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

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

Exits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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 September 2019 – We Company IPO Issues Ongoing + Telecoms Sector Webinar

Big Ones

We have a lot of IPO news for you this week but let’s talk about We Company for a moment, because no other company has had quite as tough a time of trying to go public (not even Uber’s failure to reach the IPO price for weeks after going public comes close). Really, We Co hasn’t found the path to its IPO very much fun but arguably even more eyes have been focused on its largest investor, SoftBank. The IPO may have been delayed until… sometime later this year after rumours that the offering could be cancelled altogether. Sources have told the Wall Street Journal that SoftBank is set to buy up $750m of shares in an IPO that will raise about $3bn when (if!) it eventually happens. The bigger shock has of course been news that We Company’s valuation is set to tumble from $47bn in January to between $15bn and $20bn when it floats.

The ongoing issues with the We Company IPO appear to be hitting SoftBank in other areas, too. The corporate is still in the process of finalising LP commitments for its second Vision Fund, but sovereign wealth funds PIF and Mubadala are reportedly pulling back their exposure having supplied a total of $60bn for the first fund. Taking big bets, as Masayoshi Son is prone to do, after all can also mean you might end up losing big.

Automattic is valued at just (just!) $3bn despite claiming to power around one third of the world’s websites, having received $300m in series D funding from Salesforce Ventures. The company is likely doing okay financially too, considering it last raised money five years ago, in a $160m series C round that valued it at $1bn pre-money and it’s fresh off a purchase of reportedly less than $3m acquisition of Tumblr, the blogging platform that Yahoo purchased for $1.1bn in 2013, before Yahoo was acquired by Verizon, Verizon banned any sexual content in December 2018 and user numbers crashed.

In a fascinating GCV-GUV crossover, robotic surgery technology developer CMR Surgical has secured $240m in series C funding at a reported valuation of about $1.2bn. The company, whose earlier backers include ABB Technology Ventures, raised the cash from investors including Cambridge Innovation Capital, LGT, Watrium, Zhejiang Silk Road Fund and Escala Capital.

Deals

GitLab has completed a $268m series E round co-led by Goldman Sachs that valued the software development and management platform at $2.75bn. The company, whose investors also include Alphabet unit GV, is aiming for a November 2020 IPO and will channel the series E proceeds into hiring and product development.

Online payment technology provider Stripe is now one of the few VC-backed private companies to have outdone that valuation, having secured $250m in funding at an eye watering $35bn pre-money valuation.

DataRobot is meanwhile also valued at $1.2bn, having confirmed a $206m series E round that included Intel Capital. Reports in July had suggested the enterprise AI technology provider was raising $200m, and the round boosted its overall funding to more than $430m.

Self-driving truck developer TuSimple has raised $120m from investors including Mando and UPS Ventures for a series D round that now totals $215m. The overall round is being led by another corporate, Sina, and the capital will go to expanding the range of TuSimple’s fleet and the further co-development of an autonomous truck for commercial use.

Funds

Data analysis software producer Splunk has been a relatively low-profile figure in the corporate venturing space but expect that to pick up following its formation of a unit called Splunk Ventures that will be equipped with $150m of capital.

On GUV, Italy-based venture capital firm Eureka! Venture has launched a €50m ($55m) fund with an initial close of $33m thanks to a commitment by investment platform ItaTech. The Eureka! Fund I – Technology Transfer will focus on the commercialisation of deeptech and has partnered a total of 19 universities and research institutes across the country, though only Polytechnic University of Turin and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia’s Technology Transfer office were named.

Exits

A lot of huge startups have gone public this year but it’s been a mixed bag in terms of outcomes. Airbnb is one of the few decacorns ($10bn+ valuations) still to make the jump in the US, but has now said it plans to list its shares publicly in 2020.

Cloud hosting services provider CloudFlare has secured $525m in its IPO, floating above a range that it had already increased last week. Its investors include Microsoft, Baidu, CapitalG and Qualcomm Ventures, and the company’s stock closed at $18.00 on its first day of trading on Friday.

Henlius, a developer of biosimilar treatments for cancer and autoimmune disorders, has priced its shares for an initial public offering that will net the company $410m when it floats in Hong Kong next week. Fosun Pharma is the largest investor in Henlius, which was valued at $3bn when it last raised funding, in July 2018.

IGM Biosciences has secured $175m in its own IPO, floating at the midpoint of its range before seeing its shares shoot up some 50% in their first day of trading yesterday. The company, which is developing antibodies to treat cancer, counts Haldor Topsøe as its largest shareholder, though the corporate’s stake was diluted from a majority share to 39% in the offering. IGM’s market cap is around the $700m mark at time of writing.

Pfizer spinoff SpringWorks Therapeutics has raised $162m after floating at the top of its range. The rare disease and cancer therapy developer had collected $228m in funding across two rounds, from investors that also included GlaxoSmithKline, and its shares are trading around 30% higher than its IPO price at the time of writing.

