13 July 2020 – Rivian Strikes Deal with Amazon for 100,000 Electric Delivery Vans

The Big Ones

Now ride hailing has matured past the stage where it requires multi-billion dollar rounds, one of the biggest fundraisers in recent months has been Rivian, an electric truck and SUV developer that won’t even have a product out until next year. It has however struck a deal to sell 100,000 electric delivery vans to strategic partner Amazon, and Amazon was among the investors that have provided $2.5bn in financing for the company. It has now raised a total of more than $6.1bn from an investor base also including Ford, Cox Automotive, Sumitomo and Abdul Latif Jameel.

UK-based oil and gas company BP revealed it intends to provide $70m for India and UK-focused cleantech investment vehicle Green Growth Equity Fund (GGEF). GGEF was formed to invest in India-based technology developers operating in fields such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, electric mobility and resource conservation. It has a target size of $700m and BP’s investment is set to close later this year. The government of India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and the UK Department for International Development are anchoring the vehicle, having each made a £120m ($170m) commitment at its April 2018 launch. The fund is managed by Eversource Capital, an India-based joint venture created by BP’s solar power subsidiary, Lightsource BP, and private equity and real estate investment firm Everstone Capital.

Ant Financial was valued at a gargantuan $150bn when it last raised money, through a $14bn series C round in 2018, but Alibaba’s financial services spinoff is reportedly seeking to go public as soon as this year in an initial public offering set to take place at a projected valuation exceeding $200bn. In addition to Alibaba, which owns about a third of the company, Ant’s shareholders include insurance group China Life and postal service China Post.

Vor Biopharma, a US-based cancer treatment developer spun out of Columbia University, has raised $110m in a series B round featuring spinout-focused investment firm Osage University Partners. RA Capital Management led the round, which also included healthcare group Johnson & Johnson, pharmaceutical companies PureTech Health, life science real estate investment trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities and financial services group Fidelity, as well as Pagliuca Family Office, 5AM Ventures and undisclosed backers. Vor Biopharma is working on engineered haematopoietic stem cell (eHSC) therapies that have biologically redundant proteins removed – essentially making the stem cells invisible to complementary treatments that target those proteins. The company’s lead asset, Vor33, is aimed at acute myeloid leukaemia and is expected to avoid toxicity to blood and bone marrow associated with current treatments.

Deals

Epic Games is no slouch, the Fortnite developer having secured $250m from Sony at a reported valuation not far from $18bn. Epic was reported last month to be in talks with institutional investors to raise $750m at a $17bn valuation, but Sony’s interest may well be linked to the forthcoming release of the Playstation 5 this Christmas. It’s worth mentioning Fortnite has been a goldmine not only for Epic but also for Sony, which gets a 30% cut of every sale made through its online store. The Playstation 4 has, by the way, sold more than 100 million units since its late 2017 debut.

Instacart has added $100m from T.Rowe Price to a late-stage round that now stands at $325m and which values it at $13.8bn post-money. The grocery delivery service’s earlier investors include American Express Ventures, Comcast Ventures and Whole Foods but none of them have invested since 2016, during which time its valuation has climbed from $2bn. General Catalyst, DST Global and D1 Capital Partners supplied the first $225m for the round.

There aren’t too many companies at the top end of the sector but developers of vegan dairy and meat substitutes have raised some big rounds in recent years. Perfect Day, which uses microflora in its vegan dairy proteins, has just secured another $160m from investors including Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to take its series C round to $300m. Perfect Day’s earlier backers include Continental Grain, which backed the company’s series A round two years ago.

Intel Capital has invested about $253m in Jio Platform, the mobile network service provider spun off by conglomerate Reliance Industries, getting a 0.4% stake at a valuation of more than $63bn. Jio has picked up a series of large investments in recent weeks including $5.7bn from Facebook and additional capital from the likes of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the Abu Dhabi government, L Catterton, TPG, Silver Lake Partners, General Atlantic, KKR and Vista Equity Partners.

Primary care provider VillageMD has received $250m in equity funding from pharmacy group Walgreens Boots Alliance as part of a three-year $1bn financing commitment that will involve the corporate providing a mixture of equity and convertible debt, giving it a 30% stake. The two have also formed a strategic alliance that will involve VillageMD opening clinics at hundreds of Walgreens Boots Alliance outlets over the next few years.

Newlink provides car refuelling and electric vehicle charging services in China through an online platform, and has received $129m in a series D round that included electronics producer Xiaomi and Nio Capital, the investment arm of smart EV manufacturer Nio. Xiaomi has pursued a long-term strategy of investing in consumer hardware developers to build an ecosystem around its products, but Nio has been an increasingly active investor in the transport tech and AI space, indicating it may well have similar ideas.

