Nuro, a developer of autonomous delivery technology, has acquired Ike, a startup founded by veterans of Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group that is working to develop and deploy autonomous trucks.
The deal brings together two companies that have deep ties and shared technology, a Nuro spokesman said. And while the two pursued different applications of autonomous vehicle technology — Nuro with local delivery and Ike on long-haul freight — their founders say there is a shared vision around logistics.
According to the company, Nuro currently has a $5 billion valuation and more than 600 employees. Ike employs about 60 people, and as of last year had a post-money valuation of around $250 million, according to sources. Nuro said approximately 55 Ike employees, as well as its three founders, will go over to Nuro, according to Alden Woodrow, Ike’s CEO, who co-founded the company with Jur van den Berg and Nancy Sun.
In a separate interview on the acquisition, Woodrow told TechCrunch that Ike still has “runway," meaning it has the capital needed to continue independently. Still, scaling an autonomous vehicle company into a commercial enterprise requires a pool of capital that extends beyond $52 million, as well as partnerships.
Ike reached agreements this fall with DHL, Ryder and NFI to provide its technology to their respective fleets, but those are still in the early stages of being developed.
“I think it’s pretty clear just how incredible Ike’s team is and the quality of the tech that they built,” Dave Ferguson, Nuro’s co-founder and president, told TechCrunch. “What is particularly compelling for Nuro is because Ike licensed Nuro’s tech stack a couple years ago, all of the tech that they’ve built is on top of that stack, there’s a shared DNA. The tech that they built is also something that we can very readily transfer over and almost plug and play into our system.”
The two companies have worked together on various autonomous vehicle technologies since 2008. In a blog on its website, Ike noted that the two companies, “…already have a lot in common — shared values, complementary expertise, and technology with the same DNA. Joining forces with Nuro will allow us to move faster on an ambitious mission to make people’s lives better with automated vehicles. We have already begun to work on integration of teams and technology, and we can’t wait for what’s to come in 2021.”
In a blog announcing the acquisition on the Nuro homepage, Ferguson elaborated on the deal, adding, “Having Ike join us in accelerating our progress is a truly special moment that feels a bit like a homecoming. When Ike first started, they did so inside our office. We shared a common space and a common goal, with lots of excitement and too few conference rooms.
"Ever since then, we have watched as Ike developed not just one of the most rigorous safety-first and systems-based approaches to self-driving development, but also a team that is widely regarded as one of the brightest in our field. The combination of the two, along with the ability to readily integrate some of their core technology (like their world-class virtual simulation tool), is what made the opportunity to have them join us a natural fit.”
Ferguson also noted that Nuro will be able to leverage the technology that Ike built and pull that in to its own local delivery application as well as use it for potential future applications. This could, conceivably, include deliveries for items as small as pizzas or prescriptions in urban settings, up to Class 8 semis with 53-foot trailers loaded full of cargo.
The financial terms of the acquistion were not disclosed.