Zipline lands departing Verily CFO, Tesla veteran Deepak Ahuja

Zipline has hired departing Verily CFO and Tesla veteran Deepak Ahuja as its first chief business and financial officer, an appointment that comes as the drone delivery and logistics startup accelerates its global expansion in Africa, the United States and other regions.

Ahuja, who is leaving his post at Alphabet's unit Verily Life Sciences, will start in the new role September 30. (Verily, which said Friday it raised $1 billion, also announced Ahuja was leaving the company.) Ahuja will oversee Zipline's global financial operations such as finance, accounting, investor relations and global sales. The role will not include Africa, a region where Zipline got its start and continues to operate in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda.

Daniel Marfo, who is based in Ghana and has been with Zipline since 2019, will continue to oversee existing operations in the region to maintain continuity there, according to the company. Marfo was promoted to senior vice president of Zipline's Africa operations in 2020.

Zipline also operates in Japan and in the United States, including Arkansas and North Carolina. The company is expanding to Utah later this year through a partnership with Intermountain Health and announced plans to begin operations with Multicare Health System in Washington starting in 2024.

Ahuja will focus on building Zipline's business in the United States and other regions globally, the company told TechCrunch.

Ahuja comes to Zipline with decades in the financial world, most recently as CFO at Verily Life Sciences. Perhaps his most visible role was as Tesla's first CFO, a position he held from 2008 to 2015 and then again from 2017 to 2019. During his tenure at Tesla, Ahuja was at the helm when it became a publicly traded company and after years of losses eventually became profitable.

His appointment signals Zipline's growing aspirations fueled by partnerships and $250 million in venture capital it raised last year. (The company has raised $486 million to date.)

The company, founded in 2014, has developed the entire ecosystem from the drones and logistics software to launch and landing system. It got its start delivering medical supplies such as blood and vaccines in Rwanda via its autonomous electric drones. Zipline later expanded to Ghana and Nigeria, Japan and the United States. It also recently received FAA Part 135 approval for its long-range drone delivery service in the United States.

The company has also snagged a number of partnerships in the past two years that signals aspirations to expand within and beyond healthcare. Zipline has partnerships with Toyota Group and UPS, it delivers medical equipment and personal protective gear for Novant Health in North Carolina and health and wellness products for Walmart.

In a blog post that accompanied the announcement, Ahuja seems particularly keen on Zipline's vertical integration that allows it to deliver massive scale at high levels of automation and integration, and at low operational cost.

"The team has also worked hard to ensure its solution has an amazing and seamless user experience, and creates minimal environmental noise," he said in the blog post. "Zipline is therefore in a unique position to be a major force in solving this problem at scale. In fact, many executives in the healthcare and e-commerce space are beginning to appreciate a systems-based solution like the one offered by Zipline."