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Zume co-founder joins Cleo Capital while tackling climate change

Miso Robotics's Dave Zito (L) and Zume Pizza's Julia Collins (R). Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Julia Collins, who co-founded and co-led Zume Pizza, has a new job: entrepreneur-in-residence at Cleo Capital, an early-stage VC scout fund that relies entirely on female entrepreneurs.

Why it matters: Collins is one of the incredibly few black women to start a "unicorn" startup, but she stepped away from Zume a year ago to tackle climate change with a new company, Planet FWD (which Cleo is backing).

The intrigue: "My ambition is to help reverse climate change by making it easier to bring carbon neutral products to market," Collins tells Axios of her new company. "And as a new mom, I became obsessed with being able to tell my kid 'I did everything I could to fix this.'”

  • Planet FWD's focus is regenerative agriculture — a set of practices that offset carbon emissions — and will launch a snacks line next year to prove out consumer demand for a "healthy delicious snack that’s also good for the planet."
  • Collins says that when she began developing her snacks company she realized there is a lack of tools and resources for entrepreneurs who want to bring carbon-neutral products to market, so she decided build those, too.
  • That was a big lesson she took from her prior company: "One thing from the Zume playbook is, if you’re going to build a platform, start first with designing tools that are going to be useful to real customers" — pizza making in that case.

On her departure from Zume a year ago, (just after the company raised $375 million from Softbank), Collins says: "It was bittersweet ... But I think the fairest and most honest thing to say is that we don’t have 100 years to reverse climate change." (She declined to comment further on the company.)

On getting more women and people of color in tech: "It is too early to pat ourselves on the back for anything that any of us have done from the standpoint of equity," despite small wins in recent years.

Go deeper: Tech fund plans to invest $300 million in emission solutions