Leadership Series: Heriberto Diarte (Schneider Electric Ventures)

Our Leadership Series interview where Edison Fu talks to Heriberto Diarte from Schneider Electric Ventures.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

25 May 2020 – SenseTime Expands to Help Track Coronavirus

The Big Ones

Chinese AI software provider SenseTime has expanded its visual surveillance technology to assess the internal temperature of individuals in order to more efficiently track coronavirus patients, and is considering seeking $1bn in funding. Reports in March suggested it was chasing $500m to $1bn in lieu of an IPO, but sources have told the Wall Street Journal it is now considering a $1bn fundraise at a post-money valuation of $9.5bn. No word on possible participants yet, but its existing backers include Qualcomm Ventures, Alibaba, Suning and Dalian Wanda.

ADC Therapeutics is the latest pharmaceutical company to buck the market downturn to successfully go public, and it certainly has proven to be a successful IPO. The cancer therapy developer – a spinoff from AstraZeneca – floated above its range in an upscaled offering and has now closed that IPO at almost $268m after its shares rose significantly on their first day of trading. Passage Bio, Zentalis, Keros Therapeutics and Oric Pharmaceuticals have had similarly profitable IPOs in the past two months.

Mauritius-based venture capital firm Novastar Ventures has raised $108m from limited partners including insurance firm Axa for its second Africa-focused fund. Axa’s Impact Fund joined the European Investment Bank (EIB), the state-owned Dutch Good Growth Fund and Proparco, Norfund, Sifem and CDC Group: development banks representing France, Norway, Switzerland and the UK respectively. Multiple unnamed family offices also participated alongside unspecified investors from Novastar’s first fund, which closed at $80m in 2015 with backing from Axa Investment Management, financial services firms Triodos Bank and JP Morgan, CDC, Proparco, Norfund, EIB, Fisea and FMO. Novastar targets startups located in East and West Africa and has built a 15-strong portfolio, investing from $250,000 for an early round, up to a total of $8m in each company. Its investments include off-grid solar system provider SolarNow and organic food supplier GreenPath.

In crossover news, SQZ Biotechnologies, a US-based cellular vaccine developer spun out of MIT, has closed a $65m series D round that included GV and Illumina Ventures, respective investment subsidiaries of internet technology conglomerate Alphabet and genomics technology producer Illumina. The round was led by Singaporean government-owned investment firm Temasek and also featured NanoDimension, Polaris Partners, an unnamed US-based fund and JDRF T1D Fund, which is managed by diabetes-focused charity JRDF. SQZ is working on cell therapies that exploit the body’s immune system to fight diseases. The series D proceeds will enable the company, which has so far focused on cancer and autoimmune diseases, to expand its cellular vaccine development platform into infectious diseases. It will also begin work on a point-of-care system that could allow treatments to be generated in clinics.

Deals

Messaging and social communication apps have seen user numbers and business boom in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Discord is no different. Although some companies (see Giphy and NextVR below) are facing acquisitions at reduced valuations, Discord is reportedly in talks with potential investors over a funding round set to value it between $3bn and $4bn. That’s a sizeable increase from the $2.05bn valuation at which it raised $150m from investors including Tencent in late 2018.

Augmented reality technology developer Magic Leap has had question marks over its business for years as it struggled to build a customer base despite raising over $2.6bn in funding and hitting a $6.3bn valuation. The company was reportedly set to cut around 1,000 staff members, but has managed to pull in $350m from undisclosed new and existing backers. It’s still going ahead with cuts, alongside a slight pivot to enterprise customers, but hopefully they won’t be as bad. Its earlier investors include Google, Alibaba, Qualcomm Ventures, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros, Grupo Globo and Axel Springer, but it’s unclear how many of them – if any – chipped in this time.

E-commerce group JD.com’s maintenance, research and operations subsidiary, JD MRO, has received $230m in series A financing from GGV Capital, Sequoia Capital China and Citic Group subsidiary CPE. JD MRO follows in the footsteps of other JD.com spinoffs such as JD Health, JD Logistics and JD Digits which have also achieved unicorn status.

SoftBank revealed that its first Vision Fund has closed for new investments, but it still has powder left over for portfolio companies, one of which is construction services provider Katerra. Vision Fund has invested $200m in Katerra having previously led a round that closed at $999m in late 2018. Reports early last year suggested it could lead a $700m round for Katerra at a valuation potentially topping $4bn, but the reduced size is probably a sign that valuation has also dropped.

