TuSimple, Supported by Sina, Nvidia, UPS and Tier 1 supplier Mando Corporation, the self-driving truck startup returns to the market in search of new capital from investors. The company has mandated investment bank Morgan Stanley to raise $ 250 million. This comes from several sources that are familiar with the effort.
Morgan Stanley Recently, potential investors received a TechCrunch information pack that gives an overview of the company and an overview of its business model, as well as an overview of why the company is on the road to success ̵
TuSimple declined to comment.
The search for new capital comes when TuSimple is in full swing in an increasingly crowded pool of potential rivals.
TuSimple is a unique animal in the niche category of self-driving trucks. It was founded in 2015 at a time when most of the attention and capital in the autonomous automotive industry was focused on passenger cars, and particularly on the robot axis.
Autonomous trucking was relatively dark until top-class engineers from Google Otto started, a self-driving truck startup that Uber quickly took over in August 2016. Startups Embark and the now defunct Starsky Robotics also started in 2016. In the meantime TuSimple scaled quietly. At the end of 2017, TuSimple raised $ 55 million to extend testing to two full truck fleets in China and the United States. By 2018, TuSimple began testing on public roads, starting with a 120-mile freeway between Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona and another segment in Shanghai.
Others have emerged in the past two years, including Ike and Kodiak Robotics. Even Waymo tracks self-driving trucks. Waymo has been talking about trucks since at least 2017, but the self-driving truck division has significantly expanded operations since April 2019, when more than a dozen engineers and the former CEO of failed consumer robotics startup Anki Robotics have expanded operations. More recently, Aurora has gotten into trucks with Amazon’s support.
TuSimple stands out for several reasons. The company has raised $ 298 million worth more than $ 1 billion and has achieved unicorn status. It has a large workforce and well-known partners like UPS. It also has R&D centers and test facilities in China and the United States. TuSimple research and development takes place in Beijing and San Diego. It has test centers in Shanghai and Tucson, Arizona.
Connections to and activities in China can be seen as an advantage or potential risk due to current tensions with the United States. Some of TuSimple’s earliest investors come from China, as did the founding team. Sina, operator of China’s largest microblogging site, Weibo, is one of TuSimple’s earliest investors. Composite Capital, a Hong Kong-based investment company and former investor, is also an investor.
In recent years, the company has been working to diversify its investor base and involve established North American players. UPS, a customer, acquired a minority stake in TuSimple in 2019. The company announced that it was adding approximately $ 120 million to a Series D financing round led by Sina. The round included new participants such as CDH Investments, Lavender Capital and Tier 1 supplier Mando Corporation.
TuSimple has further expanded its activities. Starting in March 2020, the company made around 20 autonomous trips between Arizona and Texas each week with a fleet of more than 40 autonomous trucks. All trucks have a safety officer at the wheel.