Joby Aviation is now public, twelve years after JoeBen Benvirt founded the company at his ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. The air taxi developer began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday under the ticker symbol “JOBY,” after completing a merger with special purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners.
As of 10:00 AM ET, the price per share was at $11.01, up 9.8% from its prior-day closing amount.
Joby’s post-transaction valuation now stands at $4.5 billion, the largest in the industry. It also now has the highest cash balance. All told, Joby has around $1.6 billion in total capital to take its air taxi operations to commercialization in 2024. That includes $835 million of private-investment-in-public-equity as well as more than $500 million of capital on the balance sheet.
RTP reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that around 63% of the 69 million ordinary shares were redeemed prior to the public trading debut, giving Joby access to $255 million out of the $690 million of cash held in trust from the blank-check firm.
We have been working for over a decade to get our technology ready for market and are excited to take this moment to celebrate our achievements so far. #nyse #experiencesquare #eVTOL @NYSE pic.twitter.com/XlpxXiA1Pa
— Joby Aviation (@jobyaviation) August 11, 2021
It’s a sizable amount, but creating an entirely new form of transportation is a capital-intensive business. Joby’s executive chairman Paul Sciarra told TechCrunch he thinks $1.6 billion will be enough to prepare the company for launch.
“We think that’s enough to execute on the things that matter over the next few years, and those are […] one, ensuring that we execute on the certification program; two, showing we can demonstrate our ability to repeatedly manufacturing these aircraft in a certifiable way; and then third and finally, the opportunity to lay the groundwork for commercial launch,” Sciarra said.
Joby is developing a five-seat electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, which it unveiled to much anticipation in February. The company, which has backing from Toyota and JetBlue, has released a slew of announcements in recent months as it geared up for the public listing.
“A lot of people talk about us as a secretive company,” Benvirt said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We’re not actually a secretive company, we just choose to do the work and then show our work, rather than talking about it and then doing it.”
From $RTP to $JOBY
Joby’s merger with blank-check firm Reinvent, headed by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, was announced in February. The transaction includes a few provisions to ensure longer-term collaboration, including a lock-up on founder shares for up to five years, as well as vesting provision with earnout not realized until the price per share reaches $50 – a $30 billion market cap.
SPACs are not a new instrument for going public, but they have gained a widespread presence in the transportation space, particularly amongst eVTOL startups looking to secure amounts of capital. Archer Aviation was the first developer to announce it would merge with a blank-check firm, followed by Joby, Lilium and Vertical Aerospace. But there are signs that the investment bubble may be starting to deflate: late last month, Archer cut its valuation by $1 billion in a “strategic reset” of the transaction terms with Atlas Crest Investment Corp.
Such turbulence is not uncommon in markets populated by pre-revenue companies. But despite now being a public company – and having shareholders to answer to – Sciarra said Joby’s task remains unchanged. “We can’t control the markets,” he said. “[Joby] is a company that’s been executing quietly for a very long time on things that matter. I think it’s going to be incumbent upon us to do the same as we make this transition to a public company: tell folks what we’re going to do, and then go out and do them. That, quarter by quarter, is what builds credibility, what combats skepticism, and what gives investors and frankly, the broader public, confidence that this is a company that means what it says.”
One way to frame the fate of air taxis is whether they will be more like autonomous vehicles or electric vehicles. The AV space circa five years ago was filled with companies setting ambitious expectations about when true self-driving cars would be on the roads, only to have multiple companies collapse or sell under the weight of overshot expectations.
But Sciarra suggested that a better analogy to the eVTOL industry as it currently stands is the early days of electric vehicles. He pointed out that Joby’s aircraft is designed to conform to existing safety and certification standards, with a trained pilot onboard, similar to how helicopters and planes operate today. “We didn’t want to compound the technical risk of developing a new aircraft with the technical and regulatory risk of developing full autonomy from day one.”
“We think about our approach as a little bit more Tesla versus, say, Waymo,” he added.