Happy Friday, Term Sheet readers,
2017 was about delayed exits and outsized valuations. 2018 will look different.
Market conditions signal a strong year for IPOs, according to SVB’s latest State of the Market report. There should be a steady stream of listings and acquisitions, mainly due to increasing liquidity demands. The private market impact of this trend remains to be seen.
If true, “unicorn” companies will be 2018’s greatest beneficiaries. The anticipated high-profile IPOs include Spotify, Dropbox, Lyft, and Xiaomi. Just the thought of liquidity will leave most private shareholders salivating. See the full report here.
ENDING THE DRAMA: Meanwhile in Uber-land, the drama is subsiding. Benchmark officially dropped its lawsuit against former CEO Travis Kalanick following the close of SoftBank’s $9.3 billion share purchase. Per the agreement, Benchmark was obligated to do this so long as a slate of governance reforms attached to the deal went into effect. Hopefully, the daily Uber posts are behind us … but who knows what could happen when Kalanick, Masayoshi Son, and Benchmark are involved.
CRYPTO TRADING: Robinhood, a zero-commission stock trading platform popular with millennials, is making the plunge into cryptocurrency. Robinhood now allows users to add 16 coins, including Bitcoin and Ether, to their watch lists and track data. In February, it will allow customers to buy tokens using the same streamlined, no-commission approach it offers for stocks. This is important for several reasons:
• This brings a new, crypto-focused audience to Robinhood, while also introducing token investing to its existing user base. Things to watch here include: user numbers for Robinhood and Coinbase, potential increases in crypto-trading volume, and the impact on Robinhood’s operations and customer support.
• Robinhood brings a more polished and engaging user experience to the cryptocurrency world. This may be one of the most compelling aspects of Robinhood’s decision — there are very few consumer-friendly products in this space, so expect Robinhood to hold this advantage for quite some time.
• Robinhood says it will allow customers to acquire stakes without paying a commission or fees. Popular exchanges, such as Coinbase, all charge a commission on buying and selling. It will be interesting to see if Coinbase is forced to respond to Robinhood’s zero-commission approach, especially given all the attention Coinbase received around its eye-popping 2017 revenues ($1 billion). But…it’s really hard to compete with free.
• Lastly, Robinhood’s move into the cryptocurrency space brings additional legitimacy and attention to a burgeoning industry. I’m curious to see what the capital allocation breakdown of Robinhood’s user base looks like 12 months from now.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE…
• President Trump at Davos Says ‘America First’ Is Good for the World
• Bitcoin Is Dropping Again. This Time, Look to Japan
• Walmart Is Bringing the Fight to Amazon’s Turf: E-books
• Billionaire George Soros Is Using Blockchain Technology to Help Migrants
• Sun Basket, a San Francisco-based healthy cooking service, raised $42.8 million in Series D funding. August Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Trinity Capital Investment.
• Heetch, a France-based ride-sharing service, raised $20 million in funding. Investors including Félix Capital, Via ID, Alven Capital, Idinvest Partners and InnovAllianz, according to TechCrunch. Read more.
• botkeeper, a Boston-based automated bookkeeping solution, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Ignition Partners led the round.
• Enertiv Inc, a New York City-based provider of data driven energy efficiency solutions, raised $4.25 million in funding. Investors include Fifth Wall.
• Songtradr, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based music licensing platform, raised $4 million in Series A funding. Richard White, CEO and founder of WiseTech Global, led the round.
• TeacherGaming, a Finland-based educational tech startup, raised $1.6 million in seed funding. Makers Fund led the round.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Blue Water Energy and Blackstone agreed to lead an initial investment of up to $1 billion in Mime Petroleum, a Norway-focused oil and gas company.
• TPG Capital-backed RCN/Grande completed its previously announced acquisition of Wave Broadband, a Kirkland, Wash.-based regional broadband fiber company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Seacoast Capital invested $15.4 million in Stone Road Energy, a Gorham, Maine distributor of propane and heating oil and service providers in New England.
• Ascensus, which is backed by Genstar Capital and Aquiline Capital Partners, agreed to acquire Qualified Plans LLC, a Savannah, Ga.-based provider of plan design, consultation, compliance and administration services for defined contribution and defined benefit plans. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Warburg Pincus invested up to $150 million in Stronghold Energy II Holdings, a newly formed oil and gas exploration and production company.
• TFI TAB Food Investments, an Istanbul, Turkey-based franchisee for quick serve restaurants including Burger King in the country, said it plans to offer 22 million ADSs representing 264 million ordinary shares for $9 to $11 a piece, raising $220 million. In 2016, the company posted revenue of 2.9 billion lira($750 million) and loss of 253.9 million lira($26.6 million). Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Citi, J.P. Morgan, and Rabo Securities are joint bookrunners in the deal. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq as “TFIG.”
• PlayAGS, a Las Vegas-based slots machine maker, said it plans to raise $164 million in an offering of 10.25 million shares priced at $16, the low end of its $16 to $18 range. Apollo backs the company. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Jefferies, Macquarie Capital, BofA Merrill Lynch, Citi, Nomura Securities, Stifel and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey are joint bookrunners in the deal. AGS plans to list on the NYSE as “AGS.”
• Solid Biosciences, a Cambridge, Mass.-based Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment maker, said it raised $124.8 million in an offering of $16, at the low end of its previously stated range of $18 to $19 though at a higher share count. JPMC Strategic Investments, Perceptive Advisors, Bain Capital Life Sciences, RA Capital, and Biogen Capital back the company. J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Leerink Partners are joint bookrunners in the deal. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq as “SLDB.”
• ResTORbio Inc, a Boston-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company treating aging-related diseases, raised $85 million in an IPO of 5.7 million shares at $15 a piece, the mid-point of its range. Investors including OrbiMed, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Rock Springs Capital, Quan Capital and Nest Bio back the company. BofA Merrill Lynch, Leerink Partners, Evercore ISI and Wedbush PacGrow are joint bookrunners in the deal. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq as “TORC.”
• Ford will acquire Autonomic, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based transportation architecture and technology provider, and TransLoc, a provider of real-time information to transit systems. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Read more.
• Sotheby’s acquired Thread Genius, a New York-based developer of a visual search and recommendation platform for fashion content. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Thread Genius had raised approximately $100,000 in venture funding from investors including Right Side Capital Management.
• Gfycat acquired MovieLaLa, a San Francisco-based operator of a social media app for movie fans. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. MovieLala had raised more than $2 million in funding from investors including Marc Benioff, Allen DeBevoise, and Jim Moloshok.
• Equistone Partners Europe sold Concept Life Sciences, a U.K.-based international scientific laboratory and consultancy business, to Spectris (LSE: SXS) for £163 million ($232 million).
FIRMS + FUNDS
• HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, a Germany-based venture capital firm, €306 million ($380 million) for its seventh fund.
• Silversmith Capital Partners, a Boston-based private equity and venture capital firm, raised $670 million for its second fund, Silversmith Capital Partners II, L.P.
• Highland Capital Management, L.P. named Laurie Whetstone a managing director and Kieran Brennan, a director.
• Gen II Fund Services, LLC promoted Shawn McMenimen and Stephen Ho to principal.