08 February 2021 – Robinhood Raises $3.4bn

The Big Ones

Few VC-backed companies have had as busy a week in the mainstream media as Robinhood. The share trading platform developer has been ground zero for the GameStop rush as well as increased activity for other “meme” stocks like AMC, Nokia and BlackBerry. But those increased trading levels means more cash required to meet SEC requirements, and the Alphabet and Roc Nation-backed company first raised $1bn from existing investors along with some $500m to $600m in debt financing a week ago Friday and then another $2.4bn over the weekend to come out with $3.4bn last Monday.

Kuaishou went public in Hong Kong this Friday morning in a hugely oversubscribed initial public offering in which it raised $5.4bn, only to see its shares open at a price nearly three times that of its IPO. The short-form video app developer had secured $4.35bn in funding from investors including Tencent and Baidu prior to the offering and now has a market cap that stands around the $160bn mark.

US-based printing technology producer Xerox plans to launch innovation and corporate development divisions through a reorganisation involving the formation of a $250m corporate venturing arm. Xerox’s Corporate Development group will engage in investments and merger and acquisition deals as well as deploying the recently announced $250m fund. The unit is yet to be launched but will invest in mid-sized, growth-stage companies aligned with Xerox’s strategic interests. It will be led by executive vice-president Louie Pastor, who has also been appointed chief corporate development officer and chief legal officer.

Crossover is an exit this week. Stem cell immunotherapy developer Sana Biotechnology –based on research at Harvard, UCSF and University of Washington, and co-founded by former executives of Juno that was acquired by Celgene for $9bn a couple of years ago – has floated in an offering that netted it nearly $588m (more than four times as much as its $150m original target), reputedly representing the largest IPO yet for a preclinical biotech company. Shares surged 40% on the first day (from $25 to $35.10) so that greenshoe option seems likely, which could push proceeds to nearly $676m. It comes about eight months after Sana Bio disclosed $700m in early-stage funding from investors including GV, the Alphabet subsidiary formerly known as Google Ventures. Its current share price gives it a market cap of about $7bn.

Deals

It’s interesting that after the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world have gone public, a wave of new companies in more coronavirus-resistant sectors have stepped up to fill that void at the top of the VC-backed valuation heap, and quickly too. Data engineering software producer DataBricks has received $1bn from investors including Microsoft, AWS, CapitalG and Salesforce Ventures in a series G round valuing it at $28bn. That’s a more than fourfold increase from its series F, just over a year ago.

UiPath’s valuation is even higher, the automation software provider having pulled in $750m in series F funding at a $35bn post-money valuation. Corporate investors Tencent and CapitalG weren’t identified as participants in the round, which more than tripled UiPath’s valuation from its July series E, and it’s going to be interesting to see how much higher that valuation can go when it executes the IPO for which it confidentially filed in December.

Online food delivery has been heavily boosted in the past year and Good Eggs combines several different areas – prepared food and meal kits, farm-to-table produce, alcohol and flower delivery – in a single offering. It’s also managed to raise $100m from investors including GV and Rich’s despite operating mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area. The capital will support its expansion into Southern California, with wider movement surely on the horizon.

Tealium, developer of a management software tool for customer data, has secured $96m in series G financing at a $1.2bn valuation, increasing its overall funding to $160m. Its earlier funding came from investors including Sumitomo’s Presidio Ventures unit, ABN Amro Digital Impact Fund, Citi Ventures and Parkwood, though none were named in the latest round, which was co-led by Georgian and Silver Lake Waterman.

Mobile Premier League, the developer of an online gaming platform focused on the South and Southeast Asian markets, was founded about three years ago and has already notched up its fourth funding round, raising $95m from investors including Susquehanna International Group, Go-Ventures and Telstra Ventures. The series D round valued it at $945m post-money and the proceeds will go to bolstering its esports offering.

Funds

Telecoms and internet group SoftBank is launching a $100m fund to invest in companies based around the Miami, Florida area of the United States. The vehicle has already chosen its first portfolio companies, including cybersecurity software developer Lumu Technologies. It will invest in locally-founded startups as well as those willing to move to the area.

