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

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

05 November 2018 – Game Studio Epic Games Raises $1.25bn

Deals

Game studio Epic Games has had some very notable successes including the Unreal and Gears of War series, but it’s entered the mainstream in a huge way over the past year with Fortnite, a game that passed the $1bn revenue mark in 10 months. It’s also raised $1.25bn in a round that included a strategic investment by eSports team owner Axiomatic, valuing it at almost $15bn.

Zume began as a pizza delivery service that utilised robotics technology to help prepare the food, and now it’s looking to expand that model into other parts of the food industry. To that end, SoftBank Vision Fund has reportedly paid $375m for a 20% stake in the company and is set to invest a further $375m in a deal that will value Zume at $2.25bn post-money.

Coinbase has secured $300m in a Tiger Global Management-led series E round that valued it at $8bn post-money. The company, which has built a trading platform and digital wallet for cryptocurrencies, has now raised a total of almost $520m in funding since 2012, and its existing investors include New York Stock Exchange, Docomo Capital, BBVA, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and USAA, none of which took part in the latest round.

China has played host to several smart electric vehicle producers and one of them, WM Motor, is reportedly in talks to raise some $287m in funding, with half of the cash to be put up by Baidu, sources have told Reuters (though WM itself suggested the figure would be 50% higher).

Grab, the Southeast Asian ride hailing platform that has moved into mobile services and payment technology, has received $200m from Booking Holdings, the travel and accommodation booking service formerly known as Priceline, as part of a strategic alliance.

Chinese music tutoring service Peilian has raised $150m from investors including Tencent, in a series C round that came less than a year after its series B.

Southeast Asian real estate platform PropertyGuru has raised $145m in a series D round led by KKR that boosted its overall funding to about $325m.

India-based online grocer Grofers is reportedly in talks with existing investor SoftBank over a round sized between $100m and $150m that could value it at up to $650m.

The lidar sensor industry is one that has been attracting ever increasing amounts of funding, and one of its companies, Quanergy, has just raised an undisclosed sum in a round that valued it at more than $2bn.

Galecto Biotech, a Denmark-based developer of treatments for cancer and fibrosis based on research at Lund and Edinburgh universities, closed a $90m series C round co-led by Ysios Capital and OrbiMed.

And Astroscale, a Singapore-based space debris removal technology developer, raised $50m on Wednesday in a series D round featuring property developer Mitsubishi Estate and games publisher Koei Tecmo’s Koei Tecmo Capital investment unit.

Funds

Five Japan-based financial services groups have agreed to form a fund in partnership with sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC) reported by Bloomberg to be up to $1.8bn in size.

Arch Venture Partners, the venture capital firm spun out of University of Chicago, is aiming to raise $600m for its tenth fund. The firm has not yet raised any money but if it reaches its $600m target, Fund X would be the largest flagship vehicle raised by Arch to date and bring total assets under management to $2.86bn.

Exits

StoneCo has made a big step forward for Brazilian startups, securing more than $1.22bn in an IPO that came alongside a $100m private placement by Ant Financial.

Orchard Therapeutics has raised $200m in an IPO that involved it floating at the foot of its range but upping the number of shares involved.

Medical device developer Axonics Modulation Technologies has floated in a $120m initial public offering in which it increased the number of shares and floated in the middle of its range.

Twist Bioscience has gone public in a $70m IPO that saw it float at the bottom of its range.

Video conferencing software provider Zoom is looking to float in an initial public offering in which it will seek a valuation significantly above the $1bn valuation at which it last raised cash almost two years ago.


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