Tortoise expands robotic delivery to convenience stores across the US

October 5, 2021

Our portfolio company Tortoise is expanding its remote-controlled delivery robots to convenience store chains across the US through a new two-year strategic partnership with King Retail Solutions (KRS), an Idaho-based retail brand strategy company with a national footprint. Under the agreement, KRS will resell and distribute more than 500 of Tortoise’s sidewalk delivery vehicles to help its convenience store customers offer affordable, same-day last-mile delivery options.

Recent partnerships with last-mile logistics supplier AxelHire, grocery chain Shoprite and convenience store brand Choice Market demonstrate a major shift toward robotic delivery for Tortoise, one that allows it to bring its robots into an increasing range of markets. The company was initially founded in 2019 to remotely rebalance shared scooters into parking bays or toward demand, but the drop in micromobility usage during the pandemic caused Tortoise to pivot aggressively to delivery, an industry that only continues to grow as more customers expect their goodies to arrive within hours of ordering.

Convenience store delivery is becoming a growing sector alongside the on-demand food and grocery delivery markets. Between the first and last weeks of 2020, convenience store online spending grew 346%, according to a report by Edison Trends, a consumer insights analytics company.

KRS offers convenience chain customers a range of solutions, from convenience store management and self-checkout POS to app development, business intelligence and omnichannel ordering. The company will buy Tortoise’s delivery robots outright at a cost of around $5,000 each. It will then lease units to customers, most likely as a bundled purchase with other services. Tortoise and its several dozen-strong army of independent contractors will still be the ones driving the robot routes and charging a monthly fee based on miles driven.

“Tortoise’s vehicles are best for deliveries that are no more than three miles from the store, based on battery life, but can handle five-mile deliveries in a pinch. If a retailer does at least three deliveries of this length per day, they could easily pay back the cost of the monthly lease, especially if they factor in the marketing benefit of a branded robot spreading the word about a store’s offerings,” said Dmitry Shevelenko, CEO and Founder of Tortoise.

The robots move at an average speed of four miles per hour, which means they can reach a delivery destination 1 mile away in less than 20 minutes and can complete about eight to 10 deliveries during normal delivery hours.

The beauty of Tortoise’s business model is that it’s flexible enough to serve multiple different use cases, from urban to exurban, last-mile to middle-mile delivery.