Gatik, a Silicon Valley startup that’s developing an autonomous fixed-route robotic delivery service, secured its biggest cash infusion to date with an $85 million round led by Koch Industries’ investment arm that will help it expand operations, add staff and build up its truck fleet.
The Palo Alto, California-based company, which already generates revenue hauling consumer goods and groceries in robotic trucks for Walmart in Arkansas and Louisiana and in Toronto for Canada’s Loblaw supermarkets, said it’s also expanding delivery services for companies in Texas. The plan includes operating autonomous 20- and 26-foot box trucks out of facilities it’s setting up near the Fort Worth airport as part of the state’s “Mobility Innovation Zone.”
With the Series B round Gatik has raised $114.50 million since its founding in 2017 and the new financing “positions us to scale nicely from here,” says cofounder and CEO Gautam Narang. “The way we look at the business, the technology, the companies we work with, we have all the key components in place.”
Trucking and delivery services have been the fastest-developing area of the autonomous driving industry over the past two years as the application is viewed as somewhat easier than robotaxi services and likely to generate more revenue in the next few years. Unlike competitors such as TuSimple, which focuses on developing robotic semis for long-haul highway trucking or startup Nuro’s small, street-legal grocery and food delivery robots, Gatik’s focus is hauling goods for businesses on repetitive, fixed routes, with little variation. (Waymo, which is developing robotic big rigs as well as robotaxis, is also testing so-called middle mile deliveries to commercial customers in suburban Phoenix.)
The funding round gives the closely held company “a runway of at least two and a half, three years,” Narang said. The company has been approached by potential partners about going public via a SPAC merger, but there are no immediate plans to do so, he said without elaborating. The fact that Gatik’s revenue from delivery services is rising also reduces the pressure to list its shares or pursue an even bigger funding round.
“We have meaningful revenue coming in. Last year we did revenue in the millions, and this year, we are projecting to increase that by 400% year over year,” he said, without elaborating.
Koch’s investment arm, Koch Disruptive Technologies, led the funding round that included existing investors Innovation Endeavours, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC and Intact Ventures, among other participants.
“Gatik’s transformational autonomous technology and world-class team are defining the standard in B2B short-haul logistics by addressing the most prominent issues facing today’s supply chain,” Chase Koch, president of Koch Disruptive Technologies, said in a statement. “We believe Gatik will be the first to commercialize autonomous technology at scale for the North American medium-duty trucking market.”
Gatik is working with truckmaker Isuzu to launch a line of commercial autonomous delivery vehicles by 2023, and intends to expand its current 20-vehicle fleet to about 100 units by year’s end, says Narang. The company has made significant technological progress in the past year, to the point where it’s now operating some trucks in Arkansas in fully driverless mode, with no human behind the wheel as a backup.
“These are not one-off demos or one-time runs. We are doing these runs repeatedly on public roads,” Narang says. “On the technology front we are at a point where we have validated the technology in one market and now the focus is to scale from here.”
(Gatik was also named to Forbes’ AI 50 2021: America’s Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies)