14 September 2020 – Online Education Company Byju Raising $500m

The Big Ones

Online education has firmly established itself as the key sector in India’s startup space, and Byju’s has effectively confirmed that, raising an amount reported by TechCrunch to be $500m. Byju’s, which is backed by Tencent, Naspers and Times Internet, was valued at $10.8bn post-money in the round, which came in the wake of it adding an extraordinary 20 million users since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. That means the company has almost trebled its valuation inside two years.

Saudi Aramco has a market cap of some $1.8 trillion but is looking to explore diversification into other areas besides oil and gas (perhaps not surprisingly given the direction of oil prices this year). To that end, it has formed a $1bn fund called Prosperity 7 Ventures that is tasked with investing in innovative technologies like AI, 5G, robotics, blockchain and the internet of things. It will join the company’s Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures unit as well as its Wa’ed Ventures vehicle.

Illumina spinoff Grail has filed for what may be one of this year’s biggest healthtech IPOs. The cancer diagnostics technology developer has set a $100m placeholder target for the offering but has raised $1.9bn in venture funding from investors including Johnson & Johnson, WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Varian, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Bristol-Myers Squibb, McKesson, Celgene, Alphabet and Merck & Co. It was valued at a reported $3.2bn back in 2018, prior to its last round.

X-over: Recursion, a University of Utah spinout, is using digital technologies such as automation and machine learning to develop drugs for various diseases and has built up a 30-strong drug pipeline, four of which have reached the clinical trials stage. It has also secured $239m in a series D round led by a $50m investment from Leaps by Bayer. The unit’s parent company, Bayer, has also formed a strategic partnership with Recursion, which was valued at about $1.2bn post-money.

Deals

Industrial technology has not been among the winners during the coronavirus lockdown, but advanced materials producer Zymergen has nevertheless snagged $300m in a series D round led by investment manager Bailie Gifford. The company, which has developed a bio-based polyimide film called Hyaline, has now raised a total of $874m in funding, its earlier backers including SoftBank Vision Fund and Hanwha Asset Management.

A sector that hasn’t done brilliantly – for understandable reasons – is ride hailing, but that impact has been somewhat mitigated by the fact several companies in that space have seen their food delivery businesses pick up. Southeast Asia’s Grab will hypothetically see an uptick in its digital financial services arm, Grab Financial Group, and the subsidiary is reportedly in advanced talks with investors including insurers AIA and Prudential to raise $300m to $500m at a valuation of roughly $2bn. That funding would support an expansion into wealth management and the possible securing of an online banking licence.

Melio, developer of an online payment management platform for businesses, revealed today it has collected a total of $144m in funding since 2018, most recently netting $80m in a series C round last month. It hasn’t provided precise details but did say its backers include American Express Ventures. Amex’s corporate venturing unit has quietly been racking up some big exits over the last two or three years, most notably from Plaid, iZettle and Bill.com, showing that CVC investing can bag some nice returns alongside strategic interests.

AnyVision, an image and facial recognition software provider that counts Qualcomm Ventures and Robert Bosch among its backers, has pulled in $43m in funding from unnamed investors. The deal comes just over a year after its $74m series A round and roughly four months after Microsoft subsidiary M12, a participant in that round, announced it was divesting its stake due to doubts about the ethics of the use of facial recognition technology by governments.

Funds

Thursday/Friday were a heady 24 hours for corporate fund announcements (which included the Saudi Aramco vehicle we talked about earlier). And Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development has launched an $800m growth-stage fund called Woven Capital that will back Toyota AI Ventures portfolio companies as they grow, in addition to backing external venture funds. Companies backed by the early-stage vehicle that have raised big rounds of late include personal aircraft developer Joby Aviation, driver safety technology provider Nauto and electric bus producer Proterra.

Santander has had a good degree of success since launching its Santander Innoventures unit with $100m in 2014, snagging big exits from iZettle and Kabbage while accessing technology from several portfolio companies. It has now spun off the unit into an autonomously managed fund dubbed Mouro Capital and doubled its capital allocation again from $200m to $400m. It will make initial investments of about $15m at early and growth stage.

