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The broader implications of Lordstown’s failures

June 14, 2021, 3:04 PM UTC

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The boom in special purpose acquisition companies has helped some new-generation vehicle makers take “fake it until you make it” to new heights 

Adding to doubts raised against Nikola and Canoo, yet another electric vehicle company that went public via merger with a special purpose acquisition company is in hot water. 

The most recent entrant to the list? Lordstown Motors, an Ohio-based EV startup that’s building a pickup truck. Roughly a year ago, the company agreed to go public via merger with DiamondPeak Holdings at an estimated valuation of $1.6 billion. The two companies announced the combination with predictably effusive words: The company was producing a “revolutionary vehicle for an underserved market” and had a “clear path to be first to market,” the presentation announcing the deal declared.

That path turned out to be far murkier than implied. This morning, CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez resigned after an investigation commissioned by Lordstown’s board of directors found that some information the company released about its pre-orders had been inaccurate in ways that overstated actual customer demand.

Investor doubts in the company had been invigorated in March by a report from short-seller Hindenburg Research which claimed that the EV maker had misled investors about demand and production capabilities. In its report today, Lordstown largely rejected Hindenburg’s findings. But it admitted earlier this month that it was in dire straits: It told investors that it may not have enough cash on hand to start commercial production and warned them that it may not survive over the next 12 months. 

There are easy conclusions to make here–including, that the EV business is a cash-intensive one, that investors are turning away from newer companies the sector, and SPACs are getting a harder look from the SEC. But there is a particularly problematic implication of Lordstown’s story. Founded just two years ago, the company acquired a plant from General Motors in, yes, Lordstown, Ohio. It became part of a larger sign of hope for economic revival in the area, with then-CEO Burns saying the company hoped to eventually hire thousands at the location. President Donald Trump in 2019 dubbed it “GREAT NEWS FOR OHIO,” as GM had originally planned to shut down the plant (GM also at the same time pledged to invest more in the state). Now however, Lordstown’s future–the town’s as well as the company’s–is unclear.

Perhaps Lordstown will find more funding. Perhaps the company will find a buyer for its factory. The company didn’t make any such predictions (and doing so would land it in even muddier waters), but it did appoint its current lead independent director, Angela Strand, as its executive chair. At the very least, the uncertainty is a sign that for towns in hard-hit Rust Belt counties, changing over into a new industry is not as easily done as said.

LET’S MEET IN PERSON at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Our fascinating roster of speakers and guests will include 

 Anousheh Ansari of XPRIZE Foundation, Dave Baszucki of Roblox, Pat Gelsinger of Intel, Kevin Mandia of FireEye, Tekedra Mawakana of Waymo, Adi Tatarko of Houzz, and Hans Vestberg of Verizon. We’re also proud to announce this year’s all-star guest co-chairs: GV Partner Terri Burns and Qualtrics founder and executive chairman Ryan Smith. Sign up here.

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

VENTURE DEALS

- Byju’s, an Indian edtech startup, raised $350 million from investors including UBS Group, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, and Blackstone. The deal values the company at $16.5 billion.

- Lyra Health, a Burlingame, Calif.-based provider of mental health care benefits for employers, raised $200 million, valuing it at $4.6 billion. Coatue led the round and was joined by investors including Sands Capital.

- Arctic Wolf Networks, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based cybersecurity startup, is in talks to raise at a valuation of over $4 billion, per Bloomberg. Viking Global Investors is expected to lead the round.

- Open, an India-based digital bank, is in talks to raise about $100 million in Series C funding, per TechCrunch. Temasek and General Atlantic are looking to co-lead the round. A deal could value the company at $600 million.

- Immersive Labs, a Bristol, U.K.-based cybersecurity training startup, raised $75 million in Series C funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Menlo Ventures, Citi Ventures and Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

- Popmenu, an Atlanta-based software platform for restaurants, raised $65 million in Series C funding. Tiger Global Management led the round and was joined by investors including Salesforce Ventures, Bedrock Capital, Base10, and Felicis Ventures.

- Motorway, a U.K.-based platform to sell cars, raised £48 million in Series B funding. Index Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including BMW i Ventures and Unbound

- Classplus, an India-based maker of a platform for teachers creating classes online, is in talks to raise $30 million with Tiger Global leading.

- Hello Alice, a Houston-based platform connecting small business owners to funding, raised $21 million in Series B funding. QED Investors led the round and was joined by investors including Backstage Capital, Green Book Ventures, Harbert Growth Partners, and How Women Invest

- Dishpatch, a London-based meal kit platform, raised £10 million in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz and LocalGlobe invested.

- nSure.ai, a Tel Aviv-based predictive A.I. fraud protection company, raised $6.8 million. DisruptiveAI, Phoenix Insurance, Kamet, and Moneta Seeds invested.

- Anrok, a San Francisco-based sales tax software maker, raised $4.3 million in seed funding. Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital led the round.

