Robomart is banking on ‘store-hailing’ to bring self-driving stores directly to customers

The last few years have dramatically disrupted the way many people get their food. What started as a safety precaution has become an everyday occurrence for many, as people are skipping restaurant waits and grocery store lines for the convenience of apps like Instacart and Seamless.

Of course, the apps have their own drawbacks. When it comes to buying things from the supermarket or drug stores, websites can be difficult to navigate and rarely offer an accurate representation of what’s actually in stock at a given time. That leads to mistakes, unfulfilled orders and general frustration.

Robomart, which we first covered at the beginning of 2018, was built around the premise of “store-hailing.” It’s pretty much what it sounds like: Instead of ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft, it brings a small cross section of a store directly to consumers by way of a small, stocked-up, self-driving vehicle.

Today the Los Angeles-based firm is announcing a $2 million seed round, putting its to-date funding at $3.4 million. Backers include Wasabi Ventures, SOSV/HAX and Hustle Fund. W Ventures led this round.

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The funding news comes alongside a product reveal. The Haven joins the company’s existing Oasis model. It offers retailers customized branding options (effectively a car wrap) and capacity for ~300 SKUs.

“Robomart Haven gives supermarkets the ability to expand their retail footprint at a fraction of the cost,” co-founder and CEO Ali Ahmed says. “Leveraging our powerful white label suite of software, they can enable store-hailing under their own retail banner by providing consumers with a full in-person shopping experience for all their daily essentials right at home.”

The Oasis is primarily targeted at restaurants, counting Ben and Jerry’s among its existing customers. The vehicle — which is more akin to a customized minivan than Nuro-style self-driving cart — launched in beta at the end of 2020. The timing couldn’t have been better for a startup designed to bring food and supplies to people. Around 100 of the vehicles have been contracted out. Haven, which is set to start delivering in 2025, is focused on supermarkets and convenience stores.

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