CAN TECH STARTUPS SAVE PRINT?
Good morning, Term Sheet readers.
I came into the office this morning to find a package from Casper on my desk. Inside was the first edition of Woolly — the mattress company’s new 96-page branded print magazine/literary journal/coloring book thing. An accompanying piece of paper tucked inside reads: “This is Woolly. It’s a print magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen in 2017.” ….Can’t argue with that.
This illustrates an interesting trend I’ve noticed recently. While traditional media companies are pivoting to video, more and more tech startups are dipping their toes in the world of print. We’ve got Airbnb and its travel publication Airbnbmag. Then there’s startup Away with its quarterly magazine called Here. Casper’s launch of Woolly comes after it shut down its previous editorial site, Van Winkle’s.
In a September story on The Ringer aptly headlined “Can Tech Startups Do Journalism,” one line stuck out to me: “Tech CEOs are the new media publishers.” In a world of mass reporter layoffs and declining print revenues, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said, “There’s the possibility that [print] can be saved. It isn’t ephemeral, as opposed to content on a feed that expires.”
That’s one way to look at it. Here’s what I think though: As more tech startups begin to launch publications that are a cross between journalism and sponsored content, expect the lines to get even more blurred. For instance, the same site that published a story on how “napercise is a thing” also featured a 6,000-plus-word investigative article about the relationship between sleep deprivation and PTSD in the military. Both stories were funded by Casper, but does it matter?
As Casper’s then-editorial director said:
“I think we’re kind of past the point where anybody would look at it and be like: ‘Oh, well, that story’s fantastic but I hate it because it’s being sponsored by a brand,’” Spiers said. “That’s kind of irrational given that most media is ad supported. This is just a more direct way of creating ad-supported media.”
I’m curious to hear your thoughts — is it too much of a stretch to think we’re going to see tech startups start scooping up traditional publications plagued by declining ad revenues? Will journalists become branded content creators writing about comfort pants and crystal healing? Are these flashy print magazines just startup marketing materials—or will companies like Airbnb and Casper actually upend lifestyle content as we know it?
Now that I’ve gotten these existential questions out of my system, onto the deals:
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE…
• Macy’s hasn’t seen sales growth in 3 full years (by Phil Wahba)
• Apple won’t be the world’s first trillion-dollar company (by Lucinda Shen)
• Meet the election’s oldest winner (by Natasha Bach)
• Virtual reality will have its biggest holiday season ever (by Jay Samit)
U.S., AT&T at odds over CNN in Time Warner deal. Saudi billionaires look to move funds to escape asset freeze. Behind the fall of a New York State pension fund executive. Sean Parker’s Facebook tell-all.
• WeLab, a Hong Kong-based financial tech startup that operates online lending platforms, raised $220 million equity and debt Series B+ funding, according to TechCrunch. Investors include the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and Credit Suisse. Read more.
• Natural Cycles, a Sweden-based women’s fertility app, raised $30 million in Series B funding. EQT Ventures led the round, and was joined by existing investors including Sunstone, E-ventures and Bonnier Growth Media.
• Qubole, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based developer of a cloud-based data platform, raised $25 million in funding. Singtel Innov8 and Harmony Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Charles River Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Institutional Venture Partners.
• Fortuna Fix, a Canada-based regenerative medicine company, raised $25 million in Series B funding. Investors include Amgen Ventures.
• Oyster Point Pharmaceuticals Inc., a San Francisco-based developer of treatments for dry eye and other diseases of the ocular surface, raised $22 million in Series A funding. New Enterprise Associates and Versant Ventures led the round.
• Broker Genius, a New York-based dynamic pricing technology for the secondary ticket market, raised $15 million in Series A funding from Volition Capital.
• TIS, a Germany-based cloud platform for managing corporate payments and cash flows, raised $12 million in funding from 83North.
• Flightdocs, a Bonita Springs, Fla.-based provider of cloud-based maintenance, raised $10 million in funding. Argentum led the round.
