John: I wanna thank everyone for taking time out this afternoon to tune into this conversation with myself and Bobby. Manna is a really intriguing company. It's in Graphite, our Fifth Fund and is really sort of looking to the limits of promise of enabling people to get pseudo real time delivery of goods and food via drone.
The company is called Manna, as in the Bible, Manna from heaven - food coming from the skies and that's literally what it is. When we invested about two and a half years ago that was the promise. Over the last two and a half years, Bobby has built up a fantastic organization, and they're in daily production delivery today in Ireland, delivering food to people's houses.
So it's a fascinating story, we have a fundamental belief that the skies will be filled with drones over time, that the societal benefits, the economics are so compelling that there's no other real solution. I'm gonna hand over now to Bobby to just lead off with a very simple question.
Bobby, what his Manna?
Bobby: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me and hello to everybody in the audience. Manna is a drone delivery as a service stack, so it's hardware, software, and operations of the stack so it's fully vertically integrated. And we've been building for just shy on three years now.
And it essentially provides a three minute delivery promise from retailers. So restaurants, supermarkets, groceries, pharmacies. And directly from the roofs of their premises to consumers, front and back lawns. And we carry the product inside the aircraft. We fly about 50 to 60 miles an hour, and we fly at about 150 feet altitude to about 180 feet altitude.
And when we arrived at the house, within three minutes, we descend to about 50 feet. We open the cargo bay doors and we lower the product down on a winch to the ground and we can deliver anything. Today, we had an order for fresh eggs, for example, people try us out with ridiculous orders like that.
But that's what it is. It's a hardware, software and operation as a service aimed at very large retailers, large brands, food aggregators and everything in between.
John: So Bobby when you look at the sort of products you deliver what has surprised you? Are people ordering high value items, low value items, or the same people ordering.
Is it just sort of 10 people in a town who's ordering everything or is it widely distributed? Like what are you learning from doing this in practice?
Bobby: Yeah. So we're quite mature now. We're a year now operating in the town that we are in our big town of just over 10,000 folks.
And it's not any individual thing that surprises, we've delivered everything's as I said from fresh eggs we have an order from just now an order for melon came in. We've ordered a nappy cream, for broccoli, for coffees, you name it. We're sending it - so ice cream, hot food, cold food and everything in between.
Literally everything that the local community has to offer, we are doing by drone delivery with 25 stores now. So we have the biggest supermarket, the Walmart of ours in the UK called Tesco. We have all of the local vendors, we have the bookstore, the hardware store, literally every single retailer in this suburban town we're flying for.
And so we've a spread of now about four and a half thousand different products that we've already delivered, four and a half different types of products. And across an availability of 8,000 products that we have and about 33% of the population now use the service. So already quite a bit better penetration than normal road based delivery.
Providers say the big surprise is, well less of a surprise and more of a confirmation is that very perishable products are the real winners here. So you already have a stack of orders it's 9 PM here now, so we start at 8 AM tomorrow. I have a stack of breakfast orders already and and those breakfast orders, they’re breakfast burritos..
I was looking at the list here every one of them has a coffee with them. And so the big surprise is the willingness for people, not just to pay for premium coffee, but to pay on top of that a delivery surcharge. We knew that was gonna be the case, but it's nice to see it in data.
John: And let's talk a little bit about delivery. Because if I order a pizza to be delivered to my house, after they cook the pizza, they have to give it to someone who goes in the car drives around the neighborhood, maybe I'm the first drop, maybe I'm the third drop.
They deliver the pizza to me probably 25 to 30 minutes later. And it's awfully expensive, we've looked at the economics of that. Nobody makes money in food delivery. So, how do the economics all stack up from a drone delivering me that pizza, or coffee, or whatever.
Bobby: Yeah, so economics are really strong for drone delivery.
We're pretty confident that it scales, our total costs will be about $1.00 per delivery. And that's because just like with autonomous driving when and if that's ever solved, once you remove the driver from the vehicle, everything starts looking very attractive, from a margin perspective. So we have one person operating between 20 to 30 drones.
