There are dual trends converging to create a new market. On one side, consumers are increasingly seeking healthier foods and drinks. More than half of millennials say that wellness is a major priority in their lives. Parallel to this is a need for clean, predictable food production. COVID-19 also placed an emphasis on low-contact transactions surrounding food and beverages. Food robotics is an emerging market that’s focused on creating drinks and dishes in a hygienic and consistent way.
Blendid sits at the intersection of these two trends. The company has created a fully autonomous robotic kiosk that can make healthy, personalized smoothies on demand. We reached out to co-founder Vipin Jain to learn more about this intriguing concept. He told us how Star Trek inspired the creation of a robot that can create flawless food everytime.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Blendid is transforming the way food is prepared and served to meet the unique health and taste preferences of today’s consumers. Blendid builds robotic and AI-enabled food automation solutions. Our first product — a fully autonomous robotic kiosk — crafts healthy and delicious smoothies that are made fresh-on-demand and customized to individual taste and nutrition preferences. Having served more than 45K,000 smoothies already, we’re ready to scale operations and achieve our mission of making healthy food more personalized and accessible.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I’ve always been inspired by science fiction, and I am a self-proclaimed Trekkie. I grew up watching Star Trek and always had a fascination with the replicator that can make any food to perfection any time of the day. Having that interest already planted within me, I joined my co-founders in fiddling around with robots and artificial intelligence to see if it could actually be done. After a few months of promising experimentation, we decided to incorporate the company and pursue it full-time in late 2015. Our idea seemed just crazy enough to pursue. And as they say, the rest is history.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
After nearly three decades of experience in engineering, consumer product development, and serial entrepreneurship spanning across both big companies and startups, I had a lot of experience to build on! I feel well equipped to steer the Blendid team toward our goals. In some ways, building a company is like raising a child. It requires commitment, resources, patience, and a tremendous amount of hard work. It’s not easy to build a good startup from the ground up, but you do it anyway because you’ve made the commitment. And just like raising a successful, happy child, there’s nothing more satisfying in the business world than to build a successful company with an incredible, passionate team.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
What used to be forward-thinking last year — pre-COVID — has now become current thinking. My co-founders and I believe in a future where consumers will have access to food that they like, prepared the way they like it, any time of the day, anywhere. Robotics and AI can help facilitate that future for us.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
I met my co-founders Venki Ayalur and Vijay Dodd when we all worked together at Barnes & Noble Nook. The idea to build a robotic food kiosk started when Venki sought a way to recreate a dish his grandmother used to make when he was a child. Despite repeatedly trying to recreate the recipe, he could never figure it out. So he thought about how he could leverage newer technologies to digitize and reproduce recipes with precision. That’s when he and I began playing around with the idea of a “replicator” that could deliver predictable results.
Succeeding in a space as complex as food tech also requires strong leaders with complementary skill sets and unrelenting drive. When cultivating our team, we sought out a combination of skills, passion and creativity to innovate. We have an all-star leadership team as well as experienced board members and advisors.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
While a variety of robotic food vendors have emerged to capitalize on this expanding market, there is nothing quite like Blendid. Our cutting-edge design is supported by 10 patents (granted or in process), two trademarks, and an NSF certification for food safety.
Blendid also brings together deep expertise in three key areas that are critical for success in the food tech space: technology, business, and culinary arts. We’ve spent five years advancing each of these areas, with a rockstar team of leaders and advisors from each discipline. The result is a field-proven operating and hardware system that works with very high uptime and is already in-market serving customers.
What does your business model look like?
As a food service technology provider, we license the Blendid technology to large, established food service and retail operators with deep expertise in activating and managing food service locations. Operators are able to purchase the Blendid kiosk and pay a licensing fee for use of the food operating platform and 24/7 technical support.
While we operate a limited number of branded Blendid locations to try new concepts and/or establish proof points, our business is primarily driven by licensed, co-branded products (like Jamba by Blendid!).
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We thought it was an exciting way to democratize the process of investments by providing the general public access to us. Crowdfunding allows us to engage with a larger pool of investors who believe in our mission of making healthy food accessible to everyone, everywhere. We feel confident that crowdfunding will help us drive consumer brand awareness and reach investors looking to take advantage of the largest gains in the food tech industry as this new market accelerates.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Food automation is poised for rapid growth, and Blendid has the right artificial intelligence–enabled technology platform to efficiently meet demand from consumers and food service operators for 24/7 fresh food service at low operational costs.
The Blendid solution is designed to optimize the consumer experience and operator economics with cutting-edge technology. Our food operating system can support different types of cuisines, and we plan to introduce future systems for food such as soups, bowls, salads, sandwiches and more.
Most importantly, our team is incredibly innovative and constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be physically built and achieved within this space. I’d bet on this group any day.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Blendid has a vision to expand to thousands of national and international locations, with our food operating system automating a variety of cuisines to meet the needs and food preferences of millions of consumers. This vision is supported by the growing food robotics market, which is estimated at $1.9 billion for the year 2020 and expected to reach $4.0 billion by 2026 (source). In five years, I imagine a fully autonomous robotic food court that offers highly personalized, healthy, fresh and delicious food across various formats and cuisines.
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Vipin and his team take the company. Blendid is currently raising on StartEngine.