08 June 2020 – GCV Digital Forum Roundup

GCV Digital Forum Roundup

Thank you to the team and all who have worked their socks off for the first GCV Digital Forum, and also the sponsors, speakers and attendees who have made it such a success. The platform will stay open for 30 days.

It was exciting to hear the industry on the GCV Leadership Society Advisory Board chaired by Young Sohn from Samsung this week share their perspectives on how communities can come closer together through these trials and create more diverse and inclusive investing environments – Samsung NEXT will share its playbook for this at the Forum and beyond.

The GCV Digital Forum has had 600 attendees from across the time zones, creating a unique network and sharing of insights yesterday and today.

Exits

Covid-19 does not seem to have done much to dampen investors’ spirits outside a few key areas and if anything, it’s accelerated what was beginning to become a comparatively stagnant M&A market. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Intel Capital, which has already recorded exits from portfolio companies including Nysansa, CloudGenix and Moovit this year, and which is now set to exit Spot, a developer of cloud workload management software. The reported price tag is $450m, following $52m in VC funding, which looks to me like a decent return.

Thoma Bravo to execute $100m Exostar acquisition

Fibrosis drug developer Pliant Therapeutics has become the latest life sciences company to launch a successful IPO, floating at the top of its range to raise $144m after increasing the number of shares in the offering by 50%. It also represents an immediate return for Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, which bought $10m of shares in the flotation only to see Pliant’s share price shoot up some 50% post-IPO.

Branding Engineer gets IPO plans on track

Canada-based Repare Therapeutics is the latest drug developer to file for an initial public offering, and the precision oncology-focused company is targeting $100m in a Nasdaq IPO. The filing came just days after it raised $15m in equity funding from Bristol Myers Squibb as part of a research collaboration deal, and Repare’s existing investors also include Celgene Switzerland, a participant in its 2017 series A round.

Vroom sets $319m target for IPO

China’s stock markets look set to benefit from increasingly stringent rules in the US, and one of the country’s latest companies to file for an initial public offering is Shenzhen Yanmade Technology. It provides industrial testing equipment for flexible printed circuits and its investors include Legend Capital, which was spun off by Legend Holdings. Yanmade is looking to raise up to $98.8m and it plans to float on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market.

Deals

On-demand ride provider Didi Chuxing has raised more than $500m for an autonomous driving subsidiary, in a round led by SoftBank’s second Vision Fund. The spinoff is the outcome of four years of driverless vehicle research from Didi and it has approval to test the technology on roads across three Chinese cities as well as California. Vision Fund was already one of Didi’s key investors, and it took part in a $150m round for the company’s bicycle rental spinoff in April.

Varo Money is one of several digital banks to spring up in the past few years, but it intends to be the first to secure a national bank charter in the United States. It has also closed a $241m series D round featuring automotive insurance specialist Progressive that hiked its overall funding to nearly $420m. Fintech has been one of the notable growth sectors in recent years, but if digital operators can start competing head to head with traditional banks we could see that growth accelerate quite quickly.

E-commerce marketplaces have been one of the more exciting investment areas in Southeast Asia in recent years, and Vietnam’s Tiki has so far been among the market’s winners. It has reportedly raised $130m in a round led by private equity firm Northstar Group, following earlier funding from the likes of CyberAgent, JD.com, Sumitomo and VNG. The company is also said to be in line for a merger with domestic competitor Sendo that would really set it up for the future.

Xiaolinggou plugs into series A round

Microbe processor Ginkgo Bioworks has increased its overall funding to nearly $790m in a $70m funding round that included strategic partner Illumina. The round also featured General Atlantic and Viking Global Investors – both of which backed a $350m vehicle called Ferment Consortium that was formed last October to invest in companies formed and spun off by Ginkgo.

University

Athira accepts $85m series B

Oxford encodes Base Genomics

Funds

Pfizer to augment VC investments with $500m

MassMutual amasses third $100m fund

No need to tell anyone that inclusion and support for black lives is on everyone’s lips right now, not least due to the recent reams of public dedications by different companies’ social media accounts. However, SoftBank is putting actual skin in the game by forming a $100m investment vehicle called the Opportunity Growth Fund specifically to back entrepreneurs and founders of colour. Not that it’s the first corporate to launch such an initiative: Comcast Ventures’ Catalyst Fund was formed in 2011 and Intel Capital put $125m into a Diversity Fund in 2015.

India-based classified listings operator Info Edge has had some success investing off its own balance sheet, particularly with Zomato and PolicyBazaar owner ETechAces, but not it’s looking to establish a dedicated corporate venturing vehicle. Info Edge Venture Fund has a $100m target, and the corporate is putting up almost half. The rest is set to come from external LPs, in what looks to be an increasingly popular model.

Real Tech goes local with latest fund


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

25 May 2020 – SenseTime Expands to Help Track Coronavirus

The Big Ones

Chinese AI software provider SenseTime has expanded its visual surveillance technology to assess the internal temperature of individuals in order to more efficiently track coronavirus patients, and is considering seeking $1bn in funding. Reports in March suggested it was chasing $500m to $1bn in lieu of an IPO, but sources have told the Wall Street Journal it is now considering a $1bn fundraise at a post-money valuation of $9.5bn. No word on possible participants yet, but its existing backers include Qualcomm Ventures, Alibaba, Suning and Dalian Wanda.

ADC Therapeutics is the latest pharmaceutical company to buck the market downturn to successfully go public, and it certainly has proven to be a successful IPO. The cancer therapy developer – a spinoff from AstraZeneca – floated above its range in an upscaled offering and has now closed that IPO at almost $268m after its shares rose significantly on their first day of trading. Passage Bio, Zentalis, Keros Therapeutics and Oric Pharmaceuticals have had similarly profitable IPOs in the past two months.

Mauritius-based venture capital firm Novastar Ventures has raised $108m from limited partners including insurance firm Axa for its second Africa-focused fund. Axa’s Impact Fund joined the European Investment Bank (EIB), the state-owned Dutch Good Growth Fund and Proparco, Norfund, Sifem and CDC Group: development banks representing France, Norway, Switzerland and the UK respectively. Multiple unnamed family offices also participated alongside unspecified investors from Novastar’s first fund, which closed at $80m in 2015 with backing from Axa Investment Management, financial services firms Triodos Bank and JP Morgan, CDC, Proparco, Norfund, EIB, Fisea and FMO. Novastar targets startups located in East and West Africa and has built a 15-strong portfolio, investing from $250,000 for an early round, up to a total of $8m in each company. Its investments include off-grid solar system provider SolarNow and organic food supplier GreenPath.

In crossover news, SQZ Biotechnologies, a US-based cellular vaccine developer spun out of MIT, has closed a $65m series D round that included GV and Illumina Ventures, respective investment subsidiaries of internet technology conglomerate Alphabet and genomics technology producer Illumina. The round was led by Singaporean government-owned investment firm Temasek and also featured NanoDimension, Polaris Partners, an unnamed US-based fund and JDRF T1D Fund, which is managed by diabetes-focused charity JRDF. SQZ is working on cell therapies that exploit the body’s immune system to fight diseases. The series D proceeds will enable the company, which has so far focused on cancer and autoimmune diseases, to expand its cellular vaccine development platform into infectious diseases. It will also begin work on a point-of-care system that could allow treatments to be generated in clinics.