- Specto, a San Francisco-based customer data and analysis company, raised $3.25 million in seed funding, with participation from Susa Ventures, Fuel Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Liquid2 Ventures, SV Angel, Mike Vernal and Mary Pimenova. 

- Monograph, a San Francisco-based maker of operations software for design professionals, raised $7.4 million in Series A funding. Index Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Homebrew, Parade Ventures, and Designer Fund.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Cornucopia Investment Partners offered to acquire Magnachip Semiconductor (NYSE: MX), a South Korean semiconductor company, for about $1.7 billion.

- Coalition Capital Partners and Warburg Pincus are in talks to acquire Fullerton Healthcare, a Singapore-based medical services company, for an estimated $1 billion, per Bloomberg.

- Oaktree Capital Management will invest up to $375 million in Primary Wave Music, a New York-based company that manages songs from Bob Marley and Whitney Houston.

- The Heubach Group and SK Capital Partners agreed to acquire Clariant’s Pigments Business, the pigments business of the Swiss chemicals company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Precisely, backed by Clearlake Capital Group and TA Associates, agreed to acquire Winshuttle, a provider of process automation and master data management software, from Symphony Technology Group. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- STORY3 Capital Partners invested in Renew Anchored Dentures, a Centennial, Colo.-based dentures company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Summit Companies, backed by CI Capital Partners, acquired 10 businesses in the fire protection, alarm, and security space. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- The Weston family, the family behind Selfridges & Co., a U.K.-based chain of high-end department stores, is considering selling the company, which is worth about 4 billion pounds ($5.7 billion).

- Battery Ventures acquired SaaSOptics, a Norcross, Ga.-based subscription management platform, from Fulcrum Equity Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHERS

- MKS Instruments (Nasdaq: MKSI) offered to acquire Atotech (NYSE: ATC), a Berlin-based electroplating company valued at about $4.7 billion, per Bloomberg.

- Cano Health (NYSE: CANO) is in talks to acquire University Health Care, a Miami-based medical care provider, for $600 million, per Bloomberg.

- Z Capital Group will merge Affinity Gaming and Sports Information Group, two of its portfolio companies in the casino and online betting spaces respectively, per Bloomberg. A deal will value the company at $1.3 billion including debt.

IPOS

- Krafton, the South Korean company behind blockbuster game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, will launch an IPO that could raise $5 billion, per Reuters. 

- ATAI Life Sciences, a Berlin-based biotech focused on psychedelic therapies, plans to raise $200 million in an offering of 14.3 million shares priced between $13 to $15. Apeiron Investment Group, Galaxy Investment Partners, and Peter Thiel back the firm. 

- AiHuiShou International, a Shanghai-based platform for second-hand consumer electronics, plans to raise $227 million in an offering of 16.2 million ADSs priced between $13 to $15 in the U.S. Investors include JD.com and Morningside.

- Kanzhun, a Beijing-based recruiting platform, raised $912 million by offering 48 million ADSs at $19, the high end of the range of $17 to $19. Its investors include Tencent and Coatue

- Glassbox, a Tel Aviv-based provider of analytics for web and mobile apps, raised $100 million on the Tel Aviv stock exchange.

- Sera Prognostics, a Salt Lake City-based maker of diagnostic tests for pregnancy complications, filed to raise $75 million. Blue Ox Healthcare and Anthem back the firm.

SPAC

- Thrasio, a Waltham, Mass.-based acquirer of Amazon businesses, is in talks to go public via merger with Churchill Capital Corp. V, a SPAC from Michael Klein, per Bloomberg. Thrasio is backed by investors including Advent International. 

- Signa Sports United, a Berlin-based chain of sporting-good stores, is in talks to go public via merger with a SPAC that would value it at $3.2 billion, per Reuters.

- Vertical Aerospace, a U.K.-based maker of an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, will go public via merger with Broadstone Acquisition, a SPAC. A merger values the company at $2.2 billion.

- Boxed, a New York-based e-commerce grocery shopping platform selling bulk consumable goods, will go public via merger with Seven Oaks Acquisition, a SPAC, valuing it at $900 million.

- Logistics Innovation Technologies, a SPAC led by a former UPS chief commercial officer (Alan Gershenhorn) and cofounder of MizMaa (Isaac Applbaum), raised $300 million to find a merger in the logistics industry.

Jaws Hurricane Acquisition, a SPAC backed by Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht, raised $275 million.

F+FS

- Flagship Pioneering, the Cambridge, Mass.-based investor behind Moderna, raised $3.4 billion for Fund VII.

PEOPLE

- DeepWork Capital, an Orlando-based early-stage investor, named Ken Hall as a vice president. He was previously at IBM Ventures.

- Accelmed Partners, an Aventura, Calif.-based private equity firm focused on healthtech companies, named Eric Tansky, former managing director in Oppenheimer & Co.’s Medical Technology practice, as a general partner, and Stephen Rubin, former co-head of Proskauer’s Private Equity Group, as partner.

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