Kiwibot operations to continue, reinvention set for January 2020

Richard Chen/Staff

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An inaccurate email was sent Monday by the Kiwibot marketing team to customers about the complete termination of Kiwibot operations.

Kiwibot CEO Felipe Chávez said he sent a follow-up email correcting the miscommunication, calling the initial email “incorrectly worded.” Chávez received thousands of emails from the Berkeley community and Kiwibot customers concerned about the service’s continuation.

“We were very overwhelmed when people thought we wouldn’t have Kiwibots on the campus … It was interesting,” Chávez said. “Now our responsibility is that we continue improving the technology and our relationship with the community.”

Kiwibot is a tech startup based in Berkeley, employing Kiwibots as part of a food delivery service. At the end of every fall semester, Kiwibot halts operations until students return from winter break. This year, operations will end Dec. 15 and restart Jan. 21, 2020.

Amid the confusion from customers, Chávez’s email included additional information addressing an announcement set Dec. 5 for Kiwibot’s upcoming reinvention in January 2020. Chávez said the reinvention will remove “Kiwi” and “Kiwi Campus” as the face of the startup and replace them with “Kiwibot.” Upgraded Kiwibots will undergo a new robot design including a 300% improvement in durability. It will also include the launch of Kiwi Express as the “first end to end robotic Food delivery service.”

Ana Quintanar, campus senior and one of Kiwibot’s “most active” customers, was invited to a focus group in October to address how the company might improve operations.

Although she has had a positive experience with Kiwibot delivery, Quintanar said some community members in Berkeley may be reluctant to support the startup.

UC Berkeley senior Kiah Martinez uses Kiwibot’s delivery services about every two weeks during the semester.

“KiwiBots have been an essential part of our campus, and although they are really ineffective in delivering food, they’re cute and meme-able,” Martinez said in an email. “I have a love/hate relationship with KiwiBots. Even though delivery services such as UberEats and Postmates are way more effective, they’re very cute and the technology behind them is very promising.”

Contact Olivia Buccieri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.