Amazon-backed Aurora has bucked the self-driving consolidation trend, but VCs say its fundraising skills and executive ‘dream team’ make it one of the hottest names in the industry

Aurora Innovation truck

Summary List Placement

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.

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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.

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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, on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address

Read more:
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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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