Greetings from 30k feet, as I’m flying cross-country for a bunch of meetings. Here are some notes to kick off your Wednesday:
• Blip or bust? One big headline coming out of the Private Equity Analyst Conference in NYC yesterday was the proclamation by Boon Sim, Americas president for sovereign wealth fund Temadek, that “the death of the LBO model is greatly exaggerated.”
To be sure, he said this to an audience of LBO professionals who like to think they’re industry isn’t circling the drain, but that doesn’t make him any less correct.
I’m pretty sure the whole idea of LBOs being on the decline comes from a faulty Goldman Sachs report published last fall, or perhaps from publicly-listed PE firms like Blackstone and KKR pushing into other asset classes (including direct lending, via reported bids for GE Antares). The reality, however, is that LBO fundraising remains at a very healthy level, while deal activity declines can best be explained by the abundance of cheap strategic cash rather than troubled PE models.
• Your turn: Uber today is celebrating its fifth anniversary, with CEO Travis Kalanick expected to make comments this afternoon about where the company has been and where it’s heading. While we wait for that, a question for you: Has Uber’s largest impact been on the transportation market, or on the broader commerce and service industries (i.e., Uber-for-X)?
• New firm alert: Felix Capital has launched as a new European venture capital firm focused on digital brands and related enabling technologies. It is led by Frederic Court, previously a co-founder of London-based Advent Venture Partners (which will only focus on life sciences startups going forward). He is joined by fellow Advent Ventures vet Les Gabb and Antoine Nussenbaum (ex-Atlas Global, ex-ABN AMRO).
The London-based firm also has closed its debut fund with $120 million, thanks largely to Court’s track record with such companies as Zong (sold to eBay for $240m), Farfetch (recently valued at $1b) and Dailymotion. Court says that he chose to launch the firm to help scratch an entrepreneurial itch, and that the $120 million actually represents more investment capital than he had as a tech partner with (then) generalist Advent’s last fund ($235m).
• Recommended reading: CrunchBase late last month published an outstanding study on the percentage of U.S.-based startups with female founders, finding that the figure has climbed from 9.5% in 2009 to 18% in 2014. The highest percentage of women-founded startups is in Las Vegas, while the largest number is in New York City. Read more by going here.
• Beer & deviled eggs: I’m not doing a Liquidity Event on this particular Bay Area trip, but I do plan to once again commandeer a table at the Dutch Goose (Menlo Park) tomorrow night at around 5pm. I’ll buy the first few pitchers and platters. So if you want to talk shop — or share scoop — stop on by. I’ll be there until 7pm.
THE BIG DEAL
• Pillpack, a Boston-based online pharmacy focused on simplifying medication management, has raised $50 million in new VC funding. CRV led the round, and was joined by return backers Accel Partners, Atlas Venture, Menlo Ventures and Sherpa Ventures. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• Coupang, a South Korean online retailer, has raised $1 billion in new strategic funding from SoftBank. The deal comes six months after Coupang raised $300 million in a round led by BlackRock. Other shareholders include Wellington Management Co., Greenoaks Capital Management, Rose Park Advisors and Sequoia Capital. www.coupang.com
• HireVue, a Salt Lake City-based provider of an on-demand digital interviewing platform, has raised $45 million in new VC funding. Technology Crossover Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backers Sequoia Capital, Granite Ventures, Investor Growth Capital, Peterson Ventures, and Rose Park Advisors’ Disruptive Innovation Fund. Read more.
• Sphero, a Boulder, Colo.-based maker of spherical robots controlled by smartphone apps, has raised $45 million in new VC funding (a regulatory filing suggests it could add another $7m). Mercato Partners led the round, and was joined by Walt Disney Co. and Foundry Group. You might have seen a Sphero robot in the new Star Wars movie trailers (thus the Disney connection). Read more.
Saama Technologies, a Campbell, Calif.-based provider of big data solutions, has raised $35 million in Series A funding from Carrick Capital Partners. Read more.
• Nubank, a Brazilian financial services startup that offers a digital credit card, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Tiger Global Management. Return backers Sequoia Capital and Kaszek Ventures also participated. Read more.
• Mic, a digital news site focused on millennials, has raised $17 million in new VC funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Read more.
• Mirror, a San Francisco-based “smart contracts platform” that utilizes blockchain technology, has raised $8.8 million in Series A funding. Route 66 Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backers RRE Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Battery Ventures and Tim Draper. www.mirror.co
• Atomwise, an artificial intelligence startup focused on life sciences, has raised $6 million in seed funding. Data Collective led the round, and was joined by Khosla Ventures, DFJ, AME Cloud Ventures and OS Fund. www.atomwise.com
• Auspherix Ltd., a UK-based developer of antibiotics that address antimicrobial resistance, has raised £6 million in Series A funding. Imperial Innovations led the round, and was joined by return backer Medical Research Commercialisation Fund. www.auspherix.com
• LawnStarter, a Blacksburg, Va.-based on-demand lawncare startup, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Binary Capital. www.lawnstarter.com
• CreoPop, a Singapore-based maker of a “3D pen with cool ink,” has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding co-led by Wavemaker Partners and the Singapore National Research Foundation. www.creopop.com
• MineSense Technologies Ltd., a Vancouver-based, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding. Prelude Ventures led the round, and was joined by Export Development Bank of Canada, Cycle Capital Management and return backer Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital. www.minesense.com
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• eVestment, an Marietta, Ga.-based provider of traditional and hedge fund data and analytics for institutional investors, has acquired TopQ, a Scotland-based provider of private equity analytics. No financial terms were disclosed. eVestment shareholders include Insight Venture Partners. www.evestment.com
• Gryphon Investors has launched OneSmile LLC as a platform focused on acquiring existing dental practices in the western U.S. It will be led by Steven Bilt, former CEO of Smile Brands Inc. www.gryphoninvestors.com
• Herkules Capital has agreed to acquire Seagull Group, a provider of tech-enabled training and compliance tools to the maritime and oil & gas industries, from GMT Communications Partners. No financial terms were disclosed, although GMT reports that the sale will generate a 2.3x return for the firm. www.gmtpartners.com
• Summit Partners has acquired Paradigm Acquisition Corp., a Walnut Creek, Calif.–based provider of outsourced catastrophic workers’ compensation case management services for insurance companies and self-insured employers, from Lightyear Capital. No financial terms were disclosed. www.paradigmcorp.com
• Welocalize Inc., a Frederick, Md.–based provider of translation and localization solutions for global brands, has secured a “significant investment” from Norwest Equity Partners. www.welocalize.com
• Focus Media, a Shanghai-based advertising company taken private by The Carlyle Group and other investors in 2012 for $3.7 billion, is prepping a $7.4 billion reverse merger that would result in it going public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Read more.