Throughout the disruption over recent weeks, telehealth has been one of the standout areas of the tech space that has done very well. Amwell (formerly known as American Well) claims the sector has made two years of progress in two months, and it has closed $194m in series C funding from investors including Takeda and Allianz X. The latter took part as an existing backer, Amwell’s earlier investors also including Philips and Teva.

RallyBio is developing treatments for rare and serious diseases, and has secured $145m in a series B round led by Nan Fung’s Pivotal BioVenture Partners fund. Mitsui & Co Global Investment and Fidelity’s F-Prime Capital were also among the participants in the round, which will fund a phase 1/2 trial for RallyBio’s lead candidate that is expected to kick off later this year.

Digital banking has done well so far in 2020, and the latest neobank to close a nine-figure round is Aspiration, which has secured $135m in series C funding from investors including IUBS hedge fund manager UBS O’Connor. Aspiration targets a more ethical model of investment and cash management and its earlier investors include Renren, the social media platform that caused a stir when it began investing heavily in fintech earlier this decade. Apart from Aspiration and SoFi, those bets are yet to really pay off, but the strategy itself looks sounder than ever.

States Title operates in another part of the fintech space, having developed AI software that automates part of the title and escrow element of real estate transactions, but it’s raised $123m in a series C round featuring Assurant and corporate venture capital units Lennar Ventures and Scor Global P&C Ventures. The real estate industry has been affected by Covid-19 restrictions but investors clearly believe in the underlying potential of State Title’s technology, which could help fulfil tech’s promise of simplifying complex financial transactions.

Rapid Micro, a provider of automated microbial contamination detection systems, said this week it has also seen business pick up lately, and it has completed a $120m financing round featuring Asahi Kasei Medical. The round expanded the company’s overall funding to more than $255m and shows that while the greatest rewards may be reaped by whoever comes up with the first viable Covid-19 vaccine, it’s providing a boost to practically the entire healthcare sector.

Masterclass may not be a healthtech company but its remote learning service, which provides video tutorials hosted by well-known experts and celebrities such David Axelrod, Neil Gaiman and Gordon Ramsay, lies in an online services space that has benefitted from the coronavirus lockdown. It has raised $100m in a series E round led by Fidelity at a reported valuation of more than $800m, boosting its total funding to more than $263m. Bloomberg Beta, WME Ventures, Novel TMT and Evolution Media are all earlier investors.

Digital bank Monzo is also looking for new funding and is reportedly after approximately $85m to $98m, though it looks likely to be at a reduced valuation. The company raised $144m last June from investors including Orange Digital Ventures and Stripe at $2.55bn valuation but sources informed the Financial Times that the new round will probably cut that to about $1.5bn. Some fintech developers have been relatively unaffected by the Covid-19 downturn but online banking does not seem to be among them.

Chinese online fitness community and technology provider Keep has raised $80m in a series E round featuring Tencent and Bertelsmann Asia Investments that increased its valuation to more than $1bn. Both corporate backers were existing investors in Keep – which has now received more than $260m altogether – going back to at least 2016.

Exits

Healthcare companies have been doing well, not least the ones brave enough to opt for an initial public offering. ADC Therapeutics, a cancer therapy developer spun off by AstraZeneca’s Spirogen subsidiary, withdrew its initial attempt to go public last year, but refiled late last month and has now raised nearly $233m in its IPO. That’s an upsized offering that involved ADC floating at $19 per share, above the IPO’s $16 to $18 range. Its shares closed at almost $30 after its first day of trading.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Leadership Series: Nicolas Sauvage (TDK Ventures)

Our Leadership Series interview where Edison Fu talks to Nicolas Sauvage from TDK Ventures.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

18 May 2020 – Challenging Investment Landscape and Down-Rounds

Big Stories

1

Spencer Chavez, a GCV Rising Stars 2020 winner, has stepped down from his position as principal at Salesforce Ventures to join KKR.

KKR has been building its tech growth team under Dave Welsh as traditional private equity firms move down towards growth equity deals for opportunities and as a window on disruptive trends that might affect leveraged buyouts and other assets.

2

Intel Capital reported some spectacular progress in diversity representation, surpassing more than $300m invested in female and under-represented minorities-led businesses. The conversion of words into action is to be celebrated.

The bigger perspective is even better as Intel Capital remains confident to hit its investing targets of $300m to $500m this year, on par with the $466m it invested in 2019, despite the impact from the coronavirus on many parts of the economy and its clients. Technology and innovation remain relatively immune as digitalisation is only speeding up through the crisis.

