Good morning, Term Sheet readers. Today’s guest column is by Fortune writer Michal Lev-Ram. (Make sure to check out her recent story on TPG’s plan to turn Cirque du Soleil into a strategically savvy business).
Happy Pi Day, everyone! This auspicious day, otherwise known as March 14, is celebrated by nerds and opportunistic pizza parlors alike, which sell their pies for $3.14. Other than that, there’s not usually much commemoration on Pi Day—except, this year, in Silicon Valley.
Later this afternoon, Bay Area techies are expected to mark the occasion by protesting President Trump and his immigration ban. What do anti-anti-immigration politics have to do with the ratio of a circumference to a diameter? Not much. But in Silicon Valley circles (pun totally intended), it’s not a bad way to market a protest. Indeed, more than 1,700 workers—including employees from Facebook, Apple, and Google—have already committed to walking off their jobs to attend a rally in downtown Palo Alto at 2 p.m. PT today. The protest is the brainchild of Brad Taylor, an engineer at website optimization startup Optimizely who started the movement out of frustration with Trump’s controversial orders.
This same frustration has come up in many of my recent conversations with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in the Valley. The issue is both personal (many of the people I spoke with are immigrants or children of immigrants) and professional, in that the health of their companies, at least in part, depends on attracting the best and brightest from all over the world.
One investor I spoke with suggested a way out-of-the-box strategy for combatting Trump: Get a billionaire to buy Twitter and shut it down, effectively cutting off the president’s main mouthpiece and ipso facto his ability to galvanize his more than 26 million Twitter followers by spreading unsubstantiated information—à la his recent claims that his predecessor wiretapped his phones.
Killing Twitter. To be clear, I’m not advocating for Twitter to be acquired so it can be shut down, and I’m not aware of any precedent for such a “deal.” (The closest example I can think of is when Peter Thiel funded a series of lawsuits against Gawker, which led to the media site’s eventual bankruptcy.) Nor am I advocating for cutting off our president’s preferred mode of communication—even if I think his tweets are often irresponsible and damaging.
Still, the Twitter-shutdown idea is a compelling thought experiment. How hard would it be to recreate the media tool? What kind of impact would its demise have on how we distribute and consume information, good or bad? And what would it take to keep it alive with some added incentives for more responsible users?
To help explore the more tangible aspects of those questions, I called up an expert: RBC Capital’s Mark Mahaney, one of the most followed tech analysts on Wall Street.
“It’s a unique media asset,” Mahaney said about the tool. “It’s a real-time news service with viral, vibrant and sometimes vitriolic commentary. If it somehow didn’t exist, there’d be a mad dash to replace it.”
With 313 million users and a market cap of just under $11 billion, Twitter is no tiny startup—a replacement wouldn’t sprout overnight. In Mahaney’s view it would take about three years to build the kind of user base Twitter has today.
But here’s another thought. What if, instead of shutting it down, said billionaire turned Twitter into a non-profit, a public utility that exists to disseminate information in a more responsible way? Such regulation and lack of economic incentives would most likely also lead to Twitter’s eventual demise, argues Mahaney. But would it, at least in the interim, be better for the world?
It’s not clear whether shutting down or regulating Twitter would lead to more civil discourse or just less of it.
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on the hypothetical scenario at hand, you know how to reach me—that’s right, on Twitter. —Michal Lev-Ram
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
• The good news about pandemic threats.
• Bill Ackman’s $3 billion mistake.
• Yahoo’s new male CEO will make twice as much as Marissa Mayer.
• Urban Outfitters has been booted from the S&P 500.
• AB InBev thinks women will love its Lime-A-Rita flavored beer.
• Venture capital’s funding gap is actually getting worse.
• Roblox, a San Mateo, Calif. developer of online games for kids, raised a $92 million in funding. Meritech Capital Partners and Index Ventures led the round.
• Skuid, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based designer of interface toolkits, raised $25 million in Series B funding. ICONIQ Capital led the round, and was joined by K1 Capital.
• iD Fresh Food, a Bengaluru, India maker of ready-to-cook dosa and idli batter, raised $25 million in Series B funding from PremjiInvest.
