The SPAC craze is slowing in the wake of myriad missteps.
Companies as far afield from one another as BuzzFeed (media), Bird (e-scooter fleets), and Dave (consumer fintech), among other recent SPAC-led debuts, have shed value since their blank-check combinations. The result of the SPAC boom looks more like a series of misses with a few hits (SoFi) than a viable exit path for highly valued technology companies that remain private.
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And yet, there’s still life in the SPAC game, and one particular combination could prove to be a bellwether for future unicorn liquidity via blank-check companies.
The company in question, MariaDB, is the force behind the open source project of the same name. MariaDB the software is an “open source relational database,” as the company writes, meaning that it’s available for free. The company also has an enterprise product (subscription-based) that includes support and a hosted version of its service called SkySQL.
MariaDB is a modern open source software company with recurring revenues that is going public via a SPAC. This means that the deal will take a startup that has raised nine figures of private capital to the public markets in an expedited manner. For unicorns that are too expensive to sell themselves, but not yet mature enough for a traditional IPO, MariaDB the company is setting precedent.
Why? Because if the price that MariaDB has secured for itself through the deal is attractive, it could indicate that while many SPACs have struggled post-combination, there could still be a path for software companies with well-understood business models to lever blank-check companies to public-market debuts.
Given the rising unicorn backlog that the recent explosion in venture capital dealmaking has created, it’s critical to understand what exit paths are open and which are not. So let’s get into this SPAC deal, yeah?
MariaDB’s SPAC transaction
Let’s very briefly chat through the transaction details, and then get into the meat of MariaDB’s business results.
Per the company’s release, it intends to merge with Angel Pond Holdings Corporation. The transaction is a little complicated, involving a “$104 million private placement of Series D Preferred shares of MariaDB” that “closed concurrently with [the] announcement,” along with a “$43 million commitment from existing investors and $27 million from an affiliate of Angel Pond’s sponsor.”
In simpler terms, a lot of money is being pledged to the company and the deal, which the release claims “shows the commitment and conviction of Angel Pond’s sponsor in the transaction.” Normally we’d gloss over corporate boilerplate of that sort, but in this case, it actually matters. A good chunk of capital is going into MariaDB as part of this deal in a manner that appears to limit the take-backs that many SPAC deals have struggled with at close.
In total, the deal could yield as much as “$317 million of net cash proceeds,” though that number will change a little, redemptions depending.
Finally, the transaction values MariaDB with an enterprise value of $672 million and an equity value of $973.6 million, according to an investor presentation. That means that MariaDB will be valued in traditional terms at just about the unicorn mark. That means we’re seeing a unicorn software debut by SPAC. Next: results.