Leadership Series: Alicia Löffler (Northwestern University)

In this week’s episode of the Global Venturing Review Leadership Series, we talk to Alicia Löffler, associate provost for Innovation & New Ventures, associate vice president for Research and executive director, INVO, Center for Translational Innovation (CTI) at Northwestern University.


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

19 October 2020 – SoftBank Backs Kahoot with $215m Investment

The Big Ones

Kahoot has been one of the biggest recent success stories in the startup space. The company, the developer of a gamified online learning platform, has secured $215m from SoftBank through a private placement that valued it above $2.2bn, a huge jump from the $100m valuation at which it raised money just over two and a half years ago. Its earlier backers include Microsoft’s M12 unit, which first invested even before the early 2018 round, and Walt Disney, which provided $15m later the same year at a $376m valuation.

Sella Venture Partners, Italy-headquartered financial services group Sella’s venture capital arm, has reached the €30m ($35.3m) first close for a fund of funds backed by multiple corporate limited partners. The group’s banking subsidiaries, Banca Sella and Banca Patrimoni Sella & C, contributed to the fund along with peers Banco BPM and Fenera Holding, insurance firms Aviva and HDI Assicurazioni, and unnamed individuals. Sella Venture Partners Fund of Funds I is seeking additional investors for a second close on its way to a €100m target. It is expected to conduct deals for four years in Europe and the United States.

Twilio has agreed to acquire Segment, developer of a customer data management platform, in a $3.2bn all-share transaction that will allow GV, an early-stage investment subsidiary of internet and technology group Alphabet, to exit. Segment had raised $284m in funding prior to the deal, its last round being a $175m series D that reportedly valued it at $1.5bn, 18 months ago.

Crossover: Oxford Nanopore, a UK-based genetic sequencing technology spinout of University of Oxford, obtained £84.4m ($108m) in funding from a consortium including pension fund manager RPMI Railpen. The company’s offering includes a rapid test for detecting Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus that leads to covid-19. The capital brought Oxford Nanopore’s total funding to some $800m. Its existing backers also include IP Group, Illumina and Amgen, the latter of which injected $66m in early 2018.

Deals

E-commerce logistics may not be the flashiest part of the venture capital space but it has given rise to some sizeable players. Flash Express is Thailand’s biggest pure-play participant in the sector and has secured $200m in a series D round led by PTT Oil and Retail Business Public Company. The round included at least two more corporate investors – Durbell and Krungsri Finnovate – and its earlier backers reportedly include Alibaba’s eWTP fund.

Electric bus producer Proterra has been around for nearly 17 years, but is still successfully raising money. It’s brought in $200m through a round led by $150m from investment bank Cowen’s Sustainable Advisors subsidiary, adding to at least $565m in earlier financing from an investor pool that includes Daimler, GM Ventures, Mitsui, Edison Energy, Constellation Technology Ventures, BMW i Ventures and the Panasonic-sponsored Conductive Ventures.

Car sharing has long since fallen behind ride hailing when it comes to funding numbers, but Getaround has nevertheless pulled in $140m in a series E round that included SoftBank Vision Fund. SoftBank led the company’s last round, a $300m series D in 2018, and it has now secured almost $600m altogether. Its earlier backers include Cox Automotive, SAIC Capital and Toyota.

Although it isn’t one of the flashier parts of the startup space, agritech is still plugging along. Farmer’s Business Network and Infarm have both closed nine-figure rounds in recent months and now indoor farming unicorn Plenty has done the same. It secured $140m in a series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund that included Driscoll’s, the berry provider that formed a commercial agreement with Plenty earlier this year. The round boosted its overall funding to roughly $540m, Vision Fund having come onboard in its 2017 series B round.

Livekindly Collective is the newest big player in the plant-based food space, having raised $135m from investors including food ingredient developer Griffith Foods. The company had received $200m just over six months ago when it was launched as a group including vegan media brand Livekindly and plant-based food brands Fry Family, Oumph and Like Meat.

Electric bus and van developer Arrival has received $118m in funding from funds managed by BlackRock, following on from $112m provided by carmaker Hyundai and subsidiary Kia in January. UPS invested in Arrival the same month alongside an agreement to purchase 100,000 vans from the company. The latest capital influx will support the establishment of scalable microfactories designed to produce its vehicles rapidly and efficiently.

Funds

Industrial and fruit acid product manufacturer Fuso Chemical has made a limited partner commitment to Future Food Fund, a corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicle for Japan-based online supermarket Oisix Ra Daichi. Formed in October 2019, Future Food Fund is managed by the CVC unit of the same name set up two months earlier. The vehicle will target startups focusing on food, agriculture and healthcare innovation. The fund’s LPs already include corporates such as fast food restaurant chain Mos Burger, broadcaster TV Tokyo Direct and Toyota Tsusho, the trading subsidiary of carmaker Toyota.

Exits

Affordable lifestyle goods retailer Miniso is headquartered in China and takes its inspiration from Japanese retail, but it’s chosen the US for its IPO, floating above its range to secure $608m. The company is only seven years old but oversees a network of some 4,200 stores worldwide run through a franchise model. Its investors include Tencent, which took part in a $146m round two years ago before providing an additional $50m in February this year.