Intel Capital has provided an update on its investments in 2020 thus far, unveiling eight new additions to its portfolio: Axonne, Lilt, MemVerge, ProPlus Electronics, Retrace, SmileSnap, Spectrum Materials and Xsight Labs. The businesses, together with four previously announced commitments, have attracted at least $132m in funding from the corporate between them.

3

It has been nearly a decade since down rounds in venture capital – effectively one where the value of the startup has declined even though more money has gone into the business – were common. Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Markets report identified only about 2% of rounds going into the end of March were down rounds.

But could leap rapidly for portfolio companies if they are able to get any funding away at all.

For top companies flat or higher rounds are possible but the middle tranche remain vulnerable to down rounds and more onerous terms in preference and conditions if their 18 month funding cycle has coincided with the coronavirus-led economic shock.

For the bottom third, it’s a hope and a prayer time.

4

Deals – the challenging investment landscape and down-rounds are affecting many and so while deals are still happening the surge of very large rounds seems to be quietening at last unless you happen to have search engine provider Google and hence its parent, Alphabet, on your side.

Alphabet reaped hefty returns in the first quarter from floating some its healthcare portfolio companies – at least three – but its investment pattern is more concentrated on mobility currently.

That said, some companies might raise as much as $750m in a late-stage round. Some never raise such sums. And then there’s Waymo, which collected this amount as an extension to its first ever external round, bringing its total to $3bn. The money came entirely from new investors, such as Fidelity and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price, but the original $2.25bn tranche two months ago had featured Waymo’s parent company Alphabet, Magna International and AutoNation. Almost as notable as the extension and overall round size was the fact that Waymo announced the additional money through a blogpost only two paragraphs long, but if your technology and funding is this impressive you really don’t need to do much PR for everyone to take notice.

5

Gulati sets up Forecast Fund out of Comcast

While GCV Analytics data for last month showed a two-thirds drop in new funding commitments, not all hope is lost.

Daniel Gulati, managing director at Comcast Ventures (CV), the corporate venturing unit of mass media group Comcast, has set up Forecast Fund as an early-stage venture fund investing $500,000 to $2m in consumer startups.

Exits

Facebook has agreed to buy Giphy for a reported $400m after GV’s prior backing.

Idaptive never made a big splash in terms of funding – in fact, it does not appear to have raised any external capital since being spun off from Centrify in 2018 – but its technology has caught the attention of CyberArk, which has put down $70m in cash to purchase the artificial intelligence-powered secure access management technology developer. While it’s unclear just how big Centrify’s shareholding was before the acquisition, that’s likely a decent return.

When Kingsoft Cloud, the cloud services subsidiary of China-based enterprise software producer Kingsoft whose shareholders also include Xiaomi, filed for an IPO last week that was expected to raise as much as $450m, there was a question over whether the company had chosen the right economic climate to go public in the US. The answer could not be any clearer: not only did the company’s shares soar 27% on the first day of trading on Friday, but Kingsoft Cloud also upsized the offering from 25 to 30 million ADSs and raised $510m. It’s also upsized the number of shares allocated to the greenshoe option, so if underwriters take up that option in full (and at this point that seems highly likely) it could boost proceeds to more than $586m.

Vroom, the online used car marketplace backed by AutoNation that has raised $721m in funding to date, isn’t letting a pandemic get in the way of its ambition to list on the stock market and has reportedly filed, confidentially, for an IPO. Financial terms have not yet emerged, but its main rival, Carvana, floated three years ago after pricing shares at $15 and raising $225m – only to watch the share price climb steadily to more than $100 today. Carvana is bigger than Vroom, but the fact that the latter is seeking an offering in the midst of the worst economic crisis in a century clearly underlines its ambitions to be a major player.

Qingdao Victall Railway lays $172m IPO tracks

Another IPO filing from a Chinese company in the US. This time the honour is all Legend Biotech’s. The cancer and HIV treatment developer, a subsidiary of biotech producer Genscript Biotech, has so far only revealed a placeholder amount of $100m but considering it agreed to raise nearly $151m in series A funding just a month ago from Johnson & Johnson (with whom it has a partnership through Janssen Biotech) and Eli Lilly that gave the former a 1.3% stake and the latter a 0.5% shareholding, it is likely the targeted proceeds will turn out to be much higher once the company settles on a number of shares and their price. GenScript remains its largest shareholder for now, with a 76.9% stake.

Speaking of big numbers: Qi An Xin, a China-based cybersecurity technology spinoff of antivirus software vendor Qihoo 360, has filed for a $634m offering that will provide exits to China Electronics Corporation (CEC) and Red Star Macalline, though notably not to Qihoo 360 as the latter already cashed out in April last year when it sold its remaining 22.6% stake to CEC for $542m. Even with an IPO planned to be this large, that doesn’t sound like a bad decision.

