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

05 October 2020 – Sophia Genetics Raises $110m Series F

The Big Ones

It was a privilege to hear the insights at the GCV Digital Forum 2.0 yesterday. Combining our regional and sector events, GCV Asia Congress, Synergize and Energy, was always a recipe for some of the world’s leaders to gather and share as well as network. The insights started with Gen Tsuchikawa, CEO of Sony Innovation Fund, as chairman of the Asia stream explain how it had made 10 deals since April through the covid-19 crisis and launched a new fund with an impact focus on the environment. Impact and sustainability was a running theme through the whole agenda, with Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the Global Steering Group working on impact investing, giving a keynote and answering questions from attendees about his new book, Impact: Reshaping capitalism to drive real change.

Sir Ronald Cohen’s insights from his second book, Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change, lay out a methodology for adding impact to the usual risk and return decision-making for investing. Here’s a case study example from his keynote to be delivered at the www.GCVDigitalForum.com tomorrow, with a live Q&A with Sir Ronald starting at 12.30pm UK time.

Change is coming. The only question remains how to maximise the impact at a corporation through sophisticated use of open innovation tools, such as corporate venturing, and align them to traditional research and development and mergers and acquisitions. Switzerland-based healthcare insurer CSS Insurance has set up the CHF50m SwissHealth Ventures fund managed by Redstone’s venture capital-as-a-service. Jonathan Fraser, head of venturing at CSS, said it would on focus digital health startups contributing to a high quality and cost-efficient health system.

Sophia Genetics, a Switzerland-based clinical insights platform, has raised $110m in its series F round from a consortium including Hitachi Ventures. It is an interesting deal for Stefan Gabriel, CEO of Hitachi Ventures and GCV Powerlist 100 winner last month. Typically, the $150m Hitachi Ventures programme has targeted early-stage deals in Europe and the US.

Exits

Palantir is arguably Peter Thiel’s most infamous endeavour: the company has been shrouded in secrecy ever since it was founded in 2003 and was often thought to have almost peerless capabilities when it came to big data analytics (capabilities that have landed it some big US government contracts). But its direct listing on the NYSE (which came after six – yes, six – revisions to its SEC filing) was, as Reuters called it, “choppy”. Shares dropped from the $10 opening price to $9.50 and the company ended up with a valuation of $20.6bn – which might seem a good amount, but it was worth $20.3bn five years ago and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars since then. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Morgan Stanley couldn’t get its software to work for Palantir employees to sell shares.

McAfee has had a more eventful history than most. Once upon a time (the olden days of 2011), the company was listed on NYSE before Intel decided to snap up the cybersecurity giant for $7.7bn. To say the shoe didn’t fit might be an understatement: officially rebranding the company to Intel Security in 2014, the operation actually retained its McAfee name and by 2016 had been spun off again through a private equity deal that saw Intel selling a majority stake to TPG Capital, with Thoma Bravo also taking a small shareholding. And now it seems McAfee is ready to yet again trade publicly and has filed for an IPO on Nasdaq – putting that infamous $100m placeholder figure in its draft prospectus and not yet giving away any details on terms. Fun fact: the IPO has gathered a baker’s dozen worth of underwriters – this might be one to watch closely as it unfolds.

JD.com’s healthcare spinoff has filed for an initial public offering after raising more than $1.9bn in equity funding from investors including Hillhouse Capital and Citic Capital.

Tencent is also in line for an exit as Beijing Logicreation Information & Technology, an education services provider, has filed for a RMB1.04bn ($152m) initial public offering on Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s ChiNext board. The company plans on issuing 10 million shares and is targeting a valuation of $586m. Details about Logicreation’s funding are hazy, but DealStreetAsia surfaced a series D round of undisclosed size backed by Tencent Investment in 2017 and a $14m funding round in 2015 backed by Heyi Group. Neither corporate owns more than 5% pre-IPO, however.

Deals

Electric vehicles and grid-scale energy storage are going to be fundamentally necessary parts of a clean energy future, but despite the fact that they generate no emissions once they reach the user they come with a big catch: mining lithium is incredibly destructive to the environment and its effects have been known to pollute rivers and kill wildlife. So, recycling lithium-ion batteries is key if we want to avoid solving one problem (climate change) by creating another (pollution). The recycling process is a relatively new development, but Northvolt is one of the most important players in the space and the company has added $600m to its coffers from Volkswagen, Scania and others to not only reach 150GWh of manufacturing output in Europe by 2030, but also to build a recycling facility that will mean at least 50% of raw materials in its batteries will be from recycled products. VW had already backed a $1bn round last year.

Cazoo, a UK-based online marketplace for used vehicles, has been raising equity at an incredible pace: founded two years ago, it’s amassed $558m in capital and a valuation of $2.5bn thanks to commitments from, among others, repeat investor DMG Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of media group Daily Mail and General Trust. The corporate also participated in Cazoo’s latest deal, a $308m funding round that was co-led by General Catalyst and D1 Capital Partners (which you will have noticed investing a lot of money over the past few weeks – cf. Robinhood, Alkami and Goat).

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and PICC Group’s PICC Capital joined forces with Morningside to co-lead a $319m series C round for XtalPi that also featured existing backers SIG China, Tencent and China Life. XtalPi, which has built a platform to predict the physicochemical and pharmaceutical properties of small-molecule drug candidates, will use the money to further develop its technology. Its shareholders also include Google and Renren.

Rappi has grown from a delivery service initially focused on drinks to a courier service that delivers pretty much any consumer product you can think of. It even allows users to get cashback. The company has also expanded across nine countries in South America and has raised more than $300m from T. Rowe Price and undisclosed investors. That both is and isn’t a lot of money: SoftBank injected $1bn in May last year, and Rappi’s earlier backers also include Delivery Hero.

