Want to read a parable about the cult of the founder of Silicon Valley and the Softbank investors trapped in the aftermath of his gilt robes? Good because Bloomberg Businessweek has the story inside detailing the implosion of Zume, that pizzas made by robots and cooked during delivery. Zume’s co-founder and co-CEO Alex Garden raised an investment of $ 375 million from Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, the man who gave $ 3 billion in venture capital to Adam Neumann during his ill-fated period at WeWork.
Here’s how Bloomberg describes the first meeting of Garden and Son:
“Two years ago a truck with large photos of pizza pies drove its way down a long driveway in Bay Area. It brought Alex Garden, the chief executive officer of Zume Pizza Inc., to the home of SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son. Zume’s field consisted of robots that could make pizzas that a person would want to eat, so Son climbed aboard the driveway of his Woodside, California, estate to watch while the truck’s ovens set fire to some robot-baked pies, according to people familiar with the meeting. “
By the time Garden left, he was on his way to a $ 375 million SoftBank Vision Fund investment. According to Bloomberg, Son can’t help but make big bets on technical startups that are helped by founders with a Steve-Jobsian look:
“If a founder seems bold enough, charismatic enough, reminiscent of a younger son, some of the rigorous tests of SoftBank models seem to be melting away.”
Silicon Valley CEOs are rightly criticized for making lofty statements about their ability to change the world with everyday products and services. Garden, a glorified pizza maker, is of course no different, according to Bloomberg:
‘SoftBank delivered its Vision Fund in cash in the fall of 2018. After a conversation with Son, Garden choked on by passing on the details to a confidant and said, “Masa says I’m going to change the world,” this person remembers. “
In January, Zume fired and “turned” more than half of its workforce, as they say in The Valley, when failure causes investors to worry about how to reclaim losses. Zume is now focused on packaging and efficiency gains for other food delivery companies.
The whole story is worth reading, if only to understand how this sentence could possibly exist:
“Garden has spent a lot of money to buy a double-decker bus from London and to convert it into a giant pizza car named Martha for Day Z.”