Investing with Purpose: how Wayve is (literally) driving the future forward 

A Wayve self-driving car in London
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 21 December 2021

Wayve is a London-based start-up that is driving the future forward with self-driving electric vehicles. We’re so proud to have invested in such an innovative start-up a few years ago now, so when I launched my Investing With Purpose series, I knew I had to get Wayve on-board. I still have to pinch myself that innovations we used to only see in sci-fi movies are now becoming reality!  

Four years ago, the team built their first robotic prototype in their garage at Cambridge. Today they have an entire fleet of electric self-driving cars with AI technology that is set to completely change the way we move.   

Wayve self driving car in London

I absolutely loved sitting down with the co-founder and CEO of Wayve, Alex Kendall.  It was such an insightful conversation, where we talked about the future of mobility, workplace culture, the importance of purpose, and building trust in people when it comes to new technology.   

After our interview, I got a taste of the future myself on a test drive with one of Wayve’s safety operators, Theepa. It was absolutely surreal to sit in the back of the car and realise the car was driving totally independently, amazing when you think the journey for Wayve began just four years ago. It’s difficult to put the experience of being inside the car into words, but I think the footage below says it all…    

It’s incredible to see how different Wayve’s AV technology is to anything else on the market. The intelligence is data-driven at every layer, which allows for continuous learning. In other words, the technology learns much like a person does. Beyond the tech, many people don’t realise the ways that autonomous vehicles will make people’s lives better - it was this purpose-led approach to the future of transportation that convinced us to invest in Wayve.

Given the technology is constantly learning, Wayve is making driving more safe, reliable, accessible, and sustainable. As Alex said during our interview: “The driving will be more efficient and most importantly it will be more accessible. These cars can move around in ways that benefit us most and enhance what we need to do.”   

Despite working in the field of artificial intelligence, the first person Alex hired at Wayve wasn’t an engineer or anyone in robotics, but a people and culture hire. Carolin Fleissner is still the VP of People and Culture today and has built a people-centric and purpose-driven culture into the very foundations of Wayve. It was so refreshing to hear Alex talk about the long-term impact that investing in your people creates. In Wayve’s case, getting the culture right has driven collaboration, conviction, and teamwork… and it’s what makes the work fun.  

Wayve self-driving car on the roads in London

After speaking to Alex, I reached out to Carolin to hear how she has managed to build this culture at Wayve. Her response was truly inspiring:   

“Wayve began with a vision to not only reimagine the technological approach to solving self-driving and challenge the status quo, but also with the ambition to build a new kind of tech company. From the very first day we built a culture with intention and a world class team that brings together people from all walks of life, who align strongly with our values and want to change the world.”  

When working with artificial intelligence and building something so new and unknown, it can be difficult to build people’s trust. But when your product interacts with society in so many ways (as with self-driving vehicles), trust is the most important thing. Building a work culture that puts people at the heart of it all plays a big role here. As Alex said: “It’s important to have a team where people understand the principles of why and what you’ve built... This is what great companies are defined by.”  

 Thank you so much Alex, Theepa and everyone at Wayve who is working to drive the future forward and for the most amazing test-drive that didn’t involve any actual driving on my part! I’m very excited for what is in store.