Leadership Series: Darek DeFreece (UC Berkeley)

Our Leadership Series interview where Thierry Heles talks to Darek DeFreece from UC Berkeley.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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30 March 2020 – Lime in Talks to Raise Funding at a Reduced $400m Valuation

The Big Ones

In what may be an ominous sign, electric scooter rental service Lime is reportedly in talks to raise funding at a $400m valuation, a steep fall from its last round just over a year ago, when it secured $310m in a series D round featuring Alphabet that valued it at $2.4bn. The company has secured $777m altogether but the Covid-19 pandemic has led it to suspend operations in every market outside South Korea and it reportedly only has enough cash to last for the next few months on its current burn rate.

A good exit at a challenging time in the global economy for US-based mobile networking service Affirmed Networks had a year ago raised $38m in a funding round that included Qualcomm Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of semiconductor technology manufacturer Qualcomm.

The round was led by investment firm Centerview Capital Technology and included Eastward Capital Partners and unnamed existing shareholders.

Vodafone Ventures and T-Venture, the respective corporate venturing units of mobile phone operators Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, previously took part in the company’s $51m series C round in 2013.

Bessemer Venture Partners led the series C round, also investing alongside KCK Group, Charles River Ventures (CRV), Lightspeed Venture Partners and Matrix Partners.

Affirmed Networks had emerged from stealth in 2012 with $52m in funding from T-Venture, Vodafone Ventures, Matrix, Charles River and Lightspeed.

Hassan Ahmed created the idea behind Affirmed when he was working out of CRV’s office in Boston in 2009 as an executive in residence. When Hassan joined the firm, he was already the most successful CRV entrepreneur of all time, having run engineering at Cascade Communications, a networking company sold to Ascend for more than $3bn in 1997 and then subsequently running Sonus Networks, a high-flying communications company that had gone public in 2000. Hassan had the magic touch.

Funds

China-based company, mobile game publisher Kunlun Tech, certainly seems to be bullish. It is one of two cornerstone investors for a $424m vehicle called Kunlun (Beijing) Internet Intelligent Industry Investment Fund that will back internet and AI technology developers. Kunlun is putting up about $140m for the fund while subsidiary Xinyu Shijie Wuji Investment Management will act as general partner.

Shortly after news emerged that Kunlun Tech was partnering investment manager Beijing Huayu Tianhong to put together a $424m fund, two more Chinese corporates – Yuexiu Group and People’s Insurance Company of China – have announced they are establishing an industry investment fund the same size that will focus on technology developers in China’s Greater Bay Area. It follows a $1bn Taiping Insurance-backed fund targeting the same region in January.

Dating.com commits $50m to meeting startups

Afterpay unveils AP Ventures fund

Exits

Mobile commerce platforms Letgo and OfferUp are set to merge in a deal accompanied by a $120m round led by classified listings manager OLX Group, part of Naspers’ Prosus subsidiary. The deal will give OLX a 40% stake in the combined business. It first invested in Letgo in 2015, the year the company was founded, and it had disclosed $975m in funding prior to the merger agreement.

FuboTV fuses with FaceBank

Checkmarx ticks acquisition box

OneWeb examines bankruptcy possibilities

North Wearables seeks direction to buyers

Deals

We mentioned in the big news intro that ride hailing services were among those likely to be hit by Covid-19 social isolation measures, and China’s Didi Chuxing looks like it could be first off the mark to raise money. It is reportedly lining up $300m in a round set to be led by SoftBank, at a time when its home country is beginning to ease travel restrictions. Didi was valued at $62bn as of a July investment by Toyota, and it’s going to be interesting to see if any valuation information leaks out once the deal closes.

Data mining software provider MiningLamp has secured $300m in a series E round co-led by Tencent and state-owned investment firm Temasek that included another corporate, Kuaishou. The company, whose business model is similar to Palantir’s, has now raised more than $785m altogether and the capital will be used to support research and development, recruitment and the development of an intelligent marketing software platform.

