Oct 20, 2021 - Economy

Autonomous driving company Cyngn goes public

A car with a dollar bill behind it

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Cyngn, a company that began as an attempt to build a more open flavor of Android and later pivoted to autonomous driving tech, is set to begin trading today following its initial public offering.

Why it matters: While special purpose acquisition companies got a lot of flack over the past year for acquiring expensive pre-revenue companies — especially in the automotive space — Cyngn's deal suggests IPOs of nascent, futuristic tech businesses aren't limited to SPACs.

Zoom in: Cyngn is focused on industrial applications of autonomous driving (a trend I've previously highlighted as being much more attractive to AV investors these days, than building robotaxis).

  • The company also has no real revenue, and net losses of $​​9.3 million and $8.3 million for 2019 and 2020.

Between the lines: While investors in the slew of electric vehicle and other auto companies that merged with SPACs were pretty excited at the outset, that didn't last.

  • Shares of companies like Fisker, Canoo, Lordstown and Nikola plunged in the spring.
  • Meanwhile, the big automakers saw their stock prices go up following positive EV news.

Yes, but: As we've said in the past, risky, pre-revenue bets going public is common in sectors like biotech. Companies developing treatments and drugs are often still in the midst of their FDA approval process, which means that investors will either end up owning a piece of a company that succeeds at developing an effective drug — or one that fails.

  • Cyngn is valued at $420 million — modest compared to the billions we saw with EV companies.

What to watch: How investors react to Cyngn's quarterly reports — and, of course, whether Cyngn delivers.

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