Little-known EV and lidar firms are raising billions in Tesla’s shadow

Patrick

Enlarge / The Nikola Two truck drives out on the stage at an April 2019 event. (credit: Megan Geuss)

Lidar startup Luminar is going public, the company announced on Monday. Instead of going with a traditional IPO, Luminar is jumping on the latest Wall Street fad: merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Merging with a SPAC allows a startup to go public more quickly, with less paperwork and more certainty about the sale price. The deal gives Luminar, which only expects to sell about 100 lidar sensors this year, a post-money valuation of $3.4 billion.

It’s the latest in a string of companies connected to the electric and self-driving car revolutions that have gone public using a SPAC. Most have found strong interest from investors.

In March, electric truck startup Nikola announced that it would go public with help from a SPAC. By the time the merger concluded three months later, Nikola’s value had shot up seven-fold. It has since settled down to four times the initial sale value. That values Nikola—a company that has yet to deliver a single vehicle to customers—at $14 billion, about half the value of Ford.

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