Deals

Messaging and social communication apps have seen user numbers and business boom in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Discord is no different. Although some companies (see Giphy and NextVR below) are facing acquisitions at reduced valuations, Discord is reportedly in talks with potential investors over a funding round set to value it between $3bn and $4bn. That’s a sizeable increase from the $2.05bn valuation at which it raised $150m from investors including Tencent in late 2018.

Augmented reality technology developer Magic Leap has had question marks over its business for years as it struggled to build a customer base despite raising over $2.6bn in funding and hitting a $6.3bn valuation. The company was reportedly set to cut around 1,000 staff members, but has managed to pull in $350m from undisclosed new and existing backers. It’s still going ahead with cuts, alongside a slight pivot to enterprise customers, but hopefully they won’t be as bad. Its earlier investors include Google, Alibaba, Qualcomm Ventures, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros, Grupo Globo and Axel Springer, but it’s unclear how many of them – if any – chipped in this time.

E-commerce group JD.com’s maintenance, research and operations subsidiary, JD MRO, has received $230m in series A financing from GGV Capital, Sequoia Capital China and Citic Group subsidiary CPE. JD MRO follows in the footsteps of other JD.com spinoffs such as JD Health, JD Logistics and JD Digits which have also achieved unicorn status.

SoftBank revealed that its first Vision Fund has closed for new investments, but it still has powder left over for portfolio companies, one of which is construction services provider Katerra. Vision Fund has invested $200m in Katerra having previously led a round that closed at $999m in late 2018. Reports early last year suggested it could lead a $700m round for Katerra at a valuation potentially topping $4bn, but the reduced size is probably a sign that valuation has also dropped.

Throughout the disruption over recent weeks, telehealth has been one of the standout areas of the tech space that has done very well. Amwell (formerly known as American Well) claims the sector has made two years of progress in two months, and it has closed $194m in series C funding from investors including Takeda and Allianz X. The latter took part as an existing backer, Amwell’s earlier investors also including Philips and Teva.

RallyBio is developing treatments for rare and serious diseases, and has secured $145m in a series B round led by Nan Fung’s Pivotal BioVenture Partners fund. Mitsui & Co Global Investment and Fidelity’s F-Prime Capital were also among the participants in the round, which will fund a phase 1/2 trial for RallyBio’s lead candidate that is expected to kick off later this year.

Digital banking has done well so far in 2020, and the latest neobank to close a nine-figure round is Aspiration, which has secured $135m in series C funding from investors including IUBS hedge fund manager UBS O’Connor. Aspiration targets a more ethical model of investment and cash management and its earlier investors include Renren, the social media platform that caused a stir when it began investing heavily in fintech earlier this decade. Apart from Aspiration and SoFi, those bets are yet to really pay off, but the strategy itself looks sounder than ever.

States Title operates in another part of the fintech space, having developed AI software that automates part of the title and escrow element of real estate transactions, but it’s raised $123m in a series C round featuring Assurant and corporate venture capital units Lennar Ventures and Scor Global P&C Ventures. The real estate industry has been affected by Covid-19 restrictions but investors clearly believe in the underlying potential of State Title’s technology, which could help fulfil tech’s promise of simplifying complex financial transactions.

Rapid Micro, a provider of automated microbial contamination detection systems, said this week it has also seen business pick up lately, and it has completed a $120m financing round featuring Asahi Kasei Medical. The round expanded the company’s overall funding to more than $255m and shows that while the greatest rewards may be reaped by whoever comes up with the first viable Covid-19 vaccine, it’s providing a boost to practically the entire healthcare sector.

Masterclass may not be a healthtech company but its remote learning service, which provides video tutorials hosted by well-known experts and celebrities such David Axelrod, Neil Gaiman and Gordon Ramsay, lies in an online services space that has benefitted from the coronavirus lockdown. It has raised $100m in a series E round led by Fidelity at a reported valuation of more than $800m, boosting its total funding to more than $263m. Bloomberg Beta, WME Ventures, Novel TMT and Evolution Media are all earlier investors.

Digital bank Monzo is also looking for new funding and is reportedly after approximately $85m to $98m, though it looks likely to be at a reduced valuation. The company raised $144m last June from investors including Orange Digital Ventures and Stripe at $2.55bn valuation but sources informed the Financial Times that the new round will probably cut that to about $1.5bn. Some fintech developers have been relatively unaffected by the Covid-19 downturn but online banking does not seem to be among them.

Chinese online fitness community and technology provider Keep has raised $80m in a series E round featuring Tencent and Bertelsmann Asia Investments that increased its valuation to more than $1bn. Both corporate backers were existing investors in Keep – which has now received more than $260m altogether – going back to at least 2016.

Exits

Healthcare companies have been doing well, not least the ones brave enough to opt for an initial public offering. ADC Therapeutics, a cancer therapy developer spun off by AstraZeneca’s Spirogen subsidiary, withdrew its initial attempt to go public last year, but refiled late last month and has now raised nearly $233m in its IPO. That’s an upsized offering that involved ADC floating at $19 per share, above the IPO’s $16 to $18 range. Its shares closed at almost $30 after its first day of trading.


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

11 May 2020 – Intel picks up Moovit for $900m

Big Stories

Korys, the family office behind the France and Belgium-based retailer Colruyt Group, and Mérieux Equity Partners, the asset management arm of the Institut Mérieux holding company, have set up joint funds targeting companies in the healthcare and nutrition sectors in Europe and North America.

OMX Europe Venture Fund has raised more than €60m from Korys and Mérieux and third party subscribers and is targeting a final close at €90m. OMX Europe will be managed by Mérieux Equity Partners in Europe, with the operational support of Korys’ Life Science team as a key advisor to the fund.

The value of Intel’s acquisition of Israel-based urban mobility app developer Moovit for a $900m enterprise value lies almost as much as what it says about the ecosystem developed there over the past 30 years since Russian immigration after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Israel had always battled its neighbours and developed a strong military but the influx of people needing jobs helped catalyse a startup ecosystem and funding of venture capitalists to enable it.

The integration of corporate research and development and venturing units has catalysed this trend even further over the past decade, as identified in the latest GCV Israelconference in February.

We have seen some big deals so far this year in the financial services sector, with Visa acquiring Plaid and Mastercard joining AvidXchange, but while payments remains localised in many cases the opportunities to join up the global commerce world beckons.

Hence the after-market performance of Australia-listed Afterpay, which surged following China-based Tencent’s acquisition of a 5% stake. Alibaba had its purchase of Western Union’s spinout MoneyGram turned down by US authorities but is also trying to become the global payments provider of choice given Chinese blocks on Visa and Mastercard’s expansion in the world’s second-largest economy.