GV is on a tear right now and has also scored an exit from MIT spinout Kronos Bio, which floated above its range in an upsized initial public offering that raised $250m. The oncology therapeutics developer’s investors include GV, which took part in its $105m series A round last year, and its shares have soared to $32.90 as of Friday evening.

Roblox has confirmed it has confidentially filed for an initial public offering, days after media reports suggested it was prepping an IPO expected to double its valuation to $8bn. The online gaming platform has some 120 million monthly active users and is looking to expand its offering into virtual concerts, suddenly an attractive option due to the real thing being prevented by coronavirus-related social distancing measures.

Dida Chuxing (not to be confused with fellow Chinese ride hailing service Didi Chuxing) has filed for its own IPO, in Hong Kong. Recent reports predicted it would target $500m in its flotation, and the offering would chalk up exits for Nio Capital, the venture firm backed by carmaker Nio, in addition to corporates BitAuto, JD.com and Ctrip which cumulatively hold 12% of Dida’s shares.

Digital payment technology provider Stripe led Nigeria-based counterpart Paystack’s $8m series A round two years ago and it obviously liked what it saw, having returned to agree an acquisition deal reportedly valuing Paystack at over $200m. The company had disclosed less than $10m in funding prior to the deal, and two other corporate investors – Comcast Ventures and Tencent – are set to record big multiple returns too.

Spruce Biosciences has closed its initial public offering after the underwriters took up the over-allotment option and bought nearly $14m of shares to add to the $90m it raised when it floated at the end of last week. Novo is the largest shareholder in Spruce Bio, which is developing treatments for endocrine disorders.

Codiak BioSciences has also floated, raising $82.5m in its initial public offering after floating in the middle of its range. The exosome drug developer– based on research at Gothenburg and MD Anderson Cancer Center – had received $168m in funding pre-IPO from investors including Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ Alexandria Venture Investments, and the IPO price values it just short of $280m.


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

Leadership Series: Nichole Mercier (Washington University in St Louis)

In this week’s episode of the Global Venturing Review Leadership Series, we talk to Nichole Mercier, assistant vice-chancellor and managing director for technology transfer at Washington University in St Louis, about increasing engagement from female researchers, the impact of the pandemic on women faculty with children and fostering serial entrepreneurs that choose to stay in the local ecosystem.


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

12 October 2020 2020 – Uber Spins out Uber Freight with $500m Series A

The Big Ones

Uber launched its shipping services platform, Uber Freight, in 2017, and is now spinning it off with $500m in series A financing from Greenbriar Equity Group at a $3.3bn post-money valuation. The funding will help Uber Freight compete against emerging competitors like Flock Freight and Loadsmart, as well as international rivals such as BlackBuck, FreightHub and Manbang Group.

Several corporates have in the past year or so adjusted their CVC models to focus on independent venture firms they sponsor, as opposed to operating internal units. But Russian conglomerate Sistema was among the first, seeding VC firm Sistema Asia Capital in 2015 with a brief to invest in consumer and enterprise technology. The firm closed its first fund at $120m but plans to expand that to between $150m and $175m for the second vehicle. It has so far achieved two exits and intends to boost its ticket size – currently up to $5m – for the next fund.

South Korean record company and talent manager Big Hit Entertainment specialises in K-pop idol groups and has struck gold with BTS, now one of the biggest groups in the world. It has also lined up an initial public offering in its home country that will involve it floating at the top of its range to raise $842m. The IPO is reportedly set to value the company at roughly $4.2bn and will represent a huge return for mobile game developer Netmarble, which paid $190m for a 25.7% stake two and a half years ago.

The biggest crossover of the past week was actually an acquisition, specifically the $350m purchase of Harvard’s gene sequencing technology spinout ReadCoor by 10x Genomics. The company had raised $50m in funding, and pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly subsidiary Lilly Ventures contributed to a $23m series A round for ReadCoor in 2016 that was led by Decheng Capital and also backed by Vivo Capital and Hansjörg Wyss. The latter’s donations to Harvard University led to the establishment of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, from which ReadCoor was spun out so this story has nicely come full circle.

Deals

GoPuff’s consumer goods delivery service has been boosted significantly by social distancing measures in recent months and it has accordingly secured $390m from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund at a $3.9bn valuation. Vision Fund had already led a $750m round for GoPuff last year and the proceeds from the latest deal will go to expanding its range of products.

Unqork, creator of a no-code app development platform, has meanwhile pulled in $207m through a series C round featuring Alphabet unit CapitalG, Broadridge Financial Solutions and Hewlett Packard Enterprise that valued it at $2bn. The round increased Unqork’s overall funding to $368m and the capital will support recruitment, technology development and an expansion in its training and go-to-market partnerships.

The market leader in that space is of course Instacart, though it relies on shoppers picking up goods from stores, as opposed to the fulfilment centre model used by GoPuff. It has also raised $200m in a round co-led by Valiant Peregrine Fund and D1 Capital Partners at a colossal $17.7bn valuation, up $3.9bn from the close of its last round three months ago. The company’s earlier investors include Comcast Ventures, American Express Ventures and Whole Foods, which is now owned by Amazon.

