Amazon in talks to acquire Aussie-founded self-driving-car startup Zoox


Aussie-founded self-driving-car startup Zoox is reportedly in acquisition talks with Amazon, in a deal that will have ramifications for its Aussie investors.

The talks, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would reportedly see Zoox valued at less than the US$3.2 billion ($4.3 billion) valuation it reached in 2018, when it raised $675 million.

It’s not clear what the sale valuation would be, but Forbes is throwing around a figure of US$1.1 billion ($1.7 billion) — an exit that would likely hurt investors.

The startup also raised $200 million in October last year, although a new valuation wasn’t publicly revealed at the time.

Zoox initially revealed plans to sell up earlier this month, after it struggled to secure additional capital in the challenging COVID-19 environment. It’s reportedly had to lay off 100 staff members — about 10% of its workforce — and cut 120 contractors.

Founded by Aussie Tim Kentley-Klay and American Jesse Levinson back in 2012, Zoox initially operated in stealth mode, flying somewhat under the radar in the Silicon Valley autonomous vehicle scene until July 2018, when it burst into the public eye with its $675 million Series B.

That round was led by Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, who committed $100 million to the business — five times more than any previous investment he had made.

It also included investment from Aussie VC firm Blackbird Ventures.

At that time, Cannon-Brookes joined the board of the startup, and took to Twitter, calling Zoox “the most ambitious company I’ve ever met”.

Less than a month later, however, Kentley-Klay announced he had been unceremoniously ousted from the business.

“This morning — without a warning, cause or right of reply — the board fired me,” he said in a tweet.

“Today was Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks,” he added.

“This town sells the story that it backs founders to create real change,” the tweet continued.

“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.”

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