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An astrology startup gets venture capital funding

May 11, 2021, 2:58 PM UTC

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Have you heard of the wave of venture capital funding going to psychic and astrology-related startups? It reflects rising consumer interest in New Age practices such as horoscopes and Tarot readings, especially among the younger generation as the group seeks some form of spirituality.

On Tuesday, Sanctuary, a maker of an app with on-demand astrology and psychic readings, raised $3 million in seed funding. BITKRAFT Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including KEC Ventures, Greycroft, Azure Capital Partners, Advancit Capital, Gaingels, and Uncommon Denominator.

The app grew its user base about 500% from the start of the pandemic to the end of March 2021 (the company declined to give revenue or user figures). CEO Ross Clark isn’t sure how much of that bump is a result of consumers seeking certainty during turmoil, but he doesn’t dismiss that it may have played a role. 

Here’s what makes Sanctuary interesting amid all the astrological apps out there: It uses real, live readers. While the daily horoscope is free, those seeking one-on-one time can pay for a 10-minute to 60-minute messaging session, varying by price depending on service. Which means it can get expensive quickly. But, says Clark, individual practitioners can get even pricier. 

Despite the growing popularity of these practices, there’s a patchwork of laws around “fortune telling” that belie a nervousness of the subject. In New York, where bright neon signs advertising psychic services abound and where Sanctuary is headquartered, the act of fortune telling is actually punishable by law, unless for the purpose of entertainment or amusement. Meanwhile, states like Massachusetts allow the practice as long as fortune tellers are licensed. States like California have struck down bans on fortune tellers, citing First Amendment rights.

So how does Sanctuary plan to position itself within such unclear regulatory lines? Here’s what Clark wrote back in an email regarding my question:

“Most importantly, our readings are provided for entertainment purposes only, which we believe exempts us from these laws you mentioned. Beyond that, I would note that these are typically legacy statutes dating back to the 19th century and very rarely enforced or litigated.

Additionally, I believe that such laws focus on fortune-telling and future predictions and are not applicable to the contextual readings we provide at Sanctuary. 

Our readings seek to connect with the energy of a client, a situation, a relationship, or an event in the present time only; anything in the future is determined by free will. A reading focuses on making this energy available to our clients to have a conversation about that energy and empower them to find their own truth, help them understand their own questions and energy, and where this will lead them going forward.”

In short, Clark isn’t claiming that Sanctuary readers will solve all your problems or see precisely into the future, but that they’re more like therapists using a different framework to see the world. 

A16Z: …has been highly active in investments in 2021. Its most recent bet? Memora Health, an A.I. startup focused on the relationship between patients and their healthcare providers. It seeks to cut down on the time patients would spend on sources outside of their provider. Here’s my colleague Jonathan Vanian speaking to Manav Sevak, the CEO and Co-Founder of Memora:

“The idea is that health care providers can proactively send relevant information to patients who may have otherwise searched for information online or relied on other word-of-mouth, Sevak said. Patients must opt-in to receive the messages, and the startup’s platform is compliant with federal medical HIPAA rules for patient privacy, he added.” 

Memora raised $10.5 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Read more.

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

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VENTURE DEALS

- CloudWalk, a São Paulo-based payment technology network, raised $190 million in Series B funding. Coatue led the round and was joined by investors including Valor Capital.

- parcelLab, a Germany-based company for e-commerce brands to customize their digital communications, raised $112 million in Series C funding. Insight Partners led the round.

- Aetion, a New York-based healthcare tech firm, raised $110 million in Series C funding. Warburg Pincus led the round and was joined by investors including B Capital, Foresite Capital, New Enterprise Associates, and Flare Capital Partners.

- SiMa.ai, a San Francisco-based machine learning company, raised $80 million in Series B funding. Fidelity Management & Research Company led the round and was joined by investors including Adage Capital Management.

