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Aurora, the hot self-driving startup, will be worth $2 billion after an investment by Sequoia

Aurora’s appeal is predicated on three well-credentialed founders from Google, Tesla, and Uber.

A prototype of a semi-autonomous car onstage.
Aurora hopes to supply software to autonomous vehicles like this one.
David Becker/Getty Images

The startup Aurora — which is not yet two years old but has made waves in the autonomous-driving industry with a highly regarded executive team from Tesla, Uber, and Google — is slated to be valued at over $2 billion in a new fundraising round, Recode has learned.

Sequoia Capital is expected to lead a financing round of at least $500 million in the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The investment, which hasn’t closed, is shaping up to be the biggest commitment yet by Sequoia, arguably the most prestigious venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, into the booming, capital-intensive world of self-driving car technology in the US.

Aurora and Sequoia declined to comment.

Aurora came out of stealth in 2017 to much fanfare given its top-flight technical talent. The team is led by CEO Chris Urmson, who was the chief technology officer for Alphabet’s self-driving arm, Waymo, which is generally considered to be technologically ahead of its competitors in the autonomous race.

His co-founders are equally credentialed: Tesla’s former head of Autopilot, Sterling Anderson, and one of the founding members of Uber’s autonomous efforts, Drew Bagnell. In a sector where only a few have technical know-how, a disproportionate amount of Aurora’s appeal — and, presumably, its valuation — is predicated on these three founders.

In the world of self-driving, the trio is obviously late to the game. But their pedigrees have allowed them to recruit a second, deeper level of talent from their former employers and from places like SpaceX. Aurora now has about 200 employees.

Aurora doesn’t try to actually build cars or manufacture the sensors that are essential if self-driving technology is to succeed. Instead, Aurora designs the software on top of which carmakers and other developers can build. It is partnering with companies like Volkswagen and Hyundai.

“We’d like to be the system. So we’re going to work on the software and we’re going to build a reference architecture that we’ll share with automotive partners,” Urmson said on Recode Decode in 2017. “That’ll include — these are the sensors you should have, these are roughly where you should have them on the vehicle, and this is the computation you should have.”

The startup raised $90 million in its first major tranche of fundraising just last year in a round led by Index Ventures and Greylock Partners.

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