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Almost three years ago exactly, Jonathan Bush was forced out as CEO of Athenahealth—a company that offered software to hospitals and doctors that he co-founded—amid a brutal activist campaign from Elliott Management.
It was far from a simple story. The then CEO of the then-public company faced troubling allegations of inappropriate behavior, including accusations that he had been in physical altercations with his ex-wife (Bush said at the time that he took “complete responsibility for all these regrettable incidents involving [his] former wife”). In a later interview, Bush told CNBC he suspected the hedge fund titan had a hand in resurfacing those skeletons—which would’ve been of little surprise given the hedge fund’s playbook at the time—in its bid to push him out of the company and do what they believed would boost the stock price. But Bush had no evidence and Elliott meanwhile denied those claims.
Fast forward to today, and the former CEO of the company that private equity firms Veritas Capital and Elliott Management-affiliate Evergreen Coast took private in a $5.5 billion deal in 2018, is back with his next company.
Zus Health, a maker of software for healthcare providers to build apps and share patient data, announced that it had raised $34 million in Series A funding led the round by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in the round included F-Prime Capital, Maverick Ventures, Rock Health, Martin Ventures and Oxeon Investments.
Pronounced like Zeus, the head of the Greek pantheon and “the father of Athena,” the company’s name may seem like a cheeky nod back to his previous venture that he was ousted from (Zeus, afterall, the king of the gods in the myths, ruling over even the goddess of wisdom), but Bush is surprisingly lacking in bitterness when asked about Elliott.
“Blame not the wolf for eating the lamb. I have no hard feelings,” he told Term Sheet early Thursday. If anything, the newly re-minted CEO of a venture-backed startup is seeing the upside of being in such a dramatic board battle years later. “If it wasn’t for Elliott, probably no one would cover this. It is the silver lining.”
While Zus has a similar mission in many ways to Athenahealth, cutting down on back-office work like documentation for doctors, Bush says the area in which the company is most focused on, creating unified health records, is a project that never took off within his old company, and one that that public market investors (Elliott in particular) pushed him to get out of as they sought more sure-fire bets on boosting returns on the company’s stock. The incumbent healthcare clients that Athena worked with meanwhile had little interest in sharing the patient records because it created a wall around their customer bases, he said. Zus meanwhile is looking for customers among digital health startups that can then build apps—like for patient management—on top of the company’s platform. In that sense, Bush says he sees the company akin to a Plaid—eventually even pulling in data from say FitBits.
Of course, the question still is if patients will share their data on a large scale—and as history has shown, that won’t be easy.
I also asked if he had plans to return to public markets. A cousin to former President George W. Bush, he is far from the traditional public company CEO, with stories such as those of corporate drinking games becoming the basis for questions about his leadership style, and eventual ouster by outside investors. As a Series A company, it is premature to even contemplate an IPO seriously, Bush acknowledges. But if the company does one day go public, he says, “I don’t need to be the CEO of a public company.” And there is also another route to take, too, with the popularity of supermajority votes among startup founders.
One way of solving the problem of activist investors, he notes, “is to give capital appreciation access” while maintaining control as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has done.
OATLY AND PROFITS: The markets are all about growth recently. I spoke with Oatly CEO Toni Petersson and Chairman Eric Melloul about when the company might hit profitability. The answer? Might not be for a few years. Read more here.
AND ONE MORE! In a newsletter two issues back, I wrote about how few social media unicorns there have been since Snap crossed the mark in 2014, noting Clubhouse and Nextdoor being the exceptions, per Pitchbook data. But a reader pointed out that there was also Reddit which became a unicorn in 2017, and others on Twitter pointed to Discord, which became a unicorn in 2018. Semil Shah over at Haystack also points to Cameo and Outschool—which especially in the latter case, points to the heart of the difficulties with categorizing companies as social media. It is now a must-have feature of many a business model including in gaming and the education space.
HOUSEKEEPING: There will be no newsletter tomorrow in observance of Juneteenth. I’ll be back Monday.
- Waymo, a Mountain View, Calif.-based autonomous car company backed by Alphabet, raised $2.5 billion in its second external round of funding. Investors included Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Mubadala Investment Company, Perry Creek Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Magna International, Silver Lake, Temasek, T. Rowe Price Associates, and new investor Tiger Global.
- OnlyFans, a London-base site where influencers, celebrities, and adult-film stars sell content, is in talks to raise at a $1 billion valuation, per Bloomberg.
- Motif FoodWorks, a Boston-based plant-based food company, raised $226 million in Series B funding. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and BlackRock led the round and were joined by investors including AiiM Partners, Wittington Ventures, Rethink Food, Rage Capital, Rellevant Partners, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, CPT Capital, General Atlantic, Louis Dreyfus Company, and Viking Global Investors.
- Guideline, a San Mateo, Calif.-based retirement planning software maker, raised $200 million in Series E funding. General Atlantic led the round and were joined by investors including Generation Investment Management, Greyhound Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Propel Ventures.
- Claroty, a New York City-based industrial cybersecurity company, raised $140 million in a Series D funding. Bessemer Venture Partners' Century II fund and 40 North led the round and were joined by investors including LG and I Squared Capital's ISQ Global InfraTech Fund.
- Beamery, a London-based recruiting and retainment tech maker, raised $138 million in Series C funding. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board led the round and was joined by investors including Accenture Ventures, EQT Ventures, Index Ventures, M12 and Workday Ventures.
