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SoftBank Invests $940M in an Autonomous Delivery Startup

By NexChange
FinTech, AI, Financial Services

Okay, so maybe SoftBank’s massive Vision Fund isn’t actually low on cash after all.

SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son – who has never been shy about making big, splashy bets – has just made another one: SoftBank is investing a staggering $940 million through its Vision Fund in Nuro, a robotic-delivery startup, as the Wall Street Journal reported and Nuro confirmed on Twitter. The startup, which was founded in 2016, is now valued at $2.7 billion – having also raised money from Gaorong Capital and Greylock Partners.

Per the Journal:

The Mountain View, Calif., startup has plotted a different path in the development of driverless vehicles from its competitors, focused on creating its own electric vehicles specially made for in-town deliveries, rather than robot taxis or long-haul trucking.

Nuro’s vehicle is about half as wide as a compact sedan and shorter than most compact cars. The boxy vehicle has no side windows or room inside for people; instead, the four side doors open to reveal special compartments for groceries and other items. The vehicle navigates the roads using Nuro’s software along with sensors and lasers.

Nuro has thus far built six of its self-driving vehicles.

“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,” Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a statement. “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.”

The company partnered last year with Kroger – the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. – to create a delivery service with self-driving vehicles. The service, launched last August, has now completed about 1,000 deliveries, according to Ferguson.

The funding for Nuro comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Amazon had joined Sequoia Capital in a $530-million Series B round for Aurora, “the buzzy startup founded by early pioneers of self-driving car technology,” as TechCrunch notes.

As for SoftBank, the Journal reported last week that the company had already burned through half of its $100-billion Vision Fund, which was launched in 2016 to invest in the global tech sector. The Vision Fund is spending roughly $7 billion per quarter, according to Journal, which means that if it maintains this “furious pace” the available capital “will last only another year and a half—likely less, when taking into account amounts set aside for paying fund employees as well as investments that may get transferred to the fund from SoftBank’s books.”

Masayoshi Son is clearly not concerned with running out of money.

Photo: Nuro Inc.

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