The rise of friendship apps

February 10, 2021, 3:53 PM UTC

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Match Group (Nasdaq: MTCH), the company that owns dating app Tinder, agreed to acquire Hyperconnect, a South Korean maker of apps aimed at forming friendships, for no small amount: about $1.7 billion in cash and stock for the owner of the Azar and Hakuna Live apps.

“Coronavirus is accelerating existing digital trends” may be a phrase that has become overused at this point—but it still holds water. And there’s perhaps no better proof than this. The effects of loneliness became front and center in the isolating nature of the pandemic. The deal allows Match to expand beyond romantic liaisons and into platonic ones, and also grow in different geographic regions.

“With more than 75% of usage and revenue coming from markets spread across Asia, their product suite and regional footprint squarely complements our own,”  Match Chief Executive Officer Shar Dubey said of Hyperconnect.

The deal also points to a trend around social media apps doubling down on video. Hakuna Live focuses on live streaming, and Azar matches people through video chat. While the company did not reveal the number of active users on the platform, the press release announcing the news revealed that Azar has been downloaded some 540 million times since its launch, while Hakuna Live has been downloaded some 23 million times.

When I heard the news, I must say I was skeptical at first as to whether the app was truly about friendship. But I tried out Azar—the larger of the two—and those who spoke with me on the app said that much of their motivations were indeed around making friends or an Xbox gaming buddy.

But in my conversations on Azar, it seemed that some of the content issues that plagued famous chat website Omegle remain as challenges for Azar too. It’s perhaps why the app is listed at 17+ on the app store. I was told of multiple incidents of people exposing themselves after just under an hour of chatting on Azar, and personally received no shortage of reminders as to my race. (The app does feature a way to report users for inappropriate content, and I have reached out to Match for their comment.)

SPAC ALERT: Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, known for taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, is part of a special purpose acquisition company that is seeking to raise $287.5 million. Mission Advancement says it is focused on the consumer companies making an impact “financially, culturally and socially.” Read more.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


- Thrasio, a Boston-based buyer of Amazon fulfilled businesses, raised $750 million. Investors included Oaktree and Advent.

- Plus, a Cupertino, Calif.-based provider of self-driving truck technology, announced raised $200 million. Guotai Junan International, CPE, and Wanxiang International Investment led the round and were joined by FTA.

- Day One Biopharmaceuticals, a South San Francisco, Calif.-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on therapies for children and adults with cancer, raised $130 million in Series B funding. RA Capital Management led the round and was joined by investors including Boxer Capital, BVF Partners, Franklin Templeton, Janus Henderson Investors, Perceptive Advisors, T. Rowe Price and Associates, and Viking Global Investors. 

- Savage X Fenty, an El Segundo, Calif.-based clothing retailer backed by Rihanna, raised $115 million in Series B funding. L Catterton led the round and was joined by investors including Marcy Venture Partners, Avenir, and Sunley House Capital.

- GrubMarket, a San Francisco-based produce delivery company, raised $90 million of in Series D funding. Investors included BlackRock, ACE and Company, Celtic House Venture Partners, Sixty Degree Capital, The Strand Partners, Reimagined Ventures, Trinity Capital Investment, Madison Bay Capital Partners, Marubeni Ventures, and GGV.

- Drug Farm, a Shangai and Guilford, Mass.-based biotechnology company utilizing genetics and A.I., raised $56 million. Investors include BioVeda China Fund, WuXi AppTec’s corporate venture fund, South China Venture Capital, Detong Capital, and Zhejiang United Investment Group.

- NYMBUS, a Miami-based make of banking tech, raised $53 million. Insight led the round.

- Jackpocket, a New York-based maker of a way to order official state lottery tickets, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Investors included Raine Group, Greenspring Associates, Circle K Ventures, TEGNA Ventures, BRV Capital, and Gaingels.

- Lusha, a Tel Aviv-based crowdsourced data community for B2B salespeople, raised $40 million in Series A funding. PSG led the round.

- Mighty Buildings, an Oakland, Calif.-based construction tech company, raised $40 million in Series B funding. Khosla Ventures and Zeno Ventures led the round and were joined by Bold Capital Partners, Core Innovation Capital, and Foundamental. 

- Seraxis, a Germantown, Md.-based biotech company developing cell replacement therapy for diabetes, raised $40 million in Series C funding. Eli Lilly and Company led the round and was joined by investors including Frazier Healthcare Partners, Polaris Ventures, and JDRF T1D Fund.

- Vivun, an Oakland, Calif.-based sales software maker, raised $35 million in Series B funding. Menlo Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Salesforce Ventures, Atlassian Ventures, Accel, and Unusual Ventures. 

- PatientsLikeMe, a Boston-based platform to patients to share their symptoms, raised $26 million. Alta Partners, Hambrecht Ducera Growth Ventures, Optum Ventures, and PBM Capital led the round and was joined by investors including  Jeff Leerink and Symphony Ventures.

- BigHat Biosciences, a San Carlos, Calif.-based novel protein therapeutics company, raised $19 million. Andreessen Horowitz led the round and was joined by investors including 8VC, AME Cloud Ventures, and Innovation Endeavors.

- Homa Games, a French gaming startup, raised $15 million in seed funding. and Idinvest Partners led the round. Read more.

