Softbank-backed Zume Says Goodbye: A Mama Mia Moment in the World of Startups

Zume, a High-Tech Food Delivery Dream, Falls Short

Zume: An Overview

Zume was a unique food delivery solution that aimed to deliver fresh, oven-baked pizza to its customers. The idea was to use robots to assemble the pizza and transport it in vehicles equipped with ovens, ensuring the pizza was ready to serve on arrival. Although it received funding of nearly $500 million from investors, including Softbank, the company was unable to overcome tech issues and a failed business model pivot and had to close down operations.

Zume’s Business Model

Zume’s core business model involved using technology to bake a customer’s pizza while it was still in transit. The idea was to assemble the pizza with the help of robots and then cook it in specialized ovens, located inside the delivery vehicles, while on the move. The vehicles were fitted with GPS to track the vehicle’s location and ensure the pizza was cooked and ready to serve when the delivery driver got close.

Investment and Funding

Softbank invested $375 million into Zume in 2018, and the company was able to raise $445 million in total. Zume was unique in its approach and was well-regarded by venture capitalists who believed the company was set for a bright future.

Tech Issues

While the idea behind Zume was intriguing, the reality of cooking on the go turned out to be a massive challenge. Cooking pizza on a vehicle that traveled through the hills and valleys of San Francisco proved to be difficult, and the toppings would slide off the pizza. This led to customers losing patience and growing disenchanted with the model.

Failed Business Model Pivot

In 2020, Zume abandoned its pizza dreams and laid off employees, pivoting to become a sustainable food packaging company. The intention was not new, as Zume had already started developing a pizza box to prevent the steam from impacting the fresh-cooked crust. However, the pivot came too late to save the company.


The company has retained a restructuring firm to sell off its assets, an alternative to bankruptcy, after largely shutting down last month.


Zume’s approach to food delivery was innovative. The company’s vision of using technology to cook pizzas on the move was unique and exciting. However, despite raising millions in funding, Zume faced insurmountable tech issues that ultimately led to its closure. In the end, it serves as a cautionary tale in the competitive world of food delivery, where a great idea is only part of the equation for success.

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