11 January 2021 – Online Tutoring Platform Zuoyebang Raises $1.6bn Series E

The Big Ones

One of the big shifts in 2020 was the surge in educational technology providers, with China leading the way. That was before a flurry of large rounds in the space right before the end of the year, the biggest being a $1.6bn series E round for online tutoring platform developer Zuoyebang that included Alibaba and SoftBank Vision Fund 1. Zuoyebang’s overall funding now stands at roughly $2.9bn, some 80% of which has come in the past seven months.

Andre Maciel, former managing partner at Japan-headquartered telecommunications and internet group SoftBank’s $5bn Latin America-focused fund, has raised $50m for the first close of an independent venture capital firm. Maciel set up Volpe Capital in 2019 with SoftBank’s backing, and its first fund also has investment bank BTG Pactual as a cornerstone limited partner. Marcelo Claure, head of SoftBank LatAm, and the $5bn fund’s managing partners, Paulo Passoni and Shu Nyattta, have also invested in the fund. Volpe Capital plans to invest in up to 20 early stage companies at series A stage, with a primary focus on the Brazilian market, according to regional trade body Lavca.

SoFi has come a long way since it started as a student loan refinancing specialist, having expanded into a multi-pronged financial services platform that offers lending, investment and insurance products. The company, which has raised some $2.4bn from investors including SoftBank and Renren, has also agreed a reverse merger with a SPAC called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp V and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The deal will be boosted by $1.2bn in PIPE financing and the merged company will be valued at $8.65bn once the deal closes, double the valuation at which SoFi last raised money.

On GUV, the biggest deal was Hinge Health, a US-based digital therapeutics company backed by commercialisation firm IP Group, which closed a $300m series D round co-led by Coatue Management and Tiger Global. The round valued Hinge at $3bn. Founded in 2014, Hinge Health has built a digital healthcare platform for people living with chronic musculoskeletal conditions, such as back and joint pain. The offering consists of an app, wearable sensors and access to remote health coaching to deliver physical and behavioural health therapy. Hinge Health was co-founded by chief executive Daniel Perez, who gained a PhD in medical sciences from University of Oxford in 2013, and president Gabriel Mecklenburg, who obtained an MPhil in bioengineering from Imperial College London in 2014. But the company was only founded after both had graduated and worked together at Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable, an organisation looking to connect academia with industry since 2011.

Deals

B2B e-commerce marketplace Udaan has pulled in $280m from investors including Tencent for the second tranche of a series D round now standing at $865m. Tencent also took part in the round’s 2019 first close, as did Citi Ventures, and the extra funding came at a $3.1bn post-money valuation. Its overall funding has been increased to $1.15bn.

Online food delivery and restaurant listings platform developer Zomato has pulled in $660m through a series J round valuing it at $3.9bn post-money. Info Edge and Ant Financial, the two corporates that have historically been its two key investors, do not however appear to have participated in the round, the funding coming from Fidelity, Tiger Global Management, Luxor Capital, Kora Management, D1 Capital Partners, Baillie Gifford, Mirae Asset and Steadview Capital.

Cloud cybersecurity platform developer Lacework has closed $525m in funding from investors including Snowflake Ventures, which provided $20m, and existing backer Liberty Global Ventures. The company had previously raised less than $75m but said it increased revenue 300% in 2020, and that big jump in funding is indicative of how the ongoing public markets tech boom is having an impact further down the pyramid.

As 2020 drew to a close, game creation platform developer Roblox had put its initial public offering on hold, citing erratic post-IPO share movement of other tech companies. Now we can see what the results are. Roblox has secured $520m in a series H round featuring Warner Music Group valuing it at $29.5bn – a more than sevenfold increase on the $4bn valuation in its series G round under a year ago. The company has also revealed it’s eschewing an IPO in favour of a direct listing, which suggests it really wasn’t happy with its underwriters for the offering.

DXY, the Chinese operator of an online medical community, has completed a $500m round featuring Tencent Investment, at the end of a year when it established a real-time information service covering covid-19 that aimed to combat harmful rumours. Tencent had originally invested $70m in DXTY through a 2014 round that preceded a $100m series D round four years later.

Chinese AI chipmaker Horizon Robotics secured $150m in series C funding just last month but has already added $400m in a series C2 round co-led by lithium-ion battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology. Recent reports suggested the company was targeting a total of $700m across multiple tranches, its earlier backers including Intel Capital and SK Global subsidiaries SK China and SK Hynix.

Grab is one of two big players in Southeast Asia’s on-demand ride market, and it has also been arguably the quickest in the sector worldwide to expand into other areas. It has reportedly raised $300m for Grab Financial Group, a spinoff that encompasses a range of financial services including digital payment technology, lending, insurance and investment management. Conglomerate Hanwha is leading the round through its Hanwha Asset Management subsidiary.

Chinese AI chipmaker Enflame Technology has raised $279m in the biggest round announced so far this year. Enflame produces artificial intelligence chips for data centres and has now secured a total of over $470m since it was founded in 2018. Tencent, which participated in the $279m series C round, has backed it in all four rounds it has disclosed.

