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

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

02 November 2020 – Ant Gets Ready for Global Expansion

The Big Ones

Ant aims to raise $34.5bn – the biggest initial public offering – by splitting its stock issuance equally across Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges, according to news provider CNBC.

Discussion at the GCV Digital Forum 2.0 last month about Including Both Halves of Society heard Lara Koole, partner at Netherlands-based conglomerate Philips’ corporate venturing unit, describe how it could start using its limited partner commitments to look at the underlying diversity of the venture funds’ general partners.

Scale Venture Partners, the now 20-year-old venture capital firm, is looking to raise $500m for its seventh fund, according to news provider Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The firm closed its most recent fund with $400m in 2018 but there is a nice synergy to its target given Bank of America was the sole limited partner for its first fund with $500m.

Funds

Eli Lilly elevates TVM Capital fund to $478m

Legend Star shines with $118m fund close

Bixin tricks out $100m investment vehicle

Taxmantra stacks up $100m for ProfitBoard

Exits

Elliptic Labs detects public listing

Galecto gathers $85m in initial public offering

Exact Sciences took part in a $110m series A round for cancer screening system developer Thrive Earlier Detection in May last year and obviously liked what it saw, because it’s returned to agree an acquisition deal that could reach $2.15bn once milestone payments are factored in. The brunt of that – roughly $1.1bn in cash and $600m in shares – is up front too, and corporate VC vehicle Blue Venture Fund is also set to exit through the transaction.

Microchip ingests LegUp Computing

Following news late last week that Quibi and Renrenche were set to shutter and be acquired for pennies on the dollar respectively, Yiguo looks to be the latest tech company to hit the skids after raising hundreds of millions of dollars. The Chinese online fresh fruit and vegetable retailer had reportedly secured well over $800m from backers including Alibaba and Suning but several of its subsidiaries are going into bankruptcy while the company has debts totalling more than $340m. Funding hasn’t been suffering much during the coronavirus period but it does look as if we’re entering a period where there will be a few big-name casualties

Deals

Dmall, a China-based online platform that connects consumers to the offline offerings of some 120 brick-and-mortar chains, has completed a $419m series C round backed by Lenovo Capital, Tencent and Hengan International. The round was co-led by China Structural Reform Fund and an equity investment platform for Industrial Bank, and about $150m will go to research and development.

Scopely closed its last round, a $400m series D featuring Advance Media and Chernin Group, at a $1.9bn valuation just seven months ago but has already secured $340m in series E funding. The round values the mobile game publisher, which is also backed by Take-Two Interactive, at $3.3bn and lifted its overall funding to about $900m. The proceeds will support M&A activities, Scopely having agreed four acquisition deals in the past 18 months.

Zhenkunhang, the Chinese operator of an e-commerce marketplace for industrial components, supplies and services, has closed a $315m series E round featuring returning investor Tencent. The corporate had led Zhenkunhang’s $160m series D round last year, and the latest round included Legend Capital as well as GLP-backed joint venture GLP-C&D Equity Fund.

LianBio was launched two months ago with a brief to commercialise existing drug candidates developed by its pharmaceutical partners for the Asian market, and particularly its home country of China. It has also raised $310m in crossover financing from investors including Pfizer to support development of cancer and cardiorenal disease candidates. The round was co-led by RA Capital, CMG-SDIC Capital and Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners.

The success of Megvii and SenseTime has shown the potential in China’s image sensor space, and the latest well-funded entrant is SmartSens, which has raised $225m in a round co-led by Xiaomi Changing Industrial Fund. The round also featured three more corporate investors – Lenovo Capital, Wingtech Technology and Transsion Holdings – Lenovo Capital having already backed the company two years ago. Huawei unit Hubble Ventures added an undisclosed amount in August this year.

Elsewhere in China, ECarx is focusing on in-car systems and in particular what it refers to as internet-of-vehicles technology. It has pulled in a huge $194m through a series A round led by Baidu that also featured SIG Asia. ECarx had formed a strategic partnership with Baidu’s autonomous driving subsidiary, Baidu Apollo, in mid-2019 and the series A funding was captured at a $1.5bn valuation.

Autohome is investing $168m in TTP Car, the Chinese online automotive auction platform also known as Tiantian Paiche, having supplied it with $100m in convertible bond financing two years ago. The deal will also give Autohome the option to acquire up to $200m in additional convertible bonds in the company, which counts Tencent, BitAuto, SIG Asia and SoftBank’s SB China Capital fund among its earlier backers.

Benson Hill is using machine learning and biology technology to optimise breeding patterns with a view to creating new forms of plant-based foods and ingredients. It secured $150m yesterday in a series D round co-led by GV that also featured Louis Dreyfus Company and Emart. GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) also led Benson Hill’s last round two years ago, when it raised $60m.