SoftBank has contributed to a $225m series D round for VTex, a Brazil-based provider of end-to-end e-commerce services, after the corporate had already led a $140m round last November. VTex is now valued at $1.7bn and its platform is used by international giants such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Walmart to power their online stores – not a bad list of clients for a Brazilian company that hardly any consumer will have ever heard of.

Airwallex has added $40m in a series D extension that brought the round to a $200m close. No word on who the “new and existing” backers of the second tranche are, but ANZi Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Tencent were all among the investors for the $160m initial tranche five months ago. The money will allow Airwallex to chase big plans: add another 100 staff (for a 240-strong headcount) and an expansion into the US, all while doubling down on its existing markets. Airwallex has now obtained some $400m altogether.

Taimei’s software helps life sciences companies manage their clinical trials, including assessing and monitoring adverse effects. It’s added $176m to its coffers in a round co-led by Tencent, GL Ventures and YF Capital, while SoftBank China Venture Capital also got a slice of the pie. Tencent previously led a $132m series E-plus round just under a year ago, while SBCVC had contributed to an $80m series E round in early 2019.

BioCatch has added four big banks – Barclays, Citi, HSBC and National Australia Bank – to a series C round that now stands at $168m. American Express Ventures and CreditEase had backed a $145m first tranche six months ago and the Israel-based behavioural biometrics technology provider has now raised $215m in funding altogether. It’s also launched a so-called client innovation board, where Barclays, Citi, HSBC, NAB and AmEx will be able to exchange ideas on how best to prevent online fraud.

Caloga-backed Sendinblue has added $160m to its coffers thanks to investors including Bpifrance and BlackRock.

Lilly Asia Ventures has returned for a $147m series D round that will allow InventisBio to advance its treatments for breast cancer and gout into phase 2 clinical trials.

Cloud-based banking platform developer Alkami Technology’s total financing meanwhile stands at $365m after attracting $140m in a funding round featuring Fidelity. D1 Capital Partners led the round, while Franklin Templeton and Stockbridge Investors also took part. Details about Alkami’s earlier funding rounds are sparse, though it did announce its series E and D rounds, and its shareholders also include General Atlantic, MissionOG, S3 Ventures and Argonaut Private Equity.

Joyson Electronics has farmed out a stake in its smart driving subsidiary Joy Next to investors including Baofeng Energy and Ningbo Gaofa Automotive Control System.

Tencent has led a round worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” for veterinary care services provider New Ruipeng Pet Healthcare Group. Boehringer Ingelheim and Country Garden Venture Capital, the investment arm for Country Garden, also took part in the round which will allow Ruipeng, which operates more than 1,400 animal clinics and hospitals, to bolster its offering.

University

Monte Rosa climbs $96m series B: University of London-linked Monte Rosa Therapeutics is working on biotechnology to degrade disease-driving proteins.

XY spells out $59m series B: Zhejiang University-backed optical chip maker XY Technology will put the series B cash to strengthening its capacity and product.

Wise conceives $17.6m: University of Milan spinout Wise is a developer of low-invasive neuromodulation implants for treating pain and neurological disorders.

Funds

China’s courier service operator SF Holdings has joined forces with Citic Capital to launch a $308m fund that will focus on the domestic logistics sector. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC provided the largest chunk of cash – a total of $216m – though the size is (at least so far) below an original target of $400m envisaged earlier this year. Fundraising was put on hold at the time and, although the report doesn’t explicitly say this, it’s likely the pandemic was a big factor here.

Long-time readers will be aware of Kickstart Ventures, the investment arm of Philippines-based Globe Telecom, but there has never been a lot of corporate venture capital available in the archipelagic state. This is changing – and in dramatic fashion, too: local conglomerate Ayala has closed a $180m fund (managed by Kickstart Ventures and also backed by Globe Telecom), seemingly making it the country’s biggest venture fund to date. Because that is a lot of money, the Active Fund will actually invest internationally and target series A through D rounds.

BA Capital lures corporates to $147m fund: BA Capital has raised a total of $247m this month across its yuan and dollar-denominated vehicles targeting the consumer and media sectors.

Nippon Life makes an impact with $100m: The insurance provider has committed $100m to the Life Science Impact Program, which is managed by Grove Street Advisors and will focus on healthcare businesses.

Inspiration Capital sparks $73m fund: Hexing Electrical, CSD Environment, Hailang Group and SIG are among the limited partners in a $73m fund raised by Qiming spinoff Inspiration Capital.


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

28 September 2020 – Roche Pays $448m to Buy Inflazome

The Big Ones

Congratulations to Mike Cavanagh at Comcast for taking up the reins of its ventures unit after Amy Banse’s decision to retire next year. Thanks goes to Banse for her support to the community over the past decade and glad she’s staying engaged through Comcast to deliver on sustainability, gender equality and mentorship.
My thanks to Ken Gatz, CEO at deal management software platform Proseeder, for running the past two days’ pitch events covering sustainability and mobility on September 22 and financial and deep technology yesterday. The GCV Connect powered by Proseeder platform reviewed the applications thanks to the expert corporate venturing judges and then showcased the finallists with the recordings edited and showreeled at the GCV Digital Forum next week, 29th.

Sweden-listed investment holding company Kinnevik’s history is one of pivots. From its initial switch from pulp and paper into telecoms and media in Sweden in the 1990s and then into online companies such as Avito, Rocket Internet and Zalando in the 2010s now comes the push into privately-held startups as it sells its $2bn stake in telecoms asset Tele2.