Aeva develops lidar sensor technology for use in autonomous driving systems, and two months ago it agreed a reverse merger with a SPAC called InterPrivate Acquisition Corp set to value it at about $2.1bn once the deal closed. Now the company, which is backed by Porsche and Lockheed Martin, has agreed a $200m investment by one of InterPrivate’s shareholders, technology investment firm Sylebra Capital, that will close when the other deal does. It’s an interesting symptom of the ongoing public markets boom.

Divvy is the developer of an offering that combines business expense management software with smart credit cards, helping companies track and manage their expenses and spending. It has secured $165m in a series D round featuring Hanaco and PayPal Ventures at a $1.6bn valuation. The round increased Divvy’s overall funding to $410m, $200m of which came in a 2019 series C round.

Dremio, developer of a data management platform for data lake storage, has received $135m in series D funding from backers including Cisco Investments at a $1bn valuation. The corporate also took part in Dremio’s $70m series C round 10 months ago, and the latest round boosted its total funding to $250m. We’ve had a host of big enterprise software IPOs over the past year or two, but it looks as if the next wave of unicorns in the space is emerging.

Antibody therapy developer Boan Biotech has raised $106m from investors including Bank of China’s BOCG investment vehicle at a pre-money valuation a touch over $750m. The company was founded in 2013 and acquired by Luye Pharma Group six years later, the latest round representing the first it has closed since then.

Funds

US-based sports franchises the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers have backed an impact investment fund for minority-run startups. The franchises committed to Equity League as “a new impact investment division of venture capital fund TitletownTech,” alongside software producer Microsoft.

Exits

Arvelle Therapeutics was spun off in 2019 by drug developer Axovant to commercialise an epilepsy drug licensed from pharmaceutical company SK Biopharmaceuticals. The company bagged $208m in series A and project funding last year but its investors will exit after Angelini Pharma agreed to acquire it in a deal that could hit $960m. SK Bio will also get a nice return from its 12% stake in Arvelle.


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

21 December 2020 – ByteDance Raising $2bn at $180bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Ant Group may not have been able to successfully go public but China’s other hugely valuable VC-backed private company, ByteDance, is reportedly in the process of raising $2bn at a $180bn valuation. KKR and Sequoia Capital are co-leading the round, but no word yet on whether it’s set to include SoftBank, a participant in its last round, in 2018, which valued it at $78bn.

Luxembourg-headquartered venture capital fund European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF) reached a €175m ($213m) second close on Tuesday with €93m from limited partners including corporates Volkswohl Bund Versicherungen, Nestlé and Neste. Insurance provider Volkswohl Bund Versicherungen, packaged food and beverage producer Nestlé and oil processor Neste were joined in the second close by promotional bank NRW Bank and an unnamed family office. ECBF was launched by the European Commission and European Investment Bank in November 2019. The European Investment Bank has provided a total of €100m for the vehicle as a cornerstone investor. The fund is focused on late-stage investments in bioeconomy technology developers located in Europe. It is two thirds of the way towards a targeted close of €250m.

Roblox and Affirm may be putting their initial public offerings back to 2021, but that hasn’t stopped mobile commerce platform developer Wish pricing an IPO that will net it just over $1.1bn. The JD.com-backed company is floating at the top of its range after pumping its revenue up 32% in the first nine months of 2020, at a valuation about 50% higher than in its last round, in August 2019, so the outcome of this one is going to be very interesting. Were the others priced badly or is the market just supercharged right now?

University of British Columbia-linked AbCellera was one of the recent IPO candidates that saw a huge first-day pop, pricing an upsized $483m IPO at $20 per share early in the week only for its shares to open at more than three times that price. The Eli Lilly-backed antibody therapy developer eventually closed that offering at $556m after the underwriters unsurprisingly took up the over-allotment option. It won’t be the last time that happens this year.

Deals

Google X may not have been the goldmine some at its parent company hoped for, but an unqualified success at this point has to be Verily, the company applying big data technology to healthcare and life sciences. Verily has just raised $700m from existing investors including Google owner Alphabet, representing its third mega round in total. Alphabet was joined by Temasek, which invested $800m in Verily in 2017, as well as Silver Lake and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which had added $1bn two years later.

Xingsheng Preference Electronic Business, the group buying platform mainly known as Xingsheng Youxuan, has agreed to raise $700m from e-commerce group JD.com through a strategic collaboration agreement. The news was revealed in a regulatory filing without a valuation attached, but Xingsheng Youxuan was reportedly in the process of securing $800m in a Tencent-backed round in July at a $4bn post-money valuation.

Apex Microelectronics, a chipmaker spinoff of printing and imaging technology producer Ninestar, has raised $489m from investors including Gree Electric Appliance’s Zhuhai Gree Financial Investment Management vehicle. The round was led by the $31bn China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund II, and Gree Financial Investment Managementsupplied $53.5m in return for a 1.8% stake.

