Electric air taxi start-up Joby Aero Inc will add Silicon Valley key figure Reid Hoffman to its board as the company prepares to go public through a merger with a blank-check firm.
LinkedIn co-founder Hoffman will take the 12-year-old start-up public via a $6.6bn reverse merger deal orchestrated by Reinvent Technology Partners, the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Hoffman set up with Mark Pincus and long-time investor Michael Thompson.
Apart from Hoffman, the other members to be added to the board include Google general counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado, Toyota Motor Corp board member and operating officer James Kuffner, and former Southwest Airlines CFO Laura Wright.
The deal is expected to close in the second quarter, and the combined company will be called Joby Aviation Inc. Joby is the first aerial vehicle start-up to go public via the SPAC route, and the deal will provide the company with $1.6bn in cash.
Having acquired Uber’s Elevate flying car business a few months ago, Joby will begin a commercial passenger ‘air taxi’ service in 2024. The company will work with Toyota from its California-based manufacturing facility to build its four-person eVTOL aircraft. Hoffman described the venture as “Tesla meets Uber in the air” in a recent interview.
“Toyota’s involvement has really accelerated our manufacturing ramp – they are the key to unlocking global scale for us,” said JoeBen Bevirt, Joby CEO and founder.
Toyota led the company’s $620m Series C funding round last year, with other investors including Intel Capital and JetBlue Technology Ventures.
Hoffman’s SPAC Reinvent received $835m in PIPE (private investment in public equity) investments from BlackRock, Fidelity and Baillie Gifford, which collectively have funded some of the top technology-driven transportation start-ups, including Tesla, Uber and Rivian.
SPACs have been growing in popularity in recent times, since major investors have discovered they provide a quicker way of bringing a company public rather than the traditional route of an initial public offering.
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