Each one of those drones can do between five and ten deliveries per hour. So you think about one of our personnel responsible for somewhere between 150 to 300 deliveries per hour. That's our overhead in terms of personnel. And as compared to road based delivery with a person which in today's numbers is between 6 and $9 total low the cost per road based delivery today by the big platforms.
And the only way that can be fixed is batching of orders. So instead of getting your pizza in 20 or 30 minutes, you're getting 45 or 50 minutes because the guy is gonna have two pizzas in his bag, one for you and one for the guy that lives couple of miles away.
So we think that road delivery model is totally broken for low basket value products and drone delivery will replace 100% of road based delivery outside of very urban dense areas. We're quite confident that we can completely replace the car here.
John: I mean, not just from a cost saving of 1/6 to 1/9 of the price in terms of cost delivery but also much lower carbon footprint and also a lot safer.
Bobby: Yeah, I mean the data is horrible now. If you look it road based delivery, the data, we have on various different cities around the world. In Amsterdam last year alone 88 food delivery cyclists or drivers were injured and brought by ambulance to hospitals in one city one year alone.
It's dangerous to use the roads period and it's even more dangerous to cut corners to optimize the roads for speed. And so again drones, completely safe. They produce no CO2, they're quiet, they're much more private we have no recording equipment. They are much more secure and in the end you don't have some stranger arriving at your door with you're burger and fries and looking for a tip, potentially with COVID and you don't know the guy, right, and that's a security and privacy issue and drones, that all goes away with drones, so it just takes all the boxes.
John: How are the regulators reacting to this, because they do tend to be a very conservative bunch.
Bobby: Yeah, so the aviation regulators around the world, they're a traditional bunch, a conservative bunch and they're only remit really is to ensure the safety of the skies and the people underneath which we fly.
So yes, they're rightfully conservatives and rightly safety conscious and that's a good thing for our business because if there was a free for all and you could just get up and do this, there will be accidents, there would be accidents, there would be a very bad reputation for the industry, but not least that we'd be injuring people, right?
So it's a really good thing for us, for the world that it's not easy to do this. But from my viewpoint, the fact that we've been in Europe starting that off, the European regulator is very forward thinking and they've planned regulations for many years. So we're operating now within a really nice, tight and totally controlled regulatory market but one that wants the aerospace to be liberalized and commercialized so that we have a perfect environment here, where it is really tough.
But once you're there, you can fly at scale and nobody else that's on site will be able to do that. So we build it to the two posts a year advantage by being in Europe with a regulatory environment that supports what we're doing. And in the end, just like with general aviation, just like the way airbuses can can fly over the United States and Boeings can fly over Europe.
And these guys will talk to each other, there will be bilateral agreements and what we're doing in Europe will be transportable to the United States.
John: And what are your plans for the US?
Bobby: Yeah, we've actually hired our CEO for USA, I kind of view him as a co founder, he's from the Google X team, the winged drone delivery team, Andrew Patton, and he's the start of now our efforts there.
And the way we're looking at the USA, obviously it's our number one market for us. But while we wait for the regulatory environment to catch up here a little, in the USA a little bit, Andrew will be building the team on the ground ready to start to scale into one or two towns over the next 12 to 18 months.
So small in terms of operational footprint, but enough such that we are engaging with the regulator over there and we have all our ducks lined up. And all of the work we're doing in Ireland and across Europe, pretty much we started, if we get the fourth year in Europe, we're in fourth year in the United States.
So our hardware certification, our operational certification that we already have in Europe can be just applied in the USA, all things going well so. And yeah, we're investing already in the United States and that is our number one target market.
John: So if you roll the clock forward, and you've solved the business risks and the technology risk, and then the regulatory risk and the regulators say okay, you can do this, you literally have just a significant amount of need for capital at that point to just be everywhere, to be ubiquitous.
Bobby: Yeah, so you could, kind of if you look at our profile now in terms of cash burn and operation, we're an R&D or engineering business now with a small operational overhead where we actually operate in one town that had 10,000 people and actually next couple of weeks another town of about 40,000 people.
So we're kind of grown the operation but we're not a big burning business and once the starting gun is fired and we have our, it's actually nothing left for us to do other than to be ready. The regulations become law in Europe on the first of January 2023 and we already have the European wide license.
