Five Companies That Caught My Eye at Curbivore
New tech you won't want to miss
Movements recently dispatched Los Angeles-based contributor at large, Tony Pierce, to attend Curbivore and report back. Tony is a part-time Uber driver, podcast host, and LA expert!
Of all the interesting products and services being shown off last week at Curbivore in downtown LA, several caught my eye. I had the opportunity to chat with these founders, executives, and spokespeople and wanted to share what they had to say.
These are the types of companies you’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future, from luxury rideshare to robot pizza makers and much more. If you want a behind the scenes look on cutting edge mobility and AI technology, keep reading!
Make sure to check out the recap video here.
At the far northeast end of Curbivore sat a bright red truck that looked more like a moving van than a futuristic robotic pizza machine that can pump out 50, 12" pizzas every hour. But a pizza revolution it is.
Focusing mostly on cheese and pepperoni pies, Stellar is leading the way in getting hot, fresh pizza into the hands of people who might not be anywhere near a Pizza Hut.
So yes, USC Trojan fans, tailgating next to the football stadium may soon involve hot personal-sized pizzas at a reasonable price.
"We didn't launch at football season," Stellar Chief of Staff Alexis Kardias said, "but I am excited for us next year to be rolling up to the Coliseum on gameday, especially tailgates, for sure. We want to partner with USC Athletics on that and be able to meet demand because for us, a captive audience is a great audience for us to show up and cook pizzas."
Kardias, a USC graduate, explained that the LA-based company has devised a way to get their modular automatic system to fit into a typical box truck via a rail system. And then the magic happens.
Benson Tsai, CEO and co-founder of Stellar, explained why you probably won't see a lot of custom options on the pizzas that retail for about $8 each.
"We're trying to keep the brand centered on what people actually eat," he said. "In general, about 70 percent of pizzas ordered are cheese or pepperoni. We are catering towards the masses."
As Curbivore attendees lined up for their free slices, Tsai seemed extremely happy with the popularity of his truck.
"Good pizza at a reasonable price is all we want to be known for," he beamed. "There are really cool robots behind it, but they're all in service of the affordable, delicious pizzas."
Check out the segment that KTLA’s Rich deMuro did on Stellar and Curbivore.
Waev's Gem vehicles may look like really cool golf carts, but please don't call them that. They are so much more.
"This is a low-speed vehicle," Waev Sr. VP Paul Vitrano, told me about the model e4. "It can be operated on roads posted 35 MPH or under. So this is something that you can replace micromobility on one end or a full-size vehicle on the other end to do the applications you need."
Vitrano says the most common applications involve moving people around low-speed environments like campuses and sports venues.
"At the last Super Bowl, one of our largest customers, Circuit, which operates the shuttling operation was doing VIP shuttles at the Super Bowl, so Gem was right in the stadium for the big day," he said.
Aside from shuttling people around, the company also has a smaller vehicle, the e2, meant for delivering things. This vehicle is equipped with an S-Box in the back for storing cargo that needs to be delivered.
The vehicles start at about $13,000 and can go up to the high teens in price, depending on the options. Batteries, he says, are the biggest driver of cost. The more lithium-ion packs, the more range. The max range is about 100 miles.
Overall, there were many incredible companies at Curbivore, all designed to make life more convenient, economical and sustainable. In the coming years, isn’t that what we’re all striving for? Make sure to keep your eyes out for the companies mentioned here - they’ll be changing the future!
I’ve seen the sleek Alto vehicles around LA for a while, but I never knew what they were all about. The pristine white Buick SUVs are clearly marked Alto on the doors and mirrors.
Alto is luxury ridesharing; think Uber Black with a twist. It has a fleet of about 100 Buick Enclaves here in LA that are washed daily and wiped down after every trip. There are dashcams in the vehicle (for the safety of both the passenger and the driver), and it doesn't end there. Each vehicle is equipped with WiFi, bottled water, phone chargers and even a "signature scent, so it always smells nice for you," Sarah Teichner, Alto Marketing Manager told me.
"All of our drivers are actually W-2 employees, not contractors like Uber and Lyft drivers. So that means they go through a background check and safety and driving training before even operating one of our vehicles," she added.
And yes, all the vehicles are owned by Alto, which means the company, not the driver, pays all expenses, repairs, and maintenance.
