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LinkedIn and Zynga founders in talks to buy flying taxi developer Joby

February 14, 2021

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and tech entrepreneur Mark Pincus, who co-founded the video game maker Zynga, are reportedly in talks to merge their blank cheque company with California-based flying taxi developer Joby Aviation, according to the Financial Times.

A merger would value the start-up at about $5.7 billion.

Reinvent Technology Partners, the special purpose acquisition company, raised $690 million in a public listing in 2020 and is finalising financing for the deal.

SPACs are investment vehicles that raise money on public markets with the intention of acquiring or merging with a private firm.

The merger, if successful, will provide Joby with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The electric plane manufacturer’s current backers include Japanese carmaker Toyota and British investment manager Baillie Gifford. Uber invested $125m in Joby after it acquired the ride-hailing giant's flying taxi business in December.

Joby, founded in 2009, has more than 500 employees.

The exact timing of the merger will depend on how quickly Mr Hoffman and Mr Pincus manage to raise additional funding from institutional and private investors, FT cited sources as saying.

If Reinvent failed to secure additional financing, the transaction could fall apart, the source added.

Joby is the latest electric mobility company that plans to go public by merging with a SPAC at an early stage in its development. The company has built a prototype that has already taken 600 flights, but has yet to be certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

News of the potential deal comes after rival Archer Aviation said they would be listing by merging with a SPAC last week and a $1bn order from United Airlines, conditional on obtaining regulatory approval for its electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

A study last month by Deloitte and the Aerospace Industries Association predicted the US air mobility market would begin deployment in 2025, reap $115bn in revenue by 2035 and create 280,000 jobs.

Electric taxis have captured the interest of both investors and airlines but it is yet to be seen if these can be mass produced to de-carbonise air travel and ease congestion.