03 May 2021 – Messagebird Adds $800m to Series C Round

The Big Ones

Netherlands-based customer service software provider Messagebird has added $800m to a series C round featuring Bonnier, expanding it to $1bn. Bonnier joined Eurazeo, Tiger Global Management, BlackRock, Owl Rock, Glynn Capital, LGT Lightstone, Longbow, Mousse Partners, NewView Capital, Accel, Atomico and Y Combinator in the extension, which was made up of 70% equity financing and 30% debt. Spark Capital led the round’s $200m first close in October 2020 at a $3bn valuation, investing alongside Glynn Capital, LGT Lightstone, Longbow, Mousse Partners, Accel, Atomico, Y Combinator and New View Capital. MessageBird had raised a total of $100m prior to this round. The company revealed it has channelled $600m of the extension into acquiring SparkPost, the US-based creator of an email optimisation software platform it claims oversees some 4.5 trillion emails a year on behalf of its customers.

Main Sequence Ventures, the Australia-based venture capital firm founded by Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation (CSIRO), has secured A$250m ($194m) for its second fund from LPs including Lockheed Martin, Temasek, HostPlus, Horizons Ventures and unspecified family offices and individual investors. Main Sequence was founded in 2017 to manage CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, an investment vehicle established by CSIRO and the Australian federal government. The firm specialises in commercialising academic research and investing in spinouts. It focuses on deep tech solving one of six key objectives – feeding 10 billion people, population-scale healthcare, industrial productivity, accessing space, enabling next-generation computing and decarbonisation. Decarbonisation technologies is an added focus with Fund II and partner Martin Duursma will lead on this effort. I previously interviewed another partner of Main Sequence, Mike Zimmerman, late last year and I highly recommend you seek out our other podcast, Talking Tech Transfer, on your favourite app or on GlobalUniversityVenturing.com to listen to that episode (and all the others, we have close to 30 interviews with thought leaders in university innovation from all over the world, including our most recent with Sara Wallin, the CEO of Chalmers Ventures, the number one-ranked incubator in the Nordics).

UiPath, the robotic process automation software producer that counts Alphabet and Tencent as investors, closed its initial public offering at almost $1.54bn just over a week ago (April 23). The company issued 9.4 million shares priced at $56 each, above the $52 to $54 range for the offering, while investors including CapitalG sold nearly 14.5 million more shares. The extra stock bumped the number issued by UiPath to 13 million and the move came after UiPath’s shares rose significantly post-IPO. They are, as of the time of recording on Friday afternoon UK time, trading at $73.50 on the New York Stock Exchange.

And more interesting crossover news this week in the form of an exit: Vaccitech, a UK-based vaccine developer spun out of University of Oxford, priced its shares at $17 to raise more than $110m in its debut on the Nasdaq Global Market. Founded in 2016, Vaccitech initially aimed to develop a universal flu vaccine but the technology’s arguably most fundamental impact to date has been the creation of the covid-19 vaccine now deployed by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. Vaccitech’s pipeline now features assets targeting chronic hepatitis B infection, HPV, prostate cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, shingles and Mers. OSI is the largest shareholder ahead of the offering, with a 29.5% stake, which will be diluted to 23.9%. GV will come out with 5%, Tencent (4.2%) and Gilead Science is also a shareholder but held less than 5% ahead of the offering.

Deals

Eutelsat Communications has agreed to invest $550m in UK-based satellite internet technology developer One Web, in return for a stake sized at about 24%. OneWeb is building a 648-satellite constellation intended to provide broadband coverage to remote areas from low orbit. The initial system is expected to be operational by the end of this year and Eutelsat’s capital will take it most of the way towards its funding goal. The company had raised a total of $3.4bn from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Bharti Enterprises and Hughes Network Systems before filing for bankruptcy in March 2020. Bharti subsequently joined the UK government to buy OneWeb’s assets for $1bn in July the same year. SoftBank paid $350m for a 30% stake in the resurrected company in January 2021 while Hughes invested $50m.

US-based blockchain infrastructure technology developer Paxos has received $300m in a series D round featuring PayPal Ventures. Venture capital firm Oak HC/FT led the round, which included Declaration Partners, Mithril Capital, Senator Investment Group, Liberty City Ventures and WestCap. The company has secured more than $535m since it was founded in 2012 and the round valued it at $2.4bn post-money.

Two entities owned by Tencent have provided $225m for India-based social network operator ShareChat as part of its $502m series E round. The round was led by Tiger Global Management earlier this month and also featured venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners as well as Snap, the owner of messaging app Snapchat. Tencent provided almost half the capital in the form of convertible debt, from Netherlands-registered vehicles Zennis Capital and Hlodyn. Should the debt be converted into equity, they would own a 19.7% stake in ShareChat. Tencent would be unable to invest in the company directly due to strict rules governing the acquisition of stakes in Indian companies by Chinese entities. The same rules have allowed ShareChat to grow without competing against companies such as the China-based TikTok.

Rocket Lawyer, a US-based digital legal services provider backed by Alphabet, Relx and Editions Lefebvre Sarrut, has received $223m in financing. The round was led by Vista Credit Partners, a subsidiary of investment firm Vista Equity Partners, but it has not revealed the identity of the other participants. The company’s last funding came in 2016 when legal publisher Editions Lefebvre Sarrut invested an undisclosed amount as part of a joint venture to launch a Rocket Lawyer Europe entity.

US-based cybersecurity software provider Sysdig has secured $188m in a series F round featuring Siemens’s Next47. Founded in 2013, Sysdig provides a software tool that helps cloud operators run their services securely, preventing and responding to threats and vulnerabilities in a timely manner. The series F was raised at a $1.19bn valuation and lifted the company’s total funding to $394m.

India-headquartered home services marketplace Urban Company has raised $188m in a series F round led by Prosus at a $2bn valuation. The round was filled out by DF International – possibly a vehicle for Dragoneer Investment Group – and Wellington Management, lifting the company’s overall funding to more than $370m.

US-based gas management technology provider Crusoe Energy Systems has completed a $128m series B round featuring Exor, Coinbase Ventures and DRW Venture Capital. The equity funding was raised alongside a $40m project financing facility from growth financing provider Upper90.

US-based cancer therapy developer Boundless Bio completed a $105m series B round that included Alexandria Venture Investments. Boundless is working on a pipeline of precision cancer drugs designed to target the extrachromosomal DNA of aggressive cancers. The latest round follows a $46.4m series A in September 2019 that was also backed by Alexandria Venture Investments.

BigID, a US-based data protection software developer backed by Comcast, Salesforce and SAP, has added $30m from private equity firm Advent International to a series D round now standing at $100m. The deal came after the company secured $70m in a first tranche co-led by Salesforce Ventures and Tiger Global Management in December 2020. Glynn Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Scale Venture Partners and Boldstart Ventures also took part in the first close. The extension increased BigID’s funding to over $246m and valued it at $1.3bn.

Funds

China-based IoT technology producer Tuya has formed a $400m strategic investment fund with Hillhouse Capital. Tuya’s platform enables businesses to access hardware development tools, cloud services and smart business development software in order to build their connected services. The company floated in the US last month in a $915m initial public offering in which affiliates of Hillhouse Capital had expressed interest in buying $100m of shares.

Exits

JD Logistics, the logistics services subsidiary of China-headquartered e-commerce firm JD.com, received approval for an initial public offering expected to net it between $3bn and $4bn, according to people familiar with the matter. A source told DealStreetAsia in February this year JD.com would seek a $40bn valuation for the IPO. Launched in 2017, JD Logistics provides delivery and warehousing services to online merchants, the latter through a network of about 900 warehouses across China. It is also looking to automate part of its offering through the use of driverless delivery vehicles. JD.com owns 79.1% of the spinoff and shareholders also include Tencent and China Life.

