04 May 2020 – FIS Commits $150m to its Corporate Venturing Unit

The Big Three

As highlighted in last week’s podcast, some sectors are flying high and, certainly relative to the global financial crisis a dozen years ago, banking and financial services is one of them.

New York-listed financial technology (fintech) provider FIS has committed $150m to its corporate venturing unit as part of a joined-up approach to open innovation including its FIS FinTech Accelerator and FIS Innovatein48 research and development competition in addition to innovation labs.

Under Joon Cho, FIS Ventures will invest up to $150m in fintech startups over the next three years targeting artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital enablement and automation, data and analytics, security and privacy, distributed ledger technology and financial inclusion.

The blurring of lines between corporate and independent venture capital is continuing apace as all parties consider how best they can support entrepreneurs while fulfilling their five needs: capital, customers, product development, hiring and an exit.

This naturally brings the best investors together with the corporations best able to scale startups and then potentially acquire them, so it is little surprise in many ways to see US-based coffee retailer Starbucks form a co-investment partnership with venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China.

Starbucks said it would also look to form “commercial partnerships with next-generation food and retail technology companies” in China through a statement announcing the agreement.

The average worldwide population increase is currently estimated at 81 million people per year – a figure at this stage fortunately unlikely to be dented much by the Covid-19 pandemic – and all those people require feeding.

As GCV’s agtech supplement in March noted, modern farming practices, such as the use of soil-based and aerial sensors as well as drones, data analytics, and pest and pathogen detection systems, are taking hold. When combined with advanced fertiliser formulations, digital farming technologies developed by startups can substantially reduce nitrogen and nutrient loss and mitigate water pollution.

Enter Pivot Bio, a US-based agriculture technology developer that is trying to harness the power of naturally occurring microbes to provide more nutrients to crops. It has raised $100m in its series C round from a consortium including Bunge Ventures and Continental Grain but is apparently missing one of its earlier corporate backers.

Deals

Fintech on the other hand does not seem to have been affected by the coronavirus to the same extent. Investment and financial advice app developer Stash has raised $112m in a series F round led by $80m from lending marketplace LendingTree. The funding was bagged at an $800m valuation and lifted Stash’s overall funding to more than $290m. CEO Brandon Krieg told Bloomberg it intends to grow its customer base along with brand awareness as finances constrict in the US.

Consumer and business lender DMI Finance likely won’t lack customers in the downturn, and it has just pulled in $123m from video game publisher Nexon at a reported valuation that topped $1bn. India-headquartered DMI secured $200m in non-convertible debenture financing just last month and its commercial partners include Samsung, which is based – like Nexon – in Korea.

And another is business-focused neobank Cross River Bank, which has raised $100m of its own. The series C round comes less than 18 months since Cross River received $100m from backers including corporate CreditEase. The latest round is being co-led by investment adviser V Capital, which will help Cross River expand in its home country of Malaysia.

Inceptio loads up $100m

Paytm is among India’s most valuable startups having been valued at $16bn in a November series G round featuring Ant Financial and SoftBank Vision Fund. The mobile financial services provider is reportedly in talks to raise $100m or more from Microsoft to add to the series G. The round was sized at $1bn but Paytm has only received $720m of the cash so far, and Ant Financial will reportedly need government clearance to supply its share due to new foreign investment regulations.

Although corporates have not been keen on joining in the rush to back cannabis-focused startups, an interesting test case for tech based on traditionally illicit drugs may be Compass Pathways, which is working on a treatment for depression that utilises psilocybin from mushrooms (magic mushrooms, to be precise). The company just pulled in $80mthrough a series B round featuring Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, and has received breakthrough therapy designation for its lead product from the FDA. That should be as good a go-ahead sign as any, you’d think.

