26 October 2020 – Ant Group Aims for World’s Biggest Floatation Topping $250bn

The Big Ones

Yuanfudao is the latest Chinese online education provider to raise a huge amount, reportedly securing $1bn in a series G2 round led by DST Global that valued it at $15.5bn post-money. Its earlier investors include Tencent, which co-led the company’s $1bn series G round in March at a $7.8bn valuation, and which was reported last month to be taking part in a $1.2bn round that media reports state had already closed in the run up to the series G2 funding.

Ant Group has secured regulatory approval for the Shanghai leg of a dual listing expected to raise some $35bn at a valuation that may top $250bn, having got clearance for the Hong Kong offering on Monday. Which would make it the biggest flotation in history. The financial services provider was valued at $150bn when it raised $14bn in its 2018 series C round, and Alibaba, which spun the company off, is set to buy about 20% of the shares being issued to come out with a 32% stake post-IPO.

The biggest fund this week is actually a crossover: UVC Partners, the Germany-based venture capital firm affiliated with Technical University of Munich (also known as TUM), unveiled its €150m ($178m) third fund on Tuesday backed by LPs including specialty chemicals company Lanxess. The co-founders of mobility services provider Flixbus also invested in the fund, as have a range of unnamed institutional investors, family offices, corporates and family businesses. UVC Partners maintains a close relationship with UnternehmerTUM, the university’s centre for innovation and business creation. The two entities actually share leadership in Helmut Schönenberger, who is the chief executive of UnternehmerTUM and a managing partner of UVC Partners.

Deal-wise, in crossover news, AavantiBio is the latest entrant to the genetic therapy space, launching on Thursday with $107m in series A funding, $15m of which came from genetic drug developer Sarepta Therapeutics. The spinout’s president and CEO had spent some eight years in an executive position at Sarepta and its core technology is based on University of Florida research. AavantiBio will concentrate on genetic therapeutics for rare diseases and its initial focus is on Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), an inherited genetic disease that leads to central nervous system and cardiac dysfunction.

Deals

Google has reportedly invested $300m in Tokopedia, one of Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, as part of a late-stage round already equipped with $500m from Temasek on its way to a targeted close around the $1bn mark. Tokopedia’s earlier investors include CyberAgent Capital, Alibaba and SoftBank vehicles Vision Fund, SoftBank Ventures Asia and SB Pan Asia Fund.

Shouqi Yueche is one of several companies that had seen funding drop off in the wake of China’s regulatory crackdown on its ride hailing sector, but it claims to have increased its registered users by more than 30% in the last year and has also pulled in ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in series C funding. The investors in the round have not been revealed but the company’s existing backers include Baidu and Nio Capital.

Arctic Wolf is one of the fastest rising operators in the cybersecurity scene, the cybersecurity concierge provider having raised $200m in a DTCP-backed series E round valuing it at $1.3bn. It had secured $60m in series D funding just seven months ago and its overall funding now stands at more than $350m. It is also moving its head office from California to Minnesota amidst plans to up headcount significantly.

Online education has thrived during the coronavirus pandemic but another Chinese company, online pharmacy operator Dingdang Kuaiyao, has also seen user numbers rise significantly. It has pulled in $150m through a series B-plus round that included existing backers Softbank China and Sinopharm-CICC Capital. Both had already taken part in the company’s $89m series B early last year.

VectivBio has closed a $110m crossover financing round that included Novo to advance its short bowel syndrome treatment through phase 3 clinical trials. The company was spun off from Therachon, a Novo-backed genetic disease therapy developer acquired for $810m in May last year. Novo had also been among the investors to provide the $35m VectivBio had when it launched in January this year.

Hyperscience has developed software that allows organisations to automate back-office tasks to increase efficiency, and has raised $80m in a series D round led by Tiger Global Management. The company’s earlier backers include QBE, TD Ameritrade and Penna and Company, and the series D round took its overall funding past the $190m mark.

