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spac-board-collage
The Penn SPAC board is top row (from left to right): William Bergstein, John Ainslie, Madeline Mandell. Middle row (from left to right): Maria Rojas, Matias Urcuyo, Ignacio Villasmil. Bottom row (from left to right): Laura Murphy, Ekan Belo-Osagie, Alfredo Wolfermann.

Penn SPAC, a new student organization, launched this semester to inform students about a business venture rising in popularity: special purpose acquisition companies.

SPACs, also known as blank-check companies, are organizations that raise funds with the intent of acquiring a private company, according to U.S. News & World Report. Penn SPAC president and Wharton sophomore Matias Urcuyo said he founded the student organization because he felt there was a lack of SPAC education in his Wharton classes.

“I saw the lack of information we were being given on the subject from the Wharton curriculum, and I wanted to bring some knowledge and depth of expertise to the table,” Urcuyo said.

SPACs have recently achieved a high profile in business dealings, with Bloomberg Businessweek calling SPACs the "hottest stocks of 2020." Bloomberg reported that SPACs have raised a combined $32 billion in 2020 as of August, a large increase over the $12.4 billion raised in all of 2019.

Penn SPAC plans to launch its educational efforts with a series of educational club meetings and speaker events, including the upcoming SPAC Opportunity Summit on Oct. 19.

The summit will host over 15 experts in the SPAC industry distributed across several panels, including three major moguls with a combined total of 15 SPACs raised between them: 1966 Penn Law graduate Betsy Cohen, the founder of Jefferson Bank and Bancorp Inc.; Chinh Chu, founder of private investment firm CC Capital; and 1986 College graduate Martin Franklin, founder and executive chairman of Element Solutions. 

The event will be free to attend for Penn students, Urcuyo said.

"We really want to get as many Penn students to come so everybody can come learn about what a SPAC is," Urcuyo said.

Penn SPAC plans to make the summit an annual event and expand it in the future to include more speakers across a wider range of SPAC industries, Wharton and Engineering sophomore and Penn SPAC board member Madeline Mandell said. 

“In the future, we would definitely want to hold more summits and get more speakers, but for right now we’re very focused on having this one conference that’s a very condensed version of what we’ll be doing in the future," Mandell said. "The goal is to get the word out about the club.”

The club was created after Urcuyo spent last summer interning at a SPAC called Opus Acquisition Corp and realized both how quickly SPACs are growing in the finance space and how slowly information about them is being disseminated to students.

“I got a couple of classmates together who were also interested in the SPAC space, and now we have a board full of people who are extremely interested in SPACs and about 80 general members who are interested in learning more,” Urcuyo said.

The club’s first general meeting will be hosted within the next few weeks, including new members from across Penn's undergraduate schools. 

Members are invited to participate in the three main branches of the club: outreach, education, and research. The three branches, respectively, will bring in speakers and host events, teach students about SPACs and recruit new members, and find students opportunities to connect with management teams who are involved in SPACs.

“SPACs are very unique investment opportunities and it immediately stood out as something I would be interested in,” Wharton sophomore and Penn SPAC general body member Gordon Horowitz said. “And for a new club to have something as substantial as this SPAC Opportunity Summit, I think the future is very bright for the Penn SPAC Club.”

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