We live in a world of seemingly the very large and the very small.
An exabyte of data is the equivalent of a stack of DVDs about 255.3 kilometres high. Each transistor in a state-of-the-art chip measures only 5 nanometres (nm) — the length a human fingernail grows in five seconds.
The world increasingly turns around data and processing power and if data is the new oil the 21st century wars could see as many wars fought over control of the ones and zeros as were fought over black gold in the last century. In which case Taiwan becomes an important centre to watch.
In last month’s Global China, Saif Khan and Carrick Flynn argued for maintaining China’s dependence on democracies for advanced computer chips through export controls. These democracies, particularly Taiwan, the US and South Korea, lead the development of the most advanced chips – those with transistors of between 5nm and 16nm.

Japan has struggled to keep up and so it was little surprise in the past week to seeDealStreetAsia report Japanese venture capital firm Jafco has made the final close of its debut Taiwan venture fund at NT$2bn ($67.1m) with limited partners including the National Development Fund of Taiwan.

Funds

Kurma sets the stage for $175m fund

Some areas may not be an obvious choice for investment in the time of lockdown but it seems the automotive sector is well and truly alive with Autotech Ventures announcing that it has closed its second fund at more than $150mthanks to a long list of corporate LPs – though only Lear, Stoneridge, Bridgestone and Volvo were identified. The firm now has more than $270m under management and will, apart from the obvious areas of connectivity, automation and electrification, also explore more niche investments, such as junkyard inventory management technologies.

University

Shift hits play on $70m fund

Fitz Gate seals second Princeton-focused fund

Edinburgh sparks food science incubator

Deals

It is easy enough to forget, with the world’s focus on coronavirus, that other diseases are costing countless more human lives. Chief among these is cancer, some forms of which have become easier to treat but prognoses are still significantly better the earlier the disease is caught. Illumina spun out Grail four years ago to make that early detection a reality through a blood test that can not only detect the presence of more than 50 different cancer indications but can also tell the oncologist where in the body the cancerous tissue is – all while boasting an almost negligible false positive rate of less than 1%. But developing such a test costs a lot of money, so it is heartening to see that Illumina and others have doubled down on the company and backed a $390m series D round that brought Grail’s total funding to some $2bn.

Another company that has done well out of people asked to stay at home is Byju’s, the online education provider backed by Prosus and Tencent, which is looking to add $400m to an ongoing funding round that reportedly already stands at $300m to $350m. Better news for the company still: it is set to push its valuation from $8bn just three months ago to more than $10bn. That seems fast, and it is, but consider that Byju’s added six million users in March alone and India’s lockdown was only implemented in the last week of that month.

Octopus Energy, a British renewable energy supplier that has steadily grown to more than 1.3 million customers since it was launched five years ago, has attracted its first external funding thanks to a $327m commitment from Origin Energy in return for a 20% stake. Origin made the investment specifically to secure a licence for Kraken, Octopus’ cloud-based software platform to interact with customers and enable functionality such as wholesale market trading and consumption forecasting. With Australia increasingly feeling the impact of global warming (even if the catastrophic fires earlier this year already seem like a distant memory), partnering with a green energy supplier is a welcome move.

Another sector that is doing well out of reduced human contact are financial services providers and N26 has wasted no time in adding $100m to a series D round that now stands at $570m. Notably, the additional capital was raised at a flat valuation of $3.5bn. That may not be too unusual for a third tranche, but the company had managed to increase its valuation by $800m between the first and second tranche, backed by Tencent and Allianz X. Consider, however, that N26 actually pulled out of market between the first and second extension, as the UK’s exit from the European Union just caused too much of a headache for the digital bank that relies on an EU-wide banking licence for its business.

Robinhood captures $280m series F

SoftBank and its Vision Fund may have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, but that doesn’t mean there is no support left for portfolio companies. Indeed, new and used car trading platform operator Chehaoduo has secured an additional $200m from the Vision Fund and Sequoia Capital to add to a $1.5bn initial series D tranche – supplied in full by the corporate – in February last year. It may not be an obvious candidate to raise money in the current climate, but with trouble brewing elsewhere in the fund’s portfolio, an automotive marketplace and after-sales services provider seems like a decent bet.

SoftBank also hasn’t had the best experience dealing with Mexico’s regulator the Federal Economic Competition Commission (Cofece), having been sanctioned recently because it failed to notify Cofece that it had acquired a larger stake in WeWork. You can understand then that the corporate treaded a bit more carefully with its lead investment in US-based digital lending platform AlphaCredit’s $125m series B round through the Vision Fund. AlphaCredit, which targets customers in Mexico and Colombia, had initially announced the deal in January, but it took until last week for Cofece to give the all-clear. That timing is good news not just for SoftBank and AlphaCredit, but also for the consumers and SMEs that are in desperate need of loans right now to weather the crisis.

Ninja Van picks up $279m in funding

Asapp accesses $185m series B

Flint Hills Resources, the chemicals and biofuel subsidiary of conglomerate Koch Industries, is not a corporate backer we come across often on GCV – in fact, it has seemingly only taken part in half a dozen deals since 2010 – but as the world battles an ever-increasing mountain of plastic polluting the environment, the need for a commercial-scale biodegradable alternative is becoming imperative. Enter RWDC Industries, which is working on just such a material and has secured $133m in a series B round backed by Flint Hills Resources to scale up its US operations by repurposing an idle factory in Athens, Georgia.

Back Market certifies $120m round

ASR processes $119m round

Praxis Precision was co-founded four years ago by faculty from Columbia University and University of Melbourne, but the gene therapy developer – targeting neurological and psychiatric disorders – remained quiet about its business until now, emerging from stealth with more than $100m in funding raised to date from investors including Novo Holdings. All of that money has clearly been put to good use: Praxis already has two assets in phase 2 clinical development, one for major depressive disorder and one for essential tremor.

Enflame lights up $98.7m series B

Exits

Kingsoft Cloud to claim IPO throne

University

Abiomed absorbs Breethe


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

04 May 2020 – FIS Commits $150m to its Corporate Venturing Unit

The Big Three

As highlighted in last week’s podcast, some sectors are flying high and, certainly relative to the global financial crisis a dozen years ago, banking and financial services is one of them.

New York-listed financial technology (fintech) provider FIS has committed $150m to its corporate venturing unit as part of a joined-up approach to open innovation including its FIS FinTech Accelerator and FIS Innovatein48 research and development competition in addition to innovation labs.

Under Joon Cho, FIS Ventures will invest up to $150m in fintech startups over the next three years targeting artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital enablement and automation, data and analytics, security and privacy, distributed ledger technology and financial inclusion.

The blurring of lines between corporate and independent venture capital is continuing apace as all parties consider how best they can support entrepreneurs while fulfilling their five needs: capital, customers, product development, hiring and an exit.

This naturally brings the best investors together with the corporations best able to scale startups and then potentially acquire them, so it is little surprise in many ways to see US-based coffee retailer Starbucks form a co-investment partnership with venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China.

Starbucks said it would also look to form “commercial partnerships with next-generation food and retail technology companies” in China through a statement announcing the agreement.

The average worldwide population increase is currently estimated at 81 million people per year – a figure at this stage fortunately unlikely to be dented much by the Covid-19 pandemic – and all those people require feeding.

