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Innoviz is ‘ahead of the pack’ in the lidar space: CEO

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Omer Keilaf, Innoviz CEO, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and Alexis Christoforous to discuss going public on the Nasdaq via SPAC and outlook for the lidar maker company.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to bring everybody's attention, though, to a startup today making a splash on Wall Street. The lidar startup Innoviz Technologies began trading on the NASDAQ today at a valuation of $1.4 billion after merging with the blank check company Collective Growth. If you're keeping track, this is the fifth lidar sensor maker to go public via SPAC in just the past few months. But it seems like investor appetite remains strong. The stock is up about 5% here in its debut.

Joining us now is Innoviz's CEO and co-founder, Omar Keilaf. Omar, good to see you again. I know when you and I spoke in February, you said that Innoviz was moving into sort of the next stage of going into high volume production with your sensors. Can you give us an update on where things stand right now?

OMAR KEILAF: Yes, absolutely. You're right. And thank you for asking me on this. So we actually started ramping up our facility in the US and Michigan. We actually also published videos that show the production line working. We have fully automated our production line. This is part of what you need to have in order to meet the automotive grid. So that will help us to meet with the demand coming from our customers, including BMW. It's a fully automated and automotive grade production line.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, Omar, the lidar space has really been heating up a lot lately. You're not the first in this space to go public. At least four other companies have preceded you, at least, in going public. How do you really keep your head above the pack, so to speak, especially as we see this space get incredibly crowded?

OMAR KEILAF: Yeah, thank you. So, innovation is actually ahead of the pack. We have a serious production deal with a car maker, such as BMW. That's the first level three autonomous driving platform that is going to come to the market. We have the most mature product in the market. You can see it's a product that could already fit in the car. It's a fraction of the size of the available solutions in the market and significantly lower in cost.

And now where we are going to introduce our second generation, Innoviz 2, which is going to be even smaller, this is already the best lidar today available. And we're coming along with a lidar that is going to be 20 or 30 times better than this solution. So, and it's going to be significantly cheaper. So that's really going to disrupt the industry. This is going to be an amazing step for many other car makers, not only the luxury cars, that will allow them to reach full autonomous driving.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Omar, I know that you're anticipating revenue of about $9 million this year. But now, as a publicly traded company, can you give us some guidance on what you expect revenue to be in the next year or two? And when do you expect to turn your first profit?

OMAR KEILAF: Yeah, so we already have been nominated for serious production with BMW, as I mentioned earlier. That gives us very high confidence for meaningful revenues two years from today, as they are going to ramp up their production line. So that's a point where we will start to aggregate meaningful revenues. Obviously, with the Innoviz 1 being available in the market and high volume production going to be able to serve many customers, we expect that in '22, '23, we will start to ramp up our revenues.

We are going to still continue to develop many technologies. So we're going to continue to invest in technologies. We are now working on Innoviz 2, and we're starting to work on Innoviz 3. Lidar has to be eventually at $100 in order to reach the full market of automotive. And Innoviz see themselves as responsible in order to make it happen. So we're going to continue to invest in developing new technologies that will allow us to reach that.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I know that Apple has been talking about getting into this space with its own self-driving car. It's said to prefer lidar. I'm curious if you've held any talks with Apple. And what does that mean for the overall industry? Is Apple getting into this space a game changer?

OMAR KEILAF: Well, I, think that everybody sees Tesla as the most growing car company in the world. But it's not because Tesla has the most sales. It's actually because they are the most technical. And people give Tesla the value based on their ability to innovate. Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world. And definitely, they understand the automotive world is becoming more technical. And they have a good opportunity to become a meaningful player there.

So I'm not surprised to see Apple and other technical leaders in this industry in the world that are looking at the automotive space as something they can penetrate. Apple understands the need for lidar because they understand that's the only way to achieve [INAUDIBLE].

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Before we let you go, I know that you know that Elon Musk of Tesla has been a vocal critic of lidar. He said, quote, "It's a fool's errand. Anyone relying on it is doomed." What would your message be to Musk right now?

OMAR KEILAF: Well, he made the right decision five years ago. There was no lidar available, and he had to bring a product to the market. Today, that reality has changed. And obviously, they are still stuck at the level two. And that's something they already acknowledged. So they cannot reach level three. The only way for them to really reach full driving and self-driving is with lidar. And I'm sure that he will make that step eventually. I think that now that there are lidar such as ours, which are mature, very high availability and low cost, that's the best way to reach fast to the market with full self-driving technology.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Omar Keilaf, CEO of Innoviz Technologies, thanks so much for joining us. Best of luck with the rest of the day being a publicly traded company.