StockX runs an e-commerce marketplace that specialises in collectible and high-grade goods such as sneakers, handbags and electronics, and has raised $275m in series E funding at a $2.8bn post-money valuation. Tiger Global Management led the round, and StockX’s earlier investors include GV, the Alphabet subsidiary formerly known as Google Ventures, which has had some year it’s fair to say.

With vaccines beginning to be rolled out, it feels like the tech space is finally looking forward to a 2021 where some dormant sectors will be making big returns (potentially in both senses of the word). That could be part of the impetus behind the $182m in funding just raised by ride hailing service Bolt. Daimler and Didi Chuxing-backed Bolt has diversified its business model by leaning more heavily on logistics in recent months, and the round looks to have more than doubled its valuation to roughly $4.3bn.

Tencent has co-led a $153m funding round for Yonghui Fresh Food, a business-to-business fresh produce distribution subsidiary of supermarket chain Yonghui Superstore, with China International Capital Corporation’s CICC Qizhi fund. The round also featured Yonghui Superstore itself, which retains a 32% stake in the company having also backed its $145m series A round two years ago.

Funds

China-based venture capital firm BeFor Capital has amassed RMB700m ($107m) of capital across two funds, one backed by solar cell manufacturer Canadian Solar. The firm pulled in approximately $76.4m for the first close of its Fund III and $30.5m for the close of Fund IV. It now has over $306m of capital under management across four funds and a number of special purpose vehicles. Canadian Solar contributed to Befor Capital’s Fund III alongside funds backed by the government of China’s Inner Mongolia and Hohhot regions.

Exits

Boehringer Ingelheim has agreed to acquire one of its portfolio companies, oncology therapy developer NBE-Therapeutics, in a transaction that could reach $1.43bn once milestone payments are factored in. NBE is working on antibody-drug conjugates to treat cancer, and has raised approximately $68m from investors including Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and pharmaceutical firm Novo.

Lidar sensor and software provider Innoviz has chosen the reverse merger route, one boosted by $200m in PIPE financing from investors including corporate backers Magna International and Phoenix Insurance. The combined company will be valued at about $1.4bn once the deal closes, and Innoviz’s existing investors also include Samsung Catalyst, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Naver, Delek Motors, Delphi Automotive and Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services.

Upstart, the owner of an online lending platform that utilises artificial intelligence in its activities, is also valued above $2bn, following a $240m initial public offering. Its shares rocketed up 47% in their first day of trading yesterday and its pre-IPO backers include Rakuten, Progressive and GV, which sold $1.6m of shares having backed Upstart’s $1.75m seed round eight years ago. Its remaining stake is worth about $28m at the current share price.

The second half of 2020 has been a bonanza period for IPOs, and things don’t show any sign of slowing down either, not with the sky-high valuations companies are seeing as soon as they hit the market. UiPath, a provider of robotic process automation software, has filed confidentially to go public, five months after a Tencent-backed series E round valuing it at $10.2bn. It has so far raised some $1.3bn in funding, with Alphabet’s CapitalG also among its investors.

Coinbase is the other unicorn to have confidentially filed to go public in the last day or so, the crypto trading platform having been valued at $8bn in its last round two years ago. Now that figure looks sure to rise, given the increasing activity in blockchain technology and the recent shooting up of Bitcoin prices. It has raised approximately $517m from investors that include New York Stock Exchange, NTT Docomo, BBVA and USAA.


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

14 December 2020 – Drug Development Company Tempus Secures $200m

The Big Ones

2020 has been a year when, for obvious reasons, innovative drug development has taken a leap forward. Tempus combines artificial intelligence and molecular data to come up with precision therapeutics, and has secured $200m in series G2 funding from investors including Novo and Google at an $8.1bn post-money valuation. That’s a 62% leap from its $100m Novo-backed series G round nine months ago.

University of Bristol is supporting a £15m ($20m) incubator and venture fund intended to anchor a deep tech epicentre in the west of England. Science Creates includes the Science Creates Ventures EIS Fund 1 that will focus on Bristol-based pre-seed and seed-stage deep tech startups in areas such as therapeutics, advanced materials, hardware and software. The incubator is an evolution of the existing University of Bristol-linked science innovation hubs Unit DX and Unit DY. It will connect resident companies to mentoring and strategic partnerships aligned with science and engineering-oriented objectives. Science Creates’ founding team includes Harry Destecroix, who previously co-founded University of Bristol-founded diabetes treatment developer Ziylo, acquired by pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk in 2018.

Food delivery app developer DoorDash has floated in one of the year’s largest tech IPOs, one that will net it almost $3.37bn at a valuation more than double that of the $16bn achieved in its June 2020 series H round. That jump has been described by some onlookers as insane, though it’s worth noting that few companies DoorDash’s size can boast of trebling revenue year on year while slashing their net loss by over 70%. It’s also a victory for DoorDash’s largest backer, SoftBank Vision Fund, which first invested at an $865m pre-money valuation.