As GCV’s agtech supplement in March noted, modern farming practices, such as the use of soil-based and aerial sensors as well as drones, data analytics, and pest and pathogen detection systems, are taking hold. When combined with advanced fertiliser formulations, digital farming technologies developed by startups can substantially reduce nitrogen and nutrient loss and mitigate water pollution.

Enter Pivot Bio, a US-based agriculture technology developer that is trying to harness the power of naturally occurring microbes to provide more nutrients to crops. It has raised $100m in its series C round from a consortium including Bunge Ventures and Continental Grain but is apparently missing one of its earlier corporate backers.

Deals

Fintech on the other hand does not seem to have been affected by the coronavirus to the same extent. Investment and financial advice app developer Stash has raised $112m in a series F round led by $80m from lending marketplace LendingTree. The funding was bagged at an $800m valuation and lifted Stash’s overall funding to more than $290m. CEO Brandon Krieg told Bloomberg it intends to grow its customer base along with brand awareness as finances constrict in the US.

Consumer and business lender DMI Finance likely won’t lack customers in the downturn, and it has just pulled in $123m from video game publisher Nexon at a reported valuation that topped $1bn. India-headquartered DMI secured $200m in non-convertible debenture financing just last month and its commercial partners include Samsung, which is based – like Nexon – in Korea.

And another is business-focused neobank Cross River Bank, which has raised $100m of its own. The series C round comes less than 18 months since Cross River received $100m from backers including corporate CreditEase. The latest round is being co-led by investment adviser V Capital, which will help Cross River expand in its home country of Malaysia.

Inceptio loads up $100m

Paytm is among India’s most valuable startups having been valued at $16bn in a November series G round featuring Ant Financial and SoftBank Vision Fund. The mobile financial services provider is reportedly in talks to raise $100m or more from Microsoft to add to the series G. The round was sized at $1bn but Paytm has only received $720m of the cash so far, and Ant Financial will reportedly need government clearance to supply its share due to new foreign investment regulations.

Although corporates have not been keen on joining in the rush to back cannabis-focused startups, an interesting test case for tech based on traditionally illicit drugs may be Compass Pathways, which is working on a treatment for depression that utilises psilocybin from mushrooms (magic mushrooms, to be precise). The company just pulled in $80mthrough a series B round featuring Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, and has received breakthrough therapy designation for its lead product from the FDA. That should be as good a go-ahead sign as any, you’d think.

University

Taysha stakes out $30m seed round

LifeSprout bolts on series A funding

Exits/Losses

SoftBank’s woes continue, the corporate announcing this morning that it expects to booka mammoth loss of nearly $6.6bn on its investment in WeWork over the last financial year – a period when it pledged a $9.5bn financing package to make sure the workspace provider could continue operations. The value of that deal has been hit hard by the shutdowns of WeWork locations across the world in the face of the coronavirus, and it’s worth noting the $6.6bn figure is separate to SoftBank Vision Fund, which has announced a projected loss of more than $16bn over the same period.

D2iQ has raised a touch over $250m from investors including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Koch Disruptive Technologies since being founded as Mesosphere in 2013, but the cloud software and services provider is reportedly in talks with Google to be acquired. In a sign of the effect the Covid-19 shutdown is having, D2iQ reportedly laid off 34 team members recently, and the prospective purchase would likely value it at more than that $250m, but less than the $775m valuation in its last round two years ago.

To IPO or not to IPO? Right now it seems less of a question than a foregone conclusion for many companies but interestingly, the ones that are opting to go public in this economic downturn seem to be benefitting from the lack of competition. Oncology therapy developer Oric Pharmaceuticals has done so in a $120m initial public offering, floating at the top of its range having increased the number of shares by 50% and then seeing them open more than 60% higher. It had previously raised more than $175m in funding from investors including Taiho, Hartford HealthCare and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Acacia circles over Woodford assets

Funds

Michigan State to administer $3m pre-seed fund


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

20 April 2020 – Stripe Raises $600m in Series G Plus Audio from our Industrial Sector Webinar

The Big Ones

Digital payment processor Stripe is one of the companies that has seen demand for its product skyrocket in recent weeks as more and more commerce moves online. It has also raised another $600m from investors including GV to meet that demand, taking a series G round valuing it at $35bn pre-money to $850m. The company’s earlier backers include Visa and American Express- both of which invested at a $5bn valuation – and Sumitomo Mitsui Card Company.

There’s been no respite for SoftBank over Easter, as the telecoms giant revealed in its annual report that it expected to book a $16.8bn loss on investments from its Vision Fund in the fiscal year that just closed. That figure, which encompasses a huge loss in value for WeWork along with the disintegration of investments in the likes of OneWeb and Brandless, is staggering, and SoftBank has reportedly frozen its second Vision Fund, which was in the fundraising stage. But with most of its consumer-facing portfolio facing trouble right now, what will happen to that portfolio if those companies find their largest investor has suddenly closed their wallet?

Zomato acquired Uber Eats in a $350m all-share deal in January and now the restaurant listings and food delivery platform is reportedly in talks to buy online grocery delivery service Grofers in a similar deal that will value the latter at $750m. The transaction could hypothetically be sweetened by an investment of $100m to $200m from Grofers’ largest shareholder, SoftBank Vision Fund, though it’s unclear whether that will still stand in light of news SoftBank is freezing its second Vision Fund.

Identity verification seems to be a hot sector all of a sudden (we’ll have more in a minute for you). Onfido, which emerged out of the software incubator of University of Oxford’s tech transfer office Oxford University Innovation eight years ago, has raised $100m. The round featured M12 and Salesforce Ventures, as well as unnamed backers, and was led by TPG Growth. Onfido allows companies to biometrically verify a user’s identity by algorithmically comparing a picture of an ID document, such as a passport, with a selfie. It’s used by more than 1,500 organisations, such as digital bank Revolut. Its early backers include the Seed Fund of Oxford’s Saïd Business School Entrepreneurship Centre.

Deals

Despite suffering several outages in early March, share trading app developer Robinhood has emerged as one of the tech-based companies that have seen demand for their product intensify during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the company, whose backers include Alphabet units CapitalG and GV as well as Roc Nation’s Arrive vehicle, is reportedly closing in on $250m in funding. The round looks set to be led by existing backer Sequoia Capital, and to lift Robinhood’s valuation from $7.6bn to $8bn pre-money.

Elsewhere in the fintech world, cross-border remittance service Airwallex has closed a $160m series D round that included Tencent and corporate venturing units Salesforce Ventures and Anzi Ventures at a reported $1.8bn valuation. Airwallex is one of that rare breed of successful Australian startups that have elected to remain in their home country instead of moving to Silicon Valley, and it’s a useful example that you don’t necessarily have to move where the most action is in order to reach those high valuations.

China-based drug developer MabWorks has collected $160m in a two-tranche series C round featuring an investment vehicle for industrial park operator Beijing E-Town Biomedical Park. MabWorks has some 15 assets in clinical trials in China or the US, many of which are targeted at cancer, and is focusing on a monoclonal antibody approach.

As promised, more identity verification for you with BioBatch, which has netted $145m in a series C featuring CreditEase and American Express Ventures. Both corporates took part in BioBatch’s last round – a $30m series B two years ago – and that jump suggests demand for its behavioral biometrics technology has grown sharply during that time.

