21 February 2021 – Blockchain.com Raises $120m in Strategic Growth Round

The Big Ones

1

Wishing our readers around the world a wonderful prosperous lunar new year – welcome to the year of the ox.

There has been a plateau in deal volumes in China over the past two years with other Asia-Pacific markets catching up, as adjunct professor Martin Haemmig noted at our last GCV Digital Forum at the end of January.

But China’s market has set the innovation bar higher in a host of fields, from ecommerce to artificial intelligence (AI) and electric vehicles. State-supported, mission-led innovation is a powerful aid to delivering a society’s vision – in China’s case leading the world in AI by 2030, Wired’s article notes.

The capital requirements, therefore, have scaled up to compete with the US and so fewer, larger deals makes sense.

A glance at the past week’s $100m-plus rounds, prepared by news editor Rob Lavine, shows China and the US still dominate the entrepreneurs gaining the funding to scale up to global champions.

China’s large, corporate-backed deals included:

Fenbi Education – $390m (IDG Capital, Huaxing Growth Capital, Hony Capital, Trustbridge Partners and unnamed others)

Pony.ai – $100m (Brunei Investment Agency and Citic Private Equity Funds Management)

Horizon Robotics – $350m (Sunny Optical Technology, BYD Auto, Great Wall Motors, Changjiang Automobile Electronic, Changzhou Xingyu Car Light, Dongfeng Asset, CMC-SDIC Capital, Shougang Fund and Shanghai AI Industry Fund)

Plus – $200m (Wanxiang International Investment, Guotai Junan International, Citic CPE and Full Truck Alliance/Manbang Group)

It was a powerful end to a year that saw the state tackle the power of a previous generation of entrepreneurial superstars, such as Alibaba and Tencent. And it remains a delicate balance to encourage innovation within restrictions.

The past 30 years have seen unprecedented numbers of people move out of poverty in China and the world through innovation and market forces. What the next year will bring will be further shocks and tensions – notably around Taiwan and geopolitics but remembering the sacrifices and accomplishments to get this far is important to build in the right direction.
Health, wealth, love, happiness and the time to enjoy it all.

2

AI quarterly report and monthly GCV published

“Artificial intelligence [AI] will change how business, governments and societies operate for decades to come.”

This was the theme at Tortoise Media’s AI discussion between editor James Harding and Mariana Mazzucato, academic and author of the new book, Moonshot.

There have been relatively few general purpose technologies since the first industrial age. The use of steam power and then electricity transformed society and business. In the first and second ages of industry with semiconductors, and then the internet created the conditions for data and information to be shared. AI will then write the software to capitalise on the opportunities and as the hardware improves so does the scale and speed.

As Jeff Herbst, vice president of business development at Nvidia and head of Nvidia GPU Ventures, in discussion with George Hoyem, managing partner at In-Q-Tel, shared at the GCV Digital Forum 2021 last month: “Modern AI is basically pattern recognition on data, whether it is images or voice.

“Fundamentally what is going on in the world right now is that the traditional model of how computers are programmed has been turned on its head.”

Herbst predicted the industries that would be most transformed by AI will be those that manage large amounts of data such as healthcare or retail.

Hoyem said that in the same way most technology uses the internet today, AI was also heading in a similar direction.

“It is going to creep into every vertical application and it starts with things that are highly parallelised and data sets like images, voice and even unstructured text.

“It is going to cover pretty much everything in about 10 years.”

This creates a question for governments for how best to steer or manage the progress. Mazzucato rightly argues for “goal-oriented, public private partnerships.

“What does it mean to have purpose at centre of public governance and system? Be bold on outcomes wanted and open on methods to get there.

“Have the ability to learn through trial and error and not outsourcing to consultants. Develop organisational capacity beyond administration but through dynamic procurement to bring policy redesign. Dynamic procurement to scale up not just VC.

“Going to the moon and back in a generation [the 1960s] gave immense spin-overs. [Our current] materials, software, traces back to those days. What does it mean today?

“It means targeting spill-overs rather than cost-benefit analysis.”

In the UK’s industrial strategy announced in 2017, Mazzucato and former universities minister David Willetts put AI and data as central to any challenge. She described it as “a fundamental input to transform”. The missions set out in the strategy focused on healthy ageing, the climate and the future of mobility to be safe, sustainability, have equal access and net-zero carbon emissions.

The European Union is going further with its green deal as part of its 2021 to 2027 Horizon Europe budget. Similarly, both China and the US are setting ambitious climate goals.

AI has already allowed Alphabet and other tech companies to reduced energy use and costs for data centres – as Callum Cyrus notes in his main feature.

But, as Nvidia’s chart on the AI startup ecosystem shows, most entrepreneurs are targeting the global health system. Already, scientists are weaving human brain cells into microchips, as the blog Futurism notes.

