01 June 2020 – UBS Groups Prepares for Fintech Investments

The Big Ones

1

Switzerland-based bank UBS Group is setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars of its money to invest in financial technology companies, according to Bloomberg.

UBS hired Erasmus Elsner for its venture capital and growth equity unit last month but is reportedly still recruiting staff for a dedicated corporate venture capital (CVC) team. It is planning a corporate VC fund to make investments between $10m and $20m in dozens of companies targeting bank/client engagement, investing and financing platforms and the improvement of the bank’s underlying operations, a source told Bloomberg.

Mike Dargan, UBS’s Global Head Group Technology, said: “UBS wants to further engage with and support fintech firms. The new venture investment portfolio is a next step to accelerate our innovation and digitisation efforts.”

2

It’s a scary-enough headline, ‘Huawei Banned, So Let’s Invade Taiwan to Take TSMC?’, in reaction to the strict set of rules announced by the US government on May 15 in a bid to cut the China-based 5G and telecoms equipment maker off from the global semiconductor ecosystem.

In its subsequent report, “US strategic approach to the People’s Republic of China,” published on the 20th, the US said: “The administration is implementing the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act to update and strengthen the capacity of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to address growing national security concerns over foreign exploitation of investment structures, which previously fell outside CFIUS jurisdiction.

“This includes preventing Chinese companies from exploiting access to US innovation through minority investments in order to modernise the Chinese military. The US has updated its export control regulations, particularly in light of Beijing’s whole-of-society strategy and its efforts to acquire advanced technologies related to hypersonics, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other emerging and foundational technologies. We are also engaging allies and partners to develop their own foreign investment screening mechanisms, and to update and implement export controls collaboratively through multilateral regimes and other forums….

“Domestically, the Administration is taking steps to strengthen the US economy and promote economic sectors of the future, such as 5G technology, through tax reforms and a robust deregulatory agenda. The President’s ‘Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence’ is an example of a US government initiative to promote investment and collaboration to ensure the US continues to lead in innovation and setting standards for a growing industry.”

But the horse might have bolted. The ChinaTalk article at the top suggests Huawei has done enough over the past few years to survive, stating: “The main issue is supporting Huawei in maintaining its dominant position in 5G and helping it continue to be able to supply the needs of 5G bases.

3

The US healthcare system has many virtues, but it is simply too expensive and hard for consumers to access care, according to insiders. Coastal Americans’ faith in their system has been shaken by the coronavirus and this has created opportunities for some. Jeff Bennett, CEO of startup Higi, is trying to tackle the issue and has received a fillip with a new round of funding.

UK-based personal healthcare provider Babylon has joined the ranks of new corporate venturers by leading the latest round for US-based health engagement technology developer Higi.

The round was reportedly $30m in size and Higi’s previous investors, 7Wire Ventures, Flare Capital Partners, Jumpstart Capital, Rush University Medical Center for Health and William Wrigley Jr, also took part. Higi raised $25.8m in 2018, according to a regulatory filing, from investors including Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated venture firm Sandbox Industries, though Sandbox has said it is now no longer an investor.

4

Similarly, money is flowing in other parts of healthcare and life sciences. The power of science fiction films retains its hold in inspiring inventors but the secret to corporate venturing and open innovation lies in retaining optionality.

Drawing on inspiration from Star Trek, Vaxxas, a Queensland University, Australia, spin-out, has developed technology which could mean vaccine delivery via needles and syringes could soon be a thing of the past.

The World Economic Forum named the company a Technology Pioneer in late 2014 and over the past decade the company has been working on a nanopatch, based on research at the university’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, that delivers vaccines painlessly and more efficiently than syringes.

5

Cisco intends to purchase the network analytics software producer, which had raised more than $110m from investors including GV and Salesforce Ventures, for a reported $1bn.

Networking equipment manufacturer Cisco agreed yesterday to acquire ThousandEyes, a US-based network management software provider backed by internet and technology conglomerate Alphabet and enterprise software producer Salesforce.

The price was reported by Bloomberg as being approximately $1bn, a figure confirmed to CNBC by a person familiar with the matter. Cisco expects the transaction to close by the end of next month.

Founded in 2010, ThousandEyes provides cloud analytics software that collects data from a range of access points, such as data centres and consumer devices, to identify potential sources of disruption and ensure websites, applications and services are delivered optimally.

