19 April 2021 – Coinbase Lists on Nasdaq

The Big Ones

1

Spend enough time in venture and you can see the transformation in startups and the economy almost as if time has speeded up.

GCV’s first article on Coinbase, eight years ago to the day, described it as “a digital wallet for Bitcoin transactions”, which “had raised $600,000 from accelerator Y Combinator and publisher International Data Group’s corporate venturing unit IDG Ventures.

“Bitcoin was set up without central bank backing but with a predetermined limit of 21 million available to be issued from its software and has seen fluctuations in its value from $9 in January to $200 on 9 April 2013 and back down to $150 a day later.”

Now, Bitcoin’s price is $63,063.90 and investors have valued Coinbase at $75.9bn after its debut on Nasdaq stock exchange on Wednesday.

The Financial Times described it as “the first listing of a major cryptocurrency exchange and a moment of validation for the digital asset class some 12 years after the creation of bitcoin”. After a direct listing of Coinbase shares – rather than the more traditional initial public offering which raises new capital – the price fell to $328 from an opening price of $381 to give a market capitalisation of $85.8bn, including options and other kinds of stock-based awards.

However, after early support from CVCs, such as IDG and USAA’s Victor Pascucci and Jon Cholak, Coinbase cashed in with a $75m series C round in 2015 including from BBVA, NYSE and NTT and not looked back. Coinbase’s big investors include venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Ribbit Capital and Union Square Ventures.

Coinbase’s financial fortunes have surged with the cryptocurrency markets, producing a nine-fold jump in revenues to an estimated $1.8bn in the first quarter, translating to about $1.1bn in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, the FT said.

But while still primarily a business-to-consumer exchange for people to buy and sell bitcoin and ethereum based on the blockchain, financial services firms are more interested in the underlying technology than its value as a monetary store or gold equivalent.

Jay Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, said: “No one is using them for payments, for example, like the dollar. It’s a little bit like gold . . . Human beings have given gold this special value that it doesn’t have from an industrial standpoint, but nonetheless for thousands of years they’ve done that. Bitcoin is much more like that.”

Behind the scenes, however, and the big asset managers and financial groups are working on pragmatic implementations of blockchain and crypto as platform or infrastructure to trade, price, settle and be the custodians. From there, products to deploy and engage on alternative assets and how even venture capital is affected can flow.

Similar riches are now being reaped from early investments in other emerging fields created in the past two decades.

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Tuesday’s daily leader looked at the $25bn of cash returned from Naspers/Prosus selling four percentage points of its holding in Tencent over the past few years.

Netherlands-listed technology investor Prosus, formed out of the corporate venturing assets collected by South Africa-listed media group Naspers, has sold 2% of China-based gaming and social media group Tencent for $14.7bn.

This is the world’s largest-ever block trade – 191.89 million shares for HK$114.1bn – but leaves Prosus still holding 28.9% of Tencent, according to newswire Reuters.

The block trade – or the usually private, single trade of a large amount of securities – surpassed the previous record set in 2018 when Naspers also sold 2% of Tencent for $9.8bn, Refinitiv data showed. Its remaining stake is worth about $200bn, from an original $31m corporate venturing deal struck 20 years ago.

Bob van Dijk, CEO at Prosus, said: “The proceeds of the sale will increase our financial flexibility, enabling us to invest in the significant growth potential we see across the group, as well as in our own stock.”

Prosus, which also invests in online food delivery platforms, classified marketplaces and digital payments businesses, has built up its warchest for new and existing investments given the rapid scaling up of the innovation capital ecosystem at the later stage.

Global venture capital investments hit $125bn in the first quarter, the first time the figure has surpassed $100bn in a quarter, according to data published by Crunchbase, even though deal volumes held relatively stable.

The opportunity for social network or “platform economy” companies to dominate across sectors or verticals remains, especially as Tencent peer Alibaba’s share price rose on Monday after it was able to have the term written into law.

This is particularly the case as finance becomes embedded into media. As James Thorne, a venture capital reporter at PitchBook, noted at the weekend, Angela Strange, general partner at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), made the case in 2019 that most people would be working in financial services soon, even if we don’t change jobs, as finance becomes embedded into software.

At that point, media and content becomes the differentiator, which is why A16Z calls itself a media company that monetizes through venture capital.

