Canoo founder leaves the EV startup ahead of next year’s launch

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The founder and first CEO of EV startup Canoo is leaving, the company has confirmed to The Verge. Stefan Krause, the former chief financial officer at both BMW and Deutsche Bank, is stepping down as chairman after shifting away from the CEO role last year. Krause is leaving ahead of the anticipated launch of his EV startup’s first vehicle, which is slated to happen in 2021.

“Stefan has decided to formally leave his official duties with Canoo in order to pursue other opportunities,” the company said in a statement to The Verge. “We are grateful to Stefan for the invaluable role he played in shaping our young company. Though he’ll always be around, we wish him best of luck in his new endeavors.” Krause declined to comment.

Krause left his post as CEO last August for “personal reasons,” according to the company, just a few months before he and Canoo were sued by his wife for discrimination, harassment, breach of contract, and wrongful termination. (The lawsuit is currently being settled, according to Canoo.) Krause subsequently moved into the role of chairman and spent his time trying to raise more money for Canoo. Ulrich Kranz, a fellow co-founder and former BMW executive, took over as CEO and has run the day-to-day operations ever since.

In an email to staff sent after this article was published, Kranz reassured employees that “fundraising is moving in the right direction,” and that the company’s finance head Paul Balciunas will head up the effort going forward.

Canoo bucks the trend of other EV startups, which are mostly focused on high-performance luxury cars. Instead, Krause, Kranz, and former BMW designer Richard Kim came up with a far more utilitarian vehicle: a VW microbus-style vehicle that was revealed in September last year. The company plans to offer the EV on a subscription-only basis when it goes into production in 2021, and it wants to make other vehicle “cabins” that will use the same underlying “skateboard” platform (the full package of the battery pack, electric motors, and other electronics that make the vehicle move).

One of Krause’s early goals with Canoo was to sell that skateboard to other automakers, setting up a second line of potential revenue for the company. In February, Canoo announced that Hyundai and Kia were the first carmakers to agree to this, though terms of the deal were not disclosed. The company has been in talks with other automakers, according to a current employee with knowledge of the discussions.

Originally called Evelozcity, Canoo was founded in late 2017 by Krause and Kranz (as well as a few others) after they split off from struggling EV startup Faraday Future. They had been hired earlier that year as part of an attempt to save the startup from financial collapse, but ultimately left after clashing with Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting.

Krause wrangled funding to start Canoo from a group of backers that included a director at Prince Andrew’s startup incubator, the head of a Chinese investment firm whose father-in-law was once the fourth-most senior leader in China, and billionaire Michael Chiang (who runs Taiwanese touchscreen supplier TPK), as The Verge first reported in October 2019 and February 2020.

Like other companies, Canoo has had to scale back some work during the stay-home orders brought on by the pandemic. Most of its 300 or so employees have been working from home during the pandemic, though one told The Verge on the condition of anonymity that people who work on the company’s vehicles have already started going back into Canoo’s Torrance, CA headquarters.

Update June 18th, 8:02PM ET: Added information about CEO Ulrich Kranz’s email to staff in the fourth paragraph.

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