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The controversy over Coinbase’s stance against corporate social responsibility

September 29, 2020, 2:43 PM UTC

This is the web version of Term Sheet, a daily newsletter on the biggest deals and dealmakers. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox. Corporate social activism has been on the rise.

Corporate social activism has been on the rise.

But Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange startup last valued at $8 billion, is taking a unique stance.

In a post Monday, CEO Brian Armstrong wrote that the company has faced difficult questions about how to engage in today’s “broader societal issues.” The company has, he noted, experienced employee walkouts.

So Armstrong said Coinbase would focus on building the company’s core mission: “Using cryptocurrency to bring economic freedom to people all over the world”—and engage “minimally” around policy decisions, non-profit work, and political causes. Some Coinbase employees, he wrote, may have previously interpreted this mission to be more encompassing of “all forms of equality and justice,” though that is not what he intended it to mean.

“It has become common for Silicon Valley companies to engage in a wide variety of social activism,” he wrote. “While I think these efforts are well intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division.”

And… well… that set off a firestorm, with some hailing the post as a contrarian and mold-breaking, and others decrying the post as a mark against diversity.

Many in the Libertarian-leaning part of venture capital that gave the post a thumbs up, praising the separation between social activism and company operations. 

Paul Graham retweeted the note, adding: “Yet again, @brian_armstrong leads the way. I predict most successful companies will follow Coinbase’s lead. If only because those who don’t are less likely to succeed.” Long Journey Ventures’ Cyan Bannister opined: “This makes me very bullish on Coinbase! It’s about damn time a company took a stance like this.” 

But on the other side: “In a nutshell, this one is a lot to unpack and I hope they will revisit it because… well… I think they should and can do better,” Kimberly Bryant, CEO of Black Girls CODE wrote in a Twitter thread. “Hey everyone who says that they equally scrutinize male leaders for building poor company cultures, where is your coverage of this trash?” wrote Sarah Mauskopf, CEO of Winnie.

I’ve reached out to Coinbase for more background on Armstrong’s post—and concrete answers on what exactly fits within the purview of the company’s mission. The CEO previously tweeted “Black Lives Matter” in response to the killing of George Floyd in June, stating Coinbase planned to make a $250,000 donation and match up to $250,000 to causes chosen by employees. The company though, has declined to comment further than Armstrong’s post.

“I recognize that our approach is not for everyone, and may be controversial. I know that many people may not agree, and some employees may resign,” wrote Armstrong in his post. 

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda
Email: lucinda.shen@fortune.com

VENTURE DEALS

- XtalPi, a biotech with A.I.-assisted drug discovery, raised $319 million in Series C funding. SoftBank’s Vision Fund led the round and was joined by investors including PICC Capital, Morningside, Tencent, Sequoia Capital China, China Life, and SIGRead more.

- Seismic, a San Diego-based sales enablement and marketing orchestration platform provider, raised $92 million in Series F funding. Permira led the round and was joined by investors including Ameriprise Financial, EDBI, Jackson Square Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and T. Rowe Price. The round values Seismic at approximately $1.6 billion.

- Exotec, a Paris-based maker of warehouse logistics software and robotics provider. raised $90 million in Series C funding. 83North led the round and was joined by investors including Iris Capital and Breega.

- BioShin Limited, the Asia-Pacific subsidiary of Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding (NYSE: BHVN) announced today that, raised $60 million in  Series A funding. OrbiMed led the round and was joined by investors including Cormorant Asset ManagementHBM Healthcare Investments, Surveyor Capital, and Suvretta Capital Management.

- ButterflyMX, a New York-based maker of a smart intercom, raised $35 million. Volition Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Egis Capital, RiverPark Ventures, and Stifel Financial Corporation. 

- Facet Wealth, a Baltimore, Maryland-based fintech, raised $25 million in Series B funding. Warburg Pincus led the round.

- Thinkific, a Vancouver-based platform for creating and selling online courses, raised $22 million in funding. Rhino Ventures led the round.

- IONpath, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based developer of high-definition spatial proteomics, raised $18 million in Series B funding. Samsara BioCapital led the round and was joined by investors including Bruker Corporation, Genoa Ventures, ND Capital, Paladin Partners Investments, Trancos IONpath Investors, Norwich Ventures, and Vertical Venture Partners Growth Fund.

-  Rally, a New York-based fractional investing platform for alternatives investments such as luxury cars, raised $17 million. Investors included Upfront Ventures, Porsche Ventures, Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group, Global Brain, Relay Ventures and Alexis Ohanian

- UPshow, a Chicago-based maker of digital signage, raised $14 million in Series A funding. 4490 Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Jump Capital, TDF Ventures and the Signature Venture Banking Group. 

