Metromile began trading as a public company yesterday. Its exit from the private market was accelerated by its decision to combine with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.
Such transactions have exploded in popularity in recent years, bridging the gap between a host of richly valued private companies and endless bored capital. SPACs raise cash, go public and then merge with a private entity. The SPAC then dissolves itself into the combined entity, a process that often includes an additional slug of money (PIPE) for good measure.
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SPAC-led debuts can move faster than a traditional IPO, making them attractive to companies in a hurry. And with more visibility into how much capital might be raised than during a traditional public-offering pricing run, they can smooth worries amongst target-companies regarding how much cash they can attract by leaving the private-market fold.
Metromile is hardly the final company we expect to debut this year via a SPAC. The list is long and may include fellow neoinsurance company Hippo. (Hippo declined to comment on the matter.)
But with many more SPACs coming our way, we took Metromile’s debut as a learning moment. To that end, we got on the horn with CEO Dan Preston to chat about what the day meant for his company, and to elicit a note or two on the SPAC process for our own enjoyment.
Metromile’s SPACtacular debut
TC asked Preston about the SPAC world and how his combination came about. He said his firm started by dipping its toe into the blank-check waters, kicking off with a small set of conversations, chats that quickly gathered traction.
But don’t take that to mean that any company will elicit a similar market response. Preston said SPACs are designed for a specific class of company; namely those that want or need to share a bit more story when they go public. Younger companies, in other words, for whom a traditional S-1 filing might not be provide a sufficient summation of its potential.