So, we are now licensed to operate across the 500 million people that live in Europe, we're not ready to do that but we're building into that and preparing for it. Once we're ready to start doing that, we'll start to show signs of that at the end of 2022, 23 onwards we will be very capital intensive.
And both from the hardware point of view, we'll be manufacturing aircraft and that's difficult to scale up but also very capital intensive, but we'll also be hiring boots on the ground. And by looking at just the UK alone, UK needs about 50,000 aircraft for about 20% of the current delivery market.
So the numbers are absolutely enormous and the price of an aircraft will be roughly, taking guess, being five and $10,000, something like that. So there's a huge amount of capital required, however, the cash profile of that capital is very efficient. So if you think about one of our aircraft today can do about 60 to 80 deliveries per day.
And if we're a transactional business, which we are, that aircraft pays for itself in a small number of months. So it's an attractive business, but yeah, it's gonna need depending on the pace of growth, it'll be a hungry business but a predictable one in terms of cash spend.
And then the way I think, and certainly when I speak to our investors, the way we need to look at this space is drone delivery is so fundamentally different than the current mode. It's gonna transform the nature of retail and the nature of consumer purchasing. In the bookstore, the local bookstore in this small town of 10,000 people, they've got a better product than Amazon in this town.
You're gonna need to order a book and it'll be there in less than five minutes on your front lawn. And as we start to scale out of across towns and we build brand partnerships like we have with Coca Cola, like we have with Ben and Jerry's and a number of other really large brands, Samsung phones.
We're starting to build brand partnerships that we're implementing the direct to consumer interface with those brands. And it means that if you need six pack of Coca Cola or some Ben and Jerry's ice cream, it's gonna be on your lawn in three to five minutes, because we're stocking it right there where the drones are.
So it really is completely gonna disrupt the nature of retailing in suburban areas.
John: And when customers order, do they do it once or twice and go, that's cool, and never come back again. Or do they come back again and again and again then it just becomes a new habit.
Bobby: Yeah, and the velocity increases as well, so first order for everyone is a circus. It's all the kids, the whole family order a bunch of junk, usually it's candy or it's ice cream or something like that and the whole street is out filming drone, push them to social media, and it's all very exciting.
Now in this town, we've been there a year, they don't even come out of the house now, they just order, they get a notification when we've taken off. They can track the drone in real time as it flies, and then they get a notification when the product is delivered on the ground.
Now, they only come out for the third notification when we've already delivered the product. So it's no longer drone delivery in this town, it's just delivery, it's just very fast, reliable delivery. And there's cohorts of users now, they're already 80 and 90 deliveries each. So these are high frequency users that, they'll order coffee every couple of days, certainly on the weekend, they'll use this twice in the weekend.
We have really nice pattern of behavior where, and if you think about this, this will make a lot of sense to you. If a family, as we do in Ireland, large families, family of four or five people, nobody wants the same thing in the restaurant, so what they'll do Is they'll order three from three different restaurants all at the same time?
So there would be nice Thai food for the mother and there will be burger and fries for the father and they'll be some other mix for the kids. And three different drones will arrive within a few minutes of each other. So that the whole family is fed with three different restaurants.
So when people learn they adopt and what we see is the velocity of those customers ie the frequency should I say of those customers increasing and as we reached just shy of 35% of the population already. Every week that passes, we add another couple of percent and that will probably stop at about 40, 45% we think and so it's phenomenally well accepted way better than the normal road based delivery system.
And with that, even though price wise it's roughly the same as if you're using road based delivery. There's just no tip to the driver this time and, so we do think that longer term or even medium term the will be a migration to some sort of subscription service where it may be all you can eat in certain categories with delivery or a family subscription, things that.
But there's no doubt that if you look at this town, there's no more road based delivery in this town, except for really large things. And again lots of big bags of potatoes because it's Ireland and we can carry out of Tescos 19,000 products our new aircraft can carry 14,000 of those products.
So it's likely that car or road based delivery will be a thing of the past when we scale this business.
