The Cruise Mafia

September 5, 2023
Tech Mafias

If you’ve recently been to San Francisco, Austin or Phoenix, you’ll most likely have seen the strange sight of an empty car Cruise-ing around town.

I couldn’t contain my excitement the first time I saw a Cruise self-driving car making its way around Austin. It looked kind of eerie but also exciting in a futuristic, techy kind of way.

Cruise is the second billion-dollar startup which the founder, Kyle Vogt, started. Before founding Cruise, he co-founded the popular streaming platform Twitch, which was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for a billion dollars.

After moving on from Twitch, he was looking to start something new with three criteria in mind:

→  direct and positive impact on people

→  solving a technical problem

→  scalability to impact people at scale

And so he came up with the crazy idea of self-driving cars. His initial idea was actually a self-driving roof rack but one of his investors urged him to improve on the idea (a perfectly reasonable request).

For Y Combinator’s Demo Day, his team had 3D printed some parts that turned the steering wheel. He built the first prototype from nothing in just 3 months, both the hardware and software.

Within a year, the Cruise team had a rigged-up prototype. They took the incubator’s chiefs down the 101 freeway in Northern California, who were were so impressed they decide to write a check, along with other top investors like Initialized Capital and Felicis.

At the time General Motors had a venture capital arm with technology scouts, and they had a pulse on the automotive tech happening in the Valley. They soon offered Cruise a term sheet to acquire them as they were really impressed with their progress and what they were building.

Kyle asked that the terms be adjusted in a way that Cruise would be treated as a brand new product and which he is also currently CEO of.

The Cruise Mafia

We've selected 17 of the top most notable companies, including several rising stars of the Cruise Mafia.

Former employees of Cruise have raised a total of $208 million and founded 28 companies across e-commerce, software, B2B, B2C, fintech, and the automative industry. 

We’ve compiled a list of the top 17 companies and their investors, founders, and the amount of money each one has raised.

PS: Are you a Cruise employee/alum interested in getting your community together to invest in the community (and earn carry/other benefits along the way)? Or are you a member of another community that you think would make for an amazing startup investment community? 😉

Learn more about us and sign up for the waitlist here.

Most money raised: 


AtoB is a technology company building payments infrastructure for the transportation industry. The company is only four years old and it’s often described as the Stripe for transportation.

Earlier this year, AtoB partnered up with Uber Freight, the logistics business spun out of Uber in 2018. Since its opening in 2019, the company has already scaled to a network of 25,000 businesses and 100,000 truck drivers in the U.S.

AtoB was founded by Harshita Arora, Vignan Velivela, and Tushar Misra and is based in San Francisco, California. They’ve raised over $180 million in venture capital from investors such as General Catalyst, Bloomberg Beta, Y Combinator, Climate Capital; founders and CEOs of companies like Google (Eric Schmidt), Salesforce (Marc Benioff), Coinbase, DoorDash, Instacart, Segment, Gusto, Figma; CxOs and founding team members of Uber, PayPal, Stripe; and angels like Elad Gil, Naval Ravikant, Gokul Rajaram, among others.

Vignan previously worked as a Software Engineer at Cruise before co-founding AtoB, while Tushar Misra was part of the Uber Mafia, working as a Regional Operations Manager for the company.

Harshita, the only female founder on the team, has an impressive past before AtoB. She built the Crypto Price Tracker app, a portfolio management and price tracking application for cryptocurrencies. The app took the number two spot in the Finance category of the App Store and was featured by Apple. It was later acquired by Redwood City Ventures.

Rising Star we’re excited about:


It was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of incorporating generative AI into a PCB design tool - and that’s exactly what the team at Flux are doing. 

The founding team have raised $12 million in seed funding and launched what they claim to be the “industry’s first AI-powered browser-based collaborative PCB design tool called Flux CoPilot".

Over the past two years, the team has grown from 10 to 22 with all three co-founders being former engineers from Apple, NASA, and Facebook.

Co-founder Christian Blank previously worked at both Cruise and Apple as a Software Engineer, Matthias Wagner was a Product Manager at Facebook, and Lance Cassidy as an Aerospace Engineer at NASA.

This is one company to definitely keep an eye on! 

Full list of all the incredible members of the Cruise Mafia

Companies covered:

  • Foxglove
  • AtoB
  • Verdant Robotics
  • Pequity
  • Paraform
  • Leverage
  • Mendaera
  • Truffle Security
  • Pebble
  • Sematic
  • Breadboard
  • Aquarium
  • Huddle
  • Flux
  • Ferveret
  • Polybase
  • Graft


Founder: Adrian Macneil, Roman Shtylman
Cruise Role: Director, Infrastructure, Software Engineer
Capital Raised: $18.7M
Investors: Amplify Partners
Stage: Series A

Foxglove is a computer software company that develops tools to accelerate robotics development.


Founder: Vignan Velivela
Cruise Role: Software Engineer
Capital Raised: $182M
: General Catalyst
Stage: Series B

Vignan Velivela, hailing from India and educated at Carnegie Mellon and BITS Pilani, co-founded AtoB, is a technology company building payments infrastructure for the transportation industry.

