Good morning, Term Sheet readers.
Another day, another media company in distress. After unsuccessfully “pivoting to video” and laying off the majority of its staff, digital news startup Mic agreed to sell itself to Bustle.
But here’s the kicker: Mic’s selling price was approximately $5 million, according to the WSJ, which is a fraction of its $100 million valuation back in April 2017. That’s not a great outcome for investors like Lightspeed Venture Partners, WPP Ventures, and others, who collectively poured nearly $60 million into the struggling publisher.
Mic publisher Cory Haik told employees in a memo: “Our business models are unsettled, and the macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest. If anyone tells you they have it figured out, a special plan to save us all, or that it’s all due to a singular fault, know that is categorically false.”
It appears there was a lot going on — the site’s traffic was plummeting, readership was declining, and the company was burning through cash, according to media reports. As Heidi Moore wrote in 2017, Mic is just another example of the cautionary tale set by publications that pivot to video. She writes, “Publishers who pivoted to video have forfeited the majority of their hard-won native audiences in only a year of churning out undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated “snackable” video. That’s no one’s idea of success.”
…On a related note: Some of you have written in to ask what the Fortune acquisition means for the company. (ICYMI, Fortune was recently sold to Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon for $150 million. More details here.) I was out of town when the deal was announced, but it appears that Jiaravanon values Fortune’s editorial independence and wants to invest in the quality, in-depth journalism that our publication is known for. All of that sounds good to me, and I’ll obviously keep you guys posted on any new developments.
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR TRUST: Digital agency Edelman released results from its Trust Barometer Special Report: Institutional Investors, which revealed insights on what drives institutional investor trust in companies. It surveyed more than 500 chief investment officers, portfolio managers, and buy-side analysts in five countries, representing firms that collectively manage over $4.5 trillion in assets.
Among the findings:
• 98% of respondents think public companies are urgently obligated to address one or more societal issues, with cybersecurity, income inequality, and workplace diversity being top priorities.
• 88% of respondents strongly agree that the current political climate is changing their firm’s investment strategy.
• 87% of respondents strongly agree their firms are more interested in taking an activist approach to investing.
• Nearly half of investors believe that the bull market will come to an end in the next year and 81% believe it will come to an end in the next two years.
• 65% of investors say that maintaining a healthy company culture and enforcing a corporate code of conduct at all levels of the company have a great deal of impact on their trust.
PEOPLE MOVES: CapitalG partner Gretchen Howard has left Alphabet’s growth investing arm to join fintech startup Robinhood as VP of Operations. The news comes days after the company hired Amazon exec Jason Warnick as its chief financial officer amid speculation it is preparing to go public.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
• Investing For Upside—Without Much Downside (by Clifton Leaf & Nicolas Rapp)
• Facebook Researched George Soros on Sheryl Sandberg’s Orders, Says Report (by David Meyer)
• Unicorns Have A Lot of Questions About Shanghai’s New Nasdaq Rival (by Lucinda Shen)
• Applying Artificial Intelligence to Real World Problems (by Clay Chandler)
Steve Cohen’s Point72 is exploring raising venture fund. Deutsche Bank’s dealmakers are worried the scandal will affect their bonuses. Marriott says 500 million Starwood guest records stolen in massive data breach. DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather fined for illegally promoting ICOs.
• Venafi, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based provider of machine identity protection, raised $100 million in funding. TCV led the round, and was joined by investors including QuestMark Partners and NextEquity Partners.
• PebblePost, a New York City and San Francisco-based direct mail firm, raised $31 million in Series C funding. Advance Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Capital One Growth Ventures, Kickstart Seed Fund, RRE, Greycroft and Tribeca Venture Partners.
• Blue J Legal, a Canada-based developer of AI software that predicts how courts resolve employment law issues, raised $7 million in Series A funding. Relay Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including LDV Partners, Mistral Venture Partners and BDC Capital.
• Myia Labs Inc., an intelligent health monitoring platform, raised $6.75 million in seed funding. Investors include BootstrapLabs, Zetta Venture Partners, the American College of Cardiology and The Boston Consulting Group.
• LoanStreet Inc, a New York-based online platform that streamlines the process of sharing, managing, and originating loans, raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. Valar Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Third Prime Capital, Rosecliff Ventures, Ride Ventures and The Gramercy Fund.
• ParaGen Technologies, a Columbus, Ohio-based parent company of four medical device companies, raised $3 million in funding. Investors include Ikove Venture Partners.
• Shogun, a San Francisco-based drag-and-drop landing page builder for e-commerce sites, raised a $2.1 million in seed funding. Investors include Initialized Capital and Y Combinator.
• RAGS, a Lehi, Utah-based fashion brand, raised $1.5 million in funding. Kickstart Seed Fund led the round.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Vista Equity Partners agreed to make a majority investment in Wrike, a San Jose, Calif.-based collaborative work management platform for high-performance teams. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Swander Pace Capital acquired Nutritional Medicinals LLC, a Centerville, Ohio-based provider of organic and whole food. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Volo City acquired Bitches Who Brunch, a Washington D.C.-based brunch media company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• SoftBank Corp, SoftBank’s wireless unit, plans to raise $21 billion in an IPO of 1.6 billion shares priced at 1,500 yen ($13.22) apiece, matching estimates of a previous filing. Nomura and Daiwa Securities Group are underwriters. It plans to list in Japan. Read more.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Sole Source Capital, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based investment firm, raised $160 million for SSC Partners I LP and SSC Partners I-A LP.
• Rose Capital, a cannabis-focused investment firm, raised $55 million for its debut fund, Rose Capital Fund I.
• Geneva Glen Capital hired Jack Kelly as an associate and promoted Greg Irons to senior associate.