What a difference a pandemic makes. MOTO Pizza, an innovative Seattle pizza brand founded by a former hostel owner during the midst of COVID-19’s wrath, has landed a $1.85 million investment that owner Lee Kindell will use to continue to expand and push the envelope of what’s possible in the pizza industry.

The news was first announced by The Spoon Tuesday, which spoke with Kindell about the new investment. Kindell didn’t specify the source of the money, but he said it was “strategic, private ‘non-venture capital’ funding.” He clarified that MOTO Pizza has received interest from multiple venture-capital firms, but that wasn’t something he was ready to accept at this time.

“We felt like it was too early for us to raise through VC,” said Kindell. “We wanted to take advantage of the demand and attention for MOTO and use it to grow, while implementing the new technology into our growth. I think we will have the model we’ve been working hard towards next year, and then we can put together a big raise. We’ve already captured some attention with some VC, and that’s pretty exciting.”

Related: Surging Pizzeria Adds Location Equipped With Robot

The new technology Kindell references includes drone delivery starting in 2024 via a partnership with Zipline. The pizza brand will also trial a salad-bowl robot created by Vancouver-based Cibotica. The pizzeria’s relationship with technology is nothing new, either, as MOTO opened a location in 2023 equipped with the Picnic Pizza Station robot, an automated pizza oven that can cook 130 pizzas in an hour.

MOTO, which claims four locations in the Seattle area, is famous for selling out pizza months ahead of time. The big announcement published by The Spoon included where the brand will expand next: in Indian Wells, California, at the city’s Indian Wells Tennis Garden. This is the brand’s second sports stadium location—there’s a MOTO Pizza location at the Seattle Mariners’ T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field).

A clam chowder pizza by MOTO Pizza in Seattle.

The first MOTO Pizza opened in West Seattle in 2021 when Kindell and his partner, Nancy Gambin—then hostel owners—needed a pandemic-born pivot. Kindell created a unique menu inspired by his Filipino heritage, combined with his fascination for different styles of pizza. He considers MOTO’s pies a “delightfully odd mix of Detroit, New York, Roman and Filipino goodness.”

The brand has taken off in dizzying fashion. To keep up with demand for his pies, Kindell rolled out ordering time slots that could be reserved months in advance. Those slots still often sell out within minutes, inviting the need for the technology innovations and store expansion Kindell will seek to achieve with the capital infusion.

“My end game is a successful autonomous pizza operation,” Kindell told The Spoon, “and I can’t wait for it!”

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