Funds

Spain-based telecommunications firm Telefónica has launched a cybersecurity-focused investment vehicle called Telefónica Tech Ventures that expects to provide funding for 15 cybersecurity technology developers over the next three years, investing up to $7m per deal at series A to C stage. Follow-on funding will be available for the better performing recipients.

Exits

Big funding isn’t necessarily the fuel for success however, with short-form streaming service Quibi announcing yesterday it is set to shutter its platform, which launched just six months ago. It will have about $350m to return from the $1.75bn it raised from investors including Alibaba, Sony, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, WarnerMedia, Entertainment One and, reportedly, Google and Facebook. Quibi itself has blamed the coronavirus for much of its trouble getting subscribers, but the low adoption rate following free trials points to a lack of good programming and, perhaps deeper, to too many execs with TV experience and not enough with online expertise.

Quibi isn’t the only tech unicorn set to call it a day however. Chinese online car marketplace Renrenche has raised $760m from investors including Didi Chuxing and Tencent and was reportedly valued at $1.7bn after its most recent round in 2018, but Bloomberg has reported it is in talks to sell its major assets to 58.com for a token amount a little over $1,000. Renrenche’s branch of the startup space has been impacted heavily by the coronavirus, but it also competes in a crowded sector. These may be just the start of several parts of the startup space thinning out as revenues dip and money gets increasingly tight.

Back to some better news: although both the US and China have been hotbeds for tech IPOs in recent months, ride hailing has been visibly apart from that as the sector’s inhabitants look to offset the damage to their businesses done by the coronavirus. Dida Chuxing was recently reported to be mulling a Hong Kong IPO, and market leader Didi Chuxing is reportedly looking at the same destination for a 2021 offering. The purported IPO is expected to value Didi at up to $60bn and investors including SoftBank, Apple, Alibaba, China Life, Tencent, Booking Holdings, Ping An, eHi and Sina Weibo would be in line for exits.

Small molecule drug developer Aligos Therapeutics has raised $150m in an initial public offering that involved it pricing 10 million shares in the middle of their $14 to $16 range. Those shares are currently (that’s Friday afternoon UK time) at $15.12, but the offering nevertheless represents exits for Roche Finance and Novo, which were among the investors that had supplied more than $230m in venture funding for Aligos.

Advanced hearing aid provider Eargo on the other hand has celebrated a bumper IPO, floating above its range in an upsized offering to raise more than $141m, then seeing its shares open at double the IPO price on their first day of trading. You know who else must be celebrating? Nan Fung Life Sciences, which participated in Eargo’s last three rounds and which is now backing a company with a market cap over $1.2bn.

Compass Therapeutics is the latest drug developer to file for an initial public offering, though the $50m target it has set suggests its aim may be lower than most. The immuno-oncology therapy developer had secured $132m in a 2018 series A round featuring life sciences-focused real estate investment trusts Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Biomed Realty, but neither possess a stake in the company sized at 5% or greater.


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

27 January 2020 – Tokopedia Approaches Close of $1.5bn Round

The Big Ones

Tokopedia is already one of the biggest companies to have emerged from Southeast Asia’s increasingly vibrant startup scene, but it is reportedly approaching the close of a $1.5bn round that would include existing investors SoftBank and Alibaba. The round is set to value the e-commerce marketplace at $8bn to $9bn and be led by a $500m investment from Singapore’s Temasek.

UCloud is one of several Chinese companies to have gone public in recent days (for some more, look below), raising $284m in an initial public offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market. The cloud services provider counts Bertelsmann Asia Investments among its backers and reportedly landed on Star Market because it allows a dual-class share structure for listed companies, meaning founders can retain substantial voting rights post-IPO.

There have been cases of some prominent corporate investors putting together dedicated impact or diversity-focused funds in recent years but it seems as if this might be a trend that’s picking up steam. Citi and Nestlé have both made steps to join in, Citi putting up $150m for a vehicle called Citi Impact Fund which is tasked with backing companies with a positive impact on society, while Nestlé has earmarked approximately $258m for a fund that will invest in startups operating in the sustainable packaging space.

