Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

Saudi Arabia's Abdul Latif Jameel bets on flying taxis with Joby Aviation

Family-owned conglomerate becomes a new investor in air-taxi start-up's funding round

Joby Aviation's air taxi can fly 320 kilometres per hour and cover a distance of 240km on a single charge. Courtesy of Joby Aviation.
Joby Aviation's air taxi can fly 320 kilometres per hour and cover a distance of 240km on a single charge. Courtesy of Joby Aviation.

The investment arm of Abdul Latif Jameel, a Saudi Arabian family-owned conglomerate, invested in Joby Aviation, a company in Santa Cruz that aims to shuttle passengers in electric air taxis above congested city streets.

Jameel Investment Management Company participated in Joby Aviation's $590 million (Dh2.16 billion) Series C funding round, Abdul Latif Jameel said on Sunday, without disclosing the size of its investment.

The funding round was led by Japanese car maker Toyota and includes new backers Baillie Gifford alongside previous investors Sparx Group, Intel Capital, Capricorn Investment, JetBlue Technology Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures.

"Air taxi service is still in the early stages of commercialisation, but one that has the potential to completely transform the future of mobility," Hassan Jameel, deputy president and vice chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel, said.

"We are excited to be a part of this new chapter for the sector, bringing fast, affordable, and zero-emissions air mobility to Saudi Arabia and the wider Mena region.”

Abdul Latif Jameel's portfolio spans energy and automotive sectors, among others.

Before its investment in Joby Aviation, the Saudi company also invested in fast-growing US electric vehicle and mobility company Rivian in 2012.

Entrepreneurs and government entities in Saudi Arabia are increasingly investing in the technology sector as part of efforts to diversify their portfolios.

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal's KBW Ventures is among companies looking to increase its investments in the industry, especially in emerging technology.

The country's sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund, is also pivoting to tech investments. It is the single-biggest investor in Softbank's $100bn Vision Fund, a technology focused investment vehicle.

PIF also launched its own $1bn fund to invest in venture capital and private-equity markets last year.

Joby Aviation's latest round of funding brings total investments into the company to $720m.

“We are building a new system for transportation to transform your daily life, at greater safety and, in time, at a similar cost to driving,” JoeBen Bevirt, Joby Aviation's founder and chief executive, said last month.

Joby Aviation's air taxi is a piloted, five-seater vehicle capable of flying 320 kilometres per hour and cover a distance of 240km on a single charge.

The aircraft is 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during take-off and landing, and near-silent when flying overhead, the company said.

Updated: February 10, 2020 10:27 AM

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