14 September 2020 – Online Education Company Byju Raising $500m

The Big Ones

Online education has firmly established itself as the key sector in India’s startup space, and Byju’s has effectively confirmed that, raising an amount reported by TechCrunch to be $500m. Byju’s, which is backed by Tencent, Naspers and Times Internet, was valued at $10.8bn post-money in the round, which came in the wake of it adding an extraordinary 20 million users since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. That means the company has almost trebled its valuation inside two years.

Saudi Aramco has a market cap of some $1.8 trillion but is looking to explore diversification into other areas besides oil and gas (perhaps not surprisingly given the direction of oil prices this year). To that end, it has formed a $1bn fund called Prosperity 7 Ventures that is tasked with investing in innovative technologies like AI, 5G, robotics, blockchain and the internet of things. It will join the company’s Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures unit as well as its Wa’ed Ventures vehicle.

Illumina spinoff Grail has filed for what may be one of this year’s biggest healthtech IPOs. The cancer diagnostics technology developer has set a $100m placeholder target for the offering but has raised $1.9bn in venture funding from investors including Johnson & Johnson, WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Varian, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Bristol-Myers Squibb, McKesson, Celgene, Alphabet and Merck & Co. It was valued at a reported $3.2bn back in 2018, prior to its last round.

X-over: Recursion, a University of Utah spinout, is using digital technologies such as automation and machine learning to develop drugs for various diseases and has built up a 30-strong drug pipeline, four of which have reached the clinical trials stage. It has also secured $239m in a series D round led by a $50m investment from Leaps by Bayer. The unit’s parent company, Bayer, has also formed a strategic partnership with Recursion, which was valued at about $1.2bn post-money.

Deals

Industrial technology has not been among the winners during the coronavirus lockdown, but advanced materials producer Zymergen has nevertheless snagged $300m in a series D round led by investment manager Bailie Gifford. The company, which has developed a bio-based polyimide film called Hyaline, has now raised a total of $874m in funding, its earlier backers including SoftBank Vision Fund and Hanwha Asset Management.

A sector that hasn’t done brilliantly – for understandable reasons – is ride hailing, but that impact has been somewhat mitigated by the fact several companies in that space have seen their food delivery businesses pick up. Southeast Asia’s Grab will hypothetically see an uptick in its digital financial services arm, Grab Financial Group, and the subsidiary is reportedly in advanced talks with investors including insurers AIA and Prudential to raise $300m to $500m at a valuation of roughly $2bn. That funding would support an expansion into wealth management and the possible securing of an online banking licence.

Melio, developer of an online payment management platform for businesses, revealed today it has collected a total of $144m in funding since 2018, most recently netting $80m in a series C round last month. It hasn’t provided precise details but did say its backers include American Express Ventures. Amex’s corporate venturing unit has quietly been racking up some big exits over the last two or three years, most notably from Plaid, iZettle and Bill.com, showing that CVC investing can bag some nice returns alongside strategic interests.

AnyVision, an image and facial recognition software provider that counts Qualcomm Ventures and Robert Bosch among its backers, has pulled in $43m in funding from unnamed investors. The deal comes just over a year after its $74m series A round and roughly four months after Microsoft subsidiary M12, a participant in that round, announced it was divesting its stake due to doubts about the ethics of the use of facial recognition technology by governments.

Funds

Thursday/Friday were a heady 24 hours for corporate fund announcements (which included the Saudi Aramco vehicle we talked about earlier). And Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development has launched an $800m growth-stage fund called Woven Capital that will back Toyota AI Ventures portfolio companies as they grow, in addition to backing external venture funds. Companies backed by the early-stage vehicle that have raised big rounds of late include personal aircraft developer Joby Aviation, driver safety technology provider Nauto and electric bus producer Proterra.

Santander has had a good degree of success since launching its Santander Innoventures unit with $100m in 2014, snagging big exits from iZettle and Kabbage while accessing technology from several portfolio companies. It has now spun off the unit into an autonomously managed fund dubbed Mouro Capital and doubled its capital allocation again from $200m to $400m. It will make initial investments of about $15m at early and growth stage.

Exits

KAR Auction Services has agreed to acquire BacklotCars, the owner of an online dealer-to-dealer automotive marketplace, for $425m, enabling Renren to exit. BacklotCars had raised roughly $50m pre-acquisition. Renren has pulled back from corporate venturing almost completely since 2017, but it’s going to be interesting to see if it can pull some more big exits out of its existing portfolio.

Fabless semiconductor maker 3Peak is set to bag $339m in its IPO, on the red-hot Shanghai Star Exchange. The Huawei-backed company is simply the latest to choose the Star Exchange to go public, the market having benefited from regulations introduced by US exchanges to combat what was perceived as unsatisfactory accounting practices by Chinese companies. It will also jointly host what may be the biggest IPO ever, when Ant Financial floats later this year.

