31 August 2020 – Ant Group Files for Dual Listing to Potentially Raise $30bn

The Big Ones

Cancer test developer Freenome has closed a $270m series C round that included Novartis and existing backers GV, Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Roche Venture Fund to hike its overall funding to $507m. The capital will be allocated to a clinical study for a blood test Freenome is developing for colorectal cancer screening, in addition to advancing additional oncology blood tests.

American Family Ventures was formed by insurer American Family in 2013 to invest in areas like insurance, financial services, big data and cybersecurity technology, and it’s following a recent trend by recruiting external limited partners for its latest fund. AFV Fund III has closed at $213m and its LPs will also be able to gain value through a scheme called AFV Platform that will be able to link them to portfolio companies and fellow investors.

Ant Group has officially filed for a dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai that could potentially raise $30bn – a figure that would equate to the largest initial public offering for a VC-backed company in history. It will reportedly now speak to underwriters and other stakeholders to determine the details of the flotations, which are expected to value it between $200bn and $300bn. Apart from Alibaba, corporates including China Post and China Life are also among its investors, both having backed it at a $60bn valuation in 2016.

Crossover: Kymeta, a US-based satellite broadband provider exploiting foundational research from Duke University, secured $85m in a funding round led by entrepreneur Bill Gates, with the backing of some of Kymeta’s leadership team. Kymeta has raised more than $282m in funding altogether, satellite operator Intelsat having contributed to a $73.5m round in 2017 together with undisclosed additional investors. Media group Liberty Global had joined Osage University Partners, Bill Gates, Lux Capital and Kresge Foundation in Kymeta’s $50m series C round in 2013. And Kymeta had already secured $12m in funding from Liberty Global, Lux Capital and Gates the year before.

Deals

Consumer companies have had a mixed at best time of it during the coronavirus pandemic but eyewear e-commerce platform Warby Parker has done quite well, raising $245m across series F and G rounds while hiking its valuation from $1.75bn in late 2018 to $3bn today. The company’s earlier investors include American Express Ventures and the latest round increased its overall funding to $535m.

Viva Republica, the creator of money management app Toss, has raised its own nine-figure round, pulling in $173m in a round that reportedly took its valuation from $2.2bn to $2.6bn. The company’s total funding now stands at $530m, its earlier investors including Novel Group, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures. The funding will help it grow Toss into a more diversified finance-focused app that includes financial product recommendations.

Mural, developer of an online visual collaboration platform, has closed an $118m series B round that included Slack Fund and returning backer Gradient Ventures. The round came just seven months after Mural’s series A funding, but its initial investment came all the way back in 2012 in a tiny round featuring another corporate venturing unit, Intel Capital.

Data collaboration software provider Daitaku has raised $100m in series D funding from investors including Alphabet’s CapitalG unit. The round followed a secondary investment from CapitalG in December that valued Daitaku at $1.4bn, and the company said it has maintained a unicorn valuation in the latest round. It has also now secured $246m in primary funding altogether.

Funds

This is going to be a quick one today: other than the American Family Ventures fundraiser we’ve already covered, it’s been a slow week for funds.

Exits

Things are really beginning to heat up as we pass through the summer lull to the traditional autumn rush and a good deal of activity is focused on the public markets. Chinese smart electric carmaker Xpeng has floated in the US in an upsized $1.5bn initial public offering valuing it above $21bn. Alibaba and Xiaomi were among the Xpeng investors considering buying $400m of shares in the IPO, and its backers also include Foxconn, UCar and Douwan Entertainment.

The sheer scale of Ant’s forthcoming listing casts a large shadow, enough to almost make you forget what a big story it is that data analysis provider Palantir has also filed to go public. The Relx, Fujitsu and Sompo Holdings-backed company is eschewing an IPO in favour of a direct listing, following the likes of Spotify and Slack. It was valued above $20bn in 2016 but regardless of whether it’s maintained that valuation (and there are doubts about that), it will be one of the year’s biggest listings in a year set to be full of them.

