Acquisitions / Funding / Partnerships / Startups / Transportation

Money Moves: Optimus Technologies raised $17.8M to ‘decarbonize the transportation sector’

Plus, CivicScience is using OpenAI tech, Aurora has two new partnerships, and Pack Up + Go made its first acquisition.

Optimus Technologies staff. (Courtesy photo)
Money Moves is a column where we chart the funding raises of tech companies across the region. Have a tip? Email us at

Optimus Technologies raised $17.8 million

Optimus Technologies is on a mission to use its advanced fuel system technology, the Optimus Vector System, to decarbonize the transportation industry by enabling diesel engines to run on biodiesel. Now, the East Pittsburgh-based company has an additional $17.8 million to further its goals, thanks to a successful Series A funding round led by Tokyo’s Mitsui & Co.

The round also included investments from Chevron Renewable Energy Group and Pittsburgh investors such as Idea Foundry, Innovation Works, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.

According to a press release, the funding will allow the company to further its development of the Optimus Vector System. Additionally, the new working relationships between Optimus Technologies, Mitsui and Chevron Renewable Energy Group will accelerate the technology’s deployment in North America while allowing for an expansion into international markets.

“We are thrilled to announce this new partnership with Mitsui and deepen our existing relationship with Chevron Renewable Energy Group,” said Colin Huwyler, Optimus Technologies founder and CEO. “This strategic investment allows us to accelerate our mission to decarbonize the transportation sector. More importantly, this funding enables Optimus to immediately scale the delivery of carbon reductions at a time when eliminating emissions can’t come soon enough.”

CivicScience gets automated

CivicScience CEO John Dick. (Courtesy photo)

East Liberty-based market intelligence company CivicScience is getting into AI.

The company collects consumer data through digitally published polls for clients to help them make the best decisions for their businesses. Yet as traditional polling and paid survey research are garnering fewer answers, the company is deploying a new platform for auto-generating poll questions that will be matched to content people are already reading while they’re online.

The technology, QGen, is powered by ChatGPT maker OpenAI, and has reportedly already provided the company with more responses while increasing its efficiency.

“We believe this is one of the first practical, end-to-end applications of large language models in full commercial use,” CivicScience founder and CEO John Dick said in a statement. “The business outcomes have more than validated the power of this amazing technology.”

Pack Up + Go scoops another company

Pack Up + Go allows its users to plan vacations — sort of, since part of the fun is that the destination remains unknown until the day they leave. Destinations are chosen based on the user’s pre-travel survey choices, and since its 2016 founding, the company has helped 40,000 travelers visit 300 destinations.

Now, it’s growing after its acquisition of a fellow Pittsburgh travel company, Have Fun Do Good. Packup + Go founder and CEO Lillian Rafson said the move will allow the company to expand its US travel offerings.

“We know the United States is home to countless incredible vacation destinations and we’re more committed than ever to helping Americans experience their country,” Rafson said in a release. “Whether they’re taking a surprise vacation with Pack Up + Go, or going on a group vacation that gives back with Have Fun Do Good, we’re excited to continue our growth as a leader in US travel. You don’t need a passport to have an incredible vacation experience.”

No financial details were disclosed. Have Fun Do Good will continue operating as its own brand, yet it will be powered by Packup + Go’s travel technology. Starting May 15, the release said, the company’s offerings will be available to Pack Up + Go users.

Aurora keeps on trucking

An Aurora truck. (Courtesy photo)

So far in 2023, autonomous vehicle company Aurora has hired its first chief strategy officer and announced that it reached feature-complete status for its autonomous driving system, Aurora Driver.

In the past week, the Strip District-based company announced even more news: It’ll be partnering with Germany-based Continental to industrialize the Aurora Driver. Continental’s history of manufacturing and implementing autonomous driving kits make it the perfect partner to help Aurora achieve commercial scale, per the company.

“In this exclusive partnership, we bundle our systems competence with Aurora’s industry-leading autonomous technology for our common goal to jointly realize the first commercially scalable autonomous trucking systems,” Continental CEO Nikolai Setzer said. “A crucial step towards autonomous mobility.”

It also announced a commercial pilot with Hirschbach, a refrigerated trucking company. The partnership with Hirschbach means Aurora will be able to haul perishable foods — chicken, fruits, vegetables — between Dallas and Houston.

“This new pilot, on the Peterbilt 579 upfit with the Aurora Driver, demonstrates the increasing maturity of our operations as we expand our product support to a wider number of carriers and shippers,” Aurora Senior VP David Maday said in a release. “We are extremely excited that Hirschbach has the confidence in Aurora’s technology and our ability to deliver perishable goods safely and on time.”


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Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: CivicScience / Aurora

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