Tata Group has secured regulatory approval to acquire a majority stake in India-based online grocer BigBasket, with e-commerce group Alibaba set to exit. The deal was agreed in February and is set to be conducted by the corporate’s Tata Digital subsidiary, which will pay a reported $1.2bn for a 64.3% stake in BigBasket, valuing it at nearly $1.87bn. Tata Digital will make a primary investment of $200m to $250m with the rest to come through secondary share sales which will likely involve Alibaba divesting a 29.6% stake – for roughly $550m – and investment firm Artis a 16.5% stake.

India-based food delivery service Zomato has filed for an Rs 82.5bn ($1.1bn) initial public offering, with Info Edge set to sell $100m of shares. The company is planning a dual offering on the National Stock Exchange of India and the BSE and is considering raising a further $200m through a private placement prior to the IPO. Zomato generated $186m in income in the last nine months of 2020, making a loss of $92.7m. The offering will come in the wake of roughly $1.45bn of funding, the most recent of which involved Zomato raising $250m in February this year at a $5.4bn valuation.


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

01 March 2021 – Could the Sleeping Giant of Corporate Venturing – India – Finally Be Waking Up?

The Big Ones

1

Bonny Simi, pilot and founder of US airline JetBlue’s corporate venturing unit, read the runes correctly in December when she left to join portfolio company Joby Aviation as head of air operations and people.

This week, Joby, which is in prototype phase of developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger aircraft, has agreed a $6.6bn reverse acquisition with New York-listed special purpose acquisition vehicle Reinvent Technology Partners.

Simi, who remains an adviser to JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV), said: “The regional transportation ecosystem is ripe for disruption, and startups like Joby Aviation will revolutionize how people move across urban areas. Joby’s vehicle platform will be the standard to beat. Nearly four years ago, we saw that Joby already was the emerging leader in the eVTOL space, and [the developments with Reinvent] validate our early investment.”

Simi had uncovered the Joby soon after setting up JTV in 2016 – it was the GCV award winner as new entrant of the year – through her network in Silicon Valley (she studied under legendary finance professor Ilya Strebulaev at Stanford) and was a big proponent on the power of eVTOL to disrupt airlines even a few years ago.

Joby is expected to operate for commercial use in the US beginning in 2024 after becoming the first company to receive an eVTOL certification basis plan with the Federal Aviation Administration and receiving the US Air Force’s first ever airworthiness approval for an eVTOL aircraft. The piloted, four-passenger aircraft is faster than existing rotorcraft, flies 150 miles on a single charge, and will be 100 times quieter than existing rotorcraft or small planes during takeoff and landing, JetBlue said.

Raj Singh, managing director of investments at JTV and co-winner of the GCV Powerlist award with Simi in September, said: “As with all of our investments, JetBlue Technology Ventures’ goal is to better position JetBlue with startup-led innovation that could radically change the travel industry. Travelers today are more conscious of their carbon footprint than ever before, so the reduction of pollution that comes with electrification is highly appealing.”

The deal is also noteworthy for bringing together the digital with physical ways of connecting people.

Long- and short-haul travel is being disrupted through the covid-19 disease, accelerating shifts to cheaper or more sustainable modes and reflecting changing communication and work patterns caused by technology more broadly.

Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus, the two directors of Reinvent alongside Michael Thompson as CEO, were among the first three investors in social network Facebook and early investors in Twitter and Airbnb. As Pincus was in the early phases of founding gaming group Zynga in 2007, Hoffman was among his earliest investors having earlier set up business network LinkedIn.

Pincus and Hoffman acquired the six degrees patent that enabled the social media and network effects model to flourish based on Metcalfe’s law, which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2).

These network effects, as well as undermining the need to travel so frequently given online ties, also are starting to disrupt finance.

Pincus and Thompson began investing together in 2017 after the latter reportedly returned investors’ money from BHR Capital, a successor to hedge fund Bay Harbour Management, according to Hedge Fund Alert at the time.

Alongside Hoffman, they established Reinvent Capital in 2018 with an eye to tapping into the late-stage venture deals being agreed.

In its regulatory filing for the Reinvent Spac, they said: “A substantial market opportunity exists for a potential business combination in the private technology sector. As of August 2020, per PitchBook Data, there were 417 private technology companies valued over $1bn globally, accounting for over $1.65 trillion of cumulative valuation, up from 18 private technology companies valued over $1bn in 2010.

“More than half of these companies are headquartered within the US, and most are focused on our key investment sectors, including consumer internet, games, marketplaces, ecommerce, and other technology subsectors.

“While the quantity and scale of private technology companies have grown, the number of technology initial public offerings (IPOs) has remained constant at approximately 40 technology companies per year. Per studies from Jay Ritter, the average age of a technology company going public has increased from four years in the first dot-com boom to 11 years in the last decade.

“Based on Dealogic data, the average market capitalisation of technology company IPOs has increased from approximately $400m to approximately $2.8bn in this time. We believe this disconnect between the quantity of scaled technology companies and the number of those companies that actually go public each year h
as created an attractive backlog of potential targets for our blank-check company.”

It is an opportunity set to make the three even richer as the initial shareholders in Reinvent collectively own 20% of the Spac. In the S-1 regulatory filing: “In August 2020, our sponsor paid an aggregate of $25,000 to cover for certain expenses on behalf of us in exchange for issuance of 14,375,000 Class B ordinary shares, par value $0.0001 per share, or approximately $0.002 per share.”

The deal with Joby now prices each share at $10 each, according to the 8-K filing this week.

Whether in business, finance or life, the power of relationships and networks holds true.

But if things are bubbling away for many startups but even more so for the big, listed tech companies.

The K-shaped covid economy, where some companies and individuals do well even if the majority struggle, is evidenced in a number of ways.

In his latest blog post, Ray Dalio, co-chief investment officer and co-chairman of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, states about 5% of the top 1,000 companies in the US are in a bubble, according to his analysis and classification. This works out at about 3% of the S&P 500 index, and these relative handful of companies have seen stellar share price increases of about 350% on average over the past year or so (chart below from Dalio).

Naturally, this sort of bifurcated market attracts investors to find the next big thing, and speed is of the essence. This creates the demand for faster flotations, particularly if they can include egregious remuneration for insiders bringing these deals to market – otherwise known as special purpose acquisition companies (Spacs).

Matt Taibbi and Eric Salzman recently added Spacs to their Financial Devil’s Dictionary in their podcast.

As they note: “America still leads the world in one thing: inflating speculative bubbles using gibberish finance acronyms. Meet the latest ‘Get-Super-Rich-Quick’ scheme, the Special Purpose Acquisition Company.”

The temptation to leap on these Spacs is certainly high. As the Economist notes in its latest issue: “Last year in America, underpricing led to $30bn of unrealised gains for newly public companies (and their employees). With Spacs and direct listings, another route to going public, there is no pressure for a price to pop.”

In its earlier article, the Economist quoted academics Michael Klausner and Emily Ruan of Stanford University and Michael Ohlrogge of New York University, who looked at blank-cheque firms that made acquisitions between January 2019 and June 2020. They found that while companies that went public through the Spac route fell in value by an average of 3% after three months, 12% after six months and by a third after 12 months, about half the sample were “high-quality” – defined as those run by former Fortune 500 bosses or set up by large private equity firms – and these performed much better.

Whether quality will remain high is unclear. As Taibbi and Salzman said: “In 2021 already, 160 Spacs have raised over $50bn, nearly matching last year’s record of $83.4bn.”

Given Spacs tend to raise more cash once they find an acquisition target (about five times that in the initially listed pot, the Economist reckons) this could bring $600bn of deals in the next one to two years, which is about double the entire global VC market, based on Pitchbook’s data for 2020 deal values.