Dada Nexus, which operates crowdsourced on-demand last-mile logistics service Dada Now and JD Daojia, a delivery service for third-party retailers, has filed for an initial public offering with a $100m placeholder amount, and sources have told Bloomberg the company could target as much as $500m in proceeds. The listing would offer exits to Walmart and JD.com, which owns a majority stake after not only investing but also selling Daojia to the company in 2016. Dada Nexus at one point operated as Dada JD-Daojia, but filed its prospectus under the former name.

Two Vietnamese startups file for bankruptcy

Deals

Market Kurly puts $160m in series E basket

Cafés may have been closed in most markets for weeks, but some more forward-thinking businesses were well prepared for this with mobile apps that let customers order and pick up drinks from nearby locations. One such business is Indonesia’s Kopi Kenangan, which has collected $109m in a series B round backed by Kunlun to further develop its technology, protect its staff and drive a domestic expansion from 324 locations to 500 by the end of the year, as well as an expansion into Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines once the pandemic passes. It’s not the first time a coffee and bubble tea bar has raised serious corporate venture capital, but with food and beverage (F&B) suppliers continuing to be in demand by consumers stuck at home, it will be interesting to see how many more will follow (and indeed, news has also emerged that Tencent has invested an undisclosed amount in coffee retailer Tim Hortons).

Bought By Many procures $97.4m

It has been five years since Access Industries led an $83m series B round for US-based cloud infrastructure company DigitalOcean – half an eternity in venture funding. But the conglomerate has now returned to also lead a $50m series C round, raised to help DigitalOcean cope with increasing demand for its product as an ever-growing number of companies rush to accelerate their digital transformation in the midst of all their employees working from home.

University

Kriya kicks off $80.5m series A proceedings

Featurespace impresses for $36.8m round

Modulus unearths $25.2m

Immunai surfaces with $20m seed round

Funds

Linear Capital scores $110m fund

Atria University seeks students for VC fund contest


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Leadership Series: Arvind Purushotham (Citi Ventures)

Our Leadership Series interview where Edison Fu talks to Arvind Purushotham from Citi Ventures.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

11 May 2020 – Intel picks up Moovit for $900m

Big Stories

Korys, the family office behind the France and Belgium-based retailer Colruyt Group, and Mérieux Equity Partners, the asset management arm of the Institut Mérieux holding company, have set up joint funds targeting companies in the healthcare and nutrition sectors in Europe and North America.

OMX Europe Venture Fund has raised more than €60m from Korys and Mérieux and third party subscribers and is targeting a final close at €90m. OMX Europe will be managed by Mérieux Equity Partners in Europe, with the operational support of Korys’ Life Science team as a key advisor to the fund.

The value of Intel’s acquisition of Israel-based urban mobility app developer Moovit for a $900m enterprise value lies almost as much as what it says about the ecosystem developed there over the past 30 years since Russian immigration after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Israel had always battled its neighbours and developed a strong military but the influx of people needing jobs helped catalyse a startup ecosystem and funding of venture capitalists to enable it.

The integration of corporate research and development and venturing units has catalysed this trend even further over the past decade, as identified in the latest GCV Israelconference in February.

We have seen some big deals so far this year in the financial services sector, with Visa acquiring Plaid and Mastercard joining AvidXchange, but while payments remains localised in many cases the opportunities to join up the global commerce world beckons.

Hence the after-market performance of Australia-listed Afterpay, which surged following China-based Tencent’s acquisition of a 5% stake. Alibaba had its purchase of Western Union’s spinout MoneyGram turned down by US authorities but is also trying to become the global payments provider of choice given Chinese blocks on Visa and Mastercard’s expansion in the world’s second-largest economy.

We live in a world of seemingly the very large and the very small.
An exabyte of data is the equivalent of a stack of DVDs about 255.3 kilometres high. Each transistor in a state-of-the-art chip measures only 5 nanometres (nm) — the length a human fingernail grows in five seconds.
The world increasingly turns around data and processing power and if data is the new oil the 21st century wars could see as many wars fought over control of the ones and zeros as were fought over black gold in the last century. In which case Taiwan becomes an important centre to watch.
In last month’s Global China, Saif Khan and Carrick Flynn argued for maintaining China’s dependence on democracies for advanced computer chips through export controls. These democracies, particularly Taiwan, the US and South Korea, lead the development of the most advanced chips – those with transistors of between 5nm and 16nm.