Progress has bought software deployment automation platform Chef in another nine-figure acquisition deal, paying $220m in cash for the company. Chef had received a total of $105m in funding, most recently securing $40m in a 2015 series E round that included Citi Ventures and Hewlett Packard Ventures, which passed its stake in the company on to Hewlett Packard Pathfinder.

Emphysema treatment device developer Pulmonx has filed for an $86.3m offering that would provide exits to Boston Scientific and Posco Bioventures. The former is Pulmonx’s largest investor, the owner of a stake that tops 30%.

Episerver has signed an agreement to purchase Optimizely, a web optimisation software producer that has raised roughly $200m from backers including Accenture Ventures, GV, Citi Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. The size of the deal has not been disclosed but it will consist of a mixture of cash and shares. It comes less than two months after Optimizely revealed it had cut staff numbers by about 15% in the wake of impact from Covid-19.


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

07 September 2020 – QuantumScape in Reverse Merger with Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp

The Big Ones

Online education has been one of the big growth sectors during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s particularly true in China, and as one of the biggest players Yuanfudao has likely seen a decent chunk of that growth. The company raised $1bn at a $7.8bn valuation less than six months ago but is now reportedly lining up $1.2bn in additional funding from investors including Tencent at a whopping $13bn valuation. Tencent first invested in Yuanfudao in 2016 and it’s one of several online education-focused companies in the corporate’s portfolio.

US-based venture capital firm Bitkraft Ventures has closed its second fund at $165m with backers including apparel producer Adidas, media group Advance Publications, computer peripherals manufacturer Logitech and advertising group WPP. Family office Carolwood and investment firms Declaration Partners and JS Capital are also among the limited partners for the fund, which had an initial target size of $125m for its close. Bitkraft Ventures Fund I will target early-stage deals in the gaming, esports and interactive media sectors. It has already begun investing and, together with Bitkraft’s Pre-Seed Fund, has built a portfolio of more than 50 companies across North America, Europe and Asia.

Exits is also a crossover: The reverse merger trend is really beginning to pick up steam. The latest company to take the plunge is solid-state battery developer QuantumScape, a Stanford spinout, which has agreed to merge with publicly-listed special purpose acquisition company Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp in a deal that will value the combined business at $3.3bn. QuantumScape’s largest investor is Volkswagen, which has provided some $300m since 2018 and which plans to use the batteries in its vehicles. Other shareholders include Continental, SAIC Motor and Bill Gates.

Deals

Neon Pagamentos has agreed $300m in funding through a two-tranche series C round featuring PayPal Ventures and the BBVA-backed Propel Venture Partners. The digital bank, one of a new wave of Latin American tech companies raising big rounds, has earmarked the funding for hiring, technology development and the expansion of a user base that currently takes in some 9 million consumer and business accounts.

Zomato remains locked in an online food delivery war with Indian peer Swiggy but has raised new funding to help it expand, taking $262m in late-stage funding from Temasek, Tiger Global Management and Kora Capital at a reported $3bn valuation. Its existing backers include Ant Financial, Delivery Hero and Info Edge as well as Uber, which acquired a 10% stake in January by merging the Indian operations of its Uber Eats subsidiary into the company.

Online real estate marketplace PropertyGuru Group is another company that has extended a popular e-commerce model into an emerging market, in this case Southeast Asia, and it has raised $220m from existing investors TPG and KKR to take its overall funding to more than $550m. PropertyGuru’s existing backers include Emtek, which has been forced to wait for an exit after the company postponed an initial public offering supposed to take place late last year.

Peer-to-peer lending platform Auxmoney has secured $178m in a round led by private equity firm Centerbridge that will also involve Centerbridge buying secondary shares in order to become its majority investor. Auxmoney’s existing backers will each retain shares in the company, though the selling shareholders will likely include Aegon and its corporate venturing unit Transamerica Ventures. Another corporate backer, broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1, had already exited in 2017.

India-based edtech player Unacademy has raised a $150m series F round backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Facebook. The round valued Uncademy at $1.45bn, a huge jump from the $510m valuation at which it last raised money, just over six months ago. Facebook also took part in that round, the company’s $110m series E.

One of India’s biggest players in the edtech sector is Byju’s, which has raised $122m from DST Global to take its series F funding to $145m. The round values Tencent-backed Byju’s at $10.5bn – up from $8bn when it raised money at the start of this year – and the company is targeting $400m for the close of the round.

Rounding off the education funding frenzy is Eruditus, which partners universities to create adult learning courses and which has just secured $113m in a series D round co-led by Naspers-backed vehicle Prosus Ventures. The funding was raised at a post-money valuation in excess of $700m, and the company’s earlier backers include Bertelsmann India Investments.

