The Goldman Sachs “anti-raid” team was between conference calls with an embattled client company when word came that a senior member of the target company’s management team had unexpectedly died.
Looking back, Tom Fennimore says that the next few months of his early career years at Goldman then became a transition point—or period of accelerated learning.
“It was a very sad situation—they were in the process of being raided,” explains Fennimore, who lists the anti-raid transaction as one of two times when Goldman ultimately offered Fennimore an opportunity to “step up.”Read More
The second example came after the resignation of a managing director responsible for the bank’s automotive sector.
“I got a battlefield promotion when they said, ‘Hey, we want you to do this, and—depending how you do—we may not replace you,” recalls Fennimore, who notes that while he savored the opportunity and enjoyed success in the role, certain parts of it had little to do with his skillset.
“I have a little bit of a baby face,” points out Fennimore, who also comments that members of management teams within the automotive sector were known to value seniority and often had lengthy tenures of multiple decades themselves.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Fennimore remembers one bit of related post–board meeting feedback with a little bite: “’Hey, look, you did a great job,’ they told me,” he reports. “‘The board loved you, but they did have one comment: This guy’s too young. They would feel a little more comfortable with somebody with a little more gray hair in the room.’”
As for the embattled client company that had unexpectedly lost a key member of management, Fennimore’s youthful appearance turned out to not be enough to deter an invitation for him to fill the company’s sudden management void by relocating to Toronto for a number of months.
“The person who passed away was in the middle of the transaction, so it reflected in a good way on me that the client had enough faith in me to have me go up there to live and help them to get things done,” explains Fennimore, who more than 20 years later is not yet sporting any gray hair.
In conclusion, he adds: “It’s great to be given a lot of responsibility at a young age, but there will be some unique challenges. You try not to take things personally and to just move on.” –Jack Sweeney
“Life in general is a marathon, not a sprint, with a lot of obstacles along the way. Staying the course is very important!” –Tom Fennimore, CFO, Luminar Technologies
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CFOTL: Tell us about Luminar Technologies … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Fennimore: We make these products called LIDARs, whose name comes from “Light Detection and Ranging.” I describe this to my two young boys by saying that basically we shoot lasers out of vehicles to do real-time 3-D mapping of the world around them. This makes it possible for a car to be driven more safely because precisely where everything is in front of it is known. It will also enable better autonomy when the technology is ultimately ready for true autonomy.
In addition to the LIDAR hardware, we also make the software associated with it, as well as certain products that our LIDAR enables, such as 3-D mapping products—which are something that we’ve recently announced.Read More
We already have products on the road, as we launched with our initial OEM late last year. We’re preparing to launch with Volvo later this year. Soon, every one of Volvo’s flagship SUV—their fully electric EX90—that is sold will have our technology on it because it substantially improves the safety of the vehicle. Volvo is the brand name most synonymous with safety, so this was a very important win for us.
We’re also on vehicles from other makers, like Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Polestar. We have technology partners, such as NVIDIA and Mobiliance, and commercial trucking clients, like Daimler Truck. There’s going to be rapid adoption of the technology. Luminar has by far the most wins in the industry in terms of number of automakers planning to put such technology on their vehicles.
I knew from covering the automotive industry that LIDAR was going to be big. As with any new technology, I would meet with a lot of these start-up companies. All of them would come in and pitch me with PowerPoint presentations proving that their technology was the best in the world. To me, the biggest differentiator that I used as a banker to determine whether a company was real was to ask a question like, “Are automakers making a conscious decision to buy that technology and put it on their vehicles?”
A company’s view of their technology is important and a third-party view of that technology is important, but all of it is irrelevant if none of the customers is ultimately going to choose to use that technology. The automakers were ultimately going to select a winner. When I heard through the industry grapevine that Luminar had won Volvo, this was an important indicator to me of the company’s potential for future success. A brand name like Volvo is the perfect first launch customer for a company like Luminar because we are really all about making products that make vehicles much safer.
We raised a little over $600 million in December 2021 with a convertible note that has an interest rate that’s a little over 1%. This brought us a lot of cash and by far the strongest balance sheet in the industry. We now find ourselves in the position of having built not only a storm shelter in advance of this market storm that we’re all currently in but also a strong balance sheet that can be an offensive weapon as well as a major competitive strength. jb
Luminar Technologies | www.luminartech.com | Orlando, FL