Tanium is among the most valuable VC-backed cybersecurity software providers right now and has pulled in $150m from investors including Fidelity Management & Research, Baillie Gifford and T. Rowe Price at a valuation in excess of $9bn. Salesforce invested in the company in June, its earlier backers include Citi Ventures and its overall funding now stands at more than $900m.

Telemedicine has been one of the big success stories this year thanks to social distancing measures, but most of the products focus on diagnostics and consultation. Avail Biosciences’ Procedural Telemedicine system is designed for use in the operating theatre to enable experts to consult on surgical procedures, and it has raised $100m in its series B round. The round was led by investment firm D1 Capital Partners and also featured existing investors that may have included Baidu Ventures.

Funds

Germany-based energy utility Eon acquired domestic peer Innogy in June and four months on, it has formed a venture capital investment and collaboration platform called Future Energy Ventures. The unit launched with a portfolio of more than 60 companies and corporate venturing team members from both utilities, and will target developers of digital technology that can enhance the energy sector.

Exits

Lufax has less than two months to achieve one of the biggest IPOs of the year, having filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange two years after raising money at a valuation topping $39bn. The online lending and wealth management platform was spun off by China-based insurance firm Ping An, which still owns a 42% stake, and its subsequent investors include Cofco, Bank of China, UBS, JP Morgan, Macquarie Group, UOB and Goldman Sachs.

Immersive gaming platform developer Roblox is reportedly lining up an initial public offering that could potentially double its valuation to $8bn. The company has raised $550m in funding, most recently pulling in $150m through a February 2020 series G round featuring Tencent that pushed its valuation up from $2.5bn to $4bn.

Alphabet is having a busy week in corporate venturing. One of its portfolio companies, tech-equipped health insurance provider Clover Health, looks set to give it a healthy exit after agreeing to a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp III at a $3.7bn valuation. The deal will follow approximately $925m in funding and the merged business will get some $400m in PIPE financing in addition to $828m in the SPAC’s account.

Ozon, the Russia-based e-commerce marketplace that counts Sistema and Cisco Investments among its backers, has confidentially also filed for an IPO in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal. The offering is expected to value Ozon, whose business has soared during the coronavirus pandemic, between $3bn and $5bn and is slated to take place in late 2020 or early 2021.

A raft of highly-valued companies in the tech space are currently lining up IPOs, and UK-based Deliveroo is among them. The online food delivery platform has seen user numbers rise significantly during the coronavirus pandemic and is expecting its valuation in the offering to top $2.6bn. That would be good news for Amazon, which led the company’s $575m series G round in May last year, but which had to wait 13 months for the deal to get regulatory approval due to competition concerns.


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

Leadership Series: Tony Raven (Cambridge Enterprise)

In this week’s episode of the Global Venturing Review Leadership Series, we talk to Tony Raven, chief executive of University of Cambridge’s commercialisation arm Cambridge Enterprise, about abandoning long-held beliefs in the workplace, his help in launching both IP Group and Cambridge Innovation Capital and the importance of running a tech transfer operation worthy of the Cambridge brand.


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

05 October 2020 – Sophia Genetics Raises $110m Series F

The Big Ones

It was a privilege to hear the insights at the GCV Digital Forum 2.0 yesterday. Combining our regional and sector events, GCV Asia Congress, Synergize and Energy, was always a recipe for some of the world’s leaders to gather and share as well as network. The insights started with Gen Tsuchikawa, CEO of Sony Innovation Fund, as chairman of the Asia stream explain how it had made 10 deals since April through the covid-19 crisis and launched a new fund with an impact focus on the environment. Impact and sustainability was a running theme through the whole agenda, with Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the Global Steering Group working on impact investing, giving a keynote and answering questions from attendees about his new book, Impact: Reshaping capitalism to drive real change.

Sir Ronald Cohen’s insights from his second book, Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change, lay out a methodology for adding impact to the usual risk and return decision-making for investing. Here’s a case study example from his keynote to be delivered at the www.GCVDigitalForum.com tomorrow, with a live Q&A with Sir Ronald starting at 12.30pm UK time.

Change is coming. The only question remains how to maximise the impact at a corporation through sophisticated use of open innovation tools, such as corporate venturing, and align them to traditional research and development and mergers and acquisitions. Switzerland-based healthcare insurer CSS Insurance has set up the CHF50m SwissHealth Ventures fund managed by Redstone’s venture capital-as-a-service. Jonathan Fraser, head of venturing at CSS, said it would on focus digital health startups contributing to a high quality and cost-efficient health system.

Sophia Genetics, a Switzerland-based clinical insights platform, has raised $110m in its series F round from a consortium including Hitachi Ventures. It is an interesting deal for Stefan Gabriel, CEO of Hitachi Ventures and GCV Powerlist 100 winner last month. Typically, the $150m Hitachi Ventures programme has targeted early-stage deals in Europe and the US.

Exits

Palantir is arguably Peter Thiel’s most infamous endeavour: the company has been shrouded in secrecy ever since it was founded in 2003 and was often thought to have almost peerless capabilities when it came to big data analytics (capabilities that have landed it some big US government contracts). But its direct listing on the NYSE (which came after six – yes, six – revisions to its SEC filing) was, as Reuters called it, “choppy”. Shares dropped from the $10 opening price to $9.50 and the company ended up with a valuation of $20.6bn – which might seem a good amount, but it was worth $20.3bn five years ago and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars since then. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Morgan Stanley couldn’t get its software to work for Palantir employees to sell shares.

