26 October 2020 – Ant Group Aims for World’s Biggest Floatation Topping $250bn

The Big Ones

Yuanfudao is the latest Chinese online education provider to raise a huge amount, reportedly securing $1bn in a series G2 round led by DST Global that valued it at $15.5bn post-money. Its earlier investors include Tencent, which co-led the company’s $1bn series G round in March at a $7.8bn valuation, and which was reported last month to be taking part in a $1.2bn round that media reports state had already closed in the run up to the series G2 funding.

Ant Group has secured regulatory approval for the Shanghai leg of a dual listing expected to raise some $35bn at a valuation that may top $250bn, having got clearance for the Hong Kong offering on Monday. Which would make it the biggest flotation in history. The financial services provider was valued at $150bn when it raised $14bn in its 2018 series C round, and Alibaba, which spun the company off, is set to buy about 20% of the shares being issued to come out with a 32% stake post-IPO.

The biggest fund this week is actually a crossover: UVC Partners, the Germany-based venture capital firm affiliated with Technical University of Munich (also known as TUM), unveiled its €150m ($178m) third fund on Tuesday backed by LPs including specialty chemicals company Lanxess. The co-founders of mobility services provider Flixbus also invested in the fund, as have a range of unnamed institutional investors, family offices, corporates and family businesses. UVC Partners maintains a close relationship with UnternehmerTUM, the university’s centre for innovation and business creation. The two entities actually share leadership in Helmut Schönenberger, who is the chief executive of UnternehmerTUM and a managing partner of UVC Partners.

Deal-wise, in crossover news, AavantiBio is the latest entrant to the genetic therapy space, launching on Thursday with $107m in series A funding, $15m of which came from genetic drug developer Sarepta Therapeutics. The spinout’s president and CEO had spent some eight years in an executive position at Sarepta and its core technology is based on University of Florida research. AavantiBio will concentrate on genetic therapeutics for rare diseases and its initial focus is on Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), an inherited genetic disease that leads to central nervous system and cardiac dysfunction.

Deals

Google has reportedly invested $300m in Tokopedia, one of Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, as part of a late-stage round already equipped with $500m from Temasek on its way to a targeted close around the $1bn mark. Tokopedia’s earlier investors include CyberAgent Capital, Alibaba and SoftBank vehicles Vision Fund, SoftBank Ventures Asia and SB Pan Asia Fund.

Shouqi Yueche is one of several companies that had seen funding drop off in the wake of China’s regulatory crackdown on its ride hailing sector, but it claims to have increased its registered users by more than 30% in the last year and has also pulled in ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in series C funding. The investors in the round have not been revealed but the company’s existing backers include Baidu and Nio Capital.

Arctic Wolf is one of the fastest rising operators in the cybersecurity scene, the cybersecurity concierge provider having raised $200m in a DTCP-backed series E round valuing it at $1.3bn. It had secured $60m in series D funding just seven months ago and its overall funding now stands at more than $350m. It is also moving its head office from California to Minnesota amidst plans to up headcount significantly.

Online education has thrived during the coronavirus pandemic but another Chinese company, online pharmacy operator Dingdang Kuaiyao, has also seen user numbers rise significantly. It has pulled in $150m through a series B-plus round that included existing backers Softbank China and Sinopharm-CICC Capital. Both had already taken part in the company’s $89m series B early last year.

VectivBio has closed a $110m crossover financing round that included Novo to advance its short bowel syndrome treatment through phase 3 clinical trials. The company was spun off from Therachon, a Novo-backed genetic disease therapy developer acquired for $810m in May last year. Novo had also been among the investors to provide the $35m VectivBio had when it launched in January this year.

Hyperscience has developed software that allows organisations to automate back-office tasks to increase efficiency, and has raised $80m in a series D round led by Tiger Global Management. The company’s earlier backers include QBE, TD Ameritrade and Penna and Company, and the series D round took its overall funding past the $190m mark.

Funds

Spain-based telecommunications firm Telefónica has launched a cybersecurity-focused investment vehicle called Telefónica Tech Ventures that expects to provide funding for 15 cybersecurity technology developers over the next three years, investing up to $7m per deal at series A to C stage. Follow-on funding will be available for the better performing recipients.

Exits

Big funding isn’t necessarily the fuel for success however, with short-form streaming service Quibi announcing yesterday it is set to shutter its platform, which launched just six months ago. It will have about $350m to return from the $1.75bn it raised from investors including Alibaba, Sony, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, WarnerMedia, Entertainment One and, reportedly, Google and Facebook. Quibi itself has blamed the coronavirus for much of its trouble getting subscribers, but the low adoption rate following free trials points to a lack of good programming and, perhaps deeper, to too many execs with TV experience and not enough with online expertise.

Quibi isn’t the only tech unicorn set to call it a day however. Chinese online car marketplace Renrenche has raised $760m from investors including Didi Chuxing and Tencent and was reportedly valued at $1.7bn after its most recent round in 2018, but Bloomberg has reported it is in talks to sell its major assets to 58.com for a token amount a little over $1,000. Renrenche’s branch of the startup space has been impacted heavily by the coronavirus, but it also competes in a crowded sector. These may be just the start of several parts of the startup space thinning out as revenues dip and money gets increasingly tight.

