Startup News & Analysis

“Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks”: Aussie founder of $4.3 billion self-driving car startup Zoox “fired”

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Australian founder of secretive self-driving car startup Zoox has confirmed that he is no longer involved in the business.

In a tweet this morning, Tim Kentley-Klay confirmed reports of his departure.

“This morning – without a warning, cause or right of reply – the board fired me.

“Today was Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks,” the message said.

Kentley-Klay’s message paints a bleak picture of the US startup capital, saying “this town sells the story that it backs founders to create real change”.

“Rather than working through the issues in an epic startup for the win, the board chose a path of fear, optimizing for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress for the universe.”

The news follows Zoox’s massive $US500 million ($677 million) Series B raise just last month, led by Atlassian co-founder and fellow Aussie Mike Cannon Brookes, who also joined the board at the time.

The round also included Australian VC firm Blackbird Ventures, which was also an early-stage investor.

At the time, Cannon-Brookes took to Twitter to share the news, calling Zoox “the most ambitious company I’ve ever met”.

At the time of publishing, he had not made a public comment of Kentley Klay’s departure.

Blackbird Ventures founder Niki Scevak declined to comment. StartupSmart contacted Kentley-Klay but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Last month’s funding round valued the company at $US3.2 billion ($4.3 billion) and to date, the company has raised over $966 million, even though it doesn’t yet have a product.

“To raise that amount of capital in a company that is pre-revenue, pre-product, pre-customer is pretty unprecedented,” Kentley-Klay told Forbes at the time.

“It speaks to the quality of the theme and the vision we have here and what we’ve been able to achieve.”

Founded in 2012 by Kentley Klay and American Jesse Levinson, California-based Zoox effectively operated in stealth mode until the raise last month. Bloomberg reports that Levinson has been promoted to president of the company and former Autodesk chief executive Carl Bass promoted to executive chairman.

In 2016, it closed a $US50 million capital raise, and hit a valuation of $US1.55 billion ($2.01 billion), however this was not confirmed at the time.

NOW READ: Can you keep a secret? Lessons for startups operating in stealth-mode

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is a reporter at StartupSmart.

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