• Nivalis Therapeutics Inc., a Boulder, Colo.-based developer of drugs for patients with cystic fibrosis, has set its IPO terms to 4.26 million shares being offered at between $13 and $15 per share. It would have an initial market cap of approximately $188 million, were it to price in the middle of its offering range. The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol NVLS, with Cowen & Co. and Stifel serving as lead underwriters. Shareholders in the pre-revenue company include Deerfield Management, Wellington Management Co., RA Capital and Tiger Partners. www.n30pharma.com
• Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) has acquired Mixamo, a San Francisco–based provider of 3D character creation and animation. No financial terms were disclosed. Mixamo had raised VC funding from Granite Ventures and KeyNote Ventures. Read more.
• Catalyst Investors has sold Codero Hosting, an Overland Park, Kansas–based provider of on-demand hybrid cloud hosting services, to a consortium of 32 regional telecom and broadband providers (BLM Acquisition Corp.). No financial terms were disclosed. www.codero.com
• Montagu Private Equity has sold University of Law, a UK-based for-profit law school, to Global University Systems. No financial terms were disclosed. Read more.
• Nomad Holdings (LSE: NHL) said that it is in talks to acquire the Continental Europe business of Findus, a British frozen food and seafood company sponsored by Lion Capital. The move comes just days after Nomad completed its €2.6 billion acquisition of Iglo Foods Holdings from Permira. Read more.
• Options, a provider of manages services and IT infrastructure to the global capital markets, has acquired Jake Roy Pillar LLC, a New York-based tech consultancy for hedge funds. No financial terms were disclosed. www.options-it.com
• Synchronoss Technologies (Nasdaq: SNCR) has hired Qatalyst Technologies to advise on a possible sale of the company, according to the WSJ. Synchronoss is a Bridgewater, N.J.-based provider of wireless device activation software, and currently has a market cap of around $1.8 billion. Read more.
• The Wendy’s Co. (Nasdaq: WEN) has agreed to sell its bakery business to East Belt Bakeries for an undisclosed amount. In other Wendy’s news, the company said it would buy back $1.4 billion of shares, including $211 million from its largest shareholder, Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fuind Management. www.wendys.com
FIRMS & FUNDS
• Comvest Partners has closed its third direct lending fund with $450 million in capital commitments. www.comvest.com
• Friedman Fleischer & Lowe, a San Francisco-based mid-market private equity firm, has closed its fourth fund with $2 billion in capital commitments. www.fflpartners.com
• Point Nine Capital, a Berlin-based early-stage VC firm, has closed its third fund with $60 million in capital commitments. www.pointninecap.com
• Wesley Wong, a former Hong Kong-based partner with TPG-Axon Capital Management, is planning to launch a pan-Asia hedge fund next quarter, according to Bloomberg. It would be called Oxbow Capital Management. Read more.
MOVING IN, UP, ON & OUT
• Garin Arevian and Jason Myler have joined Piper Jaffray as Boston-based managing directors in the firm’s tech, media and telecom investment banking group. They previously were managing directors with MHT MidSpan. www.piperjaffray.com
• Michael Burns has stepped down as executive director of the $54 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, due to health concerns. He will be succeeded on an interim basis by APF chief financial officer Valerie Mertz, as the board searches for a permanent replacement. Read more.
• Molly LeStage has joined Meketa Investment Group as a Boston-based senior vice president. She previously was a director of private equity with both Hamilton Lane Advisors and Schott Capital Management. www.meketagroup.com
• Adam Persiani has joined Pharos Capital as a Dallas-based director of business development. He previously led biz dev and investments for Valesco Industries. www.pharosfunds.com
• Raju Rishi has joined RRE Ventures as a general partner. He previously was a venture partner with Sigma Prime Ventures and, before that, was co-founder of Rave Mobile Security. In other RRE Ventures news, the firm has promoted Alice Lloyd George to associate. www.rre.com
• Howard Rosenbloom has joined Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP as a partner in the firm’s private equity and corporate and securities groups. He previously was chair of the fund formation and operations practice at DLA Piper. www.choate.com
• Lewis Schoenwetter has joined CenterGate Capital as a managing director in the firm’s Austin, Texas headquarters. He previously was a managing director with H.I.G. Capital. www.centergatecapital.com
• Nancy Yu is joining Merrill Corp. as a Hong Kong-based regional managing director of Asia operations. She previously was with CITIC Private Equity Fund Management Co. www.merrillcorp.com
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