Feb 21, 2020 - Economy

Ex Glu Mobile CEO has a blank check company

Illustration of a unicorn leaving a shadow in the sign of a dollar sign

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

While many tech companies are still apprehensive about going public and all the scrutiny that comes with that, ex-Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi just listed a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC) on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $200 million.

What’s next: De Masi, along with co-sponsor and former EMC executive Harry You, wants to create the next great mobile app-focused public company via this vehicle, he tells Axios. Think of it as Match Group, but for a different app category.

The big picture: “Game companies are often pioneers in various models,” says de Masi, a seasoned executive best known for heading Glu Mobile, the company behind Kim Kardashian’s mobile game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

  • “Every other app category is probably three to five years, or maybe seven years behind on monetization and distribution sophistication.”

The duo is targeting companies that are either entirely based on a mobile app or mainly driven by one, and worth roughly $1 billion.

  • “I think the ideal business for us has nine figures of revenue, is breaking even or is profitable, and is looking to take growth to the next level,” de Masi says.
  • From there, the plan is to build out the company with additional apps and acquisitions.

Between the lines: A number of tech “unicorn” companies have struggled in the face of unforgiving public investors. But, de Masi argues that going public gives companies a lot of advantages.

"It’s very difficult to get private mergers done because no one knows what your stock is worth. It’s really hard to take a lot of risk on businesses on this stage without the 10 years of public earnings.""I've always found the public markets to be really receptive to growth stage companies. ... I think the first people who IPO in these [mobile app] categories have a tremendous advantage of over their competitors. They can be in pole position to be the acquirers."
— Niccolo de Masi

Plus, he points to a number of recent high-profile SPAC deals, like Social Capital Hedosophia’s acquisition of Virgin Galactic and Diamond Eagle’s purchase of Draft Kings, as proof the industry is embracing the model.

The bottom line: Don't be surprised if more of these continue to crop up.

Go deeper: The IPO story gets complicated

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