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Two former Apple insiders are building a laser technology startup to fuel the electric car boom

Brian Sozzi
·3-min read

Aeva co-founder and CEO Soroush Salehian — who spent several years at Apple developing the iPhone, Apple Watch and iPod — won’t say if the tech giant is working on an electric car with autonomous technology as many have speculated in recent weeks.

But what he can proclaim confidently, is that four-year-old lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) play Aeva — which focuses on what Salehian calls 4D lidar — is primed to be the dominant name in the auto industry’s push toward autonomous cars. And perhaps over time, also supply its perception sensing tech to the consumer electronics industry to fuel their desire for spatial capabilities.

“What’s available out there is simply not sufficient to get to the next level of autonomous driving function,” Salehian told Yahoo Finance Live. Salehian founded Aeva with fellow former Apple engineer Mina Rezk. It competes with several other upstart lidar companies that have recently come to public markets, including Luminar and Innoviz.

Added Salehian, “I do believe there will be an instance where I think the sensing space will transition from this typical 3D lidar to this 4D lidar technology as whole.”

Aeva announced in November its intention to merge with InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. in a SPAC transaction. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. Before its debut on public markets, Aeva announced on Monday it raised $200 million from Hong Kong hedge fund Sylebra Capital.

The SPAC deal and Sylebra transaction will arm Aeva with about $563 million in cash right out of the gate.

Similar to the other aforementioned lidar SPACs, Aeva isn’t earning profits yet and is pre-production. It has revenue of $4.111 million for the nine-months ended Sept. 20.

The company offers some bold financial projections for investors to ponder, just like its rivals. By 2025, Aeva aims to have $880 million in sales and $349 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation (EBITDA). The company says it’s working with 30 of the top names in the auto industry for its yet-to-be-produced products, including backer Porsche (a division of Volkswagen).

Unlike its rivals, however, Aeva has been bold enough to disseminate 2030 financial projections. The big goal: $6 billion in sales and $3 billion in adjusted EBITDA.

And who knows, maybe those numbers aren’t too hyped if Salehian’s former employer Apple gets into the auto mix and ushers in an autonomous driving boom.

“I think if Apple were to succeed in providing solutions within the [auto] space, I do think that there is a huge opportunity within the automotive sector to capitalize on because of the fact they have the focus on quality and the ability to make scalable products. These two forces are no secret about the history of Apple. But I do believe that if this were to happen, it would provide a unique opportunity for the entire automotive industry and autonomous riding space,” Salehian says.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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