The origin story of Cruise is classic Silicon Valley — with a twist. Kyle Vogt and Dan Kan did indeed create their first self-driving kit in a California garage. But after making the technology work on Vogt’s Audi, the startup hit a wall: The tech couldn’t be adapted to other vehicles.
Vogt, who turns 35 this year, immediately recognized that the company needed to integrate self-driving systems with cars. Enter General Motors, fresh off its 2009 bankruptcy, streamlined and ready to attack new opportunities. The Detroit giant bought Cruise for roughly $1 billion in 2016, and has since grown that valuation to almost $20 billion, with subsequent funding rounds from SoftBank, Honda, and several institutional investors.
In 2018, Vogt handed over CEO duties to former GM president Dan Ammann and shifted to perfecting Cruise’s tech, optimized to operate in dense, urban environments. The company, whose headcount was in the double digits at one point, now has about 1,800 employees. It intends to launch in San Francisco to capture a chunk of a potentially $8 trillion market.
“I’m thrilled,” Vogt said in an interview with Business Insider. “I couldn’t imagine things coming together so well.
“We’re well equipped to finish what we started here, and I’m a big fan of finishing what I start.”