Lidar startup Aeva raises another $200M ahead of its debut as a public company

Aeva, the lidar company started by two former Apple engineers, has raised an additional $200 million in private investment from Hong Kong hedge fund Sylebra Capital ahead of its debut as a publicly traded company.

The Mountain View, California-based startup announced in fall 2020 that it was merging with special purpose acquisition company InterPrivate Acquisition Corp., with a post-deal market valuation of $2.1 billion. The new investment from Sylebra, which is a current holder of InterPrivate common stock, brings the total gross proceeds it will have once it begins trading to more than $560 million, according to the company.

Aeva had previously raised $120 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, including investments from Adage Capital and Porsche SE. Its combined company gross proceeds, a figure that includes $243 million held in trust by InterPrivate, was at $363 million before Sylebra stepped forward with its additional investment.

Importantly, Sylebra has also entered into a one-year lock-up agreement on the majority of its investment and will vote all eligible shares in favor of the transaction. Aeva said the merger is expected to close in the first quarter of this year.

Aeva co-founder and CEO Soroush Salehian called the investment a “major vote of confidence” in the company’s business model and growth plans. Aeva will use the additional $200 million to further invest into R&D and scale up its programs across key verticals in automotive, consumer electronics and industrial applications, Salehian said in an emailed comment to TechCrunch.

“We’ve seen an increase in customer interest for our unique 4D LiDAR technology across all of these areas in the past few months and the additional resources will allow us to address this increased demand faster,” he said.

Lidar, light detection and ranging radar, measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car. Aeva’s founders Salehian and Mina Rezk developed what they call “4D lidar,” which can measure distance as well as instant velocity without losing range, all while preventing interference from the sun or other sensors. The company’s FMCW technology also uses less power, allowing it to fold in perception software.

Lidar sensors are widely considered critical to the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles. However, the sensors have numerous other use cases that lidar companies have begun to pursue as the road to commercializing autonomous vehicles has turned out to be longer than expected. In the past two years, automakers have begun to view lidar as an important sensor to be used to boost the capabilities and safety of its advanced driver assistance systems in the new cars, trucks and SUVs available to consumers. Aeva’s technology has been primarily developed for use in autonomous vehicles as well as advanced driving assistance systems, Salehian has said its technology is also piquing the interest of those in consumer electronics.

Aeva is one of a handful of lidar companies to eschew the traditional IPO path and go public via a SPAC merger. Velodyne and Luminar have also merged with SPACs to to become publicly traded companies. Lidar startup Ouster announced in December that it has agreed to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Colonnade Acquisition Corp.