Jay-Z’s venture capital arm, Marcy Venture Partners, has led a $16.5-million fundraising round for Stellar Pizza, a mobile pizza restaurant run by robots that aims to open at the University of Southern California (USC) this fall, according to a statement from Stellar on Monday (Oct. 4).
Founded in 2019 by a team of former SpaceX engineers, Stellar uses a truck outfitted with an assembly-line-like robotics device that can make up to 420 pizzas in a day, the company says.
Robots in restaurants is a growing trend, with advocates saying the machines can make more reliably delicious food, cleaner and faster than humans can. Add in the current labor shortage, and major chain restaurants like Chipotle, White Castle and Wing Zone are hiring robots to handle certain repetitive tasks.
At Chipotle, “Chippy” the robot handles chip salting and liming, while Wing Zone is considering fully automating its wing frying division.
Marcy Venture Partners, the venture capital firm co-founded by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Roc Nation vice-chairman Jay Brown and longtime venture capitalist Larry Marcus, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The fund has previously invested in spatial LABS, a tech incubator with a focus on the metaverse and blockchain-based products, and Rihanna‘s lingerie brand Savage x Fenty.
Stellar says its offer is simple: customers order pizzas through an app, and in less than five minutes, their pie is boxed, sliced and ready to go — an experience curated by the former executive chef and director of culinary services at SpaceX, Ted Cizma.
Previous ventures in robot pizza-making have not always worked out. In 2020, the Silicon Valley start-up Zume, which raised $375 million from Softbank for its automated pizza delivery business, laid off more than half of its workforce and eventually shuttered its pizza division, opting instead to become a packaged goods company.
The funding round announced Monday follows earlier rounds in which Stellar raised $9 million from Root Venters, Crosslink Capital and Collaborative Fund, according to the company.