Verdant Robotics

Founder: Lawrence Ibarria, Gabe Sibley
Cruise Role: Associate Director, Simulation, Staff Software Engineer
Capital Raised: $58M
Investors: Cleveland Avenue
Stage: Series A

Verdant Robotics manufactures robotics systems; the company's current platform delivers transformative agricultural services. As Verdant Robotics' co-founder and COO, Lawrence Ibarria excels in delivering software products, orchestrating seamless teamwork, and pioneering innovative technologies.


Founder: Kaitlyn Knopp
Cruise Role: Head of Compensation & People Analytics
Capital Raised: $19M
Investors: First Round Capital
Stage: Series A

Pequity automates HR workflows from offers to promotions and transfers which helps companies save time, money, and talent.


Founder: Jeffrey Li
Cruise Role: Software Engineer
Capital Raised: $1.4M
Investors: Kevin Lin
Stage: Pre-Seed

Paraform is a recruiting marketplace where tech startups offer bounties for open roles, accessible to anyone for successful referrals. It is backed by investors like Twitch's co-founders and Scale AI's leadership.


Founder: Nadav Ullman
Cruise Role: Product
Capital Raised: $13.9M
Investors: Great Oaks
Stage: Series A

Leverage offers real-time end-to-end supply chain insights, replacing manual communications with suppliers and logistics partners.


Founder: Jason Wilson
Cruise Role: AV Robotics
Capital Raised: $24M
Investors: Founders Fund
Stage: Series A

Mendaera empowers healthcare providers with precise, consistent point-of-care interventions. Their platform blends real-time imaging, robotics, and AI to aid physicians. Jason Wilson, co-founder and CTO, leads teams in computer-controlled machines, including surgical robots and autonomous vehicles, refining leadership and engineering expertise.

Truffle Security

Founder: Dustin Decker, Julian Dunning
Cruise Role: Senior Security Engineer, Engineer Lead & Manager
Capital Raised: $15M
Investors: a16Z
Stage: Series A

Truffle Security is an open source cybersecurity company that offers solutions for finding and remediating leaked software credentials.


Founder: Bingrui Yang
Cruise Role: Head of AV Hardware Systems
Capital Raised: $13.6M
Investors: Lightspeed Venture Partners
Stage: Series A

Pebble is an electric vehicle manufacturing startup.

Bingrui Yang, the founder of Pebble is a seasoned engineering executive-turned-entrepreneur, reshaping how we live, work, and explore globally. With vast leadership experience in consumer electronics and autonomous vehicles, he's renowned for building exceptional teams and delivering groundbreaking products.

Rising Stars:


Founder: Emmanuel Turlay
Cruise Role: Senior Staff Software Engineer
Capital Raised: $3.2M
Investors: Y Combinator
Stage: Seed

Sematic is an open-source orchestration platform for Machine Learning.

The founder of Sematic, Emmanuel Turlay has a background in academia and web engineering, specializing in machine learning infrastructure.

Baserun AI

Founder: Effy Zhang
Cruise Role: Staff Product Designer
Capital Raised: 500K
Investors: Y Combinator
Stage: Pre-seed

Founded by Effy Zhang, Baserun is a testing platform for LLM apps. The platform helps you gain insights into your LLM features, end to end tests, and user journey. Baserun was part of YC's Summer 23 batch!


Founder: George Balayan
Cruise Role: Senior Software Engineer
Capital Raised: $5M
Investors: Founder Collective
Stage: Seed

Breadboard is a SaaS company digitizing the electronics manufacturing supply chain.

George Balayan, CTO at Breadboard Software, is an expert in Kubernetes, cloud tech, C/C++, Python, and low-latency distributed systems. With a wide range of skills, including Big Data, Machine Learning, and finance analysis, he excels in optimizing algorithms and databases for time-critical systems.


Founder: Peter Gao, Quinn Johnson
Cruise Role: Staff Software Engineer, Engineering Manager
Capital Raised: $2.7M
Investors: Sequoia Capital
Stage: Seed

Aquarium makes Machine Learning accessible to its customers, helping to simplify their models by improving datasets.


Founder: Stephanie Golik
Cruise Role: Product Design Manager
Capital Raised: $3.3M
Investors: Outlander VC
Stage: Seed

Huddle connects startups with skilled creators to design and build anything from pitch decks to branding and mobile apps.


Founder: Christian Blank
Cruise Role: Software Engineer - Autonomous Vehicle Simulation
Capital Raised: $12M
Investors: Bain Capital Ventures
Stage: Seed

Flux is building an intuitive real-time web-based collaboration platform to take hardware design into the future.


Founder: Reza Azizian
Cruise Role: Senior Thermal Design Engineer
Capital Raised: $2.2M
Investors: Y Combinator
Stage: Seed

Ferveret develops liquid cooling technology for data centers inspired by nuclear power plant cooling.


Founder: Sid Gandhi
Cruise Role: Technical Strategy Lead
Capital Raised: $2M
Investors: Upfront Ventures
Stage: Pre-Seed

Polybase provides a web3 platform for database management. It also offers databases to store various types of data, including user profiles and transaction histories, with zero-knowledge technology, enabling users to have decentralized storage.


Founder: Brian Calvert
Cruise Role: Staff Data Scientist
Capital Raised: $14.5M
Investors: NEA
Stage: Seed

A modern AI platform enabling anyone to build production-ready AI apps in a few clicks.

Join our waitlist

Love what we do?

Give us a follow on: