Jeff Bezos is betting on a self-driving startup run by former heads of Google, Tesla, and Uber's AV projects. And the startup is primed to become the next leader in the space, VCs say.
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After years of consolidation, many of the autonomous-vehicle industry's most highly regarded companies are either divisions of large firms or closely tied to one: Cruise with GM, Argo with Ford and VW, Zoox with Amazon, and so on. Aurora Innovation has been an exception to the trend, staying independent while developing an automated-driving system it hopes to one day sell to trucking and auto companies. But its lack of a deep-pocketed parent hasn't damaged its reputation, at least not among venture capitalists. Olaf Sakkers, a partner at the venture-capital firm Maniv Mobility, told Business Insider that Aurora has "an aura of legitimacy" that matches those of rivals backed by large corporations. When Business Insider asked Sakkers and six other VCs which autonomous-vehicle startups they believe have the most promise, Sakkers and three others picked Aurora. No other company received as many endorsements. The four VCs, none of whom works for a firm that has invested in Aurora, gave two main reasons why they believe Aurora is primed for success.SEE ALSO: Mercedes plans a new slew of EVs, including AMG performance cars and ultra-luxury Maybach models A founding team with an impressive resume
Aurora was founded in 2016 by Chris Urmson, Drew Bagnell, and Sterling Anderson, who had been leading members of Google, Uber, and Tesla's autonomous-driving programs, respectively. Sakkers called the trio "the dream team of autonomy." Mark Norman, a partner at Fraser McCombs Capital, said he has "deep respect" for them. Aurora's founding team has distinguished the company from its competitors by appearing to place a greater emphasis on computer simulations and other virtual-testing methods to hone its software and hardware. Though the company also tests its technology on the road, Urmson told Business Insider earlier this year that one mile driven in a virtual-testing system can have as much value as 1,000 miles driven in the real world. Strong fundraising skills
An autonomous-vehicle company needs loads of money to have any chance of delivering on its ambitions. Motional CEO Karl Iagnemma has said $1 billion is the entry price to be a credible player in the industry. With $766 million raised so far, Aurora hasn't quite reached that mark, but Ratliff praised the company's fundraising skills, which have attracted investments from some of the biggest names in the tech, automotive, and finance industries, including Amazon, Hyundai, and T. Rowe Price. "That looks to be one of the potential really big winners from a venture-investment standpoint," Ratliff said of Aurora. Are you a current or former Aurora employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at email@example.com, on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: VCs say Aurora and TuSimple are among the self-driving startups best poised to become the next Waymo As the hype around robotaxis fades, Waymo, Aurora, and TuSimple are leading the autonomous-vehicle charge into trucking and deliveries Amazon buying Aurora could be the next big move in the self-driving-car industry's wave of consolidation, an expert says REVEALED: How much Waymo, Cruise, and Zoox employees make, from engineers to managers
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