Autonomous Vehicle Startup Lands Deal With Walmart
Transportation logistics have changed and the trends are affecting the way we receive goods. No longer are industries solely dependant on last-mile delivery, moving a large haul of items from a distribution center to the end customer with an 18-wheeler.
Technology and innovation have opened the door to providing faster deliveries to the customer and at a lower cost for business owners. Gatik, an autonomous vehicle company focused on short B2B deliveries, is the solution large companies have been waiting for. With a $4.5 million fundraising round, Gatik took on its first customer this summer, Walmart.
Gatik was started by Gautam Narang (cofounder and CEO) and Arjun Narang (cofounder and CTO), who are brothers and experienced roboticists. Apeksha Kumavat (cofounder) attended grad school with Arjun and joined the team bringing her experience working at Ford on their self-driving platform as Perception Lead.
Narang shared the story on how Gatik was started and how outsourcing trusted, high-quality CFO services through Early Growth helped them stand out to the big-box retailer for a partnership.
Early Growth: How did you get the idea for Gatik?
Gautam Narang: The idea for Gatik came after a series of other entrepreneurial endeavors. In our undergrad program in India, my brother and I worked on several robotics, AI, and machine learning projects.
We built our first startup together to develop rehabilitation robotics technologies, as well as started Team Gatik Research Group that built one of India’s first customized humanoid robot series. The name ‘Gatik’ came from that research group which has been carried forward (Gatik is a Sanskrit word meaning “Progressive” or “Speed”). Our next endeavor, OTSAW Digital, was focused on developing autonomous outdoor security robots for patrolling and surveillance, which proved successful and were used by the Dubai police force.
It was while at OTSAW Digital that numerous logistics companies approached us asking if we could put the autonomous driving technology from our security robots into larger vehicles–mainly for the transportation of goods. That’s when we took a closer look at the autonomous delivery landscape and realized that there’s a huge gap in the autonomous delivery space and decided to address it. This became the idea for Gatik.
Early Growth: How does Gatik save businesses money by offering this middle-mile delivery option?
Gautam: If we look at the whole autonomous delivery landscape, on one end we have the self-driving trucks that operate just on the highways as the technology on these trucks is better suited for highway driving. And, on the other end of the spectrum, there are the sidewalk robots that are very restricted in terms of their operating speed, capacity, and distance (they cover just a 1-2 mile radius). At Gatik, we’re filling this gap in the market: our vehicles are on-road (not sidewalk) vehicles that operate on city roads (middle-mile), traveling longer distances (up to 100 miles) and with a much higher payload. Meanwhile, the shortage of drivers is a huge problem that the logistics industry is facing. Many companies are sharing the same limited driver pool with ridesharing companies and are finding it hard to hire and retain good drivers.
Today, Gatik is rapidly developing Level 4 automated light trucks and vans at scale for B2B cargo delivery. Gatik believes the future of delivery is autonomous, and that autonomous light commercial vehicles will play a major role in reducing the high cost of last-mile while improving safety, increasing efficiency, and reducing congestion and emissions. We move goods within and between cities and help companies save up to 60% on their delivery costs. The benefits of adopting our technology are:
- Decreased stop time during deliveries
- Flexible, round the clock operations
- Hyper-efficiency scheduled deliveries
- Minimized accidents and liability
- Inventory consolidation
- An estimated up to 60% reduction in operating cost
Early Growth: Where can we find your autonomous delivery vehicles?
Gautam: As of today, we’re currently operating in two markets: California and Arkansas (with the recent deployment of our partnership with Walmart). Our autonomous vehicles are responsible for delivering customer online grocery orders from Walmart’s warehouse to its regional Neighborhood Markets. We will be announcing new markets in the coming months.
Early Growth: What financial pain points were you experiencing with your startup that brought you to Early Growth?
Gautam: Last August was our most recent funding round, which was led by ex-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. We were handling our CFO and accounting services in-house, but we realized we needed some help. As we were scaling and closing our funding round, we wanted someone who could really help us on the financial and accounting side. Innovation Endeavors had a few companies in their portfolio who could help us, and Early Growth was one.
Early Growth: What made Early Growth a fit for your startup?
Gautam: We spoke with a few other companies, but Early Growth was recommended by a source we trusted and provided the exact type of services we needed. Amjad Huda, our consulting CFO, came to our office to meet with us. He was patient and clear about what the next few months would look like and what we should be doing now that we just raised a new round. We felt really comfortable with Amjad. The type of attention he gave us as well as our Senior Accountant, Karen Long, was really important.
Early Growth: Did having your financials managed professionally help with new partnerships?
Gautam: Yes it did help. More importantly, it was having better visibility of our numbers. Financials are so important. It’s a must that we keep our investors up to date from a financial standpoint.
As a founder, you have to have visibility on when you may need to raise again. Getting monthly financial reports helps us inform our investors about where we stand.
Working with an Early Growth CFO
Amjad met with Gautam in November of 2018. It was a busy time for them as they were in the middle of expanding their team with new hires. “I enjoyed meeting with the two brothers. At the time, they were at a coworking space,” said Amjad. “Now they have moved to their own place in Palo Alto.”
Providing accurate monthly financial reports kept Gatik abreast of where they stood financially, giving them a look into their cash burn and runway.
“We’ve helped them be more organized in their reporting. When they have to present to the board, they were able to be transparent and provide a formalized report as far as where they are and when they would need to raise more money.”
Early Growth provides accounting for startups including GAAP financials, 409a valuations, cap table management, financial modeling and more.
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