Funds

Multiple unnamed university endowments were yesterday revealed to have backed US-based venture capital firm Rethink Impact’s $182m second impact fund. The fund has also pulled in contributions from financial institutions including UBS in addition to Pivotal Ventures, the investment firm founded by Melinda Gates, and philanthropic investment offices Ford Foundation and WK Kellogg Foundation.

University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus yesterday closed a $50m healthcare-oriented fund with commitments from multiple university departments and affiliates. CU Healthcare Innovation Fund has been backed by University of Colorado along with its healthcare system UCHealth, medical school CU Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. All the LPs have a presence at Anschutz Medical Campus.

Exits

The latest decacorn to make the leap looks to be big data technology provider Palantir which said yesterday it has confidentially filed to go public. It’s still unclear whether Palantir, which rised $550m from Sompo Holdings and Fujitsu last month, will pursue an initial public offering or a direct listing but it will likely be among the year’s biggest listings either way. Its other backers include Relx subsidiary REV (née Reed Elsevier Ventures).

Orbital internet service developer OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in March having raised $3.4bn from investors including SoftBank, Qualcomm, Totalplay, Bharti Enterprises, Airbus, Virgin, Coca-Cola, Intelsat and Hughes Network Systems. Now however, one of those corporates – Bharti – has combined with the UK government to acquire the company at auction for just over $1bn. The deal is expected to formally go through by the end of the year once regulatory approval is provided by the US.

Open source software provider Suse has agreed to acquire Rancher Labs in a deal sources told CNBC will be in the $600m to $700m range. Rancher has developed a deployment and management tool for Kubernetes containerised application management software, and has raised $95m from investors including Telstra Ventures. This’ll be a fast exit for the unit too. It led Rancher’s $40m series D round less than four months ago.

Cambricon Technologies has priced its own initial public offering, which will raise $368m for the AI chipmaker. The company chose Shanghai’s Star Market, which is rapidly becoming a big player in world markets, particularly due to increased restrictions on Chinese tech companies looking to float in the US. It followed more than $200m in funding for Cambricon from investors including iFlytek, Alibaba, Lenovo, Tuling Century and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

University of Tübingen spinout Immatics has opted for neither option to get a public listing, instead executing a reverse merger with a Nasdaq-listed special purpose acquisition company. The Germany-based immuno-oncology drug developer had raised about $250m in equity funding from investors including Amgen but its market cap is currently hovering around the $5.6bn mark.

Another cancer drug developer, Nkarta Therapeutics, has set the range for an offering set to raise between $140m and $160m, though going by recent IPOs that figure may well end up rising. Nkarta’s investors include GlaxoSmithKline unit SR One and Novo – which each own a 13.3% stake – as well as Amgen Ventures. It last raised money through a $114m series B round in November.

Ucommune, generally regarded as China’s answer to WeWork, is however set to secure a US listing, through a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company Orisun Acquisition Corp that will value the combined company at $769m. That in itself is significant. Ucommune doesn’t represent the same kind of disaster as WeWork but Covid-19 has hit its takings hard and that valuation is a big decline from the $1.5bn valuation at which it raised money in 2018. Its backers include Beijing Xingpai, Aikang, Dahong Group, Star Group, Junfa Group, Prosperity Holdings and Yintai Land.


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

27 April 2020 – AvidXchange Raises $128m Bringing Total Round to $388m Plus Audio from our Second COVID19 Webinar

The Big ones

AvidXchange, a developer of accounts payable automation software, has raised $128m to hike its latest round to $388m. Mastercard was among the investors, having contributed to the company’s last round, when it secured $300m in 2017 at a $1.4bn valuation. Reports in December stated AvidXchange was chasing a $2bn valuation for this round but the company is yet to confirm those details.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect startups, the UK government has pledged up to $1.25bn in financing, a quarter of which will be channelled into the Future Fund, a vehicle that will provide convertible debt financing to match private investment. The rest will support loans and grants made through the state-owned Innovate UK vehicle. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how useful the measures will be, but the way things are going it feels impossible to make any kind of definitive judgement on that, especially seeing as the Future Fund isn’t set to launch for another month or so.

Several corporate-backed companies in China’s travel and consumer startup space have shut down due to the lockdown related to the coronavirus. Founded in 2019, Wujiang Hotels operated five hotel brands that spanned eight Chinese cities. It had $30m in registered capital after raising money from online travel agency Trip.com, but chairman Ma Xiaodong said in an internal announcement that it is unable to continue operating. Online travel booking platform Baicheng had been founded in 2000 and had received $20m in a 2014 series B round featuring e-commerce group Alibaba according to KrAsia, which cited information from deals database Tianyancha. The company floated two years later but declared bankruptcy in late February this year after its income completely dried up. Meili Jinrong, the automotive-focused spinoff of consumer loans provider Meiliche also shut down operations last month and has laid off all its employees. The Covid-19 restrictions all but eliminated sales which, combined with an immediate cash shortage, meant it had no choice but to close. The move came after the company had raised more than $200m as of 2018, from investors including conglomerate New Hope Group, personal finance app developer Wacai, e-commerce firm JD.com’s JD Finance affiliate and Bertelsmann Asia Investments, representing media group Bertelsmann.