Patreon on the other hand operates a financial subscription service that supports creatives – it’s a business model replicated by another corporate-backed company, Steady.fm, that is popular in German-speaking countries. Patreon, whose earlier investors include talent management agencies CAA and UTA, has now hit a $1.2bn valuation in a $90m series E round co-led by venture firms New Enterprise Associates and Wellington Management. It said this week it expects to oversee $1bn of payments a year to members going forward. It will also double-down on its international expansion, by adding more currencies, so it will interesting to see how Steady.fm will fare when the much bigger Patreon moves in.

Funds

Xfund, a US-based venture capital firm aligned to Harvard University, debuted a third investment fund with $120m in contributions from undisclosed limited partners. Xfund aims to leverage innovation from top-tier universities globally in a partnership helmed by Harvard together with New Enterprise Associates, Breyer Capital, Accel Partners and Polaris Partners. The fund was set up to combine investment rigour with business models based on free-thinking and intellectual awareness from academic founders with unconventional backgrounds such as liberal arts graduates.

Exits

The latest promising tech company to agree a reverse merger is esports competition platform developer Skillz, which will go public through a merger with Flying Eagle Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company that floated in a $600m initial public offering in March. The transaction values Skillz at $3.5bn and it comes less than a year after 32 Equity, which represents all 32 NFL teams, invested in the company. It had raised a total of $53m from backers including Telstra, Liberty Global and Kraft Group as of 2017.

Shenzhen Hymson Laser Intelligent Equipments produces equipment such as laser cutters and welders for use in manufacturing, and has raised $107m in an initial public offering on Shanghai’s Star Exchange. Its shareholders include Legend Capital, the venture firm spun off by conglomerate Legend Holdings, which took part in a 2018 seed round and which owns a 2.7% stake post-IPO.


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

06 July 2020 – Zuoyebang Pulls In $750m in Series E Funding

The Big Ones

China’s online education sector is one of the areas where growth is currently moving fastest. Yuanfudao raised $1bn in a series G round in March, and now Zuoyebang, which was spun off by Baidu five years ago, has pulled in $750m in series E funding from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund. The round, co-led by FountainVest Partners and Tiger Global Management, follows reports earlier this month that Zuoyebang was in talks for a round set to value it at $6.5bn pre-money.

We’ll get to IPOs in a few minutes (and wow, have there been a lot of IPOs again) but the biggest exit by value was fitness apparel brand Lululemon agreeing to buy home fitness equipment producer Mirror in a $500m transaction as it looks to build a fitness product ecosystem with itself at the centre. Lululemon had already invested in Mirror as part of its $34m series B-1 round in November, but a bigger influence may be another home fitness brand, Peloton, whose share price has tripled since the early days of the coronavirus lockdowns.

B Capital Group, the US-based venture capital firm affiliated with consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), has closed its second fund at $820m. Founded in 2014, B Capital targets growth-stage deals and pursues a portfolio management strategy that involves connecting its companies to corporates which can help them scale, through a network provided by BCG. The firm invests between $10m and $60m per round, at series B to D stage, and its areas of interest include enterprise software as well as financial, healthcare, consumer, transportation and logistics technology. B Capital now has $1.44bn of assets under management. It had closed an oversubscribed first fund at $360m in early 2018.

In crossover news (one of many crossover news, including IPOs, because that is the world we live in now…), McMaster University spinout Fusion Pharma raised $213m in its upsized IPO, which allowed Johnson & Johnson, Varian Medical and Nan Fung to exit the cancer radiotherapy developer after helping to contribute $158m in funding. The listing also offered an exit to FACIT, a commercialisation unit backed by Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the province of Ontario.

Deals

Online grocery delivery platform Xingsheng Youxuan has reportedly secured existing investor Tencent for a $300m series C round that looks likely to close this month. The round is set to triple Xingsheng Youxuan’s valuation to $3bn but it operates in a crowded sector dominated by some very big players, and once the smoke clears it’s going to be no surprise at all to see some serious consolidation take place.

Oscar has been one of the main players in online insurance for quite a while, and its latest round has involved it securing $225m from investors including Alphabet. The corporate has been an Oscar backer since 2015 and injected $375m at a reported valuation of $3.75bn in late 2018. There’s room for growth too, given the company’s offering still only spans 15 of the 50 US states. Its overall funding now stands at $1.53bn.

Coty already owns a string of famous beauty and fashion brands but it made some major waves late last year when it announced it was paying some $600m for a 51% stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty brand. It must have regarded that as a good deal because it’s paying $200m for a 20% stake in KKW Beauty, the brand formed by another member of the Kardashian family, Kim Kardashian West. The deal will involve Coty helping KKW expand an offering that already includes make-up, skincare, shapewear and fragrance products.

Freeline, a UK-based gene therapy spinout from University College London (UCL) formed by commercialisation firm Syncona, has closed a $120m series C round featuring the latter investor as well as Novo, which co-led the round with Eventide Asset Management and Wellington Management Company. Syncona had supplied $40m in a first tranche in December 2019 and retains a majority stake of 60%, down from 80%.

