What the SPAC craze means for tech investing | The Economist

What the SPAC craze means for tech investing

Signs of the craze are as common as sightings of unicorns in Silicon Valley

SILICON VALLEY has thrived by inventing new ways of doing things, from searching for information to contacting friends. So it may come as no surprise that the Valley is eagerly embracing another sort of disruption: special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), as an alternative to the conventional initial public offering (IPO) for startups. “So many things have become cheaper and more efficient. Why are IPOs as expensive and inefficient as ever?” asks Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia Capital, a venture-capital firm. He describes the IPO process as “chicanery and grand larceny”.

With Wall Street banks allocating shares to top clients and encouraging companies to price their offerings low to ensure a rise on the first day, many in Silicon Valley feel the IPO “tax” is too great. Last year in America, underpricing led to $30bn of unrealised gains for newly public companies (and their employees). With SPACs and direct listings, another route to going public, there is no pressure for a price to pop.

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