15 June 2020 – Zuoyebang in Talks to Raise up to $800m in Coronavirus Boost

Big Ones

Online student answer and livestreamed education provider Zuoyebang was spun off by Baidu and has since received $585m in venture funding. Like many online education platforms however, it has seen a big uptick in business during China’s coronavirus lockdown, and is in talks to raise between $600m and $800m. The round would reportedly value Zuoyebangat $6.5bn pre-money, more than doubling the valuation at which it last raised money two years ago.

Novo has agreed to acquire Corvidia, developer of a phase 2b-stage treatment for chronic kidney disease, for an initial $725m that could potentially rise to $2.1bn if every milestone is reached post-purchase. That’s a hefty chunk of change, not least since Corvidia had disclosed just $86m in funding (not including a seed investment by VC firm Sofinnova Partners). Investors set to exit it include AstraZeneca and Fresenius Medical Care.

US-based social media company Facebook has begun setting up a corporate venture capital unit, Axios reported yesterday, citing a job listing posted by the firm. The prospective employee will be head of investments at Facebook’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) subsidiary, which it formed to launch consumer-focused apps. The post has since been deleted but it stated: “In this role, you will manage a multimillion-dollar fund that invests in leading private companies alongside top venture capital firms and angel investors. You will develop investment and impact theses, lead the execution of new investments and support existing portfolio companies as needed.” The fund will be partially managed by Shabih Rizvi, who spent two years as founding partner at internet technology provider Google’s artificial intelligence fund, Gradient Ventures, before moving to a business development role at Google in April 2019. A source familiar with the plans told Axios that Facebook is pursuing investments as a method of keeping track with emerging technologies, rather than operating what they termed as a general purpose fund. It will make small investments in early-stage companies.

In crossover news, it’s an exit this time. Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a Canada-based cancer radiopharmaceuticals developer spun out of McMaster University, has filed for a $100m initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Market. The spinout’s lead asset is undergoing phase 1 studies in an injected form for advanced, refractory solid tumours. Fusion said in its prospectus it had been forced to pause further recruitment as the pandemic led to clinical trial sites to be closed. It has administered the drug to 12 patients to date, out of a planned 30. Fusion most recently secured nearly $112m in a series B round closed this month featuring Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust, a commercialisation unit backed by Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the province of Ontario, oncology technology provider Varian Medical Systems, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and others. Varian and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC had already backed a $46m series A in 2017.

Deals

Many over the years have questioned the business model of grocery delivery app Instacart but the coronavirus stay-in-place restrictions have vindicated it somewhat and it has been hiring like crazy in recent months to meet demand. It has also now raised more money, taking in $225m through a round co-led by DST Global and General Catalyst that hiked its valuation from about $7.9bn to $13.7bn. Its earlier investors include Comcast, American Express and Whole Foods, the latter since consumed by Amazon.

Although it also delivers groceries, DoorDash’s focus is on on-demand food delivery from restaurants, and it is reportedly seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in a forthcoming round set to value it at more than $15bn pre-money. Like Instacart, which faced strike action over safety precautions a few months back, Verizon-backed DoorDash has also encountered scrutiny over business practices that allegedly include taking tip money intended for staff and fees some restaurants see as exorbitant. But it doesn’t seem to have had an effect yet.

The coronavirus lockdowns have given a big shot in the arm to companies operating in the online grocery industry, be it Instacart or Tongcheng Life, a China-based spinoff of travel services provider LY.com that operates a group buying service focused on fresh produce. The company has just raised $200m in a series C round led by social video platform Joyy that included Bertelsmann Asia Investments and Legend Capital, both of which took part in its $100m series B nine months ago.

Unacademy is among the online learning platforms to have seen activity shoot up as students have to stay home, and it is reportedly seeking up to $150m in funding to cover expansion. It raised $110m from investors including Facebook as recently as February but is said to be looking to double its $510m post-money valuation for the next round. The possible investors include Tencent, which has built a stable of edtech portfolio companies in its home country of China.

The uptick in e-commerce activity also has a knock-on effect for surrounding technologies. Anti-fraud software provider NS8 has completed a $123m series A round co-led by Axa Venture Partners and will allocate the funding to international expansion and product development. That’s a big haul for a series A and it comes after a year when NS8 quadrupled the size of its team from 50 to 200.

