If there’s one thing Jay-Z is going to do, it’s make a power play. It seems as though the billionaire Brooklyn native is at it again. Marcy Venture Partners, which is Hov’s venture capital arm, led a $16.5-million fundraising round for Stellar Pizza, according to a statement from the mobile pizza restaurant ran by robots. Stellar intends to open at the University of Southern California this fall.
Stellar Pizza was founded by a team of former SpaceX engineers in 2019. They use a truck outfitted with an assembly-line-like robotics device that they claim can make up to 420 pizzas in a day. The trend of having robots in restaurants is a rapidly growing one. Advocates believe that robots can make more reliably delicious food, cleaner and faster than humans can. With the current labor shortage, restaurants including Chipotle, White Castle and Wing Zone are hiring robots to handle certain repetitive tasks. Chip salting and liming at Chipotle is handled by “Chippy” while Wing Zone is considering fully automating its wing frying division.
According to Stellar, the process isn’t complex at all. Once a customer orders through an app, five minutes later their pie is boxed, slice and in their hands. Ted Cizma, the former executive chef and director of culinary services at SpaceX curated the experience.
Prior ventures with robot pizza-making haven’t always worked out the way they were intended to. After raising $375 million from Softbank for its automated pizza delivery business, the Silicon Valley start-up Zume laid off more than half of its workforce and eventually shuttered its pizza division, opting instead to become a packaged goods company in 2020. The co-founders of Marcy Venture Partners (Jay-Z along with Roc Nation vice-chairman Jay Brown and longtime venture capitalist Larry Marcus) are hoping this journey ends differently. Before this, the fund has 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.
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.