Caffeine is the operator of a livestreaming entertainment service that has built part of its reputation by hosting live rap battles. The company is however looking to widen its offering to additional content having already broadcast sporting content from partner Fox Sports. The latter’s parent company, Fox Corporation, has just co-led Caffeine’s $113m series D round with fellow corporate Cox Enterprises and Saudi Arabia’s Sanabil Investments. The round values Caffeine at $600m and follows a $100m investment by 21st Century Fox two years ago.

There’s an intriguing deal coming from Poseida Therapeutics as well. You may remember last week we talked about the company filing to go public through a $115m IPO, but it’s now slotted in almost that same amount in a series D round, raising $110m from investors led by funds advised by investment and financial services group Fidelity. Novartis wasn’t part of the consortium this time, however.

Stanford University spinout Annexon is developing treatments for autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders and has raised $100m in a round that increased its overall funding to more than $250m. Redmile Group led a round that included another dozen named investors, though Novartis Venture Fund – an investor since its 2014 series A-1 round – was not among them.

Goldfinch Bio, a US-based kidney disease medication developer co-founded by faculty from Harvard and Yale, has closed an oversubscribed $100m series B round featuring Gilead Sciences to pay for three clinical trials of its two lead candidates aimed at kidney diseases.

Another sector that’s been boosted by potential customers staying home is online education, and one of the biggest names in the sector is India-based Byju’s. Its latest funding intake may not be as big as Xingsheng Youxuan’s – it’s raised less than $100m from VC firm Bond – but the deal reportedly values it at $10.5bn. Its existing investors include Tencent, Times Internet and Naspers, and recent reports suggested it was after $400m for its next round.

Exits

Although there’s no doubt the economy as a whole will suffer considerably from Covid-19 and the attendant lockdowns, several parts of the VC and tech space have prospered. There’s a neat snapshot of the kinds of businesses that have done well of late today, starting with drug developer Genor Biopharma, which has filed for a $320m initial public offering in Hong Kong. Pharmaceutical companies have been rushing to float in the US, and the target set by Genor, an autoimmune disease and cancer therapy developer backed by Charoen Pokphand, indicates the trend is moving into East Asia.

Lemonade has also achieved a successful initial public offering, the digital property and casualty insurance provider floating above an already increased range to raise $319m. That’s relative in this case however, as the $1.9bn valuation achieved in the IPO is still below that of its last round, a $300m series D led by SoftBank and backed by GV and Allianz last year. The company’s investors also include XL Catlin’s corporate venturing arm, XL Catlin.

Accolade, the developer of a digital concierge for the healthcare benefits system, has gone public in yet another upsized IPO, the company floating above its range in a $220m initial public offering having also increased the number of shares. It priced them at $22 each and the shares closed their first day of trading yesterday within touching distance of $30. Its investors include Comcast Venture, McKesson Ventures, Humana and Independence Health Group.

Akouos was one of two life sciences companies (the other being Fusion Pharma we talked about earlier) to raise $213m in an initial public offering, both having increased the number of shares by 50% before floating above their ranges. Investors in Akouos, a developer of gene therapy treatments for hearing loss, include Novartis Venture Fund and Partners Innovation Fund, and it had raised more than $160m pre-IPO.

Online automotive retailer Shift Technologies has so far raised some $300m in financing from investors including BMW i Ventures, Lithia Motors and Alliance Ventures, but is eschewing a straightforward IPO in favour of a reverse merger deal. It will merge with special purpose acquisition company Insurance Acquisition in a transaction that will be buoyed by $185m from investors including Fidelity and ArrowMark Partners.

Lidar technology developer Velodyne Lidar has also eschewed an IPO in favour of a reverse merger, one that will involve it merging with NYSE-listed special purpose acquisition company Graf Industrial in a deal that will value the merged entity at $1.8bn. Velodyne raised $150m from Ford and Baidu in 2016, $25m from Nikon two years later and another $50m from Hyundai Mobis late last year.

It now seems ages since augmented reality was being touted as the next big thing. Magic Leap seems to have stalled after raising some $3bn in funding, and now North Wearables, the AR glasses developer formerly known as Thalmic Labs, has been bought by Google for a reported $180m. North had received about $170m from investors including Intel Capital and Amazon Alexa Fund, but the deal is perhaps more interesting because it indicates Google’s interest in the space is still alive some five years after it withdrew the consumer version of its Google Glass from sale.

QuantumCTek, a China-based quantum technology spinout of University of Science and Technology of China, is seeking $102m in an initial public offering on the Star Market. The company plans to issue 20 million shares at $5.12 each. It had originally anticipated to raise $42.8m when it first revealed plans to go public in November 2019. The IPO will also offer an exit to Legend Capital, which had supplied an undisclosed amount in 2016. The university’s USTC Holdings owns an 18% stake in the spinout, which will be diluted to 13.5%.