Exits

Genetic testing service 23andme has chosen to go the reverse merger route for a public listing, joining with VG Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by conglomerate Virgin Group in a deal that will value the merged business at about $3.5bn. It had received more than $870m in funding pre-IPO from an investor base that includes GV (which is scoring some huge exits right now), WuXi AppTec, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Illumina.

Astra is set to become the first private space launch services provider to hit the public markets, having agreed a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company Holicity at an implied valuation of $2.1bn. The deal was agreed a year after Astra emerged from stealth having secured over $100m from investors including Airbus Ventures, which is slowly growing a significant presence in the spacetech sector, and two months after it launched its first rocket into space.

Drizly’s investors, which include Vayner/RSE, are heading for an exit of a different kind after the alcohol delivery service agreed to be acquired by Uber for $1.1bn. The company had disclosed approximately $85m in funding and will join an expanding range of Uber delivery services spearheaded by its Uber Eats subsidiary. It also stands as a sign of growth in the on-demand service sector, and perhaps forthcoming consolidation.

Roblox has had an extremely busy couple of months, filing for and then postponing its initial public offering, changing over to a direct listing, raising $520m from investors including Warner Music Group at a hugely increased $29.5bn valuation and now reportedly putting its plans to go public on hold. The game creation platform developer, which also counts Tencent among its investors, is postponing the listing due to regulatory scrutiny on how it classifies revenue from sales of its Robux currency on the platform.

Shared workspace provider Knotel was valued above $1bn just 18 months ago but has now filed for bankruptcy, a reminder that while some business models have thrived during the coronavirus pandemic, others have been far unluckier. Knotel had raised roughly $560m from investors including Mori Trust, Rocket Internet, Itochu, Bloomberg Beta, The Sapir Organization, Raiffeisen, Wolfson Group, Moinian Group and Wainbridge Capital.


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

11 January 2021 – Online Tutoring Platform Zuoyebang Raises $1.6bn Series E

The Big Ones

One of the big shifts in 2020 was the surge in educational technology providers, with China leading the way. That was before a flurry of large rounds in the space right before the end of the year, the biggest being a $1.6bn series E round for online tutoring platform developer Zuoyebang that included Alibaba and SoftBank Vision Fund 1. Zuoyebang’s overall funding now stands at roughly $2.9bn, some 80% of which has come in the past seven months.

Andre Maciel, former managing partner at Japan-headquartered telecommunications and internet group SoftBank’s $5bn Latin America-focused fund, has raised $50m for the first close of an independent venture capital firm. Maciel set up Volpe Capital in 2019 with SoftBank’s backing, and its first fund also has investment bank BTG Pactual as a cornerstone limited partner. Marcelo Claure, head of SoftBank LatAm, and the $5bn fund’s managing partners, Paulo Passoni and Shu Nyattta, have also invested in the fund. Volpe Capital plans to invest in up to 20 early stage companies at series A stage, with a primary focus on the Brazilian market, according to regional trade body Lavca.

SoFi has come a long way since it started as a student loan refinancing specialist, having expanded into a multi-pronged financial services platform that offers lending, investment and insurance products. The company, which has raised some $2.4bn from investors including SoftBank and Renren, has also agreed a reverse merger with a SPAC called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp V and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The deal will be boosted by $1.2bn in PIPE financing and the merged company will be valued at $8.65bn once the deal closes, double the valuation at which SoFi last raised money.

On GUV, the biggest deal was Hinge Health, a US-based digital therapeutics company backed by commercialisation firm IP Group, which closed a $300m series D round co-led by Coatue Management and Tiger Global. The round valued Hinge at $3bn. Founded in 2014, Hinge Health has built a digital healthcare platform for people living with chronic musculoskeletal conditions, such as back and joint pain. The offering consists of an app, wearable sensors and access to remote health coaching to deliver physical and behavioural health therapy. Hinge Health was co-founded by chief executive Daniel Perez, who gained a PhD in medical sciences from University of Oxford in 2013, and president Gabriel Mecklenburg, who obtained an MPhil in bioengineering from Imperial College London in 2014. But the company was only founded after both had graduated and worked together at Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable, an organisation looking to connect academia with industry since 2011.