DNAnexus, the Stanford University spinout that has built a healthcare data software platform, has meanwhile raised $100m from investors including GV and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The round boosted the total raised by DNAnexus to more than $270m, its earlier investors including Microsoft and WuXi NextCode.

Cue Health specialises in molecular testing devices for both home and professional use, and has pulled in $100m through a series C round featuring Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC. The company has now raised at least $169m altogether, and JJDC participated in the latest round having contributed to its 2018 round alongside another corporate VC unit, Dentsu Ventures.

Contract biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing services provider MabPlex has raised approximately $70.7m in series B funding from investors including Sunshine Insurance Group. The round, co-led by DT Capital Partners and Huajin Capital, comes in the wake of $59.1m in a series A round closed early last year.

Nano-X Imaging, developer of an advanced body scanner that is smaller and cheaper than established alternatives, has added $20m from SK Telecom to a series B round that now stands at $51m. The telecommunications firm had already put up $5m for the round before joining investors including Foxconn and Fujifilm in a $26m tranche in January.

Funds

Theodorus, the university venture arm of Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), has increased the size of its fourth fund to €42m ($47.3m) following commitments from pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Belgian government-owned investment firm SFPI-FPIM. CDPQ supplied $3.9m through investment fund TFAQ2019, managed by Teralys Capital, while SFPI-FPIM injected $560,000, adding to a $5m it had already provided previously. Theordous IV will invest $18m in Canada-based and another $29.3m in Belgium-based spinouts over the next five years, aiming to bridge the two countries’ ecosystems. It will provide between $563,000 and $3.4m per spinout, targeting a 20-strong portfolio.

Exits

Cancer treatment developer Legend Biotech floated just over a week ago and has already closed the offering having raised about $487m. It was spun off by Genscript Biotech, which bought a further $23m of shares in the offering which have increased in value by more than 70% since the flotation. Legend’s other investors include Lilly Asia Ventures and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC.

Conventional wisdom said just a couple of months back that pursuing an initial public offering in the wake of the massive market drops in the spring would be futile, but several life sciences companies have proven otherwise, in many cases floating at the top or above their range, and now online car retail platform Vroom has followed suit. The AutoNation-backed company has gone public in a $468m IPO, having increased the number of shares and floating above an upscaled range. The offering may well reach $538m before it formally closes.

The Vroom offering, together with that of business data provider ZoomInfo, is set to open the floodgates in the IPO markets. Even Airbnb – which has been hit harder than almost anyone in recent months – is reportedly considering moving forward with its flotation, but Lemonade is significantly ahead. The digital insurance provider, valued at $2bn+ as of April, has filed for an offering with a $100m placeholder target that will almost certainly rise. It has received about $480m in funding from investors including SoftBank, Allianz, XL Innovate and GV since being founded.

One of the larger upcoming IPOs will be Snowflake, a cloud data software provider backed by Salesforce Ventures and Capital One Ventures that has reportedly filed confidentially to go public. Snowflake has pulled in some $1.3bn in funding and was valued at $12.4bn when it last raised money, in February. To put things in perspective, the FT reports that bankers have told the company it could float at valuation between $15bn and $20bn.


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

08 June 2020 – GCV Digital Forum Roundup

GCV Digital Forum Roundup

Thank you to the team and all who have worked their socks off for the first GCV Digital Forum, and also the sponsors, speakers and attendees who have made it such a success. The platform will stay open for 30 days.

It was exciting to hear the industry on the GCV Leadership Society Advisory Board chaired by Young Sohn from Samsung this week share their perspectives on how communities can come closer together through these trials and create more diverse and inclusive investing environments – Samsung NEXT will share its playbook for this at the Forum and beyond.

The GCV Digital Forum has had 600 attendees from across the time zones, creating a unique network and sharing of insights yesterday and today.

Exits

Covid-19 does not seem to have done much to dampen investors’ spirits outside a few key areas and if anything, it’s accelerated what was beginning to become a comparatively stagnant M&A market. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Intel Capital, which has already recorded exits from portfolio companies including Nysansa, CloudGenix and Moovit this year, and which is now set to exit Spot, a developer of cloud workload management software. The reported price tag is $450m, following $52m in VC funding, which looks to me like a decent return.