Isar Aerospace, a Germany-based satellite technology launch services spinout of TU Munich, has raised €75m ($90.8m) of series B funding from investors including Unternehmertum Venture Capital (UVC) Partners, an affiliate of the university’s tech transfer arm UnternehmerTUM. The round also featured Airbus Ventures, among others. Founded in 2018, Isar is working on a two-stage launch vehicle designed to deploy satellites into low-earth orbit. Its rockets use light hydrocarbon and liquid oxygen-based fuel that has a lower environmental impact than common propellants. The company will use the funding for research, development and production activities ahead of its first commercial launches, which are planned for early 2022. UVC Partners and Airbus Ventures previously backed a $17m series A round for Isar in December 2019

Deals

Nuance Pharma has secured $181m in series D funding from investors including Konruns Pharma to advance its lead candidate, a small molecule anti-tumour drug, through early clinical trials. Nuance is also working on treatments for respiratory diseases, iron-deficiency anaemia and post-operative pain.

Brazil-based Conductor has bumped its latest round to $170m by raising a further $20m from Singaporean government-owned Temasek. It raised the first $150m last month in a first close led by Viking Global Investors, and Visa is also a backer, having invested in the banking and card issuing software provider two years ago.

Cityblock Health was spun off by Alphabet’s urban innovation subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, three years ago and has already raised some $300m in funding, $160m coming in a series C round valuing it above $1bn. The round was led by venture firm General Catalyst and the company’s investors also include EmblemHealth and Echo Health Ventures.

In a year full of unpredictability and uncertainty, detailed information can make all the difference, so it’s no surprise risk intelligence provider FiscalNote has pulled in new funding, raising $160m in a debt and equity round featuring Renren and SoftBank in addition to The Economist Group, Jipyong and S&P Global Ventures. FiscalNote, which has more than 4,000 customers, is putting the money into strengthening its technology and growing its services.

Intel Capital helped Pico, a provider of IT systems and technology for financial market operators, complete a $135m series C round today that also featured CreditEase’s Fintech Investment Fund. Pico’s investors and clients include Wells Fargo, UBS, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Nomura, DRW Venture Capital, Chicago Trading Company, Capital Markets Trading and Simplex Investments.

Beijing Snowball Finance Information Technology provides cross-border data on financial markets as well as the means to invest in funds, bonds, trusts and cryptocurrency. It has just secured $120m in series E financing from private equity firm Orchid Asia, adding to over $170m in earlier funding from the likes of Ant Group and Renren.

The cybersecurity sector is increasingly moving towards the industrial space, as the internet of things makes large infrastructure more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Dragos is one of the companies offering an industry-focused cybersecurity product, and it has raised $110m in a series C round co-led by National Grid Partners and Koch Disruptive Technologies. The round also featured fellow corporate investors Schweitzer Engineering Labs, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures.

Exits

Airbnb has timed its flotation perfectly, raising $3.49bn at a price comfortably above its range. Alphabet-backed Airbnb has had a miserable year earnings wise due to worldwide social distancing measures, but investors will be betting on a big rebound in 2021 as covid-19 vaccinations begin to be distributed and governments start easing travel restrictions.

Uber has sunk some big money into its autonomous driving technology unit, Advanced Technologies Group, over the years, which was what led the corporate to spin it off last year with $1bn from Denso, Toyota and SoftBank Vision Fund. It has now agreed to merge Uber ATG with another self-driving technology developer, Aurora, through a deal that will involve it investing $400m in the company and taking a 26% stake in the merged business at a $10bn valuation. It’s a similar model to the one Uber has used to divest regional businesses in China, Southeast Asia and Russia.

Silverback Therapeutics has had a very successful IPO too. It floated a week ago, pricing an upsized offering above the range, and has since seen its share price shoot up over 50%. The underwriters have accordingly boosted the size of the IPO to almost $278m, adding to $211m in venture funding from investors including Celgene, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Alexandria Venture Investments.

China-based 17 Education & Technology Group has floated in the United States, in an initial public offering that raised nearly $288m. The company, which secured $250m nearly three years ago from investors including ByteDance, provides in-class learning software and after-class tutoring services. It priced the IPO at the mid-point of its range, and the offering came after 17EdTech nearly quadrupled its revenue year on year in the first nine months of 2020.

Fintech as a whole is having a moment right now, Affirm having agreed to pay $264m to acquire instalment payment service PayBright in a deal that will allow GoEasy to exit. Consumer finance provider GoEasy invested $25.5m in PayBright in September last year, which makes the transaction a relatively early exit.


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

07 December 2020 – Salesforce Announces $27.7bn Purchase of Slack

The Big Ones

Electronics and appliance retailer Suning has spun off its online retail platform and e-commerce services activities into a newly formed business called Yunwang Wandian with approximately $913m in funding. The capital was provided by Shenzhen Capital Group, SenseRobot Management, Ningbo Xianshi Enterprise Management and Central China Asset Management at a reported $3.8bn valuation.