In his annual letter last week, Jamie Dimon, CEO at bank JPMorgan Chase, said: “Fintech’s ability to merge social media, use data smartly and integrate with other platforms rapidly (often without the disadvantages of being an actual bank) will help these companies win significant market share.”
And this helps explain why even in a world where media advertising is dominated by Facebook and Google that there remains so much attention and focus on social media and networks.

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Things are heating up in Italy’s media landscape as a microcosm of wider changes in the sports and gaming ecosystem. The country’s main phone operator, TIM, has returned as a “long-term investor in venture capital” through the anchor commitment to a €100m UV T-Growth fund managed independently by United Ventures, while Nerio Alessandri, founder and executive chairman of Italy-listed fitness equipment supplier Technogym, has launched Wellness Ventures.

UV T-Growth, managed by Fabio Pirovano and Damiano Coletti, targets a wide swathe of digital innovation, including gaming. Similarly, Wellness is targeting digital projects in general but in particular in sports and fitness.
There are plenty of opportunities in sports and gaming in the digital age. Online gambling and advertising, electronic as well as physical sports and gaming and unbundling of viewers from cable or television packages are coalescing to create plenty of disruption.

The latest being Amazon, which acquired Twitch for in-game streaming and chats, paying $11bn for exclusive rights to stream Thursday night National Football League games on its Prime service.
There are now dozens of VC funds targeting games, which is a far bigger market than films. Most recently, the Games Fund has raised $50m for a game-focused venture capital fund to invest in early-stage games in both Europe and the US, according to VentureBeat.

Maria Kochmola and Ilya Eremeev started the fund having both previously worked at Russia-listed internet group Mail.ru’s My.Games division, which started a game fund called MGVC, VentureBeat said. Kochmola was the investment director at MGVC since its inception in 2017, and she led more than 35 investments (with six exits).

Deals

Cruise increases latest round to $2.75bn

Epic picks out investors for $1bn round

SambaNova rams through $676m series D

Polestar attracts $550m

SoftBank finds Better option for $500m investment

Groq locks up $300m series C

Fiture fits in $300m series B

Astranis ascends with $250m series C

Bukalapak escalates funding with $234m

Tempo works out $220m series C

Signifyd secures $205m in series E round

Clearcover coasts to $200m series D

Repertoire Immune Medicines gets $189m result

Degreed delivers $153m series D

ZJS Express zooms to $153m series B

Jaguar Gene Therapy roars to $139m

Tend drills into $125m series C

Arcellx amasses $115m in series C round

CeQur secures $115m in series C5

StoneWise stocks up with $100m

Gaussian Robotics sweeps up $100m

Hack the Box cracks $10.6m round

Funds

Axa accelerates to $295m close for second growth vehicle

Amazon shows Indian ambitions with $250m fund

TDK to deploy $150m through second fund

Exits

Grab takes reverse merger option

Tango Therapeutics arranges reverse merger

TuSimple delivers $1.35bn initial public offering

Alkami appears on public markets

MissFresh looks to deliver $1bn IPO

Brii brightens up with IPO plans

Darktrace discloses IPO plans

Vaccitech shoots for US IPO

Artiva activates $100m IPO plans

Anjuke advances to IPO stage

Hologic hoists in Mobidiag

Keyfactor turns to PrimeKey for merger

University

Schroders shifts Carrick stake at discount


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

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

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

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

Exits

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

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

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

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

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


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

02 March 2020 – Grab Raises $856m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group

The Big Ones

There may be fewer rounds being closed but ride hailing continues to be a money magnet, with Grab raising $856m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group – which invested $706m – and TIS, both investing through newly struck partnership deals that will centre on the joint development of payment and financial services technology. There may be a bigger deal in the pipeline too, with reports stating Grab has been in talks with key rival Gojek over a merger that could value the combined company at $23bn.

Southeast Asia has been one of the fastest growing areas of the world for corporate VC funds. One of the relatively early participants was state-owned telecommunications operator Telkom Indonesia, which launched unit MDI Ventures in 2016 with $100m, and which has rapidly expanded since. MDI Ventures is targeting $300m to $500m for its second fund, according to comments made by a government minister this week, and that amount would represent a big step forward in terms of capital. Probably justifiably, given the recent emergence of unicorns like Grab, Gojek and Tokopedia.

CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet is in line for a healthy exit, as media reports suggest tax software provider Intuit is set to buy credit management platform Credit Karma in a $7bn cash-and-stock deal. CapitalG first invested in Credit Karma at a valuation of less than $1bn in 2014, and the company was valued at $3.5bn in its last funding round the following year.

And in crossover news (of which there was actually a lot last week and we’ll get to more of them in a minute), we have another exit. University of Pennsylvania-linked Passage Bio went public on Friday in a $216m IPO in which it is floating at the top of its range ($18 a pop), after increasing the number of shares by more than 60% (from 7.4 million to 12 million shares). The genetic medicine developer only officially launched a year ago (though it was incorporated in 2017) but had pulled in $226m across two rounds, from investors including corporate vehicles Access Biotechnology and Lilly Asia Ventures. It’s also allocated 1.8 million shares to a greenshoe option (also up from 1.5 million) and if stock goes the way everyone wants it to, it likely won’t be too long before underwriters jump on that chance.

Deals

One of the more interesting corporate investor/portfolio company combinations in recent times is the tendency for carmakers to invest nine-figure sums in autonomous driving software developers in order to get a foothold in an area of technology thought by many to be the future of the industry. The latest is Toyota, which has already backed several ride hailing companies and which just provided $400m for robotaxi system developer Pony.ai as part of a $462m round.

Graphcore, an artificial intelligence processor developer that traces its roots back to University of Bristol (it’s a spinout of Bristol spinout Xmos), has added $150m to a series D round that now stands at $350m, valuing the company at $1.95bn. The $200m first tranche included BMW i Ventures, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Microsoft and Samsung, though none were explicitly identified as being among the existing backers that joined Baillie Gifford, M&G Investments, Mayfair Equity Partners and Merian Chrysalis in the second close.

GV and Intel Capital have both contributed to a $250m series C round for SambaNova Systems, an AI computing platform developer co-founded by Stanford University faculty, that will fuel the enhancement of its technology. GV co-led SambaNova’s series A round while Intel Capital led its $150m series B last year, and the increasing ubiquity of AI combined with the move to more complex areas like edge computing mean we’re likely to see the company continue to move up the fundraising levels in the coming years.

SpaceX is gearing up for another funding round, having raised more than $1.2bn since December 2018 across three different rounds. No word on whether those rounds included existing investor Google, but the new round is reportedly set to be sized at about $250m at a valuation of roughly $36bn. Its overall funding so far stands at around $3.4bn.

Karius has developed a liquid biopsy test that draws blood in order to discover information on disease by crunching data on microbial cell-free DNA found in the samples. It has also secured $165m in a series B round led by SoftBank’s second Vision Fund, which seems to well and truly be up and running (albeit still only with cash from SoftBank itself).

Despite being around some 15 years and racking up 115 monthly active users, Roblox has kept a relatively low profile in the startup scene, though that may be changing with news of a $150m series G round featuring Tencent. The company has created an online platform that allows users to develop virtual worlds and MMO games that others can play, and is reportedly now valued at $4bn. It’s also launching a secondary offering for up to $350m of common and primary shares.

Another company focusing on creativity (of a sort) is Uncorq, developer of a no-code platform enabling users to create software applications without coding. It’s added $51m to a series D round now totalling $131m, and CapitalG, which co-led the first tranche in October, led the extension. The cash will be used for recruitment and expanding the company’s partnerships along with its live event schedule.

JD.id, the Indonesian spinoff of e-commerce group JD.com launched in 2015 with private equity firm Provident Capital, is also valued at more than $1bn, a source has told Indonesian tech news portal Daily Social. The company has yet to confirm the identity of any external investors but rumours suggest they could include another Indonesian unicorn, Gojek. To square the circle, both JD.com and Provident invested in a $1bn round for Gojek early last year.

Funds

Energy management and automation technology producer Schneider Electric has supplied $10m for Israel-based venture capital firm Grove Ventures’ $120m second fund. The oversubscribed fund, Grove II, was closed a week ago without the firm identifying any limited partners, though its described them as institutional and strategic investors as well as industry leaders.

US-based, real estate-focused venture capital firm Fifth Wall closed a $100m fund on Wednesday that includes several property developers as limited partners. Commercial real estate provider Cushman & Wakefield is an LP, as are real estate investment trusts Macerich, Acadia Realty Trust and Nuveen Real Estate, the latter a subsidiary of asset manager TIAA Investments.

