Vengo, the maker of mini vending machines for bars, restaurants and offices, has raised $1 million in seed funding from a number of New York-area investors and others, including David Tisch (BoxGroup), Brad Feld, The Richport Group (chaired by Marc Anthony), Joanne Wilson, Gary Vaynerchuk, the NYU Innovation Fund, FunBars, RSL Ventures (Ronald Lauder), Mark Wachen, and others.
The company first got its start as TaxiTreats, which was a similar idea involving putting small vending machines in NY-area taxi cabs. The startup won the City of New York’s “NYC Next Idea 2012″ contest for that idea back in March 2012 and had a working prototype built by September. However, according to founder and CEO Brian Shimmerlik, those units are still in mobility testing. He says that making a safe and reliable vending machine that works in a vehicle that’s bouncing around the way cabs do is complicated.
So the company is now going a more traditional route by offering a slightly modified machine that can be installed in bars’ bathrooms, the hallways near the restrooms, in office buildings by the elevator, and elsewhere. The new machines have added height and width and are slightly larger. They have a touchscreen interface, and customers pay using a credit card only.
With Vengo, the focus is on selling “convenience” products like gum, mints, hand sanitizer, lotions, body spray, or even condoms. In the future, Vengo may experiment with selling other beauty products or tech products as well, Shimmerlik adds. The machines can hold six types of products and 100 total products.
While previously the plan was to sell the TaxiTreats machines at retail prices, Vengo machines will be provided and installed for free at select locations. Shimmerlik declined to discuss the manufacturing costs, but notes that the machines are built in the tri-state area, and that the lineup of new investors includes partners with consumer manufacturing, distribution, and scaling experience, as well as those with consumer brand relationships. Vengo and its location partners will split the revenue the machines bring in, but Shimmerlik can’t comment on those numbers either, only saying that it’s higher than industry standards.
New investor FunBars, owners of Village Pourhouse and other brands, has agreed to install Vengo’s machines in its 10 locations (and growing) across NY and NJ. Two of these locations are live now, and the remaining eight will be completed in a few weeks.
As for the TaxiTreat line, there’s no ETA yet, but the company has lined up a handful of industry partners, including taxi owners and transportation companies, who have agreed to install them when ready.