Deals

B2B e-commerce marketplace Udaan has pulled in $280m from investors including Tencent for the second tranche of a series D round now standing at $865m. Tencent also took part in the round’s 2019 first close, as did Citi Ventures, and the extra funding came at a $3.1bn post-money valuation. Its overall funding has been increased to $1.15bn.

Online food delivery and restaurant listings platform developer Zomato has pulled in $660m through a series J round valuing it at $3.9bn post-money. Info Edge and Ant Financial, the two corporates that have historically been its two key investors, do not however appear to have participated in the round, the funding coming from Fidelity, Tiger Global Management, Luxor Capital, Kora Management, D1 Capital Partners, Baillie Gifford, Mirae Asset and Steadview Capital.

Cloud cybersecurity platform developer Lacework has closed $525m in funding from investors including Snowflake Ventures, which provided $20m, and existing backer Liberty Global Ventures. The company had previously raised less than $75m but said it increased revenue 300% in 2020, and that big jump in funding is indicative of how the ongoing public markets tech boom is having an impact further down the pyramid.

As 2020 drew to a close, game creation platform developer Roblox had put its initial public offering on hold, citing erratic post-IPO share movement of other tech companies. Now we can see what the results are. Roblox has secured $520m in a series H round featuring Warner Music Group valuing it at $29.5bn – a more than sevenfold increase on the $4bn valuation in its series G round under a year ago. The company has also revealed it’s eschewing an IPO in favour of a direct listing, which suggests it really wasn’t happy with its underwriters for the offering.

DXY, the Chinese operator of an online medical community, has completed a $500m round featuring Tencent Investment, at the end of a year when it established a real-time information service covering covid-19 that aimed to combat harmful rumours. Tencent had originally invested $70m in DXTY through a 2014 round that preceded a $100m series D round four years later.

Chinese AI chipmaker Horizon Robotics secured $150m in series C funding just last month but has already added $400m in a series C2 round co-led by lithium-ion battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology. Recent reports suggested the company was targeting a total of $700m across multiple tranches, its earlier backers including Intel Capital and SK Global subsidiaries SK China and SK Hynix.

Grab is one of two big players in Southeast Asia’s on-demand ride market, and it has also been arguably the quickest in the sector worldwide to expand into other areas. It has reportedly raised $300m for Grab Financial Group, a spinoff that encompasses a range of financial services including digital payment technology, lending, insurance and investment management. Conglomerate Hanwha is leading the round through its Hanwha Asset Management subsidiary.

Chinese AI chipmaker Enflame Technology has raised $279m in the biggest round announced so far this year. Enflame produces artificial intelligence chips for data centres and has now secured a total of over $470m since it was founded in 2018. Tencent, which participated in the $279m series C round, has backed it in all four rounds it has disclosed.

Aeva develops lidar sensor technology for use in autonomous driving systems, and two months ago it agreed a reverse merger with a SPAC called InterPrivate Acquisition Corp set to value it at about $2.1bn once the deal closed. Now the company, which is backed by Porsche and Lockheed Martin, has agreed a $200m investment by one of InterPrivate’s shareholders, technology investment firm Sylebra Capital, that will close when the other deal does. It’s an interesting symptom of the ongoing public markets boom.

Divvy is the developer of an offering that combines business expense management software with smart credit cards, helping companies track and manage their expenses and spending. It has secured $165m in a series D round featuring Hanaco and PayPal Ventures at a $1.6bn valuation. The round increased Divvy’s overall funding to $410m, $200m of which came in a 2019 series C round.

Dremio, developer of a data management platform for data lake storage, has received $135m in series D funding from backers including Cisco Investments at a $1bn valuation. The corporate also took part in Dremio’s $70m series C round 10 months ago, and the latest round boosted its total funding to $250m. We’ve had a host of big enterprise software IPOs over the past year or two, but it looks as if the next wave of unicorns in the space is emerging.

Antibody therapy developer Boan Biotech has raised $106m from investors including Bank of China’s BOCG investment vehicle at a pre-money valuation a touch over $750m. The company was founded in 2013 and acquired by Luye Pharma Group six years later, the latest round representing the first it has closed since then.