Vertical take-off and landing vehicle developer Lillium has closed more than $240m in funding, in a round led by Tencent. The round was made up entirely of existing investors and marks a downgrade from the $400m to $500m target it had reportedly set late last year. The deal may be emblematic of what we may increasingly see going forward: existing investors continuing to back portfolio companies while being more conservative when it comes to new bets.

Ping An’s Global Voyager Fund has led a $146m round for iCapital, a provider of alternative investment management software. The round included strategic investors such as UBS Financial Services, BNY Mellon, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and Blackstone, and the company’s overall funding likely now tops $200m.

Online used car marketplace Cazoo has raised $117m in what represents its fourth round in the space of 18 months.  Daily Mail and General Trust’s DMG Ventures led the round, having backed the startup since its 2018 seed round, and was joined by investors including Fidelity’s Eight Roads Ventures fund. Interestingly, Cazoo expects a bump from the coronavirus conditions as more customers opt for online transactions.

Kallyope took its total funding past $240m in a $112m series C round featuring existing investors Illumina Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments. The company is developing therapeutics concentrated on the body’s gut-brain axis and intends to use the funding to begin clinical trials for its lead asset, an oral treatment targeting satiety circuits for weight loss.

SutroVax sorts out $110m series D

CureFit cuts to $109m round

Dragonfly Therapeutics drags financing to $300m

Nature’s Fynd, the edible protein developer formerly known as Sustainable Bioproducts, has rebranded and raised $80m in a series B round featuring Danone Manifesto Ventures and Archer Daniels Midland’s ADM Ventures unit. The capital is expected to fund the doubling of the company’s headcount to 100 and the round comes as it has begun production of its edible vegan protein products.

University

Nurix nabs $120m

Recode decodes $80m series A


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

Leadership Series: Tom Vanhoutte (Imec.xpand)

Our Leadership Series interview where Thierry Heles talks to Tom Vanhoutte from Imec.xpand.


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

23 March 2020 – Fox Agrees to Buy Tubi for $440m in Cash

The Big Ones

When SoftBank emerged with a $9.5bn rescue package for beleaguered workspace provider WeWork in October, $3bn of the amount had been earmarked for a tender that would have involved it buying shares from existing investors and shareholders – likely including hotel chain Jin Jiang International and Legend Capital. However, the company has sent a letter to the shareholders stating that it believes regulatory probes into the WeWork business frees it from that obligation. It’s an interesting approach, but considering SoftBank’s influence at the company even before its IPO attempt, one that may be hard to follow through with.

Speaking of everyone’s favourite corporate. SoftBank’s efforts to raise capital for a second Vision Fund have been largely unsuccessful so far, but it is reportedly seeking $10bn, including $5bn from external backers, to shore up portfolio companies in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, and maybe acquire rivals struggling with the same issues. Some of the portfolio companies set to be affected include Uber, WeWork, Didi Chuxing and Oyo, though others such as Slack, Paytm and DoorDash could find their business models strengthened by the virus and related social distancing.

Fox has agreed to buy online streaming service Tubi for $440m in cash, allowing MGM and Lionsgate to exit. Both contributed to Tubi’s $6m series A round, part of the $31m in funding it had disclosed prior to the acquisition. Fox should still have a big chunk of the Disney money it got from the 21st Century Fox purchase so it won’t be a surprise to see some more big acquisitions from it coming up soon.

In crossover news, Circle Pharma, a US-based oncology therapeutics spinout of UC San Francisco and UC Santa Cruz, has secured $45m in a series B round backed by UC Berkeley’s investment vehicle, Berkeley Catalyst Fund. Healthcare-focused venture capital fund Column Group led the round, which also included pharmaceutical firm ShangPharma, Nextech Invest and LifeForce Capital. Circle began operations when pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and Mission Bay Capital supplied an undisclosed amount of seed funding in 2014. ShangPharma added an undisclosed sum to the round in mid-2016.

Deals

Despite recent reports it was set to merge with key competitor Grab, ride hailing platform Gojek has raised $1.2bn in funding, reportedly bringing its series F round to nearly $3bn. The round already included Tencent, JD.com, Google, AIA, Mitsubishi, Visa, Siam Commercial Bank and Astra International, but no word yet on the identities of the new investors.

