Voyage, our self-driving car portfolio company, has announced their $31 million Series B funding round, here. We’re proud to continue backing Oliver Cameron and his team alongside existing investors and welcome new investors Franklin Templeton and Chevron Technology Ventures to the journey!
Sam Clifton explores why we invested in Voyage and why we continue to believe in the company’s vision for an autonomous future.
Our team was first made aware of Voyage when they raised their seed round from Khosla, CRV and Initialized in April 2017. At the time, they had just spun out of Udacity and its self-driving car course, which had been set up by ‘the father of the self-driving car’ Sebastian Thrun. The course was run by a British engineer and entrepreneur, Oliver Cameron, who founded and became CEO of Voyage.
We had been tracking the autonomous vehicle space for some time, looking for a company we believed could make an impact in an industry that had already seen a huge amount of investment and acquisition activity. In Voyage, we saw a company that had a running start at developing an autonomous vehicle with the knowledge gained from delivering the Udacity programme as well as access to a network of talented engineers that had taken the course.
Fast forward to January 2018, when we announced our investment in the Voyage Series A alongside lead investor Khosla Ventures, which took them to a total of $20 million in funding.
By this time, we had seen the company grow from 3 to 17 people, begin to build a technology stack featuring emerging players and start operating an autonomous taxi service in a Californian retirement community.
We were investing in a differentiated vision for how an autonomous vehicle fleet could be built and operated:
- Instead of building all the technology in-house like Waymo, Voyage were partnering with an emerging supply chain of autonomous technology companies, freeing themselves of non-core technology development and allowing them to focus solely on solving the most difficult problems.
- Instead of going after the ‘holy grail’ of city autonomy, Voyage were focusing on private communities, where they could simplify the technology problem by operating in an area with lower speeds, minimal traffic and well-maintained road infrastructure, thus expediting their path to true autonomy.
- Instead of developing technology behind closed doors, Voyage were operating an autonomous taxi service with real-world customers, understanding their needs and iterating accordingly.
Through these strategies, we believed Voyage could reduce the time to deliver Level 4 autonomy and start on a path to becoming both a leading and a highly differentiated autonomous player.
As Voyage now announce their $31 million Series B funding round led by Franklin Templeton with significant participation from Chevron Technology Ventures, Khosla and InMotion, we have an opportunity to look back and reflect on the last 18 months.
Voyage now have driverless vehicles, that is without a test driver, operating in retirement communities in California and Florida, travelling point to point at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. Through their partnership with Enterprise and The Villages, they have been able to grow the fleet to service an increasing number of passionate retiree customers, many of whom previously didn’t have access to transportation options that worked for them.
Whilst benefitting from their retirement community proving ground in the early days, Voyage remains committed to serving these private communities where they believe autonomy is needed the most as well as representing an exciting commercial opportunity. The market for these private communities is not insignificant, with retirement communities, residential military bases and vacation campuses having an addressable market in excess of $30 billion. We believe this market analysis validates an early hypothesis that there is a huge business to be built in Level 4 or geo-constrained autonomous services.
One area in which Voyage have made exciting progress is in the formation of a world-class management team. In the past year, they have added Drew Gray as CTO. Drew brings over 7 years of autonomous vehicle experience, most recently as Director of Engineering at Uber’s Advanced Technology Group. They have also added Davide Bacchet as Director of Autonomy. Davide brings a huge amount of experience in the simulation space, most recently as a Director at NIO. In addition to this management team, Voyage have built a fantastic group of talented engineers, tripling their team size since the last investment.
In the past 18 months, Voyage has grown into a valued partner for InMotion Ventures and Jaguar Land Rover, with ongoing knowledge sharing between their team and ours, and with deeper collaborations on the way, we look forward to building on this relationship.
Voyage will be using the capital raised in this round to ready their self-driving technology for commercialisation, grow their team of self-driving experts, expand their fleet of G2 self-driving cars in California and Florida, and introduce their G3 self-driving car.
We continue to believe Voyage is well placed to build, partner and operate their way to being a world-leader in autonomous ride-hailing services and are excited to continue to support them on this journey!