Funds

US-based sports franchises the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers have backed an impact investment fund for minority-run startups. The franchises committed to Equity League as “a new impact investment division of venture capital fund TitletownTech,” alongside software producer Microsoft.

Exits

Arvelle Therapeutics was spun off in 2019 by drug developer Axovant to commercialise an epilepsy drug licensed from pharmaceutical company SK Biopharmaceuticals. The company bagged $208m in series A and project funding last year but its investors will exit after Angelini Pharma agreed to acquire it in a deal that could hit $960m. SK Bio will also get a nice return from its 12% stake in Arvelle.


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

23 November 2020 – PingCap Stores £270m in Series D Funding

The Big Ones

Distributed database software provider PingCap has secured $270m in series D funding from backers including Bertelsmann Asia Investments that will support research and development as well as international expansion. Another corporate investor, Fosun, led PingCap’s last round, a $50m series C round two years ago. PingCap is the creator of an open-source distributed database platform called TiDB as well as a version called TiDB that has been tailored for use on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The platform’s apparently been adopted by some 1,500 clients internationally, including well-known ones such as Square and Dailymotion.

Airbnb has filed for an initial public offering with an initial target of $1bn and will be relying on the markets to ignore its 30% drop in revenue and considerable losses in 2020 in favour of a projected recovery in the tourism industry next year when coronavirus vaccines hopefully begin to be distributed. Its investors include CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet formerly known as Google Capital, and its valuation stood at $26bn prior to a $1bn debt and equity round in April. But there are a few notable things about Airbnb’s filing and the fact it acknowledges that it’s been unable “to grow new offerings and tiers, such as Airbnb Experiences” could yet prove to be the canary in the coal mine – particularly as Google steps up its own travel ads and hinders Airbnb’s organic growth. There’s also a question as to whether hosts will be able to stick out ongoing and returning lockdowns: they still have to pay mortgages on the properties and without guests to cover bills, that’s somewhat of a ticking time bomb. But the biggest threat to Airbnb is the fact that its growth was slowing long before covid-related shutdowns and travel restrictions: in fact, 2019 was the third consecutive year of slowing growth. The filing warns this slowing down is expected to continue, making it a difficult sell to potential investors on the public markets.

Form Energy, a US-based grid battery spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has obtained more than $70m of series C funding from undisclosed investors, Reuters said citing CEO Mateo Jaramillio. Details are expected over the coming weeks. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is developing sulfur-based battery storage for renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar which fluctuate more than conventional power plants owing to changes in wind strength and solar radiation. Form Energy’s batteries are rumoured to discharge at slow speeds relative to their capacity but offer 150 hours of storage compared to four hours for lithium-ion grid storage products. The idea is to help replace oil and gas-based power plants that run during times of sparse customer demand to provide a minimum level of electricity, known in industry parlance as the baseload. The spinout last closed a $40m series B round in August 2019 led by Eni Next, the corporate venturing arm of energy supplier Eni, and backed by The Engine, the MIT-affiliated incubator and venture fund, in addition to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures and Macquarie Capital.

Deals

DataRobot, a provider of enterprise artificial intelligence software, has more than doubled its valuation to $2.7bn in a $270m pre-IPO round featuring new and existing investors. The company has now raised a total of about $500m from an investor base that includes Intel Capital, New York Life, Recruit Strategic Partners, Cisco and Citi Ventures, though none were specifically named in the company’s latest round.

Precision medicine developer D3 Bio has emerged from stealth with $200m from a series A round featuring WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund. The corporate was joined by Boyu Capital, Temasek, Matrix Partners China and Sequoia Capital China, and the cash will support development of the startup’s oncology and immunology product pipeline.

Online restaurant directory and food ordering service Zomato has raised $195m at a $3.6bn post-money valuation. Much of the company’s earlier funding came from online classifieds operator Info Edge, which still owns a stake above 20%. Its larger shareholders include Ant Group and Uber, while Delivery Hero is also an investor.