David Saad, mathematician at Aston University, said: “We believe this project has the potential to break through current limitations of processing power and energy consumption to bring about a paradigm shift in machine learning technology.”

AI will only fix the problems set for it by the politicians if they are clear what societal challenges they want tackled.

As Pope Francis put it in November: “Artificial intelligence is at the heart of the epochal change we are experiencing… Future advances should be oriented towards respecting the dignity of the person and of creation.”

3

How do you get startups to go from zero to scale?

When you see hundreds if not thousands of ideas and startups, as Jeff Schumacher, founder of New Asset Exchange (NAX), has then you realise a good team and product-market fit takes you only so far.

The differentiator is volume, often using capital to spend on marketing. Schumacher’s latest startup, NAX, has taken this idea and developed a software platform to create corporate asset-backed products, ventures and securities.

Emerging with stealth with $65m in funding from a dozen corporate, institutional and family office investors, NAX has a development unit to take data and turn it into a security or venture with the software to trade it.

This model could, for example, turn an insurance company’s data around the 25 attributes needed to underwrite a work of art and allow banks to lend money against it in order to help fund its purchase.

The law of large numbers then works if there are lots of these credit notes to package them up and syndicate or tranche the bundles of debt into asset-backed securities, similar to car loans or house mortgages.

Take the idea on and NAX wants to apply the same model to indie games developers for securitising expected revenues. But its biggest target is climate change.

How can carbon be priced or corporations offset emissions? Schumacher, former founder of BCG Digital Ventures and Axon Advisory Partners, said: “Climate is hard to trade because it is opaque, compare and has no scale.

“The Paris Accord will not work because social investment funds are not enough. We need financial innovation and instruments to attract capital.”

There is increased attention on the topic this year as COP26 is being held in London and expected to update the Paris Accord with new emissions targets, carbon reporting, investor incentives and corporate governance standards.

As George Serafeim, professor at Harvard Business School, noted in September’s GCV Digital Forum, the creation of impact-weighted accounting standards will help push the main listed corporations to explaining and tackling their externalities.

Creating a financial market to help, say, a smelter plant minimise or offset their environmental impact would be useful.

GCV through its Global Energy Council and its sister publications, Global Impact Venturing and Global University Venturing, will be preparing its Symposium in the UK in early November around COP26 with special events planned to cover the golden triangle between London, Oxford and Cambridge and in Scotland and the north of England.

4

UK-based cryptocurrency exchange provider Blockchain.com, which raised a $120m strategic growth round.

These investors included Access Industries, an investment and industrial group founded by Leonard Blavatnik, GV (formerly known as Google Ventures and one of Alphabet’s corporate venturing units), venture capital firms Lakestar and Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Moore Strategic Ventures (Louis Bacon’s hedge fund’s venture unit), Kyle Bass (founder and principal of Hayman Capital Management hedge fund), Eldridge and Rovida Advisors.

When Blockchain.com set out to raise its series A round in late 2014, there were only a handful of venture-backed crypto companies and a bitcoin was worth hundreds of dollars.

Six years later and Bitcoin has crossed what Blockchain called the “monumental price target of $50,000” and the company provides 65 million wallets in 200-plus countries. More than a quarter (28%) of all Bitcoin transactions since 2012 have occurred via Blockchain.com, it added.

Peter Smith, Blockchain.com’s CEO and founder, said: “The current bull run is dominated by stories of Fortune 500 companies, investment funds, and institutions driving net inflows into crypto. The fact that the best macro investors in the world participated in our latest fundraise is further proof that institutions are taking a serious look at their crypto strategy.”

Jalak Jobanputra, founder of VC firm Future Perfect Ventures, which invested in Blockchain.com’s 2014 round, in her newsletter put part of the institutional moves down to bitcoin having decoupled from other assets over fears of inflation. She said: “The last couple of weeks have felt like we have moved decades forward in the sector, and this seems to be accelerating daily.”

Funds

Adjuvant stimulates $300m fund

Sesame Workshop, National Geographic Society and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals have all thrown their weight behind a $165m third fund raised by edtech-focused VC firm Reach Capital. The fund will specifically target educational technology producers that are looking to remove barriers, particularly those faced by ethnic minorities, disabled students and under-resourced communities. Reach’s existing portfolio already includes Outschool – also backed by Sesame Workshop – and Springboard – also backed by Telstra Ventures.

Spain-based bank BBVA has committed a further $150m to financial sector-focused venture capital firm Propel Venture Partners and bringing its total commitment to more than $400m since 2016. BBVA has committed an initial $50m to an annual fund as the sole limited partner (LP). This will be followed by similar funds in 2022 and 2023, which will be open to outside investors.