Cloud data software provider Snowflake is another hugely valued tech company to file for an initial public offering, six months after closing a $479m series G round at a valuation exceeding $12bn. Salesforce Ventures was among the participants in that round but Capital One Growth Ventures got in earlier, backing its 2017 series D at a reported $500m valuation. It isn’t among Snowflake’s largest shareholders but it should be in for a bumper exit nonetheless.

Although a lot of companies are filing for IPOs, lidar technology developer Luminar has taken a different route, agreeing to a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Gores Metropoulos that will give it a Nasdaq listing and an expected valuation of $3.4bn. The deal is being boosted by $170m of financing from a syndicate including Van Tuyl Companies and Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the latter – like fellow corporates Corning and Cornes- an existing Luminar investor. Expect more of these kinds of deals, judging by the volume of SPACs entering the public markets of late.

In fact, another company to follow the SPAC route is 3D metal printer producer Desktop Metal, which will list on the New York Stock Exchange through a reverse merger with a SPAC called Trine Acquisition Corp. The combined business is set to be valued at $2.5bn, Desktop Metal having previously raised $438m from investors including Koch Industries, Alphabet, Panasonic, Techtronic Industries, Ford, Saudi Aramco, Lowe’s, BMW and Stratasys.

All these IPO and reverse merger deals have perhaps obscured the fact the M&A market seems to be doing quite well too. Fastly has agreed to buy web security application provider Signal Sciences for $200m in cash and $575m in stock, and the transaction will come after about $62m in funding. That money came from investors including O’Reilly Media’s OATV unit, which is in for a tasty exit having backed it in every round since its $2m seed funding.

Kymera Therapeutics raised almost $174m in its initial public offering on Friday, pricing its shares above their range before seeing them soar by 66% after their first day of trading. The small-molecule drug developer had previously received nearly $220m in funding from investors including corporate venturing units Amgen Ventures, Lilly Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, MRL Ventures Fund and Sanofi Ventures.

Israeli digital X-ray device developer Nano-X Imaging has also floated in the US, in a $165m IPO that scored exits for corporate investors SK Telecom, iA Financial, Foxconn and Fujifilm. The company priced its shares at the top of the range and their subsequent rise almost doubled its valuation from its last pre-IPO funding round, which closed in June this year.


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

24 August 2020 – SpaceX Raises $1.9bn

The Big Ones

SpaceX has been one of the most fervent fundraisers among private companies in recent years and it shows no signs of stopping. A securities filing indicates the spacecraft manufacturer and launch services provider has secured $1.9bn from undisclosed investors, with recent media reports putting the valuation of the round at $46bn. Its earlier backers include Google, which invested $900m at a $12bn valuation five years ago, and that valuation looks set to keep on rising for now.

Consumer electronics manufacturer Konka Group has teamed up with the Chinese city of Yancheng to put together an industry fund that will begin investing from a base of about $435m. The fund will be sized at up to $1.45bn and Konka is providing 40% of the capital. Its areas of interest include AI, semiconductors, the internet-of-things, new machinery and advanced materials.

Airbnb has announced it has confidentially filed for its long-awaited initial public offering. People were talking about an Airbnb flotation before the last downturn in the IPO markets in 2018. The rebound last year wasn’t enough to tempt it, but now, while they’re rallying for tech stocks, seems to be the right time despite a coronavirus-related hit to Airbnb’s business that saw it lay off 25% of its staff in May. The CapitalG-backed company had been valued at $26bn, down from $31bn, when it raised $1bn in debt and equity the previous month.