XAG, an agriculture-focused drone developer that is expanding into wider reaching farm management technology, has completed a $182m funding round co-led by Baidu Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund. The cash will support the bolstering of the company’s research and development, manufacturing and supply chain capabilities as its home country of China moves closer to an unmanned farm model of agriculture.

Cato Networks has entered the unicorn sphere, raising $130m from investors including Singtel Innov8 at a $1bn pre-money valuation. The networking security technology provider has now received more than $330m since 2015 and its last round – which also featured the Singtel subsidiary – was only seven months ago.

Forter, a developer of e-commerce fraud prevention software, has joined the ranks of the unicorns, having bagged $125m at a valuation topping $1.3bn. The series E round didn’t include corporate backer Salesforce Ventures but it took the company’s total funding to $225m and was co-led by venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Felix Capital.

CreditEase-backed wealth management platform developer Addepar has raised almost as much, having closed its series E round at $117m. The public markets boom for tech companies in recent months, coupled with the ongoing issues for other businesses, has meant increased demand for wealth management services. It also highlights Addepar’s selling point: enhanced data capabilities that give investors greater insights into portfolio performance.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 has also led a $100m round for MindTickle, a US-based provider of sales readiness technology that helps sales staff upgrade their skills and benefit from updated information. Qualcomm Ventures was among the other participants in the round, having backed MindTickle since its 2015 series A round. The latest funding was closed at a reported $500m valuation.

Funds

SR One is the latest corporate venturing unit to be spun off into an independent venture firm by its parent, in this case pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. With some 35 years on the clock it’s one of the oldest corporate VC arms, but GSK isn’t cutting the cord fully – it’s the largest contributor to an oversubscribed $500m fund for the rebranded SR One Capital Management, which will continue to be run by CEO Simeon George.

Exits

Roblox, the creator of a social 3D game development platform, has filed for a $1bn IPO on the New York Stock Exchange that will notch up an exit for Tencent. The corporate was among the investors in a $150m series G round in February that valued Roblox at $4bn. Press reports have suggested the company would seek a valuation of $8bn in the offering, meaning Tencent could be looking at a rapid profit on paper.

Arrival is the latest highly valued company to take the reverse merger option, agreeing a deal with Nasdaq-listed CIIG Merger Corp that will value the combined business at $5.4bn. The electric commercial vehicle developer’s existing investors, which include Hyundai, Kia and UPS, will keep their stakes while the deal will be boosted by $400m in PIPE financing.

Supcon is part of the fast-growing field of robotic process automation technology and has priced an initial public offering in its home country of China that will net it $268m in proceeds. Corporate investors Chint, Sinopec Capital, Intel, China National Nuclear’s CNNC Industry Fund Management Corporation and Lenovo are all among its investors and will jointly own about 20% of its shares post-IPO.


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

19 October 2020 – SoftBank Backs Kahoot with $215m Investment

The Big Ones

Kahoot has been one of the biggest recent success stories in the startup space. The company, the developer of a gamified online learning platform, has secured $215m from SoftBank through a private placement that valued it above $2.2bn, a huge jump from the $100m valuation at which it raised money just over two and a half years ago. Its earlier backers include Microsoft’s M12 unit, which first invested even before the early 2018 round, and Walt Disney, which provided $15m later the same year at a $376m valuation.

Sella Venture Partners, Italy-headquartered financial services group Sella’s venture capital arm, has reached the €30m ($35.3m) first close for a fund of funds backed by multiple corporate limited partners. The group’s banking subsidiaries, Banca Sella and Banca Patrimoni Sella & C, contributed to the fund along with peers Banco BPM and Fenera Holding, insurance firms Aviva and HDI Assicurazioni, and unnamed individuals. Sella Venture Partners Fund of Funds I is seeking additional investors for a second close on its way to a €100m target. It is expected to conduct deals for four years in Europe and the United States.

Twilio has agreed to acquire Segment, developer of a customer data management platform, in a $3.2bn all-share transaction that will allow GV, an early-stage investment subsidiary of internet and technology group Alphabet, to exit. Segment had raised $284m in funding prior to the deal, its last round being a $175m series D that reportedly valued it at $1.5bn, 18 months ago.

