canadian ai raquel urtasun waabi 100m
Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) luminary Raquel Urtasun has moved on from Uber’s self-driving unit and launched her own company with the goal of disrupting the autonomous driving landscape. With the backing of top venture investors and experts in the AI space, Urtasun isn’t the only one who thinks her new company has hit on a winning approach.
Urtasun’s new company, Waabi, comes out of stealth with over $100 million CAD ($83.5 million USD) in initial capital. The Series A round marks one of the largest rounds of initial financing ever raised by a Canadian startup.
The financing comes from a group of investors that include notable institutional venture firms, as well as companies like Uber that have been part of Urtasun’s past. The collection of investors suggests a broad-based belief in Urtasun’s ability to achieve her “life’s mission.”
“My life’s mission is to solve [autonomous driving] at scale so that everybody can benefit from this technology,” Urtasun said in an interview, claiming that Waabi’s tech will bring self-driving tech closer to commercialization than ever before.
Urtasun launched Waabi in January after departing Uber ATG. Urtasun had been working with Uber’s self-driving unit since 2017 as both chief scientist and head of Uber ATG’s research and development (R&D) lab, which was based in Toronto. BetaKit first reported in December that the Toronto R&D team was not included in Aurora’s acquisition. Some of the Toronto R&D team have joined Urtasun in her new venture.
“This is really a culmination of 20 years of experience in AI, as well as more than 10 years of experience really building self-driving solutions,” said Urtasun.
Urtasun is considered an expert in the field, with some of her accolades including awards from Google, Amazon, NVIDIA. She is also a professor at The University of Toronto’s Department of Computer Science and one of the co-founders of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.