Berkeley Lights, a US-based digital cell biology developer based on research at University of California, Berkeley, has filed to raise up to $100m in an initial public offering that would enable corporates Nikon and Varian Medical Systems to exit. Berkeley Lights has created technology that captures single-cell specific information to support the development of cell-based products including antibody therapeutics or cell therapies.

Funds

Seeds Capital, a venture capital arm of government agency Enterprise Singapore, has agreed to partner with institutions including three corporate venturing units to co-invest S$50m ($36m). The initiative is backed by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and will involve Seeds Capital and the consortium investing the money in some 50 maritime technology startups in order to improve efficiency and safety in the industry. Innoport, the investment vehicle for ship operator Schulte Group, is one of the six partners, as are KSL Maritime Ventures, a subsidiary of conglomerate Kuok Group, and PSA Unboxed, which represents port manager PSA International. The partners also include incubator operator Rainmaking, marine technology venture builder TecPier and ShipsFocus-Quest Ventures, which was formed by shipping intelligence provider ShipsFocus and VC firm Quest Ventures.


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

11 May 2020 – Intel picks up Moovit for $900m

Big Stories

Korys, the family office behind the France and Belgium-based retailer Colruyt Group, and Mérieux Equity Partners, the asset management arm of the Institut Mérieux holding company, have set up joint funds targeting companies in the healthcare and nutrition sectors in Europe and North America.

OMX Europe Venture Fund has raised more than €60m from Korys and Mérieux and third party subscribers and is targeting a final close at €90m. OMX Europe will be managed by Mérieux Equity Partners in Europe, with the operational support of Korys’ Life Science team as a key advisor to the fund.

The value of Intel’s acquisition of Israel-based urban mobility app developer Moovit for a $900m enterprise value lies almost as much as what it says about the ecosystem developed there over the past 30 years since Russian immigration after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Israel had always battled its neighbours and developed a strong military but the influx of people needing jobs helped catalyse a startup ecosystem and funding of venture capitalists to enable it.

The integration of corporate research and development and venturing units has catalysed this trend even further over the past decade, as identified in the latest GCV Israelconference in February.

We have seen some big deals so far this year in the financial services sector, with Visa acquiring Plaid and Mastercard joining AvidXchange, but while payments remains localised in many cases the opportunities to join up the global commerce world beckons.

Hence the after-market performance of Australia-listed Afterpay, which surged following China-based Tencent’s acquisition of a 5% stake. Alibaba had its purchase of Western Union’s spinout MoneyGram turned down by US authorities but is also trying to become the global payments provider of choice given Chinese blocks on Visa and Mastercard’s expansion in the world’s second-largest economy.

We live in a world of seemingly the very large and the very small.
An exabyte of data is the equivalent of a stack of DVDs about 255.3 kilometres high. Each transistor in a state-of-the-art chip measures only 5 nanometres (nm) — the length a human fingernail grows in five seconds.
The world increasingly turns around data and processing power and if data is the new oil the 21st century wars could see as many wars fought over control of the ones and zeros as were fought over black gold in the last century. In which case Taiwan becomes an important centre to watch.
In last month’s Global China, Saif Khan and Carrick Flynn argued for maintaining China’s dependence on democracies for advanced computer chips through export controls. These democracies, particularly Taiwan, the US and South Korea, lead the development of the most advanced chips – those with transistors of between 5nm and 16nm.

Japan has struggled to keep up and so it was little surprise in the past week to seeDealStreetAsia report Japanese venture capital firm Jafco has made the final close of its debut Taiwan venture fund at NT$2bn ($67.1m) with limited partners including the National Development Fund of Taiwan.

Funds

Kurma sets the stage for $175m fund

Some areas may not be an obvious choice for investment in the time of lockdown but it seems the automotive sector is well and truly alive with Autotech Ventures announcing that it has closed its second fund at more than $150mthanks to a long list of corporate LPs – though only Lear, Stoneridge, Bridgestone and Volvo were identified. The firm now has more than $270m under management and will, apart from the obvious areas of connectivity, automation and electrification, also explore more niche investments, such as junkyard inventory management technologies.

University

Shift hits play on $70m fund

Fitz Gate seals second Princeton-focused fund

Edinburgh sparks food science incubator

Deals

It is easy enough to forget, with the world’s focus on coronavirus, that other diseases are costing countless more human lives. Chief among these is cancer, some forms of which have become easier to treat but prognoses are still significantly better the earlier the disease is caught. Illumina spun out Grail four years ago to make that early detection a reality through a blood test that can not only detect the presence of more than 50 different cancer indications but can also tell the oncologist where in the body the cancerous tissue is – all while boasting an almost negligible false positive rate of less than 1%. But developing such a test costs a lot of money, so it is heartening to see that Illumina and others have doubled down on the company and backed a $390m series D round that brought Grail’s total funding to some $2bn.

