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Flat rounds creep up

November 12, 2020, 3:38 PM UTC

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Anxieties that the pandemic would shutter vulnerable startups haven’t quite seemed to materialize at scale: Funding in the third quarter surged to a seven-quarter high.

Still, under the covers, the story has not been so simple. Some startups have hit warp-speed, while others are struggling even as they raise new funding. In the last quarter, law firm Cooley found that funding rounds that resulted in an uptick in valuations fell to their lowest level since the first quarter of 2017, when fears of a tech bubble soared but never quite found a cliff.

In other words: A total of 20% of startups in the third quarter either lowered or kept the same valuation despite raising new funding. The figure has risen steadily since the start of the pandemic, according to Cooley’s findings, which are based on 303 deals representing $13.1 billion in capital. Down rounds represented about 12% of all funding events, while flat rounds ticked up to 8%.

Cooley also noticed an uptick in pay-to-play provision—which requires investors to participate fully in the financing of future rounds or risk losing some of their rights. While the pay-to-play provision itself is not something founders avoid, its implications—that the company may have struggled to find ideal outside investors—are often undesirable.

“It is a bit of a barbell where companies at the very top end are naming their own terms and big, price-insensitive investors are willing to write big checks,” says Peter Werner, Cooley’s co-chair of global emerging companies and venture capital practice group. “And there are companies at the low end and are unable to raise a full healthy up round.”

While the funding atmosphere is significantly better than in ’08, he says, the data could be a mere blip—or become a trend.

VENTURE CAPITAL IN BIDEN’S EAR: President-elect Joe Biden has picked Ron Klain—executive vice president and general counsel at VC firm Revolution—as his White House Chief of Staff. One of Biden’s closest confidants, Klain led the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis in 2014, and has been highly critical of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus. Read more.

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

VENTURE DEALS

- Full Truck Alliance, a Chinese startup with Uber-like service for the trucking industry, is seeking to raise $1.7 billion, per the WSJ. SoftBank and Alphabet back the firm. Read more.

- Menlo Security, a Mountain View, Calif.-based cloud security firm, raised $100 million in Series E funding, valuing the company at $800 million. Vista Equity Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Neuberger Berman funds, General Catalyst, and JPMorgan.

- Kate Farms, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based maker plant-based nutrition, raised $51 million in Series B funding. Goldman Sachs led the round and was joined by investors including Kaiser Permanente Ventures.

- Railsbank, a London-based open banking platform, raised $37 million. MiddleGame Ventures and Ventura Capital co-led the round and were joined by Anthos Capital, Global Brains, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Moneta VC, Mitsui Fudosan and Firestartr.

- Inipharm, a Seattle and San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company focused on severe liver diseases, raised $35 million in Series A funding. Investors include 5AM Ventures and Wu Capital. Read more.

- Fishtown Analytics, Philadelphia-based maker of engineering tools, raised $29.5 million in Series B funding. Sequoia Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Amplify Partners. Read more.

- Livestorm, a Paris-based online events platform, raised $30 millionin Series B funding. Aglaé Ventures and Bpifrance Digital Venture led the round and was joined by investors including Raise Ventures and IDInvest.

- Truebill, a Silver Spring, Md.-based startup for cancelling subscriptions and negotiating bills, raised $17 million in Series C funding. Bessemer Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Day One Ventures, Eldridge Industries, Cota Capital, and Firebolt Ventures. 

- So Good So You, a Minneapolis-based maker of a refrigerated health shot, raised $14.5 million in growth funding. Prelude Growth Partners led the round.  

- Envoy Technologies, a Culver City, Calif.-based, provider of electric vehicle-sharing services,  raised $11 million in Series A funding. Shell Ventures and Building Ventures led the round.

- Spruce, an Austin-based house care and amenities platform, raised $8 million in Series A funding. Mercury Fund led the round and was joined by investors including Sweat Equity Partners

- Zero Egg, a San Francisco, Calif.-based maker of a plant-based egg alternative, raised $5 million in Series A funding. Powerplant Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Unovis Asset Management-New Crop Capital and Strauss Group-The Kitchen Hub.

- Paid, a U.K.-based platform for supplier onboarding and procurement, raised £2.2 million ($2.9 million) in seed funding. Crane led the round and was joined by investors including Seedcamp, Techstars, Jens Lapinski, Chris Adelsbach, and Charles Songhurst.

- Sote, an African supply chain focused company, raised $3 million in seed funding. MaC Venture Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Acceleprise, Backstage Capital, Future Africa, and Rob Solomon.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Vista Equity Partners made a majority investment in Pipedrive, an Estonia-based content management platform for sales and marketing teams. The deal values the firm at $1.5 billion, per a source. Bessemer Venture Partners, Insight Partners, Atomico, DTCP, and Rembrandt Venture Partners, will continue as minority investors.

- DPIS Builder Services, backed by Saw Mill Capital, acquired Ei Companies, a Las Vegas-based provider of energy inspections. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Eventus WholeHealth, backed by Enhanced Healthcare Partners, acquired Doctors Making Housecalls, a Durham, N.C.-based home-based primary care firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Top Echelon Software, backed by SageLink Capital, acquired CATS Software, a Minneapolis-based applicant tracking system for professional recruiters. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe agreed to acquire TrueCommerce, a Pittsburgh-based provider of trading partner connectivity and integration solutions. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Snap agreed to acquire Voca.ai, an Israel-based maker of A.I.-based voice assistance for customer support services. Voca.ai’s investors included American Express Ventures, Flint Capital, and Iool Ventures. Read more.

- Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) plans to acquire Expanse, a San Francisco-based maker of cybersecurity software, for $670 million in cash and stock and  $130 million in replacement equity awards. Expanse was backed by investors including Knoll Ventures and NEA. Read more.

- Talkspace acquired Lasting, a New York-based relationship counseling app incubated out of Praxis. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHERS

- Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) asked India’s market regulator to investigate Future Retail for insider trading in a bid to prevent the company from joining rival Reliance. Read more.

IPO

- Mytheresa.com, a Germany-based luxury online retailer, is preparing for an IPO in the U.S. listing in early 2021, per Bloomberg citing sources. The deal could value it at $1 billion. Ares Private Equity and CPPIB back the firm. Read more.

- Puppet, a Portland, Ore.-based IT automation software company, says it is looking to an IPO in 2021. Its investors include Kleiner Perkins, VMWare, GV, and Cisco Investments.

SPAC

- Cano Health, a Miami-based healthcare provider for seniors, will go public via merger with Jaws Acquisition Corp, a SPAC, valuing the firm at $4.4 billion deal including debt. Cano Health will also receive a $50 million PIPE investment from Barry Sternlicht (Chairman of Jaws), Fidelity Management & Research Company,  BlackRock, Third Point, and Maverick Capital. 

F+FS

- Bentley Systems (Nasdaq: BSY) established a $100 million corporate venture capital fund seeking solutions for roadways, railways, waterways, bridges, utilities, industrial facilities, and other infrastructure assets.

- Intrinsic Capital Partners, a private equity firm, closed a $102 million growth equity fund.

PEOPLE

- Investcorp named Nicholas McGrane as a managing director in the North American Private Equity group.

- IVP named Ajay Vashee, former Dropbox CFO, as a general partner. 

- HKW named Rick Ammar as vice president.