AI and imaging technology provider SenseTime has reportedly dropped plans for a Hong Kong IPO and is instead pursuing between $500m and $1bn in new funding. Its existing investors include Alibaba, Qualcomm, Suning and Dalian Wanda, and reports last year suggested its valuation could have reached $7.5bn. In any case, it’s possible a by-product of the coronavirus could be another push back in the IPO space leading to more late-stage rounds.

Plant-based meat product supplier Impossible Foods has raised $500m in series F funding and, in a sign of things to come, told Forbes it will use the money to offset expected difficulties caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The GV-backed company has reportedly now secured about $1.25bn in funding altogether, and the latest round was led by Mirae Asset Global Investments.

Digital currency technology developer Bakkt has secured $300m as it prepares to expand its crypto wallet to a more diversified crypto services app. The series B funding came from Microsoft unit M12, Naspers subsidiary PayU, Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital and Intercontinental Exchange, the exchange operator that had spun off Bakkt in the first place.

Data streaming software provider Confluent is reportedly seeking $200m to $300m in a round that could double its valuation to $5bn. Its early investors include LinkedIn, which developed the open source Apache Kafka software on which the company relies. The funding would hypothetically be raised prior to an IPO taking place. Enterprise software has been one of the more resilient sectors of late, especially post-IPO, so that wouldn’t be a huge shock.

StackPath has secured $216m in a series B round co-led by corporates Juniper Networks and Cox Communications, following a $180m series A round revealed when it came out of stealth in 2016. Both leads took board seats at the edge computing technology developer, which plans to put the funding toward enhancing engineering and product development while commercialising its system.

Airwallex is meanwhile looking to raise $200m in a series D round set to be led by an as-yet unnamed financial services provider. The cross-border remittance service has so far secured just over $200m, with approximately half coming in a Tencent-led series C round a year ago that valued it at $1bn. The prospective round would be raised at a $1.5bn pre-money valuation.

Novo has participated in a $100m series G round for drug development software provider Tempus that valued it at $5bn post-money. The participants in the round had all previously contributed to the company’s last round, a $200m series F that closed in May 2019, the funding being raised at a $3.1bn valuation. It will use the series G proceeds to expand the range of conditions its technology serves.

Sigilon Therapeutics is developing bio-engineered cells to treat chronic illnesses without a patient’s immune system rejecting the treatment, and has completed an $80.3m series B round that lifted its overall funding to more than $195m. The round’s participants included Eli Lilly, already an equity investor as of a 2018 collaboration agreement that could potentially top $470m should all milestones be reached.

Engineered T cell therapy developer Eureka Therapeutics has bagged $45m in a series E round led by Lyell Immunopharma, which invested through a strategic partnership deal. Eureka has now raised approximately $134m altogether and will work with Lyell on solid tumour treatments, its own liver cancer candidate having entered phase 1/2 clinical trials.

Funds

Cryptocurrency exchange operator Binance has joined forces with its India-based subsidiary WazirX to launch a $50m fund that will invest in blockchain technology developers located in India. The Blockchain for India fund follows a decision by the country’s supreme court to allow financial services firms to take on blockchain companies as clients. As a result, cryptocurrency exchanges in the country are now also able to offer bank account transfers. Apart from providing funding, the vehicle will also look to incubate startups and support blockchain initiatives within universities.

Congruent Ventures, the venture capital firm anchored by University of California, is aiming to raise $125m for its second, sustainability-focused fund, according to a regulatory filing. The filing states Congruent Ventures II is still to raise capital. None of its potential limited partners have been identified. Founded in 2017, Congruent backs early-stage startups that advance sustainability objectives in areas such as urbanisation and mobility, clean energy, food and agriculture and industrial and supply chains. The first Congruent fund closed at $92m in 2018 with a $50m contribution from University of California’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer in addition to Prelude Ventures and undisclosed additional investors.