Eurazeo is going in a different direction with its $97m Smart City II Venture Fund, focusing on early-stage startups in the energy, mobility, property technology and logistics industries. Limited partners for the fund’s first close include car manufacturer Stellantis, electric utilities EDF and Mainova, public transport operator RATP, energy producer Total, logistics company Duisport and real estate developer Sansiri. The predecessor vehicle, Smart City I, invested in approximately 25 companies across Europe, North America and Asia.

Masco puts finishing touch to $50m fund

SCB 10X, the corporate venturing unit of Thailand-based Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), has set up a $50m fund for early and growth-stage startups targeting blockchain, decentralised finance (DeFi) and digital assets.

Kraken Digital Asset Exchange, a US-based cryptocurrency service provider, has set up a corporate venturing unit.

Kraken Ventures will target early-stage companies and protocols across the crypto and financial technology ecosystem, including decentralized finance (DeFi), as well as enabling technologies, such as artificial intelligence, regulation tech and cybersecurity.

BIG goes local with Hyogo Kobe Fund

Costco Wholesale, a Nasdaq-listed retailer, has committed $1m to Fearless Fund, a US-based venture capital firm set up to invest in women of colour (WOC).

Costco’s investment marks a string of corporate interest in the fund, following recent investments from PayPal and Bank of America.

Savola Group, a Saudi Arabia-based food and retail conglomerate, has set up its corporate venturing unit and completed its first investment.

Its corporate venture capital fund will invest in disruptive technologies and opportunities in the food and retail space regionally and globally, according to news provider Wamda.

DexCom, a Nasdaq-listed supplier of continuous glucose monitoring for people with diabetes, has set up its corporate venturing unit under Steve Pacelli.

Dexcom Ventures will invest in glucose sensing technology and adjacent areas, such as data analytics, remote patient monitoring and population health.

LightShed Partners, a US-based boutique research firm founded by media analyst Rich Greenfield in 2019, has set up a corporate venturing fund.

LightShed Ventures is raising $75m to invest in seed and series A rounds across technology, media and telecom sectors, according to news provider Barron’s.

Ensemble Innovation Ventures (EIV), the holding company of US-based healthcare provider Delta Dental of Colorado, has set up a corporate venturing fund.

Ensemble Innovation Ventures Fund (EIVF) will target the health and wellness space and invest in early-stage venture companies primarily in its local region.

9Unicorns, an India-based incubator and startup fund set up by Venture Catalysts, has raised INR1bn ($14m) from local food provider Haldiram’s and other investors.

Haldiram’s had announced a partnership with Venture Catalysts in April 2019.

University

Venture capital firm Global Accelerated Ventures (GAV) has partnered with Oxford University Innovation (OUI), the research commercialisation unit of UK-based University of Oxford to set up a $25m special purpose investment vehicle (SPV) targeting conservation-focused startups.

The Oxford GAV Conservation Venture Studio will support and bring prototypes to market

Exits

It has barely been four years since JD.com spun off its warehousing and distribution services provider as JD Logistics, but the unit quickly went on to raise $2.5bn in 2018 from Tencent, China Life and others. That capital seemingly provided a decent runway and now JD Logistics is looking to build on its business growth thanks to a surge in online shopping during the pandemic by filing to go public in Hong Kong. Financial terms have not yet been set, but sources told DealStreetAsia the company is eyeing a $40bn valuation. That’s not a bad multiple on the $12.8bn it was reportedly valued for that 2018 round.

Also benefiting from a surge in online shopping is BigBasket, the India-based grocery delivery company that has now agreed to an acquisition by Tata Group in a deal that values it between $1.8bn and $2bn. Tata is buying a 60% stake in the business and existing shareholders, which include Alibaba with a near-30% stake, are set to exit almost entirely. Tata is not stopping there: the plan for BigBasket is said to be turning it into a public company as early as 2021.

Coupang, the Korean online retailer that ships products to customers nationwide within hours of purchase, is reportedly eyeing a $50bn market cap with a planned $1bn initial public offering that would provide an exit to SoftBank and its Vision Fund. The corporate and the fund have invested $2.5bn between themselves and that market cap would be a more than fivefold increase on the $9bn valuation that Coupang fetched in 2018. Coupang more than halved its net loss over the past two years, though it still stood at nearly $475m for 2020.

Cloopen Group – also known as Ronglian Cloud Communications and as Yuntongxun – has already completed its IPO and brought in $320m through a listing on the New York Stock Exchange that provided exits to New Oriental and Telstra Ventures (though neither owned more than 5% before the offering). It had priced its ADSs at just $16 but as of yesterday’s close they were already worth $29.65 so there is every expectation that underwriters will jump at the chance to buy the additional 3 million ADSs.

Adagene advances to IPO

Hearing loss treatment developer Decibel has already gone public, pricing its shares at $18 to raise more than $127m through a listing on the Nasdaq Global Select Market that provided exits to GV, SR One and Regeneron. It was more than the $75m in proceeds that Decibel had originally targeted but despite a brief climb to $24.39 a share on the first day of trading, they closed back down at only $18.03.

