Drone delivery startup Manna boosts seed funding ahead of launch in Ireland

Listening to the radio (yes, it still exists) the other day I realized that the “futurist” that was being interviewed was speculating that drones would “one day be delivering food, but not any time soon.”

Well, so much for that prediction. Because coming to an Irish household early next year will be drones delivering exactly that.

For Manna, a B2B drone delivery “as-a-service” company, today announced an additional funding round of $3 million, led by Dynamo VC, a logistics-focused fund. The move brings Manna’s total seed funding to $5.2 million.

Manna pitches itself as an “aviation-grade” drone delivery company, and plans to roll out a fully autonomous drone delivery platform beginning in early 2020, first in Europe and then in the U.S.

Manna’s drone itself is different. It is far more “modular” than other drones you might have seen, and therefore lends itself to logistics, like deliveries. It also uses custom-designed aerospace-grade drones built in  Europe and the U.S.

The drones are designed for “all weathers” and do not fly above 500 feet, taking them out of the airspace of planes. The initial food deliveries in Ireland will be in rural areas, eventually reaching the suburbs of towns and cities.

The first services offered will be to online meal ordering platforms, restaurant chains and “dark kitchens” with an incredible three-minute delivery promise. Obviously this would be far cheaper and faster than road-based deliveries, especially in rural areas.

It’s also teamed up with Flipdish, the company that operates an online delivery platform used by restaurants and takeaways in Ireland.

The Manna drone fleet will, they say, be operated directly from the restaurant or dark kitchen premises and will be accessible via API to food tech providers and online food platforms alike in a channel-agnostic manner. That means you end up with one drone fleet serving all and any of the providers, based on demand.

Founder and serial entrepreneur Bobby Healy previously built and sold Eland Technologies to SITA.AERO in 2003, and more recently built CarTrawler, a B2B mobility marketplace for the airline industry, where he is still on the board after several private equity LBOs.

Healy says: “We are on the cusp of the fifth industrial revolution — powered by drones — and our intention with Manna is to make drone delivery as pervasive as running water — to literally transform marketplaces, economies and communities all over the world in a way that not just reduces our carbon footprint, but saves lives and creates jobs while doing so.”

Jon Bradford, who led the investment for Dynamo Ventures, said: “It’s hard to find a rockstar team as ambitious and as capable as the Manna team, and in a domain that is as massive as it is difficult. In Bobby and his incredible team, we see a path to capture a real beachhead in this new emerging market that is truly unprecedented, and we look forward to helping accelerate their vision in the U.S. in 2020.”