UNICORN WATCH: Amazon has explored a possible buyout of work messaging software startup Slack for $9 billion, according to Bloomberg. A few thoughts:
• That price would be more than double Slack’s latest private valuation from 2016.
• Amazon is not known for its monster acquisitions. The company’s biggest ever is its $1.2 billion deal for Zappos from 2009, with under $1 billion for Twitch in 2014 coming in second.
• Why would Amazon want business productivity software? To compete with Microsoft. Amazon Web Services, its cloud storage business, is already a behemoth. Some observers expected Amazon to stick to the “building blocks” of computing, storage, and networking, but my colleague Barb Darrow noted to me (over Slack, no less) that Amazon has already begun edging into business apps with email and file storage services. Further proof of Amazon’s interest: It’s currently in a non-compete lawsuit with a former AWS exec who joined a business software company called Smartsheet. (I’ve said it before: It doesn’t matter what category you operate in. Amazon will come for it in time.)
• Recall that Microsoft considered buying Slack in early 2016 for $8 billion. When that didn’t work out, the company launched its own Slack competitor, Teams. In November, Slack ran a “Dear Microsoft” advertising stunt that taunting its competitor.
NEW MONEY: Goldman Sachs has shrunk its buyout practice at a time when firms are raising record-sized funds. Goldman is nearing a close on $7 billion in commitments for its latest vehicle, which is operating under the name West Street Capital Partners, according to Reuters. Recall that the firm’s last fund, a 2007 vintage, had $20 billion in commitments. Goldman/West Street has already done $2 billion worth of deals, including Dominion Web Solutions, a Norfolk, Va.-based operator of sites like RVTrader.com and Homes.com, for $680 million.
CHOOSE WISELY: Those of you launching new investment firms take note: adding a word that conveys gravitas to your firm’s name will get you an average of $250,000 more in capital commitments, according to a recent study. That seems like a negligible amount of capital to me, but it hasn’t stopped hedge funds from naming themselves after inappropriate Greek gods, according to Quartz. Maybe read the mythology before picking a name to make sure your firm isn’t named after an incestuous swindler…
PE+UBER: Here’s a follow-up to yesterday’s note on TPG’s David Bonderman and Uber from Bloomberg’s Gillian Tan, who notes that private equity isn’t exactly teeming with women in positions of power. TPG has no women on its board or management committee. Joann Harris, Chief Compliance Officer, is the highest ranking woman. But that’s par for the course in buyout-land, where the proportion of women in senior roles has actually shrunk in recent years to 7.3%. Tan notes:
In fact, the six U.S. publicly traded private equity firms and their large rivals now all trail Uber, which just doubled its female [board] representation to two of eight, or 25 percent -- a figure Huffington described as "still not enough, but progress."
RINGWRAITHS: Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has some thoughts about activist shareholders, corporate America, and capitalism in this Texas Monthly profile. He views his company’s fight with Jana Partners, Whole Foods’ activist investor nemesis, as a referendum on whether his idea of “conscious capitalism” can actually thrive. Call it a clapback on behalf of the Etsys of the world. He says:
“But these guys just want to sell us, because they think they can make forty or fifty percent in a short period of time. They’re greedy bastards, and they’re putting a bunch of propaganda out there, trying to destroy my reputation and the reputation of Whole Foods, because it’s in their self-interest to do so.”
He compares activists to Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings:
“They were consumed by the Ring of Power. They became addicted to it and they became absorbed by it. Well, there’s an element in finance that consists of a bunch of Ringwraiths, and no matter how much money they have and how many billions they have, it’s not enough. They’re Ringwraiths. The guy behind Jana Partners, for example, who’s attacking us [Barry Rosenstein], he bought the most expensive home ever sold in America, for $147 million. And their mantra is basically shareholder value. They don’t care about the stakeholders or long-term value. It’s just, ‘How do we make as much money as we can as quickly as possible?’ ”
Note: Polina and I will both be out tomorrow, but Term Sheet takes no vacation. Fortune’s Anne VanderMey and Laura Entis will be filling in.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
• Life according to Martha Stewart
• China is withholding tourists from its neighbors.
• PG&E’s bolt of energy.
• How can Silicon Valley help save the world?
The seduction of pessimism. The special counsel is investigating the president for obstruction of justice. Japan’s new crime wave: gangsters, grandmothers and gold. Google to build modular homes to address Bay Area housing issues. Aramco fight over choosing an exchange. LinkedIn nudes.
• Careem, a Dubai-based Uber competitor, raised $150 million in funding from investors including Daimler AG and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, closing its Series E round. The company raised $350 million in December at a $1 billion valuation. Read more.
• Yes To, a San Francisco-based skin, body, and hair care products manufacturer, raised $56 million in funding from Viking Global Investors.
• Rythm, a San Francisco neurotechnology company, raised $22 million in funding. Investors include MAIF, and angel investors Xavier Niel and Dr. Laurent Alexandre.
• Culture Amp, a Melbourne-based developer of a survey platform for people and company culture, raised $20 million in Series C funding. Sapphire Ventures led the round, and was joined by Index Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Blackbird Ventures.
• Highspot, a Seattle provider of a cloud-based platform for sales reps and marketers, raised $15 million in Series B funding. Shasta Ventures led the round, and was joined by Salesforce Ventures and Madrona Venture Group.
• Sqrrl, a Cambridge, Mass.-based cybersecurity company, raised $12.3 million in Series C funding. Spring Lake Equity Partners led the round, and was joined by Matrix Partners, Rally Ventures, and Accomplice.
• WhiteSource, a New York City-based open source software security and compliance management company, raised $10 million Series B funding. 83North led the round, and was joined by Microsoft Ventures and individual investor David Strohm, of Greylock Partners.