Exits

Roche has paid $448m to buy Inflazome, the Novartis-backed developer of treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hepatitis B, Crohn’s disease and many others. Inflazome was spun out of University of Queensland just four years ago and also commercialises research from Trinity College Dublin. Novartis had contributed to its two only rounds that brought in a total of just over $62m.

TriNetX had raised $102m in funding from investors including Merck & Co, Mitsui and Itochu before agreeing to a purchase by Carlyle.

You may have all but forgotten about WeWork, the beleaguered co-working space provider, and in a world struggling to keep a pandemic at bay, sharing an office with strangers is hardly appealing. Yet, Trustbridge seems confident there is money to be made still and has acquired a majority stake in WeWork China for… $200m. Not only had WeWork China raised $1bn from investors including SoftBank and its Vision Fund, but was also once valued at $5bn. A source told TechCrunch layoffs had already started and “many things” remained uncertain, so we’ll see how this one pans out. In any case, it’s hardly an exit to celebrate for the investors, but they were likely prepared for that already anyway.

Even if you don’t drive an electric car, you have likely come across the term range anxiety – the fear that the battery’s charge will not last all the way to the driver’s destination. It is often considered a significant barrier to large-scale adoption of EVs, so seeing ChargePoint – which operates an international charging network – agreeing to a reverse merger with SPAC Switchback Energy Acquisition can only be good news. The deal values ChargePoint at $2.4bn and will, once it closes in Q4, net the business $683m in fresh funding. That’s a smidgeon more than the $667m it had raised in equity financing from backers such as AEP, BMW, Chevron, Constellation Energy, Daimler, Siemens, The Hartford and Toyota.

Speaking of the transportation sector: Ninebot – best known for the Segway brand – is looking to go public in China through a $295m IPO on Shanghai’s Star Market. The Xiaomi and Intel-backed company’s move is intriguing not so much for the IPO’s target size (though that is notable, too) but because it’s the first company with a variable interest entities (VIE) structure that’s been approved to list using Chinese Depository Receipts. VIE is a framework that enables foreign investment in companies that are restricted from accepting overseas capital due to their sensitive nature. Typically, the structure is employed by China-based companies undertaking a listing elsewhere and up until now Beijing made companies unwind this structure if they sought to list at home – but rising tensions with the US have seemingly provoked some flexibility from the central government.

Tencent-backed low-cost retailer has put a $100m placeholder figure in its filing for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, more than a year after its plans first emerged.

Compass Pathways, a UK-based depression medicine developer backed by pharmaceutical group Otsuka Pharmaceuticals’ McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, achieved a different kind of exit as it went public in an upsized IPO worth more than $127m on Friday. The company is working on something rather unusual: a synthetic version of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, to treat mental health disorders that have proven resistant to other therapies. McQuade had backed an $80m series B round in April 2020 and its bet paid off, as shares in Compass shot up to $29 on the first day of trading.

If you were looking forward to whatever blockbuster terms Grail was going to set for its IPO when it first filed with a $100m placeholder amount earlier this month, you’ll be sorely disappointed with today’s news. However, the $8bn put down by Illumina (though when accounting for its existing stake it’s closer to $7bn) to acquire its cancer diagnostics spinoff is impressive in its own right – particularly considering that Grail raised just under $2bn, so Illumina could have saved a decent chunk of cash if it had kept the development internal – but that’s the nature of these things. WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Alphabet, Varian Medical Systems, BMS, Celgene, Merck & Co, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson are all among the corporates celebrating an exit.

Speaking of China: Zhonggu Logistics, a container logistics services provider backed by liner operator Zhonggu Shipping and telecommunications group SoftBank, is targeting a $218m initial public offering after pricing its shares at $3.28 a pop. It will list on the main board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and Zhonggu Shipping will remain a majority shareholder at 63.1%, with a tiny slice (2.2%) also left for SoftBank. CICC is the lead underwriter.

The Washington State University neurological drug developer has gone public after issuing 12 million shares priced at $17 each.

Deals

News continues coming in at a rapid pace, proving that the summer lull – however much there was one, considering the flurry of IPO filings as discussed earlier – is well and truly over. If you live in the west, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tesla is the only real contender in the EV space but there are other noteworthy companies in the east. One of these is WM Motor, which has picked up $1.47bn in a series D round backed by SAIC Motor – adding to some $1.8bn in funding previously raised from investors such as Baidu, Tencent and China Minmetals. The money has been allocated to R&D, marketing, sales and branding activities.

There really is no stopping Robinhood, the US-based share trading app developer backed by Alphabet and Roc Nation: the company has now pushed its series G round to $660m thanks to a $460m extension supplied by D1 Capital Partners (which had provided the $200m initial tranche last month), a16z, Sequoia, DST, Ribbit and 9Yards. The extension has moved Robinhood’s valuation up to $11.7bn from $11.2bn a few weeks ago – that seems like a marginal increase hardly worth mentioning but in July the company was actually worth “only” $8.2bn when it closed its $600m series F. It’s now collected some $2.36bn in funding altogether.

Challenger bank Chime has become the most valuable American fintech aimed at retail consumers after raising $485m in a series F round that pushed its valuation to $14.5bn – a good chunk of change more than previous leader Robinhood, which attained an $11.2bn valuation last month. If $14.5bn seems a lot – and it is – consider this: Chime claims it has been adding hundreds of thousands of customers per month as the pandemic has made people less inclined to go into a physical bank branch. Consider this, too: the company was worth a mere $1.5bn just 18 months ago. Access Industries returned for the latest round but Chime’s early investors, which include Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, will also all be in for a phenomenal exit at this rate.

