Robotic Coffee Startup Cafe X Shutters Stores, Pivots To Airports

Cafe X, a robotic coffee startup, has closed down its three San Francisco brick-and-mortar locations and laid off staff, per Axios and independently confirmed by Crunchbase News. The startup, founded in 2015, has raised about $14.5 million to date, according to Crunchbase data.

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The news comes months after we reported that its Austin-based competitor, Briggo, moved to town. Briggo, which offers java made by robots, set up shop in San Francisco’s airport.

Briggo CEO and co-founder Kevin Nater told me then that, “We flat out have longer experience and more engagement with customers in the Bay than Cafe X. Their purchasing experience is pretty much a mirror of what we were doing already.” The key, Nater said, is creating a robot coffee experience that is more industrial food driven than experience driven.

In a statement, Henry Hu, the CEO and founder of Cafe X, told me the company is expanding to airports in San Jose and San Francisco airports, and has machines “which now serve thousands of customers every week and is capable of preparing up to six drinks in a minute.”

Hu added that that the robotic coffee bars they launched in San Francisco were “prototypes…in an effort to perfect our beverage offerings, software, and hardware solution[s].”

After witnessing lessons from the brick and mortar locations, Hu wanted the future of Cafe X to be less robot, more old-school coffee. He also said that the company transitioned from outsourcing hardware engineering talent to bringing it inhouse for its 38-person staff.

“It’s not just going to be like a lonely robotic coffee bar sitting there against the wall,” Hu spoke on the future of Cafe X, back in September.

And per today’s news, it looks like Hu has delivered on that promise, shuttering the “lonely” locations. He noted Cafe X machines are available for $250,000 in quantities of four or more.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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