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Startups at the speed of light: Lidar CEOs put their industry in perspective
Our science and AI correspondent Devin Coldewey has a blockbuster look at the current state of affairs in the lidar industry. What started as those gyrating “spinners” on top of partially autonomous cars has evolved into a variety of mechanisms like metameterials, all the while VCs have dumped hundreds of millions of dollars on to new ventures.
The big challenge today though is to move from curios in the lab to production-ready hardware prepared for the open road. While some startups have netted early partnerships with car manufacturers like BMW, nothing is set in stone yet, even as a consolidation of the industry seems absolutely imminent.
There’s no shortage of lidar alternatives — as long as you don’t need something that’s ready to roll off the production line.
“Almost everything is in R&D, of which 95 percent is in the earlier stages of research, rather than actual development,” explained Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar. “The development stage is a huge undertaking — to actually move it towards real-world adoption and into true series production vehicles. Whoever is able to enable true autonomy in production vehicles first is going to be the game changer for the industry. But that hasn’t happened yet.”
“I’ve been approached at least four times in the last two months with an offer to buy a lidar company,” said Innoviz CEO Omer Keilaf. “It doesn’t surprise me to see some convergence. While there are 20 or 30 car makers, only a few are early adopters — companies like BMW, Daimler, Audi — and they’re built in a way to do that. They have dedicated teams for working with companies like us, making sure everything goes right in such a complicated project. And that trend is even stronger when it’s related to functional safety.”
The rise of the new crypto “mafias”
Accomplice’s lead crypto investor Ash Egan offered up his research onto the crypto world, tracking the lineage of almost 200 startups to determine where they all started. His conclusion is that a handful of institutions — among them Stanford, Google, and Goldman Sachs — lead the pack as the best academies for crypto startup founders.