COFFEE + CASH
Starbucks will serve you a triple venti half-sweet non-fat caramel macchiato with a side of fresh funding. The Seattle-based coffee giant is investing $100 million in a new venture fund that will be managed by Valor Equity Partners. Valor, a Chicago-based growth equity firm, has backed companies such as Tesla, SpaceX, and Bird.
The new Valor Siren Ventures Fund is seeking to raise an additional $300 million from outside investors in the coming months. It will deploy capital to food and retail-focused startups.
“We believe that innovative ideas are fuel for the future, and we continue to build on this heritage inside our company across beverage, experiential retail, and our digital flywheel,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.
Johnson, who took over as chief executive in 2017, has more than three decades of experience working at tech companies like IBM, Juniper Networks, and Microsoft. So it’s not surprising that Starbucks is dabbling in more tech & venture-related projects as of late. Although Starbucks has not commented on any specific investments it will make, allow me to read into the news far more than I probably should.
You might remember that Starbucks is working closely with Bakkt, a cryptocurrency trading company. One of Bakkt’s goals is to transform the retail payments system where merchants pay steep fees for every dollar you and I pay at the checkout counter.
In January, Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler told Fortune that her company is partnering with Starbucks to build the template for how payments would work. “At first, it will be available for use in apps,” she said. “Think about today’s Starbucks app. You can pre-fund a prepaid or stored value card with a digital app. The first use case is to pre-fund the cards, with Bitcoin. The goal is to give consumers the choice between purchasing with digital or fiat currency.”
To take it one step further, Valor Equity Partners has investments in crypto and blockchain-focused startups including BitGo, Harbor, and Eris Exchange. So while everyone is speculating which traditional food & retail startups this new fund might back, I think it’s worth looking one layer deeper and keeping an eye on the next wave of companies attempting to upend retail as we know it today. And of course, when that happens, Starbucks would be at the forefront.
BLUE JEANS IPO: The hottest company making its public debut at the moment is not a tech startup. Levi Strauss & Co, the 166-year-old jeans maker, priced its shares at $17, which gave the company a $6.6 billion valuation. My colleague Phil Wahba writes:
The hot IPO is counterintuitive for a retail and apparel company given the travails companies in those sectors have faced in recent years. But under CEO Chip Bergh, Levi’s has staged a remarkable comeback. Only a few years ago, Levi’s was handcuffed by a heavy debt load and struggling to find a niche for itself in the competitive denim market and the booming athleisure market dominated by the likes of Lululemon Athletica. And it had grown overly reliant on declining department stores.
• Splice, a New York-based music creation platform, raised $57.5 million in Series C funding. Investors include Union Square Ventures and True Ventures who are joined by DFJ Growth, Flybridge, Lerer Hippeau, Liontree, Founders Circle Capital, and Matt Pincus.
• Movius, an Atlanta-based developer of cloud-based secure mobile communications software, raised $45 million in Series D funding. JPMorgan Chase & Co. led the round, and was joined by investors including PointGuard Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Anschutz Investment Company.
• Guesty, a property management software, raised $35 million in Series C funding. Viola Growth led the round, and was joined by investors including Vertex Ventures, Journey Ventures, Kingfisher Investment Advisors, La Maison Compagnie d’Investissement, TLV Partners and Magma Ventures.
• Abstract, a San Francisco-based provider of a design workflow platform, raised $30 million in Series C funding. Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Scale Venture Partners, Amplify Partners, and Cowboy Ventures.
• NS8, a Herndon, Va.-based e-commerce security and website performance company, raised $26 million in funding. Edison Partners led the round.
• WorkBoard, a company focused on enterprise strategy and results management, raised $23 million in Series B funding. GGV Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including M12, Workday Ventures, Floodgate, and Opus Capital.
• Ease, a San Francisco-based provider of HR and benefits software, raised $19 million in Series B funding. Centana Growth Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Propel Venture Partners, Compound Ventures, Freestyle Capital and Upside Partnership.
• The Plum Guide, a London-based vacation rental company, raised £14 million ($18.4 million) in funding. Talis Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Latitude, Hearst Ventures and Octopus Ventures.
• Skymind, an open-core data science company, raised $11.5 million in Series A funding. TransLink Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including ServiceNow, Sumitomo’s Presidio Ventures, UpHonest Capital, GovTech Fund, Y Combinator, Tencent, Mandra Capital, Hemi Ventures, and GMO Ventures.
• Jitjatjo, a mobile staffing marketplace, raised $11 million in Series A funding. Morningside Technology Ventures led the round.
• AppDetex, a Boise, Idaho-based provider of digital risk protection, raised $10 million in Series B funding. First Analysis led the round, and was joined by investors including EPIC Ventures and Origin Ventures.
• Scope AR, a Canada-based provider of enterprise-class augmented reality solutions, raised $9.7 million in Series A funding. Romulus Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including SignalFire, Susa Ventures, Haystack, New Stack Ventures, North American Corporation and AngelList.
• Kaarta, Inc, a developer of real-time mobile 3D reality capture, raised $6.5 million in funding. GreenSoil Building Innovation Fund led the round, and was joined by investors including Riverfront Ventures, Zamagias Properties, Quaker Capital Investments, and Startbot.
• Fetcher, a New York-based recruiting platform, raised $5.4 million in funding. Accomplice led the round, and was joined by investors including Slow Ventures, Revel Partners and Picus Capital.
• WarDucks, an Ireland-based augmented reality game development studio, raised €3.3 million ($3.8 million) in funding. EQT Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Suir Valley Ventures.
• Figment Networks, a provider of institutional grade proof of stake infrastructure services, raised $1.8 CAD ($1.3 million) in seed funding. Investors include Bonfire Ventures, FJ Labs, and XDL Capital Group.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• GenNx360 Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Miller Environmental Group, a Calverton, N.Y.-based environmental response and remediation services company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Acuris, a company backed by BC Partners and GIC, acquired Blackpeak, an investigative research firm with a focus on capital markets, mergers and acquisitions and private equity. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Ares Management Corporation (NYSE:ARES) acquired CoolSys, Inc, an Anaheim, Calif.-based refrigeration and HVAC services company, from Audax Private Equity. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Regent agreed to acquire Mavic, a France-based cycling business, from Amer Sports (HLSE: AMEAS). Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• CynergisTek (NYSE AMERICAN: CTEK), a consultancy in health IT security, privacy and compliance, sold its managed print services business for $30 million to Vereco.
• One Finance Limited acquired Amplified Payments Ltd, a Nigeria-based developer of an online payment platform. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Crossbridge Compliance acquired XCEL NDT LLC, a Clifton, Kansas-based provider of non-destructive testing and pipeline integrity services to the oil and gas industry. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Pine Tree Equity Partners is the seller.