Luminar Technologies Inc.’s new finance chief is set to promote the company’s new distance measurement technology for self-driving cars, even though some auto makers are delaying plans to roll out autonomous vehicles.
Orlando, Fla.-based Luminar tapped Tom Fennimore as its next chief financial officer, the company said Thursday. Mr. Fennimore previously served as global head of automotive at investment banks
Group LLC and
Mr. Fennimore, who started in his new role on May 26, succeeds Bill Zerella, the former CFO of
who became Luminar’s finance chief in 2018. Mr. Zerella said he left the company to “pursue a new endeavor.” He declined say where he is headed.
Luminar, whose lidar technology uses laser light to calculate distances for self-driving vehicles, this week announced Mr. Fennimore’s appointment along with three other hires and one addition to its board. The company waited to onboard all the new executives before making an announcement, a spokeswoman said.
The company hired Mr. Fennimore as it expands technology sales for cars in production. The startup won its first contract for commercial production in May with auto maker Volvo Car Group, which is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., and the new CFO said he is now looking to secure deals with other car companies. Luminar declined to provide the terms of the deal with Volvo.
“Understanding how to position this technology and make it resonate with the senior executives—I’ve seen that in the past and have some experience that I think could be helpful to Luminar,” Mr. Fennimore said.
Mr. Fennimore’s investment banking experience could help Luminar raise more capital, said Sam Abuelsamid, a principal analyst at consulting firm Guidehouse Inc.
Luminar, founded in 2012, raised a $100 million fundraising round last summer, bringing the total amount collected—including previously announced rounds—to over $250 million, the company said. Its investors include G2VP LLC, Moore Strategic Ventures LLC, Westly Group, 1517 Fund and Canvas Ventures, Luminar said.
The company said it would seek another round of funding within the next two years to support the production of its sensors. It declined to comment on how much money it is looking to raise.
The company said it employed 350 people as of July 23.
Luminar’s quest to grow its customer base coincides with U.S. auto makers reporting two straight quarters of sales declines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The roll out of fully autonomous vehicles ran into speed bumps even before the beginning of the pandemic.
General Motors Co.
last year delayed the launch of self-driving robotaxis because the company needed more time to validate their safety, it said.
in April said it would delay until 2022 the introduction of an autonomous vehicle service planned for next year.
There are over 70 lidar startups globally that have emerged in the past decade, according to Mr. Abuelsamid. But Mr. Fennimore cautioned that not all of them may survive the current downturn.
Mr. Fennimore said Luminar’s contract with Volvo—which is to support autonomous driving on highways—will help the company market its technology to other auto makers who are pulling back spending on fully autonomous vehicles. Those car makers might look to make investments in part-autonomous vehicles first, he said.
Luminar owns the intellectual property for its technology and is allowed to sell it to other auto makers, a spokeswoman for the company said.
However, Luminar is still competing with other lidar companies who have won contracts with car makers—for example Israeli startup Innoviz Technologies Ltd., which is supplying technology for
’s part-autonomous vehicles, Mr. Abuelsamid said.
“These current industry circumstances are very challenging,” Mr. Fennimore said, “but I think it is going to create an opportunity for us here in the medium term.”
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