18 January 2021 – GV Returns for EQRx’s $500m Series B

The Big Ones

EQRx formally launched a year ago with $200m from investors including GV and Nextech, and all its series A investors have now returned for a $500m series B round. The startup is collaborating with stakeholders including pharmaceutical companies to develop more affordable medicines, with late-stage cancer drugs a particular focus. It is also part of an increasingly diverse portfolio of early-stage life sciences companies in GV’s portfolio.

Mobile network operator Orange is the latest corporate to spin off its venture capital unit with a healthy addition to its funding allocation. Orange Ventures will henceforth operate as an independent entity, and has received $426m in capital from its former parent company in addition to the portfolio of its predecessor, Orange Digital Ventures. That portfolio includes Monzo, Raisin and Actility.

Qualcomm Technologies has agreed to buy silicon chip technology developer Nuvia for $1.4bn less than two years after it was founded. Nuvia had raised $293m across two rounds pre-acquisition, both of which included Dell’s corporate venturing subsidiary, Dell Technologies Capital. It could well be an early marker of some of the M&A activity that will spring up as 5G technology begins to get a real foothold in the mainstream.

Dice Molecules, a US-based biopharmaceutical spinout of Stanford University, has closed an $80m series C round featuring spinout-focused investment firm Osage University Partners. RA Capital Management led the round, which also attracted Sanofi Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments on behalf of pharmaceutical firm Sanofi and real estate investment trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities. Founded in 2014, Dice Molecules has developed a drug discovery platform leveraging technology dubbed DNA-encoded library, which it hopes will make it possible to target a range of conditions with oral treatments rather than requiring injections. Its lead asset is aimed at psoriasis, and the company has been collaborating with Sanofi since 2016.

Deals

WeWork aside, Vision Fund’s biggest failure was perceived as OneWeb, the satellite internet operator that declared bankruptcy early last year after SoftBank had pumped some $2bn into the company. However, Bharti Enterprises joined the UK government to buy it for $1bn in the resulting auction, and now SoftBank is back, putting in $350m of a $400m investment expected to help OneWeb complete its initial satellite constellation. It will come out with a 30% stake, and the other $50m was put up by another pre-bankruptcy investor.

Online fitness was earmarked as one of the big growth sectors in our 2021 preview, and the first company in the space to raise big money this year is Keep, which has bagged $360m in series F funding at a valuation of about $2bn. SoftBank Vision Fund led the livestreamed fitness class provider’s latest round, which also featured existing backers Tencent and Bertelsmann Asia Investments.

Autonomous driving software developer WeRide raised $200m in series B funding from bus manufacturer Yutong Group last month and it has now added $110m to close the round at $310m. The round comes after earlier funding provided by investors including Nvidia GPU Ventures, SenseTime, Johnson Electric and Alliance Ventures.

Digital lending software provider Blend has closed a $300m series G round that doubled its valuation to $3.3bn in just five months, which is very impressive. The round was co-led by Tiger Global and Coatue, though no mention of existing corporate backer Salesforce.

Blend isn’t the only fintech developer to have experienced a huge jump in valuation last week. Cross-border payment platform developer Rapyd has also received $300m, in a series D round also led by Coatue. The series D boosted the valuation of Rapyd, which counts Stripe as an earlier investor, to $2.5bn post-money, more than double that of a year ago.

Tessera Therapeutics is the latest in a series of life sciences startups that have raised nine-figure amounts for their first external rounds, having pulled in $230m for its gene writing technology, which aims to prevent disease by rewriting the genome. The series B round was co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, which may itself be looking to get more involved in the sector.

Elsewhere in China, employee management software provider WorkTrans has announced over $190m in funding, $140m coming in a Tencent-backed series D round. The round was disclosed together with a $50.5m series C round and it increased WorkTrans’ overall funding to approximately $236m. It will support further development of the company’s HR management product, which makes use of deep learning and cloud computing technology.

SoftBank’s $5bn Latin America fund has given it a sizeable foothold on the continent, and it has co-led a $190m round for one of its portfolio companies, furnishing and home decor marketplace MadeiraMadeira. The corporate also led MadeiraMadeira’s last round, in which it secured $110m, and the funding is set to fund the expansion of the company’s brick-and-mortar footprint and a prospective range of own-brand products.

