San Jose, Feb 12: The SoftBank Vision Fund made another of its outsized bets on Monday, pouring $940 million into self-driving delivery startup Nuro Inc. The investment shot the Mountain View company's valuation up by more than tenfold to $2.7 billion.
Since it was founded by former Waymo engineers Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu in 2016, Nuro has worked on developing electric vehicles for local deliveries instead of the robot taxi services and long-haul trucking that others believe will be the first big markets for autonomous driving technology.
It has about 200 employees and 100 contract workers on its workforce.
“We’ve spent the last two and a half years building an amazing team, launching our first unmanned service, working with incredible partners and creating technology to fundamentally improve our daily lives,” Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said in the funding announcement. “This partnership gives us the opportunity to take the next step in realizing our vision for local commerce and the broad application of our technology, Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.
Two of the startup's early retail customers are grocery giant Kroger Co. and its Fry's Food stores in Arizona. It has also licensed its self-driving technology to San Francisco-based autonomous trucking company Ike Robotics Inc., which last week raised $52 million in funding.
Nuro's squat delivery vehicles have no side windows or room for people inside. Its two side doors open to special compartments for groceries and other items. It also plans to have about 50 standard cars being tested on the roads in California, Texas and Arizona — with safety operators behind the wheel — by the end of this quarter.
“Nuro’s world-class team has successfully scaled their self-driving technology out of the lab and into the streets,” Michael Ronen, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in the funding announcement. SoftBank is also a big backer of Uber Technologies Inc. to General Motors Co.’s driverless unit, GM Cruise.
Nuro had previously raised about $92 million from investors who include Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners. (UNI)