In launching W Ventures last month, Baltimore entrepreneur David Warschawski said a couple of the key goals of the VC and accelerator company’s goal were to keep promising companies in Baltimore, or attract startups to the city.
With an investment that the company is announcing this week, the Mount Washington-based firm is adding a portfolio company in the latter category.
W Ventures made a six-figure equity investment (exact amount undisclosed) in Robomart, a Santa Monica, California-based that makes a shopping platform allowing folks to hail a store like they would a rideshare. The company made a splashy debut at CES in 2018, and in 2019 rolled out a self-driving store at the annual tradeshow. With its initial product, which is a pharmacy mart that has a driver, it is planning a rollout in West Hollywood this spring. Other versions have groceries and snacks. Looking toward future growth, the company must open a co-headquarters in Baltimore within three years as part of its agreement with W Ventures.
“The agreement is they must have a physical location in Baltimore to head up East Coast expansion within three years,” said Warschawski, who is the managing partner of W Ventures. “We’re hopeful that it will be even faster.”
W Ventures’ other purpose is to invest in technology that was paradigm-shifting. In this case Warschawski believes it is a company that changes how one thinks about shopping for goods at the grocery store and pharmacy. Robomart’s technology involves a robotics platform and store on a truck, which can be hailed via mobile app. It essentially brings a store to a consumer. In Robomart’s case, the store on wheels has each item RFID tagged and video onboard, so no checkout is required.
While increasing digital adoption and the pandemic have brought more comfort with delivery and on-demand services, Robomart sees room for improvement. The grocery delivery services tend to have wide time windows for dropoff, and food is picked by someone else. So bringing the store can help to personalize the experience.
“It’s a really fast, seamless way and it allows consumers to be in control of what they’re getting, as opposed to delivery services being in control of what they get and when they get it,” Warschawski said.
Along with funding, the investment from W Ventures includes marketing and communications services from Warschawki’s initial, long-running company, including web, PR and digital marketing, also valued in six figures.
“We felt like we can bring rocket fuel,” Warschawski said.
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