• Unifi Software, a San Francisco developer of a data-integration technology platform, raised $17.5 million in Series B funding. Scale Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by Canaan Partners and Pelion Partners.
• Autobooks, a Detroit financial technology company that builds cash management tools for small business owners, raised $5.5 million in Series A funding. Draper Triangle led the round, and was joined by CU Solutions Group, Baird Capital, Detroit Venture Partners, and Invest Michigan.
• Silverfin, a Ghent, Belgium-based fintech company, raised $4.5 million in a Series A funding. Index Ventures led the round, and was joined by existing investors.
• Marketing Evolution, a El Dorado Hills, Calif. provider of marketing measurement and optimization tools, raised $4 million in funding from Zetta Venture Partners.
• VentureApp, a Boston professional chat platform, raised $4 million in funding. Ryan Moore, a partner at Accomplice, led the round, and was joined by Boston Seed Capital, Fullstack Ventures, and additional angel investors.
• Thesis Couture, a Los Angeles maker of more comfortable high heels, raised additional funding from Full Tilt Capital, Edgewater Equity, and Backstage Capital, bringing its total seed funding to $1.8 million. Read more at Fortune.
• Babel Health, a Pittsburgh provider of risk adjustment software, raised $1.5 million in bridge funding.
• CarePredict, a developer of wearable sense for seniors, raised an undisclosed amount in funding from Las Olas Venture Capital.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS) agreed to sell its Australia and New Zealand businesses to Platinum Equity. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Selecta Group BV, a provider of vending and coffee services backed by KKR (NYSE:KKR), agreed to buy Pelican Rouge Group BV, a Dutch coffee producer and roaster. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• TA Associates invested in Ideal Cures Private, a Mumbai pharmaceutical manufacturer. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Luxe Minerals, an Austin, Texas company that acquires mineral and royalty interests in oil rich basins in the U.S., raised $254 million from NGP and the company’s own management team.
• Xlerate Group, a portfolio company of Huron Capital, acquired Corry Auto Dealers Exchange, a Corry, Pa. car auction site. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Privet Capital acquired Vivid Toy Group Limited, a U.K. toy company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Spectrum Equity and Cressey & Company made a “significant growth investment” in Verisys Corporation, an Alexandria, Va. provider of credentials for the health care industry. [This item has been updated to provide the correct link for Verisys Corporation]
• Okta, a San Francisco enterprise software company, filed for an IPO. The company, which last raised $75 million at a valuation north of $1 billion, plans to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol OKTA. Read more at Fortune.
• The Travelers Companies (NYSE:TRV) agreed to acquire Simply Business, a London-based insurance and financial services company, from Aquiline Capital Partners for an enterprise value of about $490 million.
• Harvest Partners agreed to acquire an equity stake in Material Handling Services, a Holland, Ohio fleet management compay, from CI Capital Partners. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• Alvarez & Marsal Capital agreed to sell Centerra Group, a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. provider of security and fire support services, to Constellis, a Reston, Va. cyber security company backed by Apollo (NYSE:APO). Terms weren’t disclosed.
• HMS Holdings agreed to buy Eliza Corporation, a Danvers, Mass. health engagement management company, from Parthenon Capital for $170 million.
• Genpact acquired Rage Frameworks, a Dedham, Ma. provider of AI for enterprise businesses. Rage Frameworks raised $15 million in venture funding from Kayne Partners.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Rokk3r Labs, a Miami-based platform for entrepreneurs, is seeking to raise $150 million for Rokk3r Fuel, a venture fund. [Correction: a previous version of this item misstated that Rokk3r had already raised the $150 million]
• Baird Capital promoted John DiGiovanni, Alex Kessel, and Tom Smith from principal to vice president. In addition, the firm promoted Michael Holgate from investment director to investment manager.
• Ben Schryber has joined The Carlyle Group (Nasdaq:CG) as a managing director, based in New York. Previously Schryber was the global head of credit at First Avenue Partners.
• Platte River Equity has promoted Derria D. Banta; in addition to chief financial officer, she will now also be a managing director.
• Simon Anderson joined Great Hill Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence. Previously, Anderson was the CEO of DreamHost.
• Kevin Kimber has joined Eight Roads Ventures as a venture partner. Previously he was a managing director at SAP.