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Instacart’s largest acquisition yet is a $350 million bet on cashierless, in-store shopping

October 19, 2021, 3:16 PM UTC

One factor that will help keep this current fervid pace of dealmaking, even as lock-down orders fade: Companies that received a big boost during the pandemic may need to acquire new businesses as we re-enter this hybrid world.

Case and point: Grocery delivery company Instacart announced it will acquire Caper AI, a cashierless checkout tech company, for about $350 million in cash and stock.

Backed by the likes of Lux Capital and First Round Capital, Caper uses object recognition and sensors rigged to shopping carts so shoppers can move through checkout more quickly. If the technology sounds reminiscent of the Amazon Go stores, that’s because it is in the same category: Caper says its smart carts (yes, physical carts with touch screens attached) can recognize goods placed inside “without having to scan or weigh them.” The company also sells a checkout counter rigged with cameras so that items don’t have to be scanned one-by-one. 

A year ago, Kroger partnered with Caper to release a smart cart, though notably, according to the grocery store’s website, their cart does require scanning for items—which certainly would put it a cut behind Amazon’s. An Instacart spokesperson says Caper’s newer technology doesn’t require scanning.

This acquisition comes as investors and experts alike are wondering whether Instacart can maintain its heady $39 billion valuation now that online grocery sales are falling from their pandemic peak and a whole line of new competitors are threatening to bite into its growth. A big part of now CEO Fidji Simo’s answer to these concerns is to be a kind of Shopify/Amazon/Facebook hybrid to grocery stores—offering more and more tech to the grocery industry.

Simo reiterated this point—about having grocery stores as its customers rather than its competitors—in her statement announcing the news: “As we look ahead, we’re focused on creating even more ways for retailers to develop unified commerce offerings that help address consumer needs across both online and in-store shopping,” she said.

If the deal lives up to its promise, it would help fulfill consumers’ need for greater social distancing (no face-to-face contact with cashiers), faster checkout, and also help Instacart and its contract shoppers move more quickly through stores—thereby potentially fulfilling more orders. It’s not a bet on a completely back-to-normal world, but it is one emerging from the pandemic.

At $350 million, the Caper AI acquisition is Instacart’s largest yet—and it also looks to be a pretty good deal for Caper’s investors, who have invested a total of about $14 million in the business, per PitchBook data. But notably, Instacart isn’t the one giving higher valuations to this world of cashierless checkout tech, meaning Caper also is not without competition. Earlier this year, Standard Cognition raised about $150 million in Series C funding, with SoftBank’s Vision Fund at the helm.

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

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

VENTURE DEALS

- Zopa, a U.K.-based neobank, raised $300 million at a $1 billion (£750 million) valuation. Softbank Vision Fund 2 led the round and was joined by investors including Chimera Capital, IAG Silverstripe, Davidson Kempner Capital Management, NorthZone, and Augmentum Fintech.

- JumpCloud, a Louisville, Colo.-based small-to-midsize company directory, raised $225 million for its Series F. Sapphire Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Atlassian Ventures, CrowdStrike Falcon Fund, NTT Docomo Ventures, STEADFAST Capital Ventures, Waterman Ventures, and OurCrowd. The company is now valued at $2.6 billion. 

- Aura, a Burlington, Mass.based consumer digital security company, raised $200 million in Series F funding. It values the company at $2.5 billion. Madrone Capital Partners led the round and was joined by investors including TenEleven Ventures, General Catalyst, WndrCo, Warburg Pincus, and Accel

- Wonolo, a San Francisco-based gig-worker staffing company, filed to raise $138 million in growth funding. Leeds Illuminate led the round and was joined by investors including 137 Ventures, G2 Venture Partner, and Franklin Templeton. 

- Pismo, a banking and payments platform, raised $108 million million in Series B funding. SoftBank, Amazon, and Accel led the round and was joined by investors including B3, Falabella Ventures, PruVen, Headline, and Redpoint eventures.

- Electric, a New York City-based maker of IT technology for small and medium-sized businesses, raised $90 million in Series D funding valuing it at $810 million. GGV led the round and was joined by investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, Primary Venture Partners, Greenspring Associates, 01 Advisors, Atreides Management, Vintage Investment Partners, and Slack.

- Aiven, a Finnish software company, raised $60 million in extended Series C funding valuing it at $2 billion. World Innovation Lab and IVP led the round.

- Primer, a payment infrastructure startup, raised $50 million in Series B funding valuing it at $425 million. ICONIQ Growth led the round.

- Cometeer, a Gloucester, Mass.-based coffee company, raised $35 million in Series B funding . Investors include D1 Capital, Elephant, Tao Capital, Addition Ventures, Avenir, Greycroft Partners, and TQ Ventures. 

- Skyflow, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based customer data privacy company, raised $45 million in Series B funding. Insight Partners led the round.

