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The rise of the world’s most valuable, female-led startup

September 15, 2021, 3:37 PM UTC

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Australian graphic design company Canva is a rarity even among the $10 billion-plus startups.

On Tuesday, the company announced that it had raised $200 million in funding, valuing it at an eye-watering $40 billion. Not only does that crown the company as the world’s most valuable software startup, it mints the business as the world’s most valuable female-founded and female-led startup.

Buoyed by the need for online collaboration tools amid the pandemic, the company that last raised at a $15 billion valuation has won over customers by effectively being a more user-friendly Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Powerpoint, and Adobe Acrobat—allowing users to more easily create a pitch deck, for example, that is as attractive on an iPhone as it is on the big screen, and allowing creators to design a T-Shirt logo and then matching them with a manufacturer. CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins’ description of the company’s next area of focus speaks to why the company has found success. The Adobe and Microsoft suites have been around for decades—and while they are still extremely popular, they have not changed much.

“A lot is happening in the presentation space,” she says, noting the company is building a way for customers to buy web domains and launch powerpoints on a website rather than via an attachment. “So we’re continuously doubling down and bringing them up to people expect in the internet age. We want to make presentations much more engaging, more like you’re watching a movie.”

T. Rowe Price led the round and was joined by investors including Franklin Templeton, Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Bessemer Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investments, Blackbird, Felicis, and AirTree Ventures.

Indubitably, the new round of funding makes Perkins one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world; a billionaire, at least on paper, several times over. When I asked point blank however about her billionaire status, Perkins is uncomfortable with the moniker.

“I hate that term,” she says. “I don’t think it is my money and it never was.”

Perkins is a billionaire that doesn’t want to be a billionaire. Fittingly, after our conversation, the founder and her co-founder and husband, Cliff Obrecht, pledged to give away the “vast majority” of their equity, 30% currently valued at about $12 billion, to causes through the Canva Foundation.

BACK TO THAT POINT ON FEMALE FOUNDERS: It is rare to find a female-co-founded decacorn. It is even more rare to have one led by a female CEO. Based on data from Pitchbook, Canva is the most valuable startup founded and led by a woman in the world today. 

But there is also a somewhat disturbing trend here too: I thought it was interesting that the company was based out of Australia, and asked Pitchbook for more data on the most valuable startups founded by women. And I was honestly surprised.

The U.S. as a country is the most highly funded venture capital hub. But when it comes to the creation of unicorns with women co-founders, it’s falling behind. None of the top five most valuable female-founded unicorns hail from the U.S. Instead, it’s Ant Financial in China, Nubank in Brazil, Byju’s in India, Canva in Australia, and Grab in Singapore. Even discluding Ant Financial given its current turmoil, the next most valuable business with a female co-founder is Sensetime in Beijing.

So why is the U.S. falling behind in the creation of mega, female-founded, startups?

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

Jessica Mathews compiled the IPO and SPAC sections of this newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- Melio, an Israel-based payments platform for small businesses, raised $250 million, valuing the business $4 billion. Thrive Capital led the round and was joined by investors including General Catalyst, Tiger Capital Management, Accel, Bessemer, Coatue, Corner Ventures, and Latitude.

- SmartNews, a San Francisco-based information and news discovery company, raised $230 million in Series F funding, valuing it at $2 billion. Investors include Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners.

- Nextiva, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based communications company, raised $200 million from Goldman Sachs Asset Management. It values the company at $2.7 billion.

- Sendcloud, a Netherlands-based e-commerce shipping platform, raised $177 million in Series C funding. Softbank Vision Fund 2 led the round and was joined by investors including L Catterton and HPE Growth.

- Persona, a San Francisco-based identity infrastructure company, raised $150 million in Series C funding. Founders Fund led the round and was joined by investors including Meritech Capital Partners, BOND, Index Ventures and Coatue Management, valuing it at $1.5 billion.

- Xendit, an Indonesian payments infrastructure company, raised $150 million in Series C funding. Tiger Global Management led the round and was joined by investors including Accel, Amasia, and Justin Kan’s Goat Capital.

- Matillion, a data analysis company, raised $150 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. General Atlantic led the round and was joined by investors including Battery Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

- Unifonic, a Saudi Arabia-based customer engagement platform, raised $125 million in Series B funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Sanabil Investments led the round.

- 1047 Games, a Zephyr Cove, Nev.-based game studio, raised $100 million. Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Insight Partners, Anthos Capital, Galaxy Interactive, VGames, Human Capital, Lakestar, DraperDragon, and Draper University.

