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Spotify expands its podcast empire in a bid to become ‘the world’s leading audio platform’

February 5, 2020, 2:40 PM UTC

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

Spotify’s at it again. The music-streaming giant announced plans to acquire The Ringer, a sports and entertainment news company.

The Ringer, which was founded by sports writer Bill Simmons in 2016, boasts more than 30 podcasts in its network. That’s exactly what Spotify has been eyeing. In a news release, Spofity said that it hopes the Ringer deal will help it become “the world’s leading audio platform.” Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but The Ringer reportedly exceeded $15 million in revenue in 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Spotify has been on a podcast acquisition spree in the last year. You might remember the company also acquired Gimlet Media for $230 million, Anchor for more than $100 million, and Parcast for $56 million. Gimlet focuses on producing high-quality narrative podcasts, Anchor helps with distribution and monetization, and Parcast is a scripted-entertainment podcast studio.

At the time of those acquisitions, I wrote that these deals were a no-brainer. Why? Because of the pursuit of influence and engagement. 

“People who consume podcasts on Spotify are consuming more of Spotify — including music,” head of Spotify Studios Courtney Holt said at last year’s CES. “So we found that in increasing our catalog and spending more time to make the user experience better, it wasn’t taking away from music, it was enhancing the overall time spent on the platform.” 

The bottom line: When users come to Spotify to listen to their favorite Gimlet or Ringer podcast, they will inevitably spend more time engaging with the Spotify platform. Additionally, Spotify will focus on curation and hyper-personalization with its podcast arm, just as it’s done with its music offering.

In an October Fortune feature, Spotify Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff offered some insight into the company’s strategy. “Podcasts have been around for years, but they’re still nascent in other ways—the business has been incredibly fragmented,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for Spotify to build and unify the industry at a time when we’re seeing listenership explode.”

SOFTBANK CHANGES: Michael Ronen, a former Goldman Sachs banker who joined SoftBank in 2017, is leaving the firm, the FT first reported. Ronen reportedly plans to pursue something entrepreneurial following his departure, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The FT also reported that SoftBank is currently in discussion about Ron Fisher’s future at the company. (Fisher is one of Masayoshi Son’s longest-serving lieutenants.) Term Sheet has learned that Fisher’s role will likely change, but he is not leaving the firm.

SoftBank has made several investments from its second Vision Fund (including the Alto deal below), and it’s doing so with a $38 billion contribution from SoftBank Group. The firm has not yet raised outside capital from limited partners for its new vehicle.

GOOD NIGHT, TERM SHEET: Term Sheet reader John Prendergass welcomed his newborn daughter on Sunday…and read her Term Sheet as a bedtime story. To us, that’s worthy of a Dad of the Year award! (But I’m also wondering just how many of you are already asleep at work after reading today’s edition…)

Polina Marinova
Twitter: @polina_marinova


- Alto, a San Francisco-based digital pharmacy, raised $250 million in Series D funding. Investors include SoftBank Vision Fund 2, GreenOaks Capital, Jackson Square Ventures, Olive Tree Capital and Zola Global. 

- Deliverr, a San Francisco-based provider of order fulfillment services, raised $40 million in Series C funding. Activant Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including 8VC, GLP and Ryan Peterson. 

- The Zebra, an Austin-based insurance comparison site, raised $38.5 million in Series C funding. Investors include Weatherford Capital, Accel, Silverton Partners, Daher Capital, Floodgate Fund, Ballast Point Ventures, and Keith Melnick.

- Digital Asset, a New York-based blockchain company, raised $35 million in Series C funding. Investors include Samsung Ventures and Salesforce Ventures.

- Turo, a San Francisco-based online rental car marketplace, raised $30 million in Series E2 funding, amounting to a total of $280 million in Series E funding. Investors include Allen & Company LLC, Larry Fitzgerald and 2 Chainz.

- NGD Systems, an Irvine, Calif.-based computational storage startup, raised $20 million in Series C funding. MIG Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Western Digital Capital Global, Orange Digital Ventures, Partech, BGV and Plug-N-Play.