Munich Re has returned for a $250m series D round raised by online insurance platform Next Insurance, while CapitalG led the round. Next Insurance has grown to more than 100,000 customers across all 50 US states and will use the money to improve its existing offering, add more products and hire an additional 200 employees. Next has now raised $631m in total – Munich Re previously injected $250m in series C financing a year ago – and its investors also include Nationwide (the US insurer, not the UK financial institution), Markel and American Express Ventures.

Apple’s silicon in iPhones and iPads is notably because the chips manage to squeeze an astounding amount of processing power out of small real estate at low power usage. The team that led the development of these chips left last year to found Nuvia in an effort to bring their expertise to semiconductors in data centres. While its technology is still very much in development, it clearly has done enough to entice investors for a $240m series B round that featured returning backer Dell Technologies Capital.

Children’s debit card provider Greenlight is valued at $1.2bn after raising $215m in a funding from a host of investors, though none of its corporate backers participated this time.

Xingyun has picked up $200m in a series C round co-led by Taikang Insurance, Shanghai United Media Group and Highlight Capital, while GLP and C&D Group also invested.

There was a $133m series C round secured by Beyond Limits, an AI technology developer based on research at Caltech’s Nasa-aligned Jet Propulsion Lab that is notable not only because it’s repeatedly convinced BP Ventures to invest but also because it actually managed to attract BP Ventures’ Meghan Sharp as COO about a year ago (as long-time subscribers will remember). Another corporate, Group 42, joined BP for the series C round.

SoftBank’s Latin America Fund and General Atlantic have co-led a $107m series B round for Accesso Digital, a facial recognition technology developer that will use the money to scale.

Digital Garage has helped launch mobile gaming platform Playco with a $100m series A round and a valuation of more than $1bn.

Recycling electronics is big business – rare earth minerals needed to build devices such as laptops or smartphones are expensive to mine, but old gadgets too often just end up in that junk drawer we all have in our houses. This is where Wanwu Xinsheng – né Aihuishou – comes in: it runs an online and brick-and-mortar recycling service for consumers to sell their second-hand devices. The company’s now raised $100m in series E-plus financing from JD.com, its JD Logistics unit and others, to accelerate growth and seek additional partnerships internationally. The round brings the company’s overall funding to more than $1bn, and JD.com is a repeat investor.

Another nine-figure sum was revealed by Nucarf, a China-based logistics fleet refuelling management platform that has collected $100m in combined series A and A-plus capitalfrom investors including Xiamen C&D. The cash has been allocated to accelerating the development of its digital infrastructure, and it comes after multiple rounds of undisclosed size in 2017 and 2018.

Foot Locker-backed sneaker marketplace Goat Group has completed a $100m round from D1 Capital Partners, bringing its overall financing to almost $300m in five years.

University

UW mental health spinout Owl Insights secured funding to advance its product development and distribution.

Funds

The website development tool provider’s Wix Capital subsidiary will invest in early-stage startups that are developing AI, e-commerce, web design and automation technologies.

Pureos Bioventures has backed five spinouts so far from its inaugural biotech-focused fund, which has reached its final close.

Unnamed corporates have provided capital for Panlin’s $148m fund that will focus on healthcare, digital transformation and smart hardware.

Legal & General is among the limited partners for Kindred Capital’s second fund, which also attracted University of Chicago and will invest in early-stage European startups.

Alsa Ventures is targeting a $150m final close for its inaugural biotherapeutics fund, which has already backed university-linked companies.


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

21 September 2020 – Klarna Raises $650m to Almost Double its Valuation

The Big Ones

Klarna, operator of an app that lets consumers pay for items from some 200 retailers through instalment payments, has raised $650m in a round that almost doubled its valuation to $10.65bn in the space of just over a year. Klarna’s earlier investors include Bestseller Group, Visa, Ant Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and media group Bonnier is one of several investors that acquired shares in the company through a concurrent secondary investment deal.

It’s a year for big tech IPOs (and there’s actually several more multi-billion-dollar news coming up in this episode), but one of the biggest upcoming offerings could reportedly take place in January next year, when short-form video app developer Kuaishou is reportedly planning to float in a $5bn offering at a $50bn valuation. Tencent owns about 20% of the company’s shares having invested $2bn to lead a December 2019 round valuing it at $28.6bn. It’s going to be interesting to see whether its growth outside of China is affected positively or negatively by the ongoing US acquisition saga surrounding its biggest competitor, TikTok (known as Douyin in China).

Panasonic provided $100m for the first fund to be launched by growth equity firm Conductive Ventures in April 2018, and it has ploughed $150m into a second vehicle that will carry on investing in sectors like artificial intelligence, digital health and advanced manufacturing technology. The corporate is the only limited partner for Conductive, the owner of a portfolio that includes Proterra, Sprinklr and Desktop Metal.

It’s been a big week for crossover deals as well. The most notable perhaps was Lava Therapeutics, a Netherlands-based immuno-oncology therapy spinout of Amsterdam University Medical Centers (Amsterdam UMC), which secured $83m in a series C round on Thursday. The round was co-led by Novo Ventures and Sanofi Ventures, and also featured MRL Ventures Fund, a subsidiary of Merck & Co’s Merck Research Laboratories division. Lava is working on treatments for haematological and solid cancers and has allocated the capital to advancing its portfolio into proof-of-concept trials in 2021. The company advances research by Hans van der Vliet at Amsterdam UMC, the university hospital group affiliated with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam.

Deals

One of the biggest tech success stories during the pandemic has been Peloton’s communal home fitness equipment and services, but Zwift operates in a similar sphere, providing a social exercise platform that allows users to race each other on bikes or treadmills in front of a simulated CGI-based environment. It has just pulled in $450m from investors including Amazon Alexa Fund and Zone 5 Ventures, a CVC vehicle for bicycle maker Specialized Bicycle Components. Its earlier backers include Samchuly and Colopl.