Crossover: Oxford Nanopore, a UK-based genetic sequencing technology spinout of University of Oxford, obtained £84.4m ($108m) in funding from a consortium including pension fund manager RPMI Railpen. The company’s offering includes a rapid test for detecting Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus that leads to covid-19. The capital brought Oxford Nanopore’s total funding to some $800m. Its existing backers also include IP Group, Illumina and Amgen, the latter of which injected $66m in early 2018.

Deals

E-commerce logistics may not be the flashiest part of the venture capital space but it has given rise to some sizeable players. Flash Express is Thailand’s biggest pure-play participant in the sector and has secured $200m in a series D round led by PTT Oil and Retail Business Public Company. The round included at least two more corporate investors – Durbell and Krungsri Finnovate – and its earlier backers reportedly include Alibaba’s eWTP fund.

Electric bus producer Proterra has been around for nearly 17 years, but is still successfully raising money. It’s brought in $200m through a round led by $150m from investment bank Cowen’s Sustainable Advisors subsidiary, adding to at least $565m in earlier financing from an investor pool that includes Daimler, GM Ventures, Mitsui, Edison Energy, Constellation Technology Ventures, BMW i Ventures and the Panasonic-sponsored Conductive Ventures.

Car sharing has long since fallen behind ride hailing when it comes to funding numbers, but Getaround has nevertheless pulled in $140m in a series E round that included SoftBank Vision Fund. SoftBank led the company’s last round, a $300m series D in 2018, and it has now secured almost $600m altogether. Its earlier backers include Cox Automotive, SAIC Capital and Toyota.

Although it isn’t one of the flashier parts of the startup space, agritech is still plugging along. Farmer’s Business Network and Infarm have both closed nine-figure rounds in recent months and now indoor farming unicorn Plenty has done the same. It secured $140m in a series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund that included Driscoll’s, the berry provider that formed a commercial agreement with Plenty earlier this year. The round boosted its overall funding to roughly $540m, Vision Fund having come onboard in its 2017 series B round.

Livekindly Collective is the newest big player in the plant-based food space, having raised $135m from investors including food ingredient developer Griffith Foods. The company had received $200m just over six months ago when it was launched as a group including vegan media brand Livekindly and plant-based food brands Fry Family, Oumph and Like Meat.

Electric bus and van developer Arrival has received $118m in funding from funds managed by BlackRock, following on from $112m provided by carmaker Hyundai and subsidiary Kia in January. UPS invested in Arrival the same month alongside an agreement to purchase 100,000 vans from the company. The latest capital influx will support the establishment of scalable microfactories designed to produce its vehicles rapidly and efficiently.

Funds

Industrial and fruit acid product manufacturer Fuso Chemical has made a limited partner commitment to Future Food Fund, a corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicle for Japan-based online supermarket Oisix Ra Daichi. Formed in October 2019, Future Food Fund is managed by the CVC unit of the same name set up two months earlier. The vehicle will target startups focusing on food, agriculture and healthcare innovation. The fund’s LPs already include corporates such as fast food restaurant chain Mos Burger, broadcaster TV Tokyo Direct and Toyota Tsusho, the trading subsidiary of carmaker Toyota.

Exits

Affordable lifestyle goods retailer Miniso is headquartered in China and takes its inspiration from Japanese retail, but it’s chosen the US for its IPO, floating above its range to secure $608m. The company is only seven years old but oversees a network of some 4,200 stores worldwide run through a franchise model. Its investors include Tencent, which took part in a $146m round two years ago before providing an additional $50m in February this year.

GV is on a tear right now and has also scored an exit from MIT spinout Kronos Bio, which floated above its range in an upsized initial public offering that raised $250m. The oncology therapeutics developer’s investors include GV, which took part in its $105m series A round last year, and its shares have soared to $32.90 as of Friday evening.

Roblox has confirmed it has confidentially filed for an initial public offering, days after media reports suggested it was prepping an IPO expected to double its valuation to $8bn. The online gaming platform has some 120 million monthly active users and is looking to expand its offering into virtual concerts, suddenly an attractive option due to the real thing being prevented by coronavirus-related social distancing measures.

