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23andMe is the startup world’s newest unicorn

Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 2Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 2
Anne WojcickiPhotograph by Kimberly White — Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Genetic analytics company 23andMe last week reported via a regulatory filing that it had raised $79 million in a Series E venture capital round that could eventually hit $150 million. Market research firm VC Experts subsequently pulled Delaware filings that show the round was done at a post-money valuation of approximately $1.03 billion (based on the $79m, not the $150m).

That’s nearly a 2.7x valuation jump from 23andMe’s Series D raise, which occurred in late 2012. Investors on that round included Google Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, MPM Capital and Yuri Milner.

So how do we explain the valuation jump, particularly given that 23andme last year was dealt a severe blow when the FDA said it could no longer market its personalized DNA testing kit to U.S. consumers (Update: The restriction is specific to marketing health reports to U.S. consumers, whereas ancestry and raw uninterpreted genetic data reports were unaffected.)

Four basic answers, in reverse orders of importance:

  1. 23andMe hopes the FDA will reverse that decision later this year.
  2. The restriction caused 23andMe to focus more on international markets than it otherwise would have, which has paid dividends.
  3. The FDA did recently allow 23andMe to market a carrier test, and smoothed the way for future carrier test offerings.
  4. 23andMe said in March that it will begin developing its own drugs by leveraging its massive customer database — an effort that will be led by ex-Genentech R&D boss Richard Scheller.

Since being founded in 2006, 23andMe has now raised more than $190 million in total VC funding.

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