Sidewalk delivery is heading for a turf war

Robotics developers are making strategic alliances as autonomous delivery takes off.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer
Serve Robotics

An autonomous sidewalk delivery company is announcing the closing of a seed funding round with some big backers. Serve Robotics joins a rapidly expanding list of autonomous delivery developers wooing investors with the notion of robots conducting last mile deliveries in urban and suburban areas.

The autonomous delivery ecosystem has been fun to watch, and the name of the game is strategic commercial alliances. We could be heading for a turf war as big food service providers and existing delivery providers all try to get an early edge in last mile autonomous delivery.

Participation from strategic investors in this round is telling. Backers include Uber Technologies, Delivery Hero backed DX Ventures, and Wavemaker Partners' food automation focused venture studio Wavemaker Labs. Also participating is 7-Eleven Inc.'s corporate venture arm, 7-Ventures, LLC. The convenience store innovator is leaning hard into autonomous delivery.

"Our vision at 7-Eleven is to be the first choice for convenience – anytime, anywhere. We are redefining convenience by delivering innovative shopping solutions to our customers," says Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven SVP and Chief Digital Officer. "This collaboration will allow us to continue our 94-year legacy of innovation and expand our last mile delivery capabilities to make 7NOW more affordable, sustainable and accessible for everyone."

The autonomous delivery space is growing rapidly as the focus has begun shifting from technology development and proof of concept to scaling and dealmaking. Many of these technology companies are operating on an as-a-service model, and securing partners with existing customer bases and brand recognition is the quickest way to scale. 

Serve Robotics designs, develops and operates zero-emissions rovers that serve people in public spaces, starting with food delivery. Founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Postmates, Serve spun off as an independent company in early 2021. The new round extends Serve's previous seed funding raise and predictably will be used to accelerate the company's path to commercial scale, driving its fleet expansion, geographic growth, and continued product development. Most recently, Serve announced its first partnership with UberEats.

"Serve Robotics is pleased to have the backing of strong strategic partners able to support our intention to provide sustainable, self-driving delivery at scale," says Dr. Ali Kashani, Co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. "This initial round of financial and strategic support will allow us to continue advancing our technology, growing our team, and expanding our partnership platform."

All of this tracks closely with the strategic alliances being formed across the sector. Other autonomous delivery companies maneuvering for market share include Starship Technologies, which is expanding its reach across college campuses, Nuro, which also recently partnered with 7-Eleven, and Refraction AI, which closed a round of funding this year, to name just a few players.

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