We have finally hit that summer lull on GUV, but there were still a few big stories. Most notably, Mission Bio, a US-based DNA analysis technology spinout of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has raised $70m in a series C round led by pharmaceutical firm Novo’s Novo Growth unit. Agilent Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of laboratory equipment and diagnostics services provider Agilent Technologies, also took part in the round, as did Cota Capital, Mayfield Fund and Soleus Capital. The round took the company’s total funding to more than $120m, it said, and Robert Ghenchev, head of Novo Growth, has joined its board of directors. Founded in 2014, Mission Bio has created a system called Tapestri which enables researchers and medical professionals to analyse single-cell RNA sequencing data to help develop precision medicines. The spinout leverages genomics technology from UCSF’s Abate Lab.

Deals

E-commerce group JD.com”s pharmaceutical product and medical services spinoff JD Health raised $1bn at a $6.9bn valuation last year, and now it’s agreed to add series B funding from investment manager Hillhouse Capital. The deal is set to be finalised next month and JD Health expects to get upwards of $830m from Hillhouse, an investor in its parent company since its 2012 series C round.

Last week we talked about reports that Chinese online medical insurance and crowdfunding service Waterdrop had raised $200m at a $2bn valuation, but a subsequent announcement places the size of the round at $230m. Tencent and Swiss Re co-led the round, which sources told Reuters valued Waterdrop just short of $2bn. Swiss Re has been relatively quiet in the corporate venturing space in recent years but reportedly put up $100m of the capital in this round.

Online share trading has made a big jump as the stock markets rally, and RobinHood is getting a lot of business in the US market. It has accordingly increased its valuation from $8.3bn to $11.2bn in the space of just four weeks, its latest move being to raise $200m in series G financing from investment firm D1 Capital Partners. It has now secured a total of $1.7bn and its earlier investors include Roc Nation’s Arrive subsidiary as well as Alphabet units GV and CapitalG.

Palfish is one of several Chinese online education providers to have experienced growth during Covid-19 lockdowns, and it has raised $120m in a series C round that included quantitative trading firm Susquehanna International Group. The company specialises in English tutoring and claims to have some 40 million users. It will put the funding towards improving its big data technology.

BlockFi has been one of the more frequent fundraisers in the startup space having closed five rounds in just over two years as it expands its range of digital currency services. The latest is a $50m series C round that included subsidiaries of CM Group and Siam Commercial Bank. The company has now secured more than $160m and its earlier backers include Consensys, SIG, Recruit and SoFi.

There are several VC-backed companies operating under the moniker of Element but the latest to raise money is the Germany-based bespoke insurance software provider, which has added funding from investors including Sony Financial Ventures and SBI Investment to a series A round that now stands at $46.5m. The earlier tranches featured Signal Iduna and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance.

Funds

MDI Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of Indonesian state-owned telecommunications firm Telkom, has closed a $500m fund entirely financed by the company. It will invest between $5m and $30m in domestic digital technology developers that will get access to a range of government-owned corporations, which in turn will be able to leverage the technology required to form a digital ecosystem in the country.

Russian conglomerate Sistema may not be the most active participant in the corporate venturing space but it does have one of the largest ranges of investment, having closed a series of funds focusing on different regions and sectors. Its Sistema Asia Capital subsidiary closed a $120m India fund in 2015 and is in the midst of raising the same amount for a vehicle concentrating on Southeast Asia. Areas of interest include cybersecurity, computer vision, smart cities, urban mobility and the internet-of-things.

Exits

Pharmaceutical companies Juno Therapeutics (itself a spinout of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre) and WuXi AppTec founded cancer immunotherapy developer JW Therapeutics in 2016 and now it has filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong. Recent reports suggested JW would target $250m to $300m in the IPO having already raised more than $200m in venture funding. Juno retains a 26% stake in the company while WuXi AppTec owns about 14% of its shares.

Biologic drug developer Inhibrx has gone public, raising $119m having floated at the midpoint of its range. Inhibrx had received some $135m in equity and debt financing from investors including Eli Lilly and WuXi Biologics, and its share price followed recent trends by rising post-IPO. It’s been a bumper time for newly public companies of late, the question is how much of a bubble this represents and whether latecomers to the party could end up missing out.

