FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE
SoftBank wants you to know that it thinks early-stage investing is important, too.
The Japanese conglomerate is looking to set up a global fund which focuses exclusively on early-stage startups, according to Reuters. It’s a surprising move as SoftBank’s $100 billion Saudi-backed SoftBank Vision Fund has written big checks to companies like Uber, WeWork, and DoorDash. Just on Thursday, the firm announced it would launch a $5 billion fund focused on Latin America.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has been called a “one-man bubblemaker” and criticized for creating a subset of untouchable companies, called “the super-haves.”
“I feel like over the past three years, the venture environment had bifurcated into this world of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ where there are some companies that have struggled to raise money and some companies that have been able to raise gobs of money,” Patricia Nakache, a general partner at Trinity Ventures, told me last year.
Now, it’s forming a new investment fund, run by Seoul-based SoftBank Ventures Asia, worth $500 million to get into the early financing rounds of hot startups. In October, JP Lee, the CEO of the investment vehicle, explained to Son why it’s important that he invest in early-stage startups.
Lee invoked the words of Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma: “Small guys become big guys,” and pointed to SoftBank’s most successful bet — Son’s $20 million investment in Alibaba that is now worth approximately $130 billion.
“It’s an important signal within the SoftBank Group that SoftBank thinks early-stage investments are important and will make continued efforts on them,” Lee told Reuters.
So what does this mean? Early-stage VCs just got more competition. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Vision Fund will act as a follow-on vehicle to further propel the growth of companies in the early-stage fund or whether they will be completely independent, but one thing is for sure — no one in venture capital is safe from Son’s influence anymore.
EXCLUSIVE: Ahead of an IPO later this year, boutique investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners has completed a spinoff of its asset management business, my colleague Lucinda Shen reports. Perella completed the process at the start of March, and the new business, which is now known as Perella Weinberg Partners Capital Management, will be led by Chris Bittman, who joined PWP in 2009. Read more at Fortune.
PEOPLE MOVES: Mike Ghaffary, who was a partner at Social Capital for two years, has joined Canvas Ventures as a general partner. At Canvas, Ghaffary will focus on investing in marketplaces, consumer and software companies.
• HealthJoy, a Chicago-based company online healthcare decision platform, raised $12.5 million in Series B funding. U.S. Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Epic Ventures, Chicago Ventures, and Sidekick Ventures.
• PolyAI, a London-based platform for conversational artificial intelligence, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Point72 Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Sands Capital Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners, Passion Capital and Entrepreneur First.
• StellaService, a New York-based provider of customer service performance data, ratings, and analytics, for online retailers, raised $11 million in funding. Investors include Harbert Growth Partners and Zendesk.
• Fairygodboss, a New York-based provider of services related to sharing information about employers, salaries, culture, and benefits for women, raised $10 million in Series A funding. GSV Accelerate and Signal Peak Ventures co-led the round.
• Serial Box, a New York-based premium digital reading and audio platform, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Investors include Forerunner Ventures, Boat Rocker Media and Uzabase.
• Amun, a Switzerland-based cryptocurrency startup behind the world’s first listed crypto index product, raised $4.2 million in seed funding. ETFS Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Boost VC, Hard Yaka, and four family offices.
• TartanSense, an India-based agriculture robotics startup, raised $2 million in seed funding. Investors include Omnivore, Blume Ventures, and BEENEXT.
• Knox Financial, a fintech company focused on investment property ownership, raised $1.4 million in seed funding. Investors include Eric Silverman and Bob Glorioso.
• Africa Healthcare Network, a Mauritius-based healthcare provider, raised Series A funding of an undisclosed amount. Investors include Africa Healthcare Fund and Polaris Partners.
HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Cerebral Therapeutics Inc, an Aurora, Colo.-based developer of reformulated medications, raised $7.8 million in funding, bringing its total to $11 million in Series A funding. Investors include Granite Point Capital Management LP and Vivo Capital LLC.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Anchor Partners acquired Quality Industries, a La Vergne, Tenn.-based provider of metal fabricated products and services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Greenbriar Equity Group, L.P. and First Aviation Services Inc. acquired DART Aerospace, a provider of mission equipment and aftermarket components for the helicopter and fixed-wing industries. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• TPG Capital agreed to acquire a majority stake in Goodnight Midstream, a Dallas, Texas-based midstream produced water infrastructure company, for approximately $930 million.
• Nvidia agreed to buy Mellanox Technologies (Nasdaq:MLNX) for $6.8 billion in cash. The offer price of $125 per share represents a premium of 14% to Mellanox’s Friday close.
• Levi Strauss, the San Francisco-based jeans maker, plans to raised $550 million in an IPO of 36.7 million shares priced between $14 to $16. It posted revenue of $5.8 billion in the year ending Nov. 2018 and income of $283 million. It plans to list on the NYSE as “LEVI.” Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Evercore ISI are underwriters. Read more.
• Futu Holdings, a Hong Kong-based online brokerage, raised $90 million in an IPO of 7.5 million shares priced at $12, the high end of its range. It posted revenue of $103.6 million and profit of $17.7 million in 2018. Tencent backs the firm. Goldman Sachs, UBS Investment Bank and Credit Suisse are underwriters. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “FHL.” Read more.
• Appen will acquire Figure Eight, a machine learning platform to create customized large scale training data, in an all-cash deal that sees Appen paying $175 million upfront, with an additional payment of up to $125 million based on Figure Eight’s performance this year. Figure Eight had raised approximately $58 million in venture funding from investors including M12, Trinity Ventures, Canvas Ventures, and Salesforce Ventures. Read more.
• CCMP Capital agreed to acquire BGIS, an integrated facility management services company, from Brookfield Business Partners for approximately $1 billion.
• Boeing acquired ForeFlight, a Houston-based provider of mobile and web-based aviation applications. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The sellers include Silver Lake Sumeru.
• Gen Cap America Inc sold Avanti Products, a provider of compact consumer appliances, to The Legacy Companies. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Mastercard agreed to buy Transfast. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The seller was GCP Capital Partners.
• Tailwater Capital LLC sold Petro Waste Environmental, a San Antonio, Texas-based provider of comprehensive oilfield environmental services and solid waste disposal, to WM Energy Services Holdings. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Sam Altman stepped down as president of Y Combinator.
• Kara Davey Master joined ParkerGale Capital as a principal. Previously, Master was at McCarthy Capital.
• Alex Oppenheimer joined OG Tech Partners as a managing director. Previously, Oppenheimer was at NEA and GE Ventures.
• Brandon Watson joined Kinderhook Industries as a managing director.