Uber reaches $245 million settlement with Waymo in midst of trial
SAN FRANCISCO — Waymo’s yearlong lawsuit against Uber has been settled, and now it’s time for the autopsy.
Depending on whom you talk to, the settlement, which included Waymo receiving about $245 million of equity in Uber, could be a win for either side.
Waymo gets to say that Uber came to the table before Waymo could prove Uber used ill-gotten trade secrets, and has sent a strong warning to its current and future engineers thinking of defecting to a competitor.
Uber can stand by its claim that Waymo didn’t have a case in the first place, and avoids the potential $1 billion in damages by taking the mature course of action.
But that’s not what this case was about. Waymo’s lawsuit was about staking its claim as a founder of self-driving cars. The details that emerged this week show just how coveted founder status can be in Silicon Valley.
Creators of most modern tech companies and products are instantly recognized by first name. From Steve to Elon, the identity of the founder (or perceived founder) is just as strong as the brand. Uber vs. Waymo was about who would be the first name of autonomous vehicles.
For most automakers, autonomous vehicle technology is about survival. General Motors’ Mary Barra, Ford Motor Co.’s Jim Hackett or other CEOs whose companies end up benefiting from self driving won’t necessarily be seen as rock stars, but as savvy executives who invested at the right time.