Amgen and Pfizer also celebrated exits as cancer immunotherapy developer NexImmune – a spinout of Johns Hopkins University – raised $110m in an upsized initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Market. NexImmune’s shares closed at $25.33 on the first day of trading on Friday. Neither corporate owned more than 5% in NexImmune ahead of the offering.

Another week, another set of reverse mergers. Today it is AEye’s turn, the lidar system developer having agreed to combine with CF Finance Acquisition Corp III at a $2bn valuation. Existing shareholders Subaru-SBI Innovation Fund, Intel Capital and Hella Ventures joined GM Ventures and others for a $225m Pipe financing. AEye’s backers, which had supplied more than $60m in equity funding, also include Aisin, LG, SK Hynix and Airbus Ventures. The merger is expected to complete in the second quarter of the year.

Owlet grows into public company

Humacyte, a US-based developer of tissue-based medical technology backed by conglomerate Access Industries and healthcare company Fresenius Medical Care, is the latest company to jump on the reverse merger bandwagon. The business is set to merge with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition Corp to list on Nasdaq, and the deal will land it $175m in financing from Fresenius and Alexandria Venture Investments, among others. Alpha Healthcare already raised $100m when it went public, and Humacyte is looking at a $1.1bn market cap once the transaction closes. Fresenius took a 19% stake in 2018, while Access Industries made its investment in 2015 as part of a $150m series B.

Humio is choosing a more traditional exit by agreeing to a $400m acquisition by CrowdStrike that will primarily consist of cash but include some equity. It is a sizeable amount of change dropped by CrowdStrike, not least because Humio had only raised slightly more than $30m in equity financing – most recently completing a $20m series B round led by Dell Technologies Capital in March last year.

University

Talis takes in IPO proceeds

Deals

Xingsheng Youxuan, which allows neighbourhood communities to club together to purchase goods in bulk, has added $2bn to its coffers thanks to commitments from Tencent and China Evergrande Group, among others. The company said it now processes more than 8 million daily orders and is delivering to more than 30,000 towns across China. The latest cash injection comes just a couple of months after JD.com committed $700m and less than a year after Xingsheng secured $800m in its series C-plus from Tencent and others.

SpaceX meanwhile is showing no ambitions to go public just yet and the US-based spacecraft producer and launch services provider backed by Alphabet, has added $850m in fresh funding from unspecified investors at a reported valuation of $74bn. It is not the biggest round raised by SpaceX – for now that remains the $1.9bn transaction last summer – but it is notable for one because the company had allegedly lined up offers totalling $6bn within three days (yes, you read that right) and for another because existing shareholders took the opportunity to sell $750m worth of stock. No word on their identity either, however.

University

Axiom Space lifts off with $130m

Kakao Mobility hails Carlyle for $200m

Locus Robotics is one of two companies to have raised $150m (see Standard Cognition below, too) and the warehouse automation technology producer’s series E round featured returning backer Prologis Ventures (though it is unclear when the corporate first invested). Zebra Ventures did not participate this time, having previously contributed to the $40m series D and $26m series C rounds.

Standard Cognition checks out $150m series C

Mainstay Medical puts away $108m

TigerGraph charts course to $105m

University

LegalForce powers up with series C


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

24 August 2020 – SpaceX Raises $1.9bn

The Big Ones

SpaceX has been one of the most fervent fundraisers among private companies in recent years and it shows no signs of stopping. A securities filing indicates the spacecraft manufacturer and launch services provider has secured $1.9bn from undisclosed investors, with recent media reports putting the valuation of the round at $46bn. Its earlier backers include Google, which invested $900m at a $12bn valuation five years ago, and that valuation looks set to keep on rising for now.

Consumer electronics manufacturer Konka Group has teamed up with the Chinese city of Yancheng to put together an industry fund that will begin investing from a base of about $435m. The fund will be sized at up to $1.45bn and Konka is providing 40% of the capital. Its areas of interest include AI, semiconductors, the internet-of-things, new machinery and advanced materials.

Airbnb has announced it has confidentially filed for its long-awaited initial public offering. People were talking about an Airbnb flotation before the last downturn in the IPO markets in 2018. The rebound last year wasn’t enough to tempt it, but now, while they’re rallying for tech stocks, seems to be the right time despite a coronavirus-related hit to Airbnb’s business that saw it lay off 25% of its staff in May. The CapitalG-backed company had been valued at $26bn, down from $31bn, when it raised $1bn in debt and equity the previous month.

