07 December 2020 – Salesforce Announces $27.7bn Purchase of Slack

The Big Ones

Electronics and appliance retailer Suning has spun off its online retail platform and e-commerce services activities into a newly formed business called Yunwang Wandian with approximately $913m in funding. The capital was provided by Shenzhen Capital Group, SenseRobot Management, Ningbo Xianshi Enterprise Management and Central China Asset Management at a reported $3.8bn valuation.

Carmaker Dongfeng Motor has pumped $91m into a $243m investment fund that will target developers of automotive technology in addition to products in adjacent sectors such as big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. Dongfeng Bocom Yuanjing Motor Investment Fund has received the same amount from Bank of Communications’ Bocom International Holdings unit, and the two will each own 37.3% stakes in the vehicle.

We don’t generally cover acquisitions of publicly-listed companies, but Salesforce’s forthcoming and just announced $27.7bn cash and stock purchase of enterprise messaging tool developer Slack is notable enough to make an exception. Slack hit the public markets in a direct listing 18 months ago with a guidance price valuing it at $13.1bn – and many had labelled its growth in the past few months as underwhelming, indicating the fever for enterprise software right now. Its backers include SoftBank Vision Fund, owner of a 7.3% stake pre-listing; GV, which first invested at a $1.12bn valuation; and Comcast Ventures, which initially invested at a $3.8bn valuation. The acquisition is a somewhat unceremonious – if lucrative ending – for Slack as a standalone business, which in 2016 welcomed Microsoft’s entrance into the market with a ballsy full-page ad in the NY Times. Now, of course, Microsoft Teams has several times the amount of daily active users that Slack has – but with Salesforce’s considerable clout behind it, this could turn into the moment where Slack really becomes big business and justify that hefty price tag despite a very volatile share price.

Monzo, a UK-based digital bank, secured £60m to increase a series G round featuring Vanderbilt University to £125m ($167m). The new funding came from conference operator Ted Global, Novator, Kaiser and Goodwater Capital, according to TechCrunch. Monzo confirmed it as an extension to its existing series G funding. Payment services provider Stripe, telecoms firm Orange, Y Combinator, General Catalyst, Accel, Goodwater Capital, Thrive Capital, Passion Capital and Reference Capital and provided the first £60m in June this year, and the company had since quietly raised another £5m. Monzo runs a digital bank with more than 4.8 million customers, offering current accounts as well as business accounts, which are used by some 60,000 of its customers. It has now raised in excess of $550m since it was founded in 2015. The series G funding was secured at a $1.57bn valuation, a notable downturn to the $2.5bn valuation achieved when Monzo raised $144m in June 2019 from investors including Orange subsidiary Orange Digital Ventures and Stripe.

Deals

Lastly, Indian e-commerce marketplace Flipkart is spinning off PhonePe, a digital financial services business with more than 250 million users. Flipkart’s parent company, Walmart, is leading a $700m round that will provide the basis of PhonePe’s emergence as a partially separate company, and the remainder of the funds will be sourced from as yet undisclosed Flipkart backers, valuing PhonePe at $5.5bn post-money.

Space and satellite technology isn’t one of the busiest parts of the startup space but its companies are among the better founded inhabitants. China-based Chang Guang is developing a satellite constellation that will provide high-definition images and video, and has raised $375m from investors including iFlytek, reportedly as it prepares to go public. Other companies in China’s space tech space that have raised notable amounts include iSpace and LandSpace.

The United States’ VC space may have had its annual Thanksgiving lull, but China looks to have picked up the funding baton. Virtual classroom software provider Empower Education Online (EEO) leads the pack, having picked up $265m in a series C round featuring Tencent and Susquehanna International Group. Its earlier strategic investors include New Oriental Education and Technology, TAL Education Group and ATA, none of which were named as participants in the latest round.