Back to some better news: although both the US and China have been hotbeds for tech IPOs in recent months, ride hailing has been visibly apart from that as the sector’s inhabitants look to offset the damage to their businesses done by the coronavirus. Dida Chuxing was recently reported to be mulling a Hong Kong IPO, and market leader Didi Chuxing is reportedly looking at the same destination for a 2021 offering. The purported IPO is expected to value Didi at up to $60bn and investors including SoftBank, Apple, Alibaba, China Life, Tencent, Booking Holdings, Ping An, eHi and Sina Weibo would be in line for exits.

Small molecule drug developer Aligos Therapeutics has raised $150m in an initial public offering that involved it pricing 10 million shares in the middle of their $14 to $16 range. Those shares are currently (that’s Friday afternoon UK time) at $15.12, but the offering nevertheless represents exits for Roche Finance and Novo, which were among the investors that had supplied more than $230m in venture funding for Aligos.

Advanced hearing aid provider Eargo on the other hand has celebrated a bumper IPO, floating above its range in an upsized offering to raise more than $141m, then seeing its shares open at double the IPO price on their first day of trading. You know who else must be celebrating? Nan Fung Life Sciences, which participated in Eargo’s last three rounds and which is now backing a company with a market cap over $1.2bn.

Compass Therapeutics is the latest drug developer to file for an initial public offering, though the $50m target it has set suggests its aim may be lower than most. The immuno-oncology therapy developer had secured $132m in a 2018 series A round featuring life sciences-focused real estate investment trusts Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Biomed Realty, but neither possess a stake in the company sized at 5% or greater.


“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

13 January 2020 – Ant Financial Backs Zomato with $150m at a $3bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Zomato has kicked off its next funding round, expected to reach $500m, by raising $150m from existing investor Ant Financial at a $3bn valuation. The cash will help it in its ongoing battle against domestic rival Swiggy for supremacy in India’s online food ordering sector.

SoftBank Vision Fund has reportedly pulled out of a series of large-scale investments, in companies including Honor, Seismic and Creator, in recent months despite signing term sheets. The decisions appear to have taken place in the wake of WeWork’s failure to float in the autumn but could just as easily be due to a general slowdown in investments due to the second Vision Fund still not being close to its initial $100bn target.

Internet-of-things security provider Armis has agreed to a $1.1bn acquisition by Insight Partners in which Alphabet’s CapitalG unit is set to provide $100m. The France-based company had disclosed $112m in funding as of a $65m series C round last year, though none of its VC investors were corporates.

In university – and crossover – news, Soul Machines, a New Zealand-based artificial intelligence-powered avatar platform spun out of University of Auckland, has received $40m in a series B round featuring the institution’s Inventors Fund. Singaporean state-owned investment firm Temasek led the round, which also included Salesforce Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of enterprise software producer Salesforce. Daimler Financial Services, the financial and mobility services subsidiary of carmaker Daimler, was previously revealed as a backer when Soul Machines raised a first series B tranche in 2018.

Deals

Quibi has to be one of the most eagerly-awaited pre-launch startups in history, and its leaders revealed this week it will launch its 10-minutes-or-less streaming platform in April with contributors including Guillermo Del Toro, Jennifer Lopez and Liam Hemsworth.

Fitness and wellness subscription service ClassPass has meanwhile raised $285m in a series E round that lifted its valuation to the billion-dollar mark. Alphabet’s GV unit is among its investors but the latest funding came in a round co-led by L Catterton and Apax Digital with additional participation by Temasek.

Further along the line is Byju’s, reportedly now the world’s most valuable VC-backed edtech company, which has just received $200m in funding from Tiger Global Management at a valuation of about $8bn. That’s an increase in valuation of nearly 40% in just six months and has to be good news for existing backers and corporates Naspers, Tencent and Bennett Coleman & Co.

Hesai has raised $173m in series C funding, in a round it claims is the largest ever for a lidar system developer. Robert Bosch co-led the round, two years after Hesai took part in its automotive AI accelerator in China, while ON Semiconductor also contributed capital.

Zhiyun Health, developer of a chronic disease management platform, has secured a total of $144m across series C-plus and series D rounds, the investors including Samsung, SIG Asia and China Electronics Corporation affiliate OP Financial.

Business accounting software provider High Radius is now valued at more than $1bn, having raised $125m in a series B round featuring Citi Ventures and Susquehanna Growth Equity. Both took part as existing backers and the round was led by Iconiq Capital.

Sisense, the creator of a data simplification tool for app developers and business analysts, has increased its valuation to more than $1bn, securing $100m from investors including Access Industries subsidiary Claltech.