Exits

These are a different kind of exit, but Vietnam-based conglomerate Vingroup has shut down its corporate venturing unit, Vingroup Ventures. Founded in Ukraine in 1993, Vingroup moved into Vietnam in 2000 and has concentrated its activities in the country since then. Its main areas of interest include technology, manufacturing and a range of services in sectors including education, health and real estate. Vingroup established its CVC unit in late 2018 and had targeted $100m of investments across the globe according to its LinkedIn page, though it has failed to disclose a single deal in which it had participated.

DuPont Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of chemicals producer DuPont, is set to close at the end of this month, according to a person familiar with the matter. Formed by DuPont in 2003, its investments have included deals for biofuel feedstock supplier NexSteppe, taste modification molecule developer Linguagen and ethernet services provider Actelis Networks. However, the unit has been relatively quiet of late, its last disclosed investment being its participation in a $75m round for Indiana University’s drone management software spinout PrecisionHawk in early 2018. DuPont Ventures’ closure comes as part of a restructuring that will involve the company’s larger corporate innovation activities being cut as part of a cost-saving process. The firm has not revealed whether it plans to divest the existing equity stakes held by its subsidiary.


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

Leadership Series: Jonathan Tudor (Centrica) Part 2

The second part of our Leadership Series interview where Izzy Woolgar talks to Jonathan Tudor from Centrica and our very own James Mawson.


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

16 March 2020 – Insightec Targets $150m Series F

The Big Ones

Insightec is targeting up to $150m in a series F round valuing it at $1.3bn post-money, and has already received a $100m commitment from Koch Disruptive Technologies to lead the round. The company is developing a system that will use ultrasound to conduct brain surgery without making an incision, and KDT also led its last round, a $150m series E in 2017.

Investment firm LSP has raised $600m for its LSP 6 fund, which it claims is the largest life sciences venture fund in Europe’s history. Limited partners for the fund, which significantly surpassed its $450m target, include pharmaceutical firms Bristol Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical. Netherlands-based LSP now has a total of $1.1bn at its disposal across three funds.

WeDoctor, the operator of a medical appointment booking platform, is reportedly interviewing investment banks for roles in a Hong Kong initial public offering potentially sized at up to $1bn. The company’s investors include Tencent, Fosun, Shandong Tyan Home, NWS Holdings and AIA, the latter two having co-led its last round in mid-2018, when it raised $500m at a $5.5bn valuation. The IPO is reportedly expected to value it at up to $10bn.

And in crossover news, Passage Bio, a US-based genetic medicines developer commercialising University of Pennsylvania research, has increased its initial public offering to more than $248m after underwriters exercised their over-allotment option in full. Underwriters purchased 1.8 million additional shares at the initial public offering price of $18, thereby injecting $32.4m into the company.

Deals

Kymera Therapeutics has closed a $102m series C round that will fund the progress of its immunotherapy pipeline, with cancer, autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases in its eyeline. Although none of them were named as participants in the round, Kymera has a raft of earlier investors from the pharmaceutical industry including MRL Ventures, Sanofi Ventures, Lilly Ventures, Amgen Ventures and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Elsewhere in China but in a completely different sector entirely, agricultural product distributor Wangjiahuan has closed an $87m series B round led by local services portal Meituan Dianping. The round also featured GLP’s $1.6bn Hidden Hill fund, which had supplied $58.5m in series A funding for Wangjiahuan roughly 18 months ago.

The hospitality sector looks like it’s facing an uncertain time right now, but hospitality management software provider Cloudbeds has raised $82m in funding from participants including human resources firm Recruit. The round was led by Viking Global Investors and it followed a reported $20m in earlier funding, with existing investors PeakSpan Capital and Cultivation Capital returning for the latest round.

Bristol-Meyers Squibb has contributed to a series B round for Silverback Therapeutics that has closed at $78.5m. The biologic drug developer had previously raised $47.5m in a Celgene-backed series A round, and the latest cash will be used to progress its lead antibody into clinical trials in cancer.

ShopBack, the operator of an online consumer loyalty and rewards platform, has boosted a funding round that already included Rakuten Capital to $75m. Temasek led the full round, which the company said increased its overall funding to $113m. EV Growth, whose co-founders include Yahoo Japan and Sinar Mas, also took part, ShopBack’s earlier backers including InTouch, SoftBank Ventures Asia and Singtel Innov8.

