STARTUP OF THE MONTH
Walk onto the campus of UC Berkeley and you may encounter a scene reminiscent of a less dystopian version of the world portrayed in Pixar’s WALL-E. Since 2016 it has become increasingly common to encounter small fleets of autonomous robots resembling the film’s protagonist crisscrossing the area with a smile on their (digital) faces- with the singular mission of feeding hungry students.
These Kiwibots are the flagship product of Kiwi Campus, a robotic delivery startup with Berkeley and Colombian roots. Kiwi is the brainchild of Bogotá native and robot enthusiast Felipe Chávez, Jason Oviedo and Sergio Pachón, who set foot in Berkeley two years ago with the dream of shaking up the delivery market forever. After establishing a successful delivery company in Latin America, the entrepreneurial trio decided to gamble on expanding their model to the world’s innovation capital, Silicon Valley.
Upon arrival, they were surprised to encounter a market rich in inefficiencies and ripe for disruption. Not only was the delivery market stacked against those without substantial buying power by means of exorbitant consignment fees, but around the university they also observed that students wasted precious time and energy forming long lines outside restaurants- time that could be much better utilized resting or studying. It was out of these findings that their original idea was scraped and the team pivoted to launching Kiwi Campus.
Remaining true to the Latin American work ethic and ability to bring forth ingenious solutions to problems amidst scarcity, the first Kiwibot was remarkably humble compared to their current sleek and futuristic iteration- built out of the chassis of an off-the-shelf RC car, a basket bought in Target, a cellphone holder and a phone.
Since then, years of love, grit, passion and the expanded opportunities that come with a larger team have come to perfect that first basket prototype. Over 16,000 individual deliveries have been made in Berkeley alone, saving time and money to grateful students.
Thanks to Kiwi’s efforts and their brigade of delivery robots that now surpasses a hundred units, the city of Berkeley can now boast to be urban logistic robot capital of the world. Kiwi itself can also be proud to hold the global record lead in the number of robot-assisted deliveries by any single company. And perhaps most reassuring to anxious couriers around the world, it has managed to do all of this in a manner that enhances the work of humans, rather than replace them- allowing them to make deliveries up to 5x faster.
Kiwi currently manufactures its robots in Shenzhen (the world’s Silicon Valley of hardware) but plans to relocate production to Rionegro in their native Colombia and closer to their office in Medellín, which is quickly transforming itself into one of the region’s leading tech hubs.
Kiwibots may be small, but the ambitions of company certainly are not. For its pioneering work as a major disruptor in the delivery sector and its potential to shake up the industry on a global scale, LatinSF is proud to recognize Kiwi Campus as its startup of the month.