- Arcadia, a Washington D.C.-based clean energy data and renewables company, raised $100 million in Series D funding. Tiger Global Management and the Drawdown Fund led the round and was joined by investors including Wellington Management, Reimagined Ventures, Camber Creek, MCJ Collective, Energy Impact Partners, G2 Venture Partners, Inclusive Capital, and BoxGroup. 

- EnerVenue, a Fremont, Calif.-based renewable energy storage company, raised $100 million. Schlumberger New Energy led the round and was joined by investors including Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures.

- Stord, an Atlanta-based logistics startup, raised $90 million in Series D funding valuing it at $1.3 billion, making it a unicorn. Kleiner Perkins led the round and was joined by investors including Lux Capital, D1 Capital, Palm Tree Crew, BOND, Dynamo Ventures, Founders Fund, Lineage Logistics, and Susa Ventures.

- Zonos, a St. George, Ut.-based cross-border commerce business, raised $69 million in funding. Silversmith Capital Partners led the round.

- Constructor, a San Francisco-based e-Commerce search and product discovery solutions, raised $55 million in Series A funding. Silversmith Capital Partners led the round.

- Abra, a Mountain View, Calif.-based wealth management platform for cryptocurrency investors, raised $55 million in Series C funding. IGNIA and Blockchain Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Kingsway Capital, Tiga Investments, and the Stellar Development Foundation. 

- strongDM, a Burlingame, Calif.-based infrastructure database company, raised $54 million in Series B funding. Tiger Global led the round and was joined by investors including GV, Sequoia Capital, True Ventures, HearstLab, Bloomberg Beta, and Godfrey Sullivan. 

- Canvas, a San Francisco-based diversity-focused recruitment platform, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Owl Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Sequoia, Lachy Groom, Zoom Apps Fund, HighSage Ventures, BAM Elevate, and Fifth Down Capital.

- Measurabl, a San Diego-based technology platform for real estate, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Energy Impact Partners led the round.

- Who Gives A Crap, an Australian toilet paper company, raised AUD$41.5 million ($30.4 million). Verlinvest led the round.

- Landed, a San Francisco-based fintech company aimed at essential professionals, raised 31 million in Series B funding. Learn Capital and Navitas Capital led the round.

- Truepic, a San Diego-based camera tech company, raised $26 Million in Series B funding. M12 led the round and was joined by investors including Adobe, Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, and Hearst Ventures.

- BriteCore, a New York City-based tech platform for P&C insurers, raised $20 million in Series C funding. Warburg Pincus led the round and was joined by investors including Radian Capital

- Satori, a DataSecOps platform, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Capital Group and Evolution Equity Partners led.

- TomoCredit, a San Francisco-based credit card-focused fintech, raised $10 million Series A funding. Kapor Capital and KB Investment led the round.

- Cresicor, a San Francisco-based consumer packaged goods trade promotion platform, raised $5.6 million. Costanoa Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Torch Capital.

- KEWAZO, a Munich-based construction robotics company, raised $5 million in Series A funding. True Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including MIG.

- Cynamics, an Israeli cybersecurity startup, raised $7 million. Marius Nacht, Checkpoint Software Technologies co-founder , led the round and was joined by investors including Colibri Technologies and Fantail Ventures. 

- Replay, a San Francisco-based-based debugger for web developers, raised $5.7 million in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round and was joined by investors including IA Ventures and Version One Ventures. 

- Viable, a San Francisco-based analytics startup using artificial intelligence to automate text analysis of customer feedback, raised $3.9 million in pre-seed and seed funding. Craft Ventures and Javelin Venture Partners led the funding rounds respectively.

- WebDoctor, an Irish health technology platform, raised $3.5 million. VentureWave Capital led the round.

- folk, a Paris-based relationship manager, raised $3.3 million in seed funding. Accel led the round.

- AhoyConnect, a Prague-based data company for measuring social media impact on a business, raised $3 million in seed funding. Inovo Venture Partners and KAYA led the round and was joined by investors including Lighthouse Ventures.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire HCSS, a Houston-based construction management software maker. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Full Sail IP Partners, a portfolio company of Warburg Pincus, acquired the Odwalla juice brand from the Coca-Cola Company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Apollo Global Management is in exclusive talks to acquire Kem One Group, a European vinyl company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

 - Fenix Parts, backed by Stellex Capital Management, acquired the assets of Charlie's Truck & Auto Parts, a Texas-based automotive recycling facility. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- PSG will invest in Sign In App, a U.K.-based provider of workplace risk management software. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- symplr, backed by Clearlake Capital Group and Charlesbank Capital Partners, agreed to acquire Halo Health, a provider of clinical communication collaboration software. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Oscar W. Larson Company, a portfolio company of Trive Capital, acquired Cox Service Station Maintenance, a Franklin, Oh.-based equipment services business. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Syniti, backed by Bridge Growth, acquired 360Science, a contact and business data verification company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHER

- Sanofi agreed to acquire Kadmon Holdings (Nasdaq: KDMN), a pharmaceuticals company, for $1.9 billion.