Japan has struggled to keep up and so it was little surprise in the past week to seeDealStreetAsia report Japanese venture capital firm Jafco has made the final close of its debut Taiwan venture fund at NT$2bn ($67.1m) with limited partners including the National Development Fund of Taiwan.

Funds

Kurma sets the stage for $175m fund

Some areas may not be an obvious choice for investment in the time of lockdown but it seems the automotive sector is well and truly alive with Autotech Ventures announcing that it has closed its second fund at more than $150mthanks to a long list of corporate LPs – though only Lear, Stoneridge, Bridgestone and Volvo were identified. The firm now has more than $270m under management and will, apart from the obvious areas of connectivity, automation and electrification, also explore more niche investments, such as junkyard inventory management technologies.

University

Shift hits play on $70m fund

Fitz Gate seals second Princeton-focused fund

Edinburgh sparks food science incubator

Deals

It is easy enough to forget, with the world’s focus on coronavirus, that other diseases are costing countless more human lives. Chief among these is cancer, some forms of which have become easier to treat but prognoses are still significantly better the earlier the disease is caught. Illumina spun out Grail four years ago to make that early detection a reality through a blood test that can not only detect the presence of more than 50 different cancer indications but can also tell the oncologist where in the body the cancerous tissue is – all while boasting an almost negligible false positive rate of less than 1%. But developing such a test costs a lot of money, so it is heartening to see that Illumina and others have doubled down on the company and backed a $390m series D round that brought Grail’s total funding to some $2bn.

Another company that has done well out of people asked to stay at home is Byju’s, the online education provider backed by Prosus and Tencent, which is looking to add $400m to an ongoing funding round that reportedly already stands at $300m to $350m. Better news for the company still: it is set to push its valuation from $8bn just three months ago to more than $10bn. That seems fast, and it is, but consider that Byju’s added six million users in March alone and India’s lockdown was only implemented in the last week of that month.

Octopus Energy, a British renewable energy supplier that has steadily grown to more than 1.3 million customers since it was launched five years ago, has attracted its first external funding thanks to a $327m commitment from Origin Energy in return for a 20% stake. Origin made the investment specifically to secure a licence for Kraken, Octopus’ cloud-based software platform to interact with customers and enable functionality such as wholesale market trading and consumption forecasting. With Australia increasingly feeling the impact of global warming (even if the catastrophic fires earlier this year already seem like a distant memory), partnering with a green energy supplier is a welcome move.

Another sector that is doing well out of reduced human contact are financial services providers and N26 has wasted no time in adding $100m to a series D round that now stands at $570m. Notably, the additional capital was raised at a flat valuation of $3.5bn. That may not be too unusual for a third tranche, but the company had managed to increase its valuation by $800m between the first and second tranche, backed by Tencent and Allianz X. Consider, however, that N26 actually pulled out of market between the first and second extension, as the UK’s exit from the European Union just caused too much of a headache for the digital bank that relies on an EU-wide banking licence for its business.

Robinhood captures $280m series F

SoftBank and its Vision Fund may have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, but that doesn’t mean there is no support left for portfolio companies. Indeed, new and used car trading platform operator Chehaoduo has secured an additional $200m from the Vision Fund and Sequoia Capital to add to a $1.5bn initial series D tranche – supplied in full by the corporate – in February last year. It may not be an obvious candidate to raise money in the current climate, but with trouble brewing elsewhere in the fund’s portfolio, an automotive marketplace and after-sales services provider seems like a decent bet.

SoftBank also hasn’t had the best experience dealing with Mexico’s regulator the Federal Economic Competition Commission (Cofece), having been sanctioned recently because it failed to notify Cofece that it had acquired a larger stake in WeWork. You can understand then that the corporate treaded a bit more carefully with its lead investment in US-based digital lending platform AlphaCredit’s $125m series B round through the Vision Fund. AlphaCredit, which targets customers in Mexico and Colombia, had initially announced the deal in January, but it took until last week for Cofece to give the all-clear. That timing is good news not just for SoftBank and AlphaCredit, but also for the consumers and SMEs that are in desperate need of loans right now to weather the crisis.

Ninja Van picks up $279m in funding

Asapp accesses $185m series B

Flint Hills Resources, the chemicals and biofuel subsidiary of conglomerate Koch Industries, is not a corporate backer we come across often on GCV – in fact, it has seemingly only taken part in half a dozen deals since 2010 – but as the world battles an ever-increasing mountain of plastic polluting the environment, the need for a commercial-scale biodegradable alternative is becoming imperative. Enter RWDC Industries, which is working on just such a material and has secured $133m in a series B round backed by Flint Hills Resources to scale up its US operations by repurposing an idle factory in Athens, Georgia.

