Lawrence Steyn has left his position as CFO of self-driving startup Pony.ai in early March, as reported by 36Kr. Pony.ai has confirmed this news and announced that Haojun Wang, one of the company’s founding members, will be taking over as CFO.
Steyn made an announcement on LinkedIn that he has joined American Industrial Partners (AIP), a private equity firm based in New York, as a Partner. Steyn holds an MBA from the Wharton School from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA with high honors from Harvard University. He is a seasoned financial executive who has previously served as Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, Executive Director at Goldman Sachs, and Vice Chairman at JP Morgan, and has collaborated with a range of global organizations, including General Electric, United Technologies, Honeywell, Emerson, and Ford, as well as private equity firms including Blackstone and Carlyle.
As a founding member of Pony.ai, Wang has held multiple leadership positions within the company, including Technical Leader of the Map and Localization module for autonomous driving, Head of the US Site, and Head of the Shanghai R&D center. He has played a significant role in introducing the latest advancements in artificial intelligence to Pony.ai’s autonomous driving platform. Prior to founding Pony.ai, Wang worked at IBM Silicon Valley Lab and Baidu‘s US R&D center, where he focused on database engines and big data information system development. He was also an early member of the team responsible for leading the development of Baidu‘s self-driving Map and Localization system. Wang holds a B.S. from Shanghai Jiaotong University and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California, where he specialized in multidimensional data and mobile location services research.
“As we vigorously pursue commercialization, our CFO should possess a comprehensive and profound understanding of our company and have the ability to lead us in expanding our business. Wang is undoubtedly the best candidate for this position,” Pony.ai said.
Changes in the CFO position of a company are often closely associated with the IPO process. Shortly after Steyn joined Pony.ai in June 2021, CEO James Peng revealed that the company was considering a listing in the US. However, the plan was postponed as the company encountered difficulties obtaining assurances from Beijing that it would not become the next target of the government’s crackdown against Chinese technology companies seeking to go public in the US.
Pony.ai has not announced any new financing updates since the completion of its Series D financing round in March 2022. However, the company’s extensive R&D investments have been consistently depleting its cash reserves. According to some initial financial information obtained by 36Kr, in 2020, the company generated revenue exceeding $10 million, but experienced losses amounting to tens of millions of dollars. In the first three quarters of 2021, the company generated revenue exceeding $6 million.
To sustain its operations, Pony.ai has undertaken a series of measures to integrate its business and streamline its team over the past two years. These measures included merging its truck R&D business into the passenger car R&D team, abandoning vehicle building plans, and implementing staff layoffs.
With limited options for generating sustainable income, Pony.ai has had to accelerate its developmental efforts. In January of this year, the company announced the establishment of its passenger car division and the launch of a new intelligent driving software brand. It has also recently entered into partnerships with unmanned vehicle developer Neolix and food delivery giant Meituan to provide them with autonomous driving domain controllers.