26 April 2021 – UK National Grid Commits Further $150m to its Silicon Valley-based Corporate Venture and Innovation Group

The Big Ones

1

In November, this column said, if demotivated, “talented people will quickly cut the cord”.

This was in response to US-listed cable group Comcast’s decision to limit its successful corporate venturing unit, as GCV reported at the time.

Almost six months on and the team has broken up as feared. And the unit, which was founded in 1999 and which has more than 120 portfolio companies, has announced investments in just two companies since November when it co-led a $38m round for Zapata Computing.

Amy Banse, managing director and head of funds for Comcast Ventures, announced in September last year she would be retiring, while managing director David Zilberman left shortly afterwards to join venture capital firm Norwest Venture Partners.

Of the other managing directors, Sam Landman is now co-founder and general partner at venture capital fund Mastry while Dinesh Moorjani has left to return to angel investing and his portfolio of board seats, such as Zoox, and Rick Prostko has become managing director for North America at Ontario Teachers’​ Pension Plan’s innovation platform.

Others who appeared to have cut their ties with Comcast directly are Gil Beyda, whose LinkedIn page states he has stopped being a managing director at Comcast and returned to a managing partner position at Genacast Ventures, and Daniel Gulati, who became the founding partner at Forecast Fund in May 2020 and whose LinkedIn profile reveals he left Comcast last year. Comcast, however, effectively retained their talents, as a spokesperson said Forecast Fund was set up within Comcast Ventures while Genacast was established with Comcast support.

The upshot is that only Andrew Cleland is left directly as an MD at Comcast Ventures, though other experienced people within the group include Sam Schwartz, executive vice-president and chief business development officer for Comcast.

A similar but smaller exodus has occurred at the principal level. Chris Hill departed in December to become a strategic adviser at Retina AI, Andre Iguodala left his venture partner role at Comcast’s Catalyst fund and Morgan Polotan joined B Capital Group as a principal.

This has left Sheena Jindal, Min-Sik Jun and Adam Spivack as principals and the operations team, such as Arjun Kapur and Madura Wijewardena, under managing director and chief financial officer Kim Armor.

Comcast’s spokesman said by email: “Comcast Ventures was just repositioned to be within the strategic development group at Comcast Cable and continues to operate as a fund and as Comcast Ventures. It just went from one department to another. We issued a statement on this and here is what we said which has not changed: ‘Comcast Ventures has been a valuable innovation pipeline, providing insight into adjacent industries and investment opportunities.

‘We are aligning our approach to venture investing more closely with our business units and repositioning Comcast Ventures and its fund under the strategic business development team at Comcast Cable.

‘Our business development teams across the company continue to invest in new technology and businesses, which we believe will yield more strategic opportunities and benefits for Comcast and the companies in which we invest. We will continue to support our existing portfolio companies through investment and strategic partnership.’”

Comcast has aligned its corporate venturing activities – it also runs Sky Ventures in the UK under James McClurg and Mike Martin, and NBCUniversal’s growth team under Don Mathis – around its broader entrepreneurial activities, which include Danielle Cohn’s Lift Labs accelerator, now on its fourth cohort managed by Techstars.

Since its launch, 32 companies from around the world have completed the Lift Labs accelerator programme and 75% have secured pilots or agreements with a division or business unit of Comcast NBCUniversal.

Another insider left at one of the corporate venturing divisions of Comcast privately said they were also looking at their governance and compensation, and whether to leave.

Comcast had been a top quartile venture investor – the enterprise value of Gulati’s portfolio alone while at Comcast Ventures was more than $4bn, he said – but has to now rebuild just as the parent’s strategy has to.

Comcast had risen to the status of a Fortune 50 company in the past generation by riding the wave of pay television in the US. But this peaked in 2012 with 90% of people subscribing to one bundle or another.

Now, cable’s cords are being cut and the range of options people have to consume media has grown.

At a time when the cable and media industry is undergoing disruption, therefore, having fresh eyes and direction for Comcast Ventures might yet end up a blessing if it brings a growth mindset and new resources. The alternative is a narrow focus on trying to protect a cash cow slowly being undermined in the way print media has been by the internet.

2

UK-listed utility National Grid has committed a further $150m to its Silicon Valley-based corporate venture and innovation group.

It is smart timing beyond being so-called Earth week – a series of events around the world focused on climate and sustainability, including GCV’s Earth Day webinar on carbon capture and hydrogen on 22nd.

National Grid is sponsor of the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference – the biggest convening of global environmental policy and industry leaders since the 2015 Paris Agreement – expected in early November in the UK and will include the 10th GCV Symposium gala dinner at St Paul’s cathedral.

Since its launch less than three years ago, National Grid Partners (NGP) has put $227m into 29 startups at the intersection of energy and information technology.

Now, the rest of the world is catching up to the opportunities in the field, including tech company Apple’s $200m committed last week to the Restore Fund for carbon removal through forestry innovation, and so National Grid is committing more to its pace of investment.

Its most recent deals include $7.5m invested into seed-stage, US-based companies Pathr, a spatial intelligence platform to generate anonymous location data in real time as people work around buildings, and AccuKnox, a Stanford Research Institute spinout whose KubeArmor technology provides a kubernetes platform for security, compliance and governance in public and private clouds.