In crossover news, Skylo Technologies, a Stanford spinout, has emerged from stealth with $116m, $103m of which was recently raised in a series B round led by SoftBank. Stanford spinout Skylo has developed an internet-of-things system designed to work in remote areas while utilising off-the-shelf cellular network components in order to offer a more affordable service.

Deals

GoPuff has not been a big name on the startup scene despite reports that it had raised money at a $1bn valuation in late 2018, but the snack delivery service received $750m six months ago, in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund, it has emerged.

Berkshire Grey, a US-based robotic fulfilment systems developer, may have come out of stealth 13 months ago but when it came to funding, the company has continued to fly under the radar. That’s now changed, to a degree, with a $263m series B round led by SoftBank.

Two weeks ago, a regulatory filing told us that Mastercard-backed AvidXchange had secured $130m in fresh funding from two unnamed investors, but it looks like the company was much further ahead in discussions: it’s actually raised $260m in funding – though it’s only revealed TPG Sixth Street Partners as an investor. Notably, AvidXchange has been around much longer than most companies we come across in the daily newsletter, having been founded in 2000 and already clocking 5,500 clients for its automated invoicing and payment processing platform.

Doing even better when it comes to a large customerbase is AppsFlyer, a marketing platform that serves more than 12,000 brands including many well-known companies, such as eBay, Macy’s and HBO. That alone was likely reason enough for Deutsche Telekom Capital

The meat alternatives sector is one that’s really picking up pace on the funding side, though most of the capital has so far gone to plant-based meat substitute developers. However, Memphis Meats is pursuing meat that is grown directly from cells and has raised $161m in a series B round co-led by SoftBank.

Qonto has raised almost as much, $115m, in a series C round it claims is the largest ever for a French fintech company. Tencent co-led the round with DST Global, and the business banking platform developer is seeking a full European licence while boosting its staff numbers from 200 to 300.

Electric scooter and bike rental service Bounce has secured $105m in series D funding from investors including Qualcomm Ventures at a valuation that sits around the $500m mark.

Goldman Sachs has invested in cloud cybersecurity platform developer Sysdig as part of a $70m series E round that increased its overall funding to more than $200m. US-headquartered Sysdig disclosed the round, which was led by venture firm Insight Partners, on the same day as the launch of a dedicated Japanese subsidiary that comes in the wake of offices opening in Spain and Italy.

Elsewhere in Asia, LivSpace has lifted its latest funding round to $60m as it moves towards the close of a round reportedly expected to reach $90m to $100m next month. The interior design services marketplace reportedly boasts Ikea franchisee Ingka as an investor, the company having invested an amount between $10m and $15m in the company last May that looks as if it could have been part of the ongoing round.

Funds

MassMutual Ventures, US-based insurance firm MassMutual’s corporate venture capital arm, has launched a $100m Southeast Asia fund, bringing the unit’s overall capital under management to $350m. Founded in 2014, MassMutual Ventures invests in areas such as fintech, digital health, cybersecurity and enterprise software.

Exits

Uber divested several regional services prior to going public, through mergers with local operators that gave them sizeable stakes in the buyers. Now it looks to be repeating the trick with its Uber Eats food delivery business. The company has sold its Indian Uber Eats operation to food listings and ordering platform Zomato in a transaction that gave it a 10% stake. Considering Zomato is raising money at a reported $3bn valuation, that isn’t a bad chunk of change.

Revolution Medicines, a US-based cancer treatment exploiting research from multiple universities, has filed for a $100m initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Market. Revolution was established by biotech company builder Third Rock Ventures and co-founded by Martin Burke from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michael Fischbach from Stanford University and Kevan Shokat from University of California, Berkeley. Sanofi is also in line for an exit here, as the pharma company obtained series B shares in Revolution Medicines when the latter acquired US-based genomic medicine developer Warp Drive Bio, which was co-founded by Sanofi, in an all-share deal in 2018.

E-commerce firm Mercari has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to acquire Origami, the developer of QR code-based mobile payment app that will be integrated into the Merpay platform Mercari launched in 2017. Origami had raised $88m in funding and typically for a Japanese company, it had a substantial amount of corporate backers including SoftBank, KDDI, Nihon Unisys, Mitsui Sumitomo Card Company, Union Pay International, JCB, Credit Saison and several banks.