John: And given the your costs are a fraction you can actually make money delivering you can make good margins we keep the price for a faster service I mean the food that is delivered three minutes after it's put in the drone it actually comes hot.
Bobby: And the little design that they put on the foam still intact. And as I said earlier, people routinely order fresh eggs with us and we deliver fresh eggs so we can deliver literally anything and it's not a problem and as you say, our median flight time is actually two minutes and 40 seconds in this town, so that's up, across, and down. So coffee doesn't get cold and that time in fact, arguably you spend longer looking for a table in the coffee shop and you will get the drone to deliver the coffee at home.
John: So how'd you think of your positioning versus the big guys versus Amazon, UPS, FedEx etc.
Bobby: Yeah look I've always felt that my last few businesses I've always been in spaces where there's giants there and giants are an opportunity for a start up and for a company that's scaling. Because at least certainly in our space Alphabet particularly with their wing drone delivery program, they have a superb platform I love it.
I love their team. Really great, really invested well and very good strategy, but that doesn't mean they're a threat. For me they're a compliment to our industry, the fact that they're in there, they're endorsed and they're spending. And they're also pushing a lot of regulatory doors open and helping educate everybody on the regulatory side and on the consumer side.
So they're actually a tailwind for us. When it does come time to that home setting phase where does the grab of market share and there's a race across different markets to capture that leadership position in the market. Then I think the industry in general or the customers that we serve will look at who they're dealing with, and I just think that a well positioned brand called Manna that's independent and operating independent of any other access to the customer or any other customer insight that may conflict with those very partners that we're powering. I think we're straight strategically more complimentary to the likes of Coca Cola, the likes of Ben and Jerry's and so on and then we power their brands.
We don't compete with their brands. So I don't see Alphabet as a competition. I see them as a compliment. I think Amazon, again they slightly misfired on their drone delivery programme. I don't think that takes away from their intention or the end result. They will do drone delivery. They will do it very well, but they won't rush to do it.
I think that fact they're doing that as an incentive for the very partners again that we want the power to say how are we gonna get directly to our consumers with a drone delivery product. If we have to rely on Amazon, I don't think Samsung or anybody wants to rely on getting their drone delivery service from Amazon where they're gonna have a strategic problem in terms of their relationship with the customer. So I just think our positioning is more appropriate. And I don't worry about firepower or access to capital or any of that stuff because now we know how to execute. We built what we built with a tiny amount of capital relative to what big guys would use to do this.
I think there's a lot of capital available. And we raised, you probably know a $25 million Series A that we closed in April. So I don't worry about access to capital being the constraint for this business, which would usually be the case. So honestly when I when I look at competition I don't look at the big guys I look at the small guys that I don't know yet. The strong team as well capitalized that does what we want to do and does it better or just as well as us and then.
When I look at it with that lens, I say, well what? We're doing this for three years we're an experienced team. Our last business together was a unicorn. We know how to scale businesses at least to that size. And so I think we'll look when all else is equally bet on the team and our team right now has a minimum two year head start on any other team that starts.
So I'm feeling I won't say comfortable now but I'm feeling confident.
John: You don't really see anyone else with the lead that you've built, nipping at your heels.
Bobby: Not yet yeah, they'll come. I think they'll come over the next 12 months. There will be business funded and in Europe more likely than USA.
John: So can you just sort of walk through a sort of typical delivery the operation terms of pilots and how you manage airspace safety.
Bobby: Yeah and so the way, when you place an order with the system, it goes through our cloud services it gets downloaded to the local station.
So the big screen with the list of orders, that order gets allocated an aircraft that's ready and on on the takeoff pad. And then one of our team will take the product so if it's a Ben and Jerry's, we just take it out of our fridge that's there but if it's a Tesco product or a coffee, the coffee shop brings it upstairs to us or Tesco brings it upstairs to us.
And we load that inside the aircraft. And once we've done that, then the aircraft fully autonomous so it flies itself. Written literally our people stand back and it was it.
John: Doesn't have to file a flight plan on any regular aircraft.
Bobby: Yeah, it's a digital flight plan that so we manage that airspace abroad with about 20 square miles of airspace that we manage.
