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

The Big Ones

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

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

Exits

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

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

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

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

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


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

08 July 2019 – India-based ReNew Power Exploring IPO

The Big Ones

Chinese social commerce platform Xiaohongshu was valued at more than $3bn when it last raised money a year ago, and has reportedly now entered talks with prospective investors including SoftBank’s Vision Fund for a series E round with a $500m target.

E.ventures has been one of Germany’s most successful venture capital investors of late, celebrating a series of high-profile exits in the past year. It has also received backing from a slate of corporates for two new funds: a $225m US fund and a $175m entity that will focus on Europe.

The We Company’s funding may have reached stratospheric heights but that doesn’t mean it’s having things all its way internationally. Ucommune is probably its biggest competitor in the shared workplace sector in China, and it is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering in the US in which it would look to raise $200m.

Deals

Indian renewable power producer ReNew Power was said last year to be exploring an initial public offering, and though it is yet to float it has no trouble raising money.

Indian ride hailing platform Ola established a spinoff called Ola Electric Mobility around Easter this year, with $56m of series A funding from external investors. Ola Electric, which was launched to promote electric vehicle infrastructure, isn’t sitting on its laurels either.

Century Therapeutics has also raised $250m, in a series A round announced as it emerged from stealth yesterday. Bayer’s open innovation arm, Leaps by Bayer, invested $215m to lead the round, which also featured FujiFilm subsidiary and Century strategic partner Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics, and founding investor Versant Ventures.

Vision Fund also led a $200m series C round for data centre technology provider Fungible that included Norwest Venture Partners. The round took Fungible’s overall funding to $300m, its earlier investors including Juniper Networks and Samsung Catalyst Fund, and the proceeds will go to product development, sales and marketing.

Times Internet paid $140m for a majority stake in mobile video player MX Player before converting it into an online media streaming platform. It now looks like other corporate investors are primed to come on board, with news that Tencent and Paytm are in talks to provide between $100m and $125m for the company, which has more than 30 million registered users.

Japan-based Tier IV, a developer of open-source autonomous driving software, has raised one of the year’s biggest series A rounds, taking $105m in a round led by Sompo Japan Nipponkoa.

The solar energy technology sector may be a fair distance off its heights near the turn of the decade, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Oxford PV, which is developing perovskite-equipped solar cells based on research at University of Oxford, has closed its series D round at $81.8m, adding a second tranche that included the investment made by Meyer Burger in March that gave it an 18% stake.

Tencent has led a $36.3m series C round for Synyi, a Chinese company that utilises technologies like natural language processing, machine learning and data mining to extract raw data from medical texts.

Electric scooter rental platform Dott has sealed a $33.9m series A round that was co-led by Naspers Ventures, and which included Axel Springer Digital Ventures.

Funds

Ahren Innovation Capital, a UK-based investment firm co-founded by eight scientists from the Cambridge, UK ecosystem, has closed its inaugural vehicle at more than £200m ($250m) with LPs including Unilever, Sky, Aviva as well as the eight co-founders.

UK-based charity Cancer Research UK has announced a $250m commercialisation fund in partnership with venture capital firm SV Health Investors to accelerate the translation of cancer research.

Sony has joined a subsidiary of brokerage Daiwa Securities to launch an investment fund with a $185m target for its final close. Innovation Growth Ventures, which will function as an extension of Sony’s existing Innovation Fund, has already reached the first close of the fund, and its LPs include Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance Company, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Osaka Shoko Shinkin Bank.

Exits

Health Catalyst has filed to raise up to $100m in an initial public offering that would provide exits for UPMC Enterprises, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, MultiCare Health System, OSF Healthcare, Partners HealthCare and CHV Capital.

US-based integrin drug developer Morphic Holding, which emerged out of research at Harvard University’s Medical School, has closed its initial public offering at approximately $104m.

Codiak Biosciences, a US-based exosome therapeutics developer backed by life science real estate investment trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities, meanwhile withdrew its plans for an $86.3m initial public offering.


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