Honor takes care of $140m series D

Eightfold brings in $125m

Applied Intuition, a developer of testing software for autonomous driving systems, said its revenues have increased, and it has accordingly secured $125m in a series C round completely funded by existing backers. The company received $40m just over a year ago in a series B round backed by Microsoft’s M12 unit, and the latest round was co-led by venture firms Lux Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst at a $1.25bn valuation.

FreshToHome delivers $121m series C

Kodit homes in on $117m

Although it’s been quiet for a while, the signs are that SoftBank Vision Fund is starting to stir again. It led OrderMark, the developer of a system that coordinates restaurant orders from a range of online platforms in a single place. Ordermark received $120m in its series C round, a round that came less than three years after a $3.1m seed round, and the growth of online ordering and virtual kitchens points to further growth.

Whoop straps on $100m

Digital consumer data provider SimilarWeb has also raised $120m, in a late-stage round co-led by Viola Growth and Ion Crossover Partners. The round doubled SimilarWeb’s total funding to $240m, its earlier investors including Naspers, and it is also experiencing rapid growth at present. So much so that it intends to grow its 600-person team by 20% by the end of January.

Scorpion escapes stealth with $108m

Sirnaomics syncs with Walvax in $105m round

VSPN broadcasts Tencent-led series B round

Gracell keeps pace with $100m series C


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

26 October 2020 – Ant Group Aims for World’s Biggest Floatation Topping $250bn

The Big Ones

Yuanfudao is the latest Chinese online education provider to raise a huge amount, reportedly securing $1bn in a series G2 round led by DST Global that valued it at $15.5bn post-money. Its earlier investors include Tencent, which co-led the company’s $1bn series G round in March at a $7.8bn valuation, and which was reported last month to be taking part in a $1.2bn round that media reports state had already closed in the run up to the series G2 funding.

Ant Group has secured regulatory approval for the Shanghai leg of a dual listing expected to raise some $35bn at a valuation that may top $250bn, having got clearance for the Hong Kong offering on Monday. Which would make it the biggest flotation in history. The financial services provider was valued at $150bn when it raised $14bn in its 2018 series C round, and Alibaba, which spun the company off, is set to buy about 20% of the shares being issued to come out with a 32% stake post-IPO.

The biggest fund this week is actually a crossover: UVC Partners, the Germany-based venture capital firm affiliated with Technical University of Munich (also known as TUM), unveiled its €150m ($178m) third fund on Tuesday backed by LPs including specialty chemicals company Lanxess. The co-founders of mobility services provider Flixbus also invested in the fund, as have a range of unnamed institutional investors, family offices, corporates and family businesses. UVC Partners maintains a close relationship with UnternehmerTUM, the university’s centre for innovation and business creation. The two entities actually share leadership in Helmut Schönenberger, who is the chief executive of UnternehmerTUM and a managing partner of UVC Partners.

Deal-wise, in crossover news, AavantiBio is the latest entrant to the genetic therapy space, launching on Thursday with $107m in series A funding, $15m of which came from genetic drug developer Sarepta Therapeutics. The spinout’s president and CEO had spent some eight years in an executive position at Sarepta and its core technology is based on University of Florida research. AavantiBio will concentrate on genetic therapeutics for rare diseases and its initial focus is on Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), an inherited genetic disease that leads to central nervous system and cardiac dysfunction.

Deals

Google has reportedly invested $300m in Tokopedia, one of Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, as part of a late-stage round already equipped with $500m from Temasek on its way to a targeted close around the $1bn mark. Tokopedia’s earlier investors include CyberAgent Capital, Alibaba and SoftBank vehicles Vision Fund, SoftBank Ventures Asia and SB Pan Asia Fund.

Shouqi Yueche is one of several companies that had seen funding drop off in the wake of China’s regulatory crackdown on its ride hailing sector, but it claims to have increased its registered users by more than 30% in the last year and has also pulled in ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in series C funding. The investors in the round have not been revealed but the company’s existing backers include Baidu and Nio Capital.

Arctic Wolf is one of the fastest rising operators in the cybersecurity scene, the cybersecurity concierge provider having raised $200m in a DTCP-backed series E round valuing it at $1.3bn. It had secured $60m in series D funding just seven months ago and its overall funding now stands at more than $350m. It is also moving its head office from California to Minnesota amidst plans to up headcount significantly.

Online education has thrived during the coronavirus pandemic but another Chinese company, online pharmacy operator Dingdang Kuaiyao, has also seen user numbers rise significantly. It has pulled in $150m through a series B-plus round that included existing backers Softbank China and Sinopharm-CICC Capital. Both had already taken part in the company’s $89m series B early last year.

VectivBio has closed a $110m crossover financing round that included Novo to advance its short bowel syndrome treatment through phase 3 clinical trials. The company was spun off from Therachon, a Novo-backed genetic disease therapy developer acquired for $810m in May last year. Novo had also been among the investors to provide the $35m VectivBio had when it launched in January this year.

