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Contxto – Kiwi Bot, the Colombian delivery startup based in the United States, is currently experimenting with a different operational approach, according to TechCrunch. For that matter, it plans to expand its food delivery services across U.S. college campuses.
In hopes of launching to 12 more U.S. college campuses, the CEO and co-founder, Felipe Chavez, and the Head of Product, Sasha Iatsenia, recently discussed their new student-run Kiwi Campus model during TechCrunch’s Robotic + AI session.
Currently, the young company is reaching out to robotics clubs across U.S. universities. The vision is to grant these enthusiasts partial ownership of the Kiwi administration in their respective campus. Sort of a “little franchise.”
“We are exploring several options to work with students down the road, including revenue share,” Iatsenia told TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey. “It depends on the campus.”
To date, 40 additional robots have been deployed to U.S. colleges that will implement the new initiative on their own accord. Although Kiwi only chose 12 schools for this pilot, others will hop on board depending on results.
If you’re unfamiliar with this startup, Kiwi’s main clients are college students living in dormitories. Taking convenience to another level, scholars can request delivery through a Kiwi Bot wherever takeout is available. Restaurant staff simply place the order inside the locked and compressed bot compartment.
Surprisingly, these bots aren’t fully automated, although I originally thought they were. Even though they have semi-autonomous computer vision functions, a Kiwi employee in Colombia is controlling every robot from behind a screen. Cameras attached to the machines make remote navigation possible.
According to Iatsenia, the company is currently automating the bots to be fully autonomous. As of now, though, the complete independence mode only works from time to time.
In total, Kiwi has made more than 35,000 deliveries since its start two years ago. Nowadays, it’s making over 10,000 deliveries a month, which is certainly giving people a lot of confidence in the company. That’s an impressive growth rate, considering they are a hardware company.
Kiwi chose the new partnering universities based on various factors including layout, density and demographics. With that in mind, the list of 12 universities includes Northern Illinois University, University of Oklahoma, Purdue University, Texas A&M, Parsons, Cornell, East Tennessee State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard, Stanford, NYU and Rutgers.
According to Chavez and Iatsenia, they’d rather partner with students passionate about robotics instead of raising funds for a hiring spree. They’re even considering a split revenue model with these same students, depending on the campus’ policies and the general circumstances.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense: Colombians love comfort and practicality. This is clearly demonstrated by these two successful delivery startups, Rappi and Kiwi.
On one hand, we have Rappi’s promise of delivering practically every amenity, which is probably why it’s well on its way of monopolizing the industry in Latin America. On the other hand, a few miles away, there’s Kiwi Bot, the sophisticated semi-autonomous delivery alternative conquering every Uni student’s heart (and stomach).
I have noticed a couple of things, though. Yes, Kiwi continues to make major traction. But until it develops fully automated bots, I imagine that scaling will be difficult. Robotics students could help, but it’s risky to depend entirely on externals. Let’s see how they manage to create an efficient partnership between the parties.