The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Joby Stays Silent on Reports It Plans to Go Public Through SPAC Merger

Joby Aviation has declined to comment on a Reuters report that the eVTOL aircraft developer plans to go public through a merger with a so-called special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). According to unnamed sources in a January 21 story, the California-based startup has engaged investment banks to explore possibilities for raising further capital through a tie-up with a SPAC.

Rumors about Joby’s possible next moves to raise capital surfaced just a month after similar reports about another eVTOL startup, Lilium. The German company also declined to comment on reports that it is exploring the SPAC path to raise more capital to meet rising costs associated with certifying its all-electric aircraft.

Joby, which in December acquired Uber’s Elevate air taxi platform, has already raised more than $800 million, with backers including Toyota Motor Corporation and Intel. Lilium has raised around $375 million to date. According to several industry analysts, new eVTOL aircraft developers can expect to spend well in excess of $1 billion to take a model into series production.

A SPAC is a company formed purely to raise capital through an initial public offering in order to acquire an existing venture. Sometimes dubbed “blank check companies,” SPACs have become more prevalent over the last couple of years, and especially in the U.S.

According to investment research group PitchBook, which valued Joby at $2.6 billion in January 2020, SPACs are a likely next step in fundraising for companies in the advanced air mobility sector.

“In our view, the successful SPAC debuts of electric vehicle/mobility companies with a combined valuation of over $100 billion have set the stage for urban air mobility companies to go public,” commented Asad Hussain, PitchBook mobility analyst. “We believe urban air mobility startups such as Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Volocopter could raise the capital they need to compete with established aerospace manufacturers by tapping into public investor enthusiasm for electric vehicles and transportation technology.”

Hussain described Joby as “an ideal target for a reverse merger with a SPAC.” He said it is the best-capitalized, privately owned company in the urban air mobility sector and that its position has been boosted by its acquisition of Elevate and the preferential support it received from Uber, which had previously pursued partnerships with 10 eVTOL aircraft developers.