Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup founded by two former Google engineers, has raised $500 million, suggesting that investors still have an appetite for long-term pursuits such as robotics and automated vehicle technology. Nuro now has a post-money valuation of $5 billion.
The Series C round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., with participation from new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company and Baillie Gifford. The round also includes existing investors such as SoftBank Vision Fund 1 and Greylock.
Nuro was founded in June 2016 by former Google engineers Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. While the startup was initially bootstrapped by Ferguson and Zhu, it has never struggled to attract investors. Nuro completed its first Series A funding round in China in 2016, a deal that gave NetEase founder Ding Lei (aka William Ding) a seat on Nuro’s board. A second, U.S.-based round in June 2017 raised Nuro’s total Series A funding to $92 million. But it was the monster $940 million investment made by the SoftBank Vision Fund in February 2019 that catapulted Nuro ahead of numerous other startups attempting to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology. Nuro had a $2.7 billion valuation following the Softbank investment, meaning its value doubled in about 18 months. That money has helped it grow to more than 650 employees.
Unlike many other startups in the AV industry, Nuro has focused its effort designing a low-speed electric self-driving vehicle that transports packages, not people. Some of Nuro’s first tests and pilots were with Toyota Prius vehicles equipped with its self-driving system. Nuro partnered in 2018 with with Kroger to pilot a delivery service in Arizona. The pilot, which initially used Toyota Prius vehicles, transitioned to its R1 delivery bot. Nuro has also partnered with companies like CVS, Domino’s and Walmart.
The company has since developed a second generation vehicle, known as the R2. This delivery bot, which is designed for local delivery service for restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses, received an exemption from the federal government earlier this year that allows it to operate as a driverless vehicle.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented shift in consumer demand for safe and affordable local delivery services,” said Zhu, CEO and co-founder of Nuro said in a statement. “This funding, which brings us together with many of the world’s top investors, positions Nuro confidently toward a future where our world-class technology is adopted into people’s everyday lives.”
The company, which is testing and operating R2 on public roads in Arizona, California and Texas, told TechCrunch that the new funding will allow it to “confidently grow for years to come, with multi-year runway to build in multiple cities and scale across multiple markets.” Nuro’s near-term focus is on scaling its service in Houston and implementing R2 into commercial service.