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

25 May 2020 – SenseTime Expands to Help Track Coronavirus

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exits

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


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