The Big Ones
Congratulations to Mike Cavanagh at Comcast for taking up the reins of its ventures unit after Amy Banse’s decision to retire next year. Thanks goes to Banse for her support to the community over the past decade and glad she’s staying engaged through Comcast to deliver on sustainability, gender equality and mentorship.
My thanks to Ken Gatz, CEO at deal management software platform Proseeder, for running the past two days’ pitch events covering sustainability and mobility on September 22 and financial and deep technology yesterday. The GCV Connect powered by Proseeder platform reviewed the applications thanks to the expert corporate venturing judges and then showcased the finallists with the recordings edited and showreeled at the GCV Digital Forum next week, 29th.
Sweden-listed investment holding company Kinnevik’s history is one of pivots. From its initial switch from pulp and paper into telecoms and media in Sweden in the 1990s and then into online companies such as Avito, Rocket Internet and Zalando in the 2010s now comes the push into privately-held startups as it sells its $2bn stake in telecoms asset Tele2.
Roche has paid $448m to buy Inflazome, the Novartis-backed developer of treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hepatitis B, Crohn’s disease and many others. Inflazome was spun out of University of Queensland just four years ago and also commercialises research from Trinity College Dublin. Novartis had contributed to its two only rounds that brought in a total of just over $62m.
TriNetX had raised $102m in funding from investors including Merck & Co, Mitsui and Itochu before agreeing to a purchase by Carlyle.
You may have all but forgotten about WeWork, the beleaguered co-working space provider, and in a world struggling to keep a pandemic at bay, sharing an office with strangers is hardly appealing. Yet, Trustbridge seems confident there is money to be made still and has acquired a majority stake in WeWork China for… $200m. Not only had WeWork China raised $1bn from investors including SoftBank and its Vision Fund, but was also once valued at $5bn. A source told TechCrunch layoffs had already started and “many things” remained uncertain, so we’ll see how this one pans out. In any case, it’s hardly an exit to celebrate for the investors, but they were likely prepared for that already anyway.
Even if you don’t drive an electric car, you have likely come across the term range anxiety – the fear that the battery’s charge will not last all the way to the driver’s destination. It is often considered a significant barrier to large-scale adoption of EVs, so seeing ChargePoint – which operates an international charging network – agreeing to a reverse merger with SPAC Switchback Energy Acquisition can only be good news. The deal values ChargePoint at $2.4bn and will, once it closes in Q4, net the business $683m in fresh funding. That’s a smidgeon more than the $667m it had raised in equity financing from backers such as AEP, BMW, Chevron, Constellation Energy, Daimler, Siemens, The Hartford and Toyota.
Speaking of the transportation sector: Ninebot – best known for the Segway brand – is looking to go public in China through a $295m IPO on Shanghai’s Star Market. The Xiaomi and Intel-backed company’s move is intriguing not so much for the IPO’s target size (though that is notable, too) but because it’s the first company with a variable interest entities (VIE) structure that’s been approved to list using Chinese Depository Receipts. VIE is a framework that enables foreign investment in companies that are restricted from accepting overseas capital due to their sensitive nature. Typically, the structure is employed by China-based companies undertaking a listing elsewhere and up until now Beijing made companies unwind this structure if they sought to list at home – but rising tensions with the US have seemingly provoked some flexibility from the central government.
Tencent-backed low-cost retailer has put a $100m placeholder figure in its filing for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, more than a year after its plans first emerged.
Compass Pathways, a UK-based depression medicine developer backed by pharmaceutical group Otsuka Pharmaceuticals’ McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, achieved a different kind of exit as it went public in an upsized IPO worth more than $127m on Friday. The company is working on something rather unusual: a synthetic version of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, to treat mental health disorders that have proven resistant to other therapies. McQuade had backed an $80m series B round in April 2020 and its bet paid off, as shares in Compass shot up to $29 on the first day of trading.
If you were looking forward to whatever blockbuster terms Grail was going to set for its IPO when it first filed with a $100m placeholder amount earlier this month, you’ll be sorely disappointed with today’s news. However, the $8bn put down by Illumina (though when accounting for its existing stake it’s closer to $7bn) to acquire its cancer diagnostics spinoff is impressive in its own right – particularly considering that Grail raised just under $2bn, so Illumina could have saved a decent chunk of cash if it had kept the development internal – but that’s the nature of these things. WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Alphabet, Varian Medical Systems, BMS, Celgene, Merck & Co, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson are all among the corporates celebrating an exit.
Speaking of China: Zhonggu Logistics, a container logistics services provider backed by liner operator Zhonggu Shipping and telecommunications group SoftBank, is targeting a $218m initial public offering after pricing its shares at $3.28 a pop. It will list on the main board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and Zhonggu Shipping will remain a majority shareholder at 63.1%, with a tiny slice (2.2%) also left for SoftBank. CICC is the lead underwriter.
The Washington State University neurological drug developer has gone public after issuing 12 million shares priced at $17 each.