Healthcare organisation software provider Olive has had a busy 2020, closing its third round this year by welcoming GV to a $225m round valuing it at $1.5bn. The Tiger Global Management-led round also served to double the company’s overall funding to about $450m, its earlier backers including multi-corporate backed venture firm Ascension Ventures.

Community buying platform developer Nice Tuan has meanwhile closed its fourth round of 2020, raising $196m in a C3 round co-led by existing investor Alibaba. Nice Tuan’s previous three rounds totalled about $250m and while there’s no official word on its valuation, the considerable growth of many of its peers in China’s online education sector this year indicates it’s likely in the multiples of what it was valued at in January.

Everlywell is one of the companies that has experienced major growth this year, adding a covid-19 product to its range of home testing kits and now raising $175m in a series D round featuring over-the-top media company The Chernin Group. The round valued Everlywell at $1.3bn according to Forbes, and it has now secured over $250m in funding since being founded.

Funds

UK-headquartered venture capital firm Firstminute Capital has launched a $111m second fund with backing from limited partners including internet group Tencent and consumer goods and chemicals producer Henkel. The vehicle is anchored by investment trust RIT Capital Partners and its LP list also features VC fund Atomico, four undisclosed California-based investment firms and some 70 founders of businesses valued at $1bn or higher.

Exits

It’s been a heady week for spinoffs, those companies flipped out of established businesses with external funding and their parents retaining a stake. First up is JD Health, the healthcare and medical retailer and services provider spun off by e-commerce group JD.com. JD Health has floated in Hong Kong’s largest initial public offering this year, raising $3.48bn after pricing the IPO at the top of its range, at a valuation nearing $29bn. JD.com isn’t finished either: its JD Logistics spinoff is recruiting bankers for an offering expected to raise up to $3bn.

Dynamic glass developer View is one of the most prominent holdouts from the golden age of cleantech funding, having raised a total of $1.8bn in debt and equity financing, $1.1bn coming from SoftBank Vision Fund two years ago. It has now become the latest company to take the reverse IPO route, joining forces with special purpose acquisition company CF Finance Acquisition Corp II to form a publicly-listed business with a valuation of about $1.6bn. View’s earlier backers include Corning and GE Ventures, though the latter may well have divested its stake by now.

Cloudwalk Technology has filed for a $574m initial public offering on Shanghai’s Star Exchange that would allow corporate investors Haier Financial Holdings, Bohai Capital and PCI-Suntek to exit. The company is one of China’s four largest image recognition software providers, along with Megvii, SenseTime and Yitu, none of which have managed to yet complete an IPO.

Cancer and viral infection treatment developer Silverback Therapeutics has just executed a successful IPO of its own, raising almost $242m in an upsized offering priced above its range. Celgene and Bristol-Myers Squibb are among the investors that had provided some $211m in funding for Silverback over three rounds. The IPO price valued the company at approximately $695m.

Cisco Investments seems to be having a good week so far. It’s exiting Kustomer in a reported $1bn acquisition – take a look on GCV for more –, and another portfolio company, customer data software provider GainSight, has agreed to let investment firm Vista Equity Partners buy a controlling stake at a $1.1bn valuation. The transaction will come after $157m in funding for GainSight, from a pool of investors also including Salesforce Ventures.


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

Leadership Series: Kelly Sexton (University of Michigan)

Thierry Heles talks to Kelly Sexton, Associate Vice President for Research – Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships at University of Michigan. In this role, she supports and encourages university-wide programs for intellectual property development, innovation, and engagement with business and venture communities in the region, across the nation, and around the globe.


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

30 November 2020 – Stripe Opens Discussions for Funding at Potential $100bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Digital payment technology and services provider Stripe last raised money in October 2019, closing $850m from investors including Alphabet unit GV at a whopping $36bn valuation. But its next round could double that valuation, sources told Bloomberg, adding that it has opened discussions with prospective investors and that a $100bn valuation could be possible for the transaction. That hike would mirror the huge share price rises for competitors Square and PayPal in recent months.

