23 March 2020 – Fox Agrees to Buy Tubi for $440m in Cash

The Big Ones

When SoftBank emerged with a $9.5bn rescue package for beleaguered workspace provider WeWork in October, $3bn of the amount had been earmarked for a tender that would have involved it buying shares from existing investors and shareholders – likely including hotel chain Jin Jiang International and Legend Capital. However, the company has sent a letter to the shareholders stating that it believes regulatory probes into the WeWork business frees it from that obligation. It’s an interesting approach, but considering SoftBank’s influence at the company even before its IPO attempt, one that may be hard to follow through with.

Speaking of everyone’s favourite corporate. SoftBank’s efforts to raise capital for a second Vision Fund have been largely unsuccessful so far, but it is reportedly seeking $10bn, including $5bn from external backers, to shore up portfolio companies in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, and maybe acquire rivals struggling with the same issues. Some of the portfolio companies set to be affected include Uber, WeWork, Didi Chuxing and Oyo, though others such as Slack, Paytm and DoorDash could find their business models strengthened by the virus and related social distancing.

Fox has agreed to buy online streaming service Tubi for $440m in cash, allowing MGM and Lionsgate to exit. Both contributed to Tubi’s $6m series A round, part of the $31m in funding it had disclosed prior to the acquisition. Fox should still have a big chunk of the Disney money it got from the 21st Century Fox purchase so it won’t be a surprise to see some more big acquisitions from it coming up soon.

In crossover news, Circle Pharma, a US-based oncology therapeutics spinout of UC San Francisco and UC Santa Cruz, has secured $45m in a series B round backed by UC Berkeley’s investment vehicle, Berkeley Catalyst Fund. Healthcare-focused venture capital fund Column Group led the round, which also included pharmaceutical firm ShangPharma, Nextech Invest and LifeForce Capital. Circle began operations when pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and Mission Bay Capital supplied an undisclosed amount of seed funding in 2014. ShangPharma added an undisclosed sum to the round in mid-2016.

Deals

Despite recent reports it was set to merge with key competitor Grab, ride hailing platform Gojek has raised $1.2bn in funding, reportedly bringing its series F round to nearly $3bn. The round already included Tencent, JD.com, Google, AIA, Mitsubishi, Visa, Siam Commercial Bank and Astra International, but no word yet on the identities of the new investors.

AI and imaging technology provider SenseTime has reportedly dropped plans for a Hong Kong IPO and is instead pursuing between $500m and $1bn in new funding. Its existing investors include Alibaba, Qualcomm, Suning and Dalian Wanda, and reports last year suggested its valuation could have reached $7.5bn. In any case, it’s possible a by-product of the coronavirus could be another push back in the IPO space leading to more late-stage rounds.

Plant-based meat product supplier Impossible Foods has raised $500m in series F funding and, in a sign of things to come, told Forbes it will use the money to offset expected difficulties caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The GV-backed company has reportedly now secured about $1.25bn in funding altogether, and the latest round was led by Mirae Asset Global Investments.

Digital currency technology developer Bakkt has secured $300m as it prepares to expand its crypto wallet to a more diversified crypto services app. The series B funding came from Microsoft unit M12, Naspers subsidiary PayU, Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital and Intercontinental Exchange, the exchange operator that had spun off Bakkt in the first place.

Data streaming software provider Confluent is reportedly seeking $200m to $300m in a round that could double its valuation to $5bn. Its early investors include LinkedIn, which developed the open source Apache Kafka software on which the company relies. The funding would hypothetically be raised prior to an IPO taking place. Enterprise software has been one of the more resilient sectors of late, especially post-IPO, so that wouldn’t be a huge shock.

StackPath has secured $216m in a series B round co-led by corporates Juniper Networks and Cox Communications, following a $180m series A round revealed when it came out of stealth in 2016. Both leads took board seats at the edge computing technology developer, which plans to put the funding toward enhancing engineering and product development while commercialising its system.

Airwallex is meanwhile looking to raise $200m in a series D round set to be led by an as-yet unnamed financial services provider. The cross-border remittance service has so far secured just over $200m, with approximately half coming in a Tencent-led series C round a year ago that valued it at $1bn. The prospective round would be raised at a $1.5bn pre-money valuation.

Novo has participated in a $100m series G round for drug development software provider Tempus that valued it at $5bn post-money. The participants in the round had all previously contributed to the company’s last round, a $200m series F that closed in May 2019, the funding being raised at a $3.1bn valuation. It will use the series G proceeds to expand the range of conditions its technology serves.

Sigilon Therapeutics is developing bio-engineered cells to treat chronic illnesses without a patient’s immune system rejecting the treatment, and has completed an $80.3m series B round that lifted its overall funding to more than $195m. The round’s participants included Eli Lilly, already an equity investor as of a 2018 collaboration agreement that could potentially top $470m should all milestones be reached.

