The Big Ones
Online education has been one of the big growth sectors during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s particularly true in China, and as one of the biggest players Yuanfudao has likely seen a decent chunk of that growth. The company raised $1bn at a $7.8bn valuation less than six months ago but is now reportedly lining up $1.2bn in additional funding from investors including Tencent at a whopping $13bn valuation. Tencent first invested in Yuanfudao in 2016 and it’s one of several online education-focused companies in the corporate’s portfolio.
US-based venture capital firm Bitkraft Ventures has closed its second fund at $165m with backers including apparel producer Adidas, media group Advance Publications, computer peripherals manufacturer Logitech and advertising group WPP. Family office Carolwood and investment firms Declaration Partners and JS Capital are also among the limited partners for the fund, which had an initial target size of $125m for its close. Bitkraft Ventures Fund I will target early-stage deals in the gaming, esports and interactive media sectors. It has already begun investing and, together with Bitkraft’s Pre-Seed Fund, has built a portfolio of more than 50 companies across North America, Europe and Asia.
Exits is also a crossover: The reverse merger trend is really beginning to pick up steam. The latest company to take the plunge is solid-state battery developer QuantumScape, a Stanford spinout, which has agreed to merge with publicly-listed special purpose acquisition company Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp in a deal that will value the combined business at $3.3bn. QuantumScape’s largest investor is Volkswagen, which has provided some $300m since 2018 and which plans to use the batteries in its vehicles. Other shareholders include Continental, SAIC Motor and Bill Gates.
Neon Pagamentos has agreed $300m in funding through a two-tranche series C round featuring PayPal Ventures and the BBVA-backed Propel Venture Partners. The digital bank, one of a new wave of Latin American tech companies raising big rounds, has earmarked the funding for hiring, technology development and the expansion of a user base that currently takes in some 9 million consumer and business accounts.
Zomato remains locked in an online food delivery war with Indian peer Swiggy but has raised new funding to help it expand, taking $262m in late-stage funding from Temasek, Tiger Global Management and Kora Capital at a reported $3bn valuation. Its existing backers include Ant Financial, Delivery Hero and Info Edge as well as Uber, which acquired a 10% stake in January by merging the Indian operations of its Uber Eats subsidiary into the company.
Online real estate marketplace PropertyGuru Group is another company that has extended a popular e-commerce model into an emerging market, in this case Southeast Asia, and it has raised $220m from existing investors TPG and KKR to take its overall funding to more than $550m. PropertyGuru’s existing backers include Emtek, which has been forced to wait for an exit after the company postponed an initial public offering supposed to take place late last year.
Peer-to-peer lending platform Auxmoney has secured $178m in a round led by private equity firm Centerbridge that will also involve Centerbridge buying secondary shares in order to become its majority investor. Auxmoney’s existing backers will each retain shares in the company, though the selling shareholders will likely include Aegon and its corporate venturing unit Transamerica Ventures. Another corporate backer, broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1, had already exited in 2017.
India-based edtech player Unacademy has raised a $150m series F round backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Facebook. The round valued Uncademy at $1.45bn, a huge jump from the $510m valuation at which it last raised money, just over six months ago. Facebook also took part in that round, the company’s $110m series E.
One of India’s biggest players in the edtech sector is Byju’s, which has raised $122m from DST Global to take its series F funding to $145m. The round values Tencent-backed Byju’s at $10.5bn – up from $8bn when it raised money at the start of this year – and the company is targeting $400m for the close of the round.
Rounding off the education funding frenzy is Eruditus, which partners universities to create adult learning courses and which has just secured $113m in a series D round co-led by Naspers-backed vehicle Prosus Ventures. The funding was raised at a post-money valuation in excess of $700m, and the company’s earlier backers include Bertelsmann India Investments.
Patreon on the other hand operates a financial subscription service that supports creatives – it’s a business model replicated by another corporate-backed company, Steady.fm, that is popular in German-speaking countries. Patreon, whose earlier investors include talent management agencies CAA and UTA, has now hit a $1.2bn valuation in a $90m series E round co-led by venture firms New Enterprise Associates and Wellington Management. It said this week it expects to oversee $1bn of payments a year to members going forward. It will also double-down on its international expansion, by adding more currencies, so it will interesting to see how Steady.fm will fare when the much bigger Patreon moves in.
Xfund, a US-based venture capital firm aligned to Harvard University, debuted a third investment fund with $120m in contributions from undisclosed limited partners. Xfund aims to leverage innovation from top-tier universities globally in a partnership helmed by Harvard together with New Enterprise Associates, Breyer Capital, Accel Partners and Polaris Partners. The fund was set up to combine investment rigour with business models based on free-thinking and intellectual awareness from academic founders with unconventional backgrounds such as liberal arts graduates.
The latest promising tech company to agree a reverse merger is esports competition platform developer Skillz, which will go public through a merger with Flying Eagle Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company that floated in a $600m initial public offering in March. The transaction values Skillz at $3.5bn and it comes less than a year after 32 Equity, which represents all 32 NFL teams, invested in the company. It had raised a total of $53m from backers including Telstra, Liberty Global and Kraft Group as of 2017.
Shenzhen Hymson Laser Intelligent Equipments produces equipment such as laser cutters and welders for use in manufacturing, and has raised $107m in an initial public offering on Shanghai’s Star Exchange. Its shareholders include Legend Capital, the venture firm spun off by conglomerate Legend Holdings, which took part in a 2018 seed round and which owns a 2.7% stake post-IPO.