Canada-listed phone operator Telus has paid heed in setting up a C$100m ($76.5m) social impact corporate venturing fund to complement its existing Telus Ventures unit under Rich Osborn. Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus, said: “This C$100m investment will accelerate potent, scalable and socially responsible services coming to market, helping to answer some of the most pressing challenges facing our world, including socioeconomic inclusiveness.” The Telus Pollinator Fund for Good will target healthcare entrepreneurs, social and economic inclusion and ensuring sustainable food production under Blair Miller, managing partner and Telus’ former vice-president of consumer products and content.

Mobile commerce platform developer Wish has become the third US-based tech company to file for a $1bn initial public offering in the space of a week, after Airbnb and Roblox. JD.com reportedly invested up to $55m in Wish as part of a 2015 series D that valued it at $3.5bn, but that valuation had soared to over $11bn as of its last round, an August 2019 series H. It has also seen substantial revenue growth this year, though its net losses increased at the same time.

Catamaran Bio, a US-based cancer treatment developer founded out of University of Minnesota and George Washington University (GWU), launched last week with $42m of series A funding co-led by Sofinnova Partners and Lightstone Ventures. Takeda Ventures, a strategic investment arm of Takeda, also took part in the round, as did SV Health Investors and Astellas Venture Management. Incorporated in September 2019, Catamaran Bio is developing cell therapies for a broad range of cancers, including solid tumours. The spinout hopes to deliver off-the-shelf drugs, as opposed to some cell therapy treatments that require samples extracted from the patient. The cash will allow it to progress two lead programmes into the clinic and to upgrade its underlying cell engineering technology.

Deals

Manbang Group, the Chinese trucking services platform also known as Full Truck Alliance, has pulled in $1.7bn through a round co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund and backed by another returning corporate investor, Tencent. The cash was reportedly secured at a valuation just short of $12bn and shows the value of consolidation, the company being formed by the merger of rivals Huochebang and Yunmanman three years ago.

On the other end of the experience stakes, Resilience has emerged from stealth with $800m in funding, $750m of which was raised in a series B round featuring Alphabet unit GV. The startup can be seen as one of what may well be a series of large-scale companies formed during the covid-19 pandemic specifically to deal with its effects. It is working on an advanced manufacturing set up for gene and cell therapies as well as vaccines, proteins and viral vectors, and should do brisk business considering the number of drug developers raising big money or going public right now.

Digital property and casualty insurance provider Hippo has raised $350m from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance at a reported $2bn valuation, as part of a deal that will involve the latter taking on some of the risk for the company. The companies also revealed that MS&AD Ventures – like Mitsui Sumitomo, part of the MS&AD insurance group – was among the investors in its last round, a $150m series E in July that valued it at $1.5bn post-money.

Indian automotive e-commerce marketplace Cars24 has secured $200m in a series E round led by investment firm DST Global at a valuation topping $1bn. The company, which counts KCK Global as an earlier investor, also revealed its business has reached and surpassed pre-coronavirus levels, which could be a testament to the recovery of India’s used car market or perhaps a sign it is simply migrating online.

For all the headlines being grabbed by the pharmaceutical sector, the technology area that has really taken big steps forward this year is arguably online education. Duolingo and Udemy both also raised more money this past week at unicorn valuations while coding education platform developer Codemao has bagged $198m in series D funding. The company’s existing investors include Southern Publishing and Media and Cheetah Mobile, and the latest round was led by an affiliate of Baring Private Equity Asia.

Elsewhere in fintech, digital bank Current has raised $131m in a series C round led by Tiger Global Management that valued it at $750m. The deal came just over a year after the company secured $20m in a round featuring Cuna Mutual’s CMFG Ventures unit. That leap is another sign of the significant growth in the sector, though the neobank space is at the same time beginning to get somewhat crowded.

