Zume Pizza — the billion-dollar robotic pizza company founded in 2015 by Julia Collins and Alex Garden — has reportedly shut down its robotic pizza-making operations and laid off 360 employees, which amounts to over 50 percent of its workforce, according to CNBC. As reported by TechCrunch, this is just the latest in a string of layoffs that have occurred across SoftBank’s portfolio of companies over the past few months.
In 2018, SoftBank — investor in the embattled WeWork and Uber — funded Zume to the tune of $375 million. In November 2019, it was announced that Zume would be entering another fundraising round at a $4 billion valuation, according to Vox. However, it appears that the latest round of fundraising didn’t go as planned.
On Jan. 6, Reuters reported a source close to Zume indicated that the company planned to layoff 80 percent of its staff.
While best-known for its delivery pizza service which featured pies made by robots, not humans, Zume has actually diversified its business operations over the past few years, primarily in the food packaging industry. In October 2019, they began supplying Pizza Hut with circular compostable pizza boxes, Restaurant Business reported. They also operate “cloud kitchens” which are basically culinary coworking spaces that offer restauranteurs a cheaper alternative to leasing dedicated restaurant space.
Garden, Zume’s CEO, told CNBC that Zume will be refocusing the company on their food packaging unit — which is showing more “explosive growth” — and opening 100 new positions in that unit.