McAfee has had a more eventful history than most. Once upon a time (the olden days of 2011), the company was listed on NYSE before Intel decided to snap up the cybersecurity giant for $7.7bn. To say the shoe didn’t fit might be an understatement: officially rebranding the company to Intel Security in 2014, the operation actually retained its McAfee name and by 2016 had been spun off again through a private equity deal that saw Intel selling a majority stake to TPG Capital, with Thoma Bravo also taking a small shareholding. And now it seems McAfee is ready to yet again trade publicly and has filed for an IPO on Nasdaq – putting that infamous $100m placeholder figure in its draft prospectus and not yet giving away any details on terms. Fun fact: the IPO has gathered a baker’s dozen worth of underwriters – this might be one to watch closely as it unfolds.

JD.com’s healthcare spinoff has filed for an initial public offering after raising more than $1.9bn in equity funding from investors including Hillhouse Capital and Citic Capital.

Tencent is also in line for an exit as Beijing Logicreation Information & Technology, an education services provider, has filed for a RMB1.04bn ($152m) initial public offering on Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s ChiNext board. The company plans on issuing 10 million shares and is targeting a valuation of $586m. Details about Logicreation’s funding are hazy, but DealStreetAsia surfaced a series D round of undisclosed size backed by Tencent Investment in 2017 and a $14m funding round in 2015 backed by Heyi Group. Neither corporate owns more than 5% pre-IPO, however.

Deals

Electric vehicles and grid-scale energy storage are going to be fundamentally necessary parts of a clean energy future, but despite the fact that they generate no emissions once they reach the user they come with a big catch: mining lithium is incredibly destructive to the environment and its effects have been known to pollute rivers and kill wildlife. So, recycling lithium-ion batteries is key if we want to avoid solving one problem (climate change) by creating another (pollution). The recycling process is a relatively new development, but Northvolt is one of the most important players in the space and the company has added $600m to its coffers from Volkswagen, Scania and others to not only reach 150GWh of manufacturing output in Europe by 2030, but also to build a recycling facility that will mean at least 50% of raw materials in its batteries will be from recycled products. VW had already backed a $1bn round last year.

Cazoo, a UK-based online marketplace for used vehicles, has been raising equity at an incredible pace: founded two years ago, it’s amassed $558m in capital and a valuation of $2.5bn thanks to commitments from, among others, repeat investor DMG Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of media group Daily Mail and General Trust. The corporate also participated in Cazoo’s latest deal, a $308m funding round that was co-led by General Catalyst and D1 Capital Partners (which you will have noticed investing a lot of money over the past few weeks – cf. Robinhood, Alkami and Goat).

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and PICC Group’s PICC Capital joined forces with Morningside to co-lead a $319m series C round for XtalPi that also featured existing backers SIG China, Tencent and China Life. XtalPi, which has built a platform to predict the physicochemical and pharmaceutical properties of small-molecule drug candidates, will use the money to further develop its technology. Its shareholders also include Google and Renren.

Rappi has grown from a delivery service initially focused on drinks to a courier service that delivers pretty much any consumer product you can think of. It even allows users to get cashback. The company has also expanded across nine countries in South America and has raised more than $300m from T. Rowe Price and undisclosed investors. That both is and isn’t a lot of money: SoftBank injected $1bn in May last year, and Rappi’s earlier backers also include Delivery Hero.

SoftBank has contributed to a $225m series D round for VTex, a Brazil-based provider of end-to-end e-commerce services, after the corporate had already led a $140m round last November. VTex is now valued at $1.7bn and its platform is used by international giants such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Walmart to power their online stores – not a bad list of clients for a Brazilian company that hardly any consumer will have ever heard of.

Airwallex has added $40m in a series D extension that brought the round to a $200m close. No word on who the “new and existing” backers of the second tranche are, but ANZi Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Tencent were all among the investors for the $160m initial tranche five months ago. The money will allow Airwallex to chase big plans: add another 100 staff (for a 240-strong headcount) and an expansion into the US, all while doubling down on its existing markets. Airwallex has now obtained some $400m altogether.

Taimei’s software helps life sciences companies manage their clinical trials, including assessing and monitoring adverse effects. It’s added $176m to its coffers in a round co-led by Tencent, GL Ventures and YF Capital, while SoftBank China Venture Capital also got a slice of the pie. Tencent previously led a $132m series E-plus round just under a year ago, while SBCVC had contributed to an $80m series E round in early 2019.

BioCatch has added four big banks – Barclays, Citi, HSBC and National Australia Bank – to a series C round that now stands at $168m. American Express Ventures and CreditEase had backed a $145m first tranche six months ago and the Israel-based behavioural biometrics technology provider has now raised $215m in funding altogether. It’s also launched a so-called client innovation board, where Barclays, Citi, HSBC, NAB and AmEx will be able to exchange ideas on how best to prevent online fraud.

Caloga-backed Sendinblue has added $160m to its coffers thanks to investors including Bpifrance and BlackRock.