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

02 December 2019 – SoftBank Leads Oyo’s $1.5bn Funding Round

The Big Ones

SoftBank Vision Fund is putting up $807m to lead a $1.5bn funding round for one of its most notable portfolio companies, India-based short term accommodation platform Oyo. The round values Oyo at $10bn and the extra cash will fund expansion in the US, a prime market in the company’s ongoing international expansion. Its other investors include Didi Chuxing, Hero Enterprise and Huazhu Hotels Group.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial is putting together a $1bn fund that will focus on emerging markets such as India or Southeast Asia. Its name can be translated as Ant Unicorn Fund and it will concentrate on strategic investments in areas such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, security, the internet of things and computing as well as digital financial services platforms.

Aporeto’s investors, which include Comcast Ventures, National Grid Partners, Symantec and Telia Ventures, are in line for exits, through a $150m acquisition by Palo Alto Networks. The machine identity-based cybersecurity software provider had raised almost $35m, and its pending acquisition marks the third corporate-backed company to be bought by Palo Alto in the past six months, following Zingbox and Twistlock.

In crossover news with Global University Venturing, Heartseed, a Japan-based developer of treatments for heart failure based on research at Keio University, has secured ¥2.8bn ($25.8m) in series B funding from investors including medical data technology provider JMDC.

Deals

Another of Vision Fund’s key Indian investments is mobile financial services provider Paytm, and it has contributed to a $1bn series G round for the company that also featured fellow corporate investor Ant Financial.

Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia-based Tokopedia is seeking what will likely be its last VC funding before its own flotation, and is reportedly in talks to raise $1bn to $1.5bn in a round that will probably include existing backers and unnamed US internet companies.

Impossible Foods is looking to raise $300m to $400m in a round expected to value it in the $3bn to $5bn range. The plant-based burger provider was most recently valued at $2bn and is reportedly eyeing 2020 for its initial public offering.

Online supermarket Picnic has raised $275m in funding, chiefly from the same investors that backed its last round, when it secured $108m in early 2017.

Online pharmacy operator PharmEasy has raised $220m at a $700m valuation, in a round led by the Singaporean government-owned Temasek. India-based PharmEasy has now secured more than $320m altogether, its earlier investors including corporates Ascent Health and Wellness, Medi Assist and Manipal Education and Medical Group.

Ferring Pharmaceuticals has spun off a new company to manage the late-stage development and eventual commercialisation of a gene therapy intended to treat bladder cancer.

Lithuania-headquartered fashion e-commerce marketplace Vinted has meanwhile received $141m from investors including Burda Principal Investments at a valuation of about $1.1bn.

We’ve been through the ride hailing gold rush and the bicycle rental frenzy but neither sector has even approached profitability yet. Despite that, electric scooter rental platforms are continuing to raise big money, the latest being India-based Bounce, which has bumped its series D round up to $150m.

Online job listings and recruitment portal Boss Zhipin has received a seven-figure dollar amount in a series E round featuring Tencent, which reportedly led one tranche of the round while participating in another.

Enterprise AI software provider Appier has bagged $80m in series D funding from investors including UMC Capital and Hopu-Arm Innovation Fund, nearly doubling its overall funding to $162m in the process.

Real estate developer Daito Trust Construction has provided $50m in equity funding for co-working space operator JustCo, and is pumping a further $24m into a joint venture that will enable the Sinagporean company to expand into Daito’s home market of Japan.

Despite its name, Jybd is not a recruitment platform but an aftermarket services platform for truckers. The China-based company has received $50m in a series B round led by Sino-Ocean Capital, a subsidiary of Sino-Ocean Group, the transaction coming after trucking services marketplace Manbang Group supplied $46m in series A funding for it last year.