Daily fantasy sports were a big magnet for VC cash five years or so ago but the sector went quiet as companies found themselves having to deal with more and more regulatory hurdles. India’s Dream11 has however raised $225m in primary and secondary financing at a valuation reported by TechCrunch to be over $2.5bn. Tencent had invested in the company in 2018, leading a $100m series D round that valued it at $700m.

Indoor farming may not have been the big growth area some people though it might be this year, but there are still some sizeable players in the market and Infarm is one of them. It’s raised $170m in debt and equity financing from investors including Bonnier as part of a series C round in which it is targeting $200m. The first close pushed its overall funding past the $300m mark and will support the growth of its vertical farm network.

Home fitness has of course also been a big winner. Social exercise app developer Zwift secured $450m earlier this week, and now Tonal, developer of a wall-mounted digital weight machine for home use, has pulled in $110m from investors including Amazon Alexa Fund and the CAA-backed Evolution Media. Its overall funding now stands at $200m and it is testing the potential of its technology in physical therapy through a partnership with Mayo Clinic.

Funds

Japan-based real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan has partnered venture capital firm Global Brain to form an ¥8.5bn ($81m) corporate venturing vehicle dubbed 31Ventures Global Innovation Fund II. The second fund, abbreviated as CVC II, will invest in startups developing real estate services or digitisation and smart city technologies. The initiative will also seek out companies with innovative business models that can complement Mitsui Fudosan’s core business.

Tencent Trusted Doctors, the digital healthcare subsidiary of internet group Tencent, has formed a RMB1bn ($148m) healthcare industry fund with state-owned holding company China Resources. China Resources subsidiary CR Capital will manage the CR Tengkang fund, which counts municipal funds Chengdu Hi-tech Investment Group, Chengdu Xincheng Investment Group and Chengdu Industry Investment’s Chengdu Advanced Manufacturing Investment subsidiary as partners.

Australia-based software development technology provider Atlassian has launched a corporate venture capital fund, Atlassian Ventures, with $50m in capital. Areas of interest for Atlassian Ventures include early-stage developers of enterprise collaboration applications that could be added to Atlassian’s app marketplace, innovative cloud software providers and established companies with products that could interact with its existing offering.

Exits

Online real estate transaction portal OpenDoor has opted for a reverse merger instead and is merging with a special purpose acquisition company in a deal that will value it at $4.8bn and net it $1bn in financing from backers including existing corporate investors Lennar and Access Industries. It had previously raised a total of almost $1.35bn from investors also including GV and SoftBank Vision Fund, and its last round valued it at $3.8bn in March 2019.

Snowflake has floated in one of the year’s biggest initial public offerings and raised $3.36bn after pricing its shares at $120 each, above a range that had already been increased from $75 to $85 per share. The data management software provider will also receive $500m in a private placement, with half of that coming from existing investor Salesforce Ventures. Its exiting backers also include Capital One Growth Ventures, which first invested at a valuation less than 5% of what the company’s market cap will be.

Mobile insurance platform Singapore Life has agreed to merge with Aviva’s Singapore business to form a $2.3bn company that will be called Aviva-Singlife. Sumitomo paid $90m for a 25% stake in Singlife in July 2019 and will retain a 20% stake in the merged business, suggesting it may have contributed to the $1.46bn cash and marketable securities Singlife is paying Aviva as part of the deal. Insurance firm Aflac will also keep a stake, having supplied $20m for Singlife six months earlier.

Amwell has floated in an upsized initial public offering that netted it $742m in addition to $100m supplied by Google through a private placement. Telehealth software has been a big growth area over the past six months but the success of Amwell, which counts Allianz, Philips, Teva and Takeda as investors, could perhaps be more closely related to a week where Snowflake, JFrog, Unity Software and Sumo Logic all floated above their range to raise big money in their IPOs. It’s a heady time for exits right now.

The growth of Snowflake, which floated at a market cap more than 15 times its valuation just two years ago, has been immense. The progress of another enterprise software provider JFrog, which went public the same day in a $509m IPO, has perhaps been understated as a result, but it has almost quadrupled its valuation in less than a year, boasting a $5.75bn market cap after its first day of trading. JFrog, developer of a software-release platform, had raised $227m from investors including Dell Technologies Capital.

Speaking of successful offerings, Outset Medical’s shares have shot off like a rocket and sat at more than double their IPO price within two days. The kidney dialysis system provider has unsurprisingly closed the offering already, at $278m, up from an initial $242m. Baxter Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of medical device maker Baxter International, is among the lucky investors.

C4 Therapeutics is developing small molecule drugs to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, and has filed for a $100m initial public offering under three months after it received $170m in debt and series B equity financing. Its earlier backers include Novartis, Roche and Kraft Group, all of which contributed to a $73m series A round in 2016.


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

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

07 September 2020 – QuantumScape in Reverse Merger with Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp

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.

Deals

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.

Funds

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.

Exits

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.


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

31 August 2020 – Ant Group Files for Dual Listing to Potentially Raise $30bn

The Big Ones

Cancer test developer Freenome has closed a $270m series C round that included Novartis and existing backers GV, Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Roche Venture Fund to hike its overall funding to $507m. The capital will be allocated to a clinical study for a blood test Freenome is developing for colorectal cancer screening, in addition to advancing additional oncology blood tests.

American Family Ventures was formed by insurer American Family in 2013 to invest in areas like insurance, financial services, big data and cybersecurity technology, and it’s following a recent trend by recruiting external limited partners for its latest fund. AFV Fund III has closed at $213m and its LPs will also be able to gain value through a scheme called AFV Platform that will be able to link them to portfolio companies and fellow investors.

