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Crowd-safety tech company Evolv inks $1.7 billion SPAC deal to go public

The Waltham company’s investors include Bill Gates, Theo Epstein, and Peyton Manning

Spectators enter Fenway Park through a security checkpoint in 2017. Evolv, a company aiming to streamline crowd-screening using sensors and artificial intelligence, plans to go public via a SPAC deal.Charles Krupa

At a time when large crowds are hard to come by, a Waltham technology company focused on crowd-safety screening has inked a deal to go public.

Evolv Technology said Monday that it will merge with NewHold Investment Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in a deal valuing the company at about $1.7 billion.

Evolv, founded in 2013, makes artificial intelligence-powered imaging systems that are used to spot weapons and other security threats. The company aims to end the need for metal detectors and physical pat-downs, saying its technology is 10 times as fast and 70 percent less expensive than other security methods.

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On a call with investors Monday morning, Peter George, the chief executive, presented a photo of a security checkpoint bottleneck at a sports venue. He said that is “what’s happened to professional sporting stadiums right after the Boston Marathon” bombings.

“Everybody was asked to grab the most innovative technology at the time, and unfortunately that’s an 83-year-old metal detector,” he said. “We completely upend that.”

The company says guests can walk through its screening system without breaking stride. George said the technology can differentiate between a phone and a weapon, and the company can add additional threats to the detection software as they arise. Last year, in response to the pandemic, Evolv began checking for elevated body temperatures.

Evolv’s technology has been used at Six Flags amusement parks and sports venues, including Gillette Stadium. The company offers its product via subscription for $2,000 to $3,000 per month with a four-year contract.

Evolv says it has screened more than 50 million people, making it second in the United States only to the Transportation Security Administration.

Evolv has also raised $300 million through a private funding round with investors including retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and former Red Sox executive Theo Epstein. Previous investors included Bill Gates, Lux Capital, and General Catalyst.

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Evolv expects to have $470 million in gross proceeds, which it will use to increase production and enter international markets. The SPAC merger is expected to close in the second quarter.

Kevin Charlton, the chief executive of NewHold Investment Corp., said the Wall Street acquisition vehicle was “looking for a merger partner with a disruptive, proprietary technology that was transforming its industry.”

“We also were looking for a company with proven revenue and gross margins that was ready for accelerated growth,” he said on a call with investors Monday. “Evolv is in the center of the bull’s-eye for the kind of company we’re looking for.”

Evolv has nearly 100 employees, half of whom work in Waltham.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.