Revolution.Aero Uplift: It’s all UP(.Partners) from here
Two 11-year-old boys met at Santa Monica Airport 28 years ago. From high school to college, attaining pilot’s licenses and co-founding various successful aviation companies: they did everything together.
Cut to today, best friends and co-founders of early-stage investment company UP.Partners, Cyrus Sigari and Ben Marcus trust each other implicitly.
That passion for aviation design and technology has led them to launching a $230m venture fund dedicated to funding companies that are transforming the moving world.
Adam Grosser, their other co-founder, chairman and 40-year-aviator, is an award-winning investment entrepreneur who has taken three companies public following 12 years at Apple. “Adam is a rockstar,” says Sigari. “He was personally recruited by Steve Jobs straight out of Stanford.”
With its fund, UP.Partners is hoping to capture some of the $10trn annual revenue made by the transportation and logistics industries. This is about 10% of global gross domestic product (GDP). While the CO2 emissions for the sector are 29%.
Sigari said fighting climate change was a significant factor for launching the fund.
“The genesis of UP.Partners was at our UP.Summit, founded in 2017, bringing together inspiring entrepreneurs and passionate investors excited about the future of transportation. To date there has been about half a billion dollars invested in the companies that have presented at the Summit from the 200-300 people in the room,” said Sigari.
Here, Sigari, Marcus and Grosser found the aim of the fund: “The opportunity to help humanity go UP by moving people and goods cleaner, faster, safer and at a lower cost.”
So, what kind of companies or technologies could expect to see investment? Sigari says UP.Partners is interested in the key enabling technologies – “the picks and shovels” of mobility– which are helping reinvent the fabric of transportation.
The company has already made 10 investments in companies including flight autonomy company Skydio, manufacturing quality assurance leader UnitX, and electric vertical aircraft developer Beta Technologies.
Kyle Clark, CEO of Beta Technologies, which recently closed a $400m investment round led by Amazon Climate Pledge Fund and Fidelity said: “UP.Partners uniquely understands the potential and scale of new air mobility and brings visionaries together to realise that potential unmatched by other venture investors.”
On Sigari’s radar are companies working on recharging infrastructure, autonomy solutions, manufacturing technologies, sensing technologies like LIDAR [light detection and ranging] and radar solutions that can be applied to all forms of mobility, not just flight-related mobility.
The investment fund is backed by a roster of well-known investors including Cathie Wood, CEO and founder of investment management firm ARK Invest, Alaska Air Group and Toyota subsidiary Woven Group.
“Cathie Wood is perhaps the most respected and revered public market investor in the world around disruptive technology,” says Sigari. ARK Invest manages approximately $70bn and was one of the earliest believers in companies like Tesla.
More and more business and commercial aviation companies are turning towards future technologies. However, Sigari believes the automotive industry has the capacity to manufacture vehicles at a scale that no other industry knows. “In our opinion, the automotive industry has the single greatest potential leg up when it comes to at scale manufacturing of vehicles. As Elon Musk famously says, ‘coming up with a car (or plane) concept was easy, mass producing that vehicle at scale was 100 times more difficult’.”
When asked why now was a good time for investment in the sector, Sigari said: “We’ve reached a tipping point where we have an abundance of investable capital, transformational technologies, and public will to start thinking about a new future for humanity. When DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] invented the internet 50 years ago, I doubt they thought Uber and Amazon would exist as a result.
“No one knows what the possible positive impacts to society may be 20 years from now from this incredibly exciting time of invention and innovation. And we want to help accelerate that future with the work we’re doing at UP.”