Deals

Genome sequencing technology developer MGI Tech has closed a $1bn series B round, four years after being formed as a subsidiary of genome research organisation BGI. The round, which follows a $200m series A a year ago, shows the potential value in spinning off valuable subsidiaries, and it follows a $265m round for another China-based spinoff, smart sensor and power semiconductor provider BYD Semiconductor (see yesterday).

Chinese online grocer MissFresh has seen business pick up sharply during the coronavirus lockdown and has accordingly raised funding at a reported $3bn pre-money valuation. The company’s existing backers include Tencent and Lenovo but the only new investor revealed in media reports is CICC Fund. Bloomberg reported in the last few days that it was set to raise roughly $500m.

SpaceX meanwhile goes from strength to strength, the spacecraft producer and launch services provider expanding its latest funding round to $346m and surpassing its original target of a $250m close. Elon Musk has got a lot of flack over the past few years, but it’s worth noting that Tesla’s shares are continuing to rise while Alphabet-backed SpaceX is still growing – to a $36bn+ valuation, if reports from earlier this year are accurate.

Electric carmaker BYD is preparing for a Hong Kong Stock Exchange listing and as part of a restructuring effort it is spinning off semiconductor and sensor subsidiary BYD Semiconductor with $265m in external funding. Sequoia Capital China, CICC Capital and SDIC Venture Capital are co-leading the round, which will value the subsidiary at more than $1.3bn. Originally known as BYD Microelectronic, it was formed in 2004.

Marqeta makes off with $150m

Insitro has created a machine learning-equipped drug discovery platform and has secured $143m in a series B round featuring WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, GV and Alexandria Venture Investments. GV had already contributed to the $100m in series A funding with which Insitro emerged from stealth in mid-2018, at a $1.05bn valuation.

Arvelle arcs to series A close

Pie Insurance picks out $127m

Bolt flashes on fresh funding

AbCellera has built an antibody drug discovery system and has secured $105m in a series B round featuring Eli Lilly, having signed a collaboration agreement with the pharmaceutical firm last week. In fact it’s been a great few weeks for Canada-based AbCellera, which got a commitment for up to $125m in financing from government agency Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada at the start of this month.

Elsewhere in China, Xiaomi has invested almost $103m in power bank producer Zimi through a cash-and-stock deal that increased its stake in the company from 22.5% to 49.9%. Zimi was already part of the Xiaomi ecosystem, a strategic investment initiative intended to construct a network of companies producing Xiaomi-compatible products. That network reportedly now encompasses some 300 portfolio companies.

Mindstrong mines Optum for $100m series C

Oxford Nanopore expands latest round

CFS sees out $84m series A2 round

Exits

Sendo and Tiki test the waters for merger

Roche reaches for portfolio company Stratos

UA’s FreeFall Aerospace completes merger

Kintor Pharmaceutical has however successfully floated in Hong Kong, pricing its initial public offering at the top of the range to raise $240m. The IPO featured a $115m cornerstone investment by appliance maker Gree, which provided $89m, Highlight Capital and Foresight Fund. It was 500-times oversubscribed according to Kintor, which is developing prostate and breast cancer drugs, and which plans to now expand into hair loss treatment.

VeriSilicon vies for $111m in IPO

Avidity to invade public markets

Burning Rock files for $100m IPO

Pliant places IPO terms

Nanoform to shape $76.7m IPO

Funds

U-M taps Deerfield for Great Lakes Discoveries


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

18 November 2019 – Orbital Insight Enters $50m Series D

The Big Ones

Chevron Technology Ventures has thrown its weight behind US-based geospatial software technology provider Orbital Insight, which also welcomed back GV and Sky Perfect JSAT.

Softbank over the past few years has tended to skew the numbers and so it’s significant to hear the group has quietly completed a first close on its second Vision Fund, and according to Bloomberg, the amount investors have committed is $2 billion, a far cry from the $108 billion that it has said that it’s targeting.

Once bitten, twice shy appears to be the new motto for the SoftBank Vision Fund, which said it is now pushing companies to seek a profit rather than “chasing growth for the sake of growth”. That approach has meant the fund did agree to backing a $1bn round for fintech developer Paytm, but has put in a clause that it must go public within five years or else SoftBank will have the right to dump its shareholding. That’s a significant turning point for the fund that was previously hell-bent on scaling companies globally without any concern for high burn rates.