And we allocate that internally so we've exclusive access virtual access to that airspace below 500 feet so general aviation isn't allowed fly below 500 feet. So that's their floor. And so 300 feet is our ceiling. We just allocated 3D flight plan through time and that that 3D space And then if there's others operating in that area we broadcast that plan through a system called a UTM which is an unmanned traffic management system.
It's essentially digital air traffic control. But that notifies anyone else in that area that our flight plan for the next eight minutes is gonna be this three meter or three yard wide corridor hop across and down and you're not allowed to go into that space. Then we have transponders, so we receive ADS-B traffic.
So we'll see if there's, for example, an ambulance helicopter or general aviation aircraft coming into our space. We will see that, and then we do something called tactical deconfliction where if our aircrafts in the air and we see an intersection with another object, i.e another aircraft. We simply either plot a different route to get to the destination or we go home the way we came back.
So it's very I mean, the secret to safety and the secret to reliability in engineering and in engineering for aviation is simplicity. You don't try to make things complicated, you don't try to solve all these what ifs. You just say, if it isn't exactly as I planned it, you just get out of there and go home.
So what if the coffee gets cold, you don't take the risk. And that's the way you design for engineering and it's super simple, and it's a problem that's pretty much well solved now.
John: Okay, so and I think we touched on this, but again your costs, they're not yet $1 per flight but they're going to $1 per flight.
What do you plan to charge per flight for people? What margin, what target gross margins or contribution margins are you going for?
Bobby: Yeah, and so right now we're coming in at less than what a road based delivery is. So we're charging, so in the case of some shops about $5, and the case of other shops $6 per delivery.
So that margin, you work the math out at scale, that cost is gonna be so $1 for us, it's very attractive business. We will however, make things a little bit more opaque where we'll introduce a subscription model. And we think that for the very high frequency items like coffee, and other categories, there'll be enough frequency across the family that it will justify a subscription model and all you can eat coffee with delivery. And that forms the base of your adoption of drone delivery. And then we'll have use cases on top of that, like pastries, like convenience store, like pharmacy, all those other things will be layered on top and will be extra.
But in the end, I'd expect this business to be north of 60% to 70% margin.
John: And you've been working with Tesco for a little while now. What's the reaction, do they wanna expand this? Do they go, well, that was fun, but we're gonna get back to how we were before.
Bobby: I was on a call with them today, they're very happy. They're obviously learning that the same way we are, so we have great data sharing with them. They see data that they've never seen before, who in their right mind orders a head of broccoli at 6 PM and pays $6 to get a 60 cents head of broccoli?
Who orders a melon and nappy cream at 9 PM? There's no world where that doesn't get postponed, that purchase, so they're seeing different data. And that's manifest in the next town that we fly in which is Balbriggan, which is a much larger town. We expect to do about 500 deliveries a day there.
Tesco is our anchor partner there and they wanna get more data, learn more, and start to figure out. The way they put it to us when we started off was the small basket industry in the UK is about a 12 billion pound industry, and they've got a big chunk of that industry.
And they worry when they see those 20 minute delivery platforms starting to chip away at that with a narrowed set of SKUs and starting to chip away that really high margin business for them. So what they're doing is they're learning about customer behavior. And they're starting to, we have a real time feed with Tesco that they get to control the pricing, the ordering, all of that push right up to the display.
We allow them to control all of that. So you see them cycling in different categories, different offers, different combinations of things that all fit in the aircraft.
John: Yeah, I mean, we've sort of talked around this and touched on it. And I'd use the term convenience with a lowercase c, if you sat in a conference room before Manna exists and say, will people pay six bucks to have coffee delivered to them.
If a coffee is, I don't know five bucks, that people say no that's ridiculous. But I think the alternative is, I have to get dressed, get in my car, go through the rain, line up at the Starbucks, wait, pick up the coffee, drive it home. So the convenience aspect of being able to do this, yeah, I'm about to cook a meal that needs broccoli.
My alternative is I have to stop what I'm doing, get in the car, and go and buy that head of broccoli. So I think if people truly believe there is a very fast option to deliver them items conveniently they will pay a premium. Because the alternative cost is actually very high, either in terms of gasoline and time and energy, or being bothered.
