Crown Digital, the Singapore-based full-stack hardware and software tech start-up behind ELLA the robot barista, said Wednesday it has raised S5 million ($3.66 million) in a Pre-Series A round from Temasek Holdings’s Heliconia Capital Management, Momentum Ventures (SMRT), ParticleX, Leave a Nest, Gloca Link and M4ever.

In addition to this most recent round of investment, East Japan Railway Company (JR East) participated in Crown Digital’s seed round and recently completed a joint test marketing exercise at Tokyo and Yokohama stations in Japan, Crown Digital said in a statement.

It also said this latest capital raise provides Crown Digital the funds to grow its team, accelerate deployment across Asia, and develop new capabilities and concepts.

Looking ahead, Crown Digital said it is looking to close a Series A investment round in June, the funds from which will be used to enhance ELLA’s design and technology, and scale up manufacturing to meet demand.

“Crown Digital’s innovative, artificial intelligence (AI)-based ecosystem for food and beverage (F&B) solutions is more relevant than ever in today’s post-Covid world. We are pleased that Heliconia Capital is joining us on our journey as we scale up production and resources to expand across Asia,” said Keith Tan, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Crown Digital.

Crown Digital began with the goal of delivering a contactless coffee experience gourmet experience to the world’s growing community of grab-and-go commuters. Its creation, ELLA, the one of world’s first successful robot barista, humanized technology and demonstrated the potential of robotics and AI to re-invent the commuter lifestyle experience and re-energize urban retail.

As ELLA deploys across major Asian transit hubs and retail locations, Crown Digital brings its expertise and insights to find new ways to create social value through robotics. The company strives to re-imagine and re-invent consumer-facing robotics to become the leading inventor, operator, and distributor of future-ready solutions.

In March 2022, Crown Digital launched new automated sandwich café Bytes Station at Raffles Place mass rapid transit (MRT) station. Together with ELLA and other new tech applications, Bytes Station demonstrates the potential of robotics and AI to re-invent the commuter lifestyle experience and energize urban retail.

Crown Digital will be launching similar robotic coffee and automated café concepts across 29 MRT stations in Singapore.

“We believe there are strong opportunities for new retail businesses like ELLA as they provide automated, contactless and cashless solutions for the post-
pandemic market, while delivering good customer experiences. We are excited to support this next phase of Crown Digital’s growth,” said Derek Lau, Chief Executive Officer of Heliconia Capital Management.

Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, is an investment firm that focuses on growth-oriented companies. The funds under its management are a direct investment fund which co-invests with other private equity investors, a mezzanine capital fund and a fund of funds.

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