Japan-based venture capital firm I-Nest Capital has closed its first fund at ¥6.6bn ($61m) having secured commitments from backers including corporates Power Solutions and NTT Docomo. IT services firm Power Solutions and mobile network operator NTT Docomo were joined by financial services firm Mizuho Bank and Fuji Startup Ventures, a corporate venturing vehicle for media company Fuji TV. The limited partners were filled out by Mizuho Securities Principal Investment, which represents investment bank Mizuho Securities, and the Japanese government’s Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation.

Exits

Salesforce has agreed to acquire CRM app developer Vlocity, a portfolio company of its Salesforce Ventures unit, in a $1.33bn all-cash deal. Vlocity had raised $163m from an investor base that also included Accenture and New York Life, and the transaction marks the fifth M&A exit for Salesforce Ventures this year, following Simplus, Evariant, Quid and LevelEleven.

Food delivery has been one of the better funded portions of the mobile commerce market, perhaps second only to ride hailing, and DoorDash’s investors look like they may be in for a lucrative exit. The company has confidentially filed for an IPO, three months after closing its series G round at $700m, at a $13bn valuation.

It isn’t a conventional M&A corporate exit but Takeda is buying coeliac disease drug developer PvP Biologics three years after paying $35m for an option to fully acquire the University of Washington spinout once it had advanced its lead product candidate to a certain stage. The size of the deal could eventually reach $330m if PvP reaches every development and regulatory milestone and, its drug will join Takeda’s own celiac disease candidate in the corporate’s product pipeline.


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

24 February 2020 – Imara to Raise Up To $86.3m in its IPO

The Big Ones

Grab had raised $4.8bn for its series H round as of mid-2019 but did not confirm a close for the round. Now however, the on-demand ride provider is set to raise approximately $714m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group as part of a venture where the two will collaborate on a lending and insurance app, according to Nikkei. Amazon has been held up as a prime example of tech companies growing through diversification but it’s far from the only one.

SoftBank may be having difficulty luring external backers to its second Vision Fund but in the meantime it’s putting in its own money, $2.5bn since October according to Reuters sources, one of which said it is considering another $2.5bn while the fund carries on investing. Vision Fund is also reportedly lining up backers for a sub-$2bn hedge fund-like vehicle that will make public market investments.

Imara, a US-based developer of therapies for blood disorders, has filed to raise up to $86.3m in an initial public offering that would enable pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Lundbeck to exit. Founded in 2016, Imara is working on drug treatments for haemoglobinopathies: disorders that affect the haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen. It filed confidentially for the IPO in September 2019. It’s raised some $77m in series A and B funding, according to the filing – which is actually nearly $20m less than it had previously claimed, a discrepancy that’s rare for US companies (if a somewhat more common sight in China).

And the biggest deal on GUV was OMass Therapeutics, a UK-based drug design and development spinout of University of Oxford, which added £27.5m ($35.7m) of series A funding from investors including the university and its Oxford Sciences Innovation. Syncona led the extension with a $21.6m commitment – having also led the initial $17.9m close in 2018 with participation from OSI – to bring round’s total to $53.9m. OMass Therapeutics is working on therapies for immunological and genetic disorders.

Deals

Payment technology provider Toast has secured $400m in a series F round that bumped its valuation up from $2.7bn in April last year to $4.9bn. The round was co-led by TPG, Greenoaks Capital and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Tiger Global, and it increased the company’s overall funding to more than $900m.

Endpoint protection platform developer SentinelOne has reportedly secured $200m at a $1.1bn valuation, with Insight Partners leading the round. Growth equity firm Insight also led SentinelOne’s last round, a $120m series E in June 2019 that included Samsung Venture Investment.

Yimi Dida is one of several trucking service providers contributing to China’s thriving logistics sector, and it has pulled in $143m in series D-plus funding from undisclosed investors, just over a year after it raised $266m in a Prologis-backed series D round.

Swiggy is continuing to battle Zomato for pole position in India’s online food delivery sector, and has received $113m in a series I round led by a reported $100m investment from Prosus Ventures, the unit formerly known as Naspers Ventures. You don’t see too many series I rounds, do you?

Unacademy is one of several companies operating in India’s thriving online education sector, and has grabbed $110m in a series E round that includes a relatively rare corporate venturing investment by Facebook.