- PayMongo, a Philippines-based online payment platform, raised $12 million in Series A. Stripe led the round and was joined by investors including Bedrock Capital, Global Founders Capital, and Y Combinator.

- BukuWarung, a Jakarta--based fintech, raised between $10 million and $15 million in funding. Investors included partners of DST Global, Soma Capital and 20VC, per TechCrunch. Read more.

- Collective, a back-of-office platform for the self-employed, raised $8.7 million in funding from General Catalyst and QED Investors.

- Fluree, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based secure data management company, raised $6.5 million in seed funding. Investors included 4490 Ventures, Rise of the Rest, Good Growth Capital, Engage Ventures and former Venrock Managing Partner Ray Rothrock.

- Coiled, a San Francisco-based solution for scaling data science, machine learning, and A.I. in Python, raised a $5 million in seed funding. Costanoa Ventures and IA Ventures led the round.

- Riskbook, a U.K.-based provider of reinsurance technology, £2 million ($2.6 million) in seed funding. Investors include Episode 1 Ventures, MMC Ventures and Seedcamp.

- Doorvest, a San Francisco-based end-to-end real estate investing platform, raised $1 million in pre-seed funding. Investors included Mucker Capital and founders from Sheltr  (Andrew Wynn), Human Interest (Roger Lee), Open Listings (Eric Wu), and Invitation Homes (Dallas B. Tanner).

- DeepSurface Security, a Portland-based predictive cybersecurity platform, raised $1 million in seed funding. Cascade Seed Fund led the round and was joined by investors including SeaChange Fund and Voyager Capital.

- HAGs, a New York-based social network focused on high school students, raised $1 million in funding. GV led the round and was joined by investors including BoxGroup.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Caesars Entertainment is in advanced talks to acquire William Hill (LON: WMH), a U.K.-based casino operator, for $3.7 billion. Buyout group Apollo has also offered to acquire the business. Read more.

- Brand Velocity Partners acquired BBQGuys, a Baton Rouge, La.-based e-commerce platform for outfitting outdoor living spaces, for $140 million. 

- Cerberus and a rival investment firm told HSBC (LON:HSBA) they would acquire its French retail arm for a euro if the bank invests ($582.70 million) into the business, Reuters reports citing sources. Read more.

- LINQ, a portfolio company of Banneker , acquired Colyar Technologies, a school nutrition program software company. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- EQT agreed to acquire the natural colors division of Chr. Hansen, a Danish bioscience business, for €800 million (about $932 million).

- Altor and Stena Adactum offered to acquire Gunnebo, a Swedish security software provider, for about 2.4 billion Swedish kronor (about $264 million). Read more.

OTHERS

- Uber Technologies (NYSE: UBER) is considering acquiring Free Now, Daimler AG and BMW AG’s ride-hailing joint venture. Read more.

- Sina Corp (Nasdaq: SINA) CEO Charles Chao plans to take the company, which is behind Chinese social media platform Weibo, private for $2.6 billion. 

- NTT may buy out the remaining minority interest in NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese wireless carrier and subsidiary, for $38 billion, per the NIkkei. Read more.

- Reckitt Benckiser Group (LON: RB) plans to sell off some non-core personal care brands, including Veet hair removal cream and Clearasil acne cream. The sales could net as much as 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion), per Reuters citing sources. Read more.

- Veritas Technologies acquired Globanet, a Los Angeles-based software company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Arista Networks (NYSE:ANET) agreed to acquire  Awake Security, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based network threat detection company. Haystack, Greylock, and Bain Capital Ventures have invested in Awake. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Endurance International Group Holdings, a Burlington, Mass.-based web hosting company, is weighing the possibility of a sale, per Bloomberg citing sources. Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs Group back the firm. Read more.

- Patricia Industries, backed by Investor AB, agreed to acquire Advanced Instruments, a U.S.-based provider of analytical instruments, from Windjammer Capital, for $780 million.

Breakups and bankruptcies

- LVMH countersued Tiffany & Co, the luxury jeweler it previously sought to acquire, as it seeks to walk away from its $16 billion acquisition. 

IPOs

- McAfee Corp., a San Jose, Calif.-based cybersecurity company, filed to go public. TPG, Thoma Bravo, and Intel back the firm. Read more.

SPACS

- Easterly Alternatives, a Boston-area investing firm, is seeking to raise $100 million for a fund to invest in SPACs, per Bloomberg. Read more.

F+FS

- Advent International received $2 billion in commitments for the Advent Latin American Private Equity Fund VII.

PEOPLE

- Venrock named Mariana Mihalusova and Julie Park as vice presidents. Mihalusova will join the healthcare tea, while Park will join the technology team.

- Bloomberg Beta named Minn Kim as a Principal focused on the future of work. 

- Grafine Partners named Kathy Park as a managing director.