Today marks the official start of Miso Robotics‘ series C equity crowdfunding campaign, which the startup announced in November 2019 in collaboration with Circle’s SeedInvest and Wavemaker Labs. After securing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approval, Miso raised $2.6 million in reservations (with over $860,000 underway) following an $80 million pre-money valuation last year, with the goal of raising $30 million over the next few months.

Miso says the fresh capital will enable it to further develop its suite of industrial kitchen automation robots. As declines in business resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic place strains on the hospitality segment, it’s the company’s belief that robots working alongside human workers can cut costs while improving efficiency.

Equity crowdfunding — sometimes referred to as crowd-investing, investment crowdfunding, or crowd equity — enables backers to contribute funding in return for ownership of a small piece of a company. The value of shares goes up or down with the company’s fortunes.

Miso has long claimed that its flagship robot Flippy — and Flippy’s successor, Miso Robot on a Rail (ROAR) — can boost productivity by working with humans as opposed to replacing them. ROAR, which is expected to begin shipping commercially by the end of 2020 for around $30,000, or half the cost of a single Flippy unit, can be installed on a floor or under a standard kitchen hood, allowing it to work two stations and interact with a cold storage hopper. On the software side, it benefits from improvements to Miso AI (Miso’s cloud-based platform) that expand the number of cookable food categories to over a dozen, including chicken tenders, chicken wings, tater tots, french fries and waffle fries, cheese sticks, potato wedges, corn dogs, popcorn shrimp and chicken, and onion rings.

VB Transform 2020 Online - July 15-17. Join leading AI executives: Register for the free livestream.

Miso Robotics ROAR

ROAR can prep hundreds of orders an hour thanks to a combination of cameras and safety scanners, obtaining frozen food and cooking it without assistance from a human team member. It alerts nearby workers when orders are ready to be served, and it takes on tasks like scraping grills, draining excess fry oil, and skimming oil between frying as it recognizes and monitors items like baskets and burger patties in real time. Plus, it integrates with point-of-sale systems (via Miso AI) to route orders automatically and optimize which tasks to perform.

Miso says it saw “tremendous success” last year, serving up more than 15,000 burgers and more than 31,000 pounds of chicken tenders and tots. Flippy will soon flip burgers at more than 50 CaliBurger locations globally, and so far it’s been deployed at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Chase Field in Phoenix, and CaliBurger locations in Pasadena.

More recently, Miso said it would deploy new tools to its platform in CaliBurger restaurants as part of a pilot with CaliGroup intended to improve safety and health standards. In the coming weeks, in partnership with payment provider PopID, the company will install a thermal-based screening device in a CaliBurger location in Pasadena that attaches to doors to measure the body temperatures of people attempting to enter the restaurant. Miso also says it will also install physical PopID terminals so that guests can transact without touching a panel, using cash, or swiping a credit card — all of which can transfer pathogens.

To date, Pasadena, California-based Miso Robotics — whose team hails from Caltech, Cornell, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Art Center, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — raised around $15 million in earlier funding rounds from investors that include parent company CaliGroup, MAG Ventures, Acacia Research Corporation, Levy, and OpenTable CTO Joseph Essas. More recently, it nabbed an investment of $11 million from CaliGroup, and it launched an equity crowdfunding round targeting $30 million in collaboration with Circle’s SeedInvest and Wavemaker Labs.

Sign up for Funding Weekly to start your week with VB's top funding stories.