Tier Mobility has extended its series B round to more than $100m, adding about $40m in debt and equity financing to the $60m it raised from investors including Axa Germany last October.

Elsewhere in Germany another transport-focused company has expanded its latest round, airborne taxi developer Volocopter increasing its series C to $94m with funding from investors including Deutsche Bahn’s logistics subsidiary, DB Schenke, as well as Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and MS&AD Ventures.

Spruce Biosciences has nabbed $88m in a series B round that included Novo, one of two named investors in its $20m series A three years ago. The company is currently enrolling patients for a phase 2 trial for a treatment intended to reduce heavy steroid doses necessary to combat a genetic hormonal disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

Intel Capital has led a $74m round for cybersecurity software provider ZeroFox, boosting its total funding to $162m. ZeroFox has also formed a collaboration agreement with an Intel ecosystem of software vendors known as Intel AI Builders covering artificial intelligence development.

Solar energy services provider Sunseap has raised $72m from energy utility Banpy as part of a series D round that is reportedly now sized at $146m. The round’s other participants include Temasek and ABC World Asia while Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and Shell Technology Ventures are among its existing backers.

Funds

China International Capital Corporation’s CICC Capital unit has accumulated more than $229m for a biomedicine fund that follows a $1bn healthcare investment vehicle formed with AstraZeneca late last year. Corporate backers Hebei Port, Pharscin Pharma, Xiamen Fig, Fujian Sunner and Sichuan Daily Press subsidiary Xinwen Venture Capital are all among the LPs in the latest fund.

Biopharmaceutical company Walvax Technology is deploying roughly $21m for a biomedicine fund with a targeted close of about $87m that will be managed by Jinsheng Capital. Walvax is relatively new to corporate venturing but there seems to be a fair bit of activity in China right now concerning healthcare investment funds.

Exits

Mobile content discovery platform Digital Turbine has agreed to purchase US-based peer Mobile Posse in a deal reported by DC Inno to be about $66m in size, allowing telecommunications group SoftBank to exit.


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

01 July 2019 – Grab Boosts Series H Round to $4.8bn

Big Ones

Southeast Asian ride hailing service Grab has boosted an already swelling series H round to $4.8bn, taking in $300m from investment management firm Invesco.

Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners was launched by its parent company nearly five years ago, and has now formed a $350m second venture and growth capital fund.

Who says the IPO market is on the dip? Adaptive Biotechnologies – backed by Microsoft, Celgene, Illumina, LabCorp and BD Biosciences – saw its share price double on its first day of trading – from $20 to $40.30 – while BridgeBio Pharma, which is developing drugs to treat diseases driven by genetic defects, floated above its range despite increasing the number of shares in its offering by a third.

On GUV, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a US-based fusion power technology spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has closed a $115m series A round backed by MIT’s The Engine.

Deals

SpaceX is reportedly looking to raise more than $314m in its forthcoming round, with most or potentially all of it set to come from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which has confirmed it has invested in the GV-backed space services provider.

Ouyeel, an online trading platform spun off by China Baowu Steel, has raised $294m in a round featuring corporates Sinotrans, Benxi Group and Beijing Jianlong Heavy Industry as well as Baowu itself together with its Baoshan Iron and Steel subsidiary.

Digital manufacturing technology producer Carbon has received more than $260m in a round that pushed its overall funding past $680m.

Digital bank operator Monzo is going from strength to strength, helping to indicate that the UK’s Brexit woes have not affected its status as a centre of fintech.

StockX, the operator of an online marketplace for authenticated rare fashion items, has shown once again that the upmarket fashion space is an attractive one for investors. It has notched up $110m in a series C round featuring GV, which participated as an existing backer, at a valuation of more than $1bn.

Cardiac imaging technology provider Acutus Medical has secured $100m in series D funding from investors including GE Ventures as part of a larger round that included a $70m credit facility. Acutus has now raised roughly $230m in equity financing altogether, with GE Ventures having been an investor since at least 2013, and the funding will go to strengthening its atrial access product range.

Funds

That model of corporate venturing looks like it’s gaining some traction. Logistics services provider JD Logistics was spun off by e-commerce company JD.com two years ago but it is now getting into the corporate venturing game itself and has accumulated $218m for a strategic fund.

Exits

Fast fashion retail brand Miniso raised its first outside funding just eight months ago, having launched in 2013, but it is reportedly now gearing up for an initial public offering that could raise $1bn.