SomaLogic, a developer of proteomics technology for use in drug treatments and healthcare data, has closed $121m in a round led by life sciences investment firm Casdin Capital. The company, interestingly, termed the round as a series A despite it being 20 years old and now the recipient of more than $485m in funding in that time. Its earlier investors include Nan Fung Life Sciences, iCarbonX, Novartis, Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Quest Diagnostics.

Funds

Cleantech isn’t the force it once was in the startup space but it’s a long way from being dead. Vestas, the biggest pure-play wind turbine maker in the world, was reportedly considering the formation of a strategic investment arm back in 2017 but it’s waited until now to launch the vehicle, dubbed Vestas Ventures. It will invest roughly $1m to $7m per deal in renewables and sustainable technology developers.

Financial services provider Orix has invested $60m in Israel-based equity crowdfunding platform operator OurCrowd as part of a strategic collaboration deal. OurCrowd runs a venture capital investment platform that allows businesses and individuals to invest in a curated selection of startups across a range of sectors from seed to pre-IPO stage.

Mobile network operator Orange has committed an undisclosed amount of capital to France-headquartered private equity firm LBO France’s Digital Health 2 (DH2) fund through its Orange Digital Investment vehicle. DH2 has a €200m ($238m) target for its close and is tasked with investing in small-to-medium sized businesses in the digital health sector. Its target areas are France and the rest of Western Europe.

Exits

Metromile is the latest company to take the SPAC route to a public markets listing, agreeing a reverse merger with Insu Acquisition Corp. II in a deal set to value the merged business at about $1.3bn. Like Hippo, Metromile is part of a new breed of digital insurers, though its selling point is as an automotive insurance provider that charges by the mile. Its investors include China Pacific, AmTrust, Tokio Marine, Mitsui and Intact Financial.

Amazon has been one of the companies in the tech space that’s benefited most financially from the coronavirus lockdowns, but other online marketplaces are also seeing their business models vindicated. Russia-based Ozon has floated above its range in an upsized initial public offering in the US that netted it $990m, in addition to $135m in a private placement from existing backers Sistema and Baring Vostok. Sistema remains its largest shareholder, with a 37% stake post-IPO.

Covid-19 may have taken the headlines but cancer has been the main driver of corporate venturing activity in the healthcare sector of late. China-based Antengene is the latest oncology-focused company to move to the exit stage, and has gone public in Hong Kong in a $360m IPO in which it floated at the top of its range. It had raised $238m across three rounds from investors including WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, Celgene, Taikang and Tigermed Investment.

Mass spectrometry device producer 908 Devices has filed to go public, setting a $75m target for an initial public offering slated to take place on the Nasdaq Global Market. The company has raised $70m in venture funding from investors including Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) and Schlumberger and has doubled revenue this year while significantly cutting losses. Just a reminder: Airbnb, Roblox and Wish are among the companies that could theoretically float in what’s sure to be a busy December.


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

Leadership Series: Shiva Dustdar & Lara Koole (Including Both Halves of Society)

Amparo de San José Riestra, director, IESE Business School Angel Network, moderates a discussion between Shiva Dustdar and Lara Koole on how to include women in funding. Shiva Dustdar is the head of Innovation Finance Advisory Division at the European Investment Bank and Lara Koole is a partner at Philips Ventures.


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

23 November 2020 – PingCap Stores £270m in Series D Funding

The Big Ones

Distributed database software provider PingCap has secured $270m in series D funding from backers including Bertelsmann Asia Investments that will support research and development as well as international expansion. Another corporate investor, Fosun, led PingCap’s last round, a $50m series C round two years ago. PingCap is the creator of an open-source distributed database platform called TiDB as well as a version called TiDB that has been tailored for use on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The platform’s apparently been adopted by some 1,500 clients internationally, including well-known ones such as Square and Dailymotion.