Lilly Asia Ventures has returned for a $147m series D round that will allow InventisBio to advance its treatments for breast cancer and gout into phase 2 clinical trials.

Cloud-based banking platform developer Alkami Technology’s total financing meanwhile stands at $365m after attracting $140m in a funding round featuring Fidelity. D1 Capital Partners led the round, while Franklin Templeton and Stockbridge Investors also took part. Details about Alkami’s earlier funding rounds are sparse, though it did announce its series E and D rounds, and its shareholders also include General Atlantic, MissionOG, S3 Ventures and Argonaut Private Equity.

Joyson Electronics has farmed out a stake in its smart driving subsidiary Joy Next to investors including Baofeng Energy and Ningbo Gaofa Automotive Control System.

Tencent has led a round worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” for veterinary care services provider New Ruipeng Pet Healthcare Group. Boehringer Ingelheim and Country Garden Venture Capital, the investment arm for Country Garden, also took part in the round which will allow Ruipeng, which operates more than 1,400 animal clinics and hospitals, to bolster its offering.

University

Monte Rosa climbs $96m series B: University of London-linked Monte Rosa Therapeutics is working on biotechnology to degrade disease-driving proteins.

XY spells out $59m series B: Zhejiang University-backed optical chip maker XY Technology will put the series B cash to strengthening its capacity and product.

Wise conceives $17.6m: University of Milan spinout Wise is a developer of low-invasive neuromodulation implants for treating pain and neurological disorders.

Funds

China’s courier service operator SF Holdings has joined forces with Citic Capital to launch a $308m fund that will focus on the domestic logistics sector. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC provided the largest chunk of cash – a total of $216m – though the size is (at least so far) below an original target of $400m envisaged earlier this year. Fundraising was put on hold at the time and, although the report doesn’t explicitly say this, it’s likely the pandemic was a big factor here.

Long-time readers will be aware of Kickstart Ventures, the investment arm of Philippines-based Globe Telecom, but there has never been a lot of corporate venture capital available in the archipelagic state. This is changing – and in dramatic fashion, too: local conglomerate Ayala has closed a $180m fund (managed by Kickstart Ventures and also backed by Globe Telecom), seemingly making it the country’s biggest venture fund to date. Because that is a lot of money, the Active Fund will actually invest internationally and target series A through D rounds.

BA Capital lures corporates to $147m fund: BA Capital has raised a total of $247m this month across its yuan and dollar-denominated vehicles targeting the consumer and media sectors.

Nippon Life makes an impact with $100m: The insurance provider has committed $100m to the Life Science Impact Program, which is managed by Grove Street Advisors and will focus on healthcare businesses.

Inspiration Capital sparks $73m fund: Hexing Electrical, CSD Environment, Hailang Group and SIG are among the limited partners in a $73m fund raised by Qiming spinoff Inspiration Capital.


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

Leadership Series: Orin Herskowitz (Columbia University)

In this week’s episode of the Global Venturing Review Leadership Series, we talk to Orin Herskowitz, senior vice-president of intellectual property and tech transfer for Columbia University, and executive director of Columbia Technology Ventures, about New York’s accelerators, the upsides of Zoom meetings and why having a humanities degree is the perfect background for heading a tech transfer office.


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

28 September 2020 – Roche Pays $448m to Buy Inflazome

The Big Ones

Congratulations to Mike Cavanagh at Comcast for taking up the reins of its ventures unit after Amy Banse’s decision to retire next year. Thanks goes to Banse for her support to the community over the past decade and glad she’s staying engaged through Comcast to deliver on sustainability, gender equality and mentorship.
My thanks to Ken Gatz, CEO at deal management software platform Proseeder, for running the past two days’ pitch events covering sustainability and mobility on September 22 and financial and deep technology yesterday. The GCV Connect powered by Proseeder platform reviewed the applications thanks to the expert corporate venturing judges and then showcased the finallists with the recordings edited and showreeled at the GCV Digital Forum next week, 29th.

Sweden-listed investment holding company Kinnevik’s history is one of pivots. From its initial switch from pulp and paper into telecoms and media in Sweden in the 1990s and then into online companies such as Avito, Rocket Internet and Zalando in the 2010s now comes the push into privately-held startups as it sells its $2bn stake in telecoms asset Tele2.

Exits

Roche has paid $448m to buy Inflazome, the Novartis-backed developer of treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hepatitis B, Crohn’s disease and many others. Inflazome was spun out of University of Queensland just four years ago and also commercialises research from Trinity College Dublin. Novartis had contributed to its two only rounds that brought in a total of just over $62m.

TriNetX had raised $102m in funding from investors including Merck & Co, Mitsui and Itochu before agreeing to a purchase by Carlyle.

You may have all but forgotten about WeWork, the beleaguered co-working space provider, and in a world struggling to keep a pandemic at bay, sharing an office with strangers is hardly appealing. Yet, Trustbridge seems confident there is money to be made still and has acquired a majority stake in WeWork China for… $200m. Not only had WeWork China raised $1bn from investors including SoftBank and its Vision Fund, but was also once valued at $5bn. A source told TechCrunch layoffs had already started and “many things” remained uncertain, so we’ll see how this one pans out. In any case, it’s hardly an exit to celebrate for the investors, but they were likely prepared for that already anyway.

