Mass layoffs reported after Starsky Robotics fails to find buyer, investors

Autonomous trucking startup Starsky Robotics has laid off the majority of its engineers and office personnel after its fundraising efforts and attempts to find a buyer failed, a former executive says. A skeleton crew remains at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco as Starsky co-founders Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, chief executive officer, and Kartik Tiwari, chief technology…

Mass layoffs reported after Starsky Robotics fails to find buyer, investors

Autonomous trucking startup Starsky Robotics has laid off the majority of its engineers and office personnel after its fundraising efforts and attempts to find a buyer failed, a former executive says.

A skeleton crew remains at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco as Starsky co-founders Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, chief executive officer, and Kartik Tiwari, chief technology officer, continue to seek a buyer for the four-year startup.

Since 2017, Starsky had raised more than $20.3 million, including $16.5 million in Series A funding from Shasta Ventures in March 2018, according to Crunchbase. However, the startup failed to secure additional funding since the last round nearly two years ago.

Seltz-Axmacher and Tiwari did not respond to FreightWaves’ requests for comment regarding the mass layoffs at Starsky.

Approximately 85% of the company’s engineers have secured new jobs with its competitors in the self-driving space, including Waymo, Cruise and TuSimple, according to Paul Schlegel, former senior vice president of Starsky. His last day was Jan. 31.

Schlegel told FreightWaves that Starsky’s cash flow problems started in November 2019 after a key investor backed out of another round of funding at the last minute. He said the company’s co-founders scrambled to find new investors or a buyer, but failed to do so before its funds ran out in late January. 

However, he said Seltz-Axmacher is still actively seeking a buyer for the company.

“When we had an investor pull out at the last minute, we didn’t have a lot of time to recover and that really hurt us,” Schlegel told FreightWaves. 

The 34-year trucking industry veteran, whose background includes experience in all transportation modes, said he believes Starsky’s business model that uses experienced truck drivers as remote operators to handle first and last-mile operations is still the most viable solution in the varied autonomous trucking industry.

Schlegel said he “remains hopeful” that Starsky Robotics will find a last-minute buyer and he would welcome a new opportunity to work in the autonomous ve
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