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Not every SPAC is pure garbage – TechCrunch

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Happy Saturday everyone. Despite it being a short week I feel pretty run over from the sheer news volume that we’ve put up with in the last few days. So let’s pause, repine and talk about SPACs as a nice little treat.

No, we’re not going through a SPAC investor presentation teardown today. Though we will dig into the Babylon Health SPAC on Monday. Instead, we’re discussing the SoFi and BarkBox blank-check deals.

Both began to trade this week after announcing their public debuts some time ago. And things went just fine? Here’s CNBC on SoFi’s first minutes as a public company:

SoFi, short for Social Finance, went public by merging with Social Capital Hedosophia Corp V, a blank-check company run by venture capital investor Chamath Palihapitiya. The stock closed up more than 12% to $22.65.

That’s not only a win for SoFi, but also for the somewhat-embattled Chamath Palihapitiya, whose SPAC bets have lost some luster in recent months; of course all SPAC-led debuts are speculative, but some retail traders appeared to index more on Palihapitiya’s reputation than fundamentals — what can you do!

BarkBox also did perfectly ok when it began to trade this week after its own SPAC combination was consummated, as Barrons reported:

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BARK stock (ticker: BARK) jumped about 7.5% on Wednesday, to trade at around $12 in the afternoon. That gives the company a market value of close to $2.4 billion.

BarkBox stock has since given up some of its gains, but managed to get public without falling below its initial SPAC price. That’s a win given how market conditions have shifted since its flotation was initially announced.

Two wins in a single week is good news for SPAC-land and the myriad players on the blank-check and startup sides of the marketplace. Naturally two solid results does not a trend make, but it seems clear that for companies with material revenues the SPAC-route is not as potholed as we might have expected.

The crypto wager

If you think SPACs are generally annoying, just wait until we fuse the blank-check boom with crypto. As we are about to do!

This week Circle, a crypto-focused company with a particular taste for stablecoins, raised $440 million. That was an ocean of capital for a company best known for the USDC stablecoin; it is also reported to be considering a SPAC-led IPO.

What is a stablecoin? It’s a cryptocurrency that is pegged to a fiat currency. In the case of USDC, as you surmised, the coin is pegged to the US dollar. Stablecoins are useful fiat comps inside the crypto world and have proven to be hugely popular.

Circle’s USDC has $22.8 billion worth of supply in circulation, it claims, and several billion in daily transactions, per CoinMarketCap data. That’s not bad! But what isn’t as clear to your humble servant is precisely how the firm generates huge revenues at super-attractive gross margins. Which is what we’d expect from a company that just locked down nearly a half-billion dollars (or USDC, we suppose) in private capital in a single go.

So, for once, bring on the SPAC. Because we want to see the damn numbers, and quickly, given our sheer curiosity.


Wrapping, Ron and I got to dig into a number of public companies’ earnings reports the other day, essentially discovering that the vaunted digital transformation acceleration is actually coming true for some companies.

This week’s news continued the argument. Zoom’s earnings, for example, backed up our thesis. Its revenues were up 191% in Q1 F2022 compared to Q1 F2021. That’s just bonkers good.

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On the other end of the spectrum are Dropbox and Box, which are under fresh pressure this week from external investors. The pair of former private-market darlings have run into a growth wall and are taking incoming fire due to it. Grow or die is more than just startup advice. It’s what software companies need to do if they want to stay in charge of their own destiny.


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