Tag Archives: Paul Azous


Nasdaq Bets on Blank-Check Co. IPOs To Boost Listings; SPACs are Sizzling

Competition for listings is a contact sport in the world of major stock exchanges as evidenced by the assortment of US bourses vying to increase market share in exchange-traded fund (ETFs), which represent nearly 2000 securities or more than half of all equities listed on major US stock exchanges.  While the NYSE has long been the place-to-list for issuers of ETFs, Nasdaq has proven to have sharp elbows in not only soliciting ETF issuers (with BATS taking a distant third), Nasdaq now has another card up its sleeve-the exchange operator is aiming at another listing product known as blank-check companies and is aggressively biting at the heels of Intercontinental Exchange Inc.’s NYSE, which has carved out a niche in the listing of these companies, more formally known as Special Purpose Acquisition Companies aka SPACs ™. In an effort to grab market share in this product away from NYSE and boost IPO listings (and hence more fees from Issuers and more revenue from distributing market data) Nasdaq recently filed proposed new rule changes with the SEC that will make it easier for SPACs ™ to list on that platform.

According to reporting by Alexander Osipovich of the WSJ, 22 blank-check companies have floated IPOs so far this year, raising nearly $7bil.

Special Purpose Acquisition Vehicles are shell companies that raise funds via a public offering whereby the proceeds are managed by a pre-selected team of industry-specific executives who receive an equity stake in the shell and are charged with acquiring an existing private company or in some cases, several private companies and roll those companies into the existing publicly-traded entity. In the event an acquisition cannot be identified and approved by an overwhelming majority of the shareholders within [typically] 24 months of the IPO, 95% of the funds raised are returned to the shareholders.

The investment vehicle construct was first created in the 1970’s, but soon fell out favor after regulators uncovered widespread abuse by operators of  blank check company managers, which led to multiple cases of securities fraud charges against many different firms.  The blank check model was later refined in the early 1990’s by GKN Securities, whose principals created a much tighter construct and trademarked the SPAC™ acronym. GKN successor firm boutique investment bank Early Bird Capital since carried the torch of its predecessor; during the past ten years, Early Bird has underwritten and/or co-managed nearly 75 SPAC™ IPOs that have raised over $4bil.

Early Bird’s early success has not gone unnoticed by leading Wall Street firms; 6-pack investment banks Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank among others have crowded into the space that Early Bird Capital forged. In 2017 alone, SPACs™ have raised nearly $4bil for an assortment of acquisition-minded firms.

According to Paul Azous, CEO of Prospectus.com, a consultancy that assists companies throughout the course of preparing investor offering documentation and via a captive network of securities attorneys, the firm also advises companies seeking to list on stock exchanges, “The blank-check concept is in vogue once again, and we’re working with at least two clients who have targeted specific industries that are seemingly ripe for roll-up.” Added Azous, “With Nasdaq easing the listing burdens, strategy of creating a public shell that can with reasonable ease, roll a private company into that publicly-listed entity should provide a good shot-in-the-arm to IPO activity, which has experienced fits and starts in each of the last several years.”

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Finance Industry Vet Behind Non-Profit Borders.Org

Business Plans Without Borders aka Borders.org is a novel non-profit intended to provide wind in the sail for startups launched by immigrants, refugees and under-served inner-city entrepreneurs.  Created by long-time finance industry veteran Paul Azous, the altruistic initiative defies current political in-sensibilities and embraces the simple notion that small businesses are the lifeblood of a vibrant economy.

The spirited debate surrounding immigrants vs. legal immigrants, nationalism vs. populism and let’s not forget the philosophy embraced by White House Svengali Steve Bannon’s  and his leaning to  ‘traditionalism*’, MarketsMuse Curators were inspired to spotlight a news story profiling what is perhaps an easy idea to digest:  it’s all about altruism, or at least that is the thesis being advanced by a long time finance industry consultant who has accrued more domestic and international frequent flier miles than most.

Finance industry veteran Paul Azous, a Seattle-based self-made entrepreneur who is often referred to by polls across the private placement industry for being a  “Top 40 Under 40” has a view that both sides of the aisle should embrace when it comes to putting the wind in the sails of folks who aspire to achieve the American Dream. The thesis that drives the non-profit “Business Plans Without Borders”  is simple: “..if those with passion, focus and entrepreneurial aspirations who want to do good for themselves and their communities lack the compass that can point them to the on ramp are not embraced and given a lift by those who understand the obstacles faced by [legal] immigrants,  refugees and the under-served from within our very own borders, who can we support?!”

Per below news release, Azous and his wife launched the non-profit in Q4 2016 with the goal of providing business plan preparation, mentoring as well as awarding startup grant funding to inner-city entrepreneurs as well as incoming immigrants and refugees who are able to meet merit-based criteria and applicant requests are reviewed by a volunteer Advisory Board comprised of start-up gurus and thought leaders from across various industries. Azous is looking to aggressively add to the advisory network whose members not only review applicants, those advisors are also committing to match grants extended by the non-profit.

SEATTLE, Feb. 15, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Serial entrepreneur and veteran business plan advisor Paul Azous announced that he has recently launched a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the most vulnerable in society with their business startup needs. The organization, Business Plans Without Borders  assists refugee, immigrant, and inner-city, low income aspiring entrepreneurs with business plan writing assistance in the form of business writing collaboration, the allocation of grants and facilitating networking opportunities with seasoned industry professionals. Aspiring entrepreneurs who qualify for assistance can apply directly via the organization’s website, www.borders.org . Grants are awarded based on merit.

Paul Azous is an 18 year finance industry veteran and Founder/CEO of Prospectus.com, a global consulting firm that assists startups and later stage private and public companies with a broad range of professional services, from business plan and prospectus writing to initial public offering and stock exchange listings.  During the past 15 years, Paul and his firm have guided scores of companies across multiple industries and geographic regions in helping to launch start-up and fast-growth businesses. His primary focus has been on developing business plan summaries, financial and business models, conducting company valuations and assisting with debt or equity offerings. Through a global consultancy framework, Azous has been credited with fast-tracking nearly 5,000 companies in over 50 countries with their business planning and investor documentation needs.

“Creating Borders.org has been a goal of my wife, Tamar and myself for several years, as we’ve always been determined to mentor and back aspiring entrepreneurs who have not had the benefit of a support system,” says Azous. “With Tamar’s background in micro finance and her own “momtrepreneur” experience, coupled with my background, Borders was just a matter of time.”

Entrepreneurs within Border.org’s target demographic typically lack the resources necessary to launch a successful business, even if the business fills a market need. This leaves them unable to raise sufficient funding to adequately develop and market their products or services and consequently, those initiatives are short-lived. Borders.org assists with the most important document that a business owner or entrepreneur must have: the business plan. A business plan enables entrepreneurs to build a roadmap for their company, and is a necessary component to raise capital from qualified investors and/or lending institutions. Borders.org guides entrepreneurs through the strategic business planning process and links them with a wide network of volunteer industry professionals who provide free business startup services, including legal work, accounting, and marketing.

About Borders.org

Business Plans Without Borders aka Borders.org – is a 501(c)(3) non–profit organization. The organization was created to assist low income, refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs with writing and developing their business plans. Borders.org staff works one-on-one with aspiring entrepreneurs, helping them formulate, structure and develop cohesive business models, provides merit-based grants to awardees and networking opportunities with accomplished mentors who can bridge the gap between a strong idea and successful implementation. Continue reading