Another company that has done well out of people asked to stay at home is Byju’s, the online education provider backed by Prosus and Tencent, which is looking to add $400m to an ongoing funding round that reportedly already stands at $300m to $350m. Better news for the company still: it is set to push its valuation from $8bn just three months ago to more than $10bn. That seems fast, and it is, but consider that Byju’s added six million users in March alone and India’s lockdown was only implemented in the last week of that month.

Octopus Energy, a British renewable energy supplier that has steadily grown to more than 1.3 million customers since it was launched five years ago, has attracted its first external funding thanks to a $327m commitment from Origin Energy in return for a 20% stake. Origin made the investment specifically to secure a licence for Kraken, Octopus’ cloud-based software platform to interact with customers and enable functionality such as wholesale market trading and consumption forecasting. With Australia increasingly feeling the impact of global warming (even if the catastrophic fires earlier this year already seem like a distant memory), partnering with a green energy supplier is a welcome move.

Another sector that is doing well out of reduced human contact are financial services providers and N26 has wasted no time in adding $100m to a series D round that now stands at $570m. Notably, the additional capital was raised at a flat valuation of $3.5bn. That may not be too unusual for a third tranche, but the company had managed to increase its valuation by $800m between the first and second tranche, backed by Tencent and Allianz X. Consider, however, that N26 actually pulled out of market between the first and second extension, as the UK’s exit from the European Union just caused too much of a headache for the digital bank that relies on an EU-wide banking licence for its business.

Robinhood captures $280m series F

SoftBank and its Vision Fund may have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, but that doesn’t mean there is no support left for portfolio companies. Indeed, new and used car trading platform operator Chehaoduo has secured an additional $200m from the Vision Fund and Sequoia Capital to add to a $1.5bn initial series D tranche – supplied in full by the corporate – in February last year. It may not be an obvious candidate to raise money in the current climate, but with trouble brewing elsewhere in the fund’s portfolio, an automotive marketplace and after-sales services provider seems like a decent bet.

SoftBank also hasn’t had the best experience dealing with Mexico’s regulator the Federal Economic Competition Commission (Cofece), having been sanctioned recently because it failed to notify Cofece that it had acquired a larger stake in WeWork. You can understand then that the corporate treaded a bit more carefully with its lead investment in US-based digital lending platform AlphaCredit’s $125m series B round through the Vision Fund. AlphaCredit, which targets customers in Mexico and Colombia, had initially announced the deal in January, but it took until last week for Cofece to give the all-clear. That timing is good news not just for SoftBank and AlphaCredit, but also for the consumers and SMEs that are in desperate need of loans right now to weather the crisis.

Ninja Van picks up $279m in funding

Asapp accesses $185m series B

Flint Hills Resources, the chemicals and biofuel subsidiary of conglomerate Koch Industries, is not a corporate backer we come across often on GCV – in fact, it has seemingly only taken part in half a dozen deals since 2010 – but as the world battles an ever-increasing mountain of plastic polluting the environment, the need for a commercial-scale biodegradable alternative is becoming imperative. Enter RWDC Industries, which is working on just such a material and has secured $133m in a series B round backed by Flint Hills Resources to scale up its US operations by repurposing an idle factory in Athens, Georgia.

Back Market certifies $120m round

ASR processes $119m round

Praxis Precision was co-founded four years ago by faculty from Columbia University and University of Melbourne, but the gene therapy developer – targeting neurological and psychiatric disorders – remained quiet about its business until now, emerging from stealth with more than $100m in funding raised to date from investors including Novo Holdings. All of that money has clearly been put to good use: Praxis already has two assets in phase 2 clinical development, one for major depressive disorder and one for essential tremor.

Enflame lights up $98.7m series B

Exits

Kingsoft Cloud to claim IPO throne

University

Abiomed absorbs Breethe


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

13 January 2020 – Ant Financial Backs Zomato with $150m at a $3bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Zomato has kicked off its next funding round, expected to reach $500m, by raising $150m from existing investor Ant Financial at a $3bn valuation. The cash will help it in its ongoing battle against domestic rival Swiggy for supremacy in India’s online food ordering sector.

SoftBank Vision Fund has reportedly pulled out of a series of large-scale investments, in companies including Honor, Seismic and Creator, in recent months despite signing term sheets. The decisions appear to have taken place in the wake of WeWork’s failure to float in the autumn but could just as easily be due to a general slowdown in investments due to the second Vision Fund still not being close to its initial $100bn target.

Internet-of-things security provider Armis has agreed to a $1.1bn acquisition by Insight Partners in which Alphabet’s CapitalG unit is set to provide $100m. The France-based company had disclosed $112m in funding as of a $65m series C round last year, though none of its VC investors were corporates.

In university – and crossover – news, Soul Machines, a New Zealand-based artificial intelligence-powered avatar platform spun out of University of Auckland, has received $40m in a series B round featuring the institution’s Inventors Fund. Singaporean state-owned investment firm Temasek led the round, which also included Salesforce Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of enterprise software producer Salesforce. Daimler Financial Services, the financial and mobility services subsidiary of carmaker Daimler, was previously revealed as a backer when Soul Machines raised a first series B tranche in 2018.