A bit more speed and a chance to replace venture capital or private equity in some businesses makes it a development that could outlast these bubble conditions. If not, it will return to the dusty archives already storing investment trusts, payment-in-kind notes and collateralised debt obligations used in prior bubble eras to soak up excess liquidity and irrational exuberance.

2

Could India as the sleeping giant of corporate venturing finally be waking up?

Economic Times of India’s (ET) scoop that conglomerate Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms is finalising a potential $200m commitment to domestic venture capital fund Kalaari Capital could be the signal for a wider local commitment and corporate venturing efforts.
The Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate has reportedly closed a $100m first commitment, with an additional commitment of $100m planned for later as part the group’s plans to deepen its footprint in India’s tech scene, ET said.

Kalaari’s portfolio companies, such as furniture retailer Urban Ladder and lingerie retailer Zivame, were acquired by units of Reliance Industries, ET said, with a source adding: “Reliance’s investment in Kalaari will give the company an early line of sight into startups and upcoming sectors.

“RIL won’t necessarily acquire all the companies in which Kalaari invests, but it will certainly act as a discovery pipeline.”

In November, Reliance committed $50m to Breakthrough Energy Ventures primarily for international deals.

It is a scale-up from earlier commitments. In 2018, for example, a Reliance Industries subsidiary contributed to Indian venture firm 3one4 Capital $39.3m Fund II.

But there have been false dawns before. Back in 2016, Ambani said Reliance Industries would set up a Rs 50bn ($750m) corporate venturing fund to invest in digital technology developers.

At the time Ambani said: “We also have plans to partner with thousands of Indian entrepreneurs, whose digital ventures can bloom in the ground that Jio is preparing.”
Back in 2010, its Reliance Capital aimed for $500m fund and it made investments through two subsidiaries, Network18 and GenNext Ventures.

The difference potentially now is Reliance has itself raised tens of billions of dollars in the past year to fund Jio and transform itself from primarily an energy-focused conglomerate to a telecom and tech one.

In an emailed response to ET, a Reliance spokesperson said, “Reliance remains committed to supporting the build-up of a thriving startup ecosystem in India, particularly in digital enablement space, and will continue to explore various avenues to do so.”

Reliance’s commitment could also come at an important time for India’s ecosystem more widely.

Martin Haemmig, adjunct professor at Cetim, in his keynote at the GCV Digital Forum in January, noted GCV Analytics data showed about a 20% drop in both domestic-only and foreign-only CVC investment last year in India.

This is different both from other Asia-Pacific countries and US/Europe. Gateway House’s report last year uncovered the importance of China to India corporate venture capital (CVC) deal activity. This was affected in the past year especially with the so-called techlash by politicians limiting Chinese tech companies in India.

That local CVCs reduced activity is unclear but would be a warning signal. You might expect a reduction in foreign-only deals in favour of hybrid deals as local CVCs become more active – this is generally seen as an important source of FDI (foreign-direct investment) and to help local entrepreneurs scale up globally.

That India has dropped from a relatively low base vis a vis China that has many more large deals would be concerning. The first generation of CVC champions in China – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent – encouraged their portfolio companies, such as Didi Chuxing and Meituan Dianping, to scale up and start CVC quickly.

The tech incumbents in India, including Tata, Infosys and Reliance, have perhaps looked more internationally and to dominate local markets without local CVC in the main.
That Reliance is now supporting third-party VCs and acquiring portfolio companies will create a more dynamic ecosystem for startups alongside its own corporate venturing backers, such as search engine Google, giving it greater global heft.

3

There is a new breed of solutions for global challenges.

It is, therefore, exciting to see Victoria Slivkoff, global head of innovation and entrepreneurship at University of California (UC) System, has become executive managing director of the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC).

Slivkoff joined Barrett Parkman, co-managing director, to develop the Tech for Good startups awards initiative co-founded by Young Sohn and Bill Tai in which Global Corporate Venturing is a partner.

While at UC, Slivkoff had run its entrepreneurs competition with the winners going forward to the XTC final on 15 July.

This year, the UC winners announced at the GCV Digital Forum on January 27 included the champion in the XTC Social Impact contest – Curies, which provides a system for enrolling patients in clinical trials, with a focus on minority groups that have historically been underrepresented, trash-to-cash recycling service Takachar and Sophie’s Bionutrients, a producer of sustainable food proteins using fermented feedstock that is headquartered in Singapore.

Takachar was selected for the early-stage track, while Sophie’s Bionutrients was best among the growth-stage businesses.

This year’s XTC awards are expected to see more than 2,500 applications by the deadline on April 25, with 80 companies selected for the finals on June 4 and then winners on July 15.

Funds

Chevron Technology Ventures has committed $300m to Future Energy Fund II, a newly formed vehicle that will invest in developers of technology that can reduce carbon emissions. It is a successor to the $100m Future Energy Fund launched by Chevron in 2018 that has since backed 10 companies, and is the eighth fund to be formed by the Chevron subsidiary since it was established in 1999.

Exits

Direct listings remain a relatively unpopular way to go public, but the recent issues in securing an accurate valuation at IPO stage may lead to more VC-backed companies taking that option. Cryptocurrency trading platform developer CoinBase is choosing the direct listing route, though a factor in that may be that it just generated a $322m profit over the course of 2020. Its shares are reportedly trading on private markets at a $100bn valuation – more than 200 times that at which BBVA, New York Stock Exchange, USAA and Docomo Capital invested in the company back in 2015.

Electric luxury sedan developer Lucid Motors has agreed a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Churchill Capital Corp IV at a combined equity value of nearly $11.8bn. The transaction will be boosted by a $2.5bn private investment in public equity financing, the largest PIPE investment ever for a SPAC deal. Lucid’s investors include Mitsui and it is gearing up to release its first vehicle later this year.

ReNew Power, the India-based renewable energy provider backed by Chubu Electric Power and Tokyo Electric Power, has set its sights on Nasdaq and will undertake a reverse merger with RMG Acquisition Corporation II to collect up $1.2bn in gross proceeds. ReNew’s post-money valuation is set to be $8bn and it has lined up an even bigger PIPE than Joby – a total of $855m. Of note here is that private investor Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital, is throwing his weight behind the investment. Notable why? Well…

Palihapitiya is a busy man. He has also backed a $165m PIPE for Berkshire Grey, the US-based robotic fulfilment systems developer backed by telecommunications group SoftBank, which has agreed to a reverse merger with Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp. Berkshire Grey is looking at $507m in gross proceeds overall and a valuation of $2.7bn when the transaction completes in the second quarter. It has been a relatively quick exit for SoftBank, the telecoms giant having only led a $263m series B for Berkshire Grey in January 2020.

Markforged devises reverse merger plan

Xos carries itself to reverse merger

Advanced battery developer Enovix has agreed a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company Rodgers Silicon Valley Acquisition Corp at an implied pro forma enterprise valuation of $1.13bn. Enovix had previously raised over $200m from investors including Intel Capital, Cypress Semiconductor and Qualcomm Ventures, and it comes after big rounds for fellow energy storage technology providers Sila Nanotechnologies, Powin and Highview Power in the past month.

Fintech has been among the largest growth areas in venture-stage tech over the past year but Marqeta, the operator of a payment card issuing platform, occupies its own specialised part of the sector. It has reportedly confidentially filed to go public, and is targeting a $10bn valuation. That’s more than double the $4.3bn valuation at which Marqeta last raised money, in April, and more than five times that at which it secured $260m from investors including CreditEase, Visa and CommerzVentures in mid-2019.

Smart projector manufacturer Xgimi has filed for a $185m initial public offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s tech-focused Star Market that would provide exits for Baidu Ventures, Mango Media and Zhongnan Red Cultural Group. The company has raised at least $177m pre-IPO, and Baidu is currently its second largest shareholder, after founder, chairman and CEO Bo Zhong.