Even if you don’t drive an electric car, you have likely come across the term range anxiety – the fear that the battery’s charge will not last all the way to the driver’s destination. It is often considered a significant barrier to large-scale adoption of EVs, so seeing ChargePoint – which operates an international charging network – agreeing to a reverse merger with SPAC Switchback Energy Acquisition can only be good news. The deal values ChargePoint at $2.4bn and will, once it closes in Q4, net the business $683m in fresh funding. That’s a smidgeon more than the $667m it had raised in equity financing from backers such as AEP, BMW, Chevron, Constellation Energy, Daimler, Siemens, The Hartford and Toyota.

Speaking of the transportation sector: Ninebot – best known for the Segway brand – is looking to go public in China through a $295m IPO on Shanghai’s Star Market. The Xiaomi and Intel-backed company’s move is intriguing not so much for the IPO’s target size (though that is notable, too) but because it’s the first company with a variable interest entities (VIE) structure that’s been approved to list using Chinese Depository Receipts. VIE is a framework that enables foreign investment in companies that are restricted from accepting overseas capital due to their sensitive nature. Typically, the structure is employed by China-based companies undertaking a listing elsewhere and up until now Beijing made companies unwind this structure if they sought to list at home – but rising tensions with the US have seemingly provoked some flexibility from the central government.

Tencent-backed low-cost retailer has put a $100m placeholder figure in its filing for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, more than a year after its plans first emerged.

Compass Pathways, a UK-based depression medicine developer backed by pharmaceutical group Otsuka Pharmaceuticals’ McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, achieved a different kind of exit as it went public in an upsized IPO worth more than $127m on Friday. The company is working on something rather unusual: a synthetic version of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, to treat mental health disorders that have proven resistant to other therapies. McQuade had backed an $80m series B round in April 2020 and its bet paid off, as shares in Compass shot up to $29 on the first day of trading.

If you were looking forward to whatever blockbuster terms Grail was going to set for its IPO when it first filed with a $100m placeholder amount earlier this month, you’ll be sorely disappointed with today’s news. However, the $8bn put down by Illumina (though when accounting for its existing stake it’s closer to $7bn) to acquire its cancer diagnostics spinoff is impressive in its own right – particularly considering that Grail raised just under $2bn, so Illumina could have saved a decent chunk of cash if it had kept the development internal – but that’s the nature of these things. WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Alphabet, Varian Medical Systems, BMS, Celgene, Merck & Co, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson are all among the corporates celebrating an exit.

Speaking of China: Zhonggu Logistics, a container logistics services provider backed by liner operator Zhonggu Shipping and telecommunications group SoftBank, is targeting a $218m initial public offering after pricing its shares at $3.28 a pop. It will list on the main board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and Zhonggu Shipping will remain a majority shareholder at 63.1%, with a tiny slice (2.2%) also left for SoftBank. CICC is the lead underwriter.

The Washington State University neurological drug developer has gone public after issuing 12 million shares priced at $17 each.

Deals

News continues coming in at a rapid pace, proving that the summer lull – however much there was one, considering the flurry of IPO filings as discussed earlier – is well and truly over. If you live in the west, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tesla is the only real contender in the EV space but there are other noteworthy companies in the east. One of these is WM Motor, which has picked up $1.47bn in a series D round backed by SAIC Motor – adding to some $1.8bn in funding previously raised from investors such as Baidu, Tencent and China Minmetals. The money has been allocated to R&D, marketing, sales and branding activities.

There really is no stopping Robinhood, the US-based share trading app developer backed by Alphabet and Roc Nation: the company has now pushed its series G round to $660m thanks to a $460m extension supplied by D1 Capital Partners (which had provided the $200m initial tranche last month), a16z, Sequoia, DST, Ribbit and 9Yards. The extension has moved Robinhood’s valuation up to $11.7bn from $11.2bn a few weeks ago – that seems like a marginal increase hardly worth mentioning but in July the company was actually worth “only” $8.2bn when it closed its $600m series F. It’s now collected some $2.36bn in funding altogether.

Challenger bank Chime has become the most valuable American fintech aimed at retail consumers after raising $485m in a series F round that pushed its valuation to $14.5bn – a good chunk of change more than previous leader Robinhood, which attained an $11.2bn valuation last month. If $14.5bn seems a lot – and it is – consider this: Chime claims it has been adding hundreds of thousands of customers per month as the pandemic has made people less inclined to go into a physical bank branch. Consider this, too: the company was worth a mere $1.5bn just 18 months ago. Access Industries returned for the latest round but Chime’s early investors, which include Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, will also all be in for a phenomenal exit at this rate.

Munich Re has returned for a $250m series D round raised by online insurance platform Next Insurance, while CapitalG led the round. Next Insurance has grown to more than 100,000 customers across all 50 US states and will use the money to improve its existing offering, add more products and hire an additional 200 employees. Next has now raised $631m in total – Munich Re previously injected $250m in series C financing a year ago – and its investors also include Nationwide (the US insurer, not the UK financial institution), Markel and American Express Ventures.

