Skip to Content

Term Sheet — Friday, February 8


Good morning, Term Sheet readers.

In January, SEC filings revealed that LearnVest founder Alexa von Tobel will raise $200 million for a new early-stage venture capital fund called Inspired Capital Partners. Now, a source familiar with the nascent fund tells Fortune that billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker will join the venture as a founding partner. Both von Tobel and Pritzker declined to comment, citing SEC regulations.

Pritzker, whose family is behind the Hyatt Hotels chain, is the founder and chairman of investment firm PSP Partners. PSP has approximately 70 employees, and it deploys capital into real estate, mature private companies, and other investment funds.

But recently, she’s taken more of an interest in startups and added a venture capital arm to the firm called PSP Growth, which focuses on investing in fast-growing tech businesses. Its portfolio companies include Beachfront Media, a mobile-advertising platform; House Canary, a real estate analytics and valuation firm; and Measure, a drone inspection-services provider.

“I’ve always had an interest in innovation,” Pritzker told Crain’s Chicago Business in 2018. “I decided (technology) would become an area of focus for me after my time at the [U.S. Department of] Commerce. I’m a nerd at heart. Tech is affecting every aspect of our economy. My approach is to jump in with both feet.”

Now, she’s fully taking the plunge by joining von Tobel’s new firm to invest in early-stage startups.

The duo met when Pritzker served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration. Von Tobel was a member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, which was a collaboration between entrepreneurs and the White House. The pair took a trip together to Morocco on behalf of the White House and discovered they shared a passion for building companies, according to the source.

Von Tobel and Pritzker both have operating backgrounds.

Von Tobel founded LearnVest in 2008, which is a financial planning service platform. Northwest Mutual acquired the startup in 2015 for a whopping $350 million. Von Tobel then joined Northwestern Mutual as the chief innovation officer and left in January to pursue her next act as a venture capitalist.

Pritzker founded Vi Senior Living (formerly known as Classic Residence by Hyatt) and co-founded an off airport parking company called The Parking Spot. She also sits on the boards of Microsoft and The Harvard Corporation.

It’s unclear what types of companies Inspired Capital Partners will back, but based on Von Tobel’s angel investments, it’s likely the firm will focus on startups within the financial technology sector.

Read this article on

BEZOS BLACKMAIL: In case you somehow missed the story that’s blowing up my Twitter feed at the moment, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published a detailed post containing emails from The National Enquirer that he believes tried to blackmail him over salacious photos he sent to girlfriend Lauren Sanchez. “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten, he writes.

Once I got over the shock factor, I noticed something interesting (to me, at least) about Bezos’ latest comms strategy. This is the second time in two months that he’s gotten in front of a potentially damaging story & gained control over the public narrative. He published a Medium post before The National Enquirer had a chance to release his “below the belt selfies,” and he announced his divorce to his wife of 25 years via Twitter before any reporters could break the story.

As someone on Twitter said, “Bezos just took crisis comms to the next level: get in front of the story by creating a new story before the original story becomes a story.”

GOING PUBLIC: Add Postmates to the roster of companies going public in 2019. The on-demand delivery startup has confidentially filed for an IPO and chosen JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America as its lead underwriters. In January, it raised $100 million in venture funding from investors including Tiger Global and Blackrock at a valuation of $1.85 billion.

“We have a beautiful path to an IPO in 2019,” Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann told me in September. “Listen, I’m an immigrant, and I came to this country to launch the Postmates business. My dream is to run a publicly-traded company.”


• Investors Need To Pay Attention to the CBO (by Shawn Tully)

• Airbnb Hires Founding CEO of Virgin America to Expand Into Transportation (by Danielle Abril)

• How Women Can Negotiate to Close the Gender Pay Gap (by Anne Fisher)

• CEOs Are Scrambling to Avoid Trump Tariffs and Survive Trade War


SoftBank fund to invest $440 million in OakNorth. Foot Locker invests $100 million in secondary sneaker platform GOAT. Inside Wisconsin’s disastrous $4.5 billion deal with Foxconn. Facebook is still trying to figure out what teens are interested in. Female CLO managers tend to outperform men.


