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Peter Thiel’s VC firm betting big on self-driving tech startup ISEE, leads $40M funding


As per the industry reports, the global self-driving truck market is expected to grow by $864.39 million during 2022-2026, accelerating at a CAGR of 46.54% during the forecast period. To get a slice of the cake of this emerging market, US-based self-driving technology company, ISEE, has raised $40M in a Series B funding round led by Peter Thiel‘s VC firm, Founders Fund (backed SpaceX, Palantir, and Stripe). Further, Maersk Growth, Eniac Ventures, New Legacy and other new and existing investors also participated in the round. 

In the times, when Google co-founder-backed Kittyhawk, the ambitious and autonomous eVTOL business had to shut down, and more autonomous driving companies are downing the shutters, ISEE has taken its total funding to $70 million.

Cracking the supply-chain crisis

Founded out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2017 by Yibiao Zhao and Chris Baker, ISEE isn’t creating the next-gen autonomous flying taxi or self-driving truck; rather, just working on automating the trucks that are used in logistics yards.

Logistics yards are where shipping containers reside as they wait… and wait… to be transported by truck to a warehouse or distribution center. Currently, there are 500,000 “yard trucks” operating globally. The work is challenging, repetitive, and dangerous. ISEE thinks there’s a better way.

“ISEE is focused on logistics yards because of their economic importance and because autonomous driving is ready to perform in logistics yards today. That’s why ISEE is already working with some of the world’s largest companies and why we backed them again,” said, Scott Nolan, Partner at Founders Fund. 

The first and only company to achieve fully-autonomous operations in the logistics yard space

“The logistical nightmare of a yard, it turns out, is an AI roboticist’s dream,” says ISEE Co-Founder & CEO, Yibiao Zhao, “By leveraging advanced cognitive modeling, game theory, and deep learning, we’ve developed proprietary technology that’s a perfect match for the challenges of a logistics yard.” 

Zhao and team developed a unique “humanistic” AI that gives yard trucks “common sense.” Continued Zhao, “Our self-driving technology is the most advanced autonomous yard tractor product on the market.” 

With more than 10,000 completed self-driving trailer moves at customer sites, ISEE claims to be the first and only company to achieve fully-autonomous operations in the logistics yard space. “ISEE has built the leading technology solution in the market. Period,” added Peter Votkjaer Jorgensen, Partner at Maersk Growth. 

Next steps!

ISEE plans to automate 100 trucks for its clients, including BMW and the logistics giant Maersk, shortly, scaling up to automate 1,000 within the next five years. The team of around 85 people are seen its revenue grow by more than 20x in the past 12 months alone. Co-founder, President & COO Debbie Yu feels this is only the beginning, “With this new funding and strong customer pipeline, we’re excited to scale our operations and accelerate our business growth so that we can bring our self-driving technology to more customers.”

Co-founded and led by a minority woman

ISEE was also co-founded and is led by a minority woman, Debbie Yu. She says, “Diversity, especially in leadership, gives ISEE a breadth of experience and perspective, that enables us to better understand and collaborate with our diverse set of customers.” As President & COO, Yu spearheads ISEE’s go-to-market strategy and leads conversations with investors. Despite often times being the only woman in the room, Yu’s background of growing up in an entrepreneurial family has prepared her well. She was recently named a 2022 Power Player in the Self-driving Industry by Business Insider.

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