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Robo-taxi company Waymo now has two CEOs

Robo-taxi company Waymo now has two CEOs


Tristan Greene
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Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan covers human-centric artificial intelligence advances, politics, queer stuff, cannabis, and gaming. Pronouns: He/him Tristan covers human-centric artificial intelligence advances, politics, queer stuff, cannabis, and gaming. Pronouns: He/him

Take me to your leader(s).

Waymo CEO John Krafcik today stepped down from his leadership position at the Google sister company. According to an email posted to the company’s blog, he’ll maintain an advisory role. Replacing him will be not one, but two Waymo executives: former COO Tekedra Mawakana and former CTO Dmtri Dolgov.

The timing of Krafcik’s departure is notable in that the company’s entering a new phase of development. Waymo was reportedly planning to expand its budding robo-taxi service before the pandemic struck. But, now that there’s a vaccine-shaped light at the end of the tunnel, we can expect the Waymo One robotaxi service and Waymo Via, an autonomous delivery service, to get a big push.

What’s most interesting here is the company’s decision to go with co-CEOs instead of choosing a single candidate. So far, the only hint we have as to the “why” of it all comes from Krafcik’s email:

Waymo’s new co-CEOs bring complementary skill sets and experiences – most recently as COO and CTO respectively – and have already been working together in close partnership for years in top executive positions at Waymo. Dmitri and Tekedra have my full confidence and support, and of course, the full confidence of Waymo’s board and Alphabet leadership.

The two CEO strategy isn’t new here. Last year Netflix elevated its head of content strategy, Ted Sarandos, to the co-CEO position alongside longtime-CEO Reed Hastings. And, so far, it seems like things are working out for the big N. But, on the other hand, Salesforce tried the same thing with Keith Block and Marc Benioff and it wasn’t the success the company hoped it would be.

Waymo’s business model works a bit more like Netflix than Salesforce though. Where Salesforce is a massive company that does a bunch of different things under the umbrella of “cloud-based software services,” Netflix can split itself into two distinct models: making stuff and streaming stuff.

And, when it comes to Waymo, we see a two-pronged approach where the company’s focus is split between B2B offerings such as fleets and turn-key autonomous delivery solutions and consumer-facing endeavors such as robo-taxis and B2C last-mile delivery services.

It’ll be fascinating to see how it all  plays out over the next few years. And, with any luck, we’ll all be reading about the new leadership team’s many successes from the safety and comfort of a fully-autonomous vehicle in the near future.

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