Hyperscience has developed software that allows organisations to automate back-office tasks to increase efficiency, and has raised $80m in a series D round led by Tiger Global Management. The company’s earlier backers include QBE, TD Ameritrade and Penna and Company, and the series D round took its overall funding past the $190m mark.

Funds

Spain-based telecommunications firm Telefónica has launched a cybersecurity-focused investment vehicle called Telefónica Tech Ventures that expects to provide funding for 15 cybersecurity technology developers over the next three years, investing up to $7m per deal at series A to C stage. Follow-on funding will be available for the better performing recipients.

Exits

Big funding isn’t necessarily the fuel for success however, with short-form streaming service Quibi announcing yesterday it is set to shutter its platform, which launched just six months ago. It will have about $350m to return from the $1.75bn it raised from investors including Alibaba, Sony, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, WarnerMedia, Entertainment One and, reportedly, Google and Facebook. Quibi itself has blamed the coronavirus for much of its trouble getting subscribers, but the low adoption rate following free trials points to a lack of good programming and, perhaps deeper, to too many execs with TV experience and not enough with online expertise.

Quibi isn’t the only tech unicorn set to call it a day however. Chinese online car marketplace Renrenche has raised $760m from investors including Didi Chuxing and Tencent and was reportedly valued at $1.7bn after its most recent round in 2018, but Bloomberg has reported it is in talks to sell its major assets to 58.com for a token amount a little over $1,000. Renrenche’s branch of the startup space has been impacted heavily by the coronavirus, but it also competes in a crowded sector. These may be just the start of several parts of the startup space thinning out as revenues dip and money gets increasingly tight.

Back to some better news: although both the US and China have been hotbeds for tech IPOs in recent months, ride hailing has been visibly apart from that as the sector’s inhabitants look to offset the damage to their businesses done by the coronavirus. Dida Chuxing was recently reported to be mulling a Hong Kong IPO, and market leader Didi Chuxing is reportedly looking at the same destination for a 2021 offering. The purported IPO is expected to value Didi at up to $60bn and investors including SoftBank, Apple, Alibaba, China Life, Tencent, Booking Holdings, Ping An, eHi and Sina Weibo would be in line for exits.

Small molecule drug developer Aligos Therapeutics has raised $150m in an initial public offering that involved it pricing 10 million shares in the middle of their $14 to $16 range. Those shares are currently (that’s Friday afternoon UK time) at $15.12, but the offering nevertheless represents exits for Roche Finance and Novo, which were among the investors that had supplied more than $230m in venture funding for Aligos.

Advanced hearing aid provider Eargo on the other hand has celebrated a bumper IPO, floating above its range in an upsized offering to raise more than $141m, then seeing its shares open at double the IPO price on their first day of trading. You know who else must be celebrating? Nan Fung Life Sciences, which participated in Eargo’s last three rounds and which is now backing a company with a market cap over $1.2bn.

Compass Therapeutics is the latest drug developer to file for an initial public offering, though the $50m target it has set suggests its aim may be lower than most. The immuno-oncology therapy developer had secured $132m in a 2018 series A round featuring life sciences-focused real estate investment trusts Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Biomed Realty, but neither possess a stake in the company sized at 5% or greater.


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

31 August 2020 – Ant Group Files for Dual Listing to Potentially Raise $30bn

The Big Ones

Cancer test developer Freenome has closed a $270m series C round that included Novartis and existing backers GV, Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Roche Venture Fund to hike its overall funding to $507m. The capital will be allocated to a clinical study for a blood test Freenome is developing for colorectal cancer screening, in addition to advancing additional oncology blood tests.

American Family Ventures was formed by insurer American Family in 2013 to invest in areas like insurance, financial services, big data and cybersecurity technology, and it’s following a recent trend by recruiting external limited partners for its latest fund. AFV Fund III has closed at $213m and its LPs will also be able to gain value through a scheme called AFV Platform that will be able to link them to portfolio companies and fellow investors.

Ant Group has officially filed for a dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai that could potentially raise $30bn – a figure that would equate to the largest initial public offering for a VC-backed company in history. It will reportedly now speak to underwriters and other stakeholders to determine the details of the flotations, which are expected to value it between $200bn and $300bn. Apart from Alibaba, corporates including China Post and China Life are also among its investors, both having backed it at a $60bn valuation in 2016.

Crossover: Kymeta, a US-based satellite broadband provider exploiting foundational research from Duke University, secured $85m in a funding round led by entrepreneur Bill Gates, with the backing of some of Kymeta’s leadership team. Kymeta has raised more than $282m in funding altogether, satellite operator Intelsat having contributed to a $73.5m round in 2017 together with undisclosed additional investors. Media group Liberty Global had joined Osage University Partners, Bill Gates, Lux Capital and Kresge Foundation in Kymeta’s $50m series C round in 2013. And Kymeta had already secured $12m in funding from Liberty Global, Lux Capital and Gates the year before.