Carmaker Dongfeng Motor has pumped $91m into a $243m investment fund that will target developers of automotive technology in addition to products in adjacent sectors such as big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. Dongfeng Bocom Yuanjing Motor Investment Fund has received the same amount from Bank of Communications’ Bocom International Holdings unit, and the two will each own 37.3% stakes in the vehicle.

We don’t generally cover acquisitions of publicly-listed companies, but Salesforce’s forthcoming and just announced $27.7bn cash and stock purchase of enterprise messaging tool developer Slack is notable enough to make an exception. Slack hit the public markets in a direct listing 18 months ago with a guidance price valuing it at $13.1bn – and many had labelled its growth in the past few months as underwhelming, indicating the fever for enterprise software right now. Its backers include SoftBank Vision Fund, owner of a 7.3% stake pre-listing; GV, which first invested at a $1.12bn valuation; and Comcast Ventures, which initially invested at a $3.8bn valuation. The acquisition is a somewhat unceremonious – if lucrative ending – for Slack as a standalone business, which in 2016 welcomed Microsoft’s entrance into the market with a ballsy full-page ad in the NY Times. Now, of course, Microsoft Teams has several times the amount of daily active users that Slack has – but with Salesforce’s considerable clout behind it, this could turn into the moment where Slack really becomes big business and justify that hefty price tag despite a very volatile share price.

Monzo, a UK-based digital bank, secured £60m to increase a series G round featuring Vanderbilt University to £125m ($167m). The new funding came from conference operator Ted Global, Novator, Kaiser and Goodwater Capital, according to TechCrunch. Monzo confirmed it as an extension to its existing series G funding. Payment services provider Stripe, telecoms firm Orange, Y Combinator, General Catalyst, Accel, Goodwater Capital, Thrive Capital, Passion Capital and Reference Capital and provided the first £60m in June this year, and the company had since quietly raised another £5m. Monzo runs a digital bank with more than 4.8 million customers, offering current accounts as well as business accounts, which are used by some 60,000 of its customers. It has now raised in excess of $550m since it was founded in 2015. The series G funding was secured at a $1.57bn valuation, a notable downturn to the $2.5bn valuation achieved when Monzo raised $144m in June 2019 from investors including Orange subsidiary Orange Digital Ventures and Stripe.

Deals

Lastly, Indian e-commerce marketplace Flipkart is spinning off PhonePe, a digital financial services business with more than 250 million users. Flipkart’s parent company, Walmart, is leading a $700m round that will provide the basis of PhonePe’s emergence as a partially separate company, and the remainder of the funds will be sourced from as yet undisclosed Flipkart backers, valuing PhonePe at $5.5bn post-money.

Space and satellite technology isn’t one of the busiest parts of the startup space but its companies are among the better founded inhabitants. China-based Chang Guang is developing a satellite constellation that will provide high-definition images and video, and has raised $375m from investors including iFlytek, reportedly as it prepares to go public. Other companies in China’s space tech space that have raised notable amounts include iSpace and LandSpace.

The United States’ VC space may have had its annual Thanksgiving lull, but China looks to have picked up the funding baton. Virtual classroom software provider Empower Education Online (EEO) leads the pack, having picked up $265m in a series C round featuring Tencent and Susquehanna International Group. Its earlier strategic investors include New Oriental Education and Technology, TAL Education Group and ATA, none of which were named as participants in the latest round.

Healthcare organisation software provider Olive has had a busy 2020, closing its third round this year by welcoming GV to a $225m round valuing it at $1.5bn. The Tiger Global Management-led round also served to double the company’s overall funding to about $450m, its earlier backers including multi-corporate backed venture firm Ascension Ventures.

Community buying platform developer Nice Tuan has meanwhile closed its fourth round of 2020, raising $196m in a C3 round co-led by existing investor Alibaba. Nice Tuan’s previous three rounds totalled about $250m and while there’s no official word on its valuation, the considerable growth of many of its peers in China’s online education sector this year indicates it’s likely in the multiples of what it was valued at in January.

Everlywell is one of the companies that has experienced major growth this year, adding a covid-19 product to its range of home testing kits and now raising $175m in a series D round featuring over-the-top media company The Chernin Group. The round valued Everlywell at $1.3bn according to Forbes, and it has now secured over $250m in funding since being founded.

Funds

UK-headquartered venture capital firm Firstminute Capital has launched a $111m second fund with backing from limited partners including internet group Tencent and consumer goods and chemicals producer Henkel. The vehicle is anchored by investment trust RIT Capital Partners and its LP list also features VC fund Atomico, four undisclosed California-based investment firms and some 70 founders of businesses valued at $1bn or higher.

Exits

It’s been a heady week for spinoffs, those companies flipped out of established businesses with external funding and their parents retaining a stake. First up is JD Health, the healthcare and medical retailer and services provider spun off by e-commerce group JD.com. JD Health has floated in Hong Kong’s largest initial public offering this year, raising $3.48bn after pricing the IPO at the top of its range, at a valuation nearing $29bn. JD.com isn’t finished either: its JD Logistics spinoff is recruiting bankers for an offering expected to raise up to $3bn.

