As a serial entrepreneur and now the CEO of a satellite company, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the revolution of the space industry in recent years and the critical role that innovation and capital play in its success. Recently, special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have emerged as a prominent way to raise funds, speeding the way for startups of any kind to become public. However, while SPACs hold the potential to push the newspace industry forward and drive its growth, it is crucial to identify their benefits so that we can capitalize on them — and we also need to understand their potential risks.

Why SPACs can help a company grow

SPACs are a great vehicle for startups and companies to raise considerable amounts of capital, enabling them to accelerate research and development and the subsequent deployment of their groundbreaking technologies. Compared to traditional initial public offerings (IPOs), which can be time-consuming and arduous, SPACs provide a faster, streamlined path to go public. Given that the space industry is growing at an unprecedented rate, it is no wonder that SPACs are a likable option to any CEO who wants to compete in the market, as it allows companies to focus on their core competencies, rather than getting caught up in the complexities of raising capital and executing an IPO process. 

SPACs are a magnificent tool when bringing industry expertise and financial acumen together, which can be crucial when going through regulatory processes. The expertise of SPAC sponsors, who often have a deep understanding of the space industry, can provide valuable guidance to disruptive companies in the field, enabling them to make informed decisions and capitalize on emerging market trends. 

With a capital injection from a SPAC, the newspace industry can fuel innovation and empower companies to push the boundaries of what is possible, and facilitate investments in advanced satellite technologies, next-generation launch systems, and revolutionary Earth observation capabilities. Access to substantial funding allows companies to rapidly scale up their operations, which is particularly crucial in an industry characterized by fierce competition and the need for constant technological advancements.

Not all that glitters is gold

However, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with a SPAC, as not being able to overcome these challenges can be fatal for some companies. 

The main concern has to do with inflated valuations, which lead to unrealistic expectations. SPAC mergers often rely on future projections rather than historical financial data, creating the risk of overestimating a company’s market potential. If the firm’s performance fails to meet these optimistic projections, it can lead to a loss of investor confidence, hampering the company’s growth prospects and impacting its long-term viability.

Also, the fast-paced nature of SPAC mergers can result in inadequate due diligence. The urgency to close deals and bring companies public can lead to poor oversight or insufficient scrutiny of a target company’s financial health, technological readiness, or operational capabilities — all crucial for a company operating in an industry with high capital expenditures.

Furthermore, if a SPAC merges with a company that lacks the necessary infrastructure, or does not have a viable business model, it can expose investors to significant risks and potentially lead to the company’s collapse.

Meet me in the middle: what the ideal SPAC-company relationship looks like

To mitigate these risks, it is essential for both SPAC sponsors and target companies to prioritize transparency and conduct comprehensive due diligence. Companies seeking to go public through SPAC mergers must uphold the highest standards of integrity, providing accurate and realistic assessments of their growth prospects. SPAC sponsors, on the other hand, should exercise prudence in selecting potential targets, ensuring a thorough evaluation of the company’s financials, technological readiness, and market positioning.

SPACs have emerged as a catalyst for growth and innovation in the newspace industry. By offering an efficient route to a public listing, they empower companies to access the necessary resources so that they can continue pushing the boundaries of space exploration and satellite technologies. However, caution must be exercised to strike a balance between ambition and realism. 

Again: due diligence, transparency, and responsible decision-making are vital to ensure the long-term success of SPAC mergers and safeguard the space industry’s reputation. By harnessing the potential of SPACs while mitigating associated risks, we can continue to propel the newspace industry forward and unlock its full potential.

Jaume Sanpera is the founder and CEO of Sateliot, a Spanish startup developing a small satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices and smartphones.