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When Facebook first came out with the idea of its own stabilized digital currency in 2019, the concept was no doubt daring: It would be an international coin that would bring banking to the unbanked and lower the cost of moving money around the world, the company pitched.
But the same factors that gave the project such potential to succeed also deeply troubled regulators. Given the more than 2 billion users across Facebook’s platforms, what was then known as the Libra project had enormous potential to scale—and therefore potential to challenge the power of national currencies. The social media giant assembled an association of 28 well-known organizations willing to explore the payments system. But under a firestorm of regulatory scrutiny, several prospective members—including Stripe and PayPal—dropped out within a few months. The association renamed itself as Diem in 2020, while Facebook distanced itself by changing the name of its blockchain group, the company’s digital wallet service, from Calibra to Novi.
Now, some two years later, the coin formerly known as Libra is looking to launch looking very different from what its creators originally pitched. Instead of a global currency aimed at the unbanked (which would’ve made sense given Facebook’s reach in markets like India with WhatsApp), what is now known as the Diem Association appears to have shifted its focus to the U.S. It has shifted primary operations there from Switzerland, the group revealed Wednesday.
No longer is Facebook looking to gain its own payment system license from the Swiss Financial Markets Authority. Instead, it plans to partner with Silvergate Capital Corp. stateside to issue the stablecoin, the association says. (A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency whose value is pegged to that of another asset like a fiat currency, eliminating, in theory, the crazy fluctuations typical of say, Bitcoin.) It hopes to launch later this year.
The stablecoin will also be backed by the U.S. dollar. That comes after the association backed away from plans to back the coin with a basket of currencies as it sought regulatory approval in Switzerland. In April 2020, it announced plans to offer multiple stablecoins, with some backed by a single nation’s currency in addition to those with several currencies.
So for now, Diem is pegged to a single fiat that is the world’s best known and dare we say most boring, government-issued currency.
In short, the Facebook-organized project is a shadow of what it had promised to become. And if it does step closer to its historical ambitions, regulators will do their darndest to cut Diem one letter short.
GUESS WHO ADDED $20 BILLION TO ITS WAR CHEST? It was hard to imagine this is how the story would go after a disastrous 2019 for the Japanese conglomerate, when its venture investing dreams had become the company’s weak spot. But on Wednesday, after a record-breaking quarter due to its gains on Vision Fund companies (including Coupang), SoftBank hiked its commitments in Vision Fund 2 from $10 billion to $30 billion.
- Vinted, a second-hand goods startup, raised €250 million ($303 million) valuing it at €3.5 billion ($4.5 billion). EQT Growth led the round and was joined by investors including with Accel, Burda Principal Investments, Insight Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Sprints Capital.
- Inari, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech focused on increasing crop yields, raised $208 million in Series D funding. Flagship Pioneering led the round and was joined by investors including Alexandria Venture Investments, Investment Corporation of Dubai, Banque Pictet, Rivas Capital, G Squared and Pavilion Capital.
- Lyst, a U.K.-based maker of a platform for high fashion brands to sell to consumers, raised $85 million. Investors included Fidelity International, Novator Capital, Giano Capital and C4 Ventures.
- Impress, a Barcelona-based direct-to-consumer dentistry company, raised $50 million in Series A funding. CareCapital (a dental division of Hillhouse Capital in Asia) led the round and was joined by investors including Nickleby Capital, UNIQA Ventures, Michael Linse, Valentin Pitarque, Peter Schiff, Elliot Dornbusch, TA Ventures and Bynd VC.
- Stampli, a Mountain View, Calif.-based invoice management software company, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Signal Fire and Nextworld Capital.
- Holidu, a Germany-based vacation booking startup, raised $45 million in Series D funding. 83North led the round and was joined by investors including Prime Ventures, EQT Ventures, Coparion, Senovo, Kees Koolen, Venture Stars, Lios Ventures and Chris Hitchen.
- Voltus, a San Francisco-based maker of energy management products, raised $31 million in Series C funding. Activate Capital led the round and was joined by investors including NGP Energy Technology Partners III, Prelude Ventures, and Ajax Strategies.
- Hashdex, a Brazil-based asset management company specialized in crypto investments, raised $26 million. Valor Capital Group led the round and was joined by investors including SoftBank, Coinbase Ventures, and Globo Ventures, Canary, Igah, Alexia, Fuse, and Endeavor Catalyst.
- Treasury Prime, a San Francisco-based banking-as-a-service startup, raised $20 million in Series B funding. Deciens Capital and QED Investors led the round and was joined by investors including Susa Ventures and SaaStr Fund.
- Collective, a San Francisco-based back office platform, raised $20 million in Series A funding. General Catalyst led the round and was joined by investors including Sound Ventures.
