While the general public still debates whether the market is ready for electric cars and thinks autonomous driving needs many more years before the technology is ready (those who follow this blog know it’s not), these technologies are already old hat for Silicon Valley venture capitalists. The toughest issues have been solved, and the product is already on the market or about to be rolled out widely.
A venture capitalist (VC) is always looking for the latest trends, which are often still so invisible that there are hardly any signals. These trends don’t even have a name at this early stage. But that’s a VC’s job, to look for the next opportunity to get into a technology early and earn several times the amount invested after a few years.
One of these VCs is Tim Draper from the San Francisco Bay Area – Silicon Valley – and he comes from a venture capital family. His father was already a VC and now so is his son. The family also runs Draper University in San Mateo, where startup founders undergo an intensive training program in a five-week crash course. A former hotel serves as both a place to study and a place to live. Then across the street is an accelerator called Hero City from Draper, where startups are then given offices once again and hopefully ‘accelerate’ their business in this ecosystem of mentors and investors.
Anyone who has ever visited Hero City will be familiar with the so-called ‘Deskla‘, a cored Model S that serves as a reception table. Tim Draper was one of the first Tesla and SpaceX investors and had this Deskla made from scraps. Draper has certainly profited by millions from the investment.
If you have such a good nose, it’s easier to listen when he’s asked what the next trends will be and where he’s investing his money. And that’s exactly what CNBC asked him and received an answer that may still seem totally crazy to many of us: Draper sees jetpacks and flying motorcycles as the next technology of the future. After VTOLs (flying cars, so to speak), he says, far too little attention has been paid to these two modes of transportation.
Two of the companies he has invested in are JetPack Aviation and Gravity Industries Ltd. Both make jetpacks, which miniaturized jet engines that can be strapped around your body and lift a person into the air and accelerate them to 400 km/h (250 mph). They are used for recreational purposes, but also for emergency services, military and access to rough terrain, as well as over open water. Applications are for recreational fun, but also for emergency services, military and access to rough terrain, as well as over open bodies of water.
Both companies have already raised several million in venture capital. The global market for VTOL autonomous vehicles has reached an estimated $4.4 billion this year and is expected to reach $15.6 billion by 2027, according to a study by Research and Markets. Draper immediately invested $650,000 in the company after a 2017 TED Talk by Gravity founder Richard Browning, and a presumably similar sum in Jetpack Aviatioon.
Jetpack Aviation itself is also still working on a flying motorcycle that resembles the gliders from the movie Star Wars. It is called ‘SPEEDER’.
Crazy? That’s exactly what the idea of building a mass-market electric car sounded like a decade ago.
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This article was also published in German.