Ride-hailing service provider Lyft considered the idea of buying the startup whose acquisition got Uber sued by Alphabet’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo, according to Otto co-founder Lior Ron. While testifying earlier this week as part of the Uber-Waymo trial that ended in an unexpected manner after only five days, Mr. Ron said Uber’s purchase of Otto hasn’t been guaranteed since the beginning as Google’s spin-off claimed when it alleged the autonomous trucking startup and Uber conspired to profit from Waymo’s trade secrets. Instead, Otto held talks with a variety of suitors, with Lyft being among the most interested parties, according to the entrepreneur’s account. Uber’s main rival even gave a “verbal offer” to Otto, with the majority of its bid coming down to equity payments with performance milestones, thus being similar to the deal the startup ended up striking with Uber, selling its operations and technology for just under $600 million, Mr. Ron said.
Lyft’s offer never progressed beyond that initial bid whose value remains undisclosed, though Otto also held sale talks with a number of venture capitalists, as well as Google itself, according to the witness. Mr. Ron co-founded Otto in early 2016 with Anthony Levandowski who already sold two of his startup to the Mountain View, California-based tech giant by then, with Google previously buying his 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots. The plaintiff claimed Mr. Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 of its sensitive documents before leaving the unit that would later be spun off into Waymo, accusing Otto of conspiring with Uber’s management to benefit from the stolen trade secrets, some of which supposedly made their way to the company’s self-driving fleet. Uber denied the allegations and settled for approximately $245 million, with the entirety of that sum coming in the form of an equity payment. The startup also agreed to collaborate with Waymo in order to make sure none of its protected technologies are being used by its own vehicles, though the settlement doesn’t require any admission of wrongdoing.
It’s currently unclear what prompted Lyft to decide against acquiring Otto or if the approached party ended up rejecting its bid. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi issued a public apology earlier this week, saying the company should have done some things “differently” in the process of acquiring Otto. The high-profile legal clash that experts are describing as a “Tom Clancy novel” ended on the fifth day of its trial whose preparations have been undergoing for nearly a year.