Thoma Bravo to execute $100m Exostar acquisition

Fibrosis drug developer Pliant Therapeutics has become the latest life sciences company to launch a successful IPO, floating at the top of its range to raise $144m after increasing the number of shares in the offering by 50%. It also represents an immediate return for Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, which bought $10m of shares in the flotation only to see Pliant’s share price shoot up some 50% post-IPO.

Branding Engineer gets IPO plans on track

Canada-based Repare Therapeutics is the latest drug developer to file for an initial public offering, and the precision oncology-focused company is targeting $100m in a Nasdaq IPO. The filing came just days after it raised $15m in equity funding from Bristol Myers Squibb as part of a research collaboration deal, and Repare’s existing investors also include Celgene Switzerland, a participant in its 2017 series A round.

Vroom sets $319m target for IPO

China’s stock markets look set to benefit from increasingly stringent rules in the US, and one of the country’s latest companies to file for an initial public offering is Shenzhen Yanmade Technology. It provides industrial testing equipment for flexible printed circuits and its investors include Legend Capital, which was spun off by Legend Holdings. Yanmade is looking to raise up to $98.8m and it plans to float on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Star Market.

Deals

On-demand ride provider Didi Chuxing has raised more than $500m for an autonomous driving subsidiary, in a round led by SoftBank’s second Vision Fund. The spinoff is the outcome of four years of driverless vehicle research from Didi and it has approval to test the technology on roads across three Chinese cities as well as California. Vision Fund was already one of Didi’s key investors, and it took part in a $150m round for the company’s bicycle rental spinoff in April.

Varo Money is one of several digital banks to spring up in the past few years, but it intends to be the first to secure a national bank charter in the United States. It has also closed a $241m series D round featuring automotive insurance specialist Progressive that hiked its overall funding to nearly $420m. Fintech has been one of the notable growth sectors in recent years, but if digital operators can start competing head to head with traditional banks we could see that growth accelerate quite quickly.

E-commerce marketplaces have been one of the more exciting investment areas in Southeast Asia in recent years, and Vietnam’s Tiki has so far been among the market’s winners. It has reportedly raised $130m in a round led by private equity firm Northstar Group, following earlier funding from the likes of CyberAgent, JD.com, Sumitomo and VNG. The company is also said to be in line for a merger with domestic competitor Sendo that would really set it up for the future.

Xiaolinggou plugs into series A round

Microbe processor Ginkgo Bioworks has increased its overall funding to nearly $790m in a $70m funding round that included strategic partner Illumina. The round also featured General Atlantic and Viking Global Investors – both of which backed a $350m vehicle called Ferment Consortium that was formed last October to invest in companies formed and spun off by Ginkgo.

University

Athira accepts $85m series B

Oxford encodes Base Genomics

Funds

Pfizer to augment VC investments with $500m

MassMutual amasses third $100m fund

No need to tell anyone that inclusion and support for black lives is on everyone’s lips right now, not least due to the recent reams of public dedications by different companies’ social media accounts. However, SoftBank is putting actual skin in the game by forming a $100m investment vehicle called the Opportunity Growth Fund specifically to back entrepreneurs and founders of colour. Not that it’s the first corporate to launch such an initiative: Comcast Ventures’ Catalyst Fund was formed in 2011 and Intel Capital put $125m into a Diversity Fund in 2015.

India-based classified listings operator Info Edge has had some success investing off its own balance sheet, particularly with Zomato and PolicyBazaar owner ETechAces, but not it’s looking to establish a dedicated corporate venturing vehicle. Info Edge Venture Fund has a $100m target, and the corporate is putting up almost half. The rest is set to come from external LPs, in what looks to be an increasingly popular model.

Real Tech goes local with latest fund


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

16 December 2019 – Petronas Launches Piva with $250m in Capital

Funds

Petronas has officially launched Piva, a growth-stage vehicle that will target developers of energy, industrial and materials applications in North America and Europe. The fund is equipped with $250m of capital and will be overseen by Petronas Corporate Venture Capital, the larger, more generalised unit that was launched by the corporate in October.

