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Coronavirus is bringing all sorts of societal issues to the surface

March 10, 2020, 1:58 PM UTC

Coronavirus hysteria is fully setting in. 

My inbox currently houses emails about three cancelled events, a pitch about “how business leaders are better positioned to tackle coronavirus than politicians,” and a note to Fortune staff about working remotely.

And Fortune’s not the only company that’s urging people to stay home. Amazon yesterday told employees in New York and New Jersey to work from home, if they can, throughout the month of March. Salesforce, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter issued similar notices.

Tools like Zoom and Slack facilitate remote work, but coronavirus fears are putting the idea to test on a scale we’ve never seen before. It’s a giant human experiment that will show companies whether it’s still possible to communicate effectively and do business as usual. 

Only 42 million Americans, or about 29% of the workforce, are able to work from home. Here’s an interesting wrinkle in the whole debacle of shifting to online work: Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel explained to Fortune on Monday that “the coronavirus is exposing hard truths about the digital divide in this country.”

According to the story, the actual number of Americans lacking access to high speed broadband is a source of dispute. While the FCC has suggested the number is around 21 million, Rosenworcel says the actual number is much higher, because the agency uses a methodology that concludes everyone in a census block is wired if even a single subscriber has broadband. 

It’s fascinating to see the various work obstacles the coronavirus panic is bringing to the surface. Feel free to share your thoughts about some of the unintended consequences from working remotely in the face of mass uncertainty. 

ODD NEWS: Sequoia is walking away from Finix, a San Francisco-based payments infrastructure company, over a purported conflict of interest. The firm is also handing back its board seat, information rights, shares and full investment. According to TechCrunch, Sequoia just walked away from $21 million because it realized that Finix competes too directly with Stripe—after it wrote a check…Mmmm somehow I feel like this isn’t the full story. If you have more information, you can contribute to our anonymous tip box here.

Polina Marinova
Twitter: @polina_marinova
Email: polina.marinova@fortune.com 

VENTURE DEALS

- NorthOne, a Canada-based digital challenger bank, raised $21 million in its Series A funding. Battery Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Redpoint Ventures and Tom Williams.

- TFLiving, a Pawleys Island, S.C.-based tech-enabled platform providing fitness and amenities services to residential and commercial communities, raised $4.8 million in seed funding. Camber Creek led the round, and was joined by investors including Courtside Ventures..

- BackboneAI, a New York-based intercompany data automation platform, raised $4.7 million in seed funding. Fika Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Boldstart Ventures, Cendana Capital, Dynamo Ventures, GGV Capital, MetaProp, and Spider VC.

- Rest Less, a U.K.-based social enterprise start-up offering jobs, volunteering and guidance for the over 50s, raised £3 million ($4 million) in seed funding. QED Investors led the round, and was joined by investors including 1818 Venture Capital and Octopus Ventures.

- Arfa, a New York-based platform for creating personal care brands, raised funding of an undisclosed amount. Investors include Index Ventures, White Star Capital, Forerunner Ventures, Thrive Capital, Norwest, Foundation Capital, AlleyCorp (Kevin Ryan), and Box Group. 

PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS

- Blackstone Group Inc is in exclusive talks to take SOHO China Ltd (SEHK: 410) private in a $4 billion deal, according to Reuters. Read more.

- Genstar Capital recapitalized ConnectiveRx, a Whippany, N.J.-based provider of technology-enabled biopharmaceutical services. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

IPOs

- Caixa Seguridade SA, a Brazilian insurer, decided to cancel its initial public offering citing concerns about coronavirus and falling oil prices, Reuters reports citing sources. Read more.

- Wintershall DEA, a London-based energy group that planned an IPO for late-2020, is expected to pause those plans over coronavirus fears and plunging oil prices, Reuters reports citing sources. Read more.