Lisa Lambert, chief technology and innovation officer of National Grid and the founder and president of NGP as well as chairwoman of the Global Energy Council, said: “Earth Week is a perfect time to announce this vote of confidence from our senior leadership.

“We are investing in and deploying technologies across National Grid’s networks to enhance resilience and reliability, while more easily integrating renewable energy.”

Funds

Zoom rushes to create $100m Apps Fund

CyberAgent spies third domestic fund

Exits

UiPath reaches public markets

Zymergen produces $500m initial public offering

NeuroPace nets $102m in IPO

Confluent chooses confidential IPO filing

Oatly to milk public markets for capital

Waterdrop runs down to $100m IPO plans

Gyroscope gees itself up for US IPO

SimilarWeb sets out IPO filing

Talaris tries out public markets

SmartRent houses $2.2bn reverse merger

Makesense agrees to PolicyBazaar merger

Affirm comes back to buy Returnly

Deals

Byju’s bolts down billion-dollar round

Adagio Therapeutics picks up pace with $336m

ActiveCampaign activates $240m series C round

Alan amasses $223m in series D funding

Razorpay cleaves $160m in series E round

Druva draws in $147m

SES seeks out corporates to raise $139m

NextData inputs $135m series D

MatHem shops for $131m

Digital Asset arranges $120m series D

TechMet takes in $120m

Classy clasps $118m

BlaBlaCar drives through $115m round

Tamara takes in $110m through series A round

Solegreen kicks in $104m for Kuubix

C2i Genomics detects $100m


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

24 June 2019 – Slack Goes Public with $19.5bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Wealth management platform Paytm Money’s only funding so far has been a $10m investment by parent company One97 Communications, but it is said to be preparing a round that could be up to $1.2bn in size that will include SoftBank and Ant Financial.

Slack finally went public on Thursday in a direct listing that so far qualifies as one of the year’s notable successes. Its shares had been allocated a $26 guidance price by the New York Stock Exchange but they finished at $38.62 on its first day of trading giving the messaging platform a valuation of about $19.5bn.

Cathay Capital’s Cathay Innovation fund has raised $358m for the first close of its second fund, whose LPs include Valeo, SEB, Michelin, ADP, Accor, BioMérieux, Dassault, JCDecaux, Kering and Pernod Ricard.

On GUV, Imcyse, a Belgium-based immunotherapy developer spun out of KU Leuven, raised €28m ($31.4m) in funding from investors including the university. Life Sciences Partners led the round, which also included Belgian state-owned investment firm SFPI-FPIM, Wallonia government investment firm SRIW, growth capital firm Epimède, family office Biogenosis and private equity firm Noshaq.

Deals

Autonomous driving technology developer Aurora Innovation has boosted its series B round to more than $600m, pulling in funding from investors including Hyundai and subsidiary Kia Motors.

SoftBank Vision Fund has led a $205m round for Collective Health, the developer of a software platform that helps businesses manage their employee health plans more efficiently.

Vision Fund is reportedly also in talks with Indian fitness and wellness services provider CureFit over an investment of $200m to $350m that would value it at more than $1bn.

Zhenkunhang, the operator of an online marketplace for industrial equipment and procurement services, has captured $160m in a series D round led by Tencent.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is set to pay $150m for an 8% stake in logistics services provider Delhivery through a secondary transaction. The company has raised nearly $670m in funding from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Fosun and Times Internet.

NTT-backed data management software producer Druva has already reached that $1bn valuation, in a $130m round led by Viking Global Investors.

Rapt Therapeutics has taken its series C round from $60m to $97m, raising the additional capital from the participants in the first tranche, which include GV.

Digital payment technology provider RazorPay is now valued at $450m, after securing $75.4m in its series C round. The India-based company has reportedly now received a total of $107m in funding and its earlier backers include Mastercard and GMO Venture Partner.

Viela Bio, an autoimmune and inflammatory disease drug developer founded by AstraZeneca, has closed a $75m series B round led by investment firm HBM Healthcare Investments that boosted its overall funding to more than $300m.

Funds

Northern Accelerator, a UK-based commercialisation grouping of four universities in northeast England, is seeking to raise £100m ($125m) for a venture fund to back spinouts and startups. Northern Accelerator will select a management partner for the new fund, dubbed North East University Investment Fund, in November 2019 following a formal tender process and Q&A presentations in London and Newcastle.

PreSeed Ventures, a venture firm owned by Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is targeting DKr350m ($52.5m) for a new fund focused on early-stage tech businesses.

Exits

Stoke Therapeutics is developing treatments for genetic diseases, and has gone public having priced its initial public offering above its range while also increasing the number of shares it is issuing.

Gene therapy developer Prevail Therapeutics has secured $125m in an IPO priced in the middle of its range. The AbbVie Ventures-backed startup had raised $129m since it was founded in 2017, and it will use the proceeds to advance treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, neuronopathic Gaucher disease and frontotemporal dementia.

Naspers subsidiary PayU has agreed to buy Iyzico, a Turkish digital payment platform that counts Beenos as an investor, for $165m.


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