- DuckDuckGo, a Paoli, Pa.-based privacy-focused search engine, raised $100 million in largely secondary sales from investors such as Omers Ventures, Thrive, GP Bullhound, Impact America Fund, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton; inventor of the world wide web Tim Berners-Lee; VC and diversity activist Freada Kapor Klein; and entrepreneur Mitch Kapor.
- Vianai Systems, Palo Alto, Calif.-based A.I. startup founded by former Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka, raised $140 million. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the round.
- Brightline, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtual healthcare solution, raised $72 million in Series B funding. GV led the round and was joined by investors including Optum Ventures, 7wireVentures, and Gaingels.
- Imply, a Burlingame, Calif.-based analytics platform maker, raised $70 million in Series C funding. Bessemer Venture Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Tiger Global Management, A16Z, Khosla Ventures, and Geodesic Capital.
- Tractable, a London-based A.I. insurance startup, raised $60 million in venture capital funding, valuing it at $1 billion. Insight Partners led the round.
- Splash Financial, a Cleveland-based digital lending platform, raised $44.3 million in Series B funding. Investors included partners of DST Global, Citi Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners, Firebolt Ventures, CMFG Ventures, and Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures.
- Betterfly, the Chile-based benefits platform, raised $60 million in Series B funding from partners of DST Global, QED investors, Valor Capital, Endeavor Catalyst and the SoftBank Latin America Fund.
- Gloat, a New York-based maker of a talent marketplace, raised $57 million in Series C funding. Accel led the round and was joined by investors including Eight Roads (Fidelity), Intel Capital, Magma Venture Partners, and PICO Partners.
- Caban Systems, a Burlingame-based energy storage startup, raised $35 million from Ember Infrastructure.
- Fiddler AI, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup with tools to help engineers monitor machine-learning systems, raised $32 million in a funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Lux Capital, Haystack Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Lockheed Martin, and Amazon's Alexa Fund.
- Eltropy, a Milpitas, Calif.-based maker of a communications platform for financial institutions, raised $21 million. K1 Investment Management led the round.
- Transform, a San Francisco-based startup maker of a centralized metrics platform for companies, raised $24.5 million in funding, including $20 million in Series A led by Index Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.
- MachineMetrics, a Boston-based industrial autonomous machining startup, raised $20 million in Series B funding. Teradyne invested.
- Ecologi, a carbon-offset startup, raised £4 million ($5.7 million). General Catalyst led the round.
- Coinme, a Seattle, Wash.-based cryptocurrency-and-cash exchange, raised $10 million. Investors included Digital Currency Group.
- InnerPlant, a San Francisco-based maker of plant sensors, raised $5.7 million in seed + pre-seed funding. MS&AD Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Bee Partners, Up West, and TAU Ventures.
- Wagr, a Boston-based maker of a social sports betting app, raised $4 million in seed funding. Seven Seven Six led the round and was joined by investors including Greycroft, Pear Ventures, Justin Mateen (Tinder Co-founder), Brad Martin (Retired Chairman & CEO of Saks Incorporated), and Joe Baker (Founder of Ole Smoky).
- handdii, a San Francisco-based property claims platform, raised $3 million in seed funding. Brick & Mortar Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Nine Four Ventures, Scale Investors, and Fifty-Second Celebration.
- Blackstone will acquire all issued shares of SOHO China, a Chinese office developer, for HK$23.7 billion ($3.05 billion).
- PathGroup, backed by Pritzker Private Capital, acquired SkinDx, a Birmingham, Al.-based dermatopathology lab. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- PAI Partners is nearing a deal to acquire SGD Pharma, a French supplier of COVID-19 vaccine vials, from China Jianyin Investment, per Reuters.
- Integrated Polymer Solutions, a portfolio company of Arcline Investment Management, acquired Swift Textile Metalizing, a Bloomfiled, Conn.-based electrically conductive fabrics. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Repay Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ: RPAY) acquired BillingTree, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based billings company, for about $503 million.
- Clearlake Capital agreed to acquire Confluence Technologies, a software and data solutions provider helping the investment management, from TA Associates. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- McNally Capital sold ITS Logistics, a Sparks, N.V.-based logistics provider. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Experian acquired Tax Credit Co., a Los Angeles-based tax incentive, employment verification and human resource services company, from VSS Capital Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Elanco Animal Health agreed to acquire Kindred Biosciences (Nasdaq: KIN), an animal health company, for about $440 million.
- Confluent, a Mountain View, Calif.-based data streaming platform, now plans to raise $759 million in an offering of 23 million shares priced between $29 to $33. Existing investors Coatue Management and Altimeter Capital plan to acquire some 3.5 million shares.
- WalkMe, an Israel-based maker of a digital adoption platform, raised $287 million in its IPO. Insight Venture Partners backs the firm.
- All Market, the company behind coconut water brand Vita Coco, is planning to go public this year, per Bloomberg, citing sources. Read more.
- Hony Capital Acquisition, a SPAC from Hony Capital seeking consumer and healthcare targets in China, now plans to raise $200 million rather than $200 million.
- Isomer, a European fund-of-funds, plans to make direct investments with a $100 million opportunities fund.
- Third Point, a New York City-based hedge fund, is set to raise $350 million for its first venture fund.
- Lead Edge Capital, a New York City and Santa Barbara, Calif.-based growth stage investment fund, closed its public market fund with $150 million.
- Base10, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, promoted Rexhi Dollaku from principal to partner.
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