- Trade Ledger, a London-based provider of tech to the banking sector, raised £13.5 million ($18.7 million) for its Series A funding round. Point72 Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Foundation Capital, Court Lorenzini (founder of DocuSign), and Hambro Perks.

- Mesh Payments, a New York-based corporate payments platform, raised $13 million. TLV Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Meron Capital and R-Squared Ventures.

- Insightin Health, a Baltimore, Md.-based maker of a healthcare marketing platform, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Blue Venture Fund and Blue Heron Capital led the round and were joined by Health Catalyst Capital, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest fund, and SaaS Ventures.

- SmartHop, a Miami, Fla.-based freight dispatch solution, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Union Square Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Ryder Ventures, Equal Ventures, and Greycroft.

- Prefect Technologies, a Washington D.C.-based dataflow automation company, raised $11.5 million in Series A funding. Patrick O’Shaughnessy (Partner at Positive Sum) led the round and was joined by investors including Sam Teller (Partner at Valor Equity Partners), and Gavin Baker (Chief Investment Officer of Atreides).

- SoLo Funds, a Los Angeles-based marketplace for short-term, personal loans, raised $10 million in Series A funding. ACME Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Impact America Fund, Techstars, Endeavor Catalyst, and CEAS Investments.

- NeuReality, an Israeli startup developing A.I. computing for cloud data centers and edge nodes, raised $8 million in seed funding. Cardumen Capital, OurCrowd, and Varana Capital led the round.

- WizeHire, a Houston-based maker of a hiring solution for small businesses,raised $7.5 million in Series A funding co-led by Amplo and Mercury, who were joined by investors including Sandeep Jain (Ruchit Shah and RigUp co-founder).

- TomoCredit, a San Francisco-based fintech startup with a credit card aimed at first-time borrowers, raised $7 million in seed funding. KB Investment led the round and was joined by investors including Barclays, Knollwood Investment Advisory, BAM Ventures, Passport Capital, Ulu Ventures, and Strong Ventures.  

- Ushur, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based automation company, raised $5 million in additional Series B funding. Aflac Ventures and Iron Pillar participated in the round.

- Base, a New York-based maker of an at-home lab testing and digital tracking app, raised $3.4 million in seed funding. Female Founders Fund led the round.

- Nanome, a San Diego-based startup using A.I. in modeling molecular structures, raised $3 million. Bullpen Capital led the round. Read more

- Daybreak Health, a San Francisco-based online counseling platform for teens, raised $1.8 million in seed funding. Maven Ventures led the round.

- Marble, a New York-based wallet and loyalty platform for insurance, raised $2.5 million in seed funding. Investors include IA Capital Group, MS&AD Ventures, Reciprocal Ventures, Fintech Ventures Fund, The Takoma Group, and HU Investments.


- Graycliff Partners acquired Ballymore, a Coatesville, Pa.-based maker of equipment for lifting. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Leaf Home Solutions, a portfolio company of Gridiron Capital, acquired three consumer-facing businesses: Thiel’s Home Solutions, Storm Tight Windows, and Miracle Windows & Showers. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Sleeping Bear Capital acquired Venice Longboards, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based maker of electric longboards. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Quotient Sciences, backed by Permira, acquired Arcinova, a U.K.-based provider of drug bioanalysis services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Trive Capital, Aerospace Engineering, and AMRO Fabricating formed Karman Missile & Space Systems, a Los Angeles-based firm focused on manufacturing complex systems for the space, missile, interceptor and hypersonic markets.


- LiveRamp acquired DataFleets, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based business focused on large volumes of encrypted data, for at least $68 million. Investors including Martin Chavez backed DataFleets. Read more.

- Ion Investment Group agreed to acquire DASH Financial Technologies, a New York-based options tech and execution provider, from Flexpoint Ford. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- GlobalWafers took a 50.8% stake in Siltronic, the German silicon company, for about €4.4 billion ($5.3 billion).

- Tencent Holdings acquired a minority stake in Bohemia Interactive, a Czech games developer. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- Archer, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of an electric aircraft, agreed to go public via merger with Atlas Crest Investment (NYSE: ACIC), a SPAC. United Airlines has also agreed to invest in the company. The deal values Archer at $3.8 billion.

- Spartan Acquisition III, the third blank check company formed by Apollo Global Management seeking a target in the energy space, raised $480 million. Read more.

- G Squared Ascend I, the first SPAC by venture investor G Squared, raised $345 million in its first SPAC. Read more.

- ECP Environmental Growth Opportunities, a SPAC from Energy Capital Partners Management, raised $300 million. Read more.

- Lupa Systems, James Murdoch’s investment company, is seeking to raise for a SPAC, per Bloomberg. The SPAC would acquire an Asian business in areas including media and business. Read more.


- Eniac, a New York-based venture firm, raised $125 million for its fifth fund.

- Vanterra Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, has set aside $80 million for its accelerator platform to invest in consumer and consumer-tech.


- Cathay Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, named Arthur Yeung as executive president. It also promoted Fabien Wesse and Jacky Abitbol to managing partner in Europe; Siqi Chen and Lijun Ding to partner in China; and Alexandre Lazarow as partner in the U.S.

- Levine Leichtman Capital Partners named John O'Neill to Head of Europe and David Cowan to senior managing director in London.

- SoftBank, the Japanese telecom company, hired Nagraj Kashyap as a managing partner for its Vision Fund in Silicon Valley. Kashyap was previously the global head of M12, Microsoft’s venture fund.



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