Pizza-making robot startup Picnic raises $3M as pandemic puts spotlight on food automation

Picnic’s pizza-making robot at CES earlier this year. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Seattle startup Picnic raised an additional $3 million from existing investors as it gears up for a commercial rollout of its pizza-making robot.

Vulcan Capital, Flying Fish Partners, Creative Ventures, Arnold Venture Group, and others put more money behind Picnic, known for its automated food preparation device that can churn out up to 300 12-inch customized pizzas per hour. It follows a $5 million seed round in November.

The fresh cash will be used for product development, response to customer interest, new hires, and marketing. The company has seen increased demand for its machine during the pandemic from customers looking for ways to prepare food with less contact.

“This work is important because we’re supporting struggling restaurants who are looking for any advantage that will help them weather the storm of losing 60% of their sales,” CEO Clayton Wood wrote in a blog post earlier this year. “By surviving through this, they’ll be in a position to re-hire lost workers and find their way in the new, forever-changed world of food service.”

Picnic CEO Clayton Wood at his company’s booth on the CES show floor earlier this year. (GeekWire Photos / Taylor Soper)

Picnic, previously known as Otto Robotics and Vivid Robotics, is among a bevy of startups and larger industry giants trying to find ways to automate restaurant kitchens amid slim margins and labor shortages. The pandemic has put attention on food automation as restaurants and food preparation companies navigate around new hygiene protocols.

Robotic chefs have yet to go mainstream, but Picnic rival XRobotics launched earlier this month with its own pizza-making machine. DaVinci Kitchen will soon debut an automated robot pasta kiosk.

Meanwhile, Little Caesar’s has a patent for a pizza-making robot. White Castle

The Evolution Of Instagram And Its Impact On Food Culture

It’s hard to remember a time before we habitually took photos of our food before eating it, arranging a scrumptious spread and holding your phone high above the table to get that perfect overhead shot in pre-COVID times for your Instagram Feed or documenting your from-scratch sourdough baking journey on Stories. 

The social media platform celebrates its 10-year anniversary today. I chatted with CJ Hernandez, partner solutions manager at Instagram, to discuss how the platform has changed in the last 10 years, how the pandemic has shifted food-focused content and the future of Instagram.

Hernandez explained that food has always been a popular interest area for the platform, and in the last 10 years the focus has shifted away from aesthetic photos of food (though those are still popular) to the people eating and making the food and the stories behind them. “Food is really OG Instagram,” Hernandez said. “When we think back to the early days of Instagram, food was one of the original popular interest areas on the platform. In those early days, all the food content was beautiful photos of food. Now we see people putting themselves and their personality at the forefront of this content.” 

This increased focus on personality is especially apparent and crucial for Instagram influencers who primarily focus on food content. “It gives their followers a chance to get to know them and create a deeper connection,” Hernandez said. “It’s also a way to differentiate their brand from all the other food accounts that are out there.”

The introduction of video on Instagram has given everyday users, professional content creators and brands an opportunity to further connect and engage

Softbank’s new food service robot Servi could replace waitstaff and food runners at restaurants



a woman sitting at a table with a plate of food: Softbank Servi. Reuters


© Reuters
Softbank Servi. Reuters

  • Japanese company Softbank debuted Servi, a new food service robot.
  • Softbank is the company behind humanoid robot Pepper and the owner of Boston Dynamics.
  • Servi has already worked at Denny’s and other restaurants amid Japan’s labor shortage.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Japanese tech giant Softbank is testing out a new food service robot in Japan, Reuters reported. Servi, the appropriately-named robot, has several tiers that can be used to deliver food to customers as an answer both to social distancing because of COVID-19 and Japan’s labor shortage.

Servi will act as a waiter, with the ability to carry food and drinks from the kitchen to tables. It will use 3D cameras and LIDAR technology to navigate around tables and customers, the same technology used by autonomous vehicles. It officially launches in Japan in January but has already been tested by some restaurants as a way to offer contactless service, including Denny’s.



a person sitting at a table: Softbank Servi. Reuters


© Reuters
Softbank Servi. Reuters

When Servi launches, companies can lease the robot for $950 per month over a three year period. It’s made by Bear Robotics in California, which also produced a Servi Mini for serving drinks. The full-size Servi has two trays and a bus tub, while the Servi Mini has one tray and one tub. Both can be controlled by an attached touchscreen or external tablet.



Softbank Servi. Reuters


© Reuters
Softbank Servi. Reuters

Earlier this year, Bear Robotics raised $32 million in a funding round led by Softbank. Softbank has a history of investing in robotics startups, like Boston Dynamics, the company behind the infamous dog-like robots that went on sale this summer.

Softbank’s most famous humanoid robot, Pepper, has also been used throughout the pandemic as a greeter and to ease loneliness among mild COVID-19 cases in Japan. Versions

Food and Drug Administration Renews and Expands Use of Certara’s Biosimulation Software for Reviewing Regulatory Submissions

FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Quality adds new licenses of Simcyp Simulator

Certara, a global leader in biosimulation, today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has again renewed and expanded its licenses of Certara’s biosimulation software, with more than 400 user licenses of Simcyp™ and Phoenix™ platforms. Eleven divisions and offices of the FDA use Certara’s software for internal research and to independently analyze, verify, and review regulatory submissions.

Certara’s Simcyp Simulator, an industry-leading platform for physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling and simulation, is used to determine first-in-human dose, design more efficient and effective clinical studies, and predict drug-drug interactions using virtual populations. The FDA’s Office of Clinical Pharmacology has renewed its licenses for the Simcyp Simulator, including Simcyp Pediatric and the Simcyp Cardiac Safety Simulator. Furthermore, the FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Quality recently ordered Simcyp user licenses, expanding the FDA’s use of the platform. The agency uses Simcyp software to independently analyze, verify, and review sponsor IND, BLA, NDA, ANDA, and other submissions.

“Regulators around the world rely on our sophisticated software to inform their reviews of regulatory submissions,” said Rob Aspbury, Ph.D., president of the Simcyp division at Certara. “It is a privilege to continue partnering with the FDA to demonstrate the ever-increasing uses of PBPK modeling to optimize drug development and support the regulatory review process in an effort to bring safe and efficacious therapies to market.”

Additionally, the FDA has renewed its user licenses of Certara’s Phoenix Platform, a comprehensive and widely-used software for pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and toxicokinetic modeling and simulation. Eleven divisions and offices at the FDA, along with ten other global regulatory agencies such as Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency and China’s National Medical Products Administration, use the Phoenix Platform to evaluate regulatory submissions.

Certara’s customers use Phoenix extensively