The frenzy has already created problems. Nikola, an electric car startup that went public in June via a SPAC, fell more than 80 percent after mutual fund Hindenburg Research accused the company in September of lying about its technology, overvaluing deals and being fooled into rolling a truck down a hill in a product video. Nikola founder and chairman Trevor Milton has resigned and the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department have started investigations into the company.
The SEC has also launched an investigation into Clover Health, a health insurance start-up, and Lordstown Motors, an electric vehicle start-up, both of which have gone public through blank check companies in recent months.
On March 10, the SEC warned that SPACs face various risks and potential conflicts of interest. The agency particularly criticized those endorsed by celebrities and concluded that “celebrities, like anyone else, can be tricked into participating in a risky investment.”
For the time being, the special vehicles will remain on the lookout for destinations.
Jedidiah Yueh, executive director of Delphix, a data infrastructure company in Redwood City, California, heard the interest firsthand. Mr Yueh, who founded Delphix 13 years ago, said SPACs started reaching out last summer as his business picked up amid the pandemic. The company, which helps clients process and automate data, recently turned profitable and is a candidate for an IPO.
But Mr. Yueh said he had not decided whether Delphix would go public via a traditional offering or some other route such as “direct listing” or SPAC. While he’s sorted the options, SPACs have flooded his inbox with messages almost daily. A mailer was even sent to Delphix’s vacant office last year while everyone was working from home in the pandemic.
Mr. Yueh said he met with some SPACs out of curiosity. But he quickly got the feeling that sponsors were telling him what they thought they heard. When they found out that Delphix was profitable, “just shift gears and talk about how easy it is to work with you,” he said.
He said he stopped responding to cold pitches and created a can response to fend off others. The investors he’s met with aren’t the kind of long-term supporters Delphix wanted, he said. But alluding to the trend of prominent SPACs, he added, “I would have had a meeting with Shaq.”