It’s time to do my monthly check-in on Bollinger, the electric truck startup that I really hope can pull this off. Bollinger so far has forged a path of sensible progress, as opposed to—to use two recent examples—Lordstown Motors and Nikola. Founder Robert Bollinger said this week its slow and steady strategy wasn’t changing.
That’s because in today’s electric truck start-up world, the stock market, simply speaking, isn’t acting very rationally. You have companies like Nikola, which has no revenue, at one point valued more than Ford, which has plenty of revenue. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest is Tesla, since Tesla’s stock price continues to be sky high, a rising tide lifting all boats.
All of which must be awfully tempting for a private company like Bollinger, since it could go public like Nikola did and rake in a windfall—money that presumably Bollinger could then plow into research and development to get its B1 SUV and B2 truck to market quicker. And then, once the trucks are here, profits.
It sounds easy, right? That is Lordstown Motors’ plan more or less, after all. Except Bollinger founder Robert Bollinger told Bloomberg this week that it wouldn’t be pursuing that option for now. Instead, the plan is to stay private, raise a smaller amount of money—$50 million—from fewer investors and generally just try not to lose its nerve.
Bollinger wants to make sure it can actually deliver on its trucks, in any case, before going public. That doesn’t necessarily mean deliveries, specifically, but at the very least have sewn-up plans with manufacturers to build the B1 and B2, since Bollinger won’t be building the trucks themselves.
Bollinger said he’s so far spurned advances from SPACs he declined to name. He’d rather wait until he has agreements with existing manufacturers in place to build his planned commercial trucks and delivery vans. That will raise the value of his company before selling a stake.
Becoming a public company brings scrutiny and pressure from investors. In the past two months, short sellers have targeted clean-truck startups Nikola and Workhorse. A Sept. 10 report on Nikola called the company a fraud and sent the shares tumbling 25 percent in two days. The SPAC VectoIQ acquired Nikola in June on the promise of its hydrogen-fuel-cell freight trucks. Founder Trevor Milton departed the chairman’s seat on Sept. 21, following accusations in the report that Nikola had no working technology.
“A SPAC is wonderful because they drop a ton of money in your lap,” Bollinger said. “The downside is that being public is a lot more work. If we sell to a SPAC, it will be after the dust settles on Nikola.”
The Wall Street Journal is much more qualified than me to explain what a SPAC is, so I won’t be getting into that here, but suffice to say it’s a shortcut to becoming a company like Nikola, which very well could be worth the billions of dollars it is on paper but for now is very, very far from passing the eye test.
Bollinger, meanwhile, checks a lot of the boxes for me. The company is small—just 44 employees—and its ambitions aren’t to take over the world. It has an opportunity to take the easy money and so far has resisted, which makes it seem all the more serious about actually following through. Any start-up, at any rate, that looks at Nikola and Lordstown Motors and Workforce and says, “Yeah I’ll think we’ll be doing the opposite of that,” has a chance.