Transcenta Holdings, the biopharmaceutical company formed through the merger of HJB and MabSpace Biosciences – both backed by Lilly Asia Ventures – has also raised $100m, in a series B-plus round that included the Eli Lilly-affiliated venture firm.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has chipped into a $73m series C round for digital accounting software provider Receipt Bank. The round was led by Insight Partners, the venture firm that had invested $50m in Receipt Bank in 2017, and the cash will fund growth across Europe, North America and Australia.

ClearCover has become the latest online insurance portal to raise substantial funding, pulling in $50m through a series C round featuring Cox Enterprises and American Family Ventures, both participating as existing investors.

Funds

US-based tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has launched a $100m corporate venture capital vehicle known as Goodyear Ventures at CES. Goodyear produces a range of vehicle tires in addition to running service centres and providing synthetic rubber and chemical products.

India-based poultry product supplier IB Group has formed a $28m strategic investment fund. IB’s central business focuses on its chicken and egg supply, though it has diversified into areas such as livestock feed, pet food, solvents and hospitality.

Exits

Megvii has received regulatory approval to float in Hong Kong and reportedly expects to raise about $500m in the initial public offering. Alibaba and its Ant Financial affiliate own upwards of 29% of the image recognition software provider, which was valued at $4bn as of its last funding round in May.

One Medical has filed to go public having raised a total of $400m in primary funding from investors including Alphabet’s GV unit. The primary care provider has set a placeholder target of $100m that will almost certainly increase by the time it sets terms for the IPO.


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

20 May 2019 – JD Health Agrees Series A Funding Suspected to Total More Than $1bn

The Big Ones

JD.com has agreed to take in series A funding from CICC Capital, Baring Private Equity Asia and CPEChina Fund that is expected to total more than $1bn, for healthcare services subsidiary JD Health.

Not the week’s biggest fund in terms of numbers, but an intriguing one nonetheless: Telkomsel, the mobile network subsidiary of Indonesia-headquartered telecommunications company Telkom Indonesia, has launched a $40m VC fund in collaboration with telecoms firm Singapore Telecommunications.

When it came to exits, we had a nice crossover between corporate and university with NextCure, a US-based immuno-oncology drug developer based on research at Yale University, that secured $75m in its initial public offering.

Deals

Quibi raised $1bn for its short-form streaming platform back when was known as New TV, and it’s now seeking an additional $1bn to fund content production.

SoftBank Vision Fund’s latest investment involves it supplying $800m in funding for supply chain finance provider GreenSill at a $3.5bn valuation.

Amazon isn’t a huge participant in the corporate venturing space despite its establishment of the early stage-focused Alexa Fund. But it’s led a $575m series G round for UK-based online food delivery service Deliveroo that took the latter’s funding past the $1.5bn mark.

Telecommunications technology provider China Electronics Corporation is investing approximately $548m in Beijing Qianxin Technology, a network security product supplier spun off from Qihoo 360.

Reports last month stated SoftBank was set to invest more than $550m in Germany-based tour booking service GetYourGuide but the end result is slightly more modest, if still impressive.

Vegan burger producer Impossible Foods recently launched in Asia and is set to ramp up its partnership with Burger King. It plans to fund that expansion with a $300m funding round closed at a reported $2bn valuation.

SoftBank Vision Fund’s latest Indian investment has involved it leading a $200m series F round for online grocery delivery service Grofers that valued it at more than $1bn.

Speaking of innovative business models, tube-based transport developer Virgin Hyperloop One has already raised new funding, netting $172m according to a regulatory filing, with at least $90m of that sum coming from port operator DP World and the rest from around 80 additional investors.

ETechAces, the owner of financial product comparison platforms PolicyBazaar and PaisaBazaar, has raised $152m in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund.

Working space provider Kr Space is one of China-based 36 Kr’s network of companies, but the spinoff has fared better than most, having just secured $145m that will support an expansion into the Asia Pacific region.

Nextdoor’s geographically-arranged social network now spans more than 230,000 neighbourhoods across multiple countries, and it’s secured $123m in series D funding to support an international growth drive that has most recently seen it enter Scandinavia.

Funds

Gree Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of Japan-based digital media company Gree, has reached the first close of a fund called Strive III which it intends to close at ¥15bn ($137m).

Diversified Philippines-based conglomerate JG Summit Holdings has launched a $50m corporate venturing fund dubbed JG Digital Equity Ventures (JG DEV).

Nabventures, the investment arm of the India-based National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), is aiming to raise up to Rs 7bn ($99.4m) for a venture capital fund.

Universal Display Corporation, the US-based developer of organic light emitting diode (OLED) technologies and materials, has established a corporate venturing arm called UDC Ventures.

Exits

CrowdStrike was valued at more than $3bn when it last raised funding, in 2018, and now it’s filed for an initial public offering.

Family tracking and communication app developer Life360 may be headquartered in the US but it’s taken the unusual step of floating on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Sansan has been one of Japan’s more well-funded VC-stage companies, raising some $120m from investors that include Salesforce as well as home-grown corporates Japan Post, CyberAgent, Recruit, GMO, Nippon Life and Nikkei.


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