In many ways, Silicon Valley automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] broke the mould when it came to what a successful automaker was. In addition to shunning the lure of Motor City, the young startup has quickly matured into a full-blown automaker thanks to its fresh ideas on how a car should be engineered, built, and maintained. Indeed, its roots in software engineering philosophy has enabled Tesla to sidestep some of the challenges facing the rest of the auto industry.
Simultaneously, Tesla has proven that electric vehicles are fun, practical and capable of offering jaw-dropping performance and impressive range with the right expertise and engineering know-how.
Now a relatively unheard of company from Tesla’s back yard is readying itself to take on the legendary automaker with what it claims will be a breakthrough electric car. What’s more, the automaker, founded by a former Tesla executive, is now taking part in a massive recruitment drive.
As ChargedEVs explained earlier this week, Atieva was founded back in 2007 by Bernard Tse and Sam Weng with the expressed intent of focusing on advancing electric vehicle technology. Tse, former Tesla VP and board member from 2003 to 2007, is already well aware of what a well-engineered electric vehicle can do, while Weng, a former Oracle executive, brings in the kind of Silicon Valley tech experience essential for any new electric vehicle company.
Atieva’s website is simple, proclaiming simply that it is “Challenging the idea of what a car can be.”
While Tesla Motors has transitioned from a limited-volume startup to a rapidly-expanding automaker eagerly exploring the energy storage segment in the last eight years, Atieva has kept a low profile, focusing on developing key patents in the area of battery pack design, electric vehicle motors and power electronics. According to ChargedEVs, it currently holds over 100 patents to its name, and is about to do something with them.
On its website, an animated outline of a fast-moving coupe with sleek lights plays above the fold, over which in white all-caps is the proclamation that Atieva is “challenging the idea of what a car can be.”
Directly below, the firm explains that it is designing and creating a “breakthrough electric car in the heart of Silicon Valley” which it says will involve “building an iconic new vehicle from the ground up.”
In case the visitors are confused, the website reassures them that “we’re a car company, not a design house. And we’re definitely not a traditional automaker.”
Beneath its simple mission statement is a list of vacancies at its Menlo Park facility, totalling more than twenty-three engineers of varying specialities, administrative staff, supply chain experts and IT specialists.
According to ChargedEVs, these vacancies are the latest in a 7-month recruitment drive for the firm designed to take it from 100 employees to nearer 300. Looking at the list of current employees on sites like LinkedIn reveals twelve of Atieva’s current staff are former Tesla employees. That, says ChargedEVs, is about 10 percent of Atieva’s current design team.
Don’t think the lack of public visibility means the firm isn’t well funded however. Capitalising on investor buzz for tech-filled electric vehicles after the good fortune of Tesla Motors, Atieva representatives say they are already well-supported, with more than 9 figures coming in last year alone in private equity funding. While representatives declined to quote specific investment figures, they did say that its total equity was ‘significantly more’ than the $131 million from two investors currently listed for the firm on investor sites like CrunchBase.
As anyone in the automotive industry will tell you however, it takes far more than $131 million to turn a vehicle from a series of designs and prototypes into a fully-functioning automotive company. To do that, a startup company not only needs a large amount of investment, but also a product that captures the imagination of both customers and investors alike.
Until we see that product, we won’t know if Atieva will be the next Tesla Motors, or just the latest in a long line of automotive startups determined to change the world of the electric car forever.
Watch this space.
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