Exits

KAR Auction Services has agreed to acquire BacklotCars, the owner of an online dealer-to-dealer automotive marketplace, for $425m, enabling Renren to exit. BacklotCars had raised roughly $50m pre-acquisition. Renren has pulled back from corporate venturing almost completely since 2017, but it’s going to be interesting to see if it can pull some more big exits out of its existing portfolio.

Fabless semiconductor maker 3Peak is set to bag $339m in its IPO, on the red-hot Shanghai Star Exchange. The Huawei-backed company is simply the latest to choose the Star Exchange to go public, the market having benefited from regulations introduced by US exchanges to combat what was perceived as unsatisfactory accounting practices by Chinese companies. It will also jointly host what may be the biggest IPO ever, when Ant Financial floats later this year.

Progress has bought software deployment automation platform Chef in another nine-figure acquisition deal, paying $220m in cash for the company. Chef had received a total of $105m in funding, most recently securing $40m in a 2015 series E round that included Citi Ventures and Hewlett Packard Ventures, which passed its stake in the company on to Hewlett Packard Pathfinder.

Emphysema treatment device developer Pulmonx has filed for an $86.3m offering that would provide exits to Boston Scientific and Posco Bioventures. The former is Pulmonx’s largest investor, the owner of a stake that tops 30%.

Episerver has signed an agreement to purchase Optimizely, a web optimisation software producer that has raised roughly $200m from backers including Accenture Ventures, GV, Citi Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. The size of the deal has not been disclosed but it will consist of a mixture of cash and shares. It comes less than two months after Optimizely revealed it had cut staff numbers by about 15% in the wake of impact from Covid-19.


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

20 January 2020 – Joby Aviation Raises $590m in Series C to Create Flying Taxis

The Big Ones

Joby Aviation is developing an electric-powered aerial taxi for urban use, a product that would appear to be a big jump into the future even without taking into account sustainability issues concerning its stated aim to serve ‘a billion’ people a day. But corporate investors are taking it seriously and none more than Toyota which invested $394m to lead its $590m series C round.

UPMC Enterprises functions as the investment and innovation arm of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (which sounds like it’s just the one but actually it’s a system comprised of 40 hospitals) and has built up an 18-strong portfolio alongside investments in internal projects. It looks to be upgrading its activity as well, announcing plans to allocate $1bn in capital through 2024, $800m of which is newly disclosed and $200m has already been dedicated to an immuno-therapy research partnership with the university.

Visa invested in financial data technology provider Plaid just four months ago and must have liked what it saw because it has agreed to acquire financial data technology provider Plaid in a $5.3bn transaction that what will surely be one of the year’s biggest acquisitions of a VC-backed company.

Deals

Xiaohongshu, the social commerce platform also known as Little Red Book, is resuming fundraising activities and is reportedly seeking $400m to $500m at a $6bn valuation. The company secured $300m in a 2018 series D round featuring Tencent and Alibaba at a $3bn valuation and was exploring new funding last year, only to suspend efforts after its app was temporarily pulled from Chinese app stores.

Tradeshift, a provider of supply chain-management and payment processing software, has raised $240m in debt and equity financing from undisclosed new and existing investors. No word on the former but its existing backers include American Express Ventures, Wipro Ventures, PayPal, Intuit, CreditEase Fintech Investment Fund and HSBC.

EQRx has launched with $200m in series A funding from GV and Nextech and a mission to develop more affordable copies of drugs already on the market. In contrast to licensed biosimilars, the startup will use advanced technology to create its own patent-protected versions, in theory providing more accessible medicines while generating more profit.

Electric vehicle technology developer Arrival has been relatively stealthy since it was founded in 2015 but has disclosed a $112m investment by carmaker Hyundai and subsidiary Kia. The funding came as part of a strategic collaboration through which Arrival will provide technology for Hyundai’s own mobility and EV initiatives.

Emendo Biotherapeutics is developing genetic medicines using a proprietary platform that utilises Crispr gene editing and protein engineering. It has also raised $61m in a series B round led by biopharmaceutical company AnGes, which is developing its own genetic therapies and which plans to work with Emendo on certain indications.

Funds

China-based insurer Taiping, has formed a $1bn investment vehicle called TP-CICC GBA Investment Master Fund in partnership with China International Capital Corporation’s CICC Capital division. The fund will target companies based in China’s Bay Area that are developing technology for the financial, healthcare, consumer and insurance sectors among others.