Dynamic glass developer View is one of the most prominent holdouts from the golden age of cleantech funding, having raised a total of $1.8bn in debt and equity financing, $1.1bn coming from SoftBank Vision Fund two years ago. It has now become the latest company to take the reverse IPO route, joining forces with special purpose acquisition company CF Finance Acquisition Corp II to form a publicly-listed business with a valuation of about $1.6bn. View’s earlier backers include Corning and GE Ventures, though the latter may well have divested its stake by now.

Cloudwalk Technology has filed for a $574m initial public offering on Shanghai’s Star Exchange that would allow corporate investors Haier Financial Holdings, Bohai Capital and PCI-Suntek to exit. The company is one of China’s four largest image recognition software providers, along with Megvii, SenseTime and Yitu, none of which have managed to yet complete an IPO.

Cancer and viral infection treatment developer Silverback Therapeutics has just executed a successful IPO of its own, raising almost $242m in an upsized offering priced above its range. Celgene and Bristol-Myers Squibb are among the investors that had provided some $211m in funding for Silverback over three rounds. The IPO price valued the company at approximately $695m.

Cisco Investments seems to be having a good week so far. It’s exiting Kustomer in a reported $1bn acquisition – take a look on GCV for more –, and another portfolio company, customer data software provider GainSight, has agreed to let investment firm Vista Equity Partners buy a controlling stake at a $1.1bn valuation. The transaction will come after $157m in funding for GainSight, from a pool of investors also including Salesforce Ventures.


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

30 November 2020 – Stripe Opens Discussions for Funding at Potential $100bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Digital payment technology and services provider Stripe last raised money in October 2019, closing $850m from investors including Alphabet unit GV at a whopping $36bn valuation. But its next round could double that valuation, sources told Bloomberg, adding that it has opened discussions with prospective investors and that a $100bn valuation could be possible for the transaction. That hike would mirror the huge share price rises for competitors Square and PayPal in recent months.

Canada-listed phone operator Telus has paid heed in setting up a C$100m ($76.5m) social impact corporate venturing fund to complement its existing Telus Ventures unit under Rich Osborn. Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus, said: “This C$100m investment will accelerate potent, scalable and socially responsible services coming to market, helping to answer some of the most pressing challenges facing our world, including socioeconomic inclusiveness.” The Telus Pollinator Fund for Good will target healthcare entrepreneurs, social and economic inclusion and ensuring sustainable food production under Blair Miller, managing partner and Telus’ former vice-president of consumer products and content.

Mobile commerce platform developer Wish has become the third US-based tech company to file for a $1bn initial public offering in the space of a week, after Airbnb and Roblox. JD.com reportedly invested up to $55m in Wish as part of a 2015 series D that valued it at $3.5bn, but that valuation had soared to over $11bn as of its last round, an August 2019 series H. It has also seen substantial revenue growth this year, though its net losses increased at the same time.

Catamaran Bio, a US-based cancer treatment developer founded out of University of Minnesota and George Washington University (GWU), launched last week with $42m of series A funding co-led by Sofinnova Partners and Lightstone Ventures. Takeda Ventures, a strategic investment arm of Takeda, also took part in the round, as did SV Health Investors and Astellas Venture Management. Incorporated in September 2019, Catamaran Bio is developing cell therapies for a broad range of cancers, including solid tumours. The spinout hopes to deliver off-the-shelf drugs, as opposed to some cell therapy treatments that require samples extracted from the patient. The cash will allow it to progress two lead programmes into the clinic and to upgrade its underlying cell engineering technology.

Deals

Manbang Group, the Chinese trucking services platform also known as Full Truck Alliance, has pulled in $1.7bn through a round co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund and backed by another returning corporate investor, Tencent. The cash was reportedly secured at a valuation just short of $12bn and shows the value of consolidation, the company being formed by the merger of rivals Huochebang and Yunmanman three years ago.

On the other end of the experience stakes, Resilience has emerged from stealth with $800m in funding, $750m of which was raised in a series B round featuring Alphabet unit GV. The startup can be seen as one of what may well be a series of large-scale companies formed during the covid-19 pandemic specifically to deal with its effects. It is working on an advanced manufacturing set up for gene and cell therapies as well as vaccines, proteins and viral vectors, and should do brisk business considering the number of drug developers raising big money or going public right now.

Digital property and casualty insurance provider Hippo has raised $350m from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance at a reported $2bn valuation, as part of a deal that will involve the latter taking on some of the risk for the company. The companies also revealed that MS&AD Ventures – like Mitsui Sumitomo, part of the MS&AD insurance group – was among the investors in its last round, a $150m series E in July that valued it at $1.5bn post-money.