We have finally hit that summer lull on GUV, but there were still a few big stories. Most notably, Mission Bio, a US-based DNA analysis technology spinout of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has raised $70m in a series C round led by pharmaceutical firm Novo’s Novo Growth unit. Agilent Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of laboratory equipment and diagnostics services provider Agilent Technologies, also took part in the round, as did Cota Capital, Mayfield Fund and Soleus Capital. The round took the company’s total funding to more than $120m, it said, and Robert Ghenchev, head of Novo Growth, has joined its board of directors. Founded in 2014, Mission Bio has created a system called Tapestri which enables researchers and medical professionals to analyse single-cell RNA sequencing data to help develop precision medicines. The spinout leverages genomics technology from UCSF’s Abate Lab.

Deals

E-commerce group JD.com”s pharmaceutical product and medical services spinoff JD Health raised $1bn at a $6.9bn valuation last year, and now it’s agreed to add series B funding from investment manager Hillhouse Capital. The deal is set to be finalised next month and JD Health expects to get upwards of $830m from Hillhouse, an investor in its parent company since its 2012 series C round.

Last week we talked about reports that Chinese online medical insurance and crowdfunding service Waterdrop had raised $200m at a $2bn valuation, but a subsequent announcement places the size of the round at $230m. Tencent and Swiss Re co-led the round, which sources told Reuters valued Waterdrop just short of $2bn. Swiss Re has been relatively quiet in the corporate venturing space in recent years but reportedly put up $100m of the capital in this round.

Online share trading has made a big jump as the stock markets rally, and RobinHood is getting a lot of business in the US market. It has accordingly increased its valuation from $8.3bn to $11.2bn in the space of just four weeks, its latest move being to raise $200m in series G financing from investment firm D1 Capital Partners. It has now secured a total of $1.7bn and its earlier investors include Roc Nation’s Arrive subsidiary as well as Alphabet units GV and CapitalG.

Palfish is one of several Chinese online education providers to have experienced growth during Covid-19 lockdowns, and it has raised $120m in a series C round that included quantitative trading firm Susquehanna International Group. The company specialises in English tutoring and claims to have some 40 million users. It will put the funding towards improving its big data technology.

BlockFi has been one of the more frequent fundraisers in the startup space having closed five rounds in just over two years as it expands its range of digital currency services. The latest is a $50m series C round that included subsidiaries of CM Group and Siam Commercial Bank. The company has now secured more than $160m and its earlier backers include Consensys, SIG, Recruit and SoFi.

There are several VC-backed companies operating under the moniker of Element but the latest to raise money is the Germany-based bespoke insurance software provider, which has added funding from investors including Sony Financial Ventures and SBI Investment to a series A round that now stands at $46.5m. The earlier tranches featured Signal Iduna and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance.

Funds

MDI Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of Indonesian state-owned telecommunications firm Telkom, has closed a $500m fund entirely financed by the company. It will invest between $5m and $30m in domestic digital technology developers that will get access to a range of government-owned corporations, which in turn will be able to leverage the technology required to form a digital ecosystem in the country.

Russian conglomerate Sistema may not be the most active participant in the corporate venturing space but it does have one of the largest ranges of investment, having closed a series of funds focusing on different regions and sectors. Its Sistema Asia Capital subsidiary closed a $120m India fund in 2015 and is in the midst of raising the same amount for a vehicle concentrating on Southeast Asia. Areas of interest include cybersecurity, computer vision, smart cities, urban mobility and the internet-of-things.

Exits

Pharmaceutical companies Juno Therapeutics (itself a spinout of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre) and WuXi AppTec founded cancer immunotherapy developer JW Therapeutics in 2016 and now it has filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong. Recent reports suggested JW would target $250m to $300m in the IPO having already raised more than $200m in venture funding. Juno retains a 26% stake in the company while WuXi AppTec owns about 14% of its shares.

Biologic drug developer Inhibrx has gone public, raising $119m having floated at the midpoint of its range. Inhibrx had received some $135m in equity and debt financing from investors including Eli Lilly and WuXi Biologics, and its share price followed recent trends by rising post-IPO. It’s been a bumper time for newly public companies of late, the question is how much of a bubble this represents and whether latecomers to the party could end up missing out.

Nano-X Imaging is working on a medical imaging system intended to function as a more affordable alternative to X-ray machines, and the Israeli company has set terms for an initial public offering in the US that will raise almost $106m if it floats at the top of its range. A big impetus is that existing investors including corporates Foxconn, SK Telecom and iA Financial have expressed interest in buying up to $80m of shares in the offering, which is a more than decent vote of confidence.


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

01 June 2020 – UBS Groups Prepares for Fintech Investments

The Big Ones

1

Switzerland-based bank UBS Group is setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars of its money to invest in financial technology companies, according to Bloomberg.

UBS hired Erasmus Elsner for its venture capital and growth equity unit last month but is reportedly still recruiting staff for a dedicated corporate venture capital (CVC) team. It is planning a corporate VC fund to make investments between $10m and $20m in dozens of companies targeting bank/client engagement, investing and financing platforms and the improvement of the bank’s underlying operations, a source told Bloomberg.