Saudi Aramco has pumped its IPO up to $29.4bn, making it the largest in history, and the petrochemical producer is also looking to expand its corporate venturing activity. The corporate is reportedly lining up a $500m second fund for its Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures unit that will likely be launched later this year.

IT services firm Wipro launched its Wipro Ventures subsidiary in 2015 with a $100m fund that has so far invested in 16 companies and exited two – one of which was Palo Alto Networks’ $560m acquisition of Demisto. The unit has now announced a second fund with an upgraded size of $150m.

Exits

Teladoc has agreed to buy telehealth technology producer InTouch Health for $150m in cash and $450m in shares. The company had raised less than $100m in funding, $6m of which was supplied by iRobot through a 2012 expansion to a partnership agreement.

Suzhou Zelgen Biopharmaceuticals has priced a $294m initial public offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market that is impressively sized despite not meeting its initial target of $346m. The cancer therapy developer had raised money across five rounds including a $62m series B two years ago that included insurance firm Minsheng Life.

NGP Capital has exited on-device AI technology developer Xnor.ai in an acquisition by Apple reportedly sized around the $200m mark. NGP Capital was spun off from Nokia but the corporate is still a prominent backer, and the deal will be pulling in some decent returns considering Xnor had disclosed less than $15m in funding pre-acquisition.

Casper Sleep, one of a wave of high-end mattress developers to launch in recent years, has filed to go public having raised $340m in venture funding from investors including Target. It is set to beat corporate-backed competitors like Helix and Eve Sleep to the public markets, though it’s as yet unclear whether the $67m loss it suffered in the first nine months of 2019 will affect its valuation, which stood at $1.1bn as of last March.


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

07 January 2019 – Bristol-Myers Squibb Agrees Celgene Acquisition

Three biggest stories

In this week’s biggest deal, pharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to acquire peer Celgene in a buyout made up of cash and shares that will create a $74bn business.

Singapore-based on-demand ride service Grab has increased the potential size of a series H round already backed by several corporate investors to $5bn.

Medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific has acquired the rest of the shares in one of its portfolio companies, US-based mitral regurgitation system developer Millipede Medical, for $325m.

The rest

Deals

Verily was spun off from Alphabet’s Google X division in 2015 to apply data science technology to healthcare data in order to create innovative life sciences and care management products.

Ant Financial, e-commerce group Alibaba’s financial services affiliate, has co-led a funding round sized at almost $582m for Hello TransTech, the China-based operator of bicycle rental service Hellobike.

Woowa Brothers, a South Korea-based food delivery app owner backed by internet company CyberAgent and financial services firm Goldman Sachs, has raised $320m at a $2.6bn valuation.

Internet group Tencent has led a $300m round for China-based online education platform developer Yuanfudao.

US-based oncology drug developer Rakuten Aspyrian has completed a $284m series C round featuring e-commerce firm Rakuten and financial services provider SBI Group.

AR game developer Niantic, has secured $190m in funding in a round that could have included Samsung and Axiomatic.

The year’s first big crypto round has been raised by Bakkt, a cryptocurrency trading platform that secured approximately $183m in its first funding round.

Cancer therapy developer Antengene has completed a $120m series B round featuring insurer Taikang and pharmaceutical companies Celgene and WuXi AppTec.

On GUV, Annexon Biosciences, a US-based immunotherapy developer spun out of Stanford University, closed a $75m series C round backed by Novartis Venture Fund, the corporate venturing vehicle for pharmaceutical firm Novartis.

Exits

One of the IPOs set to take place in early 2019 will likely involve Futu, the China-based digital brokerage operator that has filed to raise up to $300m in a US offering.

Funds

E-commerce group Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform and online listings platform 58.com have co-anchored a $200m first close for a fund launched by China-based venture capital firm ATM Capital.

Oil and gas supplier Saudi Aramco and IT services provider Saudi Information Technology Company have teamed up to form a corporate venturing vehicle that will back emerging information and communication technologies.

Egypt-based financial services firm Commercial Investment Bank (CIB) has launched a corporate venturing unit called CVentures to help drive emerging technologies in the fintech sector.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is to put $1m into a university venture fund called Cactus Capital to back emerging projects led by university students, recent graduates and other academic entrepreneurs.