Funds

Salesforce forges $50m Consultant Trailblazer Fund

Heidelberg sets up new tech transfer operation

Deals

Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, a logistics services platform co-founded by Alibaba, Fosun Group and Intime Retail Group six years ago, has collected another $3.33bn from Alibaba, thereby increasing the corporate’s majority stake (which it had held since 2017) from 51% to 63%. The deal included a secondary share purchase, though the size is unclear and it is unknown which investor decided to sell. Cainiao’s investors also include government-owned investments firms Temasek, GIC and Khazanah Nasional, as well as Primavera and, according to TechCrunch, several unnamed logistics firms.

Xiaopeng Motors (also known as Xpeng) may not be much of a known quantity in the Western world, but the smart EV developer has already sold more than 10,000 of its first model, an SUV called G3. It also has some powerful corporate investors with Alibaba, Foxconn and UCar. And now it’s added another to the list: Xiaomi, which has led a $400m series C round for Xiaopeng as part of a strategic partnership. There might be a lot of Tesla cars in Silicon Valley, but globally the competition is clearly heating up.

OLX has committed $400m to Frontier Car Group (FCG), a Germany-based second-hand car marketplace operator, that it will invest over multiple tranches and reportedly includes a secondary share purchase of undisclosed size.

CapitalG has been busy. The growth equity arm of Alphabet once known as Google Capitalhas taken part in a $400m series D round for US-based trucking services provider Convoy, which will use the money to accelerate business growth.

And CapitalG also co-led a $150m series H round for CRM software provider Freshworks with Sequoia Capital and Accel. The round valued Freshworks at $3.5bn – though it remains subject to customary closing conditions, including US antitrust regulatory clearance.

Many will be familiar with password manager 1Password, but not for its funding history. In fact, the 14-year-old company has never raised equity – until now, that is, and it’s attracted a respectable $200m in series A capital from investors including Slack Fund.

Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures meanwhile returned for a $157m series D round for US-based education benefits software provider Guild Education. General Catalyst led the round, and its chairman and managing director Ken Chenault (who was previously in charge of American Express) will join the board of directors.

ACV Auctions – the US-based online automotive marketplace backed by telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank – has picked up $150m in a series E roundco-led by Fidelity and Wellington Management Company less than a year after closing a $50m series D round.

Avidity devotes itself to $100m series C

AMP amplifies $16m

PureLifi lights up $18m

Exits

The bad news keep on coming for We Co and the latest development is its decision to divest its stake in US-based women-focused work and social space provider The Wing and sell off US-based social networking platform Meetup. We Co owns a 23% stake in The Wing, but not only has the corporate struggled to survive its failed attempt at going public, its chief legal officer Jen Berrent is also facing a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination, allegedly calling employee Medina Bardhi’s pregnancy a “problem” that needed “a solution” and “to be fixed,” according to the court filing. Berrent is currently a board member of The Wing, but she is expected to lose that position following the stake sale.

HawkEye 360 is one of the more successful university spinouts formed by commercialisation firm Allied Minds (which itself has had a tumultuous year with multiple executive-level changes) and that’s led the firm to sell its entire stake to family office Advance. The latter has also chosen to boost HawkEye’s series B round to $85m, following a $70m first tranche that featured Airbus and Esri this past August.

Money Forward yields Smartcamp

Considering Nikkei and Ant Financial-backed 36Kr, and in particular its news portal 36Kr Media, is sometimes hailed as the Crunchbase of China, you might have expected its IPO in the US to go a little better than it did, but the company is the latest to disappoint investors after not only pricing shares at the bottom of the range at $14.50, but also deciding to issue just 1.4 million shares instead of 3.6 million – raising merely a fifth of its targeted $100m in proceeds. Adding insult to injury, shares dropped by 10% on the first day of trading to close at $13.06.

SpaceMarket gets ready for IPO take-off

Lancers sets its sights on IPO

Makuake makes its way to TSE

Another company that’s not been very active on the funding front is OneConnect Financial Technology, a Singapore-based fintech platform that that was spun out of insurance group Ping An, two years ago.


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