• Ceterus, a Charleston, S.C. developer of online accounting and financial services, raised $6 million in funding. Grotech Ventures led the round, and was joined by TechOperators, The IDEA Fund, and Alerion Ventures.
• G.Network, a London communications service provider, raised £4.7 million ($6 million) from Albion Capital.
• Landed, a San Francisco provider of financing services for home buyers, raised $5 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
• ZenIQ, a Los Altos, Calif. account-based marketing company, raised $4.6 million in funding. Costanoa Ventures led the round, and was joined by Salesforce Ventures.
• GeoQuant, a Tel Aviv platform for measuring political risk, raised $4 million in seed funding. Investors include Aleph, and XL Innovate.
• Biena Snacks, a Boston company that makes snack products from chickpeas, raised an undisclosed amount in funding from Blueberry Ventures, Centerman Capital, New Ground Ventures, and angel investors.
• UniKey Technologies, a Winter Park, Fl. smart lock company, raised an undisclosed amount in funding from ff Venture Capital, Asset Management Ventures, and Samsung NEXT.
HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Omada Health, a San Francisco-based developer of online digital health programs, raised $50 million in funding. Cigna (NYSE: CI) led the round.
• Twist Bioscience Corporation, a San Francisco synthetic DNA platform provider, raised $27 million in funding. Investors include Biomatics Capital, Reinet Fund S.C.A., F.I.S., NFT Investment Limited, KANGMEI Group, Bay City Capital GF Xinde Life Science Investment Fund, 3W Partners Capital, and Ditch Plains Capital Management.
• Orum Therapeutics, a South Korean developer of therapeutic antibodies, raised $8 million in Series A funding. Investors include InterVest, KB Investment (KBIC)/Solidus Investment, and LB Investment.
• Ocugen, a Malvern, Pa. biopharmaceutical company developing treatments for sight-threatening diseases, raised $7.5 million in Series B funding. Abdi Ibrahim and JSC Lancaster Group led the round.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• H.I.G. Capital invested in Trace3, a Irvine, Calif.-based provider of cloud computing services.
• Health & Safety Institute, backed by Maranon Capital, acquired CLMI Safety Training, a Minneapolis-based provider of safety training videos and programs.
• Temasek Holdings and Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE:SWK), along with four additional companies, remain in the running to acquire Permira Advisers’ 61% stake in Netafim, an Israeli irrigation company. Read more.
• J.F. Lehman & Company recapitalized NorthStar Group Holdings, a New York City-based facility services contractor.
• Rosewood Private Investments recapitalized Superior Environmental Solutions, a Cincinnati provider of environmental and industrial cleaning services.
• Aiglon Capital Management and Merit Capital Partners have acquired Nester Hosiery, a Mount Airy, N.C. sock manufacturer.
• Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) is among several technology companies interested in acquiring Slack, a San Francisco-based messaging and collaboration software company, according to Bloomberg. The deal could value the company north of $9 billion. Read more at Fortune.
• Misys, a London-based banking software firm, has merged with D+H, its Canadian rival. The new company will operate under the name Finastra.
• TCG BDC, an investing company managed by The Carlyle Group, said it had priced its IPO of 9 million shares at $18.50 a piece, raising $166.5 million. The company listed on the Nasdaq Wednesday under “CGBD,” and opened slightly lower at $17.80. [f500link]Bank of America[/f500link], [f500link]Morgan Stanley[/f500link], [f500link]J.P. Morgan[/f500link] and [f500link]Citigroup[/f500link] are joint book-running managers in the deal. As of the first quarter of 2017, the company held about $1.4 billion in its investing portfolio.
• African Rainbow Capital, a South African financials firm helmed by billionaire Patrice Motsepe, is reportedly planning on an IPO of its investing unit, raising 3 billion rand ($234 million), according to people familiar with the matter interviewed by Bloomberg. The firm plans to IPO by the end of September on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, according to the report.
• Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, is planning for an IPO in 2018. But that is now being bogged down by discussions over where to list its shares, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday citing those with knowledge of the matter. While the company’s executives are pushing for an IPO on the London Stock Exchange, the Saudi Arabian royal family are reportedly leaning toward the New York Stock Exchange—partly thanks to a visit from President Donald Trump last month.
• Thoma Bravo acquired Continuum, a West Newton, Mass.-based IT management platform for managed IT service providers, from Summit Partners. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• Orion Capital Managers acquired the remaining 50% stake in Sotogrande Luxco, a Spanish leisure real estate and hospitality company, from Cerberus. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Golden Gate Capital agreed to acquire Express Oil, a Birmingham, Ala. operator and franchiser of automotive service centers, from Carousel Capital.
• Audax Private Equity acquired Altasciences Company, a Canadian provider of early-stage clinical services, from Kilmer Capital Partners. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• The Halifax Group acquired BCI Burke, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin-based provider of engineered commercial play environments, from Incline Equity Partners. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. [This item has been updated to include the name of the company being acquired.]
• Cerberus Capital acquired Qbic Hotel, a London-based boutique hotel operator, from Bridges Fund Management. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Equistone acquired a majority stake in Willerby, a U.K. manufacturer of static holiday homes, from Caird Capital. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Luminate Capital Partners, a San Francisco private equity firm, raised around $265 million its first fund, Luminate Capital Partners, LP.
• Robin Olsson and Kim Homa have joined Kainos Capital as managing director and director, respectively.
• Stephen Berenson has joined Flagship Pioneering as an executive partner. Previously, he was a vice chairman of investment banking at J.P. Morgan.
• New Enterprise Associates has promoted Amit Mukherjee to partner, and Matt Sacks, Andrew Schoen, and Blake Wu to principals.
• Dave Famolari has been named managing director for Hearst Ventures.