Airbnb has filed for an initial public offering with an initial target of $1bn and will be relying on the markets to ignore its 30% drop in revenue and considerable losses in 2020 in favour of a projected recovery in the tourism industry next year when coronavirus vaccines hopefully begin to be distributed. Its investors include CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet formerly known as Google Capital, and its valuation stood at $26bn prior to a $1bn debt and equity round in April. But there are a few notable things about Airbnb’s filing and the fact it acknowledges that it’s been unable “to grow new offerings and tiers, such as Airbnb Experiences” could yet prove to be the canary in the coal mine – particularly as Google steps up its own travel ads and hinders Airbnb’s organic growth. There’s also a question as to whether hosts will be able to stick out ongoing and returning lockdowns: they still have to pay mortgages on the properties and without guests to cover bills, that’s somewhat of a ticking time bomb. But the biggest threat to Airbnb is the fact that its growth was slowing long before covid-related shutdowns and travel restrictions: in fact, 2019 was the third consecutive year of slowing growth. The filing warns this slowing down is expected to continue, making it a difficult sell to potential investors on the public markets.

Form Energy, a US-based grid battery spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has obtained more than $70m of series C funding from undisclosed investors, Reuters said citing CEO Mateo Jaramillio. Details are expected over the coming weeks. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is developing sulfur-based battery storage for renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar which fluctuate more than conventional power plants owing to changes in wind strength and solar radiation. Form Energy’s batteries are rumoured to discharge at slow speeds relative to their capacity but offer 150 hours of storage compared to four hours for lithium-ion grid storage products. The idea is to help replace oil and gas-based power plants that run during times of sparse customer demand to provide a minimum level of electricity, known in industry parlance as the baseload. The spinout last closed a $40m series B round in August 2019 led by Eni Next, the corporate venturing arm of energy supplier Eni, and backed by The Engine, the MIT-affiliated incubator and venture fund, in addition to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures and Macquarie Capital.

Deals

DataRobot, a provider of enterprise artificial intelligence software, has more than doubled its valuation to $2.7bn in a $270m pre-IPO round featuring new and existing investors. The company has now raised a total of about $500m from an investor base that includes Intel Capital, New York Life, Recruit Strategic Partners, Cisco and Citi Ventures, though none were specifically named in the company’s latest round.

Precision medicine developer D3 Bio has emerged from stealth with $200m from a series A round featuring WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund. The corporate was joined by Boyu Capital, Temasek, Matrix Partners China and Sequoia Capital China, and the cash will support development of the startup’s oncology and immunology product pipeline.

Online restaurant directory and food ordering service Zomato has raised $195m at a $3.6bn post-money valuation. Much of the company’s earlier funding came from online classifieds operator Info Edge, which still owns a stake above 20%. Its larger shareholders include Ant Group and Uber, while Delivery Hero is also an investor.

XAG, an agriculture-focused drone developer that is expanding into wider reaching farm management technology, has completed a $182m funding round co-led by Baidu Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund. The cash will support the bolstering of the company’s research and development, manufacturing and supply chain capabilities as its home country of China moves closer to an unmanned farm model of agriculture.

Cato Networks has entered the unicorn sphere, raising $130m from investors including Singtel Innov8 at a $1bn pre-money valuation. The networking security technology provider has now received more than $330m since 2015 and its last round – which also featured the Singtel subsidiary – was only seven months ago.

Forter, a developer of e-commerce fraud prevention software, has joined the ranks of the unicorns, having bagged $125m at a valuation topping $1.3bn. The series E round didn’t include corporate backer Salesforce Ventures but it took the company’s total funding to $225m and was co-led by venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Felix Capital.

CreditEase-backed wealth management platform developer Addepar has raised almost as much, having closed its series E round at $117m. The public markets boom for tech companies in recent months, coupled with the ongoing issues for other businesses, has meant increased demand for wealth management services. It also highlights Addepar’s selling point: enhanced data capabilities that give investors greater insights into portfolio performance.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 has also led a $100m round for MindTickle, a US-based provider of sales readiness technology that helps sales staff upgrade their skills and benefit from updated information. Qualcomm Ventures was among the other participants in the round, having backed MindTickle since its 2015 series A round. The latest funding was closed at a reported $500m valuation.

