May 19, 2020

Unicorn Watch: self driving car maker Aurora Innovations gets bright future with $2.5bn valuation

Amazon
Tesla
Reid Hoffman
Aurora Innovations
hotmaillogin
2 min
Unicorn Watch: self driving car maker Aurora Innovations gets bright future with $2.5bn valuation

Autonomous vehicle developer Aurora Innovations is among the latest crop of US startups to achieve ‘Unicorn’ status. With a Series B funding round of US$530mn, led by Sequoia Capital with participation from Amazon, Lightspeed, Shell and T Rowe Price, the Palo Alto startup reached a valuation of $2.5bn.

According to a report by Pitchbook, Aurora, which was founded in 2016 by veteran top-level employees from Alphabet’s Waymo project, Tesla and Uber, the startup could become a serious competitor to Tesla and other top-level players in the autonomous vehicle space. “Between these three co-founders, they have been thinking and working collectively in robotics, automation automotive products for over 40 years,” wrote Aurora co-founder Reid Hoffman of his partners Chris Urmson and Drew Bagnell.

Following the $2.5bn valuation announcement, Tesla stock was down 3% at market close on Friday.

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As part of the investment, Sequoia partner Carl Eschenbach will take a place on the Aurora board. In August 2018, Aurora reportedly rejected an attempt by Volkswagen to acquire the startup outright, following the two companies’ partnership agreement made the previous January.

According to a TechCrunch report, venture capital investors poured more than $1.6bn into autonomous vehicle startups, spread across 58 deals in 2018. Aurora will continue its work to make self-driving cars a practical reality, with an emphasis on safety and reliability.

In an email to TechCrunch, an Amazon spokesperson said of the investment: “We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that. Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

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Jun 12, 2021

How changing your company's software code can prevent bias

Deltek
diversity
softwarecode
inclusivity
Lisa Roberts, Senior Director ...
3 min
Removing biased terminology from software can help organisations create a more inclusive culture, argues Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR at Deltek

Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day. 

Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at  and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization. 

Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.

Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?  

We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization

What impact can exclusive terms have on employees? 

Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.    

Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code

Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!

What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?

What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.

What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology? 

My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve. 

 

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