Ant Group has officially filed for a dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai that could potentially raise $30bn – a figure that would equate to the largest initial public offering for a VC-backed company in history. It will reportedly now speak to underwriters and other stakeholders to determine the details of the flotations, which are expected to value it between $200bn and $300bn. Apart from Alibaba, corporates including China Post and China Life are also among its investors, both having backed it at a $60bn valuation in 2016.

Crossover: Kymeta, a US-based satellite broadband provider exploiting foundational research from Duke University, secured $85m in a funding round led by entrepreneur Bill Gates, with the backing of some of Kymeta’s leadership team. Kymeta has raised more than $282m in funding altogether, satellite operator Intelsat having contributed to a $73.5m round in 2017 together with undisclosed additional investors. Media group Liberty Global had joined Osage University Partners, Bill Gates, Lux Capital and Kresge Foundation in Kymeta’s $50m series C round in 2013. And Kymeta had already secured $12m in funding from Liberty Global, Lux Capital and Gates the year before.

Deals

Consumer companies have had a mixed at best time of it during the coronavirus pandemic but eyewear e-commerce platform Warby Parker has done quite well, raising $245m across series F and G rounds while hiking its valuation from $1.75bn in late 2018 to $3bn today. The company’s earlier investors include American Express Ventures and the latest round increased its overall funding to $535m.

Viva Republica, the creator of money management app Toss, has raised its own nine-figure round, pulling in $173m in a round that reportedly took its valuation from $2.2bn to $2.6bn. The company’s total funding now stands at $530m, its earlier investors including Novel Group, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures. The funding will help it grow Toss into a more diversified finance-focused app that includes financial product recommendations.

Mural, developer of an online visual collaboration platform, has closed an $118m series B round that included Slack Fund and returning backer Gradient Ventures. The round came just seven months after Mural’s series A funding, but its initial investment came all the way back in 2012 in a tiny round featuring another corporate venturing unit, Intel Capital.

Data collaboration software provider Daitaku has raised $100m in series D funding from investors including Alphabet’s CapitalG unit. The round followed a secondary investment from CapitalG in December that valued Daitaku at $1.4bn, and the company said it has maintained a unicorn valuation in the latest round. It has also now secured $246m in primary funding altogether.

Funds

This is going to be a quick one today: other than the American Family Ventures fundraiser we’ve already covered, it’s been a slow week for funds.

Exits

Things are really beginning to heat up as we pass through the summer lull to the traditional autumn rush and a good deal of activity is focused on the public markets. Chinese smart electric carmaker Xpeng has floated in the US in an upsized $1.5bn initial public offering valuing it above $21bn. Alibaba and Xiaomi were among the Xpeng investors considering buying $400m of shares in the IPO, and its backers also include Foxconn, UCar and Douwan Entertainment.

The sheer scale of Ant’s forthcoming listing casts a large shadow, enough to almost make you forget what a big story it is that data analysis provider Palantir has also filed to go public. The Relx, Fujitsu and Sompo Holdings-backed company is eschewing an IPO in favour of a direct listing, following the likes of Spotify and Slack. It was valued above $20bn in 2016 but regardless of whether it’s maintained that valuation (and there are doubts about that), it will be one of the year’s biggest listings in a year set to be full of them.

Cloud data software provider Snowflake is another hugely valued tech company to file for an initial public offering, six months after closing a $479m series G round at a valuation exceeding $12bn. Salesforce Ventures was among the participants in that round but Capital One Growth Ventures got in earlier, backing its 2017 series D at a reported $500m valuation. It isn’t among Snowflake’s largest shareholders but it should be in for a bumper exit nonetheless.

Although a lot of companies are filing for IPOs, lidar technology developer Luminar has taken a different route, agreeing to a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Gores Metropoulos that will give it a Nasdaq listing and an expected valuation of $3.4bn. The deal is being boosted by $170m of financing from a syndicate including Van Tuyl Companies and Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the latter – like fellow corporates Corning and Cornes- an existing Luminar investor. Expect more of these kinds of deals, judging by the volume of SPACs entering the public markets of late.

In fact, another company to follow the SPAC route is 3D metal printer producer Desktop Metal, which will list on the New York Stock Exchange through a reverse merger with a SPAC called Trine Acquisition Corp. The combined business is set to be valued at $2.5bn, Desktop Metal having previously raised $438m from investors including Koch Industries, Alphabet, Panasonic, Techtronic Industries, Ford, Saudi Aramco, Lowe’s, BMW and Stratasys.

All these IPO and reverse merger deals have perhaps obscured the fact the M&A market seems to be doing quite well too. Fastly has agreed to buy web security application provider Signal Sciences for $200m in cash and $575m in stock, and the transaction will come after about $62m in funding. That money came from investors including O’Reilly Media’s OATV unit, which is in for a tasty exit having backed it in every round since its $2m seed funding.

Kymera Therapeutics raised almost $174m in its initial public offering on Friday, pricing its shares above their range before seeing them soar by 66% after their first day of trading. The small-molecule drug developer had previously received nearly $220m in funding from investors including corporate venturing units Amgen Ventures, Lilly Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, MRL Ventures Fund and Sanofi Ventures.

Israeli digital X-ray device developer Nano-X Imaging has also floated in the US, in a $165m IPO that scored exits for corporate investors SK Telecom, iA Financial, Foxconn and Fujifilm. The company priced its shares at the top of the range and their subsequent rise almost doubled its valuation from its last pre-IPO funding round, which closed in June this year.