- GO, a Philadelphia-based car subscription startup, raised $41 million. Synterra Capital Management led the round. 

- Italic, a Los Angeles-based marketplace connecting consumers with products from manufacturers, raised $37 million in funding. Canaan Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Dylan Field (Figma CEO), Rachel Drori (Daily Harvest CEO), Kevin Huvane (CAA Managing Director), Hugo Barra (Facebook Oculus VP), Lydia Jett (Softbank Partner), and Jason Finger (Seamless Founder).

- Element Finance, an open-source protocol for fixed and variable yield markets, raised $32 million in Series A funding. Polychain Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Placeholder, A_Capital, and Scalar Capital.

- CoLab Software, a Canadian collaboration software maker for mechanical engineering teams, raised $17 million in Series A funding. Insight Partners led the round.

- Scribe, a San Francisco-based screen-recording and guide-making tool maker, raised $22 million in Series A and $8 million in seed. Tiger Global Management led the Series A with participation from Amplify Partners, Haystack Ventures, XYZ Ventures, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Ventures, and SEV. 

- vFunction, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based cloud migration startup, raised $26 million in Series A funding. Zeev Ventures and Hewlett Packard Enterprise led the round and was joined by investors including Engineering Capital, Primera Capital, and Shasta Ventures.

- Our Next Energy, a Michigan-based  EV battery startup, raised $25 million in Series A funding. Investors include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Assembly Ventures, BMW i Ventures (German automaker BMW’s venture fund), Flex, and Volta Energy Technologies.

- Insurights, a New York City-based employee health benefits company, raised $22 million in seed investment led by Group 11. 

- Hofy, a U.K.-based physical equipment tracking website for companies, raised $15.2 million in funding from Stride.VC, Kindred Capital, Activum SG Ventures, TrueSight Ventures, 20 VC, and Day One Ventures.

- Query.AI, a Brookings, S.D.-based security investigations startup, raised $15 million in Series A funding. SYN Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including ClearSky Security and South Dakota Equity Partners.

- Wakeo, a Paris-based overseas transport tracking company, raised $11 million in Series A funding. 360 Capital and Promus Ventures.

- Dellfer, a San Mateo, Calif.-based automotive cybersecurity software company, raised $8 million from DENSO and Option3.

- BondAval, a London-based insurtech start up focused on payment security, raised $7 million in seed funding. Octopus Ventures led the round.

- Seafair, a New York City-based ship and crew-matching startup, raised $5.7 million. General Catalyst led the round and was joined by investors including FirstMinute Capital, Signal Ventures, TA Ventures, SV Angel, SpeedInvest, and FJ Labs.

- Orgnostic, a people analytics company, raised $5 million. Earlybird Digital East led the round.

- Hoot Reading, a Canada-based online tutoring startup, raised $3 million in seed funding. Spin Master Ventures led the round.

Greywing, a Singapore-based ship operations tech company, raised $2.5 million in seed funding. Investors include Flexport, Transmedia Capital, Signal Ventures, Motion Ventures, Rebel Ventures, Y Combinator, and Entrepreneur First.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Blue Owl Capital (NYSE: OWL) agreed to acquire Oak Street Real Estate Capital and its investment advisory business for about $950 million, with another $650 million in potential earnouts.

- KKR and Dundee Partners acquired the KMR Music Royalties II portfolio for approximately $1.1 billion from Kobalt Music Publishing.

- Alleghany Capital’s IPS-Integrated Project Services acquired Anchorbuoy, a Dublin, Ireland-based cost and project management consultancy also known as Linesight. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Graham Partners invested in BrightSign, a Los Gatos, Calif.-based provider of media players. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Options Technology, backed by Abry Partners, agreed to acquire ACTIV Financial, a provider of global capital markets services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Rockbridge Growth Equity has acquired Protect Environmental, a Louisville-based environmental consulting and remediation service provider. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Spark Orthodontics, backed by Rock Mountain, acquired Cumberland Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics and its eight offices in Tennessee. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Silver Lake will acquire Grupo BC, a Spain-based mortgage management, legal and digital services provide, from L-GAM. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Thompson Street Capital Partners acquired CommonLook by T-Base Communications, a provider of software and services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- JLL Partners acquired Angeles Equity Partners-backed Crenlo Engineered Cabs’ Emcor Enclosures. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Platinum Equity agreed to acquire Pelican Products, a Torrance, Calif.-baseddesigner and manufacturer of protective cases and rugged gear for outdoor enthusiasts. Financial terms weren't disclosed.m

OTHERS

- The U.K. is intervening in U.S.-basd Parker Hannifin’s 6.3 billion-pound ($8.7 billion) bid to acquire Meggitt, a U.K.-based aerospace firm, over national security concerns.