Deals

Quibi has to be one of the most eagerly-awaited pre-launch startups in history, and its leaders revealed this week it will launch its 10-minutes-or-less streaming platform in April with contributors including Guillermo Del Toro, Jennifer Lopez and Liam Hemsworth.

Fitness and wellness subscription service ClassPass has meanwhile raised $285m in a series E round that lifted its valuation to the billion-dollar mark. Alphabet’s GV unit is among its investors but the latest funding came in a round co-led by L Catterton and Apax Digital with additional participation by Temasek.

Further along the line is Byju’s, reportedly now the world’s most valuable VC-backed edtech company, which has just received $200m in funding from Tiger Global Management at a valuation of about $8bn. That’s an increase in valuation of nearly 40% in just six months and has to be good news for existing backers and corporates Naspers, Tencent and Bennett Coleman & Co.

Hesai has raised $173m in series C funding, in a round it claims is the largest ever for a lidar system developer. Robert Bosch co-led the round, two years after Hesai took part in its automotive AI accelerator in China, while ON Semiconductor also contributed capital.

Zhiyun Health, developer of a chronic disease management platform, has secured a total of $144m across series C-plus and series D rounds, the investors including Samsung, SIG Asia and China Electronics Corporation affiliate OP Financial.

Business accounting software provider High Radius is now valued at more than $1bn, having raised $125m in a series B round featuring Citi Ventures and Susquehanna Growth Equity. Both took part as existing backers and the round was led by Iconiq Capital.

Sisense, the creator of a data simplification tool for app developers and business analysts, has increased its valuation to more than $1bn, securing $100m from investors including Access Industries subsidiary Claltech.

Transcenta Holdings, the biopharmaceutical company formed through the merger of HJB and MabSpace Biosciences – both backed by Lilly Asia Ventures – has also raised $100m, in a series B-plus round that included the Eli Lilly-affiliated venture firm.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has chipped into a $73m series C round for digital accounting software provider Receipt Bank. The round was led by Insight Partners, the venture firm that had invested $50m in Receipt Bank in 2017, and the cash will fund growth across Europe, North America and Australia.

ClearCover has become the latest online insurance portal to raise substantial funding, pulling in $50m through a series C round featuring Cox Enterprises and American Family Ventures, both participating as existing investors.

Funds

US-based tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has launched a $100m corporate venture capital vehicle known as Goodyear Ventures at CES. Goodyear produces a range of vehicle tires in addition to running service centres and providing synthetic rubber and chemical products.

India-based poultry product supplier IB Group has formed a $28m strategic investment fund. IB’s central business focuses on its chicken and egg supply, though it has diversified into areas such as livestock feed, pet food, solvents and hospitality.

Exits

Megvii has received regulatory approval to float in Hong Kong and reportedly expects to raise about $500m in the initial public offering. Alibaba and its Ant Financial affiliate own upwards of 29% of the image recognition software provider, which was valued at $4bn as of its last funding round in May.

One Medical has filed to go public having raised a total of $400m in primary funding from investors including Alphabet’s GV unit. The primary care provider has set a placeholder target of $100m that will almost certainly increase by the time it sets terms for the IPO.


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

21 January 2019 – SenseTime Prepares for $2bn Round

The big ones

Image recognition software provider SenseTime raised a total of $1.7bn in the year running up to May 2018, and news has emerged that it’s preparing a new round with a target of $2bn.

Slack has been mooted as one of 2019’s likeliest IPO candidates for months now, but it’s reportedly looking to emulate Spotify and choose a direct listing rather than issuing new shares.

On GUV, news of note was that Purdue University has now launched a total of 223 university-linked businesses since 2013, more than half which were based on intellectual property (IP) licensed through Purdue Research Foundation’s office of technology commercialisation (OTC).

Deals

End-to-end construction and renovation services platform Katerra last raised money in an $865m series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund a year ago.

SoftBank is reportedly in talks to pay $400m for a 42% stake in baby and child product retailer FirstCry, representing a signficant jump in valuation from the $350m figure reported for the company’s last round.

Around a week after news that its biggest rival, Bird, was lining up $300m in funding, reports suggest scooter and bicycle rental platform Lime is set to raise about $400m in a round that will value it at $2bn pre-money.

English language tutoring platform Dada has concluded its latest round, securing $255m in series D funding from investors including TAL Education.

Logistics service provider Yimi Dida has meanwhile raised $266m in series D funding from investors including Prologis.

Niantic has confirmed it has raised $245m in a series C round featuring Samsung Ventures and Axiomatic at a post-money valuation near to $4bn.

Funds advised by Apax Partners have agreed to invest $200m in big data software and services provider Fractal Analytics through a transaction expected to close next month.