Funds

SR One is the latest corporate venturing unit to be spun off into an independent venture firm by its parent, in this case pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. With some 35 years on the clock it’s one of the oldest corporate VC arms, but GSK isn’t cutting the cord fully – it’s the largest contributor to an oversubscribed $500m fund for the rebranded SR One Capital Management, which will continue to be run by CEO Simeon George.

Exits

Roblox, the creator of a social 3D game development platform, has filed for a $1bn IPO on the New York Stock Exchange that will notch up an exit for Tencent. The corporate was among the investors in a $150m series G round in February that valued Roblox at $4bn. Press reports have suggested the company would seek a valuation of $8bn in the offering, meaning Tencent could be looking at a rapid profit on paper.

Arrival is the latest highly valued company to take the reverse merger option, agreeing a deal with Nasdaq-listed CIIG Merger Corp that will value the combined business at $5.4bn. The electric commercial vehicle developer’s existing investors, which include Hyundai, Kia and UPS, will keep their stakes while the deal will be boosted by $400m in PIPE financing.

Supcon is part of the fast-growing field of robotic process automation technology and has priced an initial public offering in its home country of China that will net it $268m in proceeds. Corporate investors Chint, Sinopec Capital, Intel, China National Nuclear’s CNNC Industry Fund Management Corporation and Lenovo are all among its investors and will jointly own about 20% of its shares post-IPO.


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

Leadership Series: Alastair Hick (Monash Innovation)

Thierry Heles talks to Alastair Hick, senior director at Monash Innovation.


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

16 November 2020 – SentinelOne Bags $267m in Series F

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.

Deals

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.

Funds

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.

Exits

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.


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

Leadership Series: Oliver Keown (Intuitive Ventures)

James Mawson talks to Oliver Keown, director of Intuitive Ventures on setting up a $100m fund focussed on minimally-invasive care.


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

09 November 2020 – Ant Group’s IPO Suspended by Regulators

The Big Ones

Law firm Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe’s recent investments in Priori Legal and term sheet data analysis provider Aumni, coinciding with Latham & Watkins and Clifford Chance’s joint investment in legal tech platform Reynen Court’s recent $4.5m round, reflect the strategic interest in so-called legaltech startups.

The $30m Hypertherm Ventures fund is targeting early-stage deals in advanced manufacturing, which is a difficult place to back with limited capital and an awareness of the lengthy time horizons required.

As Car and Driver magazine noted, the electric vehicle market is challenged as few consumers are interested, they are expensive compared to petrol or diesel cars, and traditional car companies have struggled to develop appealing brands, leaving the way for Tesla and other startups out of China such as Nio to try and take advantage. But the future seems to lie in that direction given a predicted 21.1% compound annual growth rate over the next decade. As a result, Polestar, a Sino-Swedish electric car brand jointly owned by Volvo Car Group and its parent company Geely, is in talks to raise $500m from investors at a $6bn valuation, according to Bloomberg.

It is always fun as the end of year creeps up to think about the technologies that will disrupt or transform the world over the next few decades, and Adrien Book’s selectionbelow covers a number of general and specific purpose technologies. The meatless meat one is definitely catching people’s attention currently, given the post-flotation performance of Beyond Meat among others, as identified in March’s special report on agtech. The wider focus, however, is “how to replace the grocery store,” according to venture capitalists such as Andrew Ive, founder at Big Idea Ventures with Tom Mastrobuoni, former partner at meat supplier Tyson’s corporate venturing unit.