Upmarket fashion marketplace TheRealReal, proving it isn’t just the biotech sector that’s doing well, also completed a $300m initial public offering and went public on Friday.

Slack’s direct offering has pulled in the headlines but Stoke Therapeutics held its own successful listing last week, which it has now closed at just over $163m.

Atreca is working on immunotherapeutics to treat cancer, and raised $125m when it floated today, having priced the IPO at the midpoint of its range.

Velodyne Lidar is meanwhile pushing to become the first lidar technology developer to go public, having hired banks to underwrite an IPO expected to value it at about $1.8bn.


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

03 June 2019 – Possible PhonePe Spinout from Flipkart in $1bn Deal

Big Ones

Right now it feels like we’re gearing up for another period of significant funding, if the rumour mill is anything to go by. Mobile payment platform PhonePe was acquired by Flipkart in 2016, the year after it was founded, but could now be spun back out in a round that could reportedly reach $1bn.

Life insurance firm Northwestern Mutual launched its $50m Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures unit in early 2017 and has since built up one of the more notable CVC portfolios for an insurer, adding the likes of Chime, Ojo Labs and Ladder to existing investments such as Betterment.

Investment firm Insight Partners was already an investor in threat intelligence provider Recorded Future but has taken a step further, acquiring a controlling stake at a valuation of $780m.

Thrive Earlier Detection, a US-based developer of a blood test for cancer, was spun out of Johns Hopkins University on Thursday with $110m in series A funding from investors led by venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures. BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, the corporate venturing subsidiary of health insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, participated in the round, as did molecular diagnostics company Exact Sciences.

UK-based investment firm Woodford Investment Management has sold its entire shareholding in Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), the university venture fund of University of Oxford. The stake, worth £55m ($69.6m), has seemingly been sold to family offices and international investors.

Morningstar downgraded the Equity Income fund from bronze to neutral last week after its value shrunk from £10.2bn in 2017 to just £4.4bn, while St James’ Place, the largest wealth manager in the UK, put the firm on its watchlist after a prolonged poor performance.

Deals

SpaceX has added $1.02bn in new funding according to two separate securities filings, though it hasn’t disclosed details of the investors.

Toyota already has Uber and Grab in its portfolio but it is said to be mulling over an investment of about $550m in fellow ride hailing service Didi Chuxing.

SoFi has expanded from its core business of online lending and student loan refinancing to take in services such as online investments and digital banking, and it has also raised a further $500m in funding, this time in a round led by Qatar Investment Authority.

Lenskart has been one of Asia’s most successful proponents of the consumer goods business model involving an expansion from e-commerce to the offline world, and the eyewear retailer is reportedly in discussions to raise $350m from SoftBank Vision Fund at a $1.3bn valuation.

Oncology data platform developer Tempus has raised $200m in series F funding from investors including Novo at a $3.1bn valuation.

RobinHood was valued at $5.6bn back when it last raised money, early last year, but the Alphabet and Roc Nation-backed trading app developer is seeking $200m from existing investors at a reported valuation of up to $8bn.

Funds

Growth equity vehicle EV Growth was formed by East Ventures and corporate VC units SMDV and YJ Capital early last year with a $150m target for its first fund. It’s ended up overshooting that by a food amount, closing the fund at $200m having received commitments from limited partners including SoftBank. The fund has invested in 12 portfolio companies to date.

Exits

Palo Alto Networks has agreed to pay $410m to acquire container security software developer Twistlock, which had raised $63m from investors including Dell Technologies Capital.

BridgeBio Pharma is developing drugs to treat genetic diseases including forms of cancer linked to genetic causes. It has filed for a $225m initial public offering that will follow more than $480m in venture funding from investors including AIG, though only KKR and Viking Global Investors hold stakes of 5% or more.


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

15 April 2019 – Uber Files for IPO

Big ones

As you all surely know by now, Uber filed for its long awaited initial public offering on Thursday, confirming that its largest investor is SoftBank Vision Fund, which owns more than 16% of its shares, while Alphabet, which has increasingly been rivalling the ride hailing company in the autonomous driving technology space, holds a stake sized at just over 5%.

Grab had raised a mammoth $4.5bn for its series H round as of last month, but it said it hadn’t closed the round and now revealed that it is shooting for a $6.5bn final close. Our frequent listeners may remember that the ride hailing platform had originally set a $3bn target for the round, but Vision Fund invested a further $1.46bn and is expected to return for the extension.