News continues coming in at a rapid pace, proving that the summer lull – however much there was one, considering the flurry of IPO filings as discussed earlier – is well and truly over. If you live in the west, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tesla is the only real contender in the EV space but there are other noteworthy companies in the east. One of these is WM Motor, which has picked up $1.47bn in a series D round backed by SAIC Motor – adding to some $1.8bn in funding previously raised from investors such as Baidu, Tencent and China Minmetals. The money has been allocated to R&D, marketing, sales and branding activities.
There really is no stopping Robinhood, the US-based share trading app developer backed by Alphabet and Roc Nation: the company has now pushed its series G round to $660m thanks to a $460m extension supplied by D1 Capital Partners (which had provided the $200m initial tranche last month), a16z, Sequoia, DST, Ribbit and 9Yards. The extension has moved Robinhood’s valuation up to $11.7bn from $11.2bn a few weeks ago – that seems like a marginal increase hardly worth mentioning but in July the company was actually worth “only” $8.2bn when it closed its $600m series F. It’s now collected some $2.36bn in funding altogether.
Challenger bank Chime has become the most valuable American fintech aimed at retail consumers after raising $485m in a series F round that pushed its valuation to $14.5bn – a good chunk of change more than previous leader Robinhood, which attained an $11.2bn valuation last month. If $14.5bn seems a lot – and it is – consider this: Chime claims it has been adding hundreds of thousands of customers per month as the pandemic has made people less inclined to go into a physical bank branch. Consider this, too: the company was worth a mere $1.5bn just 18 months ago. Access Industries returned for the latest round but Chime’s early investors, which include Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, will also all be in for a phenomenal exit at this rate.
Munich Re has returned for a $250m series D round raised by online insurance platform Next Insurance, while CapitalG led the round. Next Insurance has grown to more than 100,000 customers across all 50 US states and will use the money to improve its existing offering, add more products and hire an additional 200 employees. Next has now raised $631m in total – Munich Re previously injected $250m in series C financing a year ago – and its investors also include Nationwide (the US insurer, not the UK financial institution), Markel and American Express Ventures.
Apple’s silicon in iPhones and iPads is notably because the chips manage to squeeze an astounding amount of processing power out of small real estate at low power usage. The team that led the development of these chips left last year to found Nuvia in an effort to bring their expertise to semiconductors in data centres. While its technology is still very much in development, it clearly has done enough to entice investors for a $240m series B round that featured returning backer Dell Technologies Capital.
Children’s debit card provider Greenlight is valued at $1.2bn after raising $215m in a funding from a host of investors, though none of its corporate backers participated this time.
Xingyun has picked up $200m in a series C round co-led by Taikang Insurance, Shanghai United Media Group and Highlight Capital, while GLP and C&D Group also invested.
There was a $133m series C round secured by Beyond Limits, an AI technology developer based on research at Caltech’s Nasa-aligned Jet Propulsion Lab that is notable not only because it’s repeatedly convinced BP Ventures to invest but also because it actually managed to attract BP Ventures’ Meghan Sharp as COO about a year ago (as long-time subscribers will remember). Another corporate, Group 42, joined BP for the series C round.
SoftBank’s Latin America Fund and General Atlantic have co-led a $107m series B round for Accesso Digital, a facial recognition technology developer that will use the money to scale.
Digital Garage has helped launch mobile gaming platform Playco with a $100m series A round and a valuation of more than $1bn.
Recycling electronics is big business – rare earth minerals needed to build devices such as laptops or smartphones are expensive to mine, but old gadgets too often just end up in that junk drawer we all have in our houses. This is where Wanwu Xinsheng – né Aihuishou – comes in: it runs an online and brick-and-mortar recycling service for consumers to sell their second-hand devices. The company’s now raised $100m in series E-plus financing from JD.com, its JD Logistics unit and others, to accelerate growth and seek additional partnerships internationally. The round brings the company’s overall funding to more than $1bn, and JD.com is a repeat investor.
Another nine-figure sum was revealed by Nucarf, a China-based logistics fleet refuelling management platform that has collected $100m in combined series A and A-plus capitalfrom investors including Xiamen C&D. The cash has been allocated to accelerating the development of its digital infrastructure, and it comes after multiple rounds of undisclosed size in 2017 and 2018.
Foot Locker-backed sneaker marketplace Goat Group has completed a $100m round from D1 Capital Partners, bringing its overall financing to almost $300m in five years.
UW mental health spinout Owl Insights secured funding to advance its product development and distribution.
The website development tool provider’s Wix Capital subsidiary will invest in early-stage startups that are developing AI, e-commerce, web design and automation technologies.
Pureos Bioventures has backed five spinouts so far from its inaugural biotech-focused fund, which has reached its final close.
Unnamed corporates have provided capital for Panlin’s $148m fund that will focus on healthcare, digital transformation and smart hardware.
Legal & General is among the limited partners for Kindred Capital’s second fund, which also attracted University of Chicago and will invest in early-stage European startups.
Alsa Ventures is targeting a $150m final close for its inaugural biotherapeutics fund, which has already backed university-linked companies.