The European Union has more than halved its planned investment in the continent’s best entrepreneurs after budget cuts wiped at least €6bn ($6.8bn) off its European Innovation Council (EIC).Stéphane Ouaki, head of unit for the directorate general of research and innovation at the European Commission, in a panel at the Not Optional – Making Europe the Most Entrepreneurial Continent event on Friday, said the funding for the EIC would come in at €3.5-4bn for the seven-year Horizon Europe budgetary period from 2021 to 2027.

Funds

Fleury and Sabin combine to set up venture firm

CCCU establishes Emerging Ventures

Kuzmenkov sets up Perspective Ventures

Holtzbrinck helps HV Capital to $625m fund

Fountain Healthcare Partners finishes third fund

E14 Fund sparks bid for $80m successor

Exits

Ant Group, the Alibaba financial services spinoff that was set to go public on Thursday in a dual offering that would have been the largest flotation ever. I say was, because regulators have sensationally stepped in to suspend the offering due to concerns about Ant’s listing qualifications or disclosure requirements. For that to take place two days before an IPO is almost unheard of but for it to do so with a $34.3bn dual offering at a projected $313bn valuation seems momentous. It could be related to recent critical comments by chairman Jack Ma, but it’s also a big red flag to Chinese tech companies looking at Hong Kong or Shanghai’s Star Exchange as viable alternatives to the US markets.

China-based wealth management and peer-to-peer lending platform Lufax has floated on the New York Stock Exchange in one of the year’s largest initial public offerings, raising $2.36bn at a valuation just short of $33bn. Insurance group Ping An spun off Lufax and still owns a 39% stake, and the company’s other investors include Bank of China, Cofco, SBI, JP Morgan, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Macquarie Group and UOB. It had previously secured about $3bn across three rounds pre-IPO.

Speaking of on-demand services that have blossomed in recent months during the coronavirus pandemic, beverage delivery service Flaschenpost has seen its monthly sales zoom past $30m, across just 23 German cities, and has thus warranted a $1.16bn acquisition by packaged food producer Dr Oetker. The transaction will allow Vorwerk’s corporate venture capital arm, Vorwerk Ventures, to exit the company less than three years after taking part in a $24m round.

Freshly, the healthy meal kit service, has been acquired by Nestlé in a $950m deal that could stretch to $1.5bn once earnout payments have been taken into account. Nestlé led the company’s last round three years ago, when it raised $77m to take its total funding to $107m. Meal subscription services have come good during the coronavirus pandemic, and Freshly said it is now shipping a million meals a week in the US.

Ocado to pick up Kindred in $262m deal – Robotic picker provider Kindred Systems is set to be bought in a $262m cash transaction that will hand exits to Tencent and GV.

Intel integrates Stanford-backed SigOpt – Intel is set to buy Stanford University-backed machine learning optimisation business SigOpt, which had raised at least $8.6m in funding.

Merck & Co has agreed to pay $2.75bn in cash to acquire cancer drug developer VelosBio, handing exits to corporate venturing units Takeda Ventures and Chiesi Ventures. VelosBio had raised a touch over $200m prior to the acquisition, the brunt of which came in a Takeda-backed series B round in July. It also took part in Johnson & Johnson’s JLabs accelerator in early 2018.

Elsewhere in oncology, JW Therapeutics has scored a big exit for WuXi AppTec and Juno Therapeutics, the pharmaceutical companies that co-founded it four years ago, by floating in a $300m initial public offering in Hong Kong. They owned a combined stake sized at over 40% in JW pre-IPO having also participated in its $90m series A round in early 2018 and a $100m series B just three months ago.

TikTok owner ByteDance is among the most valuable VC-backed private companies in the world but its biggest rival in China, Kuaishou, isn’t far behind, and it looks like it’s going to be first to go public. Kuaishou has filed for an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and recent reports suggested it would look to net up to $5bn at a valuation of about $50bn. The company’s backers include Tencent, which invested $2bn to lead its last round in late 2019, and Baidu.