WingArc1st to fly to public markets

Deals

Qingju, the bicycle rental service spun off by on-demand ride provider Didi Chuxing in 2018, is reportedly set to announce $600m in series B funding from unnamed investors together with $400m in debt financing. Its parent company had pumped in $850m last year together with $150m from SoftBank and Legend Capital, and the new funding will support the expansion of its motorised bike offering.

SVolt Energy was formed by China-based automotive manufacturer Great Wall Motor in 2012 and spun off six years later, and now it has raised $541m in a series A round co-led by Bank of China Group Investment and CMG-SDIC Fund Management. No word on a valuation for the round, but the latter had previously invested at a $1.15bn valuation in April, and SVolt is now pushing ahead with its series B fundraising.

Plume Design, a developer of technology that helps increase the speed and security of home wifi, has pulled in $270m for its own series E round, at a valuation of $1.35bn. The capital was supplied by growth equity firm Insight Partners and brought Plume’s overall funding to $397m. Its earlier investors include Liberty Global, Charter Communications, Service Electric Cablevision, Shaw Communications, Belkin, Qualcomm, Comcast Cable, Samsung, Sumitomo and Foxconn.

Reddit revealed earlier this month it had raised $250m in series E funding at a $6bn valuation, and a regulatory filing yesterday revealed it has upped the round to $368m and set a $500m target for its close. The online community had been spun off in 2014 by Condé Nast – which still owns a stake – and its subsequent investors include Tencent, which put up $150m to lead its $300m series D round in 2019.

Zomato has received $250m in late-stage funding at a $5.4bn valuation, up from the $3.9bn valuation at which it last closed funding, two months ago. The food delivery and restaurant listings service has now raised about $1.45bn altogether from investors including Ant Group, Info Edge and Delivery Hero, and is reportedly preparing to launch an initial public offering set to take place later this year.

Moore Threads emerges with unicorn valuation

Clover discovers $230m in series C funding

ECarX drives through another $200m

Sales management platform developer Highspot has raised $200m in a series E roundfeaturing Bain & Company and existing investor Salesforce Ventures, probably the most successful corporate venturer in the enterprise software space. The round valued Highspot at $2.3bn and doubled its overall funding to $400m.

SPH stacks up $160m in series B

WuXi Diagnostics works out $150m series B

Pocket Outdoor packs in $150m

Vividion invites investors to $135m series C

JG Summit calls Tyme for $110m round

ScienceLogic scoops up $105m in series E

Innovaccer vacuums up $105m

Anuvia gets $103m series C allocation

Orna accumulates $100m

Infra.Market constructs $100m growth round

University

Foxtrot Market stores $42m in series B


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

11 January 2021 – Online Tutoring Platform Zuoyebang Raises $1.6bn Series E

The Big Ones

One of the big shifts in 2020 was the surge in educational technology providers, with China leading the way. That was before a flurry of large rounds in the space right before the end of the year, the biggest being a $1.6bn series E round for online tutoring platform developer Zuoyebang that included Alibaba and SoftBank Vision Fund 1. Zuoyebang’s overall funding now stands at roughly $2.9bn, some 80% of which has come in the past seven months.

Andre Maciel, former managing partner at Japan-headquartered telecommunications and internet group SoftBank’s $5bn Latin America-focused fund, has raised $50m for the first close of an independent venture capital firm. Maciel set up Volpe Capital in 2019 with SoftBank’s backing, and its first fund also has investment bank BTG Pactual as a cornerstone limited partner. Marcelo Claure, head of SoftBank LatAm, and the $5bn fund’s managing partners, Paulo Passoni and Shu Nyattta, have also invested in the fund. Volpe Capital plans to invest in up to 20 early stage companies at series A stage, with a primary focus on the Brazilian market, according to regional trade body Lavca.

SoFi has come a long way since it started as a student loan refinancing specialist, having expanded into a multi-pronged financial services platform that offers lending, investment and insurance products. The company, which has raised some $2.4bn from investors including SoftBank and Renren, has also agreed a reverse merger with a SPAC called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp V and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The deal will be boosted by $1.2bn in PIPE financing and the merged company will be valued at $8.65bn once the deal closes, double the valuation at which SoFi last raised money.

On GUV, the biggest deal was Hinge Health, a US-based digital therapeutics company backed by commercialisation firm IP Group, which closed a $300m series D round co-led by Coatue Management and Tiger Global. The round valued Hinge at $3bn. Founded in 2014, Hinge Health has built a digital healthcare platform for people living with chronic musculoskeletal conditions, such as back and joint pain. The offering consists of an app, wearable sensors and access to remote health coaching to deliver physical and behavioural health therapy. Hinge Health was co-founded by chief executive Daniel Perez, who gained a PhD in medical sciences from University of Oxford in 2013, and president Gabriel Mecklenburg, who obtained an MPhil in bioengineering from Imperial College London in 2014. But the company was only founded after both had graduated and worked together at Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable, an organisation looking to connect academia with industry since 2011.

Deals

B2B e-commerce marketplace Udaan has pulled in $280m from investors including Tencent for the second tranche of a series D round now standing at $865m. Tencent also took part in the round’s 2019 first close, as did Citi Ventures, and the extra funding came at a $3.1bn post-money valuation. Its overall funding has been increased to $1.15bn.

Online food delivery and restaurant listings platform developer Zomato has pulled in $660m through a series J round valuing it at $3.9bn post-money. Info Edge and Ant Financial, the two corporates that have historically been its two key investors, do not however appear to have participated in the round, the funding coming from Fidelity, Tiger Global Management, Luxor Capital, Kora Management, D1 Capital Partners, Baillie Gifford, Mirae Asset and Steadview Capital.

Cloud cybersecurity platform developer Lacework has closed $525m in funding from investors including Snowflake Ventures, which provided $20m, and existing backer Liberty Global Ventures. The company had previously raised less than $75m but said it increased revenue 300% in 2020, and that big jump in funding is indicative of how the ongoing public markets tech boom is having an impact further down the pyramid.

As 2020 drew to a close, game creation platform developer Roblox had put its initial public offering on hold, citing erratic post-IPO share movement of other tech companies. Now we can see what the results are. Roblox has secured $520m in a series H round featuring Warner Music Group valuing it at $29.5bn – a more than sevenfold increase on the $4bn valuation in its series G round under a year ago. The company has also revealed it’s eschewing an IPO in favour of a direct listing, which suggests it really wasn’t happy with its underwriters for the offering.

DXY, the Chinese operator of an online medical community, has completed a $500m round featuring Tencent Investment, at the end of a year when it established a real-time information service covering covid-19 that aimed to combat harmful rumours. Tencent had originally invested $70m in DXTY through a 2014 round that preceded a $100m series D round four years later.

Chinese AI chipmaker Horizon Robotics secured $150m in series C funding just last month but has already added $400m in a series C2 round co-led by lithium-ion battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology. Recent reports suggested the company was targeting a total of $700m across multiple tranches, its earlier backers including Intel Capital and SK Global subsidiaries SK China and SK Hynix.

Grab is one of two big players in Southeast Asia’s on-demand ride market, and it has also been arguably the quickest in the sector worldwide to expand into other areas. It has reportedly raised $300m for Grab Financial Group, a spinoff that encompasses a range of financial services including digital payment technology, lending, insurance and investment management. Conglomerate Hanwha is leading the round through its Hanwha Asset Management subsidiary.

Chinese AI chipmaker Enflame Technology has raised $279m in the biggest round announced so far this year. Enflame produces artificial intelligence chips for data centres and has now secured a total of over $470m since it was founded in 2018. Tencent, which participated in the $279m series C round, has backed it in all four rounds it has disclosed.