Mike Dargan, UBS’s Global Head Group Technology, said: “UBS wants to further engage with and support fintech firms. The new venture investment portfolio is a next step to accelerate our innovation and digitisation efforts.”

2

It’s a scary-enough headline, ‘Huawei Banned, So Let’s Invade Taiwan to Take TSMC?’, in reaction to the strict set of rules announced by the US government on May 15 in a bid to cut the China-based 5G and telecoms equipment maker off from the global semiconductor ecosystem.

In its subsequent report, “US strategic approach to the People’s Republic of China,” published on the 20th, the US said: “The administration is implementing the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act to update and strengthen the capacity of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to address growing national security concerns over foreign exploitation of investment structures, which previously fell outside CFIUS jurisdiction.

“This includes preventing Chinese companies from exploiting access to US innovation through minority investments in order to modernise the Chinese military. The US has updated its export control regulations, particularly in light of Beijing’s whole-of-society strategy and its efforts to acquire advanced technologies related to hypersonics, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other emerging and foundational technologies. We are also engaging allies and partners to develop their own foreign investment screening mechanisms, and to update and implement export controls collaboratively through multilateral regimes and other forums….

“Domestically, the Administration is taking steps to strengthen the US economy and promote economic sectors of the future, such as 5G technology, through tax reforms and a robust deregulatory agenda. The President’s ‘Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence’ is an example of a US government initiative to promote investment and collaboration to ensure the US continues to lead in innovation and setting standards for a growing industry.”

But the horse might have bolted. The ChinaTalk article at the top suggests Huawei has done enough over the past few years to survive, stating: “The main issue is supporting Huawei in maintaining its dominant position in 5G and helping it continue to be able to supply the needs of 5G bases.

3

The US healthcare system has many virtues, but it is simply too expensive and hard for consumers to access care, according to insiders. Coastal Americans’ faith in their system has been shaken by the coronavirus and this has created opportunities for some. Jeff Bennett, CEO of startup Higi, is trying to tackle the issue and has received a fillip with a new round of funding.

UK-based personal healthcare provider Babylon has joined the ranks of new corporate venturers by leading the latest round for US-based health engagement technology developer Higi.

The round was reportedly $30m in size and Higi’s previous investors, 7Wire Ventures, Flare Capital Partners, Jumpstart Capital, Rush University Medical Center for Health and William Wrigley Jr, also took part. Higi raised $25.8m in 2018, according to a regulatory filing, from investors including Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated venture firm Sandbox Industries, though Sandbox has said it is now no longer an investor.

4

Similarly, money is flowing in other parts of healthcare and life sciences. The power of science fiction films retains its hold in inspiring inventors but the secret to corporate venturing and open innovation lies in retaining optionality.

Drawing on inspiration from Star Trek, Vaxxas, a Queensland University, Australia, spin-out, has developed technology which could mean vaccine delivery via needles and syringes could soon be a thing of the past.

The World Economic Forum named the company a Technology Pioneer in late 2014 and over the past decade the company has been working on a nanopatch, based on research at the university’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, that delivers vaccines painlessly and more efficiently than syringes.

5

Cisco intends to purchase the network analytics software producer, which had raised more than $110m from investors including GV and Salesforce Ventures, for a reported $1bn.

Networking equipment manufacturer Cisco agreed yesterday to acquire ThousandEyes, a US-based network management software provider backed by internet and technology conglomerate Alphabet and enterprise software producer Salesforce.

The price was reported by Bloomberg as being approximately $1bn, a figure confirmed to CNBC by a person familiar with the matter. Cisco expects the transaction to close by the end of next month.

Founded in 2010, ThousandEyes provides cloud analytics software that collects data from a range of access points, such as data centres and consumer devices, to identify potential sources of disruption and ensure websites, applications and services are delivered optimally.

Deals

Genome sequencing technology developer MGI Tech has closed a $1bn series B round, four years after being formed as a subsidiary of genome research organisation BGI. The round, which follows a $200m series A a year ago, shows the potential value in spinning off valuable subsidiaries, and it follows a $265m round for another China-based spinoff, smart sensor and power semiconductor provider BYD Semiconductor (see yesterday).

Chinese online grocer MissFresh has seen business pick up sharply during the coronavirus lockdown and has accordingly raised funding at a reported $3bn pre-money valuation. The company’s existing backers include Tencent and Lenovo but the only new investor revealed in media reports is CICC Fund. Bloomberg reported in the last few days that it was set to raise roughly $500m.

SpaceX meanwhile goes from strength to strength, the spacecraft producer and launch services provider expanding its latest funding round to $346m and surpassing its original target of a $250m close. Elon Musk has got a lot of flack over the past few years, but it’s worth noting that Tesla’s shares are continuing to rise while Alphabet-backed SpaceX is still growing – to a $36bn+ valuation, if reports from earlier this year are accurate.