Apple’s silicon in iPhones and iPads is notably because the chips manage to squeeze an astounding amount of processing power out of small real estate at low power usage. The team that led the development of these chips left last year to found Nuvia in an effort to bring their expertise to semiconductors in data centres. While its technology is still very much in development, it clearly has done enough to entice investors for a $240m series B round that featured returning backer Dell Technologies Capital.

Children’s debit card provider Greenlight is valued at $1.2bn after raising $215m in a funding from a host of investors, though none of its corporate backers participated this time.

Xingyun has picked up $200m in a series C round co-led by Taikang Insurance, Shanghai United Media Group and Highlight Capital, while GLP and C&D Group also invested.

There was a $133m series C round secured by Beyond Limits, an AI technology developer based on research at Caltech’s Nasa-aligned Jet Propulsion Lab that is notable not only because it’s repeatedly convinced BP Ventures to invest but also because it actually managed to attract BP Ventures’ Meghan Sharp as COO about a year ago (as long-time subscribers will remember). Another corporate, Group 42, joined BP for the series C round.

SoftBank’s Latin America Fund and General Atlantic have co-led a $107m series B round for Accesso Digital, a facial recognition technology developer that will use the money to scale.

Digital Garage has helped launch mobile gaming platform Playco with a $100m series A round and a valuation of more than $1bn.

Recycling electronics is big business – rare earth minerals needed to build devices such as laptops or smartphones are expensive to mine, but old gadgets too often just end up in that junk drawer we all have in our houses. This is where Wanwu Xinsheng – né Aihuishou – comes in: it runs an online and brick-and-mortar recycling service for consumers to sell their second-hand devices. The company’s now raised $100m in series E-plus financing from JD.com, its JD Logistics unit and others, to accelerate growth and seek additional partnerships internationally. The round brings the company’s overall funding to more than $1bn, and JD.com is a repeat investor.

Another nine-figure sum was revealed by Nucarf, a China-based logistics fleet refuelling management platform that has collected $100m in combined series A and A-plus capitalfrom investors including Xiamen C&D. The cash has been allocated to accelerating the development of its digital infrastructure, and it comes after multiple rounds of undisclosed size in 2017 and 2018.

Foot Locker-backed sneaker marketplace Goat Group has completed a $100m round from D1 Capital Partners, bringing its overall financing to almost $300m in five years.

University

UW mental health spinout Owl Insights secured funding to advance its product development and distribution.

Funds

The website development tool provider’s Wix Capital subsidiary will invest in early-stage startups that are developing AI, e-commerce, web design and automation technologies.

Pureos Bioventures has backed five spinouts so far from its inaugural biotech-focused fund, which has reached its final close.

Unnamed corporates have provided capital for Panlin’s $148m fund that will focus on healthcare, digital transformation and smart hardware.

Legal & General is among the limited partners for Kindred Capital’s second fund, which also attracted University of Chicago and will invest in early-stage European startups.

Alsa Ventures is targeting a $150m final close for its inaugural biotherapeutics fund, which has already backed university-linked companies.


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

Leadership Series: Mark Sherman (Telstra Ventures)

In this week’s episode of the Global Venturing Review Leadership Series, James Mawson talks to Mark Sherman of Telstra Ventures.


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

21 September 2020 – Klarna Raises $650m to Almost Double its Valuation

The Big Ones

Klarna, operator of an app that lets consumers pay for items from some 200 retailers through instalment payments, has raised $650m in a round that almost doubled its valuation to $10.65bn in the space of just over a year. Klarna’s earlier investors include Bestseller Group, Visa, Ant Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and media group Bonnier is one of several investors that acquired shares in the company through a concurrent secondary investment deal.

It’s a year for big tech IPOs (and there’s actually several more multi-billion-dollar news coming up in this episode), but one of the biggest upcoming offerings could reportedly take place in January next year, when short-form video app developer Kuaishou is reportedly planning to float in a $5bn offering at a $50bn valuation. Tencent owns about 20% of the company’s shares having invested $2bn to lead a December 2019 round valuing it at $28.6bn. It’s going to be interesting to see whether its growth outside of China is affected positively or negatively by the ongoing US acquisition saga surrounding its biggest competitor, TikTok (known as Douyin in China).

Panasonic provided $100m for the first fund to be launched by growth equity firm Conductive Ventures in April 2018, and it has ploughed $150m into a second vehicle that will carry on investing in sectors like artificial intelligence, digital health and advanced manufacturing technology. The corporate is the only limited partner for Conductive, the owner of a portfolio that includes Proterra, Sprinklr and Desktop Metal.

It’s been a big week for crossover deals as well. The most notable perhaps was Lava Therapeutics, a Netherlands-based immuno-oncology therapy spinout of Amsterdam University Medical Centers (Amsterdam UMC), which secured $83m in a series C round on Thursday. The round was co-led by Novo Ventures and Sanofi Ventures, and also featured MRL Ventures Fund, a subsidiary of Merck & Co’s Merck Research Laboratories division. Lava is working on treatments for haematological and solid cancers and has allocated the capital to advancing its portfolio into proof-of-concept trials in 2021. The company advances research by Hans van der Vliet at Amsterdam UMC, the university hospital group affiliated with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam.