Nano-X Imaging is working on a medical imaging system intended to function as a more affordable alternative to X-ray machines, and the Israeli company has set terms for an initial public offering in the US that will raise almost $106m if it floats at the top of its range. A big impetus is that existing investors including corporates Foxconn, SK Telecom and iA Financial have expressed interest in buying up to $80m of shares in the offering, which is a more than decent vote of confidence.


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

15 June 2020 – Zuoyebang in Talks to Raise up to $800m in Coronavirus Boost

Big Ones

Online student answer and livestreamed education provider Zuoyebang was spun off by Baidu and has since received $585m in venture funding. Like many online education platforms however, it has seen a big uptick in business during China’s coronavirus lockdown, and is in talks to raise between $600m and $800m. The round would reportedly value Zuoyebangat $6.5bn pre-money, more than doubling the valuation at which it last raised money two years ago.

Novo has agreed to acquire Corvidia, developer of a phase 2b-stage treatment for chronic kidney disease, for an initial $725m that could potentially rise to $2.1bn if every milestone is reached post-purchase. That’s a hefty chunk of change, not least since Corvidia had disclosed just $86m in funding (not including a seed investment by VC firm Sofinnova Partners). Investors set to exit it include AstraZeneca and Fresenius Medical Care.

US-based social media company Facebook has begun setting up a corporate venture capital unit, Axios reported yesterday, citing a job listing posted by the firm. The prospective employee will be head of investments at Facebook’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) subsidiary, which it formed to launch consumer-focused apps. The post has since been deleted but it stated: “In this role, you will manage a multimillion-dollar fund that invests in leading private companies alongside top venture capital firms and angel investors. You will develop investment and impact theses, lead the execution of new investments and support existing portfolio companies as needed.” The fund will be partially managed by Shabih Rizvi, who spent two years as founding partner at internet technology provider Google’s artificial intelligence fund, Gradient Ventures, before moving to a business development role at Google in April 2019. A source familiar with the plans told Axios that Facebook is pursuing investments as a method of keeping track with emerging technologies, rather than operating what they termed as a general purpose fund. It will make small investments in early-stage companies.

In crossover news, it’s an exit this time. Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a Canada-based cancer radiopharmaceuticals developer spun out of McMaster University, has filed for a $100m initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Market. The spinout’s lead asset is undergoing phase 1 studies in an injected form for advanced, refractory solid tumours. Fusion said in its prospectus it had been forced to pause further recruitment as the pandemic led to clinical trial sites to be closed. It has administered the drug to 12 patients to date, out of a planned 30. Fusion most recently secured nearly $112m in a series B round closed this month featuring Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust, a commercialisation unit backed by Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the province of Ontario, oncology technology provider Varian Medical Systems, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and others. Varian and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC had already backed a $46m series A in 2017.

Deals

Many over the years have questioned the business model of grocery delivery app Instacart but the coronavirus stay-in-place restrictions have vindicated it somewhat and it has been hiring like crazy in recent months to meet demand. It has also now raised more money, taking in $225m through a round co-led by DST Global and General Catalyst that hiked its valuation from about $7.9bn to $13.7bn. Its earlier investors include Comcast, American Express and Whole Foods, the latter since consumed by Amazon.

Although it also delivers groceries, DoorDash’s focus is on on-demand food delivery from restaurants, and it is reportedly seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in a forthcoming round set to value it at more than $15bn pre-money. Like Instacart, which faced strike action over safety precautions a few months back, Verizon-backed DoorDash has also encountered scrutiny over business practices that allegedly include taking tip money intended for staff and fees some restaurants see as exorbitant. But it doesn’t seem to have had an effect yet.

The coronavirus lockdowns have given a big shot in the arm to companies operating in the online grocery industry, be it Instacart or Tongcheng Life, a China-based spinoff of travel services provider LY.com that operates a group buying service focused on fresh produce. The company has just raised $200m in a series C round led by social video platform Joyy that included Bertelsmann Asia Investments and Legend Capital, both of which took part in its $100m series B nine months ago.

