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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Reid Hoffman knows he isn't the first person who comes to mind when you hear "flying taxis."

Yes, but: The LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist insists that his latest deal is more than SPAC silliness, and that its success will be heavily reliant on the sorts of network effects that are in his historical wheelhouse.

Driving the news: Reinvent Technology Partners, a SPAC led by Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus, on Wednesday agreed to buy Joby Aviation, which has been developing its electric flying vehicles since 2009.

  • The deal values Joby at $6.6 billion, compared to a $2.6 billion mark when Toyota led a Series C investment in January 2020.
  • It includes an $835 million PIPE and additional investment from Uber, which sold its Uber Elevate unit to Joby late last year. Joby spent most of its first decade working on hardware, and the Uber assets will form the basis of its consumer/pilot software network.

The plan: Joby, which agreed to a certification basis with the FAA last year, hopes for actual certification in 2023 and to begin commercial flights in 2024.

  • It hasn't yet picked its inaugural city, but has begun preliminary discussions with candidates.
  • Flights could be for between 5–150 miles, initially via both Joby's own "skyports" and existing infrastructure (helipads, etc).
  • Paul Sciarra, Joby's executive chair and co-founder of Pinterest, tells Axios: "At the beginning we think we'd start a little under Uber Black pricing."
  • Sciarra adds that Joby's decision to manage its own fleet is a bit reminiscent of how Boeing originally created and operated United Airlines.

Go ahead, be skeptical. It remains difficult to picture an urban skyline pockmarked by eVTOLs ("The Fifth Element" notwithstanding). But Hoffman sincerely believes that's just a failure of imagination, particularly given that Joby's engineers seem to have solved the "noise" problem (video here, go to 1:45).

The bottom line: This is another instance of a SPAC giving retail investors an opportunity to invest in a revolutionary, pre-revenue company. Very high risks, very high rewards.

Go deeper

Dems' immigration plan hits major roadblock

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Sunday that Democrats cannot include pathways to citizenship in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, per a copy of the ruling obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's a blow to Democrats who hoped to provide pathways for millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Using reconciliations would have allowed them to pass politically contentious immigration changes with only 50 votes, as opposed to the usual 60 required.

FBI says human remains found in Wyoming likely Gabby Petito

Gabby Petito. Photo: FBI

Human remains found in Teton County, Wyoming, are "consistent with the description of" missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, said FBI Denver official Charles Jones at a news conference Sunday.

Details: The cause of death had yet to be determined, but Jones said: "Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery." Authorities said they're continuing the search for her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Beto not even best Dem against Abbott

Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in June. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.