Deals

Consumer companies have had a mixed at best time of it during the coronavirus pandemic but eyewear e-commerce platform Warby Parker has done quite well, raising $245m across series F and G rounds while hiking its valuation from $1.75bn in late 2018 to $3bn today. The company’s earlier investors include American Express Ventures and the latest round increased its overall funding to $535m.

Viva Republica, the creator of money management app Toss, has raised its own nine-figure round, pulling in $173m in a round that reportedly took its valuation from $2.2bn to $2.6bn. The company’s total funding now stands at $530m, its earlier investors including Novel Group, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures. The funding will help it grow Toss into a more diversified finance-focused app that includes financial product recommendations.

Mural, developer of an online visual collaboration platform, has closed an $118m series B round that included Slack Fund and returning backer Gradient Ventures. The round came just seven months after Mural’s series A funding, but its initial investment came all the way back in 2012 in a tiny round featuring another corporate venturing unit, Intel Capital.

Data collaboration software provider Daitaku has raised $100m in series D funding from investors including Alphabet’s CapitalG unit. The round followed a secondary investment from CapitalG in December that valued Daitaku at $1.4bn, and the company said it has maintained a unicorn valuation in the latest round. It has also now secured $246m in primary funding altogether.

Funds

This is going to be a quick one today: other than the American Family Ventures fundraiser we’ve already covered, it’s been a slow week for funds.

Exits

Things are really beginning to heat up as we pass through the summer lull to the traditional autumn rush and a good deal of activity is focused on the public markets. Chinese smart electric carmaker Xpeng has floated in the US in an upsized $1.5bn initial public offering valuing it above $21bn. Alibaba and Xiaomi were among the Xpeng investors considering buying $400m of shares in the IPO, and its backers also include Foxconn, UCar and Douwan Entertainment.

The sheer scale of Ant’s forthcoming listing casts a large shadow, enough to almost make you forget what a big story it is that data analysis provider Palantir has also filed to go public. The Relx, Fujitsu and Sompo Holdings-backed company is eschewing an IPO in favour of a direct listing, following the likes of Spotify and Slack. It was valued above $20bn in 2016 but regardless of whether it’s maintained that valuation (and there are doubts about that), it will be one of the year’s biggest listings in a year set to be full of them.

Cloud data software provider Snowflake is another hugely valued tech company to file for an initial public offering, six months after closing a $479m series G round at a valuation exceeding $12bn. Salesforce Ventures was among the participants in that round but Capital One Growth Ventures got in earlier, backing its 2017 series D at a reported $500m valuation. It isn’t among Snowflake’s largest shareholders but it should be in for a bumper exit nonetheless.

Although a lot of companies are filing for IPOs, lidar technology developer Luminar has taken a different route, agreeing to a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Gores Metropoulos that will give it a Nasdaq listing and an expected valuation of $3.4bn. The deal is being boosted by $170m of financing from a syndicate including Van Tuyl Companies and Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the latter – like fellow corporates Corning and Cornes- an existing Luminar investor. Expect more of these kinds of deals, judging by the volume of SPACs entering the public markets of late.

In fact, another company to follow the SPAC route is 3D metal printer producer Desktop Metal, which will list on the New York Stock Exchange through a reverse merger with a SPAC called Trine Acquisition Corp. The combined business is set to be valued at $2.5bn, Desktop Metal having previously raised $438m from investors including Koch Industries, Alphabet, Panasonic, Techtronic Industries, Ford, Saudi Aramco, Lowe’s, BMW and Stratasys.

All these IPO and reverse merger deals have perhaps obscured the fact the M&A market seems to be doing quite well too. Fastly has agreed to buy web security application provider Signal Sciences for $200m in cash and $575m in stock, and the transaction will come after about $62m in funding. That money came from investors including O’Reilly Media’s OATV unit, which is in for a tasty exit having backed it in every round since its $2m seed funding.

Kymera Therapeutics raised almost $174m in its initial public offering on Friday, pricing its shares above their range before seeing them soar by 66% after their first day of trading. The small-molecule drug developer had previously received nearly $220m in funding from investors including corporate venturing units Amgen Ventures, Lilly Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, MRL Ventures Fund and Sanofi Ventures.

Israeli digital X-ray device developer Nano-X Imaging has also floated in the US, in a $165m IPO that scored exits for corporate investors SK Telecom, iA Financial, Foxconn and Fujifilm. The company priced its shares at the top of the range and their subsequent rise almost doubled its valuation from its last pre-IPO funding round, which closed in June this year.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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