The other unseen cost of the pandemic

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By the numbers, the coronavirus has been no small cost for startups.

Some 536 have laid off roughly 70,587 employees since the pandemic hit the U.S. full force, according to, a site that tracks those metrics. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing have forced revenues to effectively zero at travel and leisure companies and pushed startups with weaker balance sheets into a corner.

The likes of Airbnb, Ola, Uber, and Toast have each laid off upwards of 1,000 employees since early March.

But here’s another long-tail “cost” (or perhaps necessary rejiggering) to watch out for, even as early signs indicate that the pace of layoffs in the sector has slowed and some hard-hit companies are, surprisingly, beginning to see some revenue streams returning: What happens when companies that have distinguished and prided themselves on a community-driven culture compared to their corporate, capitalism-driven predecessors lay off and create disillusioned workers?

Epitomizing that thought: On Friday, the New York Times wrote of the layoffs at multi-unicorn Airbnb with a headline that says it all: Airbnb Was Like a Family, Until the Layoffs Started. Indeed, a quarter of its workforce, some 1,900, were laid off and reminded that, in the end, a job was a job. And in an “unusual public show of dissent” during a virtual employee Q&A session with CEO Brian Chesky, workers, referring to layoffs on Airbnb’s safety team, wrote in: “Safety was never a priority!”

Now former workers are facing a dissonance between a so-called inclusive culture and layoffs, out either creating their own startups or joining new companies. It’s unclear the extent to which this revelation shifts the culture of startup land, and it’s hard, for me, to imagine that the “community-based” culture that it has defined itself by will go away any time soon, but it’s not hard to think skepticism is on the rise.

The edtech boom continues: Coursera, the online learning platform that sources classes from university instructors, raised $130 million as part of its Series F round led by NEA. Existing investors including Kleiner Parkins, Seek Group, Learn Capital, SuRo Capital Corp, and G Squared also participated in the round that values the startup at about $2.5 billion, per the Information

Investors are flocking to education technology companies that are experiencing a boom in users, as companies and schools alike seek out a new way to educate in the pandemic, and consumers are finding new, socially distanced hobbies.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


- Xpeng Motors, a Chinese electric-vehicle maker, raised $500 million in extended Series C funding. Investors include Aspex Management, Sequoia Capital China, Hillhouse Capital, and Coatue Management. Read more.

- Dream11, a Mumbai-based fantasy sports unicorn, is reportedly in talks to raise $200 million from investors including Kedaara Capital. Read more.

- Antengene, a Shanghai-based clinical-stage oncology and hematology biopharma company, raised $97 million in Series C funding. Fidelity Management & Research Company led the round and was joined by investors including Hillhouse Capital, GIC, Qiming Venture Partners, and Boyu Capital.

- Moneybox, a London, U.K.-based saving and investing app, raised £30 million ($37.7 million) in Series C funding. Investors included Eight Roads and new names Breega and CNP.

- Cohere Health, a Boston-based healthcare administration company between physicians and health plans, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Flare Capital Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Define Ventures.

- Sibros, a San Jose, Calif.-based connected vehicle system, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Nexus Venture Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Moneta Ventures and Twin Ventures. 

- Neurovalens, a Belfast and San Diego-based maker of non-invasive neurostimulation products, raised £5.1 million ($6.5 million) in funding. IQ Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Wharton Asset Management Company, The Angel CoFund, Techstart Ventures, Clarendon Fund Managers, and the Government’s Future Fund.


- KKR is in talks about a potential acquisition of Elsan, a French clinic chain. CVC backs Elsan. A deal could value Elsan at about €3.5 billion ($4 billion).  Read more.

- TowerBrook Capital Partners acquired Azzurri Group, a London-based owner of Zizzi and Ask Italian restaurant chains. TowerBrook has committed $88 million as part of its insolvency process. The chain will close 75 of its branches. Read more.

- EBay Inc.’s classifieds unit is in advanced talks to sell to Adventia, the Norwegian as group, per the Journal. The deal could value the unit at $8 billion or more. Others who have submitted bids include Prosus, Blackstone, Permira, and Hellman & Friedman. Read more.

- Astute, backed by Audax Group, acquired iPerceptions, a Montreal-based customer feedback software maker. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- RedBird Capital agreed to acquire 85% of Toulouse Football Club, a French soccer club. Club owner Olivier Sadran will retain a 15% stake.  Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Perforce Software, backed by Clearlake Capital Group and Francisco Partners, acquired Methodics Inc., a San Francisco-based provider of intellectual property lifecycle management and traceability solutions. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- SoftBank Group sold an additional $2.2 billion of its stake in Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce firm. Read more.

- Giglio Group SpA is leading a group of investors planning to bid for American clothing brand Brooks Brothers Group. Read more.

- Rosetta Stone (NYSE: RST), an Arlington County, Va.-based maker of education software, is exploring a potential sale of some of its parts as the pandemic boosts business. Voss Capital backs the firm. Read more.

- Sanofi is weighing potential acquisitions of U.S. biotechnology companies including Principia Biopharma, per Bloomberg. Read more.

- Italy’s Atlantia plans to sell its motorway unit, per Reuters citing sources. Read more.

- Intesa Sanpaolo (MI:ISP) raised its bid for rival Italian bank UBI Banca (MI:UBI) by 18% and added cash. Read more.

- Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) agreed to acquire Noble Energy (NASDAQ: NBL), a Houston, Texas-based hydrocarbon exploration company, in stock for $5 billion. 


- Topgolf, a Dallas-based driving range company, is reportedly going public via merger with Churchill Capital Corp II, a SPAC. Read more.

- Nurix Therapeutics, a San Francisco-based developer of targeted protein modulation drugs, plans to raise $150 million in an offering of 8.8 million shares priced between $16 to $18. Foresite Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Bain Capital Life Sciences, Boxer Capital (Tavistock Group), EcoR1 Capital, Redmile Group, Wellington Management Company, The Column Group and Third Rock Ventures.

- Annexon, a South San Francisco, Calif.-based clinical-stage company developing therapies for classical complement-mediated disorders, plans to raise $150 million in an offering of 10 million shares priced between $14 to $16 apiece. Redmile Group led the round and was joined by investors including BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital

- Vertex, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based provider of tax software for businesses, plans to raise $317 million by offering 21.2 million shares priced between $14 to $16 apiece. It posted revenue of $321.5 million and income of $31.1 million in 2019. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “VERX.” Read more.

- Inozyme Pharma, a Boston-based biotech, plans to raise $75 million in an offering of 5 million shares priced between $14 to $16. Longitude Ventures Partners (14.3% pre-offering), Novo Holdings (14.3%), and NEA (14.3%) back the firm. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “INZY.” Read more.


- China Three Gorges Corp. opened talks to acquire X-Elio, a Spanish photovoltaic power generation company backed by KKR and Brookfield, above 500 million euros ($569 million). Read more.


- Neotribe Ventures raised $216 million for its second fund. 

Balance Point Capital is targeting $425 million target for its fifth flagship fund. Read more.


- Grove Ventures named Lior Handelsman as a partner. He was among the founders of SolarEdge.

- VMG Partners, a private equity firm focused on consumer brands, promoted Angad Hira to partner and will maintain his position as CFO. Jon Marshall was promoted to partner. Alisa Williams was promoted to partner, as was McConnell Smith.

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