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

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

Exits

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

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

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

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

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


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

06 April 2020 – Lyell Immunopharma Gains $493m Investment from GlaxoSmithKline

The Big Ones

It is the sort of line to awaken the curiosity in an annual report: “Cash payments to acquire equity investments amounted to £258m [$314m] (2018 – £309m), primarily relating to Lyell Immunopharma.”

Thus, the accountants revealed UK-listed drugs maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had invested a sizeable amount in US-based cancer treatment developer Lyell Immunopharma, which raised $493m earlier this month.

Late last week, US-listed software provider Microsoft fell into the latter camp as it agreed with AnyVision that “it is in the best interest of both enterprises for Microsoft to divest its shareholding in AnyVision”.

AnyVision Interactive Technologies, an Israel-based computer vision technology provider specialising in face, body and object-recognition software, only announced the close of a $74m series A round featuring M12, Microsoft’s corporate venture fund, as a new investor, in mid-June. But the deal came under public attention with media reports alleging its system was being used for a mass surveillance program in the West Bank.

American firms have a long history of running into competition concerns when trying to buy UK-based chipmaker Plessey. The latest is social media company Facebook, which has turned from acquisition plans to an agreement just to buy all the augmented reality displays made by Plessey over the next several years.

Deals

WeWork has had its six months of hell compounded after SoftBank pulled away from a $3bn share tender offer connected to a proposed $1.5bn in debt financing. The corporate cited WeWork’s failure to meet certain conditions set in the tender agreement and said it has now supplied more than $14bn – $14bn! – in debt and equity financing for the company since it first invested just three years ago. With Covid-19 keeping office workers at home, the future looks anything but bright for the startup space’s most visible falling star.

Adapting rather better to the situation is artificial intelligence technology provider 4Paradigm, which has closed $230m in funding from investors including Lenovo and existing backer Cisco at a $2bn valuation. China-based 4Paradigm said it has been developing AI tools to track infection rates and model coronavirus-related scenarios in addition to helping businesses accelerate digital transformation. It had last raised funding in a late 2018 series D round valuing it at $1.2bn.

And despite general concerns around slowing transportation needs, Via Transportation offers a diverse range of transport options that can be integrated into an organisation’s existing activities. Holding company Exor has pumped $200m into Via as part of a series E round of undisclosed size that valued it at $2.25bn. Shell, Mori Building and Hearst Ventures also contributed to the round. Via’s existing backers include Daimler, which led a reported $250m round for the company three years ago.

And Crisitunity! The Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions associated with it are likely to be around for a while, but while it is devastating large swathes of the worldwide economy, some others are benefitting. Zoom and Netflix have been held up as examples of this, but the online education and media sector is also in place to do well.

Yuanfudao has reportedly topped Chinese app downloads in the space since January and has raised $1bn in a series G round co-led by long-term corporate investor Tencent. The cash was secured at a $7.8bn valuation and boosted the company’s overall funding to more than $1.5bn. Expect more to follow in that sector. Businesses are suffering but it looks as if a by-product of the crisis will be to accelerate the move toward mobile activities and socialising touted by the tech space for so long.

Tiger Global waltzes into Bytedance

As are ecommerce and producers. Plenty prepares to raise $100m

Online marketplace Ozon has been a fixture in Russia for more than two decades and is still getting big interest from investors. It’s just added $50m in convertible note financing from Princeville Capital to $100m recently secured from conglomerate Sistema and Baring Vostok. The $150m financing round follows $154m from the latter two last April and a $119m secondary investment by Sistema shortly before.

On healthcare and life sciences, which is another part of the tech space that’s unsurprisingly booming right now. Hillhouse Capital and Chen Yi Investment are putting up $292m for a secondary investment in Hualan Biological Vaccines, the vaccine developer spun off from biopharmaceutical firm Hualan Biological Engineering. It was formed in 2015 and was responsible for a third of its parent company’s revenue last year. It’s now valued at about $1.94bn.

6 Dimensions supports $125m round for iTeos

Collibra collects $112m

Pandion packs in $80m

Aspen Neuroscience ascends with $70m

Affinia affirms $60m series A

AM-Pharma has added $52m in debt and equity financing from Cowen Healthcare Investments and European Investment Bank to a round that now stands at $182m. The company, which is developing a treatment for acute kidney injury, has now disclosed almost $340m in funding altogether, its earlier backers including Pfizer and AbbVie.

Olive collects $51m

University

Zucara sweetens $21m series A deal

MiDiagnostics brings experiment to a $15.4m close

Funds

Yamato delivers Kuroneko Innovation Fund

Exit

OneWeb is the latest of SoftBank Vision Fund’s large-scale investments to go sour, filing for bankruptcy after failing to raise a reported $2bn from investors including Vision Fund. SoftBank has pumped upwards of $1bn into the satellite internet system developer, which has secured a total of $3.4bn prior to the move, from investors also including Qualcomm, Airbus, Coca-Cola Company, Virgin, Bharti Enterprises, Totalplay, Hughes Network Systems and Intelsat.

And distressed exits will increase. Hooq clasps liquidation option

IPOs may have dropped off but we’ve already seen some large M&A deals in recent weeks, the latest being Affirmed Networks, which has agreed to an acquisition by Microsoft that reportedly valued it at $1.35bn. The mobile network technology provider had disclosed $141m in funding and its exiting investors include Qualcomm Ventures, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, the latter having taken over the stake from another Deutsche Telekom subsidiary, T-Venture.

Palo Alto Networks agreeing to buy network technology provider CloudGenix in a $420m deal that will enable Intel Capital to exit. Longtime readers will of course recognise Palo Alto as one of the most frequent providers of CVC M&A exits.


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