“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

17 August 2020 – Impossible Foods Closes $200m Series G

The Big Ones

A lot of brick-and-mortar retailers have suffered during coronavirus lockdowns in recent months but certain parts of the e-commerce sector have done very well. That includes online sports apparel retailer Fanatics, whose business is reportedly 30% up year on year and which has raised $350m in a series E round that hiked its valuation from $4.5bn to $6.2bn. SoftBank Vision Fund led its last round in 2017, and the company’s earlier backers also include Alibaba.

Israel-based medical technology fund Alive HealthTech Fund has raised $150m, including $50m from four anchor investors including healthcare provider Carillon Clinics and health maintenance organisation (HMO) Maccabi Healthcare Service. The other two were Leumi Partners, the investment banking subsidiary of financial services firm Bank Leumi, which put up $10m, and Consensus Business Group, the investment vehicle for entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz. Maccabi Healthcare contributed through its Maccabi Fund. Alive HealthTech is concentrating on growth-stage investments in medical technology developers and intends to lead 10 to 15 rounds by 2024 sized between $10m and $30m, providing $5m to $10m for each company. The vehicle was formed by Maccabi Healthcare, care provider Assuta and Tchenguiz’s CBG Asset Management firm in partnership with chairman Ascher Shmulewitz and Michel Habib, Tchenguiz’s Israeli representative. The founding partners jointly provided $50m for the fund.

Online lending and wealth management platform Lufax may be dialling back its peer-to-peer lending services but its user base still tops 40 million, and the Ping An spinoff has reportedly confidentially filed to raise up to $3bn in a US initial public offering. Several large Chinese companies have filed for offerings in the country which has to be a testament to the heated activity in those markets given they aren’t being put off by anti-Chinese rhetoric from the government or the prospect of regulations that will make them subject to US auditing rules.

Crossover news: Vegan burger and sausage producer Impossible Foods – founded in 2011 by Patrick Brown, then a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University – has closed a $200m series G round led by Coatue Management at a reported $4bn valuation. Alphabet’s GV subsidiary invested in Impossible back in 2014, and since then it has expanded into thousands of shops and restaurants courtesy of partnerships with chains like Burger King and The Hard Rock Cafe. It also sells direct to consumers online and it will use the latest round for R&D, manufacturing, increase its retail presence and international operations. It raised $500m in a series F round in March to be able to cope with an expected impact of the pandemic, but it’s actually achieved 60-fold growth since then as consumers avoided meat (probably in no small part due to well publicised Covid outbreaks in abattoirs and meat processing plants).

Deals

HMD Global secured the licence to manufacture smartphones and feature phones under the Nokia brand in 2016 and, after raising $100m in a Foxconn-backed series A round two years later, has added $230m in funding from Google, Qualcomm and Nokia itself. HMD is expanding from hardware into mobile carrier services, and the fact Google and Qualcomm have also recently pumped significant amounts into telecommunications operator and digital services provider Jio Platform suggests 5G is going to be the fuel for some big deals.

Gong has raised $200m in a series D round featuring Salesforce Ventures at a $2.2bn valuation, increasing its overall funding to more than $330m. The company has developed an analytics software platform for customer service interactions and is one of several in that area to have raised money of late, as more and more interactions become remote. Salesforce participated as a new investor but Cisco Investments had backed Gong since its series B round – one of three it’s notched up in the past 18 months.

Funds

Myanmar conglomerate UMG formed incubator and accelerator UMG Idealab in 2015 and it generally invests $50,000 to $1m at pre-seed to series A stage. Now however, its portfolio companies are moving to later stages and it is preparing to raise $100m for a fund that will support follow-on investments. It is looking to tap external backers and is seeking a close in 2022. That would also likely be the largest fund to be raised by a Mynamar-based corporate venturer.

Exits

KE Holdings, the Chinese company that combines real estate services providers Beike and Lianjia, floated in the United States on Thursday in a $2.12bn initial public offering that values it above $26bn. Some $330m of that amount consists of existing investors buying shares, with Tencent providing $160m of the total. SoftBank Vision Fund is also a notable shareholder while Baidu and several real estate developers are among its earlier investors.

A lot of tech companies have seen their business models validated by lockdown conditions but others are more vulnerable. Kabbage uses AI technology to process loans for small businesses, but with the wider economy in trouble it may see more and more customers default. That environment makes it ripe for an acquisition and American Express is reportedly in talks to buy it for up to $850m. That’s a lower valuation than its last two rounds but not dramatically so, and it would hand exits to SoftBank, UPS, Recruit, Santander, ING and Scotiabank

One of the most recent examples of that heat is primary care network Oak Street Health, which floated late last week and which has closed its IPO at $377m after its share price more than doubled. Health system Humana, which invested $50m in the company in September 2018, now owns a stake valued in excess of $550m.

Another Chinese company, silicon and semiconductor production services provider VeriSilicon Microelectronics, is meanwhile set to float on Shanghai’s Star Exchange in a $268m offering. Xiaomi will own 5.6% of VeriSilicon’s shares when the IPO closes while Intel Capital will own a 2.1% stake. Its investors also include Samsung Ventures.

Online retail software provider BigCommerce has shown the potential in the market, having closed its initial public offering at $249m on Friday just two days after it floated. The company, which counts Softbank Capital, Telstra Ventures and American Express Ventures among its investors, saw its shares skyrocket on their first day of trading, more than tripling in price by the day’s closed. Its share price is still around that mark today, giving it a market cap of roughly $4.9bn.

Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen spinout CureVac has had an eventful few months, pulling in $640m from investors including GlaxoSmithKline last month due to the prospect its messenger RNA technology could form the basis of a Covid-19 vaccine. The Germany-based company has now gone public in the US, in an initial public offering that topped $213m. GSK’s stake is now sized at 8.4%, and CureVac’s investors also include strategic partners Eli Lilly and Genmab.

