The CEO of Zoox has left in a management shake-up at the the high-profile, well-funded, and idiosyncratic self-driving car startup.
Zoox has already started searching for a replacement for Tim Kentley-Klay, who cofounded the Silicon Valley-based company, a source close to Zoox told Business Insider. In the meantime, it has named board member Carl Bass as its executive chairman and cofounder Jesse Levinson as its president, the source said. Bass is the former CEO of Autodesk.
Kentley-Klay confirmed his ouster in a statement posted on his Twitter account. Zoox's board fired him "without a warning, cause or right of reply," he said in the statement.
"Today was Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks," he said. "Rather than working through the issues in an epic startup for the win," he continued, "the board chose a path of fear, optimizing for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress for the universe."
Along with his statement, Kentley-Klay posted a pair of charts comparing Zoox to its chief rivals — Google spinoff Waymo, Uber, and GM-owned Cruise. The charts essentially assert that Zoox has made more progress with its technology for less money than its rivals.
"I came to this town as a founder only to build the future of mobility, and by the metrics shared here was crushing it against the biggest," Kentley-Klay said in his statement.
Bloomberg and the Information previously reported Kentley-Klay's departure. He was voted out by the company's board, Bloomberg reported, citing its own unnamed source. Neither Bloomberg's source nor Business Insider's offered an explanation for the move.
Zoox has raised nearly $800 million in funding
Zoox has raised some $790 million in funding to develop an autonomous vehicle. Most recently, it took in $500 million of funding at a valuation of $3.2 billion.
In contrast to other companies in the nascent industry, Zoox is working on multiple aspects of self-driving cars, from the software, to the vehicles themselves, to building its own autonomous taxi service. Meanwhile, unlike other companies in the space, Zoox is building cars that are designed to be bidirectional — either end of its cars can serve as the front or the rear.
A native of Australia, Kentley-Klay had no background automobile engineering or artificial intelligence before starting Zoox, according to a recent Bloomberg profile. Instead, he had worked in online advertising.
He became interested in self-driving cars in 2012 after reading a blog post about Google's autonomous vehicle effort, according to the Bloomberg profile. He eventually moved to the US and befriended Anthony Levandowski, then one of the lead engineers on Google's self-driving car project and later the notorious Uber engineer who allegedly stole secrets from Google and passed them on to the app-based taxi company. Levandowski introduced him to Levinson, who at the time was a graduate student at Stanford researching autonomous car technology.
Levinson and Kentley-Klay founded Zoox in 2014.