Engineered T cell therapy developer Eureka Therapeutics has bagged $45m in a series E round led by Lyell Immunopharma, which invested through a strategic partnership deal. Eureka has now raised approximately $134m altogether and will work with Lyell on solid tumour treatments, its own liver cancer candidate having entered phase 1/2 clinical trials.

Funds

Cryptocurrency exchange operator Binance has joined forces with its India-based subsidiary WazirX to launch a $50m fund that will invest in blockchain technology developers located in India. The Blockchain for India fund follows a decision by the country’s supreme court to allow financial services firms to take on blockchain companies as clients. As a result, cryptocurrency exchanges in the country are now also able to offer bank account transfers. Apart from providing funding, the vehicle will also look to incubate startups and support blockchain initiatives within universities.

Congruent Ventures, the venture capital firm anchored by University of California, is aiming to raise $125m for its second, sustainability-focused fund, according to a regulatory filing. The filing states Congruent Ventures II is still to raise capital. None of its potential limited partners have been identified. Founded in 2017, Congruent backs early-stage startups that advance sustainability objectives in areas such as urbanisation and mobility, clean energy, food and agriculture and industrial and supply chains. The first Congruent fund closed at $92m in 2018 with a $50m contribution from University of California’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer in addition to Prelude Ventures and undisclosed additional investors.

Exits

These are a different kind of exit, but Vietnam-based conglomerate Vingroup has shut down its corporate venturing unit, Vingroup Ventures. Founded in Ukraine in 1993, Vingroup moved into Vietnam in 2000 and has concentrated its activities in the country since then. Its main areas of interest include technology, manufacturing and a range of services in sectors including education, health and real estate. Vingroup established its CVC unit in late 2018 and had targeted $100m of investments across the globe according to its LinkedIn page, though it has failed to disclose a single deal in which it had participated.

DuPont Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of chemicals producer DuPont, is set to close at the end of this month, according to a person familiar with the matter. Formed by DuPont in 2003, its investments have included deals for biofuel feedstock supplier NexSteppe, taste modification molecule developer Linguagen and ethernet services provider Actelis Networks. However, the unit has been relatively quiet of late, its last disclosed investment being its participation in a $75m round for Indiana University’s drone management software spinout PrecisionHawk in early 2018. DuPont Ventures’ closure comes as part of a restructuring that will involve the company’s larger corporate innovation activities being cut as part of a cost-saving process. The firm has not revealed whether it plans to divest the existing equity stakes held by its subsidiary.


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

08 July 2019 – India-based ReNew Power Exploring IPO

The Big Ones

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

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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

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

Exits

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

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

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


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

24 June 2019 – Slack Goes Public with $19.5bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Wealth management platform Paytm Money’s only funding so far has been a $10m investment by parent company One97 Communications, but it is said to be preparing a round that could be up to $1.2bn in size that will include SoftBank and Ant Financial.

Slack finally went public on Thursday in a direct listing that so far qualifies as one of the year’s notable successes. Its shares had been allocated a $26 guidance price by the New York Stock Exchange but they finished at $38.62 on its first day of trading giving the messaging platform a valuation of about $19.5bn.

Cathay Capital’s Cathay Innovation fund has raised $358m for the first close of its second fund, whose LPs include Valeo, SEB, Michelin, ADP, Accor, BioMérieux, Dassault, JCDecaux, Kering and Pernod Ricard.

On GUV, Imcyse, a Belgium-based immunotherapy developer spun out of KU Leuven, raised €28m ($31.4m) in funding from investors including the university. Life Sciences Partners led the round, which also included Belgian state-owned investment firm SFPI-FPIM, Wallonia government investment firm SRIW, growth capital firm Epimède, family office Biogenosis and private equity firm Noshaq.

Deals

Autonomous driving technology developer Aurora Innovation has boosted its series B round to more than $600m, pulling in funding from investors including Hyundai and subsidiary Kia Motors.

SoftBank Vision Fund has led a $205m round for Collective Health, the developer of a software platform that helps businesses manage their employee health plans more efficiently.

Vision Fund is reportedly also in talks with Indian fitness and wellness services provider CureFit over an investment of $200m to $350m that would value it at more than $1bn.

Zhenkunhang, the operator of an online marketplace for industrial equipment and procurement services, has captured $160m in a series D round led by Tencent.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is set to pay $150m for an 8% stake in logistics services provider Delhivery through a secondary transaction. The company has raised nearly $670m in funding from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Fosun and Times Internet.

NTT-backed data management software producer Druva has already reached that $1bn valuation, in a $130m round led by Viking Global Investors.

Rapt Therapeutics has taken its series C round from $60m to $97m, raising the additional capital from the participants in the first tranche, which include GV.

Digital payment technology provider RazorPay is now valued at $450m, after securing $75.4m in its series C round. The India-based company has reportedly now received a total of $107m in funding and its earlier backers include Mastercard and GMO Venture Partner.

