The SPAC phenom has gone so nuts in 2020 that a Wharton sophomore took it upon himself to whip together a conference on it

  • Dozens of new SPACs have launched in 2020, aka “blank check” public companies that raise money from investors first and then buy promising private companies taking them public that way.
  • SPACs have already made some big purchases this year like Fisker and Luminar.
  • The SPAC phenom has grown so fast, venerable business schools like Wharton haven’t had a chance to build much in the way of curriculum about them, so UPenn sophomore Matias Urcuyo has taken it upon himself to correct that.
  • He’s putting together a conference on October 19 featuring figures from the world of SPACs, with help from a SPAC school club he also founded. He’s already lined up sponsors and hopes to make it an annual event.
  • Urcuyo was motivated after spending the summer working at a SPAC and realizing there were few places to discuss blank-check companies at Wharton.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The hype around special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) has grown massive.

There are currently 159 active SPACs (including 40 waiting in the wings) that have raised nearly $50 billion,  according to SPAC Research. SPACs have bought some of the buzziest companies this year like Fisker and Luminar.

The rise of SPACs in 2020 has been so meteoric that it caught the attention of a student at one of the country’s most venerable business education institutions. Matias Urcuyo, a sophomore at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is a living example of the old axiom, “if you see a problem, be the solution.”

Urcuyo felt disappointed that his school wasn’t doing more to educate students and everyone else on the SPAC phenom, which he sees as “a feasible alternative to the traditional IPO process” he told Business Insider.

He wanted a student club to hang with other like-minded SPAC lovers so he launched one. But he had even bigger plans: an annual conference. And so he and his club organized that to be held on October 19.

The First Annual SPAC Opportunity Summit will feature Wharton faculty and speakers from the SPAC world like Kristi Marvin of SPACInsider, Sir Martin Franklin of Mariposa Capital, Steve McLaughlin of FT Partners, and Ophir Sternberg of Lionheart Capital, whose firm is sponsoring the event.

“I think it’s going to be very valuable to teach not only the Wharton community what SPACs are, but also alumni and other people who want to get involved,” Urcuyo said.

Urcuyo’s passion for SPACs was ignited over the summer while working as an analyst at OPES Acquisition Corp., a SPAC headquartered in his hometown of Miami.

“I saw how they [SPACS] were revolutionizing the whole idea of an IPO and taking away the idea that banks can underprice an IPO,” Urcuyo said, “giving more liberty to the management team and founders. It just seemed more insightful than any other alternative.”

Wharton declined comment.

Got tips about startups or venture capital? Email Max Jungreis at, DM him on Twitter @MaxJungreis, or contact him on encrypted messaging app Signal at (907) 947-0299.

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