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Aeva raises $200M before SPAC deal

Soroush Salehian, Aeva CEO and Co-Founder joins Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi, Myles Udland, and Julie Hyman to discuss the company raising another $200M ahead of its debut as a public company.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: There has been a seeming mini boom in LiDAR startups. This is companies that use the technology using lasers for sensing for various applications, but probably most prominently, potentially in autonomous driving. We are joined by another one of these LiDAR startups today.

It is called Aeva. It just raised another $200 million ahead of its debut as a public company. It's going public through a reverse merger. And Soroush Salehian is joining us now. He is the Aeva CEO and founder. Soroush, thank you so much for being here.

You know, we've been trying to sort of get our arms around how these various LiDAR companies are different from one another. So talk to me about Aeva, what the technology is like and also the applications and how that may differ from some of your competitors.

SOROUSH SALEHIAN: Sure, thanks for having me. So first, Aeva is a perception systems company. We design and develop what we call 4D LiDAR technology, which really provides machines of all kinds, including cars, automated vehicles, or autonomous vehicles, as well as devices like consumer devices, phones, tablets, and others to really see the world in entirely new ways.

And I think what is very unique about us is that our ability to measure instantaneous velocity, which is very different from what you know as a typical 3D LiDAR, which measures only distance. And beyond that, we do this at a very long range performance without the challenges of having issues with interference, which also typical LiDAR systems have to deal with.

And we start our work in the automotive space where we have a few key partnerships, including a strategic partnership and investment from Porsche SE, which is the largest shareholder of the Volkswagen group, the largest car maker, as well as a production deal with tier-one ZF, which is the third largest tier-one global supplier in the world.

And beyond that, we're working across a number of close to 30 programs within the automotive sector looking to go to production around 2024. But another thing I want to highlight that's very unique about us is actually our ability to put all of this powerful technology onto a tiny silicon photonics chip. And this allows us to actually integrate all of that, you know, from what you've seen, those, you know, big clunky LiDARs, into something that's literally the size of a tiny chip.

And this opens up a whole new set of possibilities that are well beyond automotive, including ability to actually put this into phones, tablets, for kind of world-facing LiDAR sensing. And that's what we really believe is cracking the code of the Holy Grail of LiDAR, which is high performance at low cost. And this is a bit about how we are differentiated.

MYLES UDLAND: Soroush, let's stay on the automobile application and just think about that market as it evolves. And, you know, your expectations are it's going to evolve quite quickly, given the 2024 revenue expectations. Is this a winner-take-all, winner-take-most? Do you see some of the dynamics that have played out and say, you know, social media online advertising coming to automotive?

Or might it be a little more fractured the way the automotive industry frankly has been for some time if you look at where all those components come from that's in all the cars we're driving?

SOROUSH SALEHIAN: Yeah, I think this definitely is, I think, an area where we see a transition across that technology that is really driven by differentiation in the technology. I think, you know, in this space specifically, the ability to provide unique capabilities, meaning high performance, at this point is becoming table stakes.

And I think, you know, it's no secret that today, what's available out there is just simply not sufficient to get to that next level of autonomous driving function. But what we provide at Aeva is the ability to actually exceed those performance. You know, long range capability, provide this new capability of instant velocity without interference issues that typically are concerning.

But really do it in a way that is actually scalable. And I think that is what's been missing in the space. And I do believe that this would be an instance where I think that the sensing space will transition from this kind of typical 3D time-of-flight LiDARs to actually what we call FMCW, or frequency-modulated continuous wave, which is a foundation of a 4D LiDAR technology as a whole.

And we're already seeing this programs that have worked on stopgap-type solutions for pilot programs between now and '24, '25 timeline, really thinking about the long end game being that high performance, low cost capability that really provides that full scale for automated vehicles within the automotive sector specifically.

BRIAN SOZZI: Soroush, you have a really interesting background. You spent a lot of time at Apple working on the iPhone, the Apple Watch, the iPad. Also, your co-founder also worked at Apple. So two part question here, how serious do you think Apple is with wanting to get into the EV and autonomous space? And then if something from them does, in fact, hit, does that double your 2030 EBIDTA estimate of $3 billion? Like, how impactful could their arrival in this market be to what you do?

SOROUSH SALEHIAN: Sure. Yeah, first of all, I cannot comment on the work that I've had before with Apple. But, you know, I think, of course, Apple is a great company and has been working in any field that they've entered. They have really made a clear dent, there's no question about that.

I think if Apple were to succeed in providing solutions within the EV space and autonomous vehicle space, I really do think that there is a huge opportunity within the automotive sector to capitalize on because of simply the fact of, you know, the focus on quality and also the ability to make scalable products. I think that's-- these two forces is no secret about the history of Apple.

So-- but I do believe that that is something that I think, of course, if this were to happen, would provide a unique opportunity for the entire automotive and autonomous driving space.

JULIE HYMAN: Soroush, thanks for your time and good luck with-- good luck with the pending deal closure, which is set to happen sometime this quarter. Soroush Salehian is Aeva CEO and founder. Thanks again, appreciate it.