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Crowd-safety firm backed by Bill Gates and Peyton Manning makes Wall Street debut

<i>Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

A security company that uses artificial intelligence and advanced sensors technology to screen for threats at theme parks, sports stadiums and other large venues, is going public.

Evolv Technology, which announced plans in March to merge with blank check special purpose acquisition company NewHold Investment Corp., completed its SPAC deal Friday and will begin trading Monday on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol EVLV. The company is raising about $385 million from the deal and is valued at $1.7 billion.

Evolv, whose customers include Six Flags, casino company Wynn, New York City’s Lincoln Center and baseball’s Chicago Cubs, sells software on a subscription basis that is designed to help detect whether someone is carrying a gun, knife or other weapon.

Guests simply walk through a scanner without having to unload their keys, phones, wallets and other things they’re carrying in bags or pockets.

“It’s barbaric if you’re going to see your favorite sports team to have to go through metal detectors,” Evolv CEO Peter George told CNN Business. “This makes lines go away and it’s safer because you have AI and machine learning models do the scanning.”

Evolv also has recently introduced new thermal scanning software to monitor a person’s body temperature for elevated levels, an important safety measure in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company charges more monthly for that feature.

George said companies typically sign 4-year licensing contracts with Evolv. He added that the company’s technology has now screened more than 50 million people, which he says is second only to the Transportation Security Administration.

“The pandemic has changed things forever,” George said. “Everybody is rethinking their physical security strategies and we are taking an analog technology and making it digital.”

Evolv has attracted the backing of notable investors, companies and celebrities. Bill Gates and Finback Investment Partners, a firm led by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, are top Evolv shareholders. Motorola Solutions and the venture arm of Stanley Black & Decker have invested, too.

Some big names in sports are also backing Evolv. Super Bowl winning quarterback and top endorser Peyton Manning, tennis champs (and spouses) Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, World Series winning manager Joe Torre and ex-Cubs and Boston Red Sox executive Theo Epstein are Evolv investors.

Evolv is just the latest company to go public via a SPAC in the past few years. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and sports betting firm DraftKings have also debuted on Wall Street through blank check mergers.

But some SPACs, most notably electric truck makers Lordstown Motors and Nikola, have come under scrutiny from short sellers and regulators because of suspect accounting practices.

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