Indian automotive e-commerce marketplace Cars24 has secured $200m in a series E round led by investment firm DST Global at a valuation topping $1bn. The company, which counts KCK Global as an earlier investor, also revealed its business has reached and surpassed pre-coronavirus levels, which could be a testament to the recovery of India’s used car market or perhaps a sign it is simply migrating online.

For all the headlines being grabbed by the pharmaceutical sector, the technology area that has really taken big steps forward this year is arguably online education. Duolingo and Udemy both also raised more money this past week at unicorn valuations while coding education platform developer Codemao has bagged $198m in series D funding. The company’s existing investors include Southern Publishing and Media and Cheetah Mobile, and the latest round was led by an affiliate of Baring Private Equity Asia.

Elsewhere in fintech, digital bank Current has raised $131m in a series C round led by Tiger Global Management that valued it at $750m. The deal came just over a year after the company secured $20m in a round featuring Cuna Mutual’s CMFG Ventures unit. That leap is another sign of the significant growth in the sector, though the neobank space is at the same time beginning to get somewhat crowded.

SomaLogic, a developer of proteomics technology for use in drug treatments and healthcare data, has closed $121m in a round led by life sciences investment firm Casdin Capital. The company, interestingly, termed the round as a series A despite it being 20 years old and now the recipient of more than $485m in funding in that time. Its earlier investors include Nan Fung Life Sciences, iCarbonX, Novartis, Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Quest Diagnostics.

Funds

Cleantech isn’t the force it once was in the startup space but it’s a long way from being dead. Vestas, the biggest pure-play wind turbine maker in the world, was reportedly considering the formation of a strategic investment arm back in 2017 but it’s waited until now to launch the vehicle, dubbed Vestas Ventures. It will invest roughly $1m to $7m per deal in renewables and sustainable technology developers.

Financial services provider Orix has invested $60m in Israel-based equity crowdfunding platform operator OurCrowd as part of a strategic collaboration deal. OurCrowd runs a venture capital investment platform that allows businesses and individuals to invest in a curated selection of startups across a range of sectors from seed to pre-IPO stage.

Mobile network operator Orange has committed an undisclosed amount of capital to France-headquartered private equity firm LBO France’s Digital Health 2 (DH2) fund through its Orange Digital Investment vehicle. DH2 has a €200m ($238m) target for its close and is tasked with investing in small-to-medium sized businesses in the digital health sector. Its target areas are France and the rest of Western Europe.

Exits

Metromile is the latest company to take the SPAC route to a public markets listing, agreeing a reverse merger with Insu Acquisition Corp. II in a deal set to value the merged business at about $1.3bn. Like Hippo, Metromile is part of a new breed of digital insurers, though its selling point is as an automotive insurance provider that charges by the mile. Its investors include China Pacific, AmTrust, Tokio Marine, Mitsui and Intact Financial.

Amazon has been one of the companies in the tech space that’s benefited most financially from the coronavirus lockdowns, but other online marketplaces are also seeing their business models vindicated. Russia-based Ozon has floated above its range in an upsized initial public offering in the US that netted it $990m, in addition to $135m in a private placement from existing backers Sistema and Baring Vostok. Sistema remains its largest shareholder, with a 37% stake post-IPO.

Covid-19 may have taken the headlines but cancer has been the main driver of corporate venturing activity in the healthcare sector of late. China-based Antengene is the latest oncology-focused company to move to the exit stage, and has gone public in Hong Kong in a $360m IPO in which it floated at the top of its range. It had raised $238m across three rounds from investors including WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, Celgene, Taikang and Tigermed Investment.

Mass spectrometry device producer 908 Devices has filed to go public, setting a $75m target for an initial public offering slated to take place on the Nasdaq Global Market. The company has raised $70m in venture funding from investors including Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) and Schlumberger and has doubled revenue this year while significantly cutting losses. Just a reminder: Airbnb, Roblox and Wish are among the companies that could theoretically float in what’s sure to be a busy December.


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

23 November 2020 – PingCap Stores £270m in Series D Funding

The Big Ones

Distributed database software provider PingCap has secured $270m in series D funding from backers including Bertelsmann Asia Investments that will support research and development as well as international expansion. Another corporate investor, Fosun, led PingCap’s last round, a $50m series C round two years ago. PingCap is the creator of an open-source distributed database platform called TiDB as well as a version called TiDB that has been tailored for use on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The platform’s apparently been adopted by some 1,500 clients internationally, including well-known ones such as Square and Dailymotion.

Airbnb has filed for an initial public offering with an initial target of $1bn and will be relying on the markets to ignore its 30% drop in revenue and considerable losses in 2020 in favour of a projected recovery in the tourism industry next year when coronavirus vaccines hopefully begin to be distributed. Its investors include CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet formerly known as Google Capital, and its valuation stood at $26bn prior to a $1bn debt and equity round in April. But there are a few notable things about Airbnb’s filing and the fact it acknowledges that it’s been unable “to grow new offerings and tiers, such as Airbnb Experiences” could yet prove to be the canary in the coal mine – particularly as Google steps up its own travel ads and hinders Airbnb’s organic growth. There’s also a question as to whether hosts will be able to stick out ongoing and returning lockdowns: they still have to pay mortgages on the properties and without guests to cover bills, that’s somewhat of a ticking time bomb. But the biggest threat to Airbnb is the fact that its growth was slowing long before covid-related shutdowns and travel restrictions: in fact, 2019 was the third consecutive year of slowing growth. The filing warns this slowing down is expected to continue, making it a difficult sell to potential investors on the public markets.