Aeva develops lidar sensor technology for use in autonomous driving systems, and two months ago it agreed a reverse merger with a SPAC called InterPrivate Acquisition Corp set to value it at about $2.1bn once the deal closed. Now the company, which is backed by Porsche and Lockheed Martin, has agreed a $200m investment by one of InterPrivate’s shareholders, technology investment firm Sylebra Capital, that will close when the other deal does. It’s an interesting symptom of the ongoing public markets boom.

Divvy is the developer of an offering that combines business expense management software with smart credit cards, helping companies track and manage their expenses and spending. It has secured $165m in a series D round featuring Hanaco and PayPal Ventures at a $1.6bn valuation. The round increased Divvy’s overall funding to $410m, $200m of which came in a 2019 series C round.

Dremio, developer of a data management platform for data lake storage, has received $135m in series D funding from backers including Cisco Investments at a $1bn valuation. The corporate also took part in Dremio’s $70m series C round 10 months ago, and the latest round boosted its total funding to $250m. We’ve had a host of big enterprise software IPOs over the past year or two, but it looks as if the next wave of unicorns in the space is emerging.

Antibody therapy developer Boan Biotech has raised $106m from investors including Bank of China’s BOCG investment vehicle at a pre-money valuation a touch over $750m. The company was founded in 2013 and acquired by Luye Pharma Group six years later, the latest round representing the first it has closed since then.

Funds

US-based sports franchises the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers have backed an impact investment fund for minority-run startups. The franchises committed to Equity League as “a new impact investment division of venture capital fund TitletownTech,” alongside software producer Microsoft.

Exits

Arvelle Therapeutics was spun off in 2019 by drug developer Axovant to commercialise an epilepsy drug licensed from pharmaceutical company SK Biopharmaceuticals. The company bagged $208m in series A and project funding last year but its investors will exit after Angelini Pharma agreed to acquire it in a deal that could hit $960m. SK Bio will also get a nice return from its 12% stake in Arvelle.


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

23 November 2020 – PingCap Stores £270m in Series D Funding

The Big Ones

Distributed database software provider PingCap has secured $270m in series D funding from backers including Bertelsmann Asia Investments that will support research and development as well as international expansion. Another corporate investor, Fosun, led PingCap’s last round, a $50m series C round two years ago. PingCap is the creator of an open-source distributed database platform called TiDB as well as a version called TiDB that has been tailored for use on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The platform’s apparently been adopted by some 1,500 clients internationally, including well-known ones such as Square and Dailymotion.

Airbnb has filed for an initial public offering with an initial target of $1bn and will be relying on the markets to ignore its 30% drop in revenue and considerable losses in 2020 in favour of a projected recovery in the tourism industry next year when coronavirus vaccines hopefully begin to be distributed. Its investors include CapitalG, the growth equity subsidiary of Alphabet formerly known as Google Capital, and its valuation stood at $26bn prior to a $1bn debt and equity round in April. But there are a few notable things about Airbnb’s filing and the fact it acknowledges that it’s been unable “to grow new offerings and tiers, such as Airbnb Experiences” could yet prove to be the canary in the coal mine – particularly as Google steps up its own travel ads and hinders Airbnb’s organic growth. There’s also a question as to whether hosts will be able to stick out ongoing and returning lockdowns: they still have to pay mortgages on the properties and without guests to cover bills, that’s somewhat of a ticking time bomb. But the biggest threat to Airbnb is the fact that its growth was slowing long before covid-related shutdowns and travel restrictions: in fact, 2019 was the third consecutive year of slowing growth. The filing warns this slowing down is expected to continue, making it a difficult sell to potential investors on the public markets.

Form Energy, a US-based grid battery spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has obtained more than $70m of series C funding from undisclosed investors, Reuters said citing CEO Mateo Jaramillio. Details are expected over the coming weeks. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is developing sulfur-based battery storage for renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar which fluctuate more than conventional power plants owing to changes in wind strength and solar radiation. Form Energy’s batteries are rumoured to discharge at slow speeds relative to their capacity but offer 150 hours of storage compared to four hours for lithium-ion grid storage products. The idea is to help replace oil and gas-based power plants that run during times of sparse customer demand to provide a minimum level of electricity, known in industry parlance as the baseload. The spinout last closed a $40m series B round in August 2019 led by Eni Next, the corporate venturing arm of energy supplier Eni, and backed by The Engine, the MIT-affiliated incubator and venture fund, in addition to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures and Macquarie Capital.

Deals

DataRobot, a provider of enterprise artificial intelligence software, has more than doubled its valuation to $2.7bn in a $270m pre-IPO round featuring new and existing investors. The company has now raised a total of about $500m from an investor base that includes Intel Capital, New York Life, Recruit Strategic Partners, Cisco and Citi Ventures, though none were specifically named in the company’s latest round.

Precision medicine developer D3 Bio has emerged from stealth with $200m from a series A round featuring WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund. The corporate was joined by Boyu Capital, Temasek, Matrix Partners China and Sequoia Capital China, and the cash will support development of the startup’s oncology and immunology product pipeline.

Online restaurant directory and food ordering service Zomato has raised $195m at a $3.6bn post-money valuation. Much of the company’s earlier funding came from online classifieds operator Info Edge, which still owns a stake above 20%. Its larger shareholders include Ant Group and Uber, while Delivery Hero is also an investor.

XAG, an agriculture-focused drone developer that is expanding into wider reaching farm management technology, has completed a $182m funding round co-led by Baidu Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund. The cash will support the bolstering of the company’s research and development, manufacturing and supply chain capabilities as its home country of China moves closer to an unmanned farm model of agriculture.

Cato Networks has entered the unicorn sphere, raising $130m from investors including Singtel Innov8 at a $1bn pre-money valuation. The networking security technology provider has now received more than $330m since 2015 and its last round – which also featured the Singtel subsidiary – was only seven months ago.

Forter, a developer of e-commerce fraud prevention software, has joined the ranks of the unicorns, having bagged $125m at a valuation topping $1.3bn. The series E round didn’t include corporate backer Salesforce Ventures but it took the company’s total funding to $225m and was co-led by venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Felix Capital.

CreditEase-backed wealth management platform developer Addepar has raised almost as much, having closed its series E round at $117m. The public markets boom for tech companies in recent months, coupled with the ongoing issues for other businesses, has meant increased demand for wealth management services. It also highlights Addepar’s selling point: enhanced data capabilities that give investors greater insights into portfolio performance.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 has also led a $100m round for MindTickle, a US-based provider of sales readiness technology that helps sales staff upgrade their skills and benefit from updated information. Qualcomm Ventures was among the other participants in the round, having backed MindTickle since its 2015 series A round. The latest funding was closed at a reported $500m valuation.

Funds

SR One is the latest corporate venturing unit to be spun off into an independent venture firm by its parent, in this case pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. With some 35 years on the clock it’s one of the oldest corporate VC arms, but GSK isn’t cutting the cord fully – it’s the largest contributor to an oversubscribed $500m fund for the rebranded SR One Capital Management, which will continue to be run by CEO Simeon George.

Exits

Roblox, the creator of a social 3D game development platform, has filed for a $1bn IPO on the New York Stock Exchange that will notch up an exit for Tencent. The corporate was among the investors in a $150m series G round in February that valued Roblox at $4bn. Press reports have suggested the company would seek a valuation of $8bn in the offering, meaning Tencent could be looking at a rapid profit on paper.

Arrival is the latest highly valued company to take the reverse merger option, agreeing a deal with Nasdaq-listed CIIG Merger Corp that will value the combined business at $5.4bn. The electric commercial vehicle developer’s existing investors, which include Hyundai, Kia and UPS, will keep their stakes while the deal will be boosted by $400m in PIPE financing.