GV was among the participants in a $160m funding round for distributed database technology provider Cockroach Labs that valued it at $2bn. The Alphabet subsidiary has been a Cockroach investor since its $6.3m series A round in 2015 and has been along for every round since, as the company has hiked its total funding to $355m.

Exits

It seems amazing now that just a year ago it looked like the losses suffered by SoftBank’s Vision Fund could have severely impacted its corporate parent as a whole. There have been few bigger winners from the boom in the public markets and VC spaces, and its next exit could be from Auto1. The online car dealership has announced it plans to launch an initial public offering in Frankfurt that could raise some $1.2bn alongside a private placement. Vision Fund invested $565m in Auto1 at a $3.56bn valuation in 2018 and it’s going to be interesting to see how that valuation compares to the company’s market cap when it does float.

Dynamic window producer View announced plans for a reverse merger in November that would be boosted by $300m in PIPE financing. That amount is set to be boosted to $500m after Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC committed a further $200m, adding to some $1.8bn in earlier debt and equity financing. That capital was provided by investors including SoftBank Vision Fund 1, Corning and Seagate.

Cryptocurrency services provider Bakkt was launched by financial exchange operator Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in 2018 and less than three years on, it has agreed to a reverse merger set to value it at $2.1bn once the deal closes. It will also take an NYSE listing and $325m in PIPE financing from investors including ICE. It had raised more than $480m in venture funding from backers also including Microsoft unit M12, PayU and Boston Consulting Group.

Funds

Germany-listed food delivery service Delivery Hero has committed €50m ($61m) to set up an independently-managed, early-stage corporate venture capital firm called DX Ventures. DX Ventures will invest in sectors including on-demand services, food technology, sustainable innovation, artificial intelligence, financial technology and logistics. It will be led by managing director Duncan McIntyre.


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

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

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

Exits

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

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


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

07 January 2019 – Bristol-Myers Squibb Agrees Celgene Acquisition

Three biggest stories

In this week’s biggest deal, pharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to acquire peer Celgene in a buyout made up of cash and shares that will create a $74bn business.

Singapore-based on-demand ride service Grab has increased the potential size of a series H round already backed by several corporate investors to $5bn.

Medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific has acquired the rest of the shares in one of its portfolio companies, US-based mitral regurgitation system developer Millipede Medical, for $325m.

The rest

Deals

Verily was spun off from Alphabet’s Google X division in 2015 to apply data science technology to healthcare data in order to create innovative life sciences and care management products.

Ant Financial, e-commerce group Alibaba’s financial services affiliate, has co-led a funding round sized at almost $582m for Hello TransTech, the China-based operator of bicycle rental service Hellobike.

Woowa Brothers, a South Korea-based food delivery app owner backed by internet company CyberAgent and financial services firm Goldman Sachs, has raised $320m at a $2.6bn valuation.

Internet group Tencent has led a $300m round for China-based online education platform developer Yuanfudao.

US-based oncology drug developer Rakuten Aspyrian has completed a $284m series C round featuring e-commerce firm Rakuten and financial services provider SBI Group.

AR game developer Niantic, has secured $190m in funding in a round that could have included Samsung and Axiomatic.

The year’s first big crypto round has been raised by Bakkt, a cryptocurrency trading platform that secured approximately $183m in its first funding round.

Cancer therapy developer Antengene has completed a $120m series B round featuring insurer Taikang and pharmaceutical companies Celgene and WuXi AppTec.

On GUV, Annexon Biosciences, a US-based immunotherapy developer spun out of Stanford University, closed a $75m series C round backed by Novartis Venture Fund, the corporate venturing vehicle for pharmaceutical firm Novartis.

Exits

One of the IPOs set to take place in early 2019 will likely involve Futu, the China-based digital brokerage operator that has filed to raise up to $300m in a US offering.

Funds

E-commerce group Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform and online listings platform 58.com have co-anchored a $200m first close for a fund launched by China-based venture capital firm ATM Capital.

Oil and gas supplier Saudi Aramco and IT services provider Saudi Information Technology Company have teamed up to form a corporate venturing vehicle that will back emerging information and communication technologies.

Egypt-based financial services firm Commercial Investment Bank (CIB) has launched a corporate venturing unit called CVentures to help drive emerging technologies in the fintech sector.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is to put $1m into a university venture fund called Cactus Capital to back emerging projects led by university students, recent graduates and other academic entrepreneurs.


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