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Venture investor Kevin Hartz targets tech founders with blank-check firm

(Reuters) - Blank-check acquisition company one, backed by ticketing site Eventbrite Inc EB.N founder Kevin Hartz, has started its search for a tech firm to merge with, as it made its stock market debut on Tuesday after raising $200 million.

FILE PHOTO: Kevin Hartz, co-founder and chairman of Eventbrite, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The company, whose stock price closed up 1% at $10.10 on the New York Stock Exchange, is targeting fast-growing tech startups valued at around $1 billion, joining the race among special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) looking to take so-called unicorns public.

A SPAC is a shell company which raises money in an initial public offering (IPO) to pursue an acquisition at a later date.

As founder of Eventbrite and early investor in Airbnb, Uber Technologies Inc UBER.N and Pinterest Inc PINS.N, Hartz said he sees SPACs as an extension of venture investing.

“It’s capital to help the company grow and expand, but also cross over into the public market,” Hartz said in an interview. “We’re not big-name hunting today. We hope to have that size of company in the future.”

Over 100 SPACs are currently chasing deals, showed data from SPAC Research.

Hartz believes his experience as an entrepreneur, as well as his management team, including former ZeroDown Chief Operating Officer Troy Steckenrider III and Spike Lipkin, chief executive of Newfront, will help them connect with tech founders, among whom he has seen a reckoning moment from staying private for too long.

“We heard from so many founders that they want to get out to the public markets sooner,” said Hartz. “We’re looking to buttress them as special founders and operators to really help founders build something enduring.”

SPACs accounted for 40% of IPOs in the first half of this year, PwC data showed. Merging with SPACs has seen rising popularity among companies as a way to raise capital faster with more certainty. Tech companies with plans to go public through SPACs include online vehicle seller Shift Technologies and fintech firm Paya Payments.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N advised the one SPAC IPO and Goodwin Procter LLP served as legal advisor.

Reporting by Krystal Hu; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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