University

Taysha stakes out $30m seed round

LifeSprout bolts on series A funding

Exits/Losses

SoftBank’s woes continue, the corporate announcing this morning that it expects to booka mammoth loss of nearly $6.6bn on its investment in WeWork over the last financial year – a period when it pledged a $9.5bn financing package to make sure the workspace provider could continue operations. The value of that deal has been hit hard by the shutdowns of WeWork locations across the world in the face of the coronavirus, and it’s worth noting the $6.6bn figure is separate to SoftBank Vision Fund, which has announced a projected loss of more than $16bn over the same period.

D2iQ has raised a touch over $250m from investors including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Koch Disruptive Technologies since being founded as Mesosphere in 2013, but the cloud software and services provider is reportedly in talks with Google to be acquired. In a sign of the effect the Covid-19 shutdown is having, D2iQ reportedly laid off 34 team members recently, and the prospective purchase would likely value it at more than that $250m, but less than the $775m valuation in its last round two years ago.

To IPO or not to IPO? Right now it seems less of a question than a foregone conclusion for many companies but interestingly, the ones that are opting to go public in this economic downturn seem to be benefitting from the lack of competition. Oncology therapy developer Oric Pharmaceuticals has done so in a $120m initial public offering, floating at the top of its range having increased the number of shares by 50% and then seeing them open more than 60% higher. It had previously raised more than $175m in funding from investors including Taiho, Hartford HealthCare and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Acacia circles over Woodford assets

Funds

Michigan State to administer $3m pre-seed fund


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

09 March 2020 – Waymo Secures $2.25bn in Initial Close of First External Round

The Big Ones

Waymo began life in Alphabet’s secretive Google X division but has now fully emerged as a standalone company, securing $2.25bn from investors including AutoNation, Magna International and Alphabet itself – an amount it said only represents the initial close of its first external round. No official word on valuation but Morgan Stanley analysts estimated its value at $105bn as of September. What this means for Alphabet portfolio company Uber, which is testing its own driverless car tech, remains to be seen.

Insurance providers Aflac, Sumitomo Life and Nürnberger have contributed to the $90m initial close of an insurance technology-focused fund being raised by UK-based venture capital firm Anthemis. Founded in 2010, Anthemis now has more than $500m in assets under management and more than 100 portfolio companies in the financial technology sector, about a third of which are insurance-related. The fund is expected to reach a final close later in 2020, according to Reuters. Aflac invested through its corporate venturing subsidiary, Aflac Global Ventures, and fellow insurer Daido Life Insurance Company is involved with the fund as an associate. Anthemis Insurance Venture Growth Fund I will invest in later-stage insurance tech businesses, beyond the traditional pre-seed to series B remit of earlier Anthemis funds.

Equinix has closed the acquisition of bare-metal automation technology provider Packet initially announced in January. The purchase price is $335m and the deal comes in the wake of just $36m in funding. That’s good news for SoftBank, which led Packet’s series A round, in addition to fellow corporate investors Dell Technologies Capital, JA Mitsui and Samsung Next.

In crossover news. Element Science has raised a sliver over $145m in a series C round that included GV, which was listed as an existing investor. Element is the developer of a wearable defibrillator for cardiac patients transferring from the hospital to their home. The round was co-led by Deerfield Healthcare and Qiming Venture Partners USA and it boosted Element’s overall funding to at least $183m. The company’s founder, president and chief executive is Uday Kumar, adjunct professor in bioengineering at Stanford University. He previously founded iRhythm Technologies, the developer of arrhythmia diagnostics technology that won the GUV Award for Exit of the Year in 2017 – and whose stock has nearly quadrupled since its IPO to give the company a current market cap of $2.6bn.

Deals

Beike Xhaofang was reported in December to be mulling over an initial public offering to raise up to $1bn, but the online property rental platform had apparently already raised more than $2.4bn in a series D-plus round punctuated by a $1bn investment from SoftBank. The round also featured existing investor Tencent and valued the company (also known as Ke.com) in excess of $14bn.

Quibi is gearing up for the launch of its short-form online streaming platform next month and has closed $750m in new financing from undisclosed new and existing investors. The new funding took Quibi’s overall equity financing to $1.75bn, the company having previously revealed Alibaba, Sony, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, WarnerBros, Entertainment One and WndrCo among its backers.