Taikang Insurance is not one of China’s most fervent corporate venturers but it has managed to score three IPO exits in the past year, and is now linking up with the city of Wuhan to form a $3bn healthcare-focused fund.

And on the university side, we have Inozyme Pharma, a developer of drugs that will combat the calcification of the body’s kidneys and vascular system. The Yale University spinout has secured $67m in a series A2 round featuring two corporates – Novo and Sanofi Ventures.

Deals

Traveloka has reportedly secured $420m in funding from Singapore’s GIC and existing investors that were undisclosed but which probably included Expedia and JD.com.

The digital insurance sector continues to go from strength to strength, with Lemonade the latest to raise money, netting $300m in series D funding at a reported valuation in excess of $2bn.

Tourism activities booking platform Klook has secured $225m in a series D-plus round led by SoftBank Vision Fund that has been added to the $200m in series D financing it closed in October.

Branch International has created a mobile-first financial services platform tailored for use in emerging markets, and it has raised $170m in a series C round that was co-led by Visa.

Funds

Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group already operates a venture capital firm, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, but is now getting further into strategic investing, setting up a $180m fund called MUFG Innovation Partners.

Exits

Fashion-focused social commerce platform Poshmark has raised almost $160m in funding and was reportedly valued at about $600m when it last raised money, nearly 18 months ago.

SoYoung, a Chinese booking and reviews platform for cosmetic procedures, has already filed for an IPO in the US and is looking to raise $150m.

Private equity firm Bridgepoint has sealed the acquisition of a majority stake in cloud accounting software provider Kyriba, paying $160m. The transaction valued Kyriba at $1.2bn according to the company, but it has not revealed whether BridgePoint was an existing backer or whether the $160m constituted a separate investment to a secondary share purchase.

Private jet provider Vista Global has agreed to acquire customised charter jet service JetSmarter for an undisclosed amount in an all-share deal that will allow JetEdge to exit.


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

11 March 2019 – SoftBank Announces $5bn Latin America SoftBank Innovation Fund

The big ones

SoftBank, SoftBank, SoftBank. It feels like that’s all we’re talking about on this podcast, and that shows no sign of stopping, as the telecoms and internet group has taken the wrapper off a $5bn vehicle dubbed SoftBank Innovation Fund which will focus on Latin American deals.

After all these years, ride hailing still looks to be the area of the VC world where the big bucks are going, and Grab has boosted its series H round to $4.5bn with a $1.46bn investment by SoftBank Vision Fund.

Lyft has become the first of the ride hailing companies to file for an IPO, setting an initial target of $100m. Rakuten is the largest investor in Lyft, valued at some $15bn last year, while Alphabet and GM also own decent-sized stakes, but the greatest attention may be paid to its finances.

Beam Therapeutics, a genetic medicine developer spun out of Harvard University, has followed up an $87m series A round in mid-2018 with a $135m series B featuring GV that will go to recruitment, technology development and the expansion of its base editing programs.

Deals

Go-Jek is meanwhile said to be valued at about $9.5bn, and has raised $100m from conglomerate Astra International as part of a round it intends to close at around $3bn.

Chinese smart electric vehicle producer WM Motor has raised $446m in a series C round led by existing investor Baidu, with which WM is also partnering in order to further develop its AI technology in a bid to bring self-driving vehicles to market in the next three years.

Vision Fund, which really is having an insanely busy month even by its own high standards, has also invested $350m to lead a $395m series F round for last-mile logistics provider Delhivery.

Mobile bank Chime has also reached unicorn status, tripling its valuation to $1.5bn with a $200m series D round led by DST Global.

Digital insurance startup Friday has received $128m in funding on, suitably enough, the Friday before last, with the majority of the cash coming from insurance holding company Baloise Group, which founded the company at the start of 2017 and which remains its majority shareholder.

Funds

SoftBank Vision Fund has been the biggest growth-stage investor of the past two years and if anything its activity is ramping up, the unit having made nine or 10-digit investments in Nuro, Chehaoduo, Flexport, DoorDash and Clutter in the past month.

Healthcare investment firm Gilde Healthcare has had a long-term partnership with Philips, which has backed several of its funds, while Johnson & Johnson has also been a corporate LP for the firm.