SwanBio Therapeutics, a US-based neurological gene therapy developer based on Harvard University research, is set to increase its series A funding to $77m with a $52m extension led by founding investor and life sciences investment trust Syncona. Syncona has provided an initial $19.6m tranche, a spokesperson revealed to GUV, while Partners Innovation Fund – a vehicle for health system Partners Healthcare that includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) – also contributed to bring the extension to $20m so far. The remainder of Syncona’s commitment – amounting to a total of $51m – is dependent on milestones. Syncona had invested $23m to lead SwanBio’s initial $25m series A tranche in June 2018 with participation from Partners Innovation Fund. SwanBio Therapeutics is working on drugs for treating serious neurological diseases. Its lead candidate targets adrenomyeloneuropathy, a rare inheritable neurological disorder that can cause impaired mobility, eyesight and hearing. No approved treatments currently exist for the disease.

Deals

Epic Games is best known for massively successful online shooting game Fortnite but its acquisition of social gaming and video platform Houseparty last year now looks like a stroke of genius, with some 50 million new users signing up in a month amidst the Covid-19 lockdown. And Epic is striking while the iron is hot, reportedly holding talks with potential investors to raise $500m to $1bn at a valuation ‘significantly’ higher than the $15bn valuation at which it last received funding, in 2018. That round included Axiomatic, and the company’s other corporate investors include Tencent, Endeavor Group and Walt Disney.

Network event streaming platform Confluent has also had a good year, and the company has capped it with $250m in series E funding. The round was led by Coatue Management and valued Confluent, whose early backers include LinkedIn, at $4.5bn. LinkedIn was not much of a corporate venturer prior to its 2016 acquisition by Microsoft, but its 2014 investment in Confluent’s series A round now looks inspired.

China-based Didi Chuxing may have had difficulties with its core ride hailing business in the face of Covid-19, but it has an ambitious growth plan to increase its customer base to 800 million monthly active users by 2022. That will involve beefing up adjacent services such as that of its bicycle rental service Qingju, which just received $150m from SoftBank and Legend Capital. The round is the first external funding to be raised by Qingju and will be added to an $850m cash injection by parent company Didi.

Medical device manufacturer MicroPort Scientific formed subsidiary MicroPort CardioFlow Medtech in 2015 to focus on valvular heart disease, and the offshoot has disclosed $130m in funding secured at a $1.1bn pre-money valuation. The round did not include any additional corporates but the capital will be used for research and development, marketing and market expansion.

STX Entertainment has been responsible for 34 feature films since being founded in 2014 in addition to TV shows and burgeoning digital content, but the US-based studio has bigger plans and has agreed to merge with Bollywood counterpart Eros International in a deal that will be sweetened by $125m from investors including STX backer Liberty Global. Other investors in STX include Tencent, PCCW and Madison Wells, and they’re going to get an exit of sorts when the merged company, Eros STX Global Corporation, inherits Eros’s NYSE spot.

Healthcare services platform developer Aledade has closed a $64m series C round featuring both GV and Echo Health Ventures to take its overall funding to about $175m. Both corporate VC units participated in the round as existing investors, and the funding will support the growth of both Aledade and its care provider members. Aledade’s earlier investors reportedly also include Utimco, the investment management arm of University of Texas.

Accent Therapeutics has completed a $63m series B round that saw it welcome aboard corporate venturing units GV and AbbVie Ventures as new investors. The company launched two years ago with $40m in series A cash and will put the series B proceeds toward advance development of drug candidates that target RNA-modifying proteins to treat cancer.

Immunomic Therapeutics has created a vaccine development platform focused on diseases including – surprise, surprise – Covid-19, and has closed $61.3m in financing led by oncology-focused pharmaceutical company and partner HLB. The company is also partnering HLB on the launch of a research hub called the Asian Brain Cancer Research Center in the latter’s home country of South Korea.

Paige, a US-based cancer pathology software provider based on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center research, increased its series B round to $50m today following a $5m extension supplied by investment bank Goldman Sachs’s merchant banking division. Paige did not reveal the size of the extension in its release, but a spokesperson confirmed the amount to GUV. The company raised an initial $45m in December 2019 from a consortium led by Healthcare Venture Partners that included Brey Capital, private investor Kenan Turnacioglu and undisclosed funds.

