On Thursday, 15-year-old media company BuzzFeed agreed to go public via merger with a specially purpose acquisition company in a deal valuing it at about $1.5 billion.
Which sounds like a lot for a company whose story turned from the future of media to one of stalled growth in more recent years. And that’s because it is: The figure doesn’t just encompass BuzzFeed, but also involves the acquisition of a “youth-focused” media company, Complex Networks, from Hearst Corp. and Verizon Communications for about $300 million. Buzzfeed also acquired Verizon Media’s HuffPost in November of last year.
It’s a sign not only of the direction that BuzzFeed is taking, but also points to the potential bevy of consolidations and deals incoming for digital media as tech giants like Facebook continue to gobble up ad dollars. And if there’s any doubt about where the new funds are going, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti makes it clear himself in a CNBC interview that the plan is to grow in part via mergers and acquisitions. “If you’re someone who is running a subscale digital media company, and you know you have to build all these things, you can skip a bunch of steps by joining up with the leading digital media company in the space, BuzzFeed,” he told the news organization.
That’s all well and good: Media companies buy other media companies. That is logical in a 1+1=2 way. What was less logical were the companies BuzzFeed decided to compare itself to in the slide deck announcing the merger with 890 5th Avenue Partners, the SPAC in question.
On a page titled “Comparable Company Benchmarking Analysis,” the company put its growth rate side-by-side with those of newspaper publisher The New York Times, e-commerce marketplace Etsy, marketing tech company Taboola, and gamemaker Zynga… among others. While no doubt BuzzFeed’s business has features of each of those companies, my guess is that you’d be hard pressed to find a financial analyst that would say those enterprises can be fairly teed up with BuzzFeed (which says that 41% of its revenue in 2019 came from advertising and 48% came from content).
So really, the page is not what BuzzFeed is—but what it aspirationally wants investors to see it as. It almost feels as if the company is trying to say: “we know media is a hard business—so look! We’re not just media!”
Now the question is if the company in the future steps outside of its media-focused acquisition lane to make itself more comparable to those “peers.” I have my doubts that say buying a gamemaker is the most logical move to make right now—but Buzzfeed also included the highly acquisitive media and internet holding company IAC in the mix, for good measure.
THE SEC SCRUTINIZES ROBINHOOD: If you ask its investors, Coinbase’s direct listing earlier this year was landmark not only because of its heaping returns—it also paved the road for other companies in the space (that just years earlier were perceived as too risky to even lend to) to go public.
Still, that listing did little to cull the questions the Securities and Exchange Commission had for stock trading startup Robinhood and its crypto business. Having filed confidentiality for an IPO in March, the company has faced backs-and-forths with the SEC on its crypto-trading operations, per Bloomberg. That could push an actual listing to the fall. It’s not entirely surprising the SEC is taking such a hard look at Robinhood: Amid the meme stock craze, the company became a political punching bag, with angry users lobbing unproven conspiracy theories of collusion with hedge funds at the business. While much of that was noise, the saga did reignite the more serious debate around how Robinhood makes much of its money: Payment for order flows. Read More.
Jessica Mathews compiled the IPOs section of the newsletter.
- The GOAT Group, a Culver City, Calif.-based sneaker and streetwear company, raised $195 million in Series F funding valuing it at $3.7 billion. Investors included Park West Asset Management, Franklin Templeton, Adage Capital Management, Ulysses Management, and T. Rowe Price Associates.
- Upgrade, a San Francisco-based lending startup, is looking to raise $200 million at a valuation of $3 billion, per Bloomberg citing sources.
- Lyndra Therapeutics, a Watertown, Mass.-based biopharmaceutical company focused on oral medications, raised $60.5 million in Series C funding. AIG Investments led the round.
- RoadSync, an Atlanta-based financial platform for the logistics industry, raised $30 million in Series B funding. Tiger Global led the round and was joined by investors including Base10 Partners, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and Gaingels.
- Edge Delta, a Seattle-based data intelligence and security company, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Menlo Ventures and Tim Tully (the former CTO of Splunk) led the round and were joined by investors including MaC Venture Capital and Amity Ventures.
- Sorbet, an Israel-based maker of a platform for converting paid-time-off to cash, raised $15 million in additional seed funding. Dovi Frances’ Group 11 led the round and was joined by investors including Viola Ventures, Meron Capital, and Global Founders Capital.
- D1g1t, a Toronto-based wealth management platform, raised CAD$16 million ($13 million). CI Financial Corp. led the round and was joined by investors including NAventures and MissionOG.
- Taptap Send, a London-based cross-border payments company, raised $13.4 million in Series A funding. Canaan Partners and Reid Hoffman co-led the round.
- Ryte, a Munich-based maker of a platform for measuring CO2 impact of websites, raised €8.5 million ($10 million). Bayern Kapital and Octopus Investments led the round.
- Tripp, a Los Angeles-based startup using virtual reality in meditation, raised $11 million in funding. Vine Ventures and Mayfield led the round and were joined by investors including Integrated.
- Happs, a Belgium-based app for creators to stream live video across social platforms, raised $4.7 million. Investors included Bullpen Capital, Crosslink, Goodwater, Corazon, Rob Hayes of First Round Capital, and Bangaly Kaba.
- AtomicJar, a Goleta, Calif.-based developer testing startup, raised $4 million in seed funding. boldstart ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Tribe Capital and Chalfen Ventures.
- Frame, a Los Angeles-based maker of a mental health platform, raised $3 million in seed funding. Maven Ventures led the round and were joined by investors including Sugar Capital, Struck Capital, Alpha Edison, and January Ventures.
- Bttn, a Seattle-based maker of a medical supply marketplace, raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors including Amol Deshpande.
- Spore, a platform for creators to build websites, raised $1 million in pre-seed funding. SignalFire led the round and was joined by investors including GOAT, Canaan, Lenny Rachitsky and Nathan Baschez, Justin Waldron (Zynga founder), and Dave Nemetz ( Bleacher Report founder).
- Newlook Capital invested in Mack Fire Protection, a Middleton, Conn.-based fire sprinkler contractor. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Smart Care Equipment Solutions, a portfolio company of Audax Private Equity, acquired Total Building Services, a Liberty, Miss.-based commercial foodservice equipment company, and Jaguar Coffee Company / Facility Maintenance Services, a Florida-based provider of coffee equipment. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Synergy IOM, a portfolio company of Monument MicroCap Partners, recapitalized Vigilant Neuromonitoring, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based provider of intraoperative neuromonitoring and neuro diagnostic services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
- Visa agreed to acquire Tink, a Swedish fintech startup focused on open-banking APIs, for about €1.8 billion ($2.2 billion).
- E-Mart, a South Korean retailer, will acquire about 80% of EBay’s South Korean online marketplace for about ($3 billion).
- Xpeng (NYSE: XPEV), a Chinese electric car company, is seeking a second listing in Hong Kong that could raise about $2 billion.
- Zevia, a Los Angeles-based health drink company, plans to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering. CDPQ and Laird Norton Company back the firm.
- Syniverse Technologies, a Tampa-based customer communications ad mobile networking company backed by Carlyle Group, is in talks to go public via merger with M3-Brigade Acquisition II, a SPAC, per Bloomberg. A deal could value the business at about $3 billion.
- Spinning Eagle Acquisition Corp., a blank check company, now plans to raise $2 billion. Investor and fund manager Eli Baker and former media executive Harry Sloan back the firm.
- Andreessen Horowitz, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture investor, named David Haber as a general partner in New York focused on fintech. He was previously a vice president of firmwide strategy at Goldman Sachs.
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