Launch of Ella in Tokyo

We are excited to share that ELLA, the robot barista, unveiled herself to more than 40 media journalists and VIPs today (8 December 2021) at 09:00 Japan time at Tokyo Station.


Together with Mr. Keith Tan (CEO & Founder of Crown Digital), and Mr. Teruyuki Omote (Managing Executive Director, Group COO of Life-Style Business Development); we are honoured to have Singapore Ambassador to Japan, His Excellency Peter Tan to be part of the opening ceremony.



Here's the full transcript of Keith's address to the media and public.

Good morning media and partners, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Keith Tan and I am CEO and Founder of Crown Digital. Thank you East Japan Railway Company for your partnership and belief in us. After 11 months of preparations and meetings, ELLA and Crown Digital are finally in Tokyo. It has been an incredible journey for us, and I am honoured and humbled to be standing before you today.


ELLA is the star of the show today. She has served dignitaries and leaders at conferences and events around the world. She has recently won two tech and innovation awards in Singapore, and she can serve over 1000 cups of coffee a day without breaking a sweat. I would like to tell you a little bit more about her history.


In 2016, Crown Coffee began as a gourmet café in Singapore. We had nothing to do with tech and everything to do with great coffee. As a café operator, we confronted high staff turnover and manpower shortages. Faced with this massive challenge as a business, we innovated, rethink the entire business model and created a solution that delivered fast and efficient gourmet coffee through use of Robotics and AI.


Our creation ELLA, was developed to humanize technology and demonstrate the potential of robotics and AI to re-invent the commuter lifestyle experience and re-energize urban retail. ELLA is perfectly suited to delivering an excellent commuter coffee experience.


I am proud to say that Crown Digital is now a full-stack tech startup – we design and build our hardware, software, and people. Our team has deep experience and insights into robotic solutions, artificial intelligence, IoT, fusing them for optimal digital consumer experiences.

Our strengths have been improved by our partnership with JR East, with a strategic cross-border investment secured in December 2020.

Because of our work with JR East, we successfully integrated the SUICA payment system in Japan, and we're the first foreign company to do so.

I am proud of our team and our resilience in the face of the challenges and hurdles experienced in these pandemic times.

Using Microsoft Teams and Whatsapp for virtual meetings, the JR East and Crown Digital teams worked together towards the same common goal. In the name of Innovation, we came together to implement technology to make our lives better.

I want to thank Yuta, Kana,Yoshi, and Kobayashi of JR East for their massive support. My team back in Singapore and JR East team led by Yuta has worked so hard to make this project possible. Sleep and rest do not exist in our dictionary it seems. Crown is blessed with this incredible dedication from the team. Due to Covid-19 we faced unimaginable challenges logistically, travel was stopped, we had no idea if we could enter Japan for this launch, but we kept the faith and kept believing that things will eventually work out. It was an impossible project made possible.

For me, personally, this has been an exhilarating journey, one which could not be possible as a startup without the partnership of an esteemed company like JR East.

As a startup, we have great ideas, we move fast, and we take risks for high rewards. However, startups often do not have the resources to turn ideas into reality. However, larger organizations do. Therefore, if a startup can partner with a large company and work together collaboratively, great things can be achieved in a short period of time.

We have gained so much experience through this cross-cultural exchange, both sides have made compromises, adapted to each other's styles of work, but we are always clear on our Mission and Goal. This is the spirit that has kept us going despite the impossible circumstances we faced along the way.

I want to take this opportunity to encourage fellow startups to step up, push themselves forward and pursue their dreams. And for the larger corporations, I encourage you to embrace the startup ecosystem, assist them and offer them opportunities to put their ideas into practice. This will provide the necessary support for wonderful and exciting ideas to become a reality.

We are firm believers that the future of F&B and retail is automated. Automation and AI will be omnipresent in our daily lives, and in this way, tech companies can contribute to the betterment of the industry and society.

This is just the beginning, and we know that ELLA and JR East will be creating an extremely exciting future ahead!