- Scopely agreed to acquire GSN Games, a San Francisco-based mobile and online games company, from Sony Pictures Entertainment for $1 billion. 

- Classy acquired Fondi, a virtual and hybrid events platform, from Lennd. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- SonderMind acquired Qntfy, an Arlington, Va.-based predictive analytics company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

IPO

- GlobalFoundries, a Malta. N.Y.-based semiconductor manufacturer, plans to raise up to $1.5 billion in an offering of 55 million shares (40% sold by insiders) priced between $42 and $47 per share. The company reported $4.9 billion in net revenue in 2020 and a $1.4 billion net loss. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co. owns the firm.

- Fluence Energy, an Arlington, Va.-based battery energy storage technology company, plans to raise up to $744 million in an offering of 31 million shares priced between $21 and $24 per share. The company posted $402 million in revenue in the 12 months ending in Sep. 2020 and it reported a net loss of $47 million over the same period. AES and Siemens own the firm.

- Ensemble Health Partners, a Cincinnati, Oh.-based revenue cycle management technology company for health systems, plans to raise up to $649 million in an offering of 29.5 million shares priced between $19 and $22 per share. The company reported $600 million in net revenue in 2020 and net income of $101 million. Golden Gate Capital and Bon Secours Mercy Health back the firm.

- BrightSpring Health Services, a Louisville, Ky.-based healthcare services platform, filed for an IPO. The company posted $5.6 billion in total revenue in 2020 and net income of $21 million. Walgreens and KKR back the firm.

- Rent the Runway, a Brooklyn-based clothing rental company, plans to raise up to $315 million in an offering of 15 million shares priced between $18 and $21 per share. The company posted $158 million in revenue in the 12 months ending in Jan. and a loss of $171 million. Bain Capital Ventures, Highland Capital, Technology Crossover Ventures, and Ares Management back the firm.

- KinderCare Learning Companies, a Portland, Ore.-based childcare and education company, filed for an IPO. The company posted $1.4 billion in revenue in the year ending Jan. 2, and reported a net loss of $129.5 million. Partners Group backs the firm.

- Gerson Lehrman Group, a New York City-based quantitative insights company, filed for an IPO. The company reported $589 million in revenue in 2020 and net income of $34 million. SFW Capital Partners backs the firm.

- Candela Medical, a Marlborough, Mass.-based aesthetic medical device solutions company, plans to raise up to $265 million in an offering of 14.7 million shares priced between $16 and $18 per share. The company reported $322 million in revenue in 2020 and a net loss of $44 million. Funds managed by Apax Partners own the firm.

- Trajector, a Newberry, Fla.-based benefits technology platform for military veterans and disabled individuals, filed for an IPO. The company posted $58 million in revenue in 2020 and net income of $18 million.

- Backblaze, a San Mateo, Calif.-based storage cloud platform, filed for an IPO. The company reported $54 million in revenue in 2020 and a net loss of $6.6 million. TMT Investments backs the firm.

- Weave Communications, a Lehi, Ut.-based customer communications and engagement software platform, filed for an IPO. The company posted $80 million in revenue in 2020 and reported a net loss of $40 million. Bessemer Venture Partners, Tiger Global, Catalyst Investors, Pelion Venture Partners, and Crosslink Capital back the firm.

- NeuroSense Therapeutics, an Israeli neurodegenerative disease therapeutics company, filed for an IPO in the U.S. The company reported a net loss and comprehensive loss of $3 million in 2020 and has yet to post material revenue.

- FWD Group Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong insurance company, hasn’t yet been able to secure approval for its IPO in the U.S., which had been expected this week, per Bloomberg. The company posted $10 million in total revenue in 2020 and reported a net loss of $252 million. Investment company Pacific Group chairman Richard Li backs the firm.

- SPB Exchange, a Russian stock exchange, is weighing an IPO in Russia and the U.S., per Reuters.

SPAC

- Symbotic, a robotics supplier backed by Walmart, is in talks to merge with a blank-check company from SoftBank, per Sky News. A deal could value it at $4.5 billion.

F+FS

- Sofinnova Partners, a Paris, London, and Milan-based life sciences venture capital firm, closed its early-stage venture capital fund, Sofinnova Capital X, with €472 ($548) million. 

- UP.Partners, a Los Angeles-based mobility-tech venture investor, raised $230 million.

- Variant Fund, a crypto-focused fund, raised $110 million for its first fund and announced that Li Jin’s Atelier Ventures would merge with the firm.

- Galaxy Digital Asset Management, a New York City-based venture investor, raised $325 million for Galaxy Interactive.

- Patron, a Los Angeles-based early stage firm focused on games and consumer startups, raised $88 million for its first fund.

PEOPLE

- Flyover Capital Partners, an Overland Park, Ks.-based venture capital firm, added Tristan Mace as managing partner. 

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