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Robot delivery startup Nuro is laying off 20 percent of its workers

Robot delivery startup Nuro is laying off 20 percent of its workers

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The company, which was founded by two engineers from the Google self-driving car project, said in a note to staff that it hired too quickly in 2021.

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Nuro R2 delivery robot

Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, is laying off 20 percent of its staff, or about 300 employees, the company said in an email to employees that was later published online. (TechCrunch was first with the news.)

The company’s founders said it grew too rapidly in the past year thanks to an abundance of capital and a growing sense of competition. But Nuro has since run into economic headwinds that are challenging the entire tech industry, and it could no longer sustain the size of its workforce. The layoffs were the latest piece of bad news to hit the AV industry, which just saw one of its more prominent names, Argo AI, shut down in recent weeks.

“Laying off team members is always the last resort, but unfortunately it was needed after other options were exhausted.”

“Laying off team members is always the last resort, but unfortunately it was needed after other options were exhausted,” co-founders Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu wrote. “This result is on us; we doubled the size of our team in less than two years and significantly increased our operating expenses, assuming the funding environment would remain strong. This was a mistake.”

Ferguson and Zhu, two veterans of the Google self-driving car project that would go on to become Waymo, founded Nuro in 2016. It is one of the few companies operating fully driverless vehicles — that is, vehicles without safety drivers behind the wheel — on public roads today. It was the first company to receive a special exemption from certain federal safety requirements and was also the first to charge money for its driverless deliveries in California. Last year, the company raised $600 million in a Series D funding round, pushing its valuation to $8.6 billion.

Nuro said that laid-off employees would receive a severance package that includes 12 weeks’ pay (or up to 14 weeks for employees with two or more years of service) as well as additional benefits. It also touted recent partnerships, such as its deal with Uber Eats, as signs that the business remains strong. And the company still has “over a billion dollars” on its balance sheet, the founders wrote.

“The two of us have been working in this industry for about two decades now, and we are more convinced than ever that Nuro is on the right path to commercialize autonomous vehicles at scale,” Ferguson and Zhu wrote. “Despite the macroeconomic headwinds, Nuro has hit the major milestones we planned for this year and our pace of progress is accelerating.”