Supcon is part of the fast-growing field of robotic process automation technology and has priced an initial public offering in its home country of China that will net it $268m in proceeds. Corporate investors Chint, Sinopec Capital, Intel, China National Nuclear’s CNNC Industry Fund Management Corporation and Lenovo are all among its investors and will jointly own about 20% of its shares post-IPO.


“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

20 April 2020 – Stripe Raises $600m in Series G Plus Audio from our Industrial Sector Webinar

The Big Ones

Digital payment processor Stripe is one of the companies that has seen demand for its product skyrocket in recent weeks as more and more commerce moves online. It has also raised another $600m from investors including GV to meet that demand, taking a series G round valuing it at $35bn pre-money to $850m. The company’s earlier backers include Visa and American Express- both of which invested at a $5bn valuation – and Sumitomo Mitsui Card Company.

There’s been no respite for SoftBank over Easter, as the telecoms giant revealed in its annual report that it expected to book a $16.8bn loss on investments from its Vision Fund in the fiscal year that just closed. That figure, which encompasses a huge loss in value for WeWork along with the disintegration of investments in the likes of OneWeb and Brandless, is staggering, and SoftBank has reportedly frozen its second Vision Fund, which was in the fundraising stage. But with most of its consumer-facing portfolio facing trouble right now, what will happen to that portfolio if those companies find their largest investor has suddenly closed their wallet?

Zomato acquired Uber Eats in a $350m all-share deal in January and now the restaurant listings and food delivery platform is reportedly in talks to buy online grocery delivery service Grofers in a similar deal that will value the latter at $750m. The transaction could hypothetically be sweetened by an investment of $100m to $200m from Grofers’ largest shareholder, SoftBank Vision Fund, though it’s unclear whether that will still stand in light of news SoftBank is freezing its second Vision Fund.

Identity verification seems to be a hot sector all of a sudden (we’ll have more in a minute for you). Onfido, which emerged out of the software incubator of University of Oxford’s tech transfer office Oxford University Innovation eight years ago, has raised $100m. The round featured M12 and Salesforce Ventures, as well as unnamed backers, and was led by TPG Growth. Onfido allows companies to biometrically verify a user’s identity by algorithmically comparing a picture of an ID document, such as a passport, with a selfie. It’s used by more than 1,500 organisations, such as digital bank Revolut. Its early backers include the Seed Fund of Oxford’s Saïd Business School Entrepreneurship Centre.

Deals

Despite suffering several outages in early March, share trading app developer Robinhood has emerged as one of the tech-based companies that have seen demand for their product intensify during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the company, whose backers include Alphabet units CapitalG and GV as well as Roc Nation’s Arrive vehicle, is reportedly closing in on $250m in funding. The round looks set to be led by existing backer Sequoia Capital, and to lift Robinhood’s valuation from $7.6bn to $8bn pre-money.

Elsewhere in the fintech world, cross-border remittance service Airwallex has closed a $160m series D round that included Tencent and corporate venturing units Salesforce Ventures and Anzi Ventures at a reported $1.8bn valuation. Airwallex is one of that rare breed of successful Australian startups that have elected to remain in their home country instead of moving to Silicon Valley, and it’s a useful example that you don’t necessarily have to move where the most action is in order to reach those high valuations.

China-based drug developer MabWorks has collected $160m in a two-tranche series C round featuring an investment vehicle for industrial park operator Beijing E-Town Biomedical Park. MabWorks has some 15 assets in clinical trials in China or the US, many of which are targeted at cancer, and is focusing on a monoclonal antibody approach.

As promised, more identity verification for you with BioBatch, which has netted $145m in a series C featuring CreditEase and American Express Ventures. Both corporates took part in BioBatch’s last round – a $30m series B two years ago – and that jump suggests demand for its behavioral biometrics technology has grown sharply during that time.

Consumer finance platform Paidy has raised another $48m from trading group and existing backer Itochu that it added on to the $143m in series D funding it closed in November, bringing the round to $191m. Itochu had contributed to that close, as did fellow corporate investors Visa and PayPal Ventures, and it has now committed a total of $91m to Paidy, which has received $281m in debt and equity financing to date.

Ninja Van has racked up $124m in series D funding over the past year, according to data sourced from DealStreetAsia. Corporates GeoPost, Grab, Carmenta and Intouch Holdings provided a total of $50m while GeoPost has supplied a further $79m in convertible note financing since September 2018. The series D reportedly valued the Southeast Asian last-mile delivery service at about $590m.

Cloud kitchen operator Rebel Foods also operates in India’s food delivery sector and has raised $50m from hedge fund manager Coatue Management. Rebel counts Gojek, Sistema and Northwest Industrial Logistics as early investors but while the Coatue deal may seem an endorsement, it’s worth noting that reports in February suggested it was going to come as part of a round sized at up to $150m, at a $1bn valuation. This is a space that could definitely see some more consolidation in the coming months.

Cerevance, a spinout of Rockefeller University, has created technology that helps it assess post-mortem brain tissue in order to develop treatments for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. It has also secured $45m in a series B round that included corporate VC units GV and Takeda Ventures. The latter had already taken part in Cerevance’s 2016 series A round but its contribution to this one came in the wake of a December 2019 research agreement between Cerevance and its parent company, pharmaceutical firm Takeda.

Funds

China-based, Southeast Asia-focused venture capital firm ATM Capital has closed a fund backed by corporates Alibaba and 58.com at about $100m, DealStreetAsia reported citing sources privy to the development. Founded in 2017, ATM Capital aims to bring Chinese expertise to bare helping Southeast Asia-based startups grow. The fund is its first and it had set a $200m target for its final close, but sources told DealStreetAsia the Covid-19 crisis had impacted fundraising activities.

Corigin Ventures, the venture capital firm sponsored by US-based real estate developer Corigin, has closed its second fund at approximately $36m. The firm targets consumer and property technology developers in the US and Canada. It invests $100,000 at pre-seed stage and provides between $500,000 and $1.25m for seed-stage deals, with additional capital reserved for follow-on investments. Corigin Ventures began raising the capital in mid-2018 and the fund had a $50m target according to securities filings. It is the first to include contributions from external limited partners, according to TechCrunch.

China-based early-stage venture firm Qiming Venture Partners has closed its seventh fund at $1.1bn with investors including Princeton University Investment Company, the manager of the institution’s $26bn endowment. The fund’s other limited partners include unnamed endowments, foundations, family offices and private pensions. Princeton’s been an investor in Qiming funds since its very first US dollar-denominated vehicle.

Exits

Verizon has agreed to acquire video conferencing software provider BlueJeans for a price reported to be below (but reportedly not that far below) $500m, in a deal that will allow Deutsche Telekom’s DTCP subsidiary to exit. BlueJeans had raised about $175m, its most recent funding coming in a 2015 series E round.


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

24 February 2020 – Imara to Raise Up To $86.3m in its IPO

The Big Ones

Grab had raised $4.8bn for its series H round as of mid-2019 but did not confirm a close for the round. Now however, the on-demand ride provider is set to raise approximately $714m from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group as part of a venture where the two will collaborate on a lending and insurance app, according to Nikkei. Amazon has been held up as a prime example of tech companies growing through diversification but it’s far from the only one.

SoftBank may be having difficulty luring external backers to its second Vision Fund but in the meantime it’s putting in its own money, $2.5bn since October according to Reuters sources, one of which said it is considering another $2.5bn while the fund carries on investing. Vision Fund is also reportedly lining up backers for a sub-$2bn hedge fund-like vehicle that will make public market investments.

Imara, a US-based developer of therapies for blood disorders, has filed to raise up to $86.3m in an initial public offering that would enable pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Lundbeck to exit. Founded in 2016, Imara is working on drug treatments for haemoglobinopathies: disorders that affect the haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen. It filed confidentially for the IPO in September 2019. It’s raised some $77m in series A and B funding, according to the filing – which is actually nearly $20m less than it had previously claimed, a discrepancy that’s rare for US companies (if a somewhat more common sight in China).

