Now for something a bit different
I ended up down a kind of strange reporting rabbit hole yesterday but, since it ultimately ended up involving an entrepreneur with an interesting biotechnology, I've decided to republish it here. Back to our regular ramblings tomorrow...
When Donald Trump filed his latest Federal Elections Commission report on Monday evening, there was an interesting expenditure: $35,000 for “web advertising” to Draper Sterling, a New Hampshire-based firm that seems to have cribbed its name from the television program Mad Men (in which Don Draper worked at Sterling Cooper).
When media outlets checked with New Hampshire state records on Tuesday morning, they found that Draper Sterling was located in the residential home of Jon Adkins, a longtime medical device sales executive who also co-founded a (now-defunct) “science and technical consulting firm” whose clients often included Republican politicians. One former company employee, for example, wrote on LinkedIn that his primary job was “providing professional canvassing services for Republican candidates.”
Adkins’ partner in that consulting firm was Paul Holzer, who is best known in Massachusetts political circles for his work helping to elect Gov. Charlie Baker. Adkins and Holzer currently are co-founders of a nonprofit biotech startup called XenoTherapeutics, which is focused on a new class of severe burn treatments.
Holzer spoke exclusively to Fortune, acknowledging his involvement with Draper Sterling, but stressing that it is completely separate from XenoTherapeutics (whose website went offline for a few hours on Tuesday, but which has since returned).
“Part of the agreement with any client is that you sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I won’t discuss any specific work done for any specific client,” says Holzer, who also is a current student at Dartmouth Medical School. “Most people would say full-time is 40 hours, but every waking hour for me is a workday. So I’m at XenoTherapeutics full-time, at Dartmouth full-time and, on the side, I’ve got another way to pay the bills—since being a student and running a small nonprofit aren’t very lucrative. The Wright Brothers built bikes; I build spreadsheets.”
Holzer also wouldn’t rule out that Draper Sterling won’t appear on future FEC documents, saying “success begets success.” He does stress, however, that there was “nothing untoward” about the Draper Sterling work, despite some published speculation that it was linked to yesterday’s firing of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (who lives near Jon Adkins in New Hampshire). “I think it was just some coincidental timing that made this interesting… people will be disappointed when they find out the facts.”
XenoTherapeutics is based, in part, on Holzer’s experiences as a Navy Seal in Afghanistan. He says that he was stunned by the severity of burns caused by blast trauma—both for soldiers and civilians—calling them “catastrophic.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Holzer worked as a pre-doctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, where one of the doctors was working on a technology related to a genetically-modified line of pigs, in which the goal was to enable big solid organ transplant tolerance without a lifetime regimen of immunosuppressants. One byproduct was that the skin could act as temporary wound coverage, and Holzer and his Mass General boss—Dr. Curt Cetrulo, whorecently helped complete the first-ever penis transplant for a cancer survivor—published some related research, and then chose to launch XenoTherapeutics (where Cetrulo serves as chief medical officer).
“I don’t really know what Paul and John’s politics are, and don’t really care,” Cetrulo says.
Boston-based XenoTherapeutics is structured as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, in order to enable it to raise money via grants, as Holzer says there isn’t necessarily enough money in burn treatment to attract many venture capitalists. It has, however, been accepted into the latest MassChallenge business incubator program, where it takes up residence later this week. The company also does have a private equity investor on its board of directors ― Sean MacDonald, a vice president at Siguler Guff ― although the firm itself is not an investor.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
THE BIG DEAL
• McDonald's Corp.'s (NYSE: MCD) received more than six bids for its Chinese operations, which could fetch around $2 billion, according to Reuters.