Another China-based company, Shanghai SK Automation Technology, has gone public but unlike KE Holdings it is doing so in its home country, having raised $105m in an offering on Shanghai’s Star Market. SK Automation provides intelligent manufacturing technology and its backers include SAIC Capital, a subsidiary of carmaker and SK customer SAIC, which retains a 3.4% stake post-IPO.

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc throughout the world the IPO rush seems to be carrying on unabated. Xpeng, the smart electric carmaker also known as Xiaopeng Motors, has filed for an initial public offering in the US, having raised some $2.5bn in venture funding from investors including Alibaba, UCar, Foxconn, Xiaomi and Fosun. It has set $100m for a placeholder target but expect that to rise sharply when it comes to setting terms for the offering.

Checkmate Pharmaceuticals has gone public in a $75m initial public offering, floating in the middle of its range. The immuno-oncology therapy developer had previously raised $175m in funding from investors including Novo, and at a time when companies are floating above their range in upsized offerings that’s probably a disappointing result, especially with its shares having dropped from the IPO price.


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

20 July 2020 – 5G & IoT Provider Jio Platforms Gains $4.5bn from Google

The Big Ones

Jio Platforms was spun off by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries late last year to build a mobile network tailored for 5G and the internet of things, and everyone seems to want a slice. The latest is Google, which is paying $4.5bn for a 7.7% stake in Jio, the deal coming in the wake of parent company Alphabet’s recent pledge to invest some $10bn in India over the coming years. Qualcomm Ventures and Intel Capital had supplied a total of $350m for it earlier this month – Qualcomm’s actually came only a few days before Google’s investment. Meanwhile Facebook paid $5.7bn for a 10% stake in April.

Alphabet announced that it intends to channel up to $10bn into India through a newly formed vehicle dubbed Google for India Digitization Fund. That commitment will include equity funding for domestic companies, though as yet it’s unclear whether that will be deployed through the corporate’s investment subsidiaries. One of them, CapitalG, has already invested in several Indian companies but GV is yet to establish a presence in the region.

There’s been more IPO action this past week, beginning with electric vehicle battery producer Farasis Energy, which raised approximately $486m in an offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market. It raised a reported $193m from investors including strategic partner Daimler earlier this month, and the corporate venturing arm of another carmaker, BAIC, is also among its shareholders.

On GUV, Paige, a US-based cancer pathology software spinout of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, extended its series B round to $70m with commitments from Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division and Healthcare Venture Partners. Both were returning investors from previous tranches. The initial series B close last year had also featured Brey Capital, private investor Kenan Turnacioglu and undisclosed funds. Leo Grady, chief executive of Paige, told GUV: “The past year has underscored the need for pathology to adopt a digital workflow. As hospitals and labs look for solutions, they are seeing Paige as uniquely positioned: providing an enterprise solution for digital pathology images across sites and scanners while leveraging advanced cancer detection and characterisation solutions to provide additional information to the pathologist during diagnosis.”

Deals

RobinHood has seen demand for its share trading platform skyrocket during the Covid-19 lockdown, so much so it’s delayed the app’s UK launch. It has added 3 million new accounts and has followed that by adding $320m to a series F round that now stands at $600m. The company, which is backed by Alphabet unit CapitalG and Roc Nation, secured the capital at an $8.3bn valuation and has now raised a total of nearly $1.5bn in venture funding.

UiPath, a developer of robotic process automation technology that facilitates the automation of repetitive tasks like data entry, can also be said to be a company with a lockdown-relevant product. It has pulled in $225m through a series E round featuring Tencent that boosted its valuation from $7bn in May 2019 to $10.2bn post-money. CapitalG is also among UiPath’s investors, having first backed it in a 2018 series B round.

In Japan, ride hailing platform Mobility Technologies (MoT) has agreed up to $211m in corporate funding, with the lion’s share to come from mobile network operator NTT Docomo. The round included Dentsu and Tokyo Century and it shows the benefits of pivoting when the time is right. MoT began life as a taximeter software producer but has raised money from investors also including Toyota and Kakao Mobility since it switched tack.

Another Salesforce-backed company, Auth0, is also valued at $1.9bn, following a $120m series F round led by corporate VC vehicle Salesforce Ventures. Telstra Ventures also took part in the round, as did Deutsche Telekom’s DTCP unit, and the user authentication software provider intends to leverage Deutsche Telekom’s resources as it expands internationally. It has now secured more than $330m altogether.

Qumulo, developer of a cloud-based data management system, has completed a $125m series E round led by BlackRock that took its total funding above $350m. The cash was secured at a valuation of more than $1.2bn and it comes roughly two years after a series D round featuring disk drive manufacturer Western Digital. The cash will support product development and international growth.

Funds

We already had one huge fund but there was another last week: 23 biopharmaceutical companies have provided a total of almost $1bn in capital for AMR Action Fund, a vehicle tasked with helping to combat antimicrobial resistance by investing in companies developing new antibiotics. Those backers include Pfizer, Merck & Co and Johnson & Johnson, which are each supplying $100m. AMR Action Fund is slated to begin operations in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Exits

Small molecule cancer drug developer Relay Therapeutics has bagged $400m from its initial public offering, increasing the number of shares by more than a third and floating above its range. Its shaves have also risen post-IPO, providing a success story that’s badly needed for its largest investor, SoftBank Vision Fund. Although Vision Fund’s consumer-facing investments have been somewhat patchy, its life sciences deals seem to be paying off.

Banking software provider nCino has raised $250m in a flotation that saw it float a full $7 above its range. Its shares then nearly tripled in their first day of trading yesterday to give it a valuation of more than $1.9bn. The IPO is also a success for Salesforce, which owns a 12% stake having invested $72m in nCino between 2016 and late last year.


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