Guru is the developer of a software product that helps employees share knowledge with each other, and which utilises AI technology to bring crucial insights to the surface. It just completed a $30m series C round that included Slack Fund, to increase its overall funding to $68m. Slack Fund had already participated in Guru’s late 2018 series B round, and its early backers include Salesforce Ventures, which invested at seed stage.

Adverity is located in a similar spot, having created a software platform enabling marketing staff to generate usable information from siloed data, and it has raised $30m in its own series C round. SAP subsidiary SAP.io was among the investors in the transaction, which was led by Sapphire Ventures nine years after it was spun off by the enterprise software provider under the moniker of SAP Ventures. It’s good to see the two working together.

Exits

Enterprise software producer Kingsoft formed cloud services provider Kingsoft Cloud in 2012 and has since grown it into China’s third largest player in the sector. Kingsoft Cloud has raised about $700m from investors including its parent company and electronics provider Xiaomi, and has now filed to go public in the US. It’s curious timing considering the ongoing coronavirus disruption, but perhaps Kingsoft sees the sector as relatively immune.


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

05 November 2018 – Game Studio Epic Games Raises $1.25bn

Deals

Game studio Epic Games has had some very notable successes including the Unreal and Gears of War series, but it’s entered the mainstream in a huge way over the past year with Fortnite, a game that passed the $1bn revenue mark in 10 months. It’s also raised $1.25bn in a round that included a strategic investment by eSports team owner Axiomatic, valuing it at almost $15bn.

Zume began as a pizza delivery service that utilised robotics technology to help prepare the food, and now it’s looking to expand that model into other parts of the food industry. To that end, SoftBank Vision Fund has reportedly paid $375m for a 20% stake in the company and is set to invest a further $375m in a deal that will value Zume at $2.25bn post-money.

Coinbase has secured $300m in a Tiger Global Management-led series E round that valued it at $8bn post-money. The company, which has built a trading platform and digital wallet for cryptocurrencies, has now raised a total of almost $520m in funding since 2012, and its existing investors include New York Stock Exchange, Docomo Capital, BBVA, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and USAA, none of which took part in the latest round.

China has played host to several smart electric vehicle producers and one of them, WM Motor, is reportedly in talks to raise some $287m in funding, with half of the cash to be put up by Baidu, sources have told Reuters (though WM itself suggested the figure would be 50% higher).

Grab, the Southeast Asian ride hailing platform that has moved into mobile services and payment technology, has received $200m from Booking Holdings, the travel and accommodation booking service formerly known as Priceline, as part of a strategic alliance.

Chinese music tutoring service Peilian has raised $150m from investors including Tencent, in a series C round that came less than a year after its series B.

Southeast Asian real estate platform PropertyGuru has raised $145m in a series D round led by KKR that boosted its overall funding to about $325m.

India-based online grocer Grofers is reportedly in talks with existing investor SoftBank over a round sized between $100m and $150m that could value it at up to $650m.

The lidar sensor industry is one that has been attracting ever increasing amounts of funding, and one of its companies, Quanergy, has just raised an undisclosed sum in a round that valued it at more than $2bn.

Galecto Biotech, a Denmark-based developer of treatments for cancer and fibrosis based on research at Lund and Edinburgh universities, closed a $90m series C round co-led by Ysios Capital and OrbiMed.

And Astroscale, a Singapore-based space debris removal technology developer, raised $50m on Wednesday in a series D round featuring property developer Mitsubishi Estate and games publisher Koei Tecmo’s Koei Tecmo Capital investment unit.

Funds

Five Japan-based financial services groups have agreed to form a fund in partnership with sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC) reported by Bloomberg to be up to $1.8bn in size.

Arch Venture Partners, the venture capital firm spun out of University of Chicago, is aiming to raise $600m for its tenth fund. The firm has not yet raised any money but if it reaches its $600m target, Fund X would be the largest flagship vehicle raised by Arch to date and bring total assets under management to $2.86bn.

Exits

StoneCo has made a big step forward for Brazilian startups, securing more than $1.22bn in an IPO that came alongside a $100m private placement by Ant Financial.

Orchard Therapeutics has raised $200m in an IPO that involved it floating at the foot of its range but upping the number of shares involved.

Medical device developer Axonics Modulation Technologies has floated in a $120m initial public offering in which it increased the number of shares and floated in the middle of its range.

Twist Bioscience has gone public in a $70m IPO that saw it float at the bottom of its range.

Video conferencing software provider Zoom is looking to float in an initial public offering in which it will seek a valuation significantly above the $1bn valuation at which it last raised cash almost two years ago.


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