Back Market certifies $120m round

ASR processes $119m round

Praxis Precision was co-founded four years ago by faculty from Columbia University and University of Melbourne, but the gene therapy developer – targeting neurological and psychiatric disorders – remained quiet about its business until now, emerging from stealth with more than $100m in funding raised to date from investors including Novo Holdings. All of that money has clearly been put to good use: Praxis already has two assets in phase 2 clinical development, one for major depressive disorder and one for essential tremor.

Enflame lights up $98.7m series B

Exits

Kingsoft Cloud to claim IPO throne

University

Abiomed absorbs Breethe


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Leadership Series: John Glushik (HG Ventures)

Our Leadership Series interview where James Mawson talks to John Glushik from HG Ventures.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

04 May 2020 – FIS Commits $150m to its Corporate Venturing Unit

The Big Three

As highlighted in last week’s podcast, some sectors are flying high and, certainly relative to the global financial crisis a dozen years ago, banking and financial services is one of them.

New York-listed financial technology (fintech) provider FIS has committed $150m to its corporate venturing unit as part of a joined-up approach to open innovation including its FIS FinTech Accelerator and FIS Innovatein48 research and development competition in addition to innovation labs.

Under Joon Cho, FIS Ventures will invest up to $150m in fintech startups over the next three years targeting artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital enablement and automation, data and analytics, security and privacy, distributed ledger technology and financial inclusion.

The blurring of lines between corporate and independent venture capital is continuing apace as all parties consider how best they can support entrepreneurs while fulfilling their five needs: capital, customers, product development, hiring and an exit.

This naturally brings the best investors together with the corporations best able to scale startups and then potentially acquire them, so it is little surprise in many ways to see US-based coffee retailer Starbucks form a co-investment partnership with venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China.

Starbucks said it would also look to form “commercial partnerships with next-generation food and retail technology companies” in China through a statement announcing the agreement.

The average worldwide population increase is currently estimated at 81 million people per year – a figure at this stage fortunately unlikely to be dented much by the Covid-19 pandemic – and all those people require feeding.

As GCV’s agtech supplement in March noted, modern farming practices, such as the use of soil-based and aerial sensors as well as drones, data analytics, and pest and pathogen detection systems, are taking hold. When combined with advanced fertiliser formulations, digital farming technologies developed by startups can substantially reduce nitrogen and nutrient loss and mitigate water pollution.

Enter Pivot Bio, a US-based agriculture technology developer that is trying to harness the power of naturally occurring microbes to provide more nutrients to crops. It has raised $100m in its series C round from a consortium including Bunge Ventures and Continental Grain but is apparently missing one of its earlier corporate backers.

Deals

Fintech on the other hand does not seem to have been affected by the coronavirus to the same extent. Investment and financial advice app developer Stash has raised $112m in a series F round led by $80m from lending marketplace LendingTree. The funding was bagged at an $800m valuation and lifted Stash’s overall funding to more than $290m. CEO Brandon Krieg told Bloomberg it intends to grow its customer base along with brand awareness as finances constrict in the US.

Consumer and business lender DMI Finance likely won’t lack customers in the downturn, and it has just pulled in $123m from video game publisher Nexon at a reported valuation that topped $1bn. India-headquartered DMI secured $200m in non-convertible debenture financing just last month and its commercial partners include Samsung, which is based – like Nexon – in Korea.

And another is business-focused neobank Cross River Bank, which has raised $100m of its own. The series C round comes less than 18 months since Cross River received $100m from backers including corporate CreditEase. The latest round is being co-led by investment adviser V Capital, which will help Cross River expand in its home country of Malaysia.

Inceptio loads up $100m

Paytm is among India’s most valuable startups having been valued at $16bn in a November series G round featuring Ant Financial and SoftBank Vision Fund. The mobile financial services provider is reportedly in talks to raise $100m or more from Microsoft to add to the series G. The round was sized at $1bn but Paytm has only received $720m of the cash so far, and Ant Financial will reportedly need government clearance to supply its share due to new foreign investment regulations.

Although corporates have not been keen on joining in the rush to back cannabis-focused startups, an interesting test case for tech based on traditionally illicit drugs may be Compass Pathways, which is working on a treatment for depression that utilises psilocybin from mushrooms (magic mushrooms, to be precise). The company just pulled in $80mthrough a series B round featuring Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, and has received breakthrough therapy designation for its lead product from the FDA. That should be as good a go-ahead sign as any, you’d think.

