The Big Ones
“The door is always open for a second and third [Vision] fund, but we’re not very popular,” according to Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank, who was quoted in the Financial Times. SoftBank raised almost $100bn for its first Vision Fund back in 2016 and invested three-quarters of it, showing a slight paper profit in its latest results to the end of September. SoftBank’s Vision Funds are very much back in the game, and Vision Fund I has participated in a $500m series C round for autonomous delivery vehicle producer Nuro. This round valued Nuro at $5bn, nearly double the $2.7bn valuation at which Vision Fund provided $940m in series B funding for the company early last year, and it was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price.
As we head to the end of a turbulent year, the IPO option continues to be taken up by some of the more highly valued venture-backed companies. DoorDash has filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange, six months after it raised $400m at a $16bn valuation. The food delivery service is one of the tech companies that has thrived as the coronavirus has caused more people to stay home, and it more than tripled revenue in the first nine months of 2020 while more than halving losses. SoftBank Vision Fund is its biggest shareholder, with a 24.9% stake.
Let’s take a quick look at another interesting story from the past week – a crossover between the corporate VC and university spinout worlds. Menlo Security, a spinout of UC Berkeley, has raised a nine-figure amount, the cybersecurity software provider having received $100m in a series E round valuing it at $800m. American Express Ventures, HSBC and Ericsson Ventures are among the company’s earlier investors, and it has now raised a total of about $260m. The cash will go to upgrading its engineering and go-to-market activities.
Cybersecurity software provider SentinelOne has bagged $267m in a series F round led by Tiger Global Management that roughly tripled its valuation to $3.3bn in the space of nine months. Qualcomm Ventures was among the investors in the February series E round, while another corporate VC unit, Samsung Ventures, backed SentinelOne’s series D in June last year.
Autonomous driving technology producer Pony.ai has completed a $267m series C round that included automotive manufacturer FAW Group, increasing its valuation from $4bn to $5.3bn in the process. Toyota previously led a $462m series B round in February.
Everyone welcomed news this past week that a coronavirus vaccine might be on the horizon – based, notably, on the technology of a spinout as BioNTech emerged out of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. Electric scooter rental service Tier is one company to benefit, and it secured $250m in a series C round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The cash will support expansion into additional European markets and comes after Tier raised more than $100m in an Axa Germany-backed round in February.
Rec-Biotechnology is another startup working on a covid vaccine. The China-based company has raised $227m in series B funding from investors including Legend Capital and the proceeds will fund work on the prospective covid-19 vaccine as well as those for HPV, shingles and tuberculosis.
Online mortgage lending platform Better.com has secured $200m in a series D round backed by Ping An, Ally Financial and American Express Ventures while pushing its valuation up to $4bn. Better’s overall funding has now gone past the $450m mark and its earlier backers include Citi.
Aixuexi Education Group is the latest member of China’s online education community to pull in significant funding, securing $200m in a series D2 round led by GIC. Tencent invested an undisclosed amount just under a year ago following some $290m in earlier funding.
Bentley Systems, a provider of infrastructure engineering software, has joined the likes of Kellogg, Scotts Miracle-Gro and T-Mobile by harnessing Touchdown Ventures to launch a corporate venturing fund. Bentley iTwin Ventures is equipped with $100m and will make strategic investments on behalf of its parent, supplying up to $5m per deal. Its first portfolio company is subsea installation software developer FutureOn.
Instacart has hired Goldman Sachs to oversee an offering early next year it expects will value it at about $30bn. That’s a huge increase from the $17.7bn valuation the grocery delivery service registered when it last raised money, a few weeks ago. Instacart counts Comcast Ventures, Amazon and American Express Ventures as backers, with the last of those having invested at a $400m valuation.
Adobe has agreed a $1.5bn acquisition of marketing collaboration platform developer Workfront, 18 months after investors including Susquehanna International Group made a $280m secondary investment in the company. Workfront had previously raised about $95m in equity financing and will operate as a subsidiary of Adobe’s Experience Cloud division.
Vista Equity Partners has agreed to purchase a majority stake in customer management software provider PipeDrive at a $1.5bn valuation, with DTCP among the existing investors that will retain shares. DTCP, spun off and backed by Deutsche Telekom, invested $10m in PipeDrive through a 2018 series C round that valued it at about $300m, which means it’s looking at a very nice paper profit on that deal.