Contrary Capital, a university-focused venture firm with connections to dozens of US institutions, aims to raise $35m for its second vehicle from pooled investment funds, according to a regulatory filing published Wednesday.

Exits

Biogen has offered to pay $25.50 in cash per share to pay a total of approximately $800m for Nightstar Therapeutics, a spinout of University of Oxford that went public back in 2017.

Social media company YY owned almost 32% of livestreaming platform developer Bigo after leading its $272m series D round last June, and now it’s paid $1.45bn to complete the acquisition by purchasing the remainder of its shares.

Online classifieds operator 58 has revealed it sold $713m of its shares in automotive e-commerce platform Chehaoduo to an investor likely to be SoftBank Vision Fund, which invested $1.5bn in Chehaoduo last week.

China-based Ruhnn is three years old and pursuing a very ‘now’ business model, operating a network of social media influencers that can be hired for promotions or marketing, and has filed to raise up to $200m in an IPO in the US.

Data management platform developer DataStax has hired underwriters to work on its own IPO, according to Reuters, and is seeking a $1bn valuation.

Precision BioSciences, a US-based genomic medicine spinout of Duke University, has filed to raise up to $100m in an initial public offering.


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

14 January 2019 – CloudEndure Acquired by Amazon

The big ones

Reports in late 2018 suggested SoftBank Vision Fund was planning to invest between $15bn and $20bn in order to take a majority stake in portfolio company WeWork, but sources have told the FT that after the fund’s LPs balked at the idea (though a separate report said Masayoshi Son decided to pull out during the economic turmoil on the stock markets ahead of the Christmas period), SoftBank itself is set to provide $2bn of funding for the company.

Amazon has paid a reported $200m to acquire CloudEndure, a cloud migration and disaster recovery software producer that had disclosed a little over $18m in venture funding.

Healthcare system Providence St Joseph Health launched Providence Ventures in 2014 with $150m and a brief to make strategic investments of up to $5m in health technology developers.

On GUV, Ribon Therapeutics, a US-based biotechnology company developing enzyme families activated under cellular stress conditions, has come out of stealth with $65m in series B capital provided by a consortium led by Novartis Venture Fund, the corporate venturing division of pharmaceutical firm Novartis.

Deals

One of several China-based smart electric car developers to raise substantial funding last year, Byton is reportedly now lining up an additional $500m or so in a round set to value it at $4bn.

Mobile banking service N26 has secured $300m at a $2.7bn valuation, in a series D round led by Insight Venture Partners.

Just three weeks ago in our 2018 round up we were talking about the rapid growth of e-scooter rental platforms, and now news has emerged that Bird – one of the two key players in the sector – is lining up $300m in funding at a $2bn valuation.

Financial leasing service Tokyo Century has been an investor in strategic partner Grab since 2016, and has expanded its overall commitment to the ride hailing platform to $175m, consisting of both equity funding and financing for its Grab Rentals subsidiary.

ClearMotion, a developer of object-sensing systems for use in autonomous vehicles that was spun out of MIT, emerged from stealth almost two years ago having just raised $100m in series C funding from investors including Qualcomm.

Boom Supersonic is working on an aircraft that will be able to reach supersonic speeds while producing the same carbon footprint as business class travel. Its earlier investors include Japan Airlines and Ctrip, and it’s raised $100m in a series B round led by Emerson Collective.

Energy utility CLP has co-led a $100m series C round for digital health management platform Kang Sheng Health Management with China International Capital Corporation.

Instalment buying platform and credit provider Akulaku is in advanced talks to raise $100m in a series D round set to be led by Ant Financial, e-commerce firm Alibaba’s financial services affiliate.

Indian ride hailing service Ola has received $74m in funding from Steadview Capital at a reported valuation of $5.7bn, adding to an ongoing round it aims to close at $1bn.

Funds

Appliance producer Midea has raised $104m for an investment fund with a targeted close of up to $293m that will target developers of intelligent home products, smart manufacturing, retail and new energy technology.

Exits

Neurological disorder drug developer Alector has filed to raise up to $150m in an initial public offering that will enable investors including corporate venturing units MRL Ventures (which owns a 6% stake), GV, AbbVie Ventures, Lilly Asia Ventures and Amgen Ventures to exit. All five contributed to Alector’s last funding round, a $133m series E closed six months ago.


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