Electric carmaker BYD is preparing for a Hong Kong Stock Exchange listing and as part of a restructuring effort it is spinning off semiconductor and sensor subsidiary BYD Semiconductor with $265m in external funding. Sequoia Capital China, CICC Capital and SDIC Venture Capital are co-leading the round, which will value the subsidiary at more than $1.3bn. Originally known as BYD Microelectronic, it was formed in 2004.

Marqeta makes off with $150m

Insitro has created a machine learning-equipped drug discovery platform and has secured $143m in a series B round featuring WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, GV and Alexandria Venture Investments. GV had already contributed to the $100m in series A funding with which Insitro emerged from stealth in mid-2018, at a $1.05bn valuation.

Arvelle arcs to series A close

Pie Insurance picks out $127m

Bolt flashes on fresh funding

AbCellera has built an antibody drug discovery system and has secured $105m in a series B round featuring Eli Lilly, having signed a collaboration agreement with the pharmaceutical firm last week. In fact it’s been a great few weeks for Canada-based AbCellera, which got a commitment for up to $125m in financing from government agency Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada at the start of this month.

Elsewhere in China, Xiaomi has invested almost $103m in power bank producer Zimi through a cash-and-stock deal that increased its stake in the company from 22.5% to 49.9%. Zimi was already part of the Xiaomi ecosystem, a strategic investment initiative intended to construct a network of companies producing Xiaomi-compatible products. That network reportedly now encompasses some 300 portfolio companies.

Mindstrong mines Optum for $100m series C

Oxford Nanopore expands latest round

CFS sees out $84m series A2 round

Exits

Sendo and Tiki test the waters for merger

Roche reaches for portfolio company Stratos

UA’s FreeFall Aerospace completes merger

Kintor Pharmaceutical has however successfully floated in Hong Kong, pricing its initial public offering at the top of the range to raise $240m. The IPO featured a $115m cornerstone investment by appliance maker Gree, which provided $89m, Highlight Capital and Foresight Fund. It was 500-times oversubscribed according to Kintor, which is developing prostate and breast cancer drugs, and which plans to now expand into hair loss treatment.

VeriSilicon vies for $111m in IPO

Avidity to invade public markets

Burning Rock files for $100m IPO

Pliant places IPO terms

Nanoform to shape $76.7m IPO

Funds

U-M taps Deerfield for Great Lakes Discoveries


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

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

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

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

Exits

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

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

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


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

01 July 2019 – Grab Boosts Series H Round to $4.8bn

Big Ones

Southeast Asian ride hailing service Grab has boosted an already swelling series H round to $4.8bn, taking in $300m from investment management firm Invesco.

Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners was launched by its parent company nearly five years ago, and has now formed a $350m second venture and growth capital fund.

Who says the IPO market is on the dip? Adaptive Biotechnologies – backed by Microsoft, Celgene, Illumina, LabCorp and BD Biosciences – saw its share price double on its first day of trading – from $20 to $40.30 – while BridgeBio Pharma, which is developing drugs to treat diseases driven by genetic defects, floated above its range despite increasing the number of shares in its offering by a third.

On GUV, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a US-based fusion power technology spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has closed a $115m series A round backed by MIT’s The Engine.

Deals

SpaceX is reportedly looking to raise more than $314m in its forthcoming round, with most or potentially all of it set to come from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which has confirmed it has invested in the GV-backed space services provider.

Ouyeel, an online trading platform spun off by China Baowu Steel, has raised $294m in a round featuring corporates Sinotrans, Benxi Group and Beijing Jianlong Heavy Industry as well as Baowu itself together with its Baoshan Iron and Steel subsidiary.

Digital manufacturing technology producer Carbon has received more than $260m in a round that pushed its overall funding past $680m.

Digital bank operator Monzo is going from strength to strength, helping to indicate that the UK’s Brexit woes have not affected its status as a centre of fintech.

StockX, the operator of an online marketplace for authenticated rare fashion items, has shown once again that the upmarket fashion space is an attractive one for investors. It has notched up $110m in a series C round featuring GV, which participated as an existing backer, at a valuation of more than $1bn.

Cardiac imaging technology provider Acutus Medical has secured $100m in series D funding from investors including GE Ventures as part of a larger round that included a $70m credit facility. Acutus has now raised roughly $230m in equity financing altogether, with GE Ventures having been an investor since at least 2013, and the funding will go to strengthening its atrial access product range.

Funds

That model of corporate venturing looks like it’s gaining some traction. Logistics services provider JD Logistics was spun off by e-commerce company JD.com two years ago but it is now getting into the corporate venturing game itself and has accumulated $218m for a strategic fund.

