- Minnow Technologies, a Seattle-based startup that sells electronic food-delivery lockers, has raised $3 million in a Series Seed round of funding, according to a press release on Tuesday.
- The company's product, known as the Minnow Pickup Pod, contains several insulated cubbies and uses a contactless interface that links with existing ordering systems to manage access for customers.
- Minnow is among a range of companies that have developed unattended equipment intended to help companies that sell food for delivery to overcome last-mile challenges.
Minnow is building its business against a backdrop of growing interest by consumers in ordering food and other items online and picking them up at a central location.
The company, which has raised a total of $6.4 million in seed funding since its founding in 2017, said in the press release that it is scaling up production of its first commercial pickup unit after the first batch of the products sold out.
The funding round was led by Branded Strategic Hospitality, an investor in early-stage companies that has a particular interest in businesses that are working on ways to remove friction in the food and beverage sector. Existing investors Elevate Capital, which focuses on early-stage companies run by entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, and Portland Seed Fund also participated.
Minnow is marketing its device for use in office and multifamily residential buildings and on college campuses. Each unit contains 10 cubbies, occupies 3 square feet of space and uses a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to communicate with mobile devices carried by delivery workers and customers, according to the company's website.
While Minnow's automated lockers may be aimed at restaurants and other foodservice businesses looking to boost convenience and add more options for customers, the concept resembles unattended pickup technology that is showing up across the retail arena, including at grocery stores.
Grocers are also targeting unattended delivery technology as more consumers venture out of their homes. Amazon announced this week it's expanding its in-garage grocery delivery service nationwide, while Walmart is trialing in-home delivery as well as delivery to insulated boxes situated outside shoppers' homes.
Retailers are looking to make order fulfillment more efficient and convenient as e-commerce has taken on growing significance. On Monday, Albertsons said its curbside pickup service, Drive Up & Go, expanded at a rate of more than 1,000% during the last quarter and was up 865% in 2020 compared with 2019. Target has also recently seen its pickup service surge ahead.