Russian e-commerce platform Ozon has confirmed it has filed for an initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Select Market that financial market sources told Reuters could generate up to $500m in proceeds. Sources told the Wall Street Journal last month the company would seek a $3bn to $5bn valuation in the IPO, and conglomerate Sistema, its largest shareholder, owns a stake sized above 45% once unconverted debt is taken into account.

Russian online streaming service Ivi has reportedly hired banks to organise an initial public offering slated to take place in the United States next year. The company’s investors include media company Prof-Media, which participated in a $40m round in 2012, as well as Baring Vostok, Tiger Global Management, Frontier Venture, RTP Global, Russian-Direct Investment Fund, Mubadala Investment Company, Flashpoint VC and Winter Capital.

Aeva is only three years old but the lidar-on-chip technology developer is set to list on the New York Stock Exchange through a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. The transaction will value the merged business at $2.1bn and it will benefit from $120m in PIPE financing from investors including carmaker Porsche, which had already invested a ‘significant’ amount in Aeva last December.

Upstart undertakes $100m filing – Rakuten, Alphabet and Progressive are in line for exits after the automated lending service filed to go public yesterday.

SQZ Bio squeezes on to NYSE – The AIG, Illumina, Alphabet and Orient Life-backed cell therapy developer priced its shares at the bottom of their range to raise $70.6m.

Deals

Reef Technology, 18 months ago it was ParkJockey, the owner of an app that allowed drivers to book parking spaces, but now, having rebranded to Reef Technology, it is focusing on converting underused space to hubs for on-demand services. It has also raised $700m from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund along with a $300m real estate fund. Given its target areas of cloud kitchens, on-demand healthcare, vertical farming and e-commerce logistics have all seen huge growth this year, you can see why.

CAR T-cell therapies are one of the fastest growing segments of the pharmaceutical space, and the latest cancer immunotherapy developer to close a sizeable round is Carsgen Therapeutics, which has bagged $186m in series C funding from investors including Lilly Asia Ventures. The round was led by private equity firm Loyal Valley Capital and the proceeds will support clinical trials for its oncology drug candidates in Asia, the US and Europe.

VIPThink pipes in $180m – New Oriental returned for the educational product developer’s series C round, which was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

Digital signature technology provider eSign can perhaps be seen as China’s DocuSign, but it’s in an area where social distancing has necessarily led to increased use, and the company has raised $150m in series D funding. Its last round had been led by Ant Group, though the corporate (which let’s face it, has other things to deal with right now) was not listed as a participant in the latest round.

Conductor orchestrates $150m in funding – Viking Global led a $150m round for the Visa-backed banking software provider that will go to product development and international growth.

GetYourGuide discovers $133m – SoftBank Vision Fund returned in a convertible note round that pushed the total raised by the tourism experience booking service to some $788m.

Ronglian rings up $125m – New Oriental Industrial Fund helped Ronglian (aka Yuntongxun) close a series F round it claimed was the largest yet for a Chinese cloud communication technology producer.

Indonesian online marketplace Bukalapak has pulled in $100m from investors including Microsoft and Emtek at a valuation between $2.5bn and $3bn, according to Bloomberg. The company is reportedly targeting a total of $200m in the round, which comes after it closed an Emtek-backed series F round at a $2.5bn valuation in October.

University

ColdQuanta unpacks $32m series A – CU Boulder-founded quantum technology developer ColdQuanta has attracted series A funding to follow a $16.8m seed round closed two years ago.

Shoulder Innovations hoists up $21.6m – The series C funding will help Western Michigan portfolio company Shoulder Innovations build on the launch of its flagship shoulder replacement product.

Sense Bio pinpoints CIC for $50m round – Cambridge Innovation Capital has backed a round sized at up to $50m for disease testing kit producer Sense Biodetection, which has now raised more than $64m altogether.


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

Leadership Series: Jeffrey Li (Tencent Investment)

Martin Haemmig talks to Jeffrey Li, managing partner of Tencent Investment and winner of the 2020 Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist 100.


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