RealTech Fund invests in Crown Digital, a developer of fully-automated robotic baristas
Realtech Global Fund*1, managed by Realtech Holdings K.K. (located in Sumida-ku, Tokyo; represented by Yukihiro Maru and Akihiko Nagata; hereinafter ‘the Company’), announces that it has invested in Crown Digital Pte. (“Crown Digital”), a Singapore-based venture company that develops a robotic barista that automatically makes coffee using a robotic arm and cashless payment when ordered via a dedicated app, as the lead investor.
■Ella : a robot barista, was created in response to the chronic shortage of staff in the food and beverage industry
In the service sector, Japan is projected to have a labour shortage of 4 million people by 2030.
Crown Digital’s founder, Tan, suffered from a chronic shortage of human resources while running a coffee shop in Singapore in 2015, which faces the same challenges of an ageing population and shortage of human resources as Japan. This experience led him to found Crown Digital and create Ella, a robotic barista that uses robotics, AI, IoT and data analytics to create a fully automated, 24-hour coffee making machine.
Ella can serve coffee up to four times faster than a human barista, and its standardised processes and automation ensure consistent, high-quality coffee brewing.
■Test marketing at Tokyo and Yokohama stations in 2021, with introduction at Changi Airport
The company’s Ella robot baristas were installed at JR East’s Tokyo and Yokohama stations from 8 December 2021 for a three-month test run.
With labour costs and manpower shortages becoming an issue, there are many challenges to sustaining coffee shop services, particularly at Tokyo Station, which has few employees living near the station and is used by an average of 150,000 people a day.
Ella, which can be set up in tight spaces such as empty spaces in the station, offered a selection of high quality coffees of the highest quality, which Tan, an experienced coffee shop owner, had sourced independently from an Italian roaster. The ability to place an order via a dedicated mobile ordering app allows customers to specify a pick-up time even from remote locations, and furthermore, cashless payment is supported, which also contributes to the smoothness of the purchasing process. In a demonstration test in Japan, the system showed its ability to serve approximately 200 cups of coffee per hour and was well received.
As of the end of December 2022, five Ella units were in operation in Singapore, and three new Ella units will be introduced at Changi Airport in June 2023. Further installations will continue to be made in locations such as train stations, offices and commercial premises.
Ella : a robotic coffee barista developed by Crown Digital
■Use of funding
With the goal of serving more than 400 million cups of coffee per year by 2027, Crown Digital will use the funding to fund marketing and sales and research and development for further business expansion.
The Real Tech Fund participated in this round because it sees high potential in Crown Digital as a case study in using robotics to solve the talent shortage faced by developed countries.
The fund will support Crown Digital in the implementation of Ella in Japan and in the scale-up of its manufacturing operations.
■About Crown Digital
- Establishment date: November 2020
- Location: 19 KALLANG AVENUE #01-151 SINGAPORE 339410
- Representative: Keith Tan
- Business: development of fully-automated robotic baristas and mobile ordering apps
- Official website: https://www.crowndigital.io/
- Investment date: June 2022
■ About Real Tech Singapore
- Registered Company Name: RTHD Singapore Pte. Ltd.
- Incorporation: February 2022
- Directors: Akitaka Wilhelm Fujii,Yukihiro Maru, Louis Christian Murayama, Daiki Kumamoto
- Business: Investment and growth support of deep tech startups
■About Real Tech Holdings (RTH)
RTH is a global VC firm investing in deep tech startups aiming to solve global issues. The firm is a joint venture of two Japanese companies, Euglena, a biotech startup listed on TSE, and Leave a Nest, a company with expertise in corporate R&D and startup incubation.
The fund raised over 22 billion JPY and invested in over 80 startups within Japan and Southeast Asia with a strong emphasis on early engagement and hands-on support. In 2021, RTH became the first deep tech investment firm within Japan to establish a social impact investment fund.