Form Energy, a US-based grid battery spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has obtained more than $70m of series C funding from undisclosed investors, Reuters said citing CEO Mateo Jaramillio. Details are expected over the coming weeks. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is developing sulfur-based battery storage for renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar which fluctuate more than conventional power plants owing to changes in wind strength and solar radiation. Form Energy’s batteries are rumoured to discharge at slow speeds relative to their capacity but offer 150 hours of storage compared to four hours for lithium-ion grid storage products. The idea is to help replace oil and gas-based power plants that run during times of sparse customer demand to provide a minimum level of electricity, known in industry parlance as the baseload. The spinout last closed a $40m series B round in August 2019 led by Eni Next, the corporate venturing arm of energy supplier Eni, and backed by The Engine, the MIT-affiliated incubator and venture fund, in addition to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures and Macquarie Capital.

Deals

DataRobot, a provider of enterprise artificial intelligence software, has more than doubled its valuation to $2.7bn in a $270m pre-IPO round featuring new and existing investors. The company has now raised a total of about $500m from an investor base that includes Intel Capital, New York Life, Recruit Strategic Partners, Cisco and Citi Ventures, though none were specifically named in the company’s latest round.

Precision medicine developer D3 Bio has emerged from stealth with $200m from a series A round featuring WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund. The corporate was joined by Boyu Capital, Temasek, Matrix Partners China and Sequoia Capital China, and the cash will support development of the startup’s oncology and immunology product pipeline.

Online restaurant directory and food ordering service Zomato has raised $195m at a $3.6bn post-money valuation. Much of the company’s earlier funding came from online classifieds operator Info Edge, which still owns a stake above 20%. Its larger shareholders include Ant Group and Uber, while Delivery Hero is also an investor.

XAG, an agriculture-focused drone developer that is expanding into wider reaching farm management technology, has completed a $182m funding round co-led by Baidu Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund. The cash will support the bolstering of the company’s research and development, manufacturing and supply chain capabilities as its home country of China moves closer to an unmanned farm model of agriculture.

Cato Networks has entered the unicorn sphere, raising $130m from investors including Singtel Innov8 at a $1bn pre-money valuation. The networking security technology provider has now received more than $330m since 2015 and its last round – which also featured the Singtel subsidiary – was only seven months ago.

Forter, a developer of e-commerce fraud prevention software, has joined the ranks of the unicorns, having bagged $125m at a valuation topping $1.3bn. The series E round didn’t include corporate backer Salesforce Ventures but it took the company’s total funding to $225m and was co-led by venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Felix Capital.

CreditEase-backed wealth management platform developer Addepar has raised almost as much, having closed its series E round at $117m. The public markets boom for tech companies in recent months, coupled with the ongoing issues for other businesses, has meant increased demand for wealth management services. It also highlights Addepar’s selling point: enhanced data capabilities that give investors greater insights into portfolio performance.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 has also led a $100m round for MindTickle, a US-based provider of sales readiness technology that helps sales staff upgrade their skills and benefit from updated information. Qualcomm Ventures was among the other participants in the round, having backed MindTickle since its 2015 series A round. The latest funding was closed at a reported $500m valuation.

Funds

SR One is the latest corporate venturing unit to be spun off into an independent venture firm by its parent, in this case pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. With some 35 years on the clock it’s one of the oldest corporate VC arms, but GSK isn’t cutting the cord fully – it’s the largest contributor to an oversubscribed $500m fund for the rebranded SR One Capital Management, which will continue to be run by CEO Simeon George.

Exits

Roblox, the creator of a social 3D game development platform, has filed for a $1bn IPO on the New York Stock Exchange that will notch up an exit for Tencent. The corporate was among the investors in a $150m series G round in February that valued Roblox at $4bn. Press reports have suggested the company would seek a valuation of $8bn in the offering, meaning Tencent could be looking at a rapid profit on paper.

Arrival is the latest highly valued company to take the reverse merger option, agreeing a deal with Nasdaq-listed CIIG Merger Corp that will value the combined business at $5.4bn. The electric commercial vehicle developer’s existing investors, which include Hyundai, Kia and UPS, will keep their stakes while the deal will be boosted by $400m in PIPE financing.

Supcon is part of the fast-growing field of robotic process automation technology and has priced an initial public offering in its home country of China that will net it $268m in proceeds. Corporate investors Chint, Sinopec Capital, Intel, China National Nuclear’s CNNC Industry Fund Management Corporation and Lenovo are all among its investors and will jointly own about 20% of its shares post-IPO.


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

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