Consumer finance platform Paidy has raised another $48m from trading group and existing backer Itochu that it added on to the $143m in series D funding it closed in November, bringing the round to $191m. Itochu had contributed to that close, as did fellow corporate investors Visa and PayPal Ventures, and it has now committed a total of $91m to Paidy, which has received $281m in debt and equity financing to date.

Ninja Van has racked up $124m in series D funding over the past year, according to data sourced from DealStreetAsia. Corporates GeoPost, Grab, Carmenta and Intouch Holdings provided a total of $50m while GeoPost has supplied a further $79m in convertible note financing since September 2018. The series D reportedly valued the Southeast Asian last-mile delivery service at about $590m.

Cloud kitchen operator Rebel Foods also operates in India’s food delivery sector and has raised $50m from hedge fund manager Coatue Management. Rebel counts Gojek, Sistema and Northwest Industrial Logistics as early investors but while the Coatue deal may seem an endorsement, it’s worth noting that reports in February suggested it was going to come as part of a round sized at up to $150m, at a $1bn valuation. This is a space that could definitely see some more consolidation in the coming months.

Cerevance, a spinout of Rockefeller University, has created technology that helps it assess post-mortem brain tissue in order to develop treatments for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. It has also secured $45m in a series B round that included corporate VC units GV and Takeda Ventures. The latter had already taken part in Cerevance’s 2016 series A round but its contribution to this one came in the wake of a December 2019 research agreement between Cerevance and its parent company, pharmaceutical firm Takeda.

Funds

China-based, Southeast Asia-focused venture capital firm ATM Capital has closed a fund backed by corporates Alibaba and 58.com at about $100m, DealStreetAsia reported citing sources privy to the development. Founded in 2017, ATM Capital aims to bring Chinese expertise to bare helping Southeast Asia-based startups grow. The fund is its first and it had set a $200m target for its final close, but sources told DealStreetAsia the Covid-19 crisis had impacted fundraising activities.

Corigin Ventures, the venture capital firm sponsored by US-based real estate developer Corigin, has closed its second fund at approximately $36m. The firm targets consumer and property technology developers in the US and Canada. It invests $100,000 at pre-seed stage and provides between $500,000 and $1.25m for seed-stage deals, with additional capital reserved for follow-on investments. Corigin Ventures began raising the capital in mid-2018 and the fund had a $50m target according to securities filings. It is the first to include contributions from external limited partners, according to TechCrunch.

China-based early-stage venture firm Qiming Venture Partners has closed its seventh fund at $1.1bn with investors including Princeton University Investment Company, the manager of the institution’s $26bn endowment. The fund’s other limited partners include unnamed endowments, foundations, family offices and private pensions. Princeton’s been an investor in Qiming funds since its very first US dollar-denominated vehicle.

Exits

Verizon has agreed to acquire video conferencing software provider BlueJeans for a price reported to be below (but reportedly not that far below) $500m, in a deal that will allow Deutsche Telekom’s DTCP subsidiary to exit. BlueJeans had raised about $175m, its most recent funding coming in a 2015 series E round.


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

23 March 2020 – Fox Agrees to Buy Tubi for $440m in Cash

The Big Ones

When SoftBank emerged with a $9.5bn rescue package for beleaguered workspace provider WeWork in October, $3bn of the amount had been earmarked for a tender that would have involved it buying shares from existing investors and shareholders – likely including hotel chain Jin Jiang International and Legend Capital. However, the company has sent a letter to the shareholders stating that it believes regulatory probes into the WeWork business frees it from that obligation. It’s an interesting approach, but considering SoftBank’s influence at the company even before its IPO attempt, one that may be hard to follow through with.

Speaking of everyone’s favourite corporate. SoftBank’s efforts to raise capital for a second Vision Fund have been largely unsuccessful so far, but it is reportedly seeking $10bn, including $5bn from external backers, to shore up portfolio companies in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, and maybe acquire rivals struggling with the same issues. Some of the portfolio companies set to be affected include Uber, WeWork, Didi Chuxing and Oyo, though others such as Slack, Paytm and DoorDash could find their business models strengthened by the virus and related social distancing.

Fox has agreed to buy online streaming service Tubi for $440m in cash, allowing MGM and Lionsgate to exit. Both contributed to Tubi’s $6m series A round, part of the $31m in funding it had disclosed prior to the acquisition. Fox should still have a big chunk of the Disney money it got from the 21st Century Fox purchase so it won’t be a surprise to see some more big acquisitions from it coming up soon.

In crossover news, Circle Pharma, a US-based oncology therapeutics spinout of UC San Francisco and UC Santa Cruz, has secured $45m in a series B round backed by UC Berkeley’s investment vehicle, Berkeley Catalyst Fund. Healthcare-focused venture capital fund Column Group led the round, which also included pharmaceutical firm ShangPharma, Nextech Invest and LifeForce Capital. Circle began operations when pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and Mission Bay Capital supplied an undisclosed amount of seed funding in 2014. ShangPharma added an undisclosed sum to the round in mid-2016.

Deals

Despite recent reports it was set to merge with key competitor Grab, ride hailing platform Gojek has raised $1.2bn in funding, reportedly bringing its series F round to nearly $3bn. The round already included Tencent, JD.com, Google, AIA, Mitsubishi, Visa, Siam Commercial Bank and Astra International, but no word yet on the identities of the new investors.

AI and imaging technology provider SenseTime has reportedly dropped plans for a Hong Kong IPO and is instead pursuing between $500m and $1bn in new funding. Its existing investors include Alibaba, Qualcomm, Suning and Dalian Wanda, and reports last year suggested its valuation could have reached $7.5bn. In any case, it’s possible a by-product of the coronavirus could be another push back in the IPO space leading to more late-stage rounds.

Plant-based meat product supplier Impossible Foods has raised $500m in series F funding and, in a sign of things to come, told Forbes it will use the money to offset expected difficulties caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The GV-backed company has reportedly now secured about $1.25bn in funding altogether, and the latest round was led by Mirae Asset Global Investments.

Digital currency technology developer Bakkt has secured $300m as it prepares to expand its crypto wallet to a more diversified crypto services app. The series B funding came from Microsoft unit M12, Naspers subsidiary PayU, Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital and Intercontinental Exchange, the exchange operator that had spun off Bakkt in the first place.

Data streaming software provider Confluent is reportedly seeking $200m to $300m in a round that could double its valuation to $5bn. Its early investors include LinkedIn, which developed the open source Apache Kafka software on which the company relies. The funding would hypothetically be raised prior to an IPO taking place. Enterprise software has been one of the more resilient sectors of late, especially post-IPO, so that wouldn’t be a huge shock.

StackPath has secured $216m in a series B round co-led by corporates Juniper Networks and Cox Communications, following a $180m series A round revealed when it came out of stealth in 2016. Both leads took board seats at the edge computing technology developer, which plans to put the funding toward enhancing engineering and product development while commercialising its system.

