EVTOL companies are worth billions – Who are the key players?

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“The material is hardsaid venture capitalist Marc Andreessen at a technology investor event in 2013. Explaining the long-standing preference for software startups among VCs, Andreessen said, “There’s so much more that can go wrong in a hardware business. There are so many other ways for a hardware company to explode beyond recovery.

Even as Andreessen spoke, however, the seeds were being sown for one of the largest and most sustained cash injections into a hardware-based movement in the past decade. Since then, the design and construction of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft has been propelled by waves of funding from some of the biggest names in technology. And, surprisingly for such a large movement, funding comes mostly from sources outside the traditional venture capital community – wealthy investors and multinational corporations. The list includes Google co-founder Larry Page, self-reliance pioneer Sebastian Thrun, entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, investor Adam Grosser, entrepreneur Marc Lore and companies such as Uber, Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, Boeing, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, JetBlue, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and many more.

Today, some 250 companies are working on what they hope will be a revolution in urban transport. Some, like Wisk, Kittyhawk and Joby, fly a small fleet of prototype aircraft; others have nothing more than a design concept. If the vision becomes reality, hundreds of eVTOLs will fill the skies of a major city during a typical rush hour, carrying small numbers of passengers at costs per mile no higher than those of driving a car. This vision, which goes by the name of urban air mobility or advanced air mobility, will require funders to overcome entire categories of hurdles, including certification, technology development and operational considerations related to safe flight. safety of a large number of aircraft in a small airspace.

Even technological development, considered the simplest of challenges, has a long way to go. Joby, one of the most advanced startups, was starkly reminded of this fact when it was revealed on February 16 that one of its unpiloted prototypes had crashed during a test flight in a remote part of California. Few details were available, but FutureFlight reports suggested the plane was flying test routes at altitudes of up to 1,200 feet and at speeds as high as 240 knots.

No one expects the urban air mobility market, if it starts, to be large enough to accommodate 250 eVTOL manufacturers, so a cottage industry has sprung up to cripple the field. SMG Consulting (founded by former Honeywell and Danaher executive Sergio Cecutta) ranks eVTOL startups in its Advanced Air Mobility Reality Index since December 2020. Its latest index, from which our table below has been adapted, courtesy clearance from SMG, suggests top 10 startups secured over $6 billion in funding; the next few hundred startups have combined funding of several hundred million at most.

Cecutta is quick to point out that funding, while important, isn’t everything when it comes to ranking eVTOL companies. How they navigate the largely uncharted territory of new flyer certification and manufacturing will also be critical. “These companies are all planning for production of hundreds, if not thousands” of units per year, he says.

“The aerospace industry isn’t used to producing in those kinds of numbers… The challenge is being able to build at that rate, having a supply chain that can get you the components you need to build at this rate. Aerospace is a team sport. No company does 100% in-house. Equipment it’s true hard.

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