TOKYO — Connected Robotics Inc., which is developing cooking robots for restaurant kitchens, has completed procurement of approximately 850 million yen ($7.82 million U.S.) in its Series A investment round. Global Brain Corp. was lead investor alongside 31VENTURES Global Innovation Fund, UTokyo Innovation Platform Co., the Sony Innovation Fund, and 500 Startups JP LLC. This brings the total investment in Connected Robotics up to 950 million yen ($8.74 million).
“We decided to invest in Connected Robotics Inc. that has such an advanced development of cooking robot technology since we recognize their high marketability,” said Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto. “We want to support the business growth of Connected Robotics which will in turn contribute to the alleviation of the shortage of human resources in the food and beverage industry and beyond.”
“As the first investors in Connected Robotics Inc, we cannot hide our delight that their business of innovating cooking with robots is on such a fast track,” said Yohei Sawayama, managing partner at Coral Capital (formerly 500 Startups Japan).
Cooking robots to address labor shortages
As labor shortages in the food and beverage (F&B) industry become more serious, saving labor and automating cooking have become hot topics.
“In commercial facilities such as LaLaport, labor shortages in restaurants have become a pressing issue,” said Akira Sugawara, general manager of 31 VENTURES Global Innovation Fund. “We support the technology developed by Connected Robotics, which we hope will flourish not only in the developed country of Japan, but will also be deployable worldwide.”
“I actually worked at a restaurant after graduate school, but my health broke down within a year due to overwork from the long hours and heavy manual labor,” said Tetsuya Sawanobori, CEO of Connected Robotics. “This firsthand experience has made me determined to bring about relief to those in the kitchen by replacing simple and heavy work with robots.”
Connected Robotics said it combines robot control know-how accumulated from product development experience in manufacturing with sensing and deep learning technology to make robots in the kitchen intelligent. The company said it aims to develop systems that will bear the brunt of the work in the kitchen, leaving staffers to concentrate on the more humanistic side of work, thus providing a delightful environment for both those serving as well as the dining customers.
The very real issues of labor shortages and rising labor costs are not limited to the food and beverage industry in Japan. Moreover, “robots that can cook Japanese cuisine do not exist in other countries,” added Sawanobori. “We want to expand the accessibility of Japanese cuisine to the world through robots that take advantage of Japan’s high technology
Funds to support sales expansion and new tech development
Connected Robotics already offers an “Octo Chef” robot service that uses deep learning to judge the cooking condition of Takoyaki as well as an automatic soft-serve ice cream robot service called “Reita.”
The company plans accelerate research and development toward the productization of an automatic “Dish Washing System,” “Hot Snack Robots” for convenience stores, and automatic breakfast cooking robot service “Loraine.”
In recent years, there has been a plethora of new businesses of the “existing industry × technology” variety. Connected Robotics transcends this by combining three elements: “F&B × Robot × AI,” said Shoichiro Fukushima and Naohiro Mizumoto, partners at UTokyo Innovation Platform. “As this is an approach that takes into account the knowledge base of various [academic institutions], including the University of Tokyo, and turns it into reality, we feel a kinship and have decided to support this great vision of sending Japanese food to the world.”
“Connected Robotics is … based on a hybrid model that combines their management team’s technology along with business insight into the robot and restaurant industries,” said Atsushi Kitagawa, senior investment manager at Sony Innovation Fund. “We look forward to the company’s further growth in taking on the world and introducing a groundbreaking experience for stakeholders involved in the food and beverage industry.”