Health benefits provider Lyra Health has also raised $75m, in a series C round that included Providence Health and Services ‘ corporate VC unit, Providence Ventures, that lifted its overall funding to at least $158m. The round was led by venture capital firm IVP and Castlight Health is among the company’s earlier investors.

Elsewhere in life sciences, Harbour BioMed has closed a $75m series B-plus round that included SK Holdings, Legend Capital and Zhejiang University Future Capital. Harbour is working on antibody-based therapies for cancer and inflammatory diseases but has now added a Covid-19 candidate to its pipeline. If it hits with that, expect its valuation to skyrocket. It traces its roots back to the Erasmus MC hospital.

Pager, the developer of a medical communication app, has secured $33m in equity and debt financing from investors including health insurance provider Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. The company’s earlier backers include Horizon Healthcare Services and Grupo Sura, and the latest funding will support geographical growth and product development.

Funds

Gas utility Enagás has also been busy fundraising and has put together a $170m fund in partnership with investment bank Alantra that will provide capital for renewable energy technology developers. The corporate is providing approximately $22.7m as a first commitment to Clima Energy Transition Fund and will also offer its expertise to portfolio companies.

Corporate venturing vehicle Strive rebranded from Gree Ventures last year and put down a target of more than $130m for its third fund – essentially double the amount it raised for the predecessor. In the end, Strive has closed the fund at just over $100m. It said the main priority was to reach $100m and that its central goal is to concentrate on its portfolio companies rather than fundraising.

Exits

Small molecule drug developer Zentalis is one of several life sciences companies to have filed for IPOs in recent days (see Ayala below), and it is targeting $100m in a Nasdaq offering. The decision comes after $162m in funding and will give Pharmaron the chance to exit. Let’s just hope the recent downturn in the public markets proves to be temporary rather than something longer lasting.

It maybe be hard going in the public markets right now but Imara has nevertheless gone public, raising $75.2m in an IPO that involved it floating at the bottom of its range, despite marginally increasing the number of shares in the offering. Imara is developing therapies to combat blood disorders and its shareholders include Lundbeckfond Invest and Pfizer Ventures, which hold a combined 15% of the company post-IPO.


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

Leadership Series: Jonathan Tudor (Centrica) Part 1

The first part of our Leadership Series interview where Izzy Woolgar talks to Jonathan Tudor from Centrica and our very own James Mawson.


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

09 March 2020 – Waymo Secures $2.25bn in Initial Close of First External Round

The Big Ones

Waymo began life in Alphabet’s secretive Google X division but has now fully emerged as a standalone company, securing $2.25bn from investors including AutoNation, Magna International and Alphabet itself – an amount it said only represents the initial close of its first external round. No official word on valuation but Morgan Stanley analysts estimated its value at $105bn as of September. What this means for Alphabet portfolio company Uber, which is testing its own driverless car tech, remains to be seen.

Insurance providers Aflac, Sumitomo Life and Nürnberger have contributed to the $90m initial close of an insurance technology-focused fund being raised by UK-based venture capital firm Anthemis. Founded in 2010, Anthemis now has more than $500m in assets under management and more than 100 portfolio companies in the financial technology sector, about a third of which are insurance-related. The fund is expected to reach a final close later in 2020, according to Reuters. Aflac invested through its corporate venturing subsidiary, Aflac Global Ventures, and fellow insurer Daido Life Insurance Company is involved with the fund as an associate. Anthemis Insurance Venture Growth Fund I will invest in later-stage insurance tech businesses, beyond the traditional pre-seed to series B remit of earlier Anthemis funds.

Equinix has closed the acquisition of bare-metal automation technology provider Packet initially announced in January. The purchase price is $335m and the deal comes in the wake of just $36m in funding. That’s good news for SoftBank, which led Packet’s series A round, in addition to fellow corporate investors Dell Technologies Capital, JA Mitsui and Samsung Next.