Suitors include Bain Capital, The Carlyle Group, TPG Capital, Beijing Tourism Group, Sanpower and ChemChina. Not mentioned in the Reuters report was KKR, which had been cited in an earlier Bloomberg story as having interest. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• InVision, a New York-based product design platform, has raised $55 million in new VC funding. Iconiq Capital led the round, and was joined by return backers Accel and FirstMark Capital. The company has now raised a total of $135 million in VC funding since its 2011 formation. www.invisionapp.com
• IFM Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of small molecules targeting the innate immune system, has raised $27 million in Series A funding. Atlas Venture and Abingworth co-led the round, and were joined by Novartis. www.ifmthera.com
• LightCyber, a provider of behavioral attack detection solutions, has raised $20 million in new VC funding. Access Industries led the round, and was joined by ClalTech and return backers Battery Ventures, Glilot Capital Partners and Amplify Partners. www.lightcyber.com
• Outreach, a Seattle-based sales automation platform, has raised $17.5 million in Series B funding. Trinity Ventures led the round, and was joined by Microsoft Ventures and return backers like Floodgate. Read more.
• Kespry, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based developer of automated drone systems for commercial use, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. DCM Ventures led the round, and was joined by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Spectrum 28, H. Barton Asset Management, Rothenberg Ventures and Wilson Sonsini. www.kespry.com
• The Muse, a New York-based career site, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. Icon Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backers Aspect Ventures, DBL Partners and QED Investors. Read more.
• Sevenhugs, a France-based creator of connected home products, has raised $14.6 million in Series A funding led by Xerys Gestion. www.seven-hugs.com
• Lystable, a London-based maker of freelancer management software, has raised $11 million in Series A funding. Valar Ventures and Goldcrest Capital co-led the round, and were joined by Spring Partners. Read more.
• Resson, a Canada-based bioinformatics and predictive analytics focused on the agriculture market, has raised US$11 million in Series B funding led by Monsanto Growth Ventures led the round, and was joined by Build Ventures, Rho Canada Ventures, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, BDC Capital and East Valley Ventures. www.resson.com
• McMakler BmbH, a Berlin-based online real estate agent, has raised EUR 8.5 million in second-round funding led by Frog Capital. www.mcmakler.de
• GamEffective, a Charlotte, N.C.-based provider of workforce performance management software, has raised $7 million in new VC funding. Jerusalem Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by return backers like Verint, 2B Angels, Shaked Ventures, Lipman and CE Ventures. www.gameffective.com
• Armut.com, an online services marketplace in Turkey, has raised $3.2 million in Series A funding led by Addventure. www.armut.com
• Kwik, a Tel Aviv-based maker of smart buttons (i.e., rival to Amazon Dash), has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Norwest Venture Partners. Read more.
• Swoot, a stealthy startup from two co-founders of HipChat (acquired by Atlassian) ― Pete Hurley and Garret Heaton ― has raised $2.8 million in VC funding from firms like True Ventures, according to a regulatory filing.
• Piper, a San Francisco-based provider of a DIY computer kit for kids, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding. Backers include Princeton University, Reach Capital, 500 Startups, FoundersXFund and individual angels. www.playpiper.com
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• BV Investment Partners has made a “sizable investment” in C.F. Stinson, a Rochester Hills, Mich.-based designer and marketer of textiles to the commercial interiors industry. No financial terms were disclosed. www.cfstinson.com
• H2O Midstream LLC, a Houston-based company pursuing oil and gas opportunities related to water infrastructure throughout North America, has secured $100 million in initial equity funding commitments led by EIV Capital. www.h2omidstream.com
• Hyphen Solutions, an Addison, Texas-based provider of supply chain management services for the North American home building industry, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from PWP Growth Equity. www.hyphensolutions.com
• Mayhoola for Investments (Qatar) has agreed to acquire French fashion house Balmain from its founding family. No financial terms were disclosed, but the FT puts the price-tag at upwards of EUR 500 million. Read more.
