Mar 3, 2020 - Technology

Waymo raises $2.25 billion to fuel its self-driving tech plans

Waymo's self-driving lineup (Photo courtesy of Waymo)

Waymo said it has raised $2.25 billion in new funding — adding its first non-Alphabet investors — and said it will likely bring in other first-round investors as its self-driving technology moves closer to commercialization.

Why it matters: It's a strong signal that these investors believe Waymo — the self-driving tech startup from Google parent Alphabet — is leading the race to bring automated vehicles to market. But it's also a reminder that the technology is incredibly expensive, and eventually, parent company Alphabet expects Waymo to stand on its own.

Details: The round was led by private equity firm Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Mubadala Investment Company, a UAE sovereign wealth fund. Additional investors include Magna International, AutoNation, VC fund Andreessen Horowitz as well as Alphabet.

  • Waymo declined to share its post-money valuation.

Between the lines: In a call with reporters, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the strategic help from its new investors is just as important as their money.

  • Magna, a top auto industry supplier, is already a partner on manufacturing and engineering, helping to integrate Waymo's "driver" into Chrysler Pacifica minivans at a facility in Detroit. The two firms may now collaborate on new sensors, Krafcik said.
  • AutoNation, a large car dealership chain, services and maintains Waymo's fleet of 600 self-driving minivans in Phoenix.
  • Egon Durban, co-CEO of Silver Lake, will join Waymo's operating board, along with a representative of the Canadian pension fund.
  • “We’re deeply aligned with Waymo’s commitment to making our roads safer, and look forward to working together to help advance and scale the Waymo Driver in the U.S. and beyond," Durban said in a blog post.

The big picture: Seeking outside investment for Google's big bets like Waymo is not unexpected, according to Krafcik.

  • "This is really along the evolutionary path we had imagined, that the companies would move in the direction of more independence and autonomy...We're right on path with the Alphabet plan."
  • Alphabet's life-sciences unit, Verily, raised $1 billion from outside investors, led by Silver Lake, in 2019.

What's next: Waymo also let slip the commercial name for its new cargo delivery division — Waymo Via. It had planned to reveal the name at this week's Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland, which was cancelled due to coronavirus fears.

Go deeper

Ex-Uber engineer pleads guilty to trade secret theft from Google

Anthony Levandowski. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of a 2017 lawsuit between Waymo and Uber, has pleaded guilty to one federal charge — of 33 — of stealing trade secrets from Waymo, which could lead to a prison sentence, according to a court document.

Why it matters: The year-long legal dispute, which ended with a settlement between the companies, exposed Silicon Valley's ruthless competition in the quest to build future technologies and reap their financial rewards.

Go deeper: Ex-Uber autonomous driving exec owes Waymo $179 million, files for bankruptcy

Ex-Uber autonomous driving exec owes Waymo $179 million, files for bankruptcy

Former Uber executive Anthony Levandowski. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A San Francisco judge affirmed that Anthony Levandowski, the executive at the center of a 2017 lawsuit between Waymo and Uber over alleged trade secret theft, would have to pay the $179 million arbitration settlement over his departure from the Alphabet company, per Reuters.

Flashback: Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet, sued Uber three years ago, alleging Levandowski and the company conspired to steal its autonomous driving technology. After a year-long legal battle and a week of trial, the companies settled. Since then, Uber has admitted that a review of its tech concluded it would have to make significant changes or pay Waymo a licensing fee.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 5, 2020 - Technology

Jack Dorsey to remain as Twitter CEO after deal with Elliott Management and Silver Lake

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Twitter announced Monday that it struck a deal with investment firms Silver Lake and Elliott Management that will allow CEO Jack Dorsey to remain in his position.

Between the lines, via Axios' Dan Primack: With the agreement, activist investor Elliott may get what it wants in terms of a higher short-term share price, but it does nothing to satisfy its original complaint about Twitter needing a full-time CEO.