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

03 June 2019 – Possible PhonePe Spinout from Flipkart in $1bn Deal

Big Ones

Right now it feels like we’re gearing up for another period of significant funding, if the rumour mill is anything to go by. Mobile payment platform PhonePe was acquired by Flipkart in 2016, the year after it was founded, but could now be spun back out in a round that could reportedly reach $1bn.

Life insurance firm Northwestern Mutual launched its $50m Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures unit in early 2017 and has since built up one of the more notable CVC portfolios for an insurer, adding the likes of Chime, Ojo Labs and Ladder to existing investments such as Betterment.

Investment firm Insight Partners was already an investor in threat intelligence provider Recorded Future but has taken a step further, acquiring a controlling stake at a valuation of $780m.

Thrive Earlier Detection, a US-based developer of a blood test for cancer, was spun out of Johns Hopkins University on Thursday with $110m in series A funding from investors led by venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures. BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, the corporate venturing subsidiary of health insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, participated in the round, as did molecular diagnostics company Exact Sciences.

UK-based investment firm Woodford Investment Management has sold its entire shareholding in Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), the university venture fund of University of Oxford. The stake, worth £55m ($69.6m), has seemingly been sold to family offices and international investors.

Morningstar downgraded the Equity Income fund from bronze to neutral last week after its value shrunk from £10.2bn in 2017 to just £4.4bn, while St James’ Place, the largest wealth manager in the UK, put the firm on its watchlist after a prolonged poor performance.

Deals

SpaceX has added $1.02bn in new funding according to two separate securities filings, though it hasn’t disclosed details of the investors.

Toyota already has Uber and Grab in its portfolio but it is said to be mulling over an investment of about $550m in fellow ride hailing service Didi Chuxing.

SoFi has expanded from its core business of online lending and student loan refinancing to take in services such as online investments and digital banking, and it has also raised a further $500m in funding, this time in a round led by Qatar Investment Authority.

Lenskart has been one of Asia’s most successful proponents of the consumer goods business model involving an expansion from e-commerce to the offline world, and the eyewear retailer is reportedly in discussions to raise $350m from SoftBank Vision Fund at a $1.3bn valuation.

Oncology data platform developer Tempus has raised $200m in series F funding from investors including Novo at a $3.1bn valuation.

RobinHood was valued at $5.6bn back when it last raised money, early last year, but the Alphabet and Roc Nation-backed trading app developer is seeking $200m from existing investors at a reported valuation of up to $8bn.

Funds

Growth equity vehicle EV Growth was formed by East Ventures and corporate VC units SMDV and YJ Capital early last year with a $150m target for its first fund. It’s ended up overshooting that by a food amount, closing the fund at $200m having received commitments from limited partners including SoftBank. The fund has invested in 12 portfolio companies to date.

Exits

Palo Alto Networks has agreed to pay $410m to acquire container security software developer Twistlock, which had raised $63m from investors including Dell Technologies Capital.

BridgeBio Pharma is developing drugs to treat genetic diseases including forms of cancer linked to genetic causes. It has filed for a $225m initial public offering that will follow more than $480m in venture funding from investors including AIG, though only KKR and Viking Global Investors hold stakes of 5% or more.


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

27 February 2017 – Westpac Supplies A$100m to Reinventure for Disruptive FinTech and Much More

Deals

SoFi is reportedly close to completing a $500m funding round backed by existing investor SoftBank.

Speaking of SoftBank, editor-in-chief James Mawson has taken a deep look at its $3.3bn acquisition of Fortress Investment Group a week ago.

Internet group Baidu has invested $300m in iQiyi, an online video streaming platform in which it is majority shareholder, as part of a convertible note round sized at $1.53bn, that will support the company’s subscription service.

Indian e-commerce company Flipkart could be in line for a $1.5bn round of its own, having reportedly entered talks with a host of investors including Microsoft, Tencent, eBay, PayPal and Alphabet.

Mobike has been operating its bike rental network less than a year but has already raised well over $400m, $300m of which has come this year.

Having made investments in India-based Paytm and Thailand-based Ascend Money in the past few months, Chinese financial services provider Ant Financial is moving into Korea.

China-based mobile game publisher Shinezone Network has secured $58m in series B funding that will be used to build out its international distribution and homegrown incubator activities.

Chinese peer-to-peer car sharing platform Atzuche has secured $58m in a series C round that included existing backers Hearst Media and China Pacific Insurance.

Cloud services provider Rackspace has spun out Mailgun, the email automation tools provider it acquired in 2012.

Media group Bennett, Coleman & Co has invested $38.8m in India-based e-commerce firm Flipkart, providing both capital and advertising services.

GV-backed microfinance provider Tala has raised $30m in an IVP-led series B round that took its overall funding to $44m.

Anxin Doctor, the developer of an app that connects users to medical specialists such as paediatricians, gynaecologists and obstetrics doctors, has raised $28m in funding.

On GlobalGovernmentVenturing.com, IDS Medical Systems Group, an Indonesia-based medical device supplier, is set to receive up to $60m from International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector-focused arm of multilateral financial institution World Bank, DealStreetAsia wrote yesterday.

We’ve also had a nice cross-over piece of news from Finland, where TactoTek, a three-dimensional moulded plastic electronics manufacturer, has increased its total funding to more than $20m following a round that featured Faurecia Ventures, the investment arm of automotive parts maker Faurecia.

