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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

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28 mins ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.

Mike Allen, author of AM
38 mins ago - Economy & Business

Small businesses see hiring as No. 1 worry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Almost every small business owner in a Goldman Sachs survey is having trouble hiring — and two-thirds think the federal government has done too little to ease their hiring, supply-chain and inflation worries.

Why it matters: The Goldman Sachs research gives a vivid window into the continuing headwinds and hardship for entrepreneurs.

42 mins ago - World

NATO sends ships, fighter jets to eastern Europe over Russia threat

Service members of Russia's Eastern Military District units attend a welcoming ceremony as they arrive at unfamiliar training ranges in Belarus. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry/TASS via Getty Images

NATO said Monday it's sending more ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe due to Russia's buildup of troops near Ukraine.

Driving the news: "NATO Allies are putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to NATO deployments in eastern Europe, reinforcing Allied deterrence and defense as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine," per a NATO statement.