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1. Zume Pizza

Founders: Julia Collins (co-CEO), Alex Garden (co-CEO)
Launched: 2015
Headquarters: Mountain View, California
Funding: $23 million

Zume developed its own special delivery truck with 56 ovens so the pizza can cook while en route to customers.
Jeniece Pettitt | CNBC
Zume developed its own special delivery truck with 56 ovens so the pizza can cook while en route to customers.

When you think of pizza, what comes to mind? Sauce? Toppings? Robots? Zume Pizza in Mountain View, California, is thinking about all three.

This pizza delivery company, started in 2015, uses a combination of robots and humans to prepare and bake its pizzas, which it then delivers throughout Silicon Valley. Co-founders Julia Collins, who has a background in the restaurant industry, and Alex Garden, the former president of Zynga Studios, believe there are certain repetitive tasks that are best left to bots rather than humans. For example, robots squirt and spread the tomato sauce (more evenly than their human counterparts, apparently) onto the uncooked pies and then transfer them into 800-degree ovens hundreds of times a day. The robots cost between $25,000 and $35,000 each and are made by ABB, a global manufacturer that typically deals with robots for large manufacturing facilities.

Of course, if the pizza doesn't taste good, it won't matter who's putting it together. That's why Zume also tries to set itself apart from the competition by emphasizing locally sourced ingredients, fresh filtered water for the dough, and non-GMO flour that it claims makes the pizzas wholesome and delicious.

Since its first delivery, in April 2016, the company has sent off more than 15,000 pizzas to Bay Area customers. To decrease customers' wait time, Zume has even created its own special delivery truck with 56 ovens that will finish cooking the pizza during the drive.

Far from threatening the jobs of its employees, CEO Collins says the robots help free up human workers to develop new recipes, conduct taste tests and tweak customer service. Zume has roughly 50 employees — most work in the kitchen or as delivery drivers. The rest are in management or engineering roles. So far, Zume has raised $23 million from Kortschak Investments and SignalFire so that it can expand further into the Bay Area.

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