Funds

Now this isn’t really a new fund but it is an interesting development: Thailand-based financial services firm Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is looking to spin off some of its financial technology entities, potentially including venture capital subsidiary SCB Digital Ventures. Digital Ventures was launched in 2016 with $50m in capital and its early investments focused on limited partner commitments, including funds being raised by Nyca Partners and Dymon Asia Ventures.

Exits

There weren’t too many exits last week, but another notable one was insurance provider Maif’s exit from France-based voice technology developer Snips in a $37.5m acquisition by speaker system producer Sonos. Snips is the creator of a full-stack software platform that can be used to develop custom voice-based digital assistants.


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

17 December 2018 – Grab Reaches $2.85bn in Latest Round

Deals

Grab has boosted its latest round to $2.85bn, taking in $150m from Yamaha Motor through a strategic partnership agreement.

Indonesian online marketplace Tokopedia has confirmed it has secured $1.1bn in a round led by Alibaba and SoftBank Vision Fund, with contributions from SoftBank Ventures Korea and unnamed existing backers.

Facial recognition technology provider Megvii is set to raise $500m in a round that could be led by $200m from Bank of China Group Investment with a possible investment by existing backer Alibaba.

Zymergen raised $130m in a SoftBank-led round two years ago, and now SoftBank’s Vision Fund has returned to lead a $400m series C round for the molecular manufacturing technology provider that included Goldman Sachs, Hanwha Asset Management and several existing investors.

Naspers Ventures is leading a funding round for online education provider Byju’s that has reached $322m on its way to a $400m close.

Financial software provider Plaid has secured $250m in a series C round led by Kleiner Perkins and backed by Goldman Sachs, Andreessen Horowitz, NEA, Spark Capital and Index Ventures that valued it at $2.65bn.

Niantic, the augmented reality game developer best known for Pokémon Go, is close to raising $200m in funding from investors including Samsung and Axiomatic, the eSports company that’s becoming increasingly involved in corporate venturing.

Parking services and technology platform ParkJockey was reported the week before last to be closing in on a SoftBank-led round that could be sized between $800m and $1bn.

Automotive e-commerce platform Vroom has raised $146m in a series G round that was led by a $50m investment from brick-and-mortar car retail chain AutoNation.

Meiri Yitao was incubated as a social commerce-focused fresh produce offshoot of online grocer MissFresh, but has sped out of the blocks, following a $30m series A round in July with $100m in series B funding from investors including SIG Asia Investments.

Things have started to quieten down a bit on Global University Venturing ahead of the Christmas holidays but Genomics, a UK-based drug discovery engine developer spun out of University of Oxford, still managed to extend its series B round to $42m with the close of an oversubscribed second $10.2m tranche.

Funds

Bytedance closed its last round at a valuation of $75bn – enough to make it the world’s most valuable VC-backed private company – and it’s now looking to get into the corporate venturing game itself.

Alcoholic beverage provider Constellation Brands formed its corporate venturing unit three years ago and has now launched a $100m initiative called Focus on Female Founders that will invest in female-led portfolio companies.

On Global University Venturing, we had news that the UCL Technology Fund – co-managed by tech transfer office UCL Business and Albion Capital, is in the process of raising between $95m and $126m for a second vehicle (in the original currency of British pounds, the upper number is actually double that of the first fund – £100m compared with £50m).

Exits

Moderna has raised $604m in what’s reportedly the largest biotech IPO ever, increasing the number of shares in the offering by more than 4.5 million, and it has earmarked the proceeds for the further development of a pipeline that now has more than 20 mRNA therapy and vaccine candidates.

2018’s been quite a year for IPOs but it increasingly looks like next year could dwarf it as unicorn after unicorn moves their chips in place. The latest two to have made a step forward are Uber, which has confidentially filed for an offering some onlookers have suggested could value it at a staggering $120bn, and Slack, which has hired Goldman Sachs as lead underwriter for an IPO that could value it at $10bn.

Basis had big plans to create a stablecoin tied to the US dollar that would potentially be usable as a steady alternative in volatile countries, and raised $133m from investors including GV in April. But those plans have screeched to a halt and Basis announced yesterday it will instead wind down due to regulatory difficulties.


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