- Arkose Labs, a San Francisco-based provider of online fraud and abuse prevention technology, raised a $70 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the round and was joined by investors including Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, M12 and PayPal Ventures.

- Mythic, a Redwood City, Calif.-based A.I. processor company, raised $70 million in Series C funding. BlackRock and Hewlett Packard Enterprise led the round.

- Kin, a home insurance company, raised $63.9 million in Series C funding. Senator Investment Group and Hudson Structured Capital Management led the round and was joined by investors including University of Chicago, Allegis NL Capital, and Alpha Edison.

- Alebund Pharmaceuticals, a Shanghai-based biopharmaceutical company focused on renal diseases and related chronic conditions, raised $60 million in Series B funding. Quan Capital led the round and was joined by investors including 3E Bioventures Capital, Sherpa Healthcare Partners, Lilly Asia Ventures, and Med-Fine Capital.

- Lili, a New York-based mobile banking service for freelancers, raised $55 million in Series B funding. Group 11 led the round and was joined by investors including Target Global and AltaIR.

- Appia Bio, a Los Angeles-based biotechnology focused on cancer, raised $52 million in Series A funding. 8VC led the round and was joined by investors including Two Sigma Ventures, Sherpa Healthcare Partners and Freeflow Ventures. 

- Legion, a Redwood City-based A.I.-powered workforce management company, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Stripes led the round and was joined by investors Norwest Venture Partners, First Round Capital, XYZ Ventures, Webb Investment Network, and Dollar General.

- Airkit, a Palo Alto-based customer experience platform, raised $40 million in Series B funding. EQT Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including  Accel, Emergence Capital, and Salesforce Ventures.

- Blind, a Berkeley, Calif.-based anonymized networking and employee chat site, raised $37 million in Series C funding. Mainstreet Investment led the round and was joined by investors including Cisco Investments and Pavilion Capital.

- Engageli, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based digital learning platform focused on higher education, raised $33 million in Series A funding. Maveron led the round and was joined by investors including Corner Ventures, Good Friends, and Educapital.

- Contractbook, a Copenhagen-based contract automation platform, raised $30 million in Series B funding. Tiger Global led the round and was joined by investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, byFounders, and Gradient Ventures. 

- Sensedia, a Brazilian API management platform, raised $21 million in funding. Riverwood Capital led the round.

- Apptopia, a Boston-based app competition insight platform, raised $20 million. ABS Capital Partners led and was joined by investors including Blossom Street Ventures. 

- Howspace, a Finland-based collaboration platform, raised €12 million ($14.6 million) in Series A funding. Investors include Forestay Capital and Inventure.

- CognitOps, an Austin-based provider of A.I.-based warehouse operating applications, raised $11 million in Series A funding. FirstMark led the round and was joined by investors including Chicago Ventures, Schematic Ventures, Haystack, and CEAS Investments.

- Remedy Health, a U.K.-based personalized 3D-printed vitamin company, raised $11 million in Series A funding. Investors included ADM Ventures and Cibus Fund. 

- Bitpanda, the Vienna-based crypto exchange, raised an additional €10 million (roughly $12 million) in funding. Jump Capital and Wintermute Trading invested and were joined by investors including LeadBlock Partners

- GEM, a Los Angeles-based supplement subscription company, raised $10.5 million in seed funding. Pat Robinson of CircleUp Growth Partners led the round and was joined by investors including S2G and Pentland Ventures.

- AnthemIQ, an Austin-based commercial real estate transaction platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Staubach Capital led the round.

- Thrilling, a Los Angeles-based e-commerce platform for vintage and second-hand stores, raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. Prelude Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Defy, Congruent Ventures, Urban Us, Closed Loop, Phoenix Rising, and DLA Piper Venture.

- Elucid, a Boston-based medical technology company focused on cardiovascular disease detection, raised $8 million in Series A funding. MedTex Ventures and Global Health Impact Fund led the round and was joined by investors including Checkmate Capital, IAG Capital, BlueStone Venture Partners, University of Michigan - Wolverine Venture Fund, Willamette Valley Capital, and Angel Physicians Fund.