In crossover news. Element Science has raised a sliver over $145m in a series C round that included GV, which was listed as an existing investor. Element is the developer of a wearable defibrillator for cardiac patients transferring from the hospital to their home. The round was co-led by Deerfield Healthcare and Qiming Venture Partners USA and it boosted Element’s overall funding to at least $183m. The company’s founder, president and chief executive is Uday Kumar, adjunct professor in bioengineering at Stanford University. He previously founded iRhythm Technologies, the developer of arrhythmia diagnostics technology that won the GUV Award for Exit of the Year in 2017 – and whose stock has nearly quadrupled since its IPO to give the company a current market cap of $2.6bn.

Deals

Beike Xhaofang was reported in December to be mulling over an initial public offering to raise up to $1bn, but the online property rental platform had apparently already raised more than $2.4bn in a series D-plus round punctuated by a $1bn investment from SoftBank. The round also featured existing investor Tencent and valued the company (also known as Ke.com) in excess of $14bn.

Quibi is gearing up for the launch of its short-form online streaming platform next month and has closed $750m in new financing from undisclosed new and existing investors. The new funding took Quibi’s overall equity financing to $1.75bn, the company having previously revealed Alibaba, Sony, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, WarnerBros, Entertainment One and WndrCo among its backers.

Immunocore has completed a $130m series B round that included WuXi AppTec’s corporate VC fund and existing investor Eli Lilly. A media report in September suggested the round was set to value the immuno-oncology molecule developer, a spinoff from MediGene, at about $625m. That sounds good until you factor in the reported $1bn valuation at which it last raised money, through a $320m round in 2015. Immunocore was spun out of biotech firm Medigene in 2008 to commercialise aspects of Avidex technology, the latter having been spun out of University of Oxford in 1999. A sister company, Adaptimmune, was formed concurrently to market other Avidex assets.

Novartis Venture Fund and Partners Innovation Fund have taken part in a $105m series B round for Akouos, which is developing precision genetic medicines to combat hearing loss. Both participated as existing backers, Novartis having been an investor since the company’s $7.5m seed round three years ago.

Immuno-oncology continues to be a strong area of life sciences, with Akrevia Therapeutics having closed a $100.5m series B round announced alongside its rebranding to Xilio Therapeutics. The round was led by Takeda Ventures and included three more corporate venturing subsidiaries of pharmaceutical firms: M Ventures, Ipsen Ventures and MRL Ventures Fund.

Pliant Therapeutics, a US-based fibrosis therapy developer based on research at University of California (UC), San Francisco, has raised $100m in a series C round led by pharmaceutical firm Novartis. Venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures formed Pliant in 2016 to advance research conducted at UC San Francisco by professors Dean Sheppard, Bill DeGrado and Hal Chapman together with associate professor Bradley Backes. The company’s now raised $207m altogether.

Thought Machine has created a cloud banking platform intended to comprehensively replace legacy banking IT systems. Its customers include Lloyds Banking Group, which has also participated in the company’s $83m series B round, making it the latest UK-based fintech developer to raise substantial funding. It is channelling the capital into its ongoing international expansion, which is currently focused on the Asia Pacific region.

Japan-based lithium-ion battery developer APB has raised ¥8bn ($74.4m) in today from investors including Keio Innovation Initiative (KII), a joint venture capital vehicle for Keio University and securities brokerage Nomura Holdings. Industrial, mining and petroleum group JXTG Holdings took part through subsidiary JXTG Innovation Partners while coal chemistry technology provider JFE Chemical, construction firm Obayashi Corporation, textile manufacturer Teijin and industrial technology producers Nagase & Co and Yokogawa Electric invested directly. The company was founded in October 2018 through a partnership between KII and Keio University professor Hideaki Horie.

Quantum computing technology developer Rigetti Computing is well on the way to its next round, having accumulated $71m for a targeted close of $83.9m, according to a securities filing. The company has now disclosed a total of $190m in funding and its earlier backers include Bloomberg Beta, which invested in its $24m series A round.

