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As major scooter companies struggle, upstarts seek inroads

June 4, 2020, 2:27 PM UTC

Lockdowns have forced scooterers off the streets and pushed the likes of Bird and Uber to downsize or consolidate as revenues hit rock bottom.

But heartened by early signs from Asia show that bike sharing and scooter sharing may be the first of transportation companies to come back as consumers eschew tightly packed subways and buses, investors are forging on.

Now upstarts are trying to make inroads, seeing opportunities to grow as their larger competitors grapple with the coronavirus. On Thursday, Superpedestrian, a Boston-based maker of electric scooters, raised $15 million in funding led by Edison Partners as it plans to expand its fleet into four new cities in the next few weeks in the U.S. and Europe. In turn, Superpedestrian acquired Zagster, a fleet management firm, from Edison Partners.

“The Covid-19 dynamic cleared and leveled the playing field a little bit,” said Edison partner Daniel Herscovici to Term Sheet.

While the coronavirus has razed demand, Superpedestrian plans to continue to deploy, as it has only made a commercial push in one market, Fort Pierce, Fla.—an advantage as its larger peers are preoccupied with downsizing their heftier fleets.

The company builds its own scooters that it says can detect failures and quickly stop if a rider is attempting to enter a restricted city zone—making the scooters themselves cheaper and more friendly to city officials, says CEO Assaf Biderman. And with the acquisition of Zagster, the company also will have a charging crew of employees rather than gig-economy workers like Bird and Lime—giving it more control over its fleet.

Existing investors Spark Capital and General Catalyst also participated in the round.

Private markets get public: After a multi-year effort from the world of alternative assets, the U.S. Department of Labor said private equity could be included in defined contribution plans like 401(k) retirement savings plans and IRAs—a move that Evercore analysts say could unlock as much as $400 billion in capital. But whether those that manage those funds decide to add private equity to their offerings, given the asset class’ illiquidity and complex fee structure, is another question.

Finally, some PPP clarity: On Wednesday, the Senate passed a Paycheck Protection Program reform bill that received approval from the House last week. The new rules, now awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, would allow small businesses to use 60% of the loan money on payroll instead of the previous 75%, and allow companies to spend the funds for six months versus two months, among other changes. The new bill comes as demand for PPP funding has dried up in part because of the uncertainty around the program and the coronavirus. While the first tranche of the PPP ran out in 14 days, much of the second still remains unspent, with some $150 billion still on the table. Read more.

VENTURE DEALS

- Jushuitan, a Chinese Saas company, raised as much as $100 million in Series C funding. Goldman Sachs China led the round. Read more.

- Cullinan Oncology, a Cambridge, Mass.-based oncology biotech, raised $98.5 million Series B financing. Investors including MPM Capital and F2 Ventures participated.

- Prilenia Therapeutics B.V., a Netherlands and Israel-based clinical stage biotech focused on neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders, raised $62.5 million in a Series A funding. Forbion led the round and was joined by investors including Morningside Venture Investments,Sectoral Asset Management, Talisman Capital Partners, and Genworks 2.

- Nanox, an Israeli medical imaging company, raised $51 million in funding. SK Telecom invested $20 million while other investors included Foxconn and FujiFilm.

- Tembici, a São Paulo, Brazil-based micro mobility startup operating Latin America, raised $47 million (R$270 million) in Series B funding. Valor Capital Group and Redpoint eventures led the round and were joined by investors including International Finance Corporation and Joá Investimentos.

- Inky, a College Park, Maryland-based anti-phising startup, raised $20 million in Series B funding. Insight Partners led the round. Read more.

- Keelvar, an Irish sourcing software company, raised $18 million in Series A funding. Elephant and Mosaic Ventures led the round, and were joined by investors including Paua Ventures.

- BRYTER, a London and Berlin-based platform for building business applications, raised $16 million in Series A funding. Dawn Capital and Accel led the round and were joined by investors including Notion Capital and Mike Chalfen. 

- 1touch.io, a Stamford, Conn.-based provider of data discovery, privacy, and security solutions, raised $14 million in Series A funding. Investors National Grid Partners, Jerusalem Venture Partners, Connecticut Innovations, Mindset Ventures, and Ocean Azul Partners.

