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Estonia’s Star Trek inspired robot bartender Yanu is serving up the future of AI

Inspired by Star Trek and light-years ahead of its competition, robot bartender Yanu guides us into the future of AI in the service industry, founder and CEO Alan Adojaan confirmed on stage at Unicorn59.

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Founded in Estonia by Alan Adojaan, a seasoned industry veteran, Yanu is a fully autonomous AI-powered robotic bartending unit poised to take the service world by storm. Yanu serves a hundred drinks an hour, handles payments, and chats with customers, streamlining a process that is fundamental to human society — grabbing a drink. Large venues and big thirsty crowds are Yanu’s wheelhouse — whether it’s hotels, airports, restaurants, festivals, or sports events.

Today, Yanu is creating unicorn buzz, but the journey here hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “In the beginning, nobody took me seriously,” Adojaan recounts his founding story. “My friends thought I’d gone completely crazy.”

Initially perplexed by his vision for a one-of-a-kind futuristic robot bartender, some wondered if there was a need for what Adojaan was hoping to build. Wouldn’t it rob people of much-needed social interaction with bartenders?

But having run bars, restaurants, and nightclubs for well over a decade, Adojaan had a less romanticised view of the situation. “I’ve worked in hospitality,” he says. “Nobody talks to the bartender. They only yell at the bartender.” Armed with his wealth of experience, Adojaan knew that automation was key to creating a win-win situation for the service industry and sidestepping many of the issues it was facing.

Robots are not here to take our jobs — they’re here to help

There was another stubborn misconception standing in Yanu’s way — that machines are taking jobs from humans. Alan Adojaan is on a mission to put this anti-robot rumour to bed once and for all.

“Robots are not taking our jobs,” he says. “Especially in the service industry, there are actually millions of people missing. That’s where we’re helping.”

Once COVID came along, the world experienced a collective perspective shift and started seeing things more from Adojaan’s point of view. The global service industry, already struggling to hire before the pandemic, became even more volatile as more people left it. Contactless bars became a necessity rather than a novelty, and Yanu’s moment arrived.

Ideally positioned to bridge a crippling gap on the labour market, the company is now gaining serious momentum.

Futuristic tech powered by top-shelf Estonian engineers

Today, Yanu is so far ahead of the game that it operates virtually without direct competition. Once you take a closer look, it’s easy to see why.

Designed by sci-fi fans, it’s no coincidence that the Yanu bar looks like something out of Star Trek. But while the sleek look and futuristic feel are undeniable eye-catchers, the inner workings of the unit are where the magic happens. Yanu can whip up around 100 drinks an hour, which can be ordered via app or interactive screen. Guests then have their drink served by a robotic arm while the AI-powered chatbot talks them through the process. Payments are, of course, cashless.

Everything inside Yanu that makes this possible has been designed in cooperation with top engineers from the University of Tartu. Adojaan notes that working with Estonia’s world-class engineering community has made developing Yanu much easier and faster than it would have been otherwise.

Clear roadmap for staying ahead of the game

The unit is an impressive feat of engineering already, but the work is far from over. Yanu is gearing up the innovation, working on getting a grant to design new components, and — of course — raising a funding round to get to the next level.

To reach the coveted unicorn milestone, Yanu is raising three million euros now, and another six in about two years. “From then on, the company can sustain itself,” Adojaan says. “The numbers are looking good. By 2026, our cash flow should be a quarter of a billion from 500 machines.”

That’s great for Yanu, but what about the customers? Well, there’s that win-win we were talking about earlier. “ROI is fast,” Adojaan says. “The machine pays for itself in 4-6 months at a nightclub, and maybe a year in a small bar.”

In true Estonian fashion, Adojaan is ambitious yet pragmatic in how he sums up Yanu’s plans for the near future. “Once we have the funding, scaling up is — I wouldn’t say it’s easy… but it won’t be a problem.”

If you believe that robots are here to help and want to invest in Yanu or some other Estonian startup, get in touch with us via e-Consulting. We’ll schedule an appointment with one of our investment advisors, who are happy to help you on your journey to building a unicorn.


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