Misfiled documents in a high-profile Silicon Valley court case suggest that Google co-founder Larry Page has created a spin-out company called "Tiramisu."
A motion filed last month by Uber to force Google's self-driving car spinoff company Waymo to provide witnesses on a range of topics reveals the existence of Tiramisu.
The company is listed as relevant to an ongoing Uber-Google self-driving car spat because it alleges that Anthony Levandowski, the engineer accused of stealing lidar and other technical secrets from his workplace at Google's self-driving car project and taking them to Uber, may have been working for the company in his free time.
"Uber seeks discovery regarding details about Mr Levandowski's involvement in Kitty Hawk, Zee.Aero, and Tiramisu and how Waymo (and the related entities Alphabet and Google) viewed Mr. Levandowski's involvement in those side businesses," the filing reads.
Very little is actually known about Tiramisu, which has never been publicly acknowledged by Page, Waymo, or anyone else for that matter. The existence of Tiramisu has not previously been reported, and Uber asked the court to remove the document on the same day it was filed. Motherboard obtained copies of them before it could do so. Uber later refiled its motion with details of Kitty Hawk, Zee.Aero, and Tiramisu redacted.
A search of businesses registered with California's secretary of state reveals Tiramisu LLC was incorporated in May 2015. The company's address, a law firm in Palo Alto, matches that of the Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation, Larry Page's $2 billion charitable foundation named for his father.
Subsequent business filings for Tiramisu LLC use the address of a lawyer based at John Wayne Airport near Los Angeles, specializing in aviation law and regulation. Tiramisu LLC had also been registered in 2014 in Delaware, a jurisdiction favored by many stealthy start-ups because it allows owners to remain anonymous.
So, what is Tiramisu? While we don't know for sure, the filing as well as depositions of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Page at least allow us to guess (if you know more about Tiramisu, please contact us securely.)
Tiramisu's name, it should be noted, means "pick me up" in Italian (in addition to being a delicious dessert).
We know that both former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Larry Page have an interest in flying cars. In Kalanick's deposition, he states plainly that he once called up Page to discuss partnering on such an idea: "I wanted to talk [to] him about flying cars," testified Kalanick. Uber has already announced its intention to develop an autonomous flying taxi service, called Uber Elevate, for commuting or intercity travel, and even held a conference about it earlier this year.
Recent reporting by The Wall Street Journal suggests Page has indeed tested flying cars, perhaps with Levandowski's help.
Key parts of Uber's filing—and much of Larry Page's deposition to which it refers—have been redacted for confidentiality. Nevertheless, the document makes for interesting reading. One part of Page's deposition features an exchange where an Uber lawyer asked Page if he had a ranch property called by a redacted name. The deposition was recorded in a font that makes it clear the redaction is an eight-character name.
Page responded: "[That name] is a project I believe Anthony was working on. I don't think that's the name of a ranch." Page went to confirm that some testing took place at one of his ranches during 2015.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Levandowski was working on Page's ranch testing flying cars, quoting a person "familiar" with the deposition. Then Uber's lawyers filed a motion identifying Tiramisu (which has eight letters) as a business it thinks Levandowski worked with. Not a smoking gun, for sure, but it's all we know for now, and no one involved in Tiramisu is talking.
Contacted by Motherboard, a Waymo spokesperson would not respond to questions about Tiramisu. However, it accused Uber of trying to create "distractions."
"Faced with mounting evidence that Uber is using stolen Waymo trade secrets, Uber is trying to distract with baseless legal maneuvers," the spokesperson said. "There is significant and direct evidence Uber is using stolen Waymo trade secrets in their technology. We look forward to presenting that evidence at trial."
Neither Kitty Hawk nor its CEO, Sebastian Thrun, responded to requests for comment. If you have any further information about Page's Tiramisu project, please let me know on Telegram, user name @meharris.