- floLIVE, a London-based provider of secure, cloud-native connectivity management solutions for the Internet of Things, raised $21.5 million in funding. 83North led the round, and was joined by investors including Dell Technologies Capital, Saban Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures LLC.

- Foxtrot, a Chicago-based app that lets users shop curated collections of drinks, eats and essentials, raised $17 million in funding. Imaginary and Wittington Ventures co-led the round, and was joined by investors including Fifth Wall, Lerer Hippeau, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, M3 Ventures, The University of Chicago, Collaborative VC, Wasson Enterprise, Bluestein Associates and Barshop Ventures. 

- ClearMetal, a San Francisco-based logistics and supply chain data analytics startup, raised $15 million in funding. Eclipse Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Prelude Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, NEA,, Prologis, PSA Unboxed, DCLI, and the founders of GT Nexus, Navis, and Uber Freight.

- Bravo Sierra, a New York-based non-traditional defense contractor, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Global Founders Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Mousse Partners, Canaan Partners, Redo Ventures, Grace Beauty Capital and Lapa Capital.

- Convelio, a Paris-based digital freight forwarder specialized in fine-art shipping, raised €9 million in Series A funding. Acton Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Global Founders Capital.

- Houwzer, a Philadelphia-based real estate brokerage, raised $9.5 million in funding. Edison Partners led the round. 

- FreightWeb, a Seattle-based trucking startup, raised $3 million in funding. Investors include Madrona Venture Group and 8VC

- Casted, an Indianapolis-based software-as-a-service marketing platform for branded podcasts, raised $2.35 million in seed funding. Investors include High Alpha Capital, Elevate Ventures and Tappan Hill Ventures.

- LumaTax, a Seattle-based software-as-a-service company that enables small businesses to comply with sales tax regulations, raised $2 million in funding. Investors include KPMG, Madrona Venture Group, Cowboy Ventures, Greycroft, and Vulcan Capital.


- Verana Health, a San Francisco-based technology company that curates and analyzes real-world clinical data to advance patient care, raised $100 million in funding. GV led the round, and was joined by investors including Bain Capital Ventures, Casdin Capital, and Define Ventures.

- MaaT Pharma, a Paris-based biotechnology company, raised €18 million in Series B funding. Investors include SymBiosis, Seventure Partners, Crédit Mutuel Innovation, and Biocodex. 

- Ikarovec, a Cambridge-based developer of novel gene therapies to treat major ophthalmic indications, raised £2.5 million in seed funding. Investors include UKI2S, LifeArc and Parkwalk.


- Washington Equity Partners made a majority investment in Tube Bending, Inc, a manufacturer and fabricator of tubing and tubing assemblies. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- Black Dragon Capital will acquire Grass Valley, a San Francisco-based technology supplier of advanced broadcast and media solutions, from Belden Inc. (NYSE: BDC). Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- Industrial Opportunity Partners acquired Competition Cams, Inc, a Memphis, Tenn-based company that specializes in the production of camshafts. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- Trowbridge, which is backed by Enlightenment Capital, acquired IntelliWare Systems, a Fredericksburg, Va.-based provider of cyber, intelligence, and information technology solutions to the FBI. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- Dotdash acquired Mother Nature Network, a destination for sustainability, environmental, and responsible living content, and TreeHugger, a publisher dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream, from Narrative Content Group. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 


- Central Retail Corp, Thailand’s largest retailer, priced its IPO in a deal valued at $2.6 billion, Reuters reports. Read more.

- Locaweb, a Brazilian web services company, will raise 1.2 billion reais ($282 million), through an IPO in the country. Silverlake backs the firm. Read more.


- The private investment arm of Koch Industries Inc acquired the remaining equity in cloud-software maker Infor Inc, a New York-based provider of enterprise software, in a deal valued at nearly $13 billion including preferred shares, according to Bloomberg. Read more.


- Andreessen Horowitz, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm, raised $750 million for its third Bio fund. Read more.

- Ecosystem Investment Partners, a Baltimore, Md.-based private equity firm,  raised $454.5 million for its fund, Ecosystem Investment Partners IV, L.P.