How SoftBank’s view became one of the worst SPAC deals ever
Potential investors have often visited the View plant in northwest Mississippi as the smart glass maker seeks new capital. But visitors didn’t ask the questions that might have alerted them to potential problems with the manufacturing process, a former employee told Insider.
View manufactures glass for windows in commercial buildings that use low voltage wiring to control tint. On sunny days, the window darkens to limit glare and heat, eliminating the need for blinds and reducing energy costs for air conditioning.
It’s expensive. Moreover, there is little room for error: the glass cannot be used if there is a single imperfection. And employees said they were discouraged from raising concerns about the manufacturing process.
In 2013, executives from Corning, the manufacturing giant behind Pyrex, visited the plant, an employee who worked there at the time and had first-hand knowledge of the situation told Insider. The executives asked View about the manufacturing process, but the employee kept waiting for them to dig deeper.
“It was crazy for me that doing due diligence with all these investors, people in sovereign wealth funds and managing billions of dollars, couldn’t ask the simple, basic questions,” like cost or amount of glass pier, says the factory worker about Corning.
According to this person and two other factory employees at the time, it was normal to discard most windows produced because of defects.
In June of the same year, Corning led a $62 million investment in View. View’s lenders or investors, which include institutions like BlackRock and SoftBank, were won over by company CEO Rao Mulpuri’s story that his smart glass would be the future of office buildings. A Corning spokesperson did not comment in time for publication.
A decade later, View has not made a profit. The Milpitas, California-based company last month questioned its ability to continue, some 14 months after raising $815 million in its IPO.
For those watching from the outside, View’s problems came to light suddenly, but insiders said the company has been burning cash and battling product failures for years.