University

Taysha stakes out $30m seed round

LifeSprout bolts on series A funding

Exits/Losses

SoftBank’s woes continue, the corporate announcing this morning that it expects to booka mammoth loss of nearly $6.6bn on its investment in WeWork over the last financial year – a period when it pledged a $9.5bn financing package to make sure the workspace provider could continue operations. The value of that deal has been hit hard by the shutdowns of WeWork locations across the world in the face of the coronavirus, and it’s worth noting the $6.6bn figure is separate to SoftBank Vision Fund, which has announced a projected loss of more than $16bn over the same period.

D2iQ has raised a touch over $250m from investors including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Koch Disruptive Technologies since being founded as Mesosphere in 2013, but the cloud software and services provider is reportedly in talks with Google to be acquired. In a sign of the effect the Covid-19 shutdown is having, D2iQ reportedly laid off 34 team members recently, and the prospective purchase would likely value it at more than that $250m, but less than the $775m valuation in its last round two years ago.

To IPO or not to IPO? Right now it seems less of a question than a foregone conclusion for many companies but interestingly, the ones that are opting to go public in this economic downturn seem to be benefitting from the lack of competition. Oncology therapy developer Oric Pharmaceuticals has done so in a $120m initial public offering, floating at the top of its range having increased the number of shares by 50% and then seeing them open more than 60% higher. It had previously raised more than $175m in funding from investors including Taiho, Hartford HealthCare and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Acacia circles over Woodford assets

Funds

Michigan State to administer $3m pre-seed fund


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Leadership Series: David Hayes & Nacho Gimenez (BP Ventures)

Our Leadership Series interview where James Mawson talks to David Hayes and Nacho Gimenez from BP Ventures.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

27 April 2020 – AvidXchange Raises $128m Bringing Total Round to $388m Plus Audio from our Second COVID19 Webinar

The Big ones

AvidXchange, a developer of accounts payable automation software, has raised $128m to hike its latest round to $388m. Mastercard was among the investors, having contributed to the company’s last round, when it secured $300m in 2017 at a $1.4bn valuation. Reports in December stated AvidXchange was chasing a $2bn valuation for this round but the company is yet to confirm those details.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect startups, the UK government has pledged up to $1.25bn in financing, a quarter of which will be channelled into the Future Fund, a vehicle that will provide convertible debt financing to match private investment. The rest will support loans and grants made through the state-owned Innovate UK vehicle. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how useful the measures will be, but the way things are going it feels impossible to make any kind of definitive judgement on that, especially seeing as the Future Fund isn’t set to launch for another month or so.

Several corporate-backed companies in China’s travel and consumer startup space have shut down due to the lockdown related to the coronavirus. Founded in 2019, Wujiang Hotels operated five hotel brands that spanned eight Chinese cities. It had $30m in registered capital after raising money from online travel agency Trip.com, but chairman Ma Xiaodong said in an internal announcement that it is unable to continue operating. Online travel booking platform Baicheng had been founded in 2000 and had received $20m in a 2014 series B round featuring e-commerce group Alibaba according to KrAsia, which cited information from deals database Tianyancha. The company floated two years later but declared bankruptcy in late February this year after its income completely dried up. Meili Jinrong, the automotive-focused spinoff of consumer loans provider Meiliche also shut down operations last month and has laid off all its employees. The Covid-19 restrictions all but eliminated sales which, combined with an immediate cash shortage, meant it had no choice but to close. The move came after the company had raised more than $200m as of 2018, from investors including conglomerate New Hope Group, personal finance app developer Wacai, e-commerce firm JD.com’s JD Finance affiliate and Bertelsmann Asia Investments, representing media group Bertelsmann.

SwanBio Therapeutics, a US-based neurological gene therapy developer based on Harvard University research, is set to increase its series A funding to $77m with a $52m extension led by founding investor and life sciences investment trust Syncona. Syncona has provided an initial $19.6m tranche, a spokesperson revealed to GUV, while Partners Innovation Fund – a vehicle for health system Partners Healthcare that includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) – also contributed to bring the extension to $20m so far. The remainder of Syncona’s commitment – amounting to a total of $51m – is dependent on milestones. Syncona had invested $23m to lead SwanBio’s initial $25m series A tranche in June 2018 with participation from Partners Innovation Fund. SwanBio Therapeutics is working on drugs for treating serious neurological diseases. Its lead candidate targets adrenomyeloneuropathy, a rare inheritable neurological disorder that can cause impaired mobility, eyesight and hearing. No approved treatments currently exist for the disease.

