As timelines for self-driving deployments have grown longer, skepticism from once-enthusiastic investors has grown in tandem.
"The dream itself is not quite enough to excite most investors these days," said Edwin Olson, CEO at May Mobility. "We've seen a shift from questions about the technology to questions about, 'Is this a business that understands its product and market fit?' "
For May Mobility, a self-driving shuttle company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., the focus has always been on the latter, and Olson's answer is a resounding "yes." In addition to its autonomous-driving system, the company has crafted a business model that's about providing turnkey transportation services to its customers.
May Mobility provides its six-seat self-driving shuttles, drivers and ongoing fleet operations and maintenance management for cities looking for short-distance transportation links. The company has ongoing projects in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Providence, R.I.
In December, the company closed a $50 million Series B round offinancing, in which Toyota Motor Corp. provided the largest investment. The funding provided May Mobility with money to expand its ambitions over the next two years — and also brought big changes.
Last month, COO Alisyn Malek and Chief Technology Officer Steve Vozar, both co-founders, left their positions with the company. Malek will remain as an outside adviser.
Olson, 42, and Malek said the departures paved the way for the company to bring in veteran leadership as it transitions from startup mode into a larger entity. That's a process that started last year, with the additions of Aptiv and KPMG veteran Brett McMillan as vice president of finance and Joaquin Nuno-Whelan, who joined May Mobility as vice president of fleet engineering after being chief engineer of full-size SUVs at General Motors.
Olson says the recent departures give May Mobility a chance to recalibrate and not necessarily seek candidates for the same roles.
"We might not line-for-line refill," he said. "We're going to restructure some of how we do business. Some of the things we do really well is focus on product. So what our new organization will look like will be around delivering amazing product to customers with unit economics that work and make money."
The Series B round brings the company's total financing to $83.6 million, and Olson estimates it should fuel the company's expansion plans and operations for the next two years. While he says he welcomes that expansion, he's leery of growing too fast.
"We're excited about the markets we're already in," Olson said. "Those are great proof points that we can sell — and keep — customers. We're looking at other markets that might add some strategic value, maybe, that have an incredibly high growth potential or maybe a great route that showcases our tech really well. Our plan is to grow smart. We don't want to squander capital too fast."