- Zenoti acquired ProPoint Solutions, a Minneapolis-based software business. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

IPO

- ACWA Power International, a Saudi Arabian power, renewable energy and water production plant operator, plans to raise up to $1.2 billion in an IPO in the country—one of Saudi Arabia’s largest offerings in history, per Bloomberg. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund owns 50% of the company.

- Life Insurance Corp., a state-backed life insurance company in India, is seeking a valuation of around $109 billion for its public offering in the country, according to Bloomberg. The offering would be India’s largest IPO.

- On Holding AG, a Switzerland-based sportswear shoe company, raised $746.4 million in an offering of 31.1 million shares priced at $24 per share. The company generated $187 million in net sales 2020, and reported a loss of $36.2 million. Stripes, Point Break Capital, and Hillhouse back the firm.

- Thoughtworks Holding, a Chicago-based tech consultancy company, raised $773.7 million in an offering of 36.8 millions shares priced at $21 per share—it had previously planned to charge up to $20 per share. The company posted $803.4 million in revenue in 2020 and net income of $79.3 million. Apax Partners, Siemens AG, and GIC, which manages Singapore’s foreign reserves, back the firm.

- Antin Infrastructure Partners, a French private equity firm, now plans to raise around $650 million in a public offering in the country, according to Bloomberg. An IPO would value the company at around $4.9 billion.

- Exclusive Networks, a French cybersecurity company, plans to raise up to $492 million in an offering in Paris, per Bloomberg. Permira Holdings backs the firm.

- Dutch Bros, a Grants Pass, Oreg.-based drive-through coffee chain company, raised $484.2 million in an offering of 21.1 million shares priced at $23 per share—it had previously planned to charge up to $20 per share. The company generated $327.4 million in total revenue in 2020 and net income of $5.7 million. TSG Consumer Partners backs the firm.

- Clearwater Analytics Holdings, a Boise, Idaho-based investment accounting and analytics software company, plans to raise up to $480 million in an offering of 30 million shares priced between $14 and $16 per share. The company posted $203.3 million in 2020 and reported a net loss of $44.2 million. Warburg Pincus, Dragoneer, Welsh Carson, and Permira back the firm.

- Babbel Group AG, a German language learning company, plans to raise up to $374 million in an IPO in Frankfurt, according to Bloomberg

- DiCE Therapeutics, a South San Francisco, Calif.-based biopharmaceutical company, raised $204 million in an offering of 12 million shares priced at $17 per share—it had previously planned to offer 10 million shares. The company posted $863,000 in revenue in 2020 and reported a net loss of $23.7 million. RA Capital, Northpond Ventures, and Sands Capital back the firm.

- Tyra Biosciences, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based cancer therapy company, raised up to $172.8 million in an offering of 10.8 million shares priced at $16 per share—it had previously planned to offer 9 million shares. The company reported a net loss of $9.3 million in 2020 and has yet to post revenue. Alta Partners, RA Capital, and Boxer Capital back the firm.

- Procept Biorobotics, a Redwood City, Calif.-based surgical robotics company, raised $163.9 million in an offering of 6.6 million shares priced at $25 per share—it had previous planned to offer 5.5 million shares and price them up to $24 per share. The company generated $7.7 million in revenue in 2020 and reported a net loss of $53 million. Fidelity Investments and Viking Global Investors back the firm.

- Argo Blockchain Plc., a London-based clean energy crypto mining company, plans to offer 7.5 million ADSs in the U.S. Its shares were trading at the equivalent of $18.40 per ADS in London earlier this month. The company posted $26.2 million in total revenue in 2020 and a $5.4 million in gross profit. The Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK) is invested in the firm.

SPAC

- Pagaya, an Tel Aviv and New York City-based artificial intelligence-powered lending fintech, agreed to go public via a merger with EJF Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, according to Reuters.

F+FS

- Jump Capital, a Chicago-based venture capital firm specializing in Series A/B investments, raised $350 million for its seventh fund.

PEOPLE

- Brighton Park Capital named Usman Rabbani as a partner in Silicon Valley.

- Expanding Capital added Jonathan Shriftman, Humin founder, as a Partner. 

- FTV Capital promoted Richard Liu to partner. 

- Lerer Hippeau promoted Meagan Loyst to Associate.

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