Funds

Mandatum Life, the insurance subsidiary of financial services group Sampo, has contributed to the €30m ($32.6m) first close for an insurance technology-focused fund formed by Finland-based venture capital firm Innovestor. B2B Industrial Technology Fund has an expected ceiling of €100m and its other limited partners include unnamed institutional investors, family offices and individual backers. It expects to begin investing as early as the second quarter of 2020.

Exits

Accolade, the developer of a digital concierge designed to help users navigate the healthcare benefits system, has filed for a $100m initial public offering that will give corporate backers Comcast, Humana, McKesson Ventures and Independence Health Group the opportunity to exit. The company has raised more than $194m in financing since being founded in 2007.

Oric Pharmaceuticals is the latest oncology therapeutics developer to file for an initial public offering and is targeting $86.3m in the IPO. Taiho, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Hartford HealthCare are in line for exits, having all contributed to a $55.7m series D round last August that pushed Oric’s total funding past $175m.

Artificial intelligence chip producer Cambricon Technologies has applied to list on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market, in an initial public offering that will give corporate backers Alibaba, Lenovo, Zhongke Tuling Century Beijing Technology and iFlytek a chance to exit. The company has raised at least $200m in funding and was valued at $2.5bn in its last round, a 2018 series B.


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

Leadership Series: Ippei Akiyoshi (Mitsubishi)

James Mawson interviews Ippei Akiyoshi from Mitsubishi. The first in a series of interviews. Recorded remotely.


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

02 March 2020 – Grab Raises $856m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group

The Big Ones

There may be fewer rounds being closed but ride hailing continues to be a money magnet, with Grab raising $856m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group – which invested $706m – and TIS, both investing through newly struck partnership deals that will centre on the joint development of payment and financial services technology. There may be a bigger deal in the pipeline too, with reports stating Grab has been in talks with key rival Gojek over a merger that could value the combined company at $23bn.

Southeast Asia has been one of the fastest growing areas of the world for corporate VC funds. One of the relatively early participants was state-owned telecommunications operator Telkom Indonesia, which launched unit MDI Ventures in 2016 with $100m, and which has rapidly expanded since. MDI Ventures is targeting $300m to $500m for its second fund, according to comments made by a government minister this week, and that amount would represent a big step forward in terms of capital. Probably justifiably, given the recent emergence of unicorns like Grab, Gojek and Tokopedia.

CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet is in line for a healthy exit, as media reports suggest tax software provider Intuit is set to buy credit management platform Credit Karma in a $7bn cash-and-stock deal. CapitalG first invested in Credit Karma at a valuation of less than $1bn in 2014, and the company was valued at $3.5bn in its last funding round the following year.

And in crossover news (of which there was actually a lot last week and we’ll get to more of them in a minute), we have another exit. University of Pennsylvania-linked Passage Bio went public on Friday in a $216m IPO in which it is floating at the top of its range ($18 a pop), after increasing the number of shares by more than 60% (from 7.4 million to 12 million shares). The genetic medicine developer only officially launched a year ago (though it was incorporated in 2017) but had pulled in $226m across two rounds, from investors including corporate vehicles Access Biotechnology and Lilly Asia Ventures. It’s also allocated 1.8 million shares to a greenshoe option (also up from 1.5 million) and if stock goes the way everyone wants it to, it likely won’t be too long before underwriters jump on that chance.

Deals

One of the more interesting corporate investor/portfolio company combinations in recent times is the tendency for carmakers to invest nine-figure sums in autonomous driving software developers in order to get a foothold in an area of technology thought by many to be the future of the industry. The latest is Toyota, which has already backed several ride hailing companies and which just provided $400m for robotaxi system developer Pony.ai as part of a $462m round.

Graphcore, an artificial intelligence processor developer that traces its roots back to University of Bristol (it’s a spinout of Bristol spinout Xmos), has added $150m to a series D round that now stands at $350m, valuing the company at $1.95bn. The $200m first tranche included BMW i Ventures, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Microsoft and Samsung, though none were explicitly identified as being among the existing backers that joined Baillie Gifford, M&G Investments, Mayfair Equity Partners and Merian Chrysalis in the second close.