• Processing.com, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based payments solutions provider, has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from LaSalle Capital. www.processing.com
• Selecta Biosciences Inc., a Watertown, Mass.-based developer of targeted antigen-specific immune therapies, raised $70 million in its IPO. The company priced 5 million shares at $14 per share, compared to earlier plans to offer 4.25 million shares at between $14 and $16 per share. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol SELB, while UBS and Stifel served as co-lead underwriters. Selecta had raised around $148 million in VC funding (most recent post-money value of $245m), from firms like Polaris Partners (14.3% pre-IPO stake), Flagship Ventures (13.5%), Rusano (10.9%), OrbiMed Advisors (9.3%), Leukon Investments (7.7%), NanoDimension (5.3%), Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures, Ridgeback Capital Management, Osage University Partners, AJU IB Investment, Sphera Global Health Care Fund, I2BF and Eminent Venture Capital. www.selectabio.com
• Verve, a New York-based provider of location-powered mobile marketing solutions, has acquired Roximity, a Denver-based provider of location-based beacon software and hardware for retailers, brands and venues. Verve has raised VC funding from Fenox Venture Capital, Ludlow Ventures and Fraser McCombs Capital. Roximity had raised over $2 million from firms like Plug and Play Ventures. www.vervemobile.com
• Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA) announced plans to acquire residential solar energy company Solar City, in a transaction that could be valued at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion. Tesla and Solar City were both founded by Elon Musk, who leads Tesla as CEO and serves as chairman of SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY). Musk's cousin, Lyndon Rive, is SolarCity's CEO. Read more.
FIRMS & FUNDS
• CVC Capital Partners is in early talks with investors about raising its seventh buyout fund in early 2017, with a target of EUR 12.5 billion and a hard cap of EUR 15 billion, according to Bloomberg. If successful, it would be the largest private equity fund ever raised by a Europe-based firm. Read more.
• DFJ Growth is raising upwards of $500 million for its next fund, according to SEC filings. Read more.
• Female Founders Fund is raising upwards of $30 million for its second fund, according to a regulatory filing. www.femalefoundersfund.com
• Morgenthaler Private Equity is raising upwards of $225 million for its second fund since splitting up with its VC group (which became Canvas Ventures), according to a regulatory filing. So far, the Cleveland-based firm has secured $140 million. www.morgenthaler.com
• Radicle has been launched as a business accelerator for early-stage agricultural technology companies. It is being backed by Finistere Ventures, Cloud Break Advisors, Bayer, DuPont and OurCrowd. www.radiclellc.com
• The University of Maryland has launched a new venture capital fund focused on tech transfer efforts. It will include a $10 million commitment over four years from the school, with plans to raise an additional $15 million from outside sources. Read more.
MOVING IN, ON & UP
• Tucker Coates has joined Hidden Harbor Capital Partners as VP of business development. He previously was an associate partner with MNCapital Africa Advisors. www.hh-cp.com
• Garrett Greer has joined Dallas-based private equity firm Trinity Hunt Partners as a vice president. He previously was a VP with Lone Star Investment Advisors. Trinity Hunt also has promoted Blake Apel to principal. Apel joined the firm in 2007, and currently sits on the boards of portfolio companies Lakeview Health, Deposition Solutions and Family Help & Wellness. www.trinityhunt.com
• Douglas Hoffner has been named interim CEO of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, as the nation’s largest public pension continues to search for a permanent replacement for the retiring Anne Stausboll. Hoffner joined CalPERS in 3012 as deputy executive officer for operations and technology. Read more.
• Amit Kumar and Nate Niparko have joined the U.S. venture capital team at Accel. Kumar previously led engineering for some of Twitter’s commerce and customer service efforts, after the social network acquired his company, Cardspring, in 2014. Niparko previously worked at Accel, before leaving for Stanford Graduate School of Business and Amazon Web Services. www.accel.com
• Christopher Moran has been named executive director and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, the corporate VC arm of Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT). He previously spent eight years as GM of the corporate venture arm of Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT). www.lockheedmartin.com/ventures
• Brendan Tierney has joined Raymond James as a managing director of industrials investment banking. He previously led the industrials practice at Janney Montgomery Scott. www.raymondjames.com
• David Zolot has joined Neuberger Berman Private Equity as a principal, with a focus on sourcing and executing consumer and branded acquisitions for portfolio company Marquee Brands. He previously was SVP of corporate development with Saban Brands. www.marqueebrands.com
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