Kentley-Klay tweeted that the firing came "without a warning, cause or right of reply. Today was Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks."
Jesse Levinson, the company’s other co-founder and current chief technology officer, will be promoted to president. Carl Bass, the former CEO of Autodesk and a Zoox board member, was named executive chairman for the company.
Kentley-Klay was clearly upset with the board’s decision. "Rather than working through the issues in an epic startup for the win, the board chose the path of fear", he wrote, charging that the directors were "optimizing for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress".
Zoox has raised about $800 million to date, including $500 million in July, and wants to create a fully driverless vehicle ready for the road by 2020. The outfit basically owed its success to the unorthodox entrepreneurial zeal of Kentley-Klay, an Australian native with no prior automotive experience.
Kentley-Klay once told the press that Zoox was pitted against the biggest companies on the planet and would win on creativity and technical elegance.
He turned down a job with Google’s self-driving project Waymo because he believed that Zoox’s strategy of building its own vehicles for full autonomy was wiser than the standard approach of retrofitting existing cars.