GV and Intel Capital have both contributed to a $250m series C round for SambaNova Systems, an AI computing platform developer co-founded by Stanford University faculty, that will fuel the enhancement of its technology. GV co-led SambaNova’s series A round while Intel Capital led its $150m series B last year, and the increasing ubiquity of AI combined with the move to more complex areas like edge computing mean we’re likely to see the company continue to move up the fundraising levels in the coming years.

SpaceX is gearing up for another funding round, having raised more than $1.2bn since December 2018 across three different rounds. No word on whether those rounds included existing investor Google, but the new round is reportedly set to be sized at about $250m at a valuation of roughly $36bn. Its overall funding so far stands at around $3.4bn.

Karius has developed a liquid biopsy test that draws blood in order to discover information on disease by crunching data on microbial cell-free DNA found in the samples. It has also secured $165m in a series B round led by SoftBank’s second Vision Fund, which seems to well and truly be up and running (albeit still only with cash from SoftBank itself).

Despite being around some 15 years and racking up 115 monthly active users, Roblox has kept a relatively low profile in the startup scene, though that may be changing with news of a $150m series G round featuring Tencent. The company has created an online platform that allows users to develop virtual worlds and MMO games that others can play, and is reportedly now valued at $4bn. It’s also launching a secondary offering for up to $350m of common and primary shares.

Another company focusing on creativity (of a sort) is Uncorq, developer of a no-code platform enabling users to create software applications without coding. It’s added $51m to a series D round now totalling $131m, and CapitalG, which co-led the first tranche in October, led the extension. The cash will be used for recruitment and expanding the company’s partnerships along with its live event schedule.

JD.id, the Indonesian spinoff of e-commerce group JD.com launched in 2015 with private equity firm Provident Capital, is also valued at more than $1bn, a source has told Indonesian tech news portal Daily Social. The company has yet to confirm the identity of any external investors but rumours suggest they could include another Indonesian unicorn, Gojek. To square the circle, both JD.com and Provident invested in a $1bn round for Gojek early last year.

Funds

Energy management and automation technology producer Schneider Electric has supplied $10m for Israel-based venture capital firm Grove Ventures’ $120m second fund. The oversubscribed fund, Grove II, was closed a week ago without the firm identifying any limited partners, though its described them as institutional and strategic investors as well as industry leaders.

US-based, real estate-focused venture capital firm Fifth Wall closed a $100m fund on Wednesday that includes several property developers as limited partners. Commercial real estate provider Cushman & Wakefield is an LP, as are real estate investment trusts Macerich, Acadia Realty Trust and Nuveen Real Estate, the latter a subsidiary of asset manager TIAA Investments.

Japan-based venture capital firm I-Nest Capital has closed its first fund at ¥6.6bn ($61m) having secured commitments from backers including corporates Power Solutions and NTT Docomo. IT services firm Power Solutions and mobile network operator NTT Docomo were joined by financial services firm Mizuho Bank and Fuji Startup Ventures, a corporate venturing vehicle for media company Fuji TV. The limited partners were filled out by Mizuho Securities Principal Investment, which represents investment bank Mizuho Securities, and the Japanese government’s Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation.

Exits

Salesforce has agreed to acquire CRM app developer Vlocity, a portfolio company of its Salesforce Ventures unit, in a $1.33bn all-cash deal. Vlocity had raised $163m from an investor base that also included Accenture and New York Life, and the transaction marks the fifth M&A exit for Salesforce Ventures this year, following Simplus, Evariant, Quid and LevelEleven.

Food delivery has been one of the better funded portions of the mobile commerce market, perhaps second only to ride hailing, and DoorDash’s investors look like they may be in for a lucrative exit. The company has confidentially filed for an IPO, three months after closing its series G round at $700m, at a $13bn valuation.

It isn’t a conventional M&A corporate exit but Takeda is buying coeliac disease drug developer PvP Biologics three years after paying $35m for an option to fully acquire the University of Washington spinout once it had advanced its lead product candidate to a certain stage. The size of the deal could eventually reach $330m if PvP reaches every development and regulatory milestone and, its drug will join Takeda’s own celiac disease candidate in the corporate’s product pipeline.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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