And the biggest deal on GUV was OMass Therapeutics, a UK-based drug design and development spinout of University of Oxford, which added £27.5m ($35.7m) of series A funding from investors including the university and its Oxford Sciences Innovation. Syncona led the extension with a $21.6m commitment – having also led the initial $17.9m close in 2018 with participation from OSI – to bring round’s total to $53.9m. OMass Therapeutics is working on therapies for immunological and genetic disorders.

Deals

Payment technology provider Toast has secured $400m in a series F round that bumped its valuation up from $2.7bn in April last year to $4.9bn. The round was co-led by TPG, Greenoaks Capital and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Tiger Global, and it increased the company’s overall funding to more than $900m.

Endpoint protection platform developer SentinelOne has reportedly secured $200m at a $1.1bn valuation, with Insight Partners leading the round. Growth equity firm Insight also led SentinelOne’s last round, a $120m series E in June 2019 that included Samsung Venture Investment.

Yimi Dida is one of several trucking service providers contributing to China’s thriving logistics sector, and it has pulled in $143m in series D-plus funding from undisclosed investors, just over a year after it raised $266m in a Prologis-backed series D round.

Swiggy is continuing to battle Zomato for pole position in India’s online food delivery sector, and has received $113m in a series I round led by a reported $100m investment from Prosus Ventures, the unit formerly known as Naspers Ventures. You don’t see too many series I rounds, do you?

Unacademy is one of several companies operating in India’s thriving online education sector, and has grabbed $110m in a series E round that includes a relatively rare corporate venturing investment by Facebook.

Tier Mobility has extended its series B round to more than $100m, adding about $40m in debt and equity financing to the $60m it raised from investors including Axa Germany last October.

Elsewhere in Germany another transport-focused company has expanded its latest round, airborne taxi developer Volocopter increasing its series C to $94m with funding from investors including Deutsche Bahn’s logistics subsidiary, DB Schenke, as well as Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and MS&AD Ventures.

Spruce Biosciences has nabbed $88m in a series B round that included Novo, one of two named investors in its $20m series A three years ago. The company is currently enrolling patients for a phase 2 trial for a treatment intended to reduce heavy steroid doses necessary to combat a genetic hormonal disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

Intel Capital has led a $74m round for cybersecurity software provider ZeroFox, boosting its total funding to $162m. ZeroFox has also formed a collaboration agreement with an Intel ecosystem of software vendors known as Intel AI Builders covering artificial intelligence development.

Solar energy services provider Sunseap has raised $72m from energy utility Banpy as part of a series D round that is reportedly now sized at $146m. The round’s other participants include Temasek and ABC World Asia while Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and Shell Technology Ventures are among its existing backers.

Funds

China International Capital Corporation’s CICC Capital unit has accumulated more than $229m for a biomedicine fund that follows a $1bn healthcare investment vehicle formed with AstraZeneca late last year. Corporate backers Hebei Port, Pharscin Pharma, Xiamen Fig, Fujian Sunner and Sichuan Daily Press subsidiary Xinwen Venture Capital are all among the LPs in the latest fund.

Biopharmaceutical company Walvax Technology is deploying roughly $21m for a biomedicine fund with a targeted close of about $87m that will be managed by Jinsheng Capital. Walvax is relatively new to corporate venturing but there seems to be a fair bit of activity in China right now concerning healthcare investment funds.

Exits

Mobile content discovery platform Digital Turbine has agreed to purchase US-based peer Mobile Posse in a deal reported by DC Inno to be about $66m in size, allowing telecommunications group SoftBank to exit.


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

13 January 2020 – Ant Financial Backs Zomato with $150m at a $3bn Valuation

The Big Ones

Zomato has kicked off its next funding round, expected to reach $500m, by raising $150m from existing investor Ant Financial at a $3bn valuation. The cash will help it in its ongoing battle against domestic rival Swiggy for supremacy in India’s online food ordering sector.

SoftBank Vision Fund has reportedly pulled out of a series of large-scale investments, in companies including Honor, Seismic and Creator, in recent months despite signing term sheets. The decisions appear to have taken place in the wake of WeWork’s failure to float in the autumn but could just as easily be due to a general slowdown in investments due to the second Vision Fund still not being close to its initial $100bn target.

Internet-of-things security provider Armis has agreed to a $1.1bn acquisition by Insight Partners in which Alphabet’s CapitalG unit is set to provide $100m. The France-based company had disclosed $112m in funding as of a $65m series C round last year, though none of its VC investors were corporates.

In university – and crossover – news, Soul Machines, a New Zealand-based artificial intelligence-powered avatar platform spun out of University of Auckland, has received $40m in a series B round featuring the institution’s Inventors Fund. Singaporean state-owned investment firm Temasek led the round, which also included Salesforce Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of enterprise software producer Salesforce. Daimler Financial Services, the financial and mobility services subsidiary of carmaker Daimler, was previously revealed as a backer when Soul Machines raised a first series B tranche in 2018.

Deals

Quibi has to be one of the most eagerly-awaited pre-launch startups in history, and its leaders revealed this week it will launch its 10-minutes-or-less streaming platform in April with contributors including Guillermo Del Toro, Jennifer Lopez and Liam Hemsworth.

Fitness and wellness subscription service ClassPass has meanwhile raised $285m in a series E round that lifted its valuation to the billion-dollar mark. Alphabet’s GV unit is among its investors but the latest funding came in a round co-led by L Catterton and Apax Digital with additional participation by Temasek.

Further along the line is Byju’s, reportedly now the world’s most valuable VC-backed edtech company, which has just received $200m in funding from Tiger Global Management at a valuation of about $8bn. That’s an increase in valuation of nearly 40% in just six months and has to be good news for existing backers and corporates Naspers, Tencent and Bennett Coleman & Co.

Hesai has raised $173m in series C funding, in a round it claims is the largest ever for a lidar system developer. Robert Bosch co-led the round, two years after Hesai took part in its automotive AI accelerator in China, while ON Semiconductor also contributed capital.

Zhiyun Health, developer of a chronic disease management platform, has secured a total of $144m across series C-plus and series D rounds, the investors including Samsung, SIG Asia and China Electronics Corporation affiliate OP Financial.

Business accounting software provider High Radius is now valued at more than $1bn, having raised $125m in a series B round featuring Citi Ventures and Susquehanna Growth Equity. Both took part as existing backers and the round was led by Iconiq Capital.

Sisense, the creator of a data simplification tool for app developers and business analysts, has increased its valuation to more than $1bn, securing $100m from investors including Access Industries subsidiary Claltech.

Transcenta Holdings, the biopharmaceutical company formed through the merger of HJB and MabSpace Biosciences – both backed by Lilly Asia Ventures – has also raised $100m, in a series B-plus round that included the Eli Lilly-affiliated venture firm.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has chipped into a $73m series C round for digital accounting software provider Receipt Bank. The round was led by Insight Partners, the venture firm that had invested $50m in Receipt Bank in 2017, and the cash will fund growth across Europe, North America and Australia.

ClearCover has become the latest online insurance portal to raise substantial funding, pulling in $50m through a series C round featuring Cox Enterprises and American Family Ventures, both participating as existing investors.

Funds

US-based tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has launched a $100m corporate venture capital vehicle known as Goodyear Ventures at CES. Goodyear produces a range of vehicle tires in addition to running service centres and providing synthetic rubber and chemical products.

India-based poultry product supplier IB Group has formed a $28m strategic investment fund. IB’s central business focuses on its chicken and egg supply, though it has diversified into areas such as livestock feed, pet food, solvents and hospitality.

