipped a few months ago, rebranding to Jasper and adopting what Gunnar calls a “cooking as a service” model. Jasper now runs robotic kitchens in or adjacent to residential flats, charging residents a subscription fee and the cost of ingredients for meals.
“Eating well at home is expensive or time-consuming. Food delivery is very inefficient: restaurants or haunted kitchens prepare meals worth a few dollars and then pay someone to transport them around town. While most customers aren’t aware of this, about half of their dollars are spent on platform fees and delivery charges,” Gunnar told australiabusinessblog.com. “By running robotic kitchens in or adjacent to residential high-rises, Jasper eliminates labor and delivery inefficiencies to offer residents freshly prepared gourmet meals at the expense of home cooking. Jasper meals are plated on china, allowing customers to cut up to a third of their household waste.”
Food automation startups are having a moment, as recently evidenced by Chipotle’s investment in Miso Robotics’ tortilla chip-making robot. Unsurprisingly, labor shortages and increasingly expensive ingredients make food-preparing robots attractive. In 2020, Karakuri earned $8.4 million for his automated canteen to prepare meals. Last May, Chef Robotics raised $7.7 million to help automate certain aspects of food preparation. A few months later, salad chain Sweetgreen bought kitchen robotics startup Spyce, and last summer Makeline raised $24 million for its robot that automatically puts together bowl lunches.
Jasper competes more directly with Los Angeles-based Nommi, which provides autonomous food kiosks to real estate and college campus partners. But Gunnar claims Jasper’s platform can cook up a wider variety of menu items (ranging from $1.20 to $16.90), including cod with steamed potatoes, paprika cream chicken, and desserts like sticky toffee pudding.
“We use machine learning for scheduling tasks and dispensing ingredients. We plan to also add it to enable the experience of a personal chef,” Gunnar sadly.” In the same way Spotify can predict what music you like, Jasper will predict what meals our customers would like. food… No other food robotics company we know of can currently serve customers at home like Jasper does, like no other system can. prepare a menu as versatile as ours.”
Jasper says it has conducted multiple trials in a residential area over the past year and has launched Jasper in six apartment buildings in the past month. To date, only about 231 customers have ordered food from Jasper through the company’s ordering platform. But as a sign that investors are happy with the current progress, Jasper has raised $3.5 million from lenders, including Toyota Ventures.
In an emailed statement, Jim Adler, founder of Toyota Ventures, said: “Toyota Ventures made an early investment in Jasper because we were excited about the team’s vision to bring fresh cooking, exciting menus and high food quality close to the to bring to the consumer. They are focused on how best to serve customers’ daily meals at home. They have impressive early traction driven by the recent labor shortage in the restaurant industry and growing consumer demand for affordable food options. It’s kind of a perfect storm for Jasper, which gives the company a huge opportunity to improve the way we eat every day.”
Gunnar says the goal is to reach $2.5 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) as it prepares to raise $7 million in additional capital. Jasper, which employs 13 people (a number Gunnar says will increase to 15 by the end of the year), has a current ARR of “less than” $100,000.
“We have launched Jasper in multiple buildings over the past few weeks and will increase sales,” said Gunnar. “This funding will further increase the automation of our processes to achieve revenue per man hour of $167.”