Deals

One of the biggest tech success stories during the pandemic has been Peloton’s communal home fitness equipment and services, but Zwift operates in a similar sphere, providing a social exercise platform that allows users to race each other on bikes or treadmills in front of a simulated CGI-based environment. It has just pulled in $450m from investors including Amazon Alexa Fund and Zone 5 Ventures, a CVC vehicle for bicycle maker Specialized Bicycle Components. Its earlier backers include Samchuly and Colopl.

Daily fantasy sports were a big magnet for VC cash five years or so ago but the sector went quiet as companies found themselves having to deal with more and more regulatory hurdles. India’s Dream11 has however raised $225m in primary and secondary financing at a valuation reported by TechCrunch to be over $2.5bn. Tencent had invested in the company in 2018, leading a $100m series D round that valued it at $700m.

Indoor farming may not have been the big growth area some people though it might be this year, but there are still some sizeable players in the market and Infarm is one of them. It’s raised $170m in debt and equity financing from investors including Bonnier as part of a series C round in which it is targeting $200m. The first close pushed its overall funding past the $300m mark and will support the growth of its vertical farm network.

Home fitness has of course also been a big winner. Social exercise app developer Zwift secured $450m earlier this week, and now Tonal, developer of a wall-mounted digital weight machine for home use, has pulled in $110m from investors including Amazon Alexa Fund and the CAA-backed Evolution Media. Its overall funding now stands at $200m and it is testing the potential of its technology in physical therapy through a partnership with Mayo Clinic.

Funds

Japan-based real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan has partnered venture capital firm Global Brain to form an ¥8.5bn ($81m) corporate venturing vehicle dubbed 31Ventures Global Innovation Fund II. The second fund, abbreviated as CVC II, will invest in startups developing real estate services or digitisation and smart city technologies. The initiative will also seek out companies with innovative business models that can complement Mitsui Fudosan’s core business.

Tencent Trusted Doctors, the digital healthcare subsidiary of internet group Tencent, has formed a RMB1bn ($148m) healthcare industry fund with state-owned holding company China Resources. China Resources subsidiary CR Capital will manage the CR Tengkang fund, which counts municipal funds Chengdu Hi-tech Investment Group, Chengdu Xincheng Investment Group and Chengdu Industry Investment’s Chengdu Advanced Manufacturing Investment subsidiary as partners.

Australia-based software development technology provider Atlassian has launched a corporate venture capital fund, Atlassian Ventures, with $50m in capital. Areas of interest for Atlassian Ventures include early-stage developers of enterprise collaboration applications that could be added to Atlassian’s app marketplace, innovative cloud software providers and established companies with products that could interact with its existing offering.

Exits

Online real estate transaction portal OpenDoor has opted for a reverse merger instead and is merging with a special purpose acquisition company in a deal that will value it at $4.8bn and net it $1bn in financing from backers including existing corporate investors Lennar and Access Industries. It had previously raised a total of almost $1.35bn from investors also including GV and SoftBank Vision Fund, and its last round valued it at $3.8bn in March 2019.

Snowflake has floated in one of the year’s biggest initial public offerings and raised $3.36bn after pricing its shares at $120 each, above a range that had already been increased from $75 to $85 per share. The data management software provider will also receive $500m in a private placement, with half of that coming from existing investor Salesforce Ventures. Its exiting backers also include Capital One Growth Ventures, which first invested at a valuation less than 5% of what the company’s market cap will be.

Mobile insurance platform Singapore Life has agreed to merge with Aviva’s Singapore business to form a $2.3bn company that will be called Aviva-Singlife. Sumitomo paid $90m for a 25% stake in Singlife in July 2019 and will retain a 20% stake in the merged business, suggesting it may have contributed to the $1.46bn cash and marketable securities Singlife is paying Aviva as part of the deal. Insurance firm Aflac will also keep a stake, having supplied $20m for Singlife six months earlier.

Amwell has floated in an upsized initial public offering that netted it $742m in addition to $100m supplied by Google through a private placement. Telehealth software has been a big growth area over the past six months but the success of Amwell, which counts Allianz, Philips, Teva and Takeda as investors, could perhaps be more closely related to a week where Snowflake, JFrog, Unity Software and Sumo Logic all floated above their range to raise big money in their IPOs. It’s a heady time for exits right now.

The growth of Snowflake, which floated at a market cap more than 15 times its valuation just two years ago, has been immense. The progress of another enterprise software provider JFrog, which went public the same day in a $509m IPO, has perhaps been understated as a result, but it has almost quadrupled its valuation in less than a year, boasting a $5.75bn market cap after its first day of trading. JFrog, developer of a software-release platform, had raised $227m from investors including Dell Technologies Capital.

Speaking of successful offerings, Outset Medical’s shares have shot off like a rocket and sat at more than double their IPO price within two days. The kidney dialysis system provider has unsurprisingly closed the offering already, at $278m, up from an initial $242m. Baxter Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of medical device maker Baxter International, is among the lucky investors.

C4 Therapeutics is developing small molecule drugs to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, and has filed for a $100m initial public offering under three months after it received $170m in debt and series B equity financing. Its earlier backers include Novartis, Roche and Kraft Group, all of which contributed to a $73m series A round in 2016.


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