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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Self-driving tech startup ISEE raises $40M in Peter Thiel’s VC firm led round

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Self-driving tech startup, ISEE, has received $40 million in Series B funding round. Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm, Founders Fund (backed SpaceX, Palantir, and Stripe) led the round that also had the participation of Maersk Growth, Eniac Ventures, New Legacy, and other new and current investors.

ISEE, founded in 2017 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Yibiao Zhao and Chris Baker, isn’t focused on the next-generation autonomous flying taxi or self-driving vehicle, but rather on automating the trucks used in logistics yards.

Shipping containers are stored at logistics yards as they wait… and wait… to be transferred by truck to a warehouse or distribution hub. There are currently 500,000 “yard trucks” in use across the world.

The task is difficult, repetitious, and dangerous. ISEE believes there is a better approach.

“ISEE is concentrating on logistics yards due to their economic relevance and the fact that autonomous driving is ready to operate in logistics yards now.”

That is why ISEE is already collaborating with some of the world’s top corporations, and why we funded them again,” stated Scott Nolan, Partner at Founders Fund.

The first and only firm in the logistics yard area to achieve completely autonomous operations.

ISEE Co-Founder & CEO Yibiao Zhao, says, “It turns out that a yard’s logistical nightmare is an AI roboticist’s dream.  We’ve created a one-of-a-kind technology, by combining advanced cognitive modeling, game theory, and deep learning. The technology is ideal for logistics yard challenges.”

Zhao and his colleagues created a one-of-a-kind “humanistic” AI that offers yard vehicles “common sense.”  Zhao continued, “Our self-driving technology is the market’s most advanced autonomous yard tractor offering.”

ISEE claims to be the first and only business to accomplish fully autonomous operations in the logistics yard market, with over 10,000 successful self-driving trailer transfers at client sites.

What comes next?

ISEE intends to automate 100 vehicles for companies such as BMW and logistics behemoth Maersk in the near future, with a goal of automating 1,000 in the following five years. The income of the 85-person team has increased more than 20 times in the last year alone. Co-founder, Debbie Yu, who now serves as President & COO, said, “With this additional financing and solid client pipeline, we’re delighted to extend our operations and accelerate our company growth so that we can provide our self-driving technology to more customers.”

A minority woman co-founded and leads the organization. Debbie Yu, a minority woman, who co-founded and leads ISEE, says, “Diversity, particularly in leadership, provides ISEE with a range of experience and viewpoint, allowing us to better understand and work with our broad collection of clients,”

Yu directs ISEE’s go-to-market strategy and investor engagements as President and COO.  Despite the fact that she is sometimes the only woman in the room, Yu’s upbringing in an entrepreneurial family has prepared her well. Business Insider just named her a 2022 Power Player in the Self-driving Industry.

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