Self-driving tech startup Baraja just shed 75% of its workforce

- February 13, 2023 2 MIN READ
The Baraja team in 2019
Sydney autonomous driving technology startup Baraja has sacked around 75% of its workforce.

The layoffs come just a month after the business received an undisclosed level of investment from Swedish automotive safety company Veoneer, which Baraja CEO and cofounder Federico Collarte said “validates the market traction” of the business.

Baraja was founded in 2015 by Collarte and Cibby Pulikkaseril to solve the problems faced by existing LiDAR (light detection and ranging) systems used to give autonomous vehicles sight.

Its headquarters is in the northern Sydney industrial suburb of Ryde.

The startup previously raised more than $90 million, including $45 million (US$32m) in a Series A in 2019 backed by Sequoia China, Blackbird Ventures, and CSIRO’s VC fund, Main Sequence, and a further $40 million in 2021, led by Blackbird, on a $300 million valuation. Blackbird kicked off Baraja’s seed round in 2016.

Japan’s Hitachi Construction Machinery is also a key strategic backer and user of the technology. Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals mining business as a client.

But full self-driving (FSD) projects had a torrid time in 2022, with the Ford and VW-backed Argo AI project the most notable casualty. Ford tipped more than US$1 billion into the project over five years, then announced it would shut down in October, taking a $2.7bn hit to its balance sheet in the process.

Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta v11 software update was delayed yet again on the weekend having already missed its November 2022 release deadline. esla FSD Beta v11 is both an exciting and scary step as it is supposed to merge Tesla’s FSD and Autopilot highway stacks.

Last month a former Tesla engineer admitted the company’s 2016 demonstration of the technology was faked.

The US Department of Justice is currently investigating the Tesla technology

And a major critic and rival to Tesla’s FSD system even spent US$600,000 on a Superbowl ad calling for the tech to be banned.

Baraja uses a different technology to the Tesla systems, but amid such strong headwinds and negative sentiment towards autonomous driving, CEO Federico Collarte said they had little choice but to scale back operations.

“With a change in industry outlook, Baraja has scaled back its legacy products to focus on its next generation LiDAR. We’ve restructured the engineering teams in Australia and the United States to deliver Spectrum HD 2025, our high-volume low-cost automotive product built on Spectrum-Scan with breakthrough Doppler capabilities,” he said.

“We did not take this decision lightly and are committed to providing support and assistance to those affected by these changes. We remain dedicated to delivering ground-breaking LiDAR technology to our customers around the globe.”

The company did not confirm the level of job cuts, but more than 160 people worked for Baraja, so if the 75% figure is accurate, just 40 remain, amid the loss of 120 jobs.