Dida Chuxing (not to be confused with fellow Chinese ride hailing service Didi Chuxing) has filed for its own IPO, in Hong Kong. Recent reports predicted it would target $500m in its flotation, and the offering would chalk up exits for Nio Capital, the venture firm backed by carmaker Nio, in addition to corporates BitAuto, JD.com and Ctrip which cumulatively hold 12% of Dida’s shares.

Digital payment technology provider Stripe led Nigeria-based counterpart Paystack’s $8m series A round two years ago and it obviously liked what it saw, having returned to agree an acquisition deal reportedly valuing Paystack at over $200m. The company had disclosed less than $10m in funding prior to the deal, and two other corporate investors – Comcast Ventures and Tencent – are set to record big multiple returns too.

Spruce Biosciences has closed its initial public offering after the underwriters took up the over-allotment option and bought nearly $14m of shares to add to the $90m it raised when it floated at the end of last week. Novo is the largest shareholder in Spruce Bio, which is developing treatments for endocrine disorders.

Codiak BioSciences has also floated, raising $82.5m in its initial public offering after floating in the middle of its range. The exosome drug developer– based on research at Gothenburg and MD Anderson Cancer Center – had received $168m in funding pre-IPO from investors including Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ Alexandria Venture Investments, and the IPO price values it just short of $280m.


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

02 March 2020 – Grab Raises $856m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group

The Big Ones

There may be fewer rounds being closed but ride hailing continues to be a money magnet, with Grab raising $856m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group – which invested $706m – and TIS, both investing through newly struck partnership deals that will centre on the joint development of payment and financial services technology. There may be a bigger deal in the pipeline too, with reports stating Grab has been in talks with key rival Gojek over a merger that could value the combined company at $23bn.

Southeast Asia has been one of the fastest growing areas of the world for corporate VC funds. One of the relatively early participants was state-owned telecommunications operator Telkom Indonesia, which launched unit MDI Ventures in 2016 with $100m, and which has rapidly expanded since. MDI Ventures is targeting $300m to $500m for its second fund, according to comments made by a government minister this week, and that amount would represent a big step forward in terms of capital. Probably justifiably, given the recent emergence of unicorns like Grab, Gojek and Tokopedia.

CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet is in line for a healthy exit, as media reports suggest tax software provider Intuit is set to buy credit management platform Credit Karma in a $7bn cash-and-stock deal. CapitalG first invested in Credit Karma at a valuation of less than $1bn in 2014, and the company was valued at $3.5bn in its last funding round the following year.

And in crossover news (of which there was actually a lot last week and we’ll get to more of them in a minute), we have another exit. University of Pennsylvania-linked Passage Bio went public on Friday in a $216m IPO in which it is floating at the top of its range ($18 a pop), after increasing the number of shares by more than 60% (from 7.4 million to 12 million shares). The genetic medicine developer only officially launched a year ago (though it was incorporated in 2017) but had pulled in $226m across two rounds, from investors including corporate vehicles Access Biotechnology and Lilly Asia Ventures. It’s also allocated 1.8 million shares to a greenshoe option (also up from 1.5 million) and if stock goes the way everyone wants it to, it likely won’t be too long before underwriters jump on that chance.

Deals

One of the more interesting corporate investor/portfolio company combinations in recent times is the tendency for carmakers to invest nine-figure sums in autonomous driving software developers in order to get a foothold in an area of technology thought by many to be the future of the industry. The latest is Toyota, which has already backed several ride hailing companies and which just provided $400m for robotaxi system developer Pony.ai as part of a $462m round.

Graphcore, an artificial intelligence processor developer that traces its roots back to University of Bristol (it’s a spinout of Bristol spinout Xmos), has added $150m to a series D round that now stands at $350m, valuing the company at $1.95bn. The $200m first tranche included BMW i Ventures, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Microsoft and Samsung, though none were explicitly identified as being among the existing backers that joined Baillie Gifford, M&G Investments, Mayfair Equity Partners and Merian Chrysalis in the second close.