In return, full-time LA drivers average about $740 a week, which averages out to $19/hour," Teichner said.
The Alto driver I spoke with told me that on some shifts she only has a few trips, while on busy weekends she has many trips, but it's hard to tell just how popular the service is here in LA.
Other Alto advantages over Uber and Lyft include kids who are 13 and older can catch a ride by themselves, whereas other rideshare companies require the passengers to be 18 or over. This can make things tough for working parents who are trying to get their kids to school or other events.
Alto can pick up LAX passengers at the curb instead of having them hike to the LAX-it area.
And a real bonus: each vehicle has a third row, meaning it can accommodate six passengers, who can also drink if they are of age.
"Girls’ Night? You can legally drink in the back seat of an Alto," Teichner said. "I have gotten in multiple cars with my friends and we bring a cocktail for the road, and we have music controls so we can select our vibe. I always select Fizz, which is like fun, party night out music, turn the volume up and I'm just drinking with my friends in the back seat."
Let's say there's a pop-up event, a marathon, a block party, a street fair, a demonstration, a rally... any gathering of lots of people. But they might be in a place deprived of food or drink vendors. Bib has mobile "stores" that can arrive at such locations and provide either automated vending machine experiences or vehicles where vendors can set up shop quickly in a parking spot - all while using clean energy.
"We really wanted it to be as one-click and as seamless of a customer experience as possible," Nanavati Low, COO and co-founder of Bib, told me in front of one of their vehicles that housed countless cans of Liquid Death visible through plastic windows.
"A customer would go to a digital menu on their phone and choose which item they want to purchase," she continued. "They make a purchase, and it's integrated with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, or credit card. That information is GDPR-compliant and never leaves your phone. It stays right there on your phone."
Another vehicle of theirs, called the Hotbox, is an autocycle that drew small crowds at Curbivore. It has a compartment in the back equipped with several heating racks powered by its own energy source. Imagine a pizza-delivering motorcycle from the future.
"You would be able to pile in like 25 pizzas in there," she said. "So a chain of heat custody from say, Stellar Pizza -- they would be able to get hot pizza, fresh, off the lot; put it in here and go straight to the curbside. It's an autocycle, so it looks very similar to a motorcycle, but it has three wheels."
The third vehicle they demonstrated showed off the ability to deliver soft-serve frozen yogurt to customers. Low explained that traditional food trucks are large, use a lot of energy, and can be expensive to operate. Not so with their vehicle that is powered with clean energy, uses solar power, and even has a security camera on the roof to keep an eye on the transactions.
And best of all, it's small. "That's kind of the beauty of this," she said. "The whole business just pulls up into an allocated area and it can fit into a freight elevator."
Even with the logo wrap around the unassuming mini van, Conjure dind’t look like anything I'd seen before. The last thing I would have thought it was an ice cream truck. To me, ice cream trucks are big, white Dodge vans (like ones I drove one summer in college) with a top loading freezer bolted in the back cooled with blocks of dry ice with "Farmer in the Dell" relentlessly blaring from a hidden music box.
Conjure has created something far more modern and less annoying.
“It's an ice cream truck -- on demand," Ali Ahmed, co-founder and CEO of Conjure explained. "It's a roving shop in your neighborhood that you can hail, just like an Uber or Lyft, with one single tap."
Ahmed's argument is that most ice cream from a traditional truck is substandard: freezer-burned popsicles, weirdly shaped bars that pretend to look like Mickey Mouse, and ice cream sandwiches that only a delirious kid would like. And worse, you are at the mercy of “good luck” to receive a visit from the Good Humor man.
With Conjure, you summon the truck via an app. The app tells you which items are in stock, and when the van arrives you are charged for whatever you pull out of the freezer.
"We have a very full selection, especially with ice cream," he said. "We have 35 SKUs - which I like to say is more than Baskin Robbins, and 70 pints."
When the van arrives, you open the door through the app, grab what you want, and via RFID tags, Conjure knows what you took and not only charges you accordingly, but later knows what to restock the freezer with when the driver is alerted the inventory is running low.
The driver never interacts with the customer. They just drive, park, and leave when the transaction is over. This is great news for drivers whose native tongue does not match those of the customers.
"They can literally just focus on driving," Ahmed said. "The whole shopping component is automated for the customer and the driving experience is automated for the driver."
Read more about Conjure’s big announcement at Curbivore on Ottomate.