The SPAC boom was a failure, yeah?

It’s painful to watch SPAC deals collapse post-combination. You can viscerally feel dreams melting away to disappointment as founders, employees and investors still holding shares in the newly public entities watch their wealth dwindle.

The mess is not sector-specific. Media? Not a good SPAC target. Insurtech? Nope. 3D printing? Not looking good. E-scooters? Nerp. Hardware and software for apartment buildings? Not that either. Fintech? A mixed bag, but with some pretty poor results as well.

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SPACs did manage to get a number of startups and unicorns public more quickly than they might have managed on their own. But the results are proving to be pure trash so frequently once the hype has died down and real, post-debut life begins that I would hazard that we’ve collected enough data to call the SPAC boom a failure.

A failure in what terms? In that SPACs will not become the chariots that help transport enough unicorns across the private-public market divide and begin to cut down on the rising number of pricey former startups collecting by the exits of Startup Land. The results are just too icky for that to work out.

The unicorn pileup

One of the most quietly pressing issues in technology investing today is the fact that the number of unicorns continues to grow, year after year. This is to say that the pace at which venture capitalists and other private-market investors can take companies public is far slower than the rate at which they can generate paper wealth. North of 900 unicorns are waiting for an exit, with Crunchbase counting 944 and CB Insights landing on a slightly higher figure of 959.

The result is that several trillions of dollars of value are sitting on the sidelines of the capital markets, waiting to be called into the game. And SPACs had a shot at helping.