SoftBank has at least done very well out of the IPO of one of its portfolio companies. Cancer test developer Guardant Health’s shares were priced at $19 each when it floated last October but SoftBank has just sold 4.9 million shares at $77 a pop to raise a total of $377m. That’s a huge return but it also comes after Guardant’s shares fell from a peak of about $110 last month. SoftBank remains the company’s largest shareholder.


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

01 October 2018 – ByteDance in Funding Talks with SoftBank

Deals

Reports that China-based digital media company ByteDance was seeking funding at a $75bn valuation emerged a few weeks back, but now they’ve been fleshed out with news that it is in talks with SoftBank, which could provide $1.5bn of a $3bn round that also looks set to include KKR and General Atlantic.

Another Indian unicorn, ride hailing platform Ola, is reportedly in talks with Naspers and Temasek over a $1bn round that could value it at between $7bn and $8bn.

Short-term accommodation platform Oyo has raised $800m from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund and has reportedly secured commitments for a further $200m.

Swiggy is looking to establish itself as the market leader in India’s on-demand food delivery segment and has reportedly opened talks with investors including Tencent over a funding round that could reach $700m and value it at up to $2.5bn.

SoftBank Vision Fund continues to make its presence felt in the venture capital space, its latest deal being a $400m investment in real estate transaction marketplace Opendoor.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund has also invested in the latest round for online real estate brokerage Compass, which secured $400m in a series F round that valued it at $4.4bn post-money.

Butterfly Network, the developer of a handheld ultrasound device, has meanwhile received $250m in series D funding from investors including Fosun Pharma at a $1.25bn valuation.

Payment technology provider Stripe has taken a big step forward, securing $245m in a round that more than doubled its valuation to $20bn in less than two years.

Trucking services platform Manbang Group has been one of the recent success stories in China’s VC space, and now Convoy is aiming to become the sector’s market leader in the US.

UBiome, a US-based microbial genomics technology developer backed by the Stanford-StartX Fund, has raised $83m in series C funding from investors including Dentsu Ventures, the corporate venturing vehicle formed by marketing firm Dentsu.

Funds

Despite its name, SoftBank Ventures Korea hasn’t limited itself to Korean deals, and the unit is looking to establish itself more thoroughly in China with a $300m fund it has formed in partnership with TPG Growth.

The Engine Fund, a tough tech-focused VC vehicle associated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Engine incubator, has reached a final oversubscribed close of $205m.

Exits

2018’s really turning into a banner year for IPOs, with fashion e-commerce marketplace Farfetch the latest tech company to launch a successful offering, floating above its range to raise $885m.

Baxalta Ventures has scored one of the year’s big M&A exits, after Alexion agreed to acquire autoimmune disease drug developer Syntimmune for $400m upfront and up to $800m in milestone-related payments.

Asarina Pharma, a Sweden-based biotechnology spinout of University of Umeå, floated on the Nasdaq First North stock exchange last week after raising more than Skr142m ($16.3m) in an initial public offering.


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

10 October 2016 – Possible Snap IPO, Exit for Time Warner Investments, Investment News and Much More

Feature

GV’s new leader’s steady hand

People

Microsoft continues rapid hiring and investment pace

Leeney leaves Telefonica

Funds

Spanish VC firm Kibo Ventures has raised $79m for the first close of its second fund, which it aims to expand to roughly $110m for its final close.

Ideo designs investment firm

University Corner

KU Leuven researches $67.5m fund

Government Department

Europe sets up venture markets

Exits

Time Warner Investments had made a decent-sized exit from marketing data management software company Krux, which has been acquired for about $700m by Salesforce.

Continental picks up Daimler-backed Zonar

Snap, which rebranded from Snapchat a few weeks ago, is said to be preparing for an IPO that could take place as soon as March 2017, and which could value it at $25bn, a steep jump from the $18bn post-money valuation at which it last raised funding, in May.

Obalon Therapeutics, developer of a gastric balloon to aid weight loss, has meanwhile raised $75m in an IPO that could potentially rise to more than $86m.

Investments

Payoneer to break new ground in $180m round

Sumitomo Mitsui Card Company adds investment to Stripe

Connected device network developer Sigfox is also looking to boost its coffers and is looking to raise $100m to $200m in a round that will feature an as yet unnamed Chinese strategic backer, and which will value it at $600m, a 50% jump from its last round in early 2015.

NTT drives Druva’s $51m series E

Rover, the dogsitting marketplace backed by Petco, was rumoured last month to be raising $40m in series E capital from Foundry Group, Menlo Ventures and Madrona Venture Group. Today, the company confirmed the deal, though it didn’t say whether the estimated valuation of $300m was also correct.

Remitly, a mobile remittance services provider that focuses primarily on foreign workers in the US hoping to send money back to family, has added a combined $38m in equity and debt from Silicon Valley Bank and International Finance Corporation to its coffers.

Welltok knocks out $33.7m round

Clearpath reaches corporates for $30m

Online video publishing platform Tout has secured $26m in a series C round backed by sports entertainment provider and partner WWE, after closing a $13.4m round in 2012 that featured a $5m investment from WWE.

Grana targets $10m in Alibaba-backed round


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