Top tech startup news for Monday, February 13, 2023: Amazon, Paxos, RedKubes, Twilio, Zeekr, and Zoox
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Monday, February 13, 2023.
Amazon’s Zoox is now testing its self-driving robotaxis on public roads in California with passengers on board
Amazon-owned autonomous vehicle startup Zoox is now testing its self-driving robotaxis on public roads in California with passengers on board. Zooz said on Monday its employees are test-riding its driverless robotaxis on public roads in California, The company said in a statement on its website.
Zoox said: “Over the weekend, we hit the road! Our robotaxi’s first voyage on open public roads. Our employees’ first taste of their new autonomous shuttle service, with dozens of team members enjoying the experience. For the first time in history a purpose-built robotaxi—without any manual controls—drove autonomously with passengers. No steering wheel. No pedals. An experience built for riders, not drivers.”
The Zoox autonomous vehicles have no steering wheel or pedals, and they have bidirectional driving capabilities and four-wheel steering, enabling them to change directions without the need to reverse.
“Getting to be the world’s first passenger in a robotaxi with no manual controls on open public roads, along with Aicha this past Saturday, was one of the highlights of my life. But what made me happiest was seeing the beaming smiles on our team members when they completed their rides. I can’t wait for everyone to experience that magic,” Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson said.
Levinson added that the company began the tests after it received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles last week. However, the permit is not for all public roads in the state. The tests are currently limited to shuttling Zoox employees on a one-mile public route between two office buildings at the company’s headquarters in Foster City, California, at speeds up to 35 miles an hour.
As we reported back in 2020, Amazon acquired Zoox for over $1.2 billion. With this acquisition, Amazon joined a list of big tech companies like Tesla and Google that have established substantial in-house autonomous-vehicle efforts. Founded in 2014 by Tim Kentley-Klay and Dr. Jesse Levinson, Zoox is a California-based robotics startup that creates autonomous mobility.
RedKubes raises $1.2M in seed funding extension for its self-hosted SaaS for Kubernetes; announces new CEO Rouven Besters
Kubernetes, an open-source container orchestration system for automating software deployment, has quickly become the de facto tool to run cloud-native applications less than a decade after it was first introduced by Google in 2014.
However, Kubernetes have a reputation for being complex and costly. That’s why the team at dutch startup RedKubes created Otomi, a platform aimed to address this issue by providing a developer self-service catalog for production workloads, integrating key components and services required for a cloud-native application platform.
To further grow its platform, RedKubes announced today it has raised $1.2 million in seed extension funding, which will be channeled into accelerating sales and marketing efforts and further development and evolution of the platform.
In conjunction with the funding, RedKubes also announced the appointment of Rouven Besters as the company’s new as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Prior to joining RedKubes, Rouven Besters served as director of VMware Tanzu/Pivotal where he most recently led the Northern Europe GTM team for the modern apps business unit from VMware. Since 2015, he has been building and growing cloud-based businesses and has been a leader in modern application development and cloud-native platform companies.
Before joining Pivotal, Besters supported companies in adopting private cloud technologies with some of the largest companies in the region and has led GTM strategies and teams for startups and high-growth companies.
Founded in 2019, RedKubes is now gearing up for its next phase of growth. Having come from the Cloud-native domain, Besters brings the right experience and vision to lead the company forward.
Cryptocurrency startup Paxos has been ordered by New York state regulators to stop issuing new Binance USD tokens, or BUSD, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said on Twitter.
In a consumer alert issued on Monday, The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) said it issued the order “as a result of several unresolved issues related to Paxos’ oversight of its relationship with Binance.” NYDFS also added: “The Department has not authorized Binance-Peg BUSD on any blockchain, and Binance-Peg BUSD is not issued by Paxos.”
Responding to the order, Paxos said in a statement: “Effective February 21, Paxos will cease issuance of new BUSD tokens as directed by and working in close coordination with the New York Department of Financial Services,” adding that it would “end its relationship with Binance for the branded stablecoin BUSD.”
Paxos’ also added: “This action does not impact our ability to continue serving new or existing customers, our continued dedication to grow our staff or fund our business objectives,”
Meanwhile, in a post on Twitter, Zhao said: “We were informed by Paxos they have been directed to cease minting new BUSD by the New York Department of Financial Services.”
Zeekr, a Geely’s EV spinoff, raises $750M in funding at a $13 billion valuation to fuel global expansion
Zeekr, a high-end electric-vehicle brand founded by Geely, has raised a massive $750 million in new funding from new and existing investors that brings the two-year-old EV startup valuation to $13 billion. Backers for this round include Amnon Shashua, CEO and founder of autonomous driving technology company Mobileye Global, and the Guangzhou city municipal government’s investment arm Yuexiu Industrial Fund, both new investors in the company.
Additional backers include existing investor Chinese battery maker CATL. Zeekr will use the fresh capital infusion to support technology research and accelerate its global expansion, the company said in a statement on Monday.
Zeekr, which currently has two full electric car models, released its first electric car, Zeekr 001, in China in October 2021. The company said it plans to release Zeekr 001 in Europe in 2023.
Zeekr is just one of the many brands owned by the Geely Group. In addition, the Geely group also owns other brands such as Polestar, Volvo Car, Lynk & CO, Lotus, London Electric Vehicle Company, and Geometry. Geely also owns Lotus Technology, a tech startup that spun out of British sports car maker Lotus. We covered Lotus last year after raising new funding at a $4.5 billion valuation.
In addition to Zeekr, Geely recently unveiled a new electric semi-truck called the Homtruck as global automakers look to bring new technology to the commercial vehicles market. Developed by Geely’s commercial vehicle group, Farizon Auto, the company said it’s planning to roll out the vehicles in 2024 and is targeting international markets too.
Twilio is laying off 17% of its workforce as tech layoffs top 100,000 in the first two months of 2023. The Cloud communications provider announced on Monday it was eliminating about 17% of its staff and closing some offices. This is the company’s second round of lay off in less than six months.
In September 2022, Twilio laid off 11% of its total workforce as part of a major restructuring plan, according to an SEC filing published Wednesday. The company had 7,867 employees as of Dec. 31, 2021.
“On September 12, 2022, the compensation and talent management committee of the board of directors of Twilio Inc. (the “Company”) approved a restructuring plan that is designed to reduce operating costs, improve operating margins, and shift the Company’s selling capacity to accelerate software sales (collectively, the “Restructuring Plan”). The Restructuring Plan includes elimination of approximately 11% of the Company’s current workforce.”
In a separate letter to employees, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said the company decided to lay off staff in order to run more efficiently and to align the company’s investments with its priorities. He said the decision was “extremely difficult,” but also “wise and necessary.”
“Twilio has grown at an astonishing rate over the past couple of years. It was too fast, and without enough focus on our most important company priorities,” Lawson said in the letter. “I take responsibility for those decisions, as well as the difficult decision to do this layoff.”