Unacademy is among the online learning platforms to have seen activity shoot up as students have to stay home, and it is reportedly seeking up to $150m in funding to cover expansion. It raised $110m from investors including Facebook as recently as February but is said to be looking to double its $510m post-money valuation for the next round. The possible investors include Tencent, which has built a stable of edtech portfolio companies in its home country of China.

The uptick in e-commerce activity also has a knock-on effect for surrounding technologies. Anti-fraud software provider NS8 has completed a $123m series A round co-led by Axa Venture Partners and will allocate the funding to international expansion and product development. That’s a big haul for a series A and it comes after a year when NS8 quadrupled the size of its team from 50 to 200.

DNAnexus, the Stanford University spinout that has built a healthcare data software platform, has meanwhile raised $100m from investors including GV and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The round boosted the total raised by DNAnexus to more than $270m, its earlier investors including Microsoft and WuXi NextCode.

Cue Health specialises in molecular testing devices for both home and professional use, and has pulled in $100m through a series C round featuring Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC. The company has now raised at least $169m altogether, and JJDC participated in the latest round having contributed to its 2018 round alongside another corporate VC unit, Dentsu Ventures.

Contract biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing services provider MabPlex has raised approximately $70.7m in series B funding from investors including Sunshine Insurance Group. The round, co-led by DT Capital Partners and Huajin Capital, comes in the wake of $59.1m in a series A round closed early last year.

Nano-X Imaging, developer of an advanced body scanner that is smaller and cheaper than established alternatives, has added $20m from SK Telecom to a series B round that now stands at $51m. The telecommunications firm had already put up $5m for the round before joining investors including Foxconn and Fujifilm in a $26m tranche in January.

Funds

Theodorus, the university venture arm of Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), has increased the size of its fourth fund to €42m ($47.3m) following commitments from pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Belgian government-owned investment firm SFPI-FPIM. CDPQ supplied $3.9m through investment fund TFAQ2019, managed by Teralys Capital, while SFPI-FPIM injected $560,000, adding to a $5m it had already provided previously. Theordous IV will invest $18m in Canada-based and another $29.3m in Belgium-based spinouts over the next five years, aiming to bridge the two countries’ ecosystems. It will provide between $563,000 and $3.4m per spinout, targeting a 20-strong portfolio.

Exits

Cancer treatment developer Legend Biotech floated just over a week ago and has already closed the offering having raised about $487m. It was spun off by Genscript Biotech, which bought a further $23m of shares in the offering which have increased in value by more than 70% since the flotation. Legend’s other investors include Lilly Asia Ventures and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC.

Conventional wisdom said just a couple of months back that pursuing an initial public offering in the wake of the massive market drops in the spring would be futile, but several life sciences companies have proven otherwise, in many cases floating at the top or above their range, and now online car retail platform Vroom has followed suit. The AutoNation-backed company has gone public in a $468m IPO, having increased the number of shares and floating above an upscaled range. The offering may well reach $538m before it formally closes.

The Vroom offering, together with that of business data provider ZoomInfo, is set to open the floodgates in the IPO markets. Even Airbnb – which has been hit harder than almost anyone in recent months – is reportedly considering moving forward with its flotation, but Lemonade is significantly ahead. The digital insurance provider, valued at $2bn+ as of April, has filed for an offering with a $100m placeholder target that will almost certainly rise. It has received about $480m in funding from investors including SoftBank, Allianz, XL Innovate and GV since being founded.

One of the larger upcoming IPOs will be Snowflake, a cloud data software provider backed by Salesforce Ventures and Capital One Ventures that has reportedly filed confidentially to go public. Snowflake has pulled in some $1.3bn in funding and was valued at $12.4bn when it last raised money, in February. To put things in perspective, the FT reports that bankers have told the company it could float at valuation between $15bn and $20bn.


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