Rivian seeks raise in $900m electric truck debut, sources say

Rivian, the high-tech startup whose chief executive officer was dubbed Elon Musk’s Silicon Valley clone, is preparing to take its latest research machine public on Wednesday.

The California-based firm plans to price its shares at $21 to $24, the upper end of a previously indicated range of $18 to $20, a source familiar with the matter said Wednesday. If the financing does not pencil out, the company will not proceed with the initial public offering.

Tesla has hired investment banks Barclays and Goldman Sachs to help oversee the IPO. JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, which worked on the deal last year, will also manage the offering.

Billionaire inventor William Gates has invested in Rivian and has personal ties to its founder, Marc Benioff, the chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc.

The goal of the Rivian R1 is a self-driving truck with a high degree of autonomy that will go off-road as well as the highway.

Like many transportation ventures, Rivian currently relies on the search engine for autonomous vehicle and camera systems made by Google Maps for guidance. An order for the vehicles is not forthcoming.

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 as a small commercial satellite maker and Tesla in 2003 as an electric car designer. SpaceX, which SpaceX called Dream Chaser to distance itself from the underwhelming lunar-bound craft, has become a prime contractor for NASA.

From the moment he unveiled his plan to build an electric car company from scratch in 2008, Musk has pursued a string of ambitious plans that have cost billions and left him bankrupt once.

The billionaires have had long-running disagreements over strategy. Benioff has criticized Musk’s penchant for launching projects he fails to deliver on time, something that has sometimes been pointed out by Musk’s more outspoken shareholder critics. Musk has issued occasional pay cuts to Musk’s top lieutenants, including him.

Musk, the world’s third-richest person, is credited with making Tesla a force to be reckoned with in Silicon Valley, where his hubris and frequent sense of overreach have become familiar hallmarks of entrepreneurial lore. Yet he also failed with the 2015 launch of Tesla’s Model X and has been dogged by technical problems with other high-profile car projects.

Rivian shares have more than tripled this year, exceeding the rise of the S&P 500 index.

Marc Benioff is seen as one of the boldest and most knowledgeable tech industry leaders in California, and routinely uses his influential platform as the CEO of Salesforce.com to voice his concerns about the pace of innovation in the United States. Benioff has also invested in Rivian.

Rivian’s R1 truck will be its first product. During the 2020 census, it plans to begin testing its R1 autonomous cargo bus, initially with the occupants and students, according to the company.

The vehicle itself will have a 70-mile (113-km) autonomous driving range and can travel up to 20 miles (32 km) on autopilot, its website says. The company hopes to raise $350 million.

(Reporting by John McCrank in New York; additional reporting by Dan Freed and David Ingram in New York, Editing by Jonathan Weber and Matthew Lewis)

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