Lidar startup Ouster raises $60 million in production run-up

Ouster has raised $60 million as the San Francisco-based lidar startup opens a new facility that will have the capacity to assemble and ship several thousand sensors a month by the end of 2019.

The new factory, which will have a grand opening ceremony March 28, currently produces hundreds of sensors per month. Ouster says at full capacity, the factory will produce $25 million to $50 million in inventory per month.

Lidar measures distance using laser light to generate highly accurate 3D maps of the world around the car. It’s considered by most in the self-driving car industry a key piece of technology required to safely deploy robotaxis and other autonomous vehicles (although not everyone agrees). However, the sensors are also useful in other industries — and this is where Ouster’s business model is targeted.

Ouster has cast a wider net for customers than some of its rivals. Unlike others vying solely for automotive customers working on the development of autonomous vehicles, Ouster is selling sensors to other industries. Ouster is selling its light detection and ranging radar sensors to robotics, drones, mapping, defense, building security, mining and agriculture companies.

The strategy has appeared to pay off. Ouster says it has 400 customers from 15 industries.

The $60 million in additional funding follows a Series A raise of $27 million announced back in 2017 as Ouster came out of stealth mode. In the years since, the company led by Angus Pacala has grown to more than 100 employees and announced four lidar sensors, with resolutions from 16 to 128 channels, and two product lines, the OS-1 and OS-2. The startup expects to nearly double its headcount in the coming year to support further product line development.

The $60 million in equity and debt funding includes investments from Runway Growth Capital and Silicon Valley Bank, as well as additional funding from Series A participants Cox Enterprises, Constellation Tech Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Carthona and others.

Ouster said the additional investment has helped to develop Ouster’s product lines, including the launch of the OS-1 128 lidar sensor, and fund the expansion of its production facilities.

The company also announced the appointment of Susan Heystee, senior VP for OEM business at Verizon Connect, to its board of directors.

Waymo, the self-driving car company under Google’s Alphabet, could be a new competitor to the company. Waymo announced this month it will start selling its custom lidar sensors to companies outside of self-driving cars. Waymo will initially target robotics, security and agricultural technology. The sales will help the company scale its autonomous technology faster, making each sensor more affordable through economies of scale, Simon Verghese, head of Waymo’s lidar team, wrote in a Medium post at the time.