China’s Tencent leads $90m round in German ‘flying taxi’ firm Lilium

Tencent company name is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Lilium, a German start-up with Silicon Valley-scale ambitions to develop a 5-passenger “flying taxi”, has raised a second, $90 million round of financing from top tech investors, making it one of the best-funded electric aircraft projects to date.

The company, which took in $11.4 million only last year, has emerged as one of Europe’s hottest start-ups for attempting to solve hard physics problems for a new category of aircraft capable of vertical take-off and electric powered jet flight.

Lilium said on Tuesday the new funding round, led by Chinese internet giant Tencent, is joined by LGT, the largest family-owned investment firm in Europe, based in Liechtenstein; Atomico, a top European venture firm; and Obvious Ventures, whose co-founder, Evan Williams, is a co-founder of Twitter.

In April, Lilium said it was developing a five-seat “flying taxi” after mounting successful test flights of a two-seat jet capable of a mid-air transition from hover mode, like drones, to wing-borne flight, like conventional aircraft.

Wing-borne, electric-powered flight allows commuter aircraft to travel five or six times the distance of drones, a Lilium executive said. A 20-km (12-mile) trip from Manhattan to JFK Airport could take as little as five minutes, he estimated.

“The concept goes far beyond what you typically see from German start-ups,” said Remo Gerber, the former European managing director of online taxi firm Gett, who was named Lilium’s chief commercial officer last month.

Its ambitions put it more in line with the likes of Tesla or Google than the e-commerce apps which currently dominate the start-up scene in Berlin or the self-financed engineering firms located across the country.

Lilium said it plans to use the fresh funding to dramatically expand hiring and carry it through the next development stages of its 5-seater electric jet, buying it time to meet stringent regulatory approvals.

The 70-employee company has roughly as many outstanding job postings as current staff, and plans to scale up hiring of aeronautical engineers, physicists, computer science and electric propulsion experts rapidly, Gerber said.

Lilium, which was founded in 2015 by four graduates from the Technical University of Munich, is shooting for a manned test flight of its five-seat aircraft around 2019, and to roll-out “flying taxi” commuter services, subject to regulatory approvals, some time in the next decade.

The jet will be a lightweight aircraft powered by 36 electric jet engines mounted to its wings via 12 moveable flaps. With a range of 300 km and cruising speed of 300 km per hour, Lilium is the only electric aircraft capable of both vertical take-off and jet-powered flight, the company said.

Combining these two features is what separates Lilium from rival start-ups working so-called flying cars or taxis that rely on drone or helicopter-like technologies, such as German rival Volocopter or European aerospace giant Airbus.

Also Read:

Indonesia’s Go-Jek raises $1.2b led by Tencent, valuation soars to $3b

China: Tencent leads $13m Series A in Melbourne fintech startup Airwallex

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.