Joby Aviation has agreed to merge with a blank cheque company launched by the entrepreneurs Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus, in a deal that values the electric flying taxi developer at $6.6bn after a new fundraising.
The aircraft maker confirmed on Wednesday that it would go public via a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners, the special purpose acquisition company created last year by Hoffman, who co-founded LinkedIn, and Pincus, founder of the video games maker Zynga.
Plans for the deal were first reported by the Financial Times earlier this month.
Joby, whose existing backers include Uber and Toyota, is the latest electric aircraft maker to go public via a Spac. Veteran and first-time investors alike are making speculative bets on which companies might one day transport commuters above the skyscrapers of urban centres such as from New York to Shanghai.
Asher, a rival of Joby, merged earlier this month with a Spac backed by US investment banker Ken Moelis, giving it a public valuation of $3.8bn. Blade, which currently operates helicopters, has also listed via a Spac as it plans to expand into the business of electric air taxi services.
In Europe, German electric aviation start-up Lilium, which is backed by UK private investment manager Baillie Gifford, is also looking to go public by merging with a Spac. Baillie Gifford is also an investor in Joby.
The deal with Reinvent provides Joby with $1.6bn in cash to pursue its development work, $690m from the pot raised last year by the Hoffman-Pincus Spac plus $910m in new money from investors that include the hedge fund Baupost and funds managed by BlackRock and Fidelity.
Joby was founded in 2009 and has more than 500 employees. The Santa Cruz-based company has obtained approval from the US Air Force to fly its so-called electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, it says, and has tested its aircraft for more than 1,000 hours.
It plans to start manufacturing aircraft later this year on a 450,000-square-foot facility it designed with Toyota. The Japanese carmaker last year led a $620m investment round in Joby, which led to closer co-operation between engineers of both companies.
Joby in December bought Uber Elevate, the flying taxi arm of the ride-sharing group; Eric Allison, the former head of Uber Elevate, is now Joby’s head of product.
Joby, Archer and Lilium all say they hope to begin deployment of their flying taxis between 2023 and 2025.
The US “air mobility market” could be worth as much as $115bn in annual revenue by 2035, creating 280,000 jobs along the way, according to a report by Deloitte, the consultancy, and the Aerospace Industries Association.