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Pizza robot startup Zume tried to do too much, too fast - and this is the data behind its decline

2 weeks ago by Jon Marino in Retail

Some startups clearly needed a get-back coach, in retrospect. 

The coach is - simply put - on football sidelines to prevent leadership from incurring a penalty, by their physically departing from the area where they're allowed to be and venturing into the field of play, which is against the rules.

And, in Silicon Valley, it's clear that plenty of startups needed a get-back coach. Zume Pizza is one such example. Zume raised hundreds of millions of dollars from boldface name investors like Softbank - only to be unable to come up with a marketable, profitable pizza, forcing them to rethink their plans. 

Our chart above tracks job postings at Zume, which began to plummet in late 2019. All told, from their peak, Zume postings declined a not-so-moderate 96% as the company spent millions designing, launching, re-designing and re-launching its robot pizza army. 

CEO Alex Garden got investors' attention for his flashy cars and ideas - and once it amassed nearly a half-billion dollars, he failed to deliver on promises he made for his pizza robot company. Zume's expansion plans became hampered by pivot after the pivot. Business Insider chronicled Zume's transition, and decline, from a robot-pizza-making-wunderkind into a sustainable packaging company

Similarly, Zume's Facebook ($NASDAQ:FB) Talking About Count peaked in 2019, and never rose past meager social engagement. If social media chatter isn't enough digitally-driven data to worry investors, Softbank may have been able to determine something was awry with its robot pizza darling looking at our next chart. 

Zume's Apple Store Ratings tally was meager few hundred reviews this year, once it had shut down most locations to focus on becoming a sustainable packaging company. Worse still, Thinknum Alternative Data reflects that Google Play ratings data lagged behind Zume's engagement in the Apple store. 

The moral of the story is, as all New Yorkers know: pizza, like construction... is best left to the pros. 

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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Jon Marino

Jon Marino is Thinknum's finance editor, covering the impacts of alternative data on public companies and investors. Prior to joining Thinknum, Jon worked in the ...

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