Immunocore has completed a $130m series B round that included WuXi AppTec’s corporate VC fund and existing investor Eli Lilly. A media report in September suggested the round was set to value the immuno-oncology molecule developer, a spinoff from MediGene, at about $625m. That sounds good until you factor in the reported $1bn valuation at which it last raised money, through a $320m round in 2015. Immunocore was spun out of biotech firm Medigene in 2008 to commercialise aspects of Avidex technology, the latter having been spun out of University of Oxford in 1999. A sister company, Adaptimmune, was formed concurrently to market other Avidex assets.

Novartis Venture Fund and Partners Innovation Fund have taken part in a $105m series B round for Akouos, which is developing precision genetic medicines to combat hearing loss. Both participated as existing backers, Novartis having been an investor since the company’s $7.5m seed round three years ago.

Immuno-oncology continues to be a strong area of life sciences, with Akrevia Therapeutics having closed a $100.5m series B round announced alongside its rebranding to Xilio Therapeutics. The round was led by Takeda Ventures and included three more corporate venturing subsidiaries of pharmaceutical firms: M Ventures, Ipsen Ventures and MRL Ventures Fund.

Pliant Therapeutics, a US-based fibrosis therapy developer based on research at University of California (UC), San Francisco, has raised $100m in a series C round led by pharmaceutical firm Novartis. Venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures formed Pliant in 2016 to advance research conducted at UC San Francisco by professors Dean Sheppard, Bill DeGrado and Hal Chapman together with associate professor Bradley Backes. The company’s now raised $207m altogether.

Thought Machine has created a cloud banking platform intended to comprehensively replace legacy banking IT systems. Its customers include Lloyds Banking Group, which has also participated in the company’s $83m series B round, making it the latest UK-based fintech developer to raise substantial funding. It is channelling the capital into its ongoing international expansion, which is currently focused on the Asia Pacific region.

Japan-based lithium-ion battery developer APB has raised ¥8bn ($74.4m) in today from investors including Keio Innovation Initiative (KII), a joint venture capital vehicle for Keio University and securities brokerage Nomura Holdings. Industrial, mining and petroleum group JXTG Holdings took part through subsidiary JXTG Innovation Partners while coal chemistry technology provider JFE Chemical, construction firm Obayashi Corporation, textile manufacturer Teijin and industrial technology producers Nagase & Co and Yokogawa Electric invested directly. The company was founded in October 2018 through a partnership between KII and Keio University professor Hideaki Horie.

Quantum computing technology developer Rigetti Computing is well on the way to its next round, having accumulated $71m for a targeted close of $83.9m, according to a securities filing. The company has now disclosed a total of $190m in funding and its earlier backers include Bloomberg Beta, which invested in its $24m series A round.

Funds

Mandatum Life, the insurance subsidiary of financial services group Sampo, has contributed to the €30m ($32.6m) first close for an insurance technology-focused fund formed by Finland-based venture capital firm Innovestor. B2B Industrial Technology Fund has an expected ceiling of €100m and its other limited partners include unnamed institutional investors, family offices and individual backers. It expects to begin investing as early as the second quarter of 2020.

Exits

Accolade, the developer of a digital concierge designed to help users navigate the healthcare benefits system, has filed for a $100m initial public offering that will give corporate backers Comcast, Humana, McKesson Ventures and Independence Health Group the opportunity to exit. The company has raised more than $194m in financing since being founded in 2007.

Oric Pharmaceuticals is the latest oncology therapeutics developer to file for an initial public offering and is targeting $86.3m in the IPO. Taiho, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Hartford HealthCare are in line for exits, having all contributed to a $55.7m series D round last August that pushed Oric’s total funding past $175m.

Artificial intelligence chip producer Cambricon Technologies has applied to list on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market, in an initial public offering that will give corporate backers Alibaba, Lenovo, Zhongke Tuling Century Beijing Technology and iFlytek a chance to exit. The company has raised at least $200m in funding and was valued at $2.5bn in its last round, a 2018 series B.


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