• Enview, a San Francisco-based provider of 3D geospatial data analytics, raised $6 million in Series A funding. Crosslink Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Lemnos, Promus Ventures, and Toivo Annus.
• Rollick Outdoor, an Austin, Texas-based provider of a marketing platform for retailers and manufacturers, raised $5.6 million in funding. Silverton Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Autotech Ventures, Troy Capital Partners and Capital Factory.
• Fisdom, an India-based personal finance management startup, raised $4 million in Series B funding. Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, and was joined by Saama Capital.
• TrackStreet, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based automated SaaS-based ecommerce monitoring platform, raised $2 million in seed funding. Okapi Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Stage Venture Partners and SaaS Capital.
• No Agent, a U.K.-based management platform for landlords, raised $1.1 million in funding. Investors include Nick Hynes and Carl Uminski.
• Silk Technologies Ltd, a Plymouth, Minn.-based biotech company that uses silk protein to develop drugs that treat eye disease, raised Series A funding of an undisclosed amount from Skyview Ventures.
• Thursday Boot Company, a New York-based footwear brand, raised Series A funding of an undisclosed amount. Blue Scorpion Investments L.P led the round.
HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Tricida, Inc, a South San Francisco, Calif.-based developer of oral drug therapies, raised $57.5 million in Series D funding. Investors include Wellington Management Company LLP, Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners, Cormorant Asset Management, OrbiMed, Longitude Capital, Sibling Capital Ventures, Limulus Venture Partners and Vivo Capital.
• Exonics Therapeutics, Inc, a Boston-based biotechnology company focused on developing SingleCut CRISPR technology to repair mutations causing Duchenne muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases, raised $40 million in Series A funding. The Column Group led the round.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Silver Lake and LinkedIn will invest $300 million in Cornerstone OnDemand (Nasdaq:CSOD), a Santa Monica, Calif-based software provider.
• Thoma Bravo will acquire ABC Financial Services, Inc, a Sherwood, Ark.-based software and payment processing company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• FFL Partners made a majority investment in ProService Hawaii, a Hawaii-based provider of outsourced human resources services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Monogram Capital Partners acquired a controlling interest in Atlantic Holdings, a newly-formed entity representing a franchisee in the Planet Fitness system. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Accruent acquired BlueCielo, an Amsterdam-based global advanced asset lifecycle information management provider. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Green House Data acquired Ajubeo, a Denver-based provider of infrastructure as a service. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Sogou, a Beijing, China-based search engine, raised $585 million in an offering of 45 million shares at $13 a piece, the high end of its range. In 2016, Sogou posted revenue of $660.4 million and earnings of $56 million. Sohu(37.8% pre-offering) and Tencent(43.7%) back the company. The underwriters include J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, and CICC. The company plans to list as “SOGO” on the NYSE.
• Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq:ZNGA) agreed to acquire the mobile card game studio of Peak Games, a leading global mobile gaming company, for $100 million in cash.
• Ford’s Argo AI acquired Princeton Lightwave, a Cranbury, N.J.-based developer of LiDAR technology. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Princeton Lightwave raised venture funding of an undisclosed amount from First Analysis.
• Acorns acquired Vault, a Portland-based company that allows users to automatically invest part of their paycheck into a retirement fund. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Vault had raised approximately $1.6 million in funding.
• Skyscanner acquired Twizoo, a London-based developer of a restaurant recommendation app, according to TechCrunch. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Twizoo had raised approximately £1.65 million ($2 million) in venture funding. Investors include EC1 Capital, Downing Ventures and Jensons EIS Fund. Read more.
• Pronoun, a New York-based self-publishing service for authors, is shutting down, according to TechCrunch. Pronoun had raised $3.5 million in venture funding from Avalon Ventures.
FIRMS + FUNDS
Ridgemont Equity Partners, a Charlotte, N.C.-based private equity firm, raised $320 million for its Energy Opportunity Fund LP.
Asher Hecht joined General Atlantic as a senior associate. Previously, Hecht was at Spectrum Equity.