Aurora, an autonomous vehicle company, raised more than $530 million in funding at a valuation of more than $2 billion. Sequoia Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Amazon and funds advised by T. Rowe Price Group Inc.

Illumio, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer of cloud-based security solutions, raised $65 million in funding, according to Reuters. J.P. Morgan Asset Management led the round. Read more.

KenSci, a Seattle-based machine learning and artificial intelligence-powered risk prediction platform for healthcare, raised $22 million in Series B funding. Polaris Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Ignition Partners, Osage University Partners, Mindset Ventures and UL Ventures.

Everdays, a Birmingham, Mich.-based social platform that builds communities around milestone life events, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Gordy Companies led the round.

Prima, a Santa Monica, California-based plant wellness brand, raised $3.275 million in seed funding. Lerer Hippeau led the round, and was joined by investors including Greycroft. Read more at Fortune.

rMark Bio, a Chicago and Seattle-based provider of AI solutions for life sciences companies, raised $1.5 million in seed funding. Lincoln Park Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including M25 Group, SaaS Ventures and MATH Venture Partners.

Zubie, a Minneapolis-based connected car service, raised funding of an undisclosed amount. Investors include BP and Melody Capital.


Recida Therapeutics Inc, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing treatments for serious antibiotic-resistant infections, raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. Frazier Healthcare Partners led the round.

Green Dot Bioplastics, an Emporia, Kansas-based material science company, raised $6.5 million in funding. Fulcrum Global Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Open Prairie and iiM.


DexKo Global, a portfolio company of KPS Capital Partners, agreed to acquire Preston Chassis Industries Pty Ltd, an Australia-based provider of chassis. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Turbonomic, a Boston-based provider of workload automation software, raised funding of an undisclosed amount from Trend Forward Capital.

Levine Leichtman Capital Partners acquired Club Champion, a Willowbrook, Ill.-based provider of custom fitting services and golf equipment. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Periscope Equity made an investment in Power Digital Marketing, a San Diego-based tech-enabled digital marketing agency. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

One Rock Capital Partners agreed to acquire the plastics distribution business of Nexeo Solutions, Inc (Nasdaq: NXEO). Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Thompson Street Capital Partners will recapitalize BCM One, a New York-based provider of managed technology solutions and services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.


BB&T Corp. will buy SunTrust Banks Inc (NYSE:STI) for $28.2 billion.

Nutrien Ltd (TSX:NTR) will buy Actagro LLC, a Fresno, Calif.-based privately held maker of soil and plant health products, in a deal valued at $340 million, according to Reuters. Read more.


Alector, a San Francisco-based biotech building therapies for neurodegeneration, raised $176 million (48% insider) in an IPO of 9.3 million shares priced at $19. The firm posted revenue of $18.5 million in the nine months ending September, and loss of $34.9 million. Merck’s Venture fund (6% pre-offering), OrbiMed Private Investments (21.4%), and Polaris Venture Management (21.7%) back the firm. Morgan Stanley, BofA Merrill Lynch, Cowen, and Barclays are underwriters. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “ALEC.” Read more.


Blue Delta Capital Partners sold The Tauri Group, an Alexandria, Va.-based provider of homeland security and government contracting services, to LMI. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.


PIR Equities, a U.K.-based private equity firm, raised $312 million for its third flagship fund. PIR Equities is an employee-owned private equity firm.

Tuatara Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, raised at least $161 million for its second fund, Tuatara Capital Fund II, LP. The fund’s target is $375 million.

Hone Capital, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm, raised $50 million for its venture capital fund.


View this email in your browser.

Polina Marinova produces Term Sheet, and Lucinda Shen compiles the IPO news. Send deal announcements to Polina here and IPO news to Lucinda here.