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Clubhouse reaches a $1 billion after taking off some nine months ago

January 25, 2021, 4:19 PM UTC

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It’s hard to understate the buzz around Clubhouse, the social media startup that reached a reported $100 million valuation when it had just 1,500 users.

Now some nine months after its launch, the company revealed over the weekend that it had raised another round of funding led again by Andreessen Horowitz’s Andrew Chen. While the company did not disclose a valuation, a source familiar with the matter says the company is now valued at $1 billion even though it has yet to post a revenue. The Information previously reported that the company had received interest to raise at the unicorn status.

Free to all users and currently operating without ads, Clubhouse currently boasts an estimated 2 million weekly active users on the back of its voice-based chatrooms. With the additional funding, the company says it plans to create an Android app, start a program that allows creators to get paid via tips and subscriptions, and invest in tools to detect and prevent abuse.

The final part will be crucial. The funding round comes at a time when social media companies are trying to find the tricky balance between content moderation and free speech. Clubhouse has been no stranger to the problem in its rapid rise: Among the controversies includes one chatroom titled “Anti-Semitism and Black Culture” that drew accusations from some over perpetuating racial stereotypes and anti-Semitism.

And as if to counter questions of whether the app, which is invite-only, could scale beyond its Silicon Valley roots, the blog post announcing the news of Clubhouse’s raise emphasized diversity. Signed by founders Rohan Seth and Paul Davison, the note read that “musicians, scientists, creators, athletes, comedians, parents, entrepreneurs, stock traders, non-profit leaders, authors, artists, real estate agents, sports fans” and over 180 investors were “large and small, spanning many different races, genders, and areas of expertise, and including many members of our early community.”

AN E-CIGARETTE MAKER SOARS: It’s hard to forget the incredible rise and fall of vaping startup Juul. Buoyed by consumers who viewed the product as a safe alternative to traditional smoking and by Big Tobacco companies that believed it was the future of the industry, the company shot to a $38 billion valuation in late 2018. But amid regulatory scrutiny, lawsuits over its marketing practices, and questions about the healthiness of vaping as a practice, Marlboro maker Altria cut its estimated value on Juul to $5 billion in late 2020.

But that’s only in the U.S. On Friday, another e-cigarette company tested itself on public markets—and soared. RLX Technology, a Beijing-based vaping company backed by Sequoia Capital China, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange with a bang: It closed the day with shares up 158% and is now valued at about $50 billion.

That’s for a company that posted net income of $16.7 million and a revenue of $324.2 million in the nine months ending Sept. 30. 

Founded in 2017, RLX, like Juul, has faced a broad blowback against tobacco products: In late 2019, the Chinese government banned online advertisements and sales of e-cigarette products—a category making up 30% of the company’s revenue in the first nine months of 2019. 

But regulation or not, cigarettes are a product that users will do anything to get. And despite attempts from the government to regulate the industry, China remains the largest consumer of tobacco in the world with 300 million smokers in the country, according to the World Health Organization

While online sales fell to zero, RLX has more than made up for the difference with in-person sales: Revenue almost doubled in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period the year earlier, even as the coronavirus was linked to vaping. And though much of the world moves online in the pandemic, RLX appears to be one that will stick to brick-and-mortar as its growth strategy. The company in Jan. 2020 announced plans to open 10,000 new locations worldwide. 

VENTURE DEALS

- Wolt, a Helsinki, Finland-based online ordering company, raised $530 million. Iconiq Growth led the round and was joined by investors including Tiger Global, DST, KKR, Prosus, EQT Growth, and Coatue.

- Uisee, a Beijing, China-based autonomous driving startup, raised 1 billion yuan ($150 million). Investors included the state-backed National Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrade Fund. Read more.

- Melio, a New York-based maker of software for small businesses digitally managing their supplier payments, raised $110 million. Coatue led the round that values the company at $1.3 billion.

- TScan Therapeutics, a Waltham, Mass.-based biopharmaceutical company focused on oncology, raised $100 million in Series C funding. Investors include BlackRock and RA Capital Management, as well as Longwood Fund, 6 Dimensions Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, GV, Novartis Venture Fund, and Pitango HealthTech.

- Bolt, a San Francisco-based payments and checkout company, raised $75 million. General Atlantic and WestCap led the round and were joined by investors including Activant Capital and Tribe Capital.

- Alma, a French buy now, pay later lender, raised €49 million ($60 million) in Series B funding. Cathay Innovation led the round and was joined by investors including Idinvest, Bpifrance, Seaya Ventures, and Picus Capital.

Wingcopter, a Danish delivery drone maker, raised $22 million in Series A funding. Xplorer Capital and Futury Regio Growth led the round. Read more.

- Riverlane, a Cambridge, Mass.-based quantum software company, raised $20 million. Draper Esprit led the round and was joined by investors including Cambridge Innovation Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, and the University of Cambridge.

- Sounding Board, a Foster City, Calif.-based maker of a coaching platform, raised $13.1 million in Series A funding. Canaan Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Correlation Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, and Precursor Ventures.

- Yac Inc., a Kissimmee, Fla.-based online voice message software maker remote teams, raised $7.5 million. GGV Capital and the Slack Fund co-led the round.

- Goalsetter, a Brooklyn, New York-based kids and family finance app, raised $3.9 million in seed funding. Astia led the round and was joined by investors including PNC Bank, Mastercard, US Bank, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Elevate Capital, Portfolia Rising America, and Pipeline Angels.

