Nuro acquires autonomous trucking startup Ike – TechCrunch

Autonomous distribution company Neuro has acquired a startup founded by giants of Ike, Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group aimed at commercializing self-driving trucks.

The deal, the latest in a busy season of acquisitions and consolidations in the autonomous vehicle industry, brings together two companies that have deep ties and shared technology. And while both followed different applications of autonomous vehicle technology – Nuro Their founders say there is a shared approach around logistics – with Ike on local delivery and long-distance freight.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Neuro is huge in this regard with a $ 5 billion valuation and over 600 employees. According to sources, Ike employs about 60 people, and had a post-run valuation of about $ 250 million as of last year. However, the founders of the companies have not described it as an acquisition-hire of the classic Silicon Valley. More than 55 Ike employees, as well as its three founders, would go on to Noor, according to Irk CEO Alden Woodrow, who co-founded the company with Jur van den Berg and Nancy Sun.

Woodrow said it was a clear opportunity to fulfill certain principles that we founded the company, which announced the acquisition on Wednesday Blog post on Medium.

Woodrow told TechCrunch that Ike still had the runway, meaning it had the capital needed to continue independently. Nevertheless, incorporating an autonomous vehicle company into a commercial venture requires a pool of capital that expands as well as a partnership of over $ 52 million. Ike signed agreements with DHL, Rider and NFI this fall to provide their technology to their respective fleets, but they were still in early stages.

“I think it’s just obvious how incredible Ike’s team is and the quality of the technology they’ve built,” said Dave Ferguson, co-founder and president of Nuro. “Is particularly compelling for Neuro, as Ike licensed Neuro’s Tech stack a few years ago, every technology they build is on top of that stack, a shared DNA. The technology they created, That is also something that we can transfer very easily and almost plug-in and play in our system. ”

Neuro is able to take advantage of the technology that Ike has built and pull for local distribution application as well as use it for potential future applications, Ferguson said.

Those future applications are an unanswered question. Patent filing from Neuro shows an array of ideas from piping hot pizzas and delivering lattes Small robot. With Ike’s team on board it is possible that Neuro has expanded beyond local delivery to other types of logistics applications such as mid-mile delivery, an area the startup Gatic AI has noted, or other trucking use cases. Ferguson was quick to note that Neuro’s local delivery bot called R2 is its first and primary product.

Although Neuro may seem like the best home for Ike, sources told TechCrunch that the startup of self-driving trucks had talked to at least one other autonomous vehicle company about the deal. Two sources said that this was not an advanced dialogue.

Founder story

The founders of the two companies have not liked to describe Echo as a spinout of Neuro. This may be technically correct, but their roots are interlinked.

Neuro was founded earlier in June 2016. Google Engineers Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. The startup was initially bootstrapped by Ferguson and Zhu, but by June 2017, the pair quickly raised a $ 92 million fund with investments from Greylock, Banyan, and NetEase founder Ding Lee (aka William Ding) from Neuro. Gave a seat on the board.

Meanwhile, both Van den Berg and Sun were working at Apple’s Special Projects group when they left to join Otto, an autonomous trucking startup that was acquired by Uber in 2016. Woodrow, who was the product lead for Google X’s Makani project, will also end. As of February 2017 at Uber ATG as group product manager of its own driving truck program.

By 2018, The last of the founders of Otto Uber had left and the program for self-driving trucks was in free fall. Sun, Woodrow and van den Berg left Uber until spring 2018. A few months later, Uber shut down its self-driving trucks unit to focus on autonomous cars.

The three initially worked out of Nuro’s office space, Which was too small to accommodate the delivery bot and growing team. Sun’s VW Tourist van served as a conference room during its early days. Sun, van den Berg and Woodrow collaborated closely for months with Noor’s team before Ike was officially inducted in July. California and Delaware trade records show. Company Name Ike Former President Dwight D. There is a sign for Eisenhower and America’s interstate system when he signed the Federal Assistance Highway Act.

The point of that initial collaboration was to find out what Neuro had built and how to apply it to a new use case in trucking. “It was an opportunity for us to move in our own direction and really focus on that while they continue to move on to local distribution,” Woodrow said in a recent interview.

Ike will license Neuro’s technology, specifically hardware design, autonomous software as well as data logging, maps, and simulation. In return, Neuro took a minority stake in Ike.

When Ike came out of stealth mode in October 2018, Neuro Characteristic of your relationship As a partnership with the new company, “where we gave Ike a copy of his autonomy and infrastructure software and in return, Neuro got an equity stake in Ike.”

Ike started small and took a sensible approach to the task ahead. As of February 2019, Ike employed about 30 people and ultimately used more than $ 52 million in capital under one seed and Series A funding. Bain Capital Ventures. Redpoint Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Basis Set Ventures and Neo also participated in the round. Ajay Aggarwal, partner of Bain Capital Ventures, has joined Ike’s board.

Unlike others pursuing autonomous trucks, Ike’s founders stated that they blog post At the time when they were not pushing to have the first self-driving truck on the road. According to several sources in the AV trucking world, Ike gained a positive reputation in the industry for its systems engineering approach, speed planning, and its simulation tools.

As Ike worked quietly, Neuro gained a high profile in February 2019 for a $ 940 million investment made by SoftBank Vision Fund. Nuro expanded its team with more than 600 employees and formed a partnership in 2018. Kroger Service A delivery service pilot In Arizona. The pilot, which initially used Toyota Prius vehicles, converted to its R1 delivery bot. Neuro has also partnered with companies such as CVS, Domino’s and Walmart. The company developed a second generation vehicle, known as R2, designed for local delivery service for restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses. The R2 received an exemption from the federal government earlier this year that allows it to operate as a driverless vehicle.

Investors were not done with Neuro. The COVID-19 epidemic delayed the plans of several Silicon Valley startups. But there have been bright spots, including local delivery capability. Neuro raised another $ 500 million in November $ 5 billion post-money valuation. The Series C round was led by Funds and Accounts. T. Advised by Rowe Price Associates, Inc., with participation from new investors including Fidelity Management and Research Company and Beilee Gifford. This round also includes existing investors such as SoftBank Vision Fund 1 and GrayLock.

What will happen next

The two companies will begin integrating with several Ike engineers taking more senior roles in Neuro. Woodrow will no longer be CEO and it is unclear what his new title will be. His job will likely focus on product development based on his previous experience.

Neuro has now ended its mission of commercializing trucks, with a focus on local delivery. This decision to turn to local distribution seems counter to public comments Ike’s founders have made on several occasions about their passion for trucks.

Sun said at the TC Sessions: Mobility event in October, “Everything we eat, touch, or keep in our homes is probably in a truck at some point in its life.” “You don’t really appreciate the impact it has on our daily lives, like trucking.”

But Woodrow said for him and his co-founders that it’s really about getting a product into the world and “fulfilling the promise of automation that many of us have in a group of different companies over many years work done.”

“Ultimately, what it had become, we think Neuro is in an incredibly unique and truly compelling position to deliver on that promise and to do so soon,” Woodrow said. “And so he was really the driver of deciding to take up his offer and proceed in this way.”