Softbank Invests $1B into Startup Nuro While Uber and Lyft Get IPO Feedback from the SEC

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by Teuta Franjkovic · 4 min read
Softbank Invests $1B into Startup Nuro While Uber and Lyft Get IPO Feedback from the SEC
Photo: jun560 / Flickr

Autonomous technology startup Nuro said on Monday it raised $940 million from SoftBank Group Corp, which valued the Silicon Valley-based company at $2.7 billion.

Nuro was co-founded in 2016 by two former engineers of Google’s self-driving car project, Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. The funding by SoftBank came through its $100-billion Vision Fund, which usually picks up big stakes in fast-growing technology companies.

Last year, Nuro launched a self-driving delivery vehicle to run errands from picking up groceries to delivering dinner, and partnered with U.S. supermarket chain Kroger co to extend its services.

The firm, which largely operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, said it will use the funds to expand its delivery service to new areas, add new partners, expand its fleet and grow its team.

Nuro has raised more than $1 billion from investors, including Greylock Partners and Gaorong Capital, which had participated in its Series A funding round.

The question here is: Why Uber’s largest investor just plowed almost $1 billion into autonomous vehicle startup Nuro?

Because, if we look at the things as they are, the Nuro seems to be a head turner. It’s about half as wide as a compact sedan and shorter than most compact cars. It doesn’t have windows, and there are no seats.

Inside are compartments for groceries, and it’s controlled by Nuro’s software — not a human driver. The vehicle navigates the roads using the company’s software along with sensors and lasers. Shoppers call up orders through the firm’s smartphone app, and a robot delivers them. When the Nuro vehicle arrives, shoppers verify their identities by using a password to retrieve their items.

Nuro co-founder, Dave Ferguson said in a statement:

“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. 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.”

On the other hand, Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. have received initial feedback from the Securities and Exchange Commission about their confidential IPO filings, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Bear in mind that, the move by the regulator, which was shuttered for 35 days during the partial U.S. government shutdown, puts the ball back in the companies’ court to submit new drafts for review, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the back-and-forth is private.

Both Uber and Lyft are closely watching whether another shutdown will go ahead at the end of this week as they prepare for initial public offerings later this year, the people said. The two ride-hailing companies filed confidentially with the regulator in December.

Barring another shutdown, Lyft continues to target a March or April listing, a person familiar with the matter said. Bloomberg has previously reported that the company was considering that timing. Representatives for Uber, Lyft and the SEC declined to comment.

People familiar with the ride-hailing company’s plans said:

“Expectations are high for technology and gig-economy companies to enter the public markets this year. In addition to Uber and Lyft, Pinterest Inc., Slack Technologies Inc. and meal-delivery app Postmates Inc. add to a deep roster of candidates expected to go public by the end of 2019. Uber is the largest of the group and could command a valuation of as much as $120 billion.”

Those plans could be affected if a further shutdown can’t be averted, said Elliot Lutzker, a former SEC lawyer at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. “Certainly another shutdown will create a backlog of paperwork,” Lutzker said. “In anticipation of a potential shutdown, I think we can expect to see more confidential filings this week.”

Be it as it may, while there is still a lot of uncertainty swirling around self-driving cars, particularly around safety and real-world applications, the companies that are developing the technology are continuing to rake in cash at a brisk pace. Last week, another startup founded by ex-Google engineers, Aurora Innovation, announced it had raised close to a half-billion dollars from a number of investors, including Amazon.

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