- Plunk, a Bellevue, Wash.-based mobile app helping homeowners make decisions to increase their home’s value, raised $6.5 million in seed funding. Unlock Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Sony Innovation Fund, Plug and Play Ventures, Vectr Fintech Partners, and Second Century Ventures.

- Just Women’s Sports, a Los Angeles-based media platform for women’s sports, raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Will Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures, Drive by DraftKings, OVO Fund, Supernode Global, and female sports players including Elena Delle Donne, Hilary Knight, Sam Mewis, Kelley O’Hara and Arike Ogunbowale. 

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Bain Capital, Carlyle Group, and KKR are among those bidding on Reckitt Benckiser Group’s infant-nutrition business in China, per Bloomberg.

- Accordion, backed by FFL Partners, acquired Mackinac Partners, a Bloomfield Hill, Mich.-based financial advisory, restructuring, and operational turnaround firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Phoenix Physical Therapy, backed by Audax Private Equity, acquired Horizon Physical Therapy, a Georgia-based provider of outpatient physical therapy services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- SemiTorr, backed by Transom Capital Group, acquired McKenna Engineering & Equipment Co., a servicer of industrial and food & beverage customers. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Scottish Equity Partners invested in FundApps, a London-based regtech company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

 - Cherry, a portfolio company of Argand Partners, acquired Active Key, a Germany-based manufacturer of hygienic, washable keyboards and mice for medical and industrial end-markets. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Frontline Road Safety, a portfolio company of The Sterling Group, acquired PK Contracting, a Troy, Mich.-based safety marking provider. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Anaqua, backed by Astorg, acquired SeeUnity, a Johnstown, Colo.-based API-based content integration and migration company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Kakao Entertainment will acquire Radish, a serialized fiction company, for $440 million. 

- Bain Capital acquired Valeo Foods, an Ireland-based food company, from CapVest Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHER

- Cisco agreed to acquire Sedona Systems, a Tel Aviv-based tech controller. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Nestlé Health Science will acquire Nuun, a Seattle-based provider of sports hydration products, from TSG Consumer Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Trulieve Cannabis agreed to acquire Harvest Health & Recreation, a medical pot producer, for $2.1 billion. The deal creates the largest U.S. cannabis company by revenue. 

IPOS

- Believe, a Paris-based digital music business scouting out singers online, plans to IPO in Paris and raise around 500 million euros ($608 million).

Vera Therapeutics, a South San Francisco-based protein-focused biotech, plans to raise $65 million.

SPAC

- Vice Media, a Brooklyn-based cable and online entertainment group, is in talks to go public via merger with 7GC & Co., a SPAC, per Bloomberg. A deal could value the firm at $3 billion.

- AgileThought, an Irving, Texas-based tech services company, will go public via merger with LIV Capital Acquisition, a SPAC. A deal values the firm at $491 million. AgileThought’s investors include Nexxus Capital.

- Plus, an autonomous truck company, will go public via merger with Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V, a SPAC, valuing it at $3.3 billion.

- Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based DNA-focused company, will go public via merger with Soaring Eagle, a SPAC, valuing the company at $17.5 billion.

F+FS

- Hillhouse Capital Management, a Hong Kong-based investment firm, is close to raising $18 billion for three funds, per Bloomberg.

PEOPLE

- TPG, a San Francisco-based alternative asset firm, announced that Co-Founder Jim Coulter has stepped down as co-CEO of the firm, and will become Executive Chairman of the firm. Jon Winkelried has been named sole CEO.

- Cowboy Ventures, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture firm, named Jillian Williams as a principal. Previously at Anthemis, Williams will focus on fintech.

- Fin VC, a San Francisco-based B2B FinTech company, promoted Christian Ostberg to investment partner.

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