- spiderSilk, a Dubai-based cybersecurity firm, raised $2.3 million in their pre-series A funding. Global Ventures and STV led the round.

- Blobr, a France-based API company, raised €1.2 million ($1.5 million) in pre-seed funding. Seedcamp led the round and was joined by investors including New Wave, Kima. Read more.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- French investors including Caisse des Dépôts, CNP Assurances, and EDF Invest agreed to acquire a 50% stake in Orange Concessions, a French fiber-optics network operator backed by Orange, valuing the unit at about €2.7 billion euros ($3.3 billion.)

- Apollo Global Management is in talks to acquire the vinyl business of Orbia Advance Corporation SAB de CV, a Mexico City-based conglomerate. A deal could value the unit at about $2 billion. Read more.

- CITIC Capital acquired Reclassified, a Shanghai-based seller of perfumes. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- CVC Capital Partners is in talks to acquire the lower shelf skincare and shampoo brands of Shiseido, a Japanese beauty company, for about $1.5 billion per Reuters citing sources. Read more.

- ADM Capital Europe invested in Aquapak Polymers, a British polymer production company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Bain Capital Double Impact invested in Multi-Specialty HealthCare, an outpatient provider of post-traumatic injury care and physical rehabilitation. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Blue Point Capital Partners acquired Transtar Holding Company, a Cleveland-based distributor of automotive products for the transmission and driveline repair market. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- HEPACO, backed by Gryphon Investors, acquired the Field Services Division of Summit Environmental Services. Field Services is an Evansville, In.-based emergency response, industrial services, and waste management company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Imaweb, backed by PSG, acquired Procar, a provider of automotive software in Germany. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Justrite Manufacturing Company, a portfolio company of Audax Private Equity, acquired National Marker Company , a Providence, RI.-based designer and manufacturer of safety signage, labels, and tags. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- San Francisco Equity Partners acquired Smith & Vandiver Corporation, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based maker of personal care products. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- symplr, backed by Clearlake Capital Group and SkyKnight Capital, agreed to acquire Phynd Technologies, a provider of enterprise software management. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Partners Group recapitalized Idera, a Houston-baed business maker. HGGC and TA Associates will continue as shareholders. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- TPG is in exclusive talks to acquire a minority stake in DirecTV, AT&T’S satellite TV division, valuing it at about $15 billion, per Reuters citing sources. Read more.

OTHER

- Globalwafers again raised its offer for Siltronic, the German silicon company, by €150 million $182 million) valuing the latter at $4.4 billion ($5.4 billion).

- Tiger Global Management took a 4.4% stake valued at $746 million in Just Eat Takeaway (AMS: TKWY), the Amsterdam-based food delivery company. Read more.

IPOs

- Trustly, a Swedish payments company, is weighing an IPO that could value it at €9 billion euros ($11 billion), per Reuters citing sources. Nordic Capital backs the firm. Read more.

- Kuaishou Technology, a Chinese short-video app maker rivaling China’s TikTok, is seeking to raise as much as $6 billion now in its Hong Kong IPO, per Bloomberg citing sources. BlackRock and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority are said to have signed on as cornerstone investors. Read more.

- The Bountiful Co., a New York-based vitamins maker, is weighing an IPO that could value it at $6 billion, per Bloomberg citing sources. KKR backs the firm. Read more.

- Flywire, a Boston-based payments company, is considering an IPO for later this year that could value it around $3 billion, per Reuters citing sources. Temasek and Bain Capital back the firm. Read more.

- Home Point Capital, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based wholesale residential mortgage servicer, plans to raise $250 million for existing shareholders in a sale of 12.5 million shares priced between $19 to $21 apiece. Stone Point Capital backs the firm. Read more.

- Talis Biomedical, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based maker of diagnostic tests, filed to raise $150 million. Investors include Baker Bros and ArrowMark. Read more.

- Decibel Therapeutics, a Boston-based biotech focused on hearing disorders, filed to raise $75 million. Its investors include Third Rock Ventures, Orbimed, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Read more.

- Cole Haan, a Greenland, N.H.-based shoe company, withdrew plans for an IPO. Apax Partners backs the firm.

SPACs

- Alight Solutions, a Lincolnshire, Ill.-based benefits services provider, agreed to go public via merger with Foley Trasimene Acquisition, a SPAC. A deal could value the firm at $7.3 billion. Blackstone backs the firm. 

- Taboola, a New York-based content management company, plans to go public via merger with ION Acquisition Corp. 1. (NYSE: IACA), a SPAC, valuing the company at $2.6 billion.

- Sunlight Financial, a Charlotte-based residential solar financing platform, plans to go public via merger with Spartan Acquisition Corp. II (NYSE: SPRQ), a SPAC backed by Apollo Global Management, valuing it at $1.3 billion. Sunlight’s existing investors include Tiger Infrastructure Partners, FTV Capital, and founder Hudson Sustainable Group.

- The Hillman Group, a Cincinnati-based maker of home improvement products and a CCMP portfolio company, plans to go public via merger with Landcadia Holdings III, a SPAC. The deal could value the firm at $2.6 billion. 

- Liberty Media Acquisition Corporation, a SPAC from Liberty Media Corp, raised $500 million. 

- One Equity Partners Open Water I Corp., sponsored by One Equity Partners, raised $300 million. 

PEOPLE

- TA Associates hired Chris An as a senior vice president in the firm’s Hong Kong office.

F+FS

- Octopus Ventures is looking to launch a £100 million fund focused on health tech.