Airwallex is meanwhile looking to raise $200m in a series D round set to be led by an as-yet unnamed financial services provider. The cross-border remittance service has so far secured just over $200m, with approximately half coming in a Tencent-led series C round a year ago that valued it at $1bn. The prospective round would be raised at a $1.5bn pre-money valuation.

Novo has participated in a $100m series G round for drug development software provider Tempus that valued it at $5bn post-money. The participants in the round had all previously contributed to the company’s last round, a $200m series F that closed in May 2019, the funding being raised at a $3.1bn valuation. It will use the series G proceeds to expand the range of conditions its technology serves.

Sigilon Therapeutics is developing bio-engineered cells to treat chronic illnesses without a patient’s immune system rejecting the treatment, and has completed an $80.3m series B round that lifted its overall funding to more than $195m. The round’s participants included Eli Lilly, already an equity investor as of a 2018 collaboration agreement that could potentially top $470m should all milestones be reached.

Engineered T cell therapy developer Eureka Therapeutics has bagged $45m in a series E round led by Lyell Immunopharma, which invested through a strategic partnership deal. Eureka has now raised approximately $134m altogether and will work with Lyell on solid tumour treatments, its own liver cancer candidate having entered phase 1/2 clinical trials.

Funds

Cryptocurrency exchange operator Binance has joined forces with its India-based subsidiary WazirX to launch a $50m fund that will invest in blockchain technology developers located in India. The Blockchain for India fund follows a decision by the country’s supreme court to allow financial services firms to take on blockchain companies as clients. As a result, cryptocurrency exchanges in the country are now also able to offer bank account transfers. Apart from providing funding, the vehicle will also look to incubate startups and support blockchain initiatives within universities.

Congruent Ventures, the venture capital firm anchored by University of California, is aiming to raise $125m for its second, sustainability-focused fund, according to a regulatory filing. The filing states Congruent Ventures II is still to raise capital. None of its potential limited partners have been identified. Founded in 2017, Congruent backs early-stage startups that advance sustainability objectives in areas such as urbanisation and mobility, clean energy, food and agriculture and industrial and supply chains. The first Congruent fund closed at $92m in 2018 with a $50m contribution from University of California’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer in addition to Prelude Ventures and undisclosed additional investors.

Exits

These are a different kind of exit, but Vietnam-based conglomerate Vingroup has shut down its corporate venturing unit, Vingroup Ventures. Founded in Ukraine in 1993, Vingroup moved into Vietnam in 2000 and has concentrated its activities in the country since then. Its main areas of interest include technology, manufacturing and a range of services in sectors including education, health and real estate. Vingroup established its CVC unit in late 2018 and had targeted $100m of investments across the globe according to its LinkedIn page, though it has failed to disclose a single deal in which it had participated.

DuPont Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of chemicals producer DuPont, is set to close at the end of this month, according to a person familiar with the matter. Formed by DuPont in 2003, its investments have included deals for biofuel feedstock supplier NexSteppe, taste modification molecule developer Linguagen and ethernet services provider Actelis Networks. However, the unit has been relatively quiet of late, its last disclosed investment being its participation in a $75m round for Indiana University’s drone management software spinout PrecisionHawk in early 2018. DuPont Ventures’ closure comes as part of a restructuring that will involve the company’s larger corporate innovation activities being cut as part of a cost-saving process. The firm has not revealed whether it plans to divest the existing equity stakes held by its subsidiary.


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

24 February 2020 – Imara to Raise Up To $86.3m in its IPO

The Big Ones

Grab had raised $4.8bn for its series H round as of mid-2019 but did not confirm a close for the round. Now however, the on-demand ride provider is set to raise approximately $714m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group as part of a venture where the two will collaborate on a lending and insurance app, according to Nikkei. Amazon has been held up as a prime example of tech companies growing through diversification but it’s far from the only one.

SoftBank may be having difficulty luring external backers to its second Vision Fund but in the meantime it’s putting in its own money, $2.5bn since October according to Reuters sources, one of which said it is considering another $2.5bn while the fund carries on investing. Vision Fund is also reportedly lining up backers for a sub-$2bn hedge fund-like vehicle that will make public market investments.

Imara, a US-based developer of therapies for blood disorders, has filed to raise up to $86.3m in an initial public offering that would enable pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Lundbeck to exit. Founded in 2016, Imara is working on drug treatments for haemoglobinopathies: disorders that affect the haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen. It filed confidentially for the IPO in September 2019. It’s raised some $77m in series A and B funding, according to the filing – which is actually nearly $20m less than it had previously claimed, a discrepancy that’s rare for US companies (if a somewhat more common sight in China).

And the biggest deal on GUV was OMass Therapeutics, a UK-based drug design and development spinout of University of Oxford, which added £27.5m ($35.7m) of series A funding from investors including the university and its Oxford Sciences Innovation. Syncona led the extension with a $21.6m commitment – having also led the initial $17.9m close in 2018 with participation from OSI – to bring round’s total to $53.9m. OMass Therapeutics is working on therapies for immunological and genetic disorders.

Deals

Payment technology provider Toast has secured $400m in a series F round that bumped its valuation up from $2.7bn in April last year to $4.9bn. The round was co-led by TPG, Greenoaks Capital and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Tiger Global, and it increased the company’s overall funding to more than $900m.

Endpoint protection platform developer SentinelOne has reportedly secured $200m at a $1.1bn valuation, with Insight Partners leading the round. Growth equity firm Insight also led SentinelOne’s last round, a $120m series E in June 2019 that included Samsung Venture Investment.

Yimi Dida is one of several trucking service providers contributing to China’s thriving logistics sector, and it has pulled in $143m in series D-plus funding from undisclosed investors, just over a year after it raised $266m in a Prologis-backed series D round.

Swiggy is continuing to battle Zomato for pole position in India’s online food delivery sector, and has received $113m in a series I round led by a reported $100m investment from Prosus Ventures, the unit formerly known as Naspers Ventures. You don’t see too many series I rounds, do you?

Unacademy is one of several companies operating in India’s thriving online education sector, and has grabbed $110m in a series E round that includes a relatively rare corporate venturing investment by Facebook.

Tier Mobility has extended its series B round to more than $100m, adding about $40m in debt and equity financing to the $60m it raised from investors including Axa Germany last October.

Elsewhere in Germany another transport-focused company has expanded its latest round, airborne taxi developer Volocopter increasing its series C to $94m with funding from investors including Deutsche Bahn’s logistics subsidiary, DB Schenke, as well as Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and MS&AD Ventures.

Spruce Biosciences has nabbed $88m in a series B round that included Novo, one of two named investors in its $20m series A three years ago. The company is currently enrolling patients for a phase 2 trial for a treatment intended to reduce heavy steroid doses necessary to combat a genetic hormonal disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

Intel Capital has led a $74m round for cybersecurity software provider ZeroFox, boosting its total funding to $162m. ZeroFox has also formed a collaboration agreement with an Intel ecosystem of software vendors known as Intel AI Builders covering artificial intelligence development.

Solar energy services provider Sunseap has raised $72m from energy utility Banpy as part of a series D round that is reportedly now sized at $146m. The round’s other participants include Temasek and ABC World Asia while Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and Shell Technology Ventures are among its existing backers.