Exits

Megvii has received regulatory approval to float in Hong Kong and reportedly expects to raise about $500m in the initial public offering. Alibaba and its Ant Financial affiliate own upwards of 29% of the image recognition software provider, which was valued at $4bn as of its last funding round in May.

One Medical has filed to go public having raised a total of $400m in primary funding from investors including Alphabet’s GV unit. The primary care provider has set a placeholder target of $100m that will almost certainly increase by the time it sets terms for the IPO.


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

14 October 2019 – Oyo in $1.5bn Series F Round

The Big Ones

Short-term accommodation platform Oyo is reportedly in the process of raising $1.5bn in series F funding at a $10bn valuation. Existing investor SoftBank is also set to take part in the round but the big news is that Oyo co-founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal plans to put up a whopping $700m of the cash. Given that the only collateral Agarwal could likely put forward to get that kind of financing is his existing stake in Oyo, that obviously raises all kinds of questions, not least with the increased scrutiny around founder behaviour right now.

The IPO market appears to be slowing down, what with We Company and Postmates both withdrawing their initial public offerings, and immuno-oncology drug developer BioNTech – a spinout of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz – hasn’t done brilliantly either. It went public in a $150m IPO that involved it floating at the bottom of its range while also cutting the number of shares. Despite that, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Sanofi – all development partners – will score exits through the offering.

Ginkgo Bioworks – itself an MIT spinout – has already spun out two companies, Joyn Bio and Motif Foodworks, which have raised decent sums of money, but now the custom microbe developer has formed a $350m vehicle specifically to fund other spinouts.

Deals

Chime is one of a string of digital banks that have sprung up in recent years and claims to be the fastest growing, increasing the number of accounts it oversees from 3 million in March to 5 million in September.

Zomato is locked in a battle with Swiggy for domination of India’s food delivery market, and just like Tencent-backed Swiggy, it has a major Chinese corporate providing cash. Ant Financial has invested more than $400m in Zomato and is reportedly in line to participate in a $600m round that would value it at up to $4bn.

Chinese tutoring platform VIPKid has confirmed it has raised money in a Tencent-led series E round, without confirming the size of that round. Recent media reports could give some clues on that front however, with $500m being put forward as an upper target and Tencent’s contribution placed around the $150m mark.

Lilium, a flying car developer spun out of Technical University of Munich, is also fundraising and is in talks with Tencent over a round that will reportedly be sized at $400m to $500m. Tencent contributed to Germany-based Lilium’s last round, a $90m series B, two years ago but the new funding will follow its unveiling of a working prototype of its vehicle in May.

Next Insurance has received $250m from Munich Re in the form of series C funding that will help the workplace insurance platform grow its business in the US. The round valued Next at more than $1bn and the deal increased Munich Re’s stake in the company to 27.5%.

It’s been a while since we last heard from Benlai, but the China-based grocery e-commerce has been busy expanding its service to hundreds of additional cities since its last round – a combined $117m series C and C+ from investors including Joyoung – in 2016.

SparkCognition has meanwhile collected $100m in a series C round backed by returning investor Boeing HorizonX and new investor Hearst Ventures, as well as 14 others (including Malcom Turnbull – yes, the former prime minister of Australia).

Arcellx is working on immune cell therapies to treat cancer, and has captured $85m in a series B round that included LG Technology Ventures and existing backers Novo, SR One and Takeda Ventures.

Funds

Petroleum supplier Petronas hasn’t been a significant venture capital investor yet but it appears to be making plans to change that. The corporate intends to pump up to $350m into a unit called Petronas Corporate Venture Capital that will fund companies developing tech in areas such as advanced materials, specialty chemicals and energy. It had already launched a $250m investment vehicle known as Piva in January.

Exits

GV made a hefty chunk of change by divesting part of its stake in Uber to a SoftBank-led consortium in late 2017 at a $48bn valuation, but CEO David Krane has disclosed that it may sell the rest once the post-IPO lock-up period expires next month.

Praktikertjänst-backed Aprea Therapeutics went public last week, picking up $85m in proceeds after pricing shares in the middle of the range at $15. It looks like the company may have underestimated the market, as shares shot up to $20.50 on the first day of trading and have continued to trade above the IPO price.

Vir Biotechnology is the latest company not to meet its IPO expectations, floating at the bottom of its range, but still raising $143m. SoftBank Vision Fund is the second largest shareholder of immunology therapy developer Vir, having pumped in at least $180m over two rounds.


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

11 February 2019 – Tencent and the Gaming Industry

Big Three

General Electric’s corporate venturing unit is launching a content portal called Flux to help companies overcome barriers to diversity and inclusiveness.

In game-industry deal-making, there’s Tencent, then there’s everyone else. As a sign of both financial muscle and the need to expand beyond core markets given the effective closing of the Chinese market to new games in 2018, Tencent was either a major shareholder in or investor in four of the top five deals last year that saw record $5.7bn invested in startups, according to Digi-Capital’s Q1 report by Tim Merrell.

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son has said he wants the corporate to eventually raise several iterations of its Vision Fund, and it may have to, considering the vehicle, which is yet to reach its initial $100bn target, has reportedly passed the halfway point in terms of capital allocated.

Deals

Chinese automotive e-commerce platform Guazi could well be the next investment target for SoftBank Vision Fund, which is reportedly in talks to invest up to $1.5bn at an $8.5bn pre-money valuation.

Autonomous driving technology developer Aurora Interactive was formed by alumni of Google, Uber and Tesla’s driverless software units, and has made a big move by raising $530m from investors including Amazon.

OakNorth, a digital bank that caters to both consumers and business customers, has meanwhile become SoftBank Vision Fund’s latest portfolio company.

Electric scooter and e-bike rental service Lime has completed a $310m series D round co-led by GV, whose parent company Alphabet also participated.

Microsoft has invested in Databricks as part of a $250m series E round that valued the big data analytics technology producer at $2.75bn, more than two years after forming a partnership to create a version of its software specifically for Microsoft’s Azure platform.

Zomato has meanwhile received $39.7m from Glade Brook Capital and added it to the $210m invested by Ant Financial in October for a funding round that now stands at about $250m, and which reports last month suggested could potentially reach $1bn.

Raisin puts $114m in its account

Emerging Markets Property Group, the online real estate listings operator whose key brand is Bayut, has raised $100m in series D funding from investors including Exor Seeds, the $100m fund formed by reinsurance company PartnerRe and its parent, Exor.

Healthcare data software provider Health Catalyst on the other hand is valued at about $1bn following a $100m series F round backed by corporate venturing vehicles UPMC Enterprises and Kaiser Permanente Ventures.

Foot Locker kicks $100m into Goat Group

Corporates help scale Himalaya with $100m

University

Spin Memory banks Abies for series B

Blue Water seeks $15m injection

Funds

Sojitz sorts out $33m joint venture fund

Partech packs $143m into African fund

Berkeley encrypts Blockchain Xcelerator

Exits

Palo Alto Networks picks Demisto for acquisition

Alector is developing immuno-neurology drugs that will target the immune system in order to fight neurodegenerative disorders, and it raised $176m when it floated today after pricing its IPO in the middle of its range.

Marinomed hits Vienna Stock Exchange

Long touted as one of the world’s most valuable VC-backed startups, Palantir reached a $20bn valuation in 2015 and reports from 2018 suggested it would seek a valuation roughly double that in a flotation expected to take place this year.

After months of speculation Slack has finally filed, albeit confidentially, to go public. The enterprise messaging platform plans to opt for a direct listing, as Spotify did last year, meaning existing investors including GV, Comcast Ventures and SoftBank Vision Fund will get the chance to divest shares despite Slack not looking to raise additional capital through a flotation. Slack was valued at just over $7.1bn as of its last funding round, in August.

TCR² Therapeutics has set the terms for an initial public offering that will net it $80m if it floats at the top of its range.


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