Boeing is spinning off its HorizonX venture fund through a new partnership with private equity group AE Industrial Partners (AEI). An August 5 announcement about the deal did not specify the exact terms for the tie-up, but it appears that the U.S. aerospace group intends to retain a majority interest in the new fund, which will be renamed AE HorizonX.
Since Boeing established HorizonX in 2017 it has invested in 40 start-ups, holding minority stakes and providing support through its engineering resources. In the advanced air mobility sector, these companies included Zunum Aero whose efforts to bring the six-to-twelve hybrid-electric aircraft to market collapsed in July 2019.
This episode led to Zunum's founders suing Boeing HorizonX for allegedly using the investment to “gain access to proprietary information and intellectual property” before withdrawing support to shut down a prospective rival aircraft manufacturer. Boeing denied these allegations and the current status of the lawsuit is unclear.
AEI has more than $3.5 billion in assets under management in the aerospace, defense, government services, power generation, and specialty industrial sectors, and is currently investing out of AE Industrial Partners Fund II which has $1.36 billion in commitments. Boeing will continue to invest in the combined fund.
“The AEI HorizonX platform will provide us with a foundation to build out a new investing pillar focused on transformative businesses and technologies critical to the evolution of our target markets and their impact on the environment,” said AEI managing partner David Rowe. “We are excited to partner with Boeing to invest in a more sustainable future.”
Under the merger agreement, the current HorizonX Ventures team, led by Brian Schettler, and the current portfolio will move to AEI HorizonX, which is expected to launch its first standalone fund in 2022. The partnership with AEI will be run through Boeing’s Enterprise Technology Office and Applied Innovation team.
“The partnership with AEI and future partners broadens our investor base, enables HorizonX to invest at a rapid pace, and gives Boeing access to more outside innovation than ever through this investment collaboration," said Marc Allen, Boeing chief strategy officer and senior v-p of strategy and corporate development.
Separately, at the end of 2020 Boeing closed its NeXt innovation division that it launched in July 2018. However, it has maintained its stake in the Wisk joint venture it established with Kitty Hawk to develop eVTOL aircraft, including the two-seat, autonomous Cora model.