Funds

China International Capital Corporation’s CICC Capital unit has accumulated more than $229m for a biomedicine fund that follows a $1bn healthcare investment vehicle formed with AstraZeneca late last year. Corporate backers Hebei Port, Pharscin Pharma, Xiamen Fig, Fujian Sunner and Sichuan Daily Press subsidiary Xinwen Venture Capital are all among the LPs in the latest fund.

Biopharmaceutical company Walvax Technology is deploying roughly $21m for a biomedicine fund with a targeted close of about $87m that will be managed by Jinsheng Capital. Walvax is relatively new to corporate venturing but there seems to be a fair bit of activity in China right now concerning healthcare investment funds.

Exits

Mobile content discovery platform Digital Turbine has agreed to purchase US-based peer Mobile Posse in a deal reported by DC Inno to be about $66m in size, allowing telecommunications group SoftBank to exit.


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

25 November 2019 – SoftBank Reportedly Reaches Vision Fund II First Close

The Big Ones

And what better way to get back into the swing of things than with SoftBank, which has reportedly reached a first close for Vision Fund II. Although it secured nearly $100bn for the first fund and has received $108bn in MOUs for the new vehicle, sources told Bloomberg it has so far raised only $2bn for the second vehicle. 2019 so often feels like a bizarre alternative reality, but did you ever think we’d be at a point this decade where a figure like that could be regarded as a disappointment for the first close of a CVC fund?

Better news for fibrotic disease drug developer Promedior, which has agreed to be acquired by Roche for $390m upfront and potentially $1bn in milestone payments. Promedior had raised about $50m in equity financing from investors including Shire Strategic Investment Group, the now inactive corporate venturing subsidiary of Shire.

Automation Anywhere, a provider of robotic process automation technology, secured $300m from SoftBank Vision Fund late last year as part of a $550m series A round that valued it at $2.6bn. Very impressive, but the company has now gone further, pulling in $290m in series B funding at a $6.8bn valuation.

And on Global University Venturing, we had Psiquantum, a UK-based quantum computer developer leveraging University of Bristol research, which has reportedly secured $230m in funding.

Deals

LyVue, a spinoff of Trip.com – the online travel agent formerly known as Ctrip – has raised ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ across series A and A-plus rounds that were co-led by Baidu Capital and Tencent along with Goldman Sachs and Sequoia Capital.

Oncology data platform operator MedBanks Network Technology has meanwhile raised $142m in its second round of the year. The series D-plus round was led by Tencent and included China Electronics Corporation, both corporates having already participated in a $58.8m series D in January. MedBanks’ early investors also include insurance group Ping An.

OPay, the African mobile payment and local services platform spun off from Opera, has raised $120m in series B funding from investors including Meituan Dianping, SoftBank Ventures Asia and Bertelsmann Asia Investments.

4D imaging sensor provider Vayyar Imaging has boosted its overall funding to $188m, raising $109m in a series D round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. The cash was reportedly secured at a valuation of more than $600m and Vayyar intends to channel it into technology development and global expansion.

Banco Vorantim has led a $95.6m round for Brazilian digital bank Neon, 18 months after becoming the company’s institutional banking partner. It stepped in when Neon’s previous partner was liquidated by Brazil’s central bank, ironically in the wake of its $22m series A round.

LeFrak-backed real estate asset management platform Juniper Square has secured $75m in a series C round led by Redpoint Ventures, taking its total funding to $108m. No word on a valuation but it was reportedly valued at $168m when it last raised money, in a $25m series B that closed almost a year ago.

Werewolf Therapeutics has launched with $56m in series A funding, taking money from Taiho Ventures and UPMC Enterprises as part of the round. Werewolf is working on immuno-oncology drugs intended to treat cancer without damaging surrounding tissue. It was founded by healthcare investment firm MPM Capital, which co-led the series A round with venture firm Longwood Fund.

Funds

University of California, Berkeley-focused venture capital firm The House Fund has closed its second fund at $44m. The capital came from endowments for UC Berkeley and the wider University of California system as well as Ahoy Capital and undisclosed other fund-of-fund vehicles, unnamed family offices, UC Berkeley alumni and tech industry executives. The fund originally had a $50m target, according to a late 2017 regulatory filing.

Exits

Alkermes has agreed to buy neurological disease therapy developer Rodin Therapeutics in a deal that could reach $950m should every milestone and sales target be reached. Rodin had raised about $57m from investors including GV, Biogen and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, and the agreement marks the second big CVC exit to be agreed through a healthcare M&A deal in the past week, following Roche’s deal to acquire Promedior last Friday.

A lot of Chinese tech companies have filed for initial public offerings on US markets recently, but Yeahka is opting for the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, having reportedly filed for an IPO in which it expects to raise about $300m. Investors in Yeahka, provider of the second largest non-banking QR code payment platform in China by market share, include corporates Tencent and Recruit.

Recruitment services firm 51job invested $60m in HR management software producer CDP Holdings only last month, but it could be in for a quick exit after China-based CDP filed for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

China-based oncology diagnostics technology producer Genetron has revealed somewhat of a double whammy, filing for a $100m initial public offering in the US while announcing a $71m funding round backed by Alexandria Venture Investments.


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

18 November 2019 – Orbital Insight Enters $50m Series D

The Big Ones

Chevron Technology Ventures has thrown its weight behind US-based geospatial software technology provider Orbital Insight, which also welcomed back GV and Sky Perfect JSAT.

Softbank over the past few years has tended to skew the numbers and so it’s significant to hear the group has quietly completed a first close on its second Vision Fund, and according to Bloomberg, the amount investors have committed is $2 billion, a far cry from the $108 billion that it has said that it’s targeting.

Once bitten, twice shy appears to be the new motto for the SoftBank Vision Fund, which said it is now pushing companies to seek a profit rather than “chasing growth for the sake of growth”. That approach has meant the fund did agree to backing a $1bn round for fintech developer Paytm, but has put in a clause that it must go public within five years or else SoftBank will have the right to dump its shareholding. That’s a significant turning point for the fund that was previously hell-bent on scaling companies globally without any concern for high burn rates.

Funds

Salesforce forges $50m Consultant Trailblazer Fund

Heidelberg sets up new tech transfer operation

Deals

Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, a logistics services platform co-founded by Alibaba, Fosun Group and Intime Retail Group six years ago, has collected another $3.33bn from Alibaba, thereby increasing the corporate’s majority stake (which it had held since 2017) from 51% to 63%. The deal included a secondary share purchase, though the size is unclear and it is unknown which investor decided to sell. Cainiao’s investors also include government-owned investments firms Temasek, GIC and Khazanah Nasional, as well as Primavera and, according to TechCrunch, several unnamed logistics firms.

Xiaopeng Motors (also known as Xpeng) may not be much of a known quantity in the Western world, but the smart EV developer has already sold more than 10,000 of its first model, an SUV called G3. It also has some powerful corporate investors with Alibaba, Foxconn and UCar. And now it’s added another to the list: Xiaomi, which has led a $400m series C round for Xiaopeng as part of a strategic partnership. There might be a lot of Tesla cars in Silicon Valley, but globally the competition is clearly heating up.