- GRIN, a Sacramento, Calif.-based influencer marketing software maker for direct-to-consumer brands, raised $16 million. Imaginary Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Good Friends Venture Capital.
- Sylvera, a London-based carbon offset ratings provider, raised $7.8 million in funding. Index Ventures led the company’s seed round, and was joined by investors including Seedcamp, Speedinvest and Revent.
- Optimal Dynamics, a New York-based logistics and supply chain management startup, raised $18.4 million in Series A funding. Bessemer Venture Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Fusion Fund, The Westly Group, TenOneTen Ventures, Embark Ventures, and FitzGate Ventures.
- Swarmia, a Finland-based software development startup, raised €5.7 million in seed funding. Alven Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Jigsaw VC.
- Cryptosense, a Paris-based cryptography lifecycle management platform, raised $4.8 million. Amadeus Capital Partners led the round and was joined by investors including BGV and Elaia Partners.
- Query.AI, a Brookings, N.D.-based security investigations company, raised $4.6 million in seed funding. Investors include ClearSky Security, DNX Ventures, and South Dakota Equity Partners.
- Sosivio, a San Francisco-based cloud visibility platform, raised $4 million in seed funding. Seamans Holdings led the round and was joined by investors including Superposition Venture Partners and Side Door Ventures.
- Sanlo, a San Francisco-based financial products company for gaming and app businesses, raised $3.5 million in funding. Index Ventures and Initial Capital led the round and were joined by investors including LVP, Portag3 Ventures, and XYZ Venture Capital.
- Allstar, an New York-based startup for sharing gaming clips, raised $3.85 million in seed funding. New York Angels invested.
- ArmorCode, a Palo Alto-based application security platform, raised $3 million in seed funding. Sierra Ventures, Tau Ventures, and Z5 Capital invested and were joined by investors including Andreas Kuehlmann (CEO, Tortuga Logic) and Prithvi Rai (CEO, Borneo).
- Quix, a Netherlands-based platform streaming data developers using Python, raised £2.3 million ($3.2 million) in seed funding. Project A Ventures led the round.
- QphoX, a Dutch-based startup connecting quantum computers, raised €2 million ($2.4 million). Quantonation, Speedinvest and High-Tech Gründerfonds led the round and was joined by investors including TU Delft.
- Clayton, Dubilier & Rice agreed to acquire UDG Healthcare, a Dublin-based pharmaceutical services firm, for $3.7 billion, per Reuters.
- Bain Capital Double Impact invested in ConvenientMD, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based urgent care network. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Emmes, a portfolio company of Behrman Capital, acquired Orphan Reach, a U.K.-based company doing clinical research related to rare diseases. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- BV Investment Partners made a majority investment in Resource Innovations, a provider of demand-side management, energy efficiency, and energy consulting services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Carsales will acquire a 49% stake in Trader Interactive, a Norfolk, Va.-based digital marketing company, from Eurazeo. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Amdocs (NASDAQ: DOX) acquired Sourced Group, a Toronto-based technology consultancy, for about $75 million in cash.
- Insight Partners acquired CivicPlus, a provider of integrated software solutions for local governments, from BV Investment Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Universal Music Group, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based music company, is being valued at $40 billion ahead of a spinoff from parent Vivendi.
- SoftBank will invest $1.6 billion in British e-commerce startup THG’s THG Ingenuity tech unit.
- Amplitude acquired Iteratively, a San Francisco-based developer of data analytics software. Gradient Ventures backed Iteratively. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Global-E Online, an Israel-based provider of a platform for cross-border e-commerce, raised $375 million in an offering of 15 million shares priced at $25 apiece. Red Dot Capital Partners backs the firm.
- Similarweb, a Tel Aviv-based provider of a freemium platform for website traffic analytics, raised $176 million in an offering of 8 million shares (6% insider sold) priced at $22 apiece. Viola Group and Naspers back the firm.
- Soulgate, a China-based provider of a social networking app, filed to raise $100 million.
- Arqit, a U.K.-based encryption software firm, will go public via merger with Centricus Acquisition Corp., a SPAC. A deal values the firm at $1.4 billion.
- M3-Brigade Acquisition III, a New York-based blank check company focused on the renewable energy sector, filed to raise $400 million.
- Seven Islands, a SPAC targeting a business in South and Southeast Asia, filed to raise up to $300 million. James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems backs the firm.
- IVP, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture firm, raised $1.8 billion for growth-stage deals.
- Huobi Group, a cryptocurrency exchange operator, launched an investment arm with $100 million.
- Vision/Capital/People, a venture capital firm formed by Walmart veteran Marc Lore and former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, has launched with $50 million of their money. It plans to eventually raise $300 million to $500 million.
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