- Base Genomics, an Oxford, UK..-based epigenetics company, raised $11 million (£9 million) in seed funding. Oxford Sciences Innovation led the round.

- Lili, a New York-basd banking app for freelance workers, raised $10 million in seed funding. Group 11 led the round and was joined by investors including Foundation Capital, AltaIR Capital, Primary Venture Partners and Torch Capital

- Anvil, a San Francisco-based paperwork automation platform, raised $5 million in Series A funding. Gradient Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Citi Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Financial Venture Studio, and 122 West.

- Magic, a San Francisco-based startup building a decentralized blockchain-based identity solution, raised $4 million in seed funding led by Placeholder. Lightspeed Ventures, SV Angel, Social Capital, Cherubic Ventures, Volt Capital, Refactor Capital, Unusual Ventures, Naval Ravikant, Guillermo Rauch, and Roham Gharegozlou also participated. Read more.

- The Small Exchange, a Chicago-based futures exchange offering smaller products aimed toward retail customers, raised $4 million in funding from Interactive Brokers and Phillip Capital Group.

- PAIRIN, a Denver-based workforce program company, raised $2.1 million in its first tranche of Series A funding. New Markets Venture Partners led the round and was joined by investors including New U Venture Partners, JFFLabs, and return investors Village Capital, ZOMA Foundation, and Independent Spectrum.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- TPG is in talks to acquire Goal.com, the world’s largest soccer news website, from DAZN Group for $125 million. Read more.

- Effectual, backed by Catalyst Investors and Lumerity, acquired Five Talent, a Bend, Ore.-based technology consultancy firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- BuildGroup invested $80 million in Benefitfocus (NASDAQ:BNFT), a technology platform for employers, health plans and consumers. 

- Hub International, a portfolio company of Hellman & Friedman and Altas Partners, acquired Alberta-based benefits consultancy HB Consultants and  Toronto-based JM Rose Insurance Agency. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Investment Management Corporation of Ontario and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners invested in euNetworks Group, a Western European bandwidth infrastructure company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHERS

- Amazon is in early talks to buy a stake worth at least $2 billion in Bharti Airtel, an Indian mobile operator competing with Reliance Jio. Read more.

- Navisite acquisition of Privo, an Woburn, Mass.-based AWS consulting firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Royal Dutch Shell is considering raising more than $2 billion from the sale of a stake in the common facilities at its Queensland Curtis LNG plant in Australia, per Reuters. Read more.

- Total (NYSE: TOT) plans to acquire a 51% stake in SSE’s (LON:SSE) Seagreen 1 British offshore wind farm project for about $3.7 billion. 

IPOs

- Unity, a San Francisco-based maker of graphics software for games, is preparing for an IPO that could come later this year. Read more.

- ZoomInfo Technologies, a Vancouver, Wash.-based platform for sales and marketing, raised $923 million in an IPO of 44.5 million shares priced at $21 apiece. It posted revenue of $293 million in 2019 and loss of $78 million. TA Associates and Carlyle back the firm. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “ZI.” Read more.

EXITS

- Hippo agreed to acquire Spinnaker Insurance Company, a Bedminister, N.J.-based national property and casualty insurer. Investors including Arch Capital backed Spinnaker.

- NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) agreed to acquire Spot, a compute management and cost optimization company for public clouds. Spot’s investors included Highland Capital, Intel Capital and Vertex Ventures Israel.

- The Carlyle Group and T&D Holdings acquired a 76.6% stake in Fortitude Group Holdings, a reinsurer, from American International Group.

- GHO Capital Partners acquired X-Chem, a Waltham, Mass.-based provider of DNA-encoded library-based discovery services, from Carlyle and H&F. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

F+FS

- Meritech Capital Partners raised $800 million for its seventh fund. Read more.

- InvestEco Capital closed InvestEco Sustainable Food Fund III with $100 million in capital commitments.

- MassMutual Ventures raised $100 million for its third fund.

- Mercato Partners raised $90 million for its inaugural food and beverage fund, Savory. 

PEOPLE

- Thomvest Ventures hired Ashish Kakran as a Principal.