Starship Technologies has appointed former Airbnb executive Lex Bayer as CEO, as it begins a full commercial rollout of its autonomous delivery robots. It has also attracted an additional $25m to fund its commercialisation.

The company’s dog-sized autonomous delivery robots have already been tasked with delivering pizzas for Domino’s on a limited scale. It now plans to deploy thousands of the robots by the end of 2018 as part of an ambitious strategy to make autonomous delivery a widespread reality.

“Starship Technologies has demonstrated that it has the potential to transform the industry,” said Hardi Meybaum of Matrix Partners, an investor in the company. “Autonomous delivery isn’t tomorrow’s reality – it’s today’s.”

Other investors include Morpheus Ventures, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, Skype founding engineer Jaan Tallinn and former chairman and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Gary Barber.

Starship Technologies’ CEO Lex Bayer to drive growth:

The appointment of Lex Bayer suggests Starship Technologies is keen to drive strong adoption of its autonomous delivery robot.

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Bayer was formerly leader of Business Development, Payments and Airbnb for Businesses at the disruptive travel company. During the four-year period in which he held the position, Airbnb saw 1600% growth as guest arrivals climbed from 6 million to 100 million.

In his new role as CEO of Starship Technologies, he will be likely to be keen to drive similar growth.

“Lex joins us with a proven track record of growing businesses that change the way we live for the better,” said Starship Technologies co-founder Janus Friis.

“I’m delighted to join the Starship team at this inflection point in the company’s journey and look forward to helping the business build on its position as the world’s leading provider of autonomous delivery,” said Lex Bayer following the appointment.

Winning the race to cement autonomous delivery robots

The combination of further funding and a high-profile CEO signals a company that is keen to cement itself. It will hope to stand out as the leader in autonomous delivery market.

“We are at the point where we are ready to start deploying our network of robots at scale,” added Friis. “This additional funding, and Lex’s appointment, will allow us to bring our services to market.

“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone,” agreed Starship Technologies co-founder and CTO Ahti Heinla. “With the start of our commercial rollout, additional funding and Lex joining the team, we are ready to take the business to new heights.”

However, Starship has a challenging task ahead thanks to stiff competition from a variety of sources.

On the roads, Welsh startup The Academy of Robotics plans bring its first autonomous delivery vehicles out this year. However, in the skies drone deliveries are attracting significant research, with tech giant Amazon leading the way.

However, for Starship, this won’t just be a matter of gaining the most business. It must also convince companies that its pavement-based approach is the way forward when it comes to autonomous deliveries.