OLX has committed $400m to Frontier Car Group (FCG), a Germany-based second-hand car marketplace operator, that it will invest over multiple tranches and reportedly includes a secondary share purchase of undisclosed size.

CapitalG has been busy. The growth equity arm of Alphabet once known as Google Capitalhas taken part in a $400m series D round for US-based trucking services provider Convoy, which will use the money to accelerate business growth.

And CapitalG also co-led a $150m series H round for CRM software provider Freshworks with Sequoia Capital and Accel. The round valued Freshworks at $3.5bn – though it remains subject to customary closing conditions, including US antitrust regulatory clearance.

Many will be familiar with password manager 1Password, but not for its funding history. In fact, the 14-year-old company has never raised equity – until now, that is, and it’s attracted a respectable $200m in series A capital from investors including Slack Fund.

Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures meanwhile returned for a $157m series D round for US-based education benefits software provider Guild Education. General Catalyst led the round, and its chairman and managing director Ken Chenault (who was previously in charge of American Express) will join the board of directors.

ACV Auctions – the US-based online automotive marketplace backed by telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank – has picked up $150m in a series E roundco-led by Fidelity and Wellington Management Company less than a year after closing a $50m series D round.

Avidity devotes itself to $100m series C

AMP amplifies $16m

PureLifi lights up $18m

Exits

The bad news keep on coming for We Co and the latest development is its decision to divest its stake in US-based women-focused work and social space provider The Wing and sell off US-based social networking platform Meetup. We Co owns a 23% stake in The Wing, but not only has the corporate struggled to survive its failed attempt at going public, its chief legal officer Jen Berrent is also facing a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination, allegedly calling employee Medina Bardhi’s pregnancy a “problem” that needed “a solution” and “to be fixed,” according to the court filing. Berrent is currently a board member of The Wing, but she is expected to lose that position following the stake sale.

HawkEye 360 is one of the more successful university spinouts formed by commercialisation firm Allied Minds (which itself has had a tumultuous year with multiple executive-level changes) and that’s led the firm to sell its entire stake to family office Advance. The latter has also chosen to boost HawkEye’s series B round to $85m, following a $70m first tranche that featured Airbus and Esri this past August.

Money Forward yields Smartcamp

Considering Nikkei and Ant Financial-backed 36Kr, and in particular its news portal 36Kr Media, is sometimes hailed as the Crunchbase of China, you might have expected its IPO in the US to go a little better than it did, but the company is the latest to disappoint investors after not only pricing shares at the bottom of the range at $14.50, but also deciding to issue just 1.4 million shares instead of 3.6 million – raising merely a fifth of its targeted $100m in proceeds. Adding insult to injury, shares dropped by 10% on the first day of trading to close at $13.06.

SpaceMarket gets ready for IPO take-off

Lancers sets its sights on IPO

Makuake makes its way to TSE

Another company that’s not been very active on the funding front is OneConnect Financial Technology, a Singapore-based fintech platform that that was spun out of insurance group Ping An, two years ago.


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

28 October 2019 – We Company Gains $18.5bn in Debt and Equity Funding

The Big Ones

SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure revealed on Thursday that it has committed a total of $18.5bn in debt and equity financing to WeWork owner We Company. It comes after SoftBank, on Tuesday, confirmed details of a $9.5bn rescue package for We Company that includes a $3bn tender offer which will allow earlier investors including Jin Jiang International and Legend Holdings to exit, albeit at a sizeable loss. SoftBank will emerge with an 80% stake in a streamlined company while We Co will come out with enough capital to sustain itself for the time being, hopefully.

Happier times for Databricks, the UC Berkeley spinout that has built a data preparation platform tailored for work with advanced analytics tools. It’s secured $400m in a Microsoft-backed series F round that boosted its valuation from $2.75bn to $6.2bn in just eight months.

Total has launched a $400m investment unit called Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures that looks as if it is assuming the mantle of the petroleum supplier’s main corporate venturing vehicle. The capital is intended to be allocated over the next five years and will fund developers of technologies in areas like energy storage, smart energy and mobility.

On GUV, Oxford Nanopore, the UK-based genetic sequencing technology spinout of University of Oxford, is reportedly seeking £1.6bn ($2.1bn) in a forthcoming private placement. The purported transaction could help Woodford Investment Management, soon to close having failed to restore its liquidity, by enabling the firm to sell down equity that reportedly represents the biggest stake in its portfolio by market value. It is unclear how the move tallies with earlier suggestions that the spinout was looking to go public.

Speaking of Woodford, good news for the spinout-focused Patient Capital Trust. Asset management firm Schroders has rescued trust and agreed terms for the switch to take place before the end of 2019, when it will be renamed Schroder UK Public Private Trust. Schroders will waive its management fee for the first three months and will then charge 0.8% or 1% annually depending on the size of each client’s investment.

Deals

Taimei Technology, which provides clinical trials software that helps multiple stakeholders in the process interact with each other, and ¨has confirmed $212m in funding across two rounds. One of those is a $132m series E-plus round led by Tencent, which added to an $80m series E featuring SoftBank China Venture Capital, some details of which originally emerged in January.

Elsewhere in China, global positioning technology provider Qianxun Spatial Intelligence has secured $141m in series A funding, four years after it was co-founded by Alibaba and Norinco Group. The cash was reportedly raised at a $1.84bn valuation and the round was co-led by government-owned vehicles Shanghai International Group, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China State-Owned Capital Venture Investment Fund.

Funds

Security and surveillance technology provider Hikvision is putting together its own investment fund, Hikvision Smart Industry Investment Fund, which will be equipped with some $141m in capital.

Aerospace and defence equipment manufacturer Safran launched corporate venturing unit Safran Corporate Ventures in 2015 and, after allocating most of its original capital, has added another $33.5m to take its total budget to about $89m. The fund has invested in 10 companies, one of which has so far heralded an exit, and the capital is expected to be spent over the next two years.

Partners Healthcare has run corporate venturing unit Partners Innovation Fund since 2008 but has elected to also provide $80m for two specialist funds. The care system operator will put $50m into a vehicle known as Translational Innovation Fund, which will support development of preclinical drugs based on research at its hospitals, while $30m is going to Artificial Intelligence and Digital Translation Fund, which will work on innovative digital technologies with Partners Healthcare’s vendors.

Bloomberg Beta has meanwhile launched its third $75m fund in six years, with the cash again coming solely from Bloomberg. The firm is sponsored by Bloomberg but operates separately, with a focus on ‘the future of work’ and has built up a portfolio that includes unicorns Knotel and Flexport as well as the likes of Masterclass, AppZen, Rigetti Computing and InfluxData, which each look well on their way to that status.

And Yissum, the tech transfer company of Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ), has joined forces with drug discovery firm Evotec to launch Lab555, the latest iteration of the latter’s academic commercialisation bridge model.

Exits

More waves in the IPO space, with Singapore-based online real estate marketplace PropertyGuru pulling out of an offering in Australia that would have raised $257m had the company floated at the top of its range. Media conglomerate Emtek had been looking to sell some $55m of shares in the IPO but a bigger concern may be for the Australian Stock Exchange itself.


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