Exits

Fast fashion retail brand Miniso raised its first outside funding just eight months ago, having launched in 2013, but it is reportedly now gearing up for an initial public offering that could raise $1bn.

Upmarket fashion marketplace TheRealReal, proving it isn’t just the biotech sector that’s doing well, also completed a $300m initial public offering and went public on Friday.

Slack’s direct offering has pulled in the headlines but Stoke Therapeutics held its own successful listing last week, which it has now closed at just over $163m.

Atreca is working on immunotherapeutics to treat cancer, and raised $125m when it floated today, having priced the IPO at the midpoint of its range.

Velodyne Lidar is meanwhile pushing to become the first lidar technology developer to go public, having hired banks to underwrite an IPO expected to value it at about $1.8bn.


“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

18 December 2017 – OneWeb Follows SpaceX with a $500m Investment

Deals

Days after SpaceX raised $1bn in funding, another satellite technology company, OneWeb, is lining up a $500m investment from SoftBank, which had previously put up $1bn of the $1.2bn OneWeb raised a year ago. .

Office software producer Kingsoft spun cloud storage business Kingsoft Cloud out in 2012 but has retained a majority stake now sized at 52%. It also invested $150m of the $300m in series D funding Kingsoft Cloud just raised at a $1.9bn valuation, bringing its total funding to approximately $500m.

Reports for most of this year have been touting a $200m corporate investment in Indian online grocer BigBasket, and the latest news is that Alibaba will pay $200m for a 25% stake in the company as part of a $280m round.

Koch Disruptive Technologies, a newly formed vehicle for conglomerate Koch Industries, has made its first investment, leading a $150m series E round for InSightec, the developer of a magnetic resonance-equipped ultrasound surgical device.

There have been some big deals in the space sector recently, and the latest is iSpace, a lunar exploration company that’s just closed $90.2m in series A funding, the largest series A round in Japan’s history.

NextDoor, the social media platform focused on local communities, has raised $75m from undisclosed investors at a valuation indicated by a regulatory filing to be about $1.5bn.

AI chip developer ThinkForce has secured $68m in a series A round featuring machine vision technology developer Yitu Technology as well as Sequoia Capital China, Yunfeng Capital and Yitu backer Hillhouse Capital.

Online razor seller Harry’s has raised $63.7m in funding, according to a regulatory filing, cash that will reportedly be put towards a complementary acquisition.

GV has participated in a $63m series B round closed by oncology therapy developer Relay Therapeutics that took the company’s overall funding to $120m.

Insikt, the Rakuten-backed operator of an online lending platform for the un(der)banked, has raised $50m in a series D round led by Grupo Coppel that took its total funding past the $100m mark.

Swedish mobile payment and small business revenue technology provider iZettle has secured about $47m in a Dawn Capital-led round that included the Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund, at a reported valuation of about $950m.

We’ve had several GGV deals already, and on GUV, the biggest deal was US-based immuno-oncology developer Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, which raised $62m in series B funding from a consortium that featured spinout-focused investment firm Osage University Partners.

Funds

Auto parts supplier Valeo has provided 25% of the money for a $226m car technology fund formed by private equity firm Cathay Capital, joining government-owned Yangtze River Industry Fund as a cornerstone investor.

On GGV, the EU-owned European Investment Fund contributed funding to investment firm LSP’s second medtech vehicle, LSP Health Economics Fund 2 (LSP HEF 2), which reached an oversubscribed close of €280m ($330m).

And on GUV, UM Ventures, the tech transfer office for the University of Maryland System (UMS), has unveiled plans for a venture fund of undisclosed size aimed at retaining university-linked startups in the city of Baltimore.

Here’s an interesting one from GUV as well: Imperial College London and Tsinghua University have joined forces to seed a $300,000 fund called the Tsinghua-Imperial Research and Innovation Fund to back early-stage scientific research.

Exits

Gilead Sciences has agreed to acquire T cell receptor therapy developer Cell Design Labs in a deal that could value it at up to $567m, six years after Kite Pharma, now a Gilead subsidiary, took a 12.2% stake by backing a $34.4m round that remained Cell Design’s only funding.

Apple has reportedly lined up a $400m acquisition of music identification app developer Shazam. The deal would provide exits for América Móvil, Sony, Universal and Access Industries, but none look likely to make a profitable return on their investments, Shazam’s valuation having peaked at about $1bn in 2015.

On GUV we’ve had two IPO-related news this past week. First up, Mirriad, a UK-based video technology spinout from University of Surrey, is targeting £26.2m ($35m) in gross proceeds in its initial public offering on Aim. Mirriad, which will enter the public markets under the ticker symbol Miri tomorrow (that’s Tuesday, December 19 for those of you listening later).

Then we also have Fusion Antibodies, a UK-based genomics modelling platform spun out of Queen’s University Belfast, which will raise £5.5m ($7.4m) in its initial public offering on Aim.


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