Tech companies tend to run their businesses one of two ways. First is focused on hype and coverage about the company. Tesla, the electric car company, is a good example of this. From controversial tweets, an intense fandom, constant speculation, and the actions of their infamous CEO, Elon Musk, they operate by staying in the customer consciousness.
The second type of Silicon Valley company is a mirror image of the first. These companies are described as operating in stealth mode, going out of their way to avoid mentions in media or Silicon Valley’s equivalent of gossip columns. Stealth companies typically have their capital needs set and are working to get their technology either to a functional state – or sometimes get it to a state where it is legally defensible when they shift to a more public phase.
Zoox is one of the latter companies that has just shifted out of stealth mode. It chose a world stage, the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September, to show off its autonomous vehicle technology. The showcase was three Toyota Highlanders festooned with what looked like an exoskeleton of technology to turn them into self-driving cars.
Like most tech companies, you wouldn’t describe Zoox as an overnight success. The company was founded by an Australian entrepreneur, Tim Kentley-Klay, and a well-connected Stanford University engineer, Dr. Jesse Levinson, four years ago and now has more than 550 employees. It has managed to attract $800 million in private investment and plans a 2020 launch of an autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco.
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