What Is Evolv? 'Human Security' Firm Backed by Bill Gates to Go Public in SPAC Merger

Evolv Technology, a venue and crowd security company backed by Bill Gates, is taking steps to go public in the second quarter of 2021.

The Massachusetts-based company has said it is combining with NewHold Investment Corp. in a deal that will give it a valuation of about $1.7 billion. Evolv said it expects to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker "EVLV," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Evolv uses sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to scan visitors to venues, pitched as an alternative to screening via traditional metal detectors.

Formed in 2013, its visitor-scanning technology was initially made with the aim of giving "confidence and peace of mind" to people visiting public spaces or venues, it's website says, claiming it has screened more than 50 million people in the past two years.

Evolv has credited itself with stopping more than 5,000 weapons from entering a variety of buildings with high foot traffic, including attractions, stadiums, hospitals, schools, entertainment venues, government facilities, houses of worship and hotels.

Online, the company describes itself as being a "leader in human security" that can help to "protect innocent people from mass shootings and terrorist attacks."

According to The Wall Street Journal, it has offered elevated temperature screens since 2020, which became a popular method of detecting a symptom of COVID.

Evolv's clients include amusement park firm Six Flags, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Lincoln Center and Gillette Stadium. According to its website, it's two products are known as Evolv Express and Evolv Edge.

Alongside Gates as an investor, Evolv's advisers include former FBI New York Tactical Training Program Manager Jin Kim, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and former Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Juliette Kayyem.

It was not immediately clear how much money Gates had invested into Evolv as of 2021. Evolv said in October 2019 it had raised $24 million in new funding.

Mike Ellenbogen, founder of Evolv, said in a media statement released at the time: "We're truly fortunate to have strong investment partners such as Bill Gates, General Catalyst Partners, Lux Capital, Data Collective, SineWave Ventures, Finback Investment Partners, and others who share our vision. [It] will enable the company to scale quickly to support the need for improved security in venues across industries."

NewHold Investment Corp. is a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a type of corporate entity that is also known on Wall Street as a "blank check" company.

As explained by PricewaterhouseCoopers, SPACs raise capital via initial public offerings (IPO) with the purpose of buying an existing company. The company that is already in existence can merge with—or be bought by—the publicly traded SPAC.

Ultimately, this lets the existing company, like Evolv, become a listed company without having to oversee its own IPO, by taking the SPAC's place in the stock market.

NewHold said in September 2020 it intended to focus a search on "target businesses in the industrial technology sector" that had an enterprise value of $700 million or greater. Evolv was contacted for comment about the reported merger by Newsweek.

Bill Gates leaves the Elysee presidential palace
Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates leaves the Elysee presidential palace, after a meeting with French President on April 16, 2018 in Paris. A venue and crowd security company backed by Gates, Evolv Technology, is taking steps to go public in the second quarter of 2021. LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images