Viela Bio, an autoimmune and inflammatory disease drug developer founded by AstraZeneca, has closed a $75m series B round led by investment firm HBM Healthcare Investments that boosted its overall funding to more than $300m.

Funds

Northern Accelerator, a UK-based commercialisation grouping of four universities in northeast England, is seeking to raise £100m ($125m) for a venture fund to back spinouts and startups. Northern Accelerator will select a management partner for the new fund, dubbed North East University Investment Fund, in November 2019 following a formal tender process and Q&A presentations in London and Newcastle.

PreSeed Ventures, a venture firm owned by Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is targeting DKr350m ($52.5m) for a new fund focused on early-stage tech businesses.

Exits

Stoke Therapeutics is developing treatments for genetic diseases, and has gone public having priced its initial public offering above its range while also increasing the number of shares it is issuing.

Gene therapy developer Prevail Therapeutics has secured $125m in an IPO priced in the middle of its range. The AbbVie Ventures-backed startup had raised $129m since it was founded in 2017, and it will use the proceeds to advance treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, neuronopathic Gaucher disease and frontotemporal dementia.

Naspers subsidiary PayU has agreed to buy Iyzico, a Turkish digital payment platform that counts Beenos as an investor, for $165m.


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

11 March 2019 – SoftBank Announces $5bn Latin America SoftBank Innovation Fund

The big ones

SoftBank, SoftBank, SoftBank. It feels like that’s all we’re talking about on this podcast, and that shows no sign of stopping, as the telecoms and internet group has taken the wrapper off a $5bn vehicle dubbed SoftBank Innovation Fund which will focus on Latin American deals.

After all these years, ride hailing still looks to be the area of the VC world where the big bucks are going, and Grab has boosted its series H round to $4.5bn with a $1.46bn investment by SoftBank Vision Fund.

Lyft has become the first of the ride hailing companies to file for an IPO, setting an initial target of $100m. Rakuten is the largest investor in Lyft, valued at some $15bn last year, while Alphabet and GM also own decent-sized stakes, but the greatest attention may be paid to its finances.

Beam Therapeutics, a genetic medicine developer spun out of Harvard University, has followed up an $87m series A round in mid-2018 with a $135m series B featuring GV that will go to recruitment, technology development and the expansion of its base editing programs.

Deals

Go-Jek is meanwhile said to be valued at about $9.5bn, and has raised $100m from conglomerate Astra International as part of a round it intends to close at around $3bn.

Chinese smart electric vehicle producer WM Motor has raised $446m in a series C round led by existing investor Baidu, with which WM is also partnering in order to further develop its AI technology in a bid to bring self-driving vehicles to market in the next three years.

Vision Fund, which really is having an insanely busy month even by its own high standards, has also invested $350m to lead a $395m series F round for last-mile logistics provider Delhivery.

Mobile bank Chime has also reached unicorn status, tripling its valuation to $1.5bn with a $200m series D round led by DST Global.

Digital insurance startup Friday has received $128m in funding on, suitably enough, the Friday before last, with the majority of the cash coming from insurance holding company Baloise Group, which founded the company at the start of 2017 and which remains its majority shareholder.

Funds

SoftBank Vision Fund has been the biggest growth-stage investor of the past two years and if anything its activity is ramping up, the unit having made nine or 10-digit investments in Nuro, Chehaoduo, Flexport, DoorDash and Clutter in the past month.

Healthcare investment firm Gilde Healthcare has had a long-term partnership with Philips, which has backed several of its funds, while Johnson & Johnson has also been a corporate LP for the firm.

Contrary Capital, a university-focused venture firm with connections to dozens of US institutions, aims to raise $35m for its second vehicle from pooled investment funds, according to a regulatory filing published Wednesday.

Exits

Biogen has offered to pay $25.50 in cash per share to pay a total of approximately $800m for Nightstar Therapeutics, a spinout of University of Oxford that went public back in 2017.

Social media company YY owned almost 32% of livestreaming platform developer Bigo after leading its $272m series D round last June, and now it’s paid $1.45bn to complete the acquisition by purchasing the remainder of its shares.

Online classifieds operator 58 has revealed it sold $713m of its shares in automotive e-commerce platform Chehaoduo to an investor likely to be SoftBank Vision Fund, which invested $1.5bn in Chehaoduo last week.

China-based Ruhnn is three years old and pursuing a very ‘now’ business model, operating a network of social media influencers that can be hired for promotions or marketing, and has filed to raise up to $200m in an IPO in the US.

Data management platform developer DataStax has hired underwriters to work on its own IPO, according to Reuters, and is seeking a $1bn valuation.

Precision BioSciences, a US-based genomic medicine spinout of Duke University, has filed to raise up to $100m in an initial public offering.


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