Delivery robotics company Marble raises $10 million, with plans to move beyond food

San Francisco-based robotics company Marble announced this morning that it’s just closed a $10 million Series A. The round, which involves the likes of Tencent, Lemnos, Crunchfund and Maven, brings the startup’s total funding to $15 million.

In press material tied to the announcement, Marble’s careful not to get hung up on the whole food delivery label that’s been hung on the company since its early days. Instead, Marble’s now referring to itself as “the last-mile logistics company,” a catchy title that points to its broader ambitions to help meet the growing expectations of e-commerce consumers.

“Two day [delivery] has become the norm of expectations,” Marble CEO Matthew Delaney told TechCrunch. “It’s the Amazon effect. Everyone is trying to figure out how to get things to meet the consumer demand of faster and cheaper. That move from next day to same day and sooner is the inevitable trend that is happening.”

This time last year, the company made headlines for cruising down the San Francisco sidewalks with a Yelp Eat24 logo, playing the role traditionally reserved for humans on bicycles and mopeds. The system’s on-board LIDAR sensor help it navigate around pedestrians and other potential hazards, with plans for on-board temperature control helping keep food hot or cold as it cruises toward its destination.

Even then the company touched upon broader ambitions, including groceries, prescriptions and package delivery. Now, it seems, the company is ready to expand those trials.

“It’s a lot more than just food delivery. It’s about rearchitecting the urban supply chain of the future, to open up these services that everyone can afford,” says Delaney, “and bring that next level conveyance to everyone. The at-home parent with six kids or the homebound, elderly or disabled. They don’t have this option. Nobody can afford these services.”

Of course, the company and its competition are going to have to work with regulators to see that future to fruition. Marble’s hometown has halted sidewalk trials out of the same concerns that recently found it putting the kibosh on the city’s recent scooter obsession.

“If we don’t value our society,” City Supervisor Norman Yee said at the time, “if we don’t value getting the chance to go the store without being run over by a robot[…]what is happening?”

Delaney says the company is exploring other avenues for testing, but remains hopeful that it will be able to use its own backyard. “We’ve had so many other states and cities reach out to us. We continue to remain optimistic about San Francisco. It’s our home town. We want to continue to work with the local government to move regulation forward. We want our home town to benefit from this, instead of being the one backwards place.”

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