GV and Intel Capital have both contributed to a $250m series C round for SambaNova Systems, an AI computing platform developer co-founded by Stanford University faculty, that will fuel the enhancement of its technology. GV co-led SambaNova’s series A round while Intel Capital led its $150m series B last year, and the increasing ubiquity of AI combined with the move to more complex areas like edge computing mean we’re likely to see the company continue to move up the fundraising levels in the coming years.

SpaceX is gearing up for another funding round, having raised more than $1.2bn since December 2018 across three different rounds. No word on whether those rounds included existing investor Google, but the new round is reportedly set to be sized at about $250m at a valuation of roughly $36bn. Its overall funding so far stands at around $3.4bn.

Karius has developed a liquid biopsy test that draws blood in order to discover information on disease by crunching data on microbial cell-free DNA found in the samples. It has also secured $165m in a series B round led by SoftBank’s second Vision Fund, which seems to well and truly be up and running (albeit still only with cash from SoftBank itself).

Despite being around some 15 years and racking up 115 monthly active users, Roblox has kept a relatively low profile in the startup scene, though that may be changing with news of a $150m series G round featuring Tencent. The company has created an online platform that allows users to develop virtual worlds and MMO games that others can play, and is reportedly now valued at $4bn. It’s also launching a secondary offering for up to $350m of common and primary shares.

Another company focusing on creativity (of a sort) is Uncorq, developer of a no-code platform enabling users to create software applications without coding. It’s added $51m to a series D round now totalling $131m, and CapitalG, which co-led the first tranche in October, led the extension. The cash will be used for recruitment and expanding the company’s partnerships along with its live event schedule.

JD.id, the Indonesian spinoff of e-commerce group JD.com launched in 2015 with private equity firm Provident Capital, is also valued at more than $1bn, a source has told Indonesian tech news portal Daily Social. The company has yet to confirm the identity of any external investors but rumours suggest they could include another Indonesian unicorn, Gojek. To square the circle, both JD.com and Provident invested in a $1bn round for Gojek early last year.

Funds

Energy management and automation technology producer Schneider Electric has supplied $10m for Israel-based venture capital firm Grove Ventures’ $120m second fund. The oversubscribed fund, Grove II, was closed a week ago without the firm identifying any limited partners, though its described them as institutional and strategic investors as well as industry leaders.

US-based, real estate-focused venture capital firm Fifth Wall closed a $100m fund on Wednesday that includes several property developers as limited partners. Commercial real estate provider Cushman & Wakefield is an LP, as are real estate investment trusts Macerich, Acadia Realty Trust and Nuveen Real Estate, the latter a subsidiary of asset manager TIAA Investments.

Japan-based venture capital firm I-Nest Capital has closed its first fund at ¥6.6bn ($61m) having secured commitments from backers including corporates Power Solutions and NTT Docomo. IT services firm Power Solutions and mobile network operator NTT Docomo were joined by financial services firm Mizuho Bank and Fuji Startup Ventures, a corporate venturing vehicle for media company Fuji TV. The limited partners were filled out by Mizuho Securities Principal Investment, which represents investment bank Mizuho Securities, and the Japanese government’s Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation.

Exits

Salesforce has agreed to acquire CRM app developer Vlocity, a portfolio company of its Salesforce Ventures unit, in a $1.33bn all-cash deal. Vlocity had raised $163m from an investor base that also included Accenture and New York Life, and the transaction marks the fifth M&A exit for Salesforce Ventures this year, following Simplus, Evariant, Quid and LevelEleven.

Food delivery has been one of the better funded portions of the mobile commerce market, perhaps second only to ride hailing, and DoorDash’s investors look like they may be in for a lucrative exit. The company has confidentially filed for an IPO, three months after closing its series G round at $700m, at a $13bn valuation.

It isn’t a conventional M&A corporate exit but Takeda is buying coeliac disease drug developer PvP Biologics three years after paying $35m for an option to fully acquire the University of Washington spinout once it had advanced its lead product candidate to a certain stage. The size of the deal could eventually reach $330m if PvP reaches every development and regulatory milestone and, its drug will join Takeda’s own celiac disease candidate in the corporate’s product pipeline.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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