Self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics raises $125M

Kodiak Robotics, one of the last privately held autonomous truck outfits in Silicon Valley, has raised $125 million in new capital, funding that will be used to double its workforce as it pursues a path to commercialization.

The oversubscribed Series B stands out for its lengthy list of backers and notably that the lead investor is not listed and not being disclosed. TechCrunch has been told that a freight and logistics company set up a special interest financial vehicle as the strategic lead investor spot in the round.

Other investors include newcomers SIP Global Partners, Muirwoods Ventures, Harpoon Ventures, StepStone Group, Gopher Asset Management, Walleye Capital, Aliya Capital Partners and others. Existing investors Battery Ventures, CRV and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated. Bridgestone Americas and BMW i Ventures, which had announced strategic investments in Kodiak earlier this year, converted its funds to this round.

Kodiak has raised a total of $165 million since its founding in 2018. The company did not disclose the valuation.

Like so many startups, the funding will be used to hire more people. Kodiak is aiming to grow from the 90 people it employs today to about 170 by the end of next year.

Founder and CEO Don Burnette said the hiring is across every department in the company. The new funding will be used to expand operations, and pay for the expansion of its fleet. Kodiak plans to add a minimum of 15 new trucks, for a total of at least 25 autonomous vehicles.

“We need to scale and with scale comes growth across the entire company — more drivers, more operations folks, more engineers,” Burnette said in an interview with TechCrunch. “R&D is definitely the primary utilization of the funds. Scaling the fleet is also a really big one, obviously, as you watch the space you see that there’s an ever-growing interest in commercial traction and customers and partners and miles driven and the size of the autonomous freight network. So we’re going to be expanding all of those efforts and that all costs money.”

The Series B comes at a critical time for Kodiak. The company is a fraction of the size of other autonomous vehicle companies pursuing trucking, notably Aurora and Waymo. Burnette has argued that Kodiak is more capitally efficient than its much larger and better-funded rivals.

That doesn’t mean Kodiak is forever done with seeking funding. As Kodiak scales, the company will pursue more funding and will continue to evaluate options in the public markets and the private markets. Burnette said he is not considering any mergers and is not looking to be acquired.

“It’ll really be interesting to see how things unfold,” Burnette said of funding within the AV industry. “I think from an investor-appetite perspective, I mean, the fact that this round was so heavily oversubscribed goes to show that there is significant investor interest out there still. Within the private markets, now that many of our competitors have gone public, Kodiak’s really positioned as one of the last remaining private AV trucking companies with any significant progress.”

Last month, Kodiak revealed details about its fourth-generation autonomous truck system and announced it was expanding its own fleet by 15 PACCAR Class 8 trucks. (They have 10 trucks in the field today.) The fourth-generation truck has a modular sensor suite that includes a center pod on the front roofline of the truck as well as pods integrated into both of the side mirrors.