Deals

Epic Games is best known for massively successful online shooting game Fortnite but its acquisition of social gaming and video platform Houseparty last year now looks like a stroke of genius, with some 50 million new users signing up in a month amidst the Covid-19 lockdown. And Epic is striking while the iron is hot, reportedly holding talks with potential investors to raise $500m to $1bn at a valuation ‘significantly’ higher than the $15bn valuation at which it last received funding, in 2018. That round included Axiomatic, and the company’s other corporate investors include Tencent, Endeavor Group and Walt Disney.

Network event streaming platform Confluent has also had a good year, and the company has capped it with $250m in series E funding. The round was led by Coatue Management and valued Confluent, whose early backers include LinkedIn, at $4.5bn. LinkedIn was not much of a corporate venturer prior to its 2016 acquisition by Microsoft, but its 2014 investment in Confluent’s series A round now looks inspired.

China-based Didi Chuxing may have had difficulties with its core ride hailing business in the face of Covid-19, but it has an ambitious growth plan to increase its customer base to 800 million monthly active users by 2022. That will involve beefing up adjacent services such as that of its bicycle rental service Qingju, which just received $150m from SoftBank and Legend Capital. The round is the first external funding to be raised by Qingju and will be added to an $850m cash injection by parent company Didi.

Medical device manufacturer MicroPort Scientific formed subsidiary MicroPort CardioFlow Medtech in 2015 to focus on valvular heart disease, and the offshoot has disclosed $130m in funding secured at a $1.1bn pre-money valuation. The round did not include any additional corporates but the capital will be used for research and development, marketing and market expansion.

STX Entertainment has been responsible for 34 feature films since being founded in 2014 in addition to TV shows and burgeoning digital content, but the US-based studio has bigger plans and has agreed to merge with Bollywood counterpart Eros International in a deal that will be sweetened by $125m from investors including STX backer Liberty Global. Other investors in STX include Tencent, PCCW and Madison Wells, and they’re going to get an exit of sorts when the merged company, Eros STX Global Corporation, inherits Eros’s NYSE spot.

Healthcare services platform developer Aledade has closed a $64m series C round featuring both GV and Echo Health Ventures to take its overall funding to about $175m. Both corporate VC units participated in the round as existing investors, and the funding will support the growth of both Aledade and its care provider members. Aledade’s earlier investors reportedly also include Utimco, the investment management arm of University of Texas.

Accent Therapeutics has completed a $63m series B round that saw it welcome aboard corporate venturing units GV and AbbVie Ventures as new investors. The company launched two years ago with $40m in series A cash and will put the series B proceeds toward advance development of drug candidates that target RNA-modifying proteins to treat cancer.

Immunomic Therapeutics has created a vaccine development platform focused on diseases including – surprise, surprise – Covid-19, and has closed $61.3m in financing led by oncology-focused pharmaceutical company and partner HLB. The company is also partnering HLB on the launch of a research hub called the Asian Brain Cancer Research Center in the latter’s home country of South Korea.

Paige, a US-based cancer pathology software provider based on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center research, increased its series B round to $50m today following a $5m extension supplied by investment bank Goldman Sachs’s merchant banking division. Paige did not reveal the size of the extension in its release, but a spokesperson confirmed the amount to GUV. The company raised an initial $45m in December 2019 from a consortium led by Healthcare Venture Partners that included Brey Capital, private investor Kenan Turnacioglu and undisclosed funds.

Guru is the developer of a software product that helps employees share knowledge with each other, and which utilises AI technology to bring crucial insights to the surface. It just completed a $30m series C round that included Slack Fund, to increase its overall funding to $68m. Slack Fund had already participated in Guru’s late 2018 series B round, and its early backers include Salesforce Ventures, which invested at seed stage.

Adverity is located in a similar spot, having created a software platform enabling marketing staff to generate usable information from siloed data, and it has raised $30m in its own series C round. SAP subsidiary SAP.io was among the investors in the transaction, which was led by Sapphire Ventures nine years after it was spun off by the enterprise software provider under the moniker of SAP Ventures. It’s good to see the two working together.

Exits

Enterprise software producer Kingsoft formed cloud services provider Kingsoft Cloud in 2012 and has since grown it into China’s third largest player in the sector. Kingsoft Cloud has raised about $700m from investors including its parent company and electronics provider Xiaomi, and has now filed to go public in the US. It’s curious timing considering the ongoing coronavirus disruption, but perhaps Kingsoft sees the sector as relatively immune.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0