And another cross-over: on GlobalUniversityVenturing.com, C3Nano, a spinout of Stanford University that produces conductive inks and films for bendable touch sensors, closed a $15m series D round co-led by GSR Ventures, conglomerate Nissha Printing and diversified holding group Xinjiang Guoli Minsheng Equity Investment.

Funds

Artificial intelligence was one of the cutting edge technologies on the menu when Samsung launched its $150m Next fund last month, but reports coming out of Korea suggest the company is considering the formation of a $1bn fund that will focus exclusively on AI.

Meituan-Dianping, the Chinese local services operator formed by a $15bn merger in late 2015, is set to join rivals in the online services sector by forming a dedicated corporate venturing fund, for which it aims to raise approximately $435m.

Project A, a Germany-based venture capital firm, closed a €140m ($148m) early-stage fund today with a cornerstone investment from the European Investment Fund (EIF), the EU-owned financing agency.

BioMedPartners, a Switzerland-based healthcare-focused venture capital firm, has achieved the first close of its BioMedInvest III fund at SFr75m ($75m) with a cornerstone investment from the European Investment Fund (EIF).

The biggest fund on GGV came from Singapore, where Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly-owned investment subsidiary of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, has announced a S$600m ($422m) fund.

EduGrowth, a non-profit platform founded by Deakin University, La Trobe University, Monash University, Charles Sturt University and Griffith University as well as education company Navitas, has launched an accelerator, that will put A$50,000 into participating startups in return for 6% equity stake.

Exits

Zawatt, a Japan-based operator of an online auction platform, is set to be acquired by marketplace app provider Mercari today (that is February 27, for those of you listening to this later in the week).

Zhenai, a China-based online dating platform backed by internet company IAC, is planning a listing via a reverse merger with aircraft parts manufacturer DEA General Aviation, China Money Network has reported.

US-based software integration technology provider MuleSoft has filed to raise $100m in an initial public offering that will give exits to networking technology producer Cisco and enterprise software firms Salesforce.com and ServiceNow.

Here’s some rather depressing news for investors: Groupon has revealed in a securities filing that it paid the grand total of zero for corporate-backed competitor Living Social when it acquired the company in October 2016.

On GlobalUniversityVenturing.com meanwhile, Wrapidity, an artificial intelligence (AI) spinout of Oxford University, was acquired by data science company Meltwater.


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

12 September 2016 – Automotive Deals, UK Funds and more funding for Didi Chuxing plus more

Deals

Best Logistics has closed a massive $760m funding round that shows how big China’s logistics sector is growing in the wake of the country’s e-commerce success.

SoFi received $1bn from backers including Renren and SoftBank at a $4bn valuation in October, followed that up with another $150m from Renren the following month, and is now reportedly lining up a $500m round, though the prospective investors are yet to be revealed.

Moderna Therapeutics closed a huge $450m round at the start of last year that valued it at $3bn, and now the RNA therapeutics developer has revealed $474m in new equity financing which, a regulatory filing indicates, includes the $140m invested by AstraZeneca last month.

Online car marketplace Cheyipai has raised $185m in funding from investors including Renren and Tencent, but is now changing tack by switching from a business-to-consumer model to one that serves other businesses. That pivot may be part funded by car manufacturer BAIC, which is reportedly in talks to lead a $45m round.

Chinese automotive marketplace RenRenChe is less than three years old, but has secured $150m in a round backed by new and existing VC investors.

Didi Chuxing has had quite a year and it continues to go from strength to strength, closing $120m in funding from manufacturing services provider Foxconn at a $33.7bn valuation.

Novartis Venture Fund has co-led a $40m series E round for Rox Medical, the developer of a device that will treat hypertension in older patients.

Rigontec, a biopharmaceutical spinout of Bonn University, today achieved a third and final close of its series A round at $32.3m with public-private partnership High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) making another commitment.

Red Dot Capital Partners, a $150m vehicle wholly funded by Singaporean government-owned investment firm Temasek, led a $38m investment yesterday in Israel-based wireless technology developer Celeno Communications.

Funds

Russian conglomerate Sistema has already launched two VC vehicles this year – the $50m India-focused Sistema Asia Fund and a $100m fund with Tsinghua University – and it’s followed those up with a private equity fund partnership with Russian state-owned tech commercialisation company Rusnano.

Neil Woodford, a UK-based fund manager and founding partner of Woodford Investment Management, is reportedly in talks with the UK government to set up a £250m ($330m) VC fund, Portfolio Adviser reported.

Imperial College London has become a limited partner in a £40m ($53.7m) fund launched by incubator Entrepreneur First yesterday, according to TechCrunch.

Exits

Intel has acquired vision processing chip producer Movidius in a transaction that provided exits to corporates Robert Bosch and Sunny Optical.

IDG Ventures India can also celebrate an exit, or at least a partial exit from eyewear supplier Lenskart, selling $20m in shares to investment firm PremjiInvest in a deal that also involved PremjiInvest investing a further $10m in Lenskart directly.

Allergan has acquired the Wayne State University spinout, backed by Santen Pharmaceutical and Nerveda, for an upfront payment of $60m.

People

Oxford University’s commercialisation arm has appointed Matt Perkins as its new chief executive, replacing Tom Hockaday who stepped down earlier this year.

Ozan Sönmez has been appointed managing director of T-Jump Startup Hub, the US-based incubator of Middle East Technical University’s tech transfer office ODTÜ Teknokent.


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