Bobby: Yeah, totally the round trip it's 45 minutes out of your life. If you drive to a coffee shop, wait there to get your coffee and come back. It's not the same when you get back, it's 15 minutes at least in the car. Coffee is no longer the same experience when you do that, so it's not valuable.
So what you'll do is you'll sit in the coffee shop and have your coffee while you'll hang out with your laptop or whatever. But don't forget that with drone delivery there's two people in the home, there's the two people that run the house are gonna be getting coffee, it's not one anymore.
So our average basket value in the coffee shop is over $25 relative to a basket value of about $10 normally walk up in the coffee shop. So we more than double the basket value in the coffee shop and that's because two people instead of one, yeah.
John: And so what I guess I'm trying to say is I think that this kinda delivery product creates a new market that didn't really exist before.
It augments something exists, but it creates an expansion of opportunity. And so I can see someone like Tesco particularly liking that. We probably got about another five minutes to run. But if there's any questions, please folks just sort of put in Q&A and I'll make sure that we cover them.
I've got one here, which is the prescription drug delivery. That is obviously regulated in some way. How do you guys deal with that? I mean, I know one of the first groups you went to was the health minister in Ireland to ask for ability to help during COVID and lockdowns.
So can you just talk about how you deal with regulated space? I guess ancillary to that would be alcohol.
Bobby: Yeah, absolutely. And so any regulated product has a much bigger barrier to overcome, so we're we did in Ireland and actually our first time in Ireland was a small rural town about 1000 people.
And we put together a partnership with the health service in Ireland to the public health service of government run, largest employer in the country. And we've put in a system where patients could get a video consultation with their doctor, secure video consultation. Then the doctor could issue a prescription electronically to the pharmacy, and we would fly that prescription by drone, say, to the house.
It actually made worldwide news, the BBC covered it, it was a huge deal. And we ran in that time, for about six months, and we served nearly every single house in the town with either critical food, COVID test kits, or pharmacy regulated pharmacy products, so it works, it works really well.
And in the same way as alcohol, the big issue is customer identification. So in the case of the health products or the pharmacy products, we have that identification through the doctor being on a video link, a video consultation. So that kind of system is the way you crack the regulatory rules with drone delivery or robotic delivery.
For alcohol a different story, so in alcohol it's about age verification. And on the positive side we can fly a pint of Guinness to your house every 20 minutes, which is roughly the amount of time it takes to cycle a pint of Guinness, and keep you happy all night.
The problem is, again, identification, but we do think it's a prize worth going after, but it's one that will take slightly longer. But again, you have to look at this industry as what are the high frequency use cases, the killer apps that drive this infrastructure play, and it is something as mundane as a hot cup of coffee.
John: Excellent, so Bobby as we sort of look to the company, the company is a young company, it's a couple of years old. How do you feel about, what are your views about sort of upcoming financing rounds, and presumably eventually you wanna take this public. What are the different sort of flight paths, if you'll pardon the pun, that you're thinking about?
Bobby: Yeah, well we've been staying under the radar for some time now. No, I think the next stage for is a natural step of a Series B, and we're not in a rush to do that, we're well capitalized now. So the way we think about that is probably the start of next year, when we have some much bigger volume under our belt and we've proven a lot more, and we're nearly there or thereabouts with an aircraft that's ready to scale.
So we still have work to do, but so we think naturally that it's gonna be a B round. But thereafter I think just because of the pace of scaling, or the opportunity to go very, very parallel in as many markets as quickly as possible, kinda Uber style, and then it seems more natural for us to become a public company to do that.
We've looked at SPAC markets, we've looked at all these different ways to approach that. But it's my thinking is series B 2022 onwards, and therefore 23 onwards looking to be scaling across a lot of markets, so therefore public.
John: Bobby, I certainly hope we follow that flight path, let me know if there's anything we at ffVC can do to help you prospectively.
But I wanna thank you for taking the time out today and really appreciate you answering our questions, thank you. And hope to see you soon.
Bobby: Thank you very much.