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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

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak.
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings.
  5. World: Iran tightens COVID restrictions amid fourth wave of pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Maryland lawmakers override Hogan vetoes of police accountability legislation

Marion Gray Hopkins with Coalition of Concerned Mothers speaks during a rally promoting police reform on March 4 in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maryland's Democratic-controlled legislature on Saturday voted to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's vetoes of police accountability legislation.

Why it matters: Maryland is the first state to repeal its Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, the Washington Post notes.