Telkom Indonesia and KB kick off $150m fund

Plexo flexes corporate connections to close first fund

Vertex closes Master Fund at $730m

UChicago helps shape $160m Pear fund

Epidarex dials up drug discovery scheme

Fundraising for SoftBank Vision Fund’s second vehicle is ongoing, but insiders have told The Telegraph it could end up closing at a size up to 30% lower than its first fund. Vision Fund is in talks with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which contributed a joint $60bn to its first vehicle, but some public missteps, particularly in the case of WeWork, may end up giving them pause.

Exits

SoftBank Vision Fund elected to pump $9.5bn into WeWork in order to rescue the company but it’s shifting another problematic asset out completely. The fund invested $300m in petsitting platform Wag at a $650m valuation but has now agreed to sell its stake back to the company, reportedly at a loss. Wag has had some high-profile issues in the past year and the move comes after a recent resignation from its CEO and before a series of job cuts.

Rock Content draws up Scribble acquisition

Business finance automation platform Bill.com went public in a $216m initial public offering that allowed Fleetcor, Mastercard, American Express, Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, JP Morgan Chase and the Citi-owned Financial Partners Fund to exit. It’s been a successful offering too, Bill having lifted the range at the start of the week and then floating at a higher price. It had raised more than $275m in VC funding and the IPO values it at about $1.55bn.

UCommune has proven itself to be WeWork’s largest competitor in East Asia but it’s selected the US for its initial public offering. The co-working space operator, whose investors include Ant Financial, Aikang Group, Star Group and several property developers, has set a placeholder target of $100m but the final fate of the IPO may be anyone’s guess, with reports that Citigroup and Credit Suisse walked away from underwriter positions due to disagreements over valuation.

Molbase assays $70m IPO

Deals

Digital bank operator Chime has closed a $500m series E round led by tech investment firm DST Global, upping its valuation from $1.5bn to $5.8bn in just nine months. The company has raised more than $800m to date, from investors that include Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures. It will put the latest funding toward product development and staff expansion as it prepares to open an office in Chicago.

Online automotive e-commerce platform Vroom took its overall funding to $721m in a $254m series H round led by investment adviser Durable Capital Partners. The round valued Vroom, whose existing backers include car dealership owner AutoNation, at $1.5bn and the funding will support recruitment, product development and the establishment of a newly opened engineering hub.

Elsewhere in fintech, online lending platform WeLab has raised its first funding in over two years, securing $156m in a series C round featuring Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and China Construction Bank, two of five existing investors that joined undisclosed new participants in the round. WeLab filed for an IPO itself in mid-2018 but pulled it before the end of the year. It’s now preparing to launch a digital bank and is eyeing Southeast Asia for expansion.

Perfect Day is one of a number of companies exploring the plant-based food substitute space, having created a protein it claims is as tasty and nutritional as cow’s milk. It has also received $140m in series C funding at a $440m valuation, with Sinagpore’s Temasek leading the round. The company has now raised more than $200m since being founded five years ago, its earlier investors including agribusiness Continental Grain.

Genome engineering platform Inscripta has received $125m in a Paladin Capital-backed series D round that took its total funding up to about $260m. Mérieux Développement contributed to Inscripta’s last round, a $106m series C that closed in April, and the series D proceeds will go to commercialising and enhancing its Onyx Digital Genome Engineering system.

Online insurance platform Wefox Group has added $110m from investors including Samsung Catalyst Fund to a series B round that now stands at $235m. The round already included CreditEase and the latest influx of capital was secured at a $1.65bn valuation according to TechCrunch, a substantial jump from the reported $1.1bn valuation for the first tranche in March.

HomeTap is only about two years old but operates a model where users can access finance using equity in their homes. It has also just raised $100m from investors including American Family Ventures. The series B funding will support its expansion in the US, in addition to increasing headcount and work on further development of the platform.

Small molecule cancer drug developer Zentalis Pharmaceuticals has come out of stealth with $147m in funding, $85m of which was just secured in a series C round. No corporate investors were mentioned in that transaction but its investors do include Pharmaron and Alexandria Venture Investments, while Pfizer, which is collaborating with it on a phase 1/2 clinical trial that combines two drug treatments, may have gained a stake through the partnership deal.

Jasper springs to life with $35m

Paragraf amplifies series A to reach $21.3m


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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

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

Exits

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

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

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


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