14 September 2020 – Online Education Company Byju Raising $500m

The Big Ones

Online education has firmly established itself as the key sector in India’s startup space, and Byju’s has effectively confirmed that, raising an amount reported by TechCrunch to be $500m. Byju’s, which is backed by Tencent, Naspers and Times Internet, was valued at $10.8bn post-money in the round, which came in the wake of it adding an extraordinary 20 million users since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. That means the company has almost trebled its valuation inside two years.

Saudi Aramco has a market cap of some $1.8 trillion but is looking to explore diversification into other areas besides oil and gas (perhaps not surprisingly given the direction of oil prices this year). To that end, it has formed a $1bn fund called Prosperity 7 Ventures that is tasked with investing in innovative technologies like AI, 5G, robotics, blockchain and the internet of things. It will join the company’s Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures unit as well as its Wa’ed Ventures vehicle.

Illumina spinoff Grail has filed for what may be one of this year’s biggest healthtech IPOs. The cancer diagnostics technology developer has set a $100m placeholder target for the offering but has raised $1.9bn in venture funding from investors including Johnson & Johnson, WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Varian, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Bristol-Myers Squibb, McKesson, Celgene, Alphabet and Merck & Co. It was valued at a reported $3.2bn back in 2018, prior to its last round.

X-over: Recursion, a University of Utah spinout, is using digital technologies such as automation and machine learning to develop drugs for various diseases and has built up a 30-strong drug pipeline, four of which have reached the clinical trials stage. It has also secured $239m in a series D round led by a $50m investment from Leaps by Bayer. The unit’s parent company, Bayer, has also formed a strategic partnership with Recursion, which was valued at about $1.2bn post-money.

Deals

Industrial technology has not been among the winners during the coronavirus lockdown, but advanced materials producer Zymergen has nevertheless snagged $300m in a series D round led by investment manager Bailie Gifford. The company, which has developed a bio-based polyimide film called Hyaline, has now raised a total of $874m in funding, its earlier backers including SoftBank Vision Fund and Hanwha Asset Management.

A sector that hasn’t done brilliantly – for understandable reasons – is ride hailing, but that impact has been somewhat mitigated by the fact several companies in that space have seen their food delivery businesses pick up. Southeast Asia’s Grab will hypothetically see an uptick in its digital financial services arm, Grab Financial Group, and the subsidiary is reportedly in advanced talks with investors including insurers AIA and Prudential to raise $300m to $500m at a valuation of roughly $2bn. That funding would support an expansion into wealth management and the possible securing of an online banking licence.

Melio, developer of an online payment management platform for businesses, revealed today it has collected a total of $144m in funding since 2018, most recently netting $80m in a series C round last month. It hasn’t provided precise details but did say its backers include American Express Ventures. Amex’s corporate venturing unit has quietly been racking up some big exits over the last two or three years, most notably from Plaid, iZettle and Bill.com, showing that CVC investing can bag some nice returns alongside strategic interests.

AnyVision, an image and facial recognition software provider that counts Qualcomm Ventures and Robert Bosch among its backers, has pulled in $43m in funding from unnamed investors. The deal comes just over a year after its $74m series A round and roughly four months after Microsoft subsidiary M12, a participant in that round, announced it was divesting its stake due to doubts about the ethics of the use of facial recognition technology by governments.

Funds

Thursday/Friday were a heady 24 hours for corporate fund announcements (which included the Saudi Aramco vehicle we talked about earlier). And Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development has launched an $800m growth-stage fund called Woven Capital that will back Toyota AI Ventures portfolio companies as they grow, in addition to backing external venture funds. Companies backed by the early-stage vehicle that have raised big rounds of late include personal aircraft developer Joby Aviation, driver safety technology provider Nauto and electric bus producer Proterra.

Santander has had a good degree of success since launching its Santander Innoventures unit with $100m in 2014, snagging big exits from iZettle and Kabbage while accessing technology from several portfolio companies. It has now spun off the unit into an autonomously managed fund dubbed Mouro Capital and doubled its capital allocation again from $200m to $400m. It will make initial investments of about $15m at early and growth stage.

Exits

KAR Auction Services has agreed to acquire BacklotCars, the owner of an online dealer-to-dealer automotive marketplace, for $425m, enabling Renren to exit. BacklotCars had raised roughly $50m pre-acquisition. Renren has pulled back from corporate venturing almost completely since 2017, but it’s going to be interesting to see if it can pull some more big exits out of its existing portfolio.

Fabless semiconductor maker 3Peak is set to bag $339m in its IPO, on the red-hot Shanghai Star Exchange. The Huawei-backed company is simply the latest to choose the Star Exchange to go public, the market having benefited from regulations introduced by US exchanges to combat what was perceived as unsatisfactory accounting practices by Chinese companies. It will also jointly host what may be the biggest IPO ever, when Ant Financial floats later this year.

Progress has bought software deployment automation platform Chef in another nine-figure acquisition deal, paying $220m in cash for the company. Chef had received a total of $105m in funding, most recently securing $40m in a 2015 series E round that included Citi Ventures and Hewlett Packard Ventures, which passed its stake in the company on to Hewlett Packard Pathfinder.

Emphysema treatment device developer Pulmonx has filed for an $86.3m offering that would provide exits to Boston Scientific and Posco Bioventures. The former is Pulmonx’s largest investor, the owner of a stake that tops 30%.

Episerver has signed an agreement to purchase Optimizely, a web optimisation software producer that has raised roughly $200m from backers including Accenture Ventures, GV, Citi Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. The size of the deal has not been disclosed but it will consist of a mixture of cash and shares. It comes less than two months after Optimizely revealed it had cut staff numbers by about 15% in the wake of impact from Covid-19.


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

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

Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds

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

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

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

Exits

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

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

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


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