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

10 September 2018 – Used Vehicle Marketplace Souche Raises $578m

Deals

Used vehicle marketplace Souche has attracted $578m in series F capital from investors including Alibaba, Sunshine Insurance Group and CreditEase. The round has brought Souche’s total funding to more than $1.2bn, with Alibaba having also backed a $335m series E in November 2017 and Ant Financial having led a $100m series C in 2016.

Tencent has been an investor in MissFresh since its $10m series A round, and it has just co-led a $450m round for the online grocer that will fund the enhancement of the latter’s cold and supply chain resources and its smart retail technology.

Despite recent difficulties that have seen it significantly cut back on its international ambitions, bicycle rental platform Ofo is reportedly lining up hundreds of millions of dollars from investors including corporates Ant Financial and Didi Chuxing, both existing backers.

Fresh from setting up short-form video platform NewTV, media holding company WndrCo has led a $295m round for mobile VPN provider AnchorFree, its first for six years.

Colombia-based on-demand delivery services provider Rappi, backed by its peer Delivery Hero, has secured $200m from investors including DST Global, achieving unicorn status in the process.

IQiyi Sports, formed by iQiyi and Super Sports Media last month to control their respective sporting rights for streaming, has closed a $124m series A round that will be used to expand its offering.

Caffeine is developing what will be a smart broadcasting platform designed to be a more sociable version of livestreaming services like Twitch. 21st Century Fox is certainly interested and has pumped in $100m that will be divided between equity funding and support for a joint venture that will source high-grade content.

GreyOrange produces robotics systems for use in logistics, helping e-commerce orders to be picked out more quickly and efficiently. Mitsubishi and Flipkart have certainly taken notice, contributing to a $140m series C round that will help the Singapore-based company expand internationally. GreyOrange has now raised almost $180m altogether.

4D Molecular Therapeutics (4DMT), a US-based gene therapy spinout of UC Berkeley, has closed a $90m series B round featuring university venture fund Berkeley Catalyst Fund.

Funds

Saudi Aramco has run its own corporate venturing unit, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, since 2012 but sources have told the Wall Street Journal it is considering plans to put up to $1bn into a new fund that will make large-scale investments in technologies that complement its operations.

Insurance provider Aviva has put its weight behind the $129m Ahren Innovation Capital vehicle, a patient capital fund co-founded by eight scientists from the Cambridge, UK ecosystem.

Politecnico di Milano has unveiled a $70m university venture fund this week in partnership with venture capital firm 360 Capital Partners that will invest in the institution’s spinouts. Poli360 has attracted capital from Itatech, a $208m investment platform backed by the EU-owned European Investment Fund and Italian state-owned national promotional institution Cassa depositi e prestiti.

UC San Diego has unveiled the $65m Poseidon Innovation fund with the money coming from healthcare-focused investment firm Deerfield Management. Poseidon Innovation will push early-stage university drug research and follows similar initiatives that Deerfield launched with Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins and Northwestern universities.

Exits

Reports of Meituan Dianping’s IPO plans surfaced last weekend, and now the local services platform has confirmed it plans to raise as much as $4.4bn at a valuation of up to $55bn – almost twice that at which it last raised funding in October.

Maoyan Weiying, the mobile ticketing platform backed by Tencent, Meituan Dianping and Enlight Media, is reportedly seeking up to $1bn in proceeds and has officially filed documents in Hong Kong.

Funding Circle, a UK-based peer-to-peer lender backed by Rocket Internet, unveiled plans to raise £300m ($385m) in an initial public offering.

Munich Re has acquired industrial internet-of-things technology provider Relayr, one of its existing portfolio companies, for $300m. The corporate bought the startup through its subsidiary Hartford Steam Boiler and Relayr will continue to operate as an independent business but with the added benefit of gaining access to Munich Re’s clientbase and expertise.

Thoma Bravo has agreed to buy a majority stake in CRM automation software provider Apttus for an undisclosed sum, in one of those uncommon cases of a private equity firm acquiring a VC-backed company.

Softgarden, a Germany-based human resources software spinout of Saarland University has been acquired by investment management company Investcorp Technology Partners for an undisclosed sum.


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