Beta Bionics has attracted $13m from investors including medical device producers Zealand Pharma and Dexom to close its series B round at $63m.

Outdoorsy, the operator of a rental platform for recreational vehicles, has closed a $50m series C round that involved the return of Aviva Ventures, the corporate venturing unit that also backed its series B early last year.

Exits

Online film ticketing platform Maoyan has set the terms for its initial public offering in Hong Kong and will raise approximately $344m if it floats at the top of its range.

Educational services provider Byju’s has acquired connected toy producer Osmo in a $120m all-share transaction that will add a range of coprorates to the former’s investor base.

Cirius Therapeutics, a developer of therapies for liver and metabolic diseases, has filed for an $86.3m IPO that will provide an exit for Novo, which owns almost 20% of its shares.

On GUV, consumer electronics producer Samsung is in advanced discussions over a $150m to $160m acquisition of Corephotonics, an Israel-based smartphone camera technology provider based on Tel Aviv University research.

Funds

Venture firm Magenta Venture Partners has launched in Israel with substantial backing from Mitsui, which is also providing two of its four founding general partners, one of the others being Motorola Solutions Venture Capital alumnus Ori Israely.


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

08 October 2018 – Grab Looking To Raise Another $1bn

Deals

Southeast Asian ride hailing platform Grab closed $2bn in funding just two months ago, but Reuters has reported that it’s looking to raise another $1bn, and that SoftBank is close to putting up half the funding.

SoftBank Vision Fund has also initiated talks to invest $500m in China-based online educational assistance platform Zuoyebang.

Traveloka, an Indonesian company that has grown into a leading holiday and travel services booking platform for Southeast Asia, is in talks with unnamed investors to raise $400m.

Elsewhere in Asia, SoftBank is reportedly in talks to invest between $200m and $250m in India-based Delhivery, one of several companies that have sprung up to feed the rapidly expanding e-commerce sector.

Enterprise cybersecurity software provider Tanium has secured $200m in a round led by Wellington Management that valued it at $6.5bn pre-money. Tanium, whose investors include Citi Ventures, has now raised about $780m altogether, and has amped up its valuation by some $1.5bn in just five months, the company having raised $175m from TPG Growth in a May round that valued it at $5bn.

Tencent and KKR’s KKR Asian Fund III have agreed to lead a $175m investment in Voyager Innovations, a fintech spinoff from telecommunications firm PLDT.

Fast fashion retailer Miniso was only founded in 2013 but has been growing at a rocket-like pace, currently standing at some 3,000 branches worldwide. Now Tencent is getting in on the act, joining Hillhouse Capital to provide $146m in funding for the company.

Education app developer Byju’s is now valued at $2bn following a $100m investment by General Atlantic India. Byju’s has raised a total of $344m from investors including Times Internet and Tencent, but the round is perhaps notable for not including SoftBank, which was said to be in talks with the company a couple of months back.

Call centre software provider Talkdesk closed a $21m series A round backed by Salesforce three years ago, but has taken a bug step forward with a $100m series B round that valued it at more than $1bn.

JHL Biotech has raised an undisclosed sum from investors including Sanoft at a $750m valuation and will put the cash toward further development of its biosimilar cancer therapies.

Drawbridge Health, a US-based medical diagnostics spinout of industrial conglomerate General Electric (GE), received an undisclosed amount of funding yesterday from Kyoto University’s venturing arm Innovation Capital (Kyoto-iCap).

Funds

Biopharmaceuticals-focused venture firm Forbion Capital Partners has closed its latest fund at $415m, a 44% upgrade on its initial target. The fund’s LPs include insurers ASR Insurances, KLP, the EU-backed European Investment Fund and the German government-owned bank KfW.

Excell Partners, a VC fund affiliated to University of Rochester, is to manage a $25m vehicle intended to spur tech activity around Rochester in upstate New York. The vehicle, dubbed Finger Lakes Forward Venture Capital (FLX) Fund, will be managed by Excell’s Technology Ventures division and funded by the New York State government.

Exits

Funding Circle has gone public in London, in a $576m initial public offering that included $184m of share sales by the online lending platform’s shareholders.

Guardant Health had a health first day as a public company, floating above its range to raise almost $238m in its IPO before seeing its share price rise by 69%.

SurveyMonkey has raised less but had a more successful IPO, floating above its range last week to raise an initial $180m.

Sutro Biopharma, a US-based cancer drug developer based on research at Stanford University and backed by pharmaceutical firms Amgen, Celgene, Eli Lilly and Merck & Co, raised $85m in its initial public offering.

NGM Biopharmaceuticals has filed to raise up to $75m in an initial public offering that will give Merck & Co and Takeda the chance to exit.

On GGV, French solar firm Neoen is aiming for a market capitalisation of €1.5bn ($1.7bn) in an initial public offering (IPO) on the Paris stock exchange.


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