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From fintechs to worker unions, the future of tech is about scaling to power

December 2, 2021, 4:34 PM UTC

Good morning, Term Sheet readers. 

Fortune wrapped up its annual Brainstorm Tech Conference on Wednesday from the magnificent shores of Half Moon Bay in California, where participants spoke on everything from the metaverse to the future worker unions.

A few takeaways from those who couldn’t make it to day two of the conference: 

  • Despite the many partnerships and relationships now between fintech upstarts and the banking giants of old, don’t be mistaken: The Davids are coming for the Goliaths. America’s four largest banks will “all be worth less than $100 billion” as a result of tech-enabled competition, CEO and founder of startup and small-business focused fintech Mercury, Immad Akhund, said on Wednesday.
  • At a time when venture capital funding is at an all-time high, investors like GGV Capital’s Hans Tung are asking themselves the same questions as they ask potential unicorns: How do you scale? With so much competition from other investors and an influx of new startup pitches, creating a fund model that can handle the space’s evolutionary explosion will be key. (And yes, don’t be surprised to see venture capital firms going public like the private equity giants).
  • The rise of worker unions, which has also emerged in the tech industry, is not going away. “Too many people feel like they just can’t win,” Bloomberg Beta CEO Roy Bahat said Tuesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech summit.
  • The top job at chip maker Intel is a private sector one—though one could also argue that it is also a public one. The semiconductor maker is spending big in the hopes of getting on top of competitors in Taiwan and Korea, doling out $20 billion this year.  “That means we’re not competing with TSMC or Samsung; we’re competing with Taiwan, Inc. and Korea, Inc.,” per CEO Pat Gelsinger.

TIS THE SEASON: Just days after Jack Dorsey announced he would resign as Twitter’s CEO, his other company, Square, revealed a name change to Block

The new moniker sets off easy associations with Blockchain, the technology underlying crypto—and one that makes sense given Dorsey’s love of the space. But the company itself positioned the name change as more than that in a press release. 

“The name has many associated meanings for the company — building blocks, neighborhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome,” the press release read. 

With Facebook’s recent decision to change its name to Meta—reflecting its metaverse ambitions—I can’t help but wonder which tech company will be next to change its appellation in the hopes of announcing to the world that it is on board with the next big thing.

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

Jessica Mathews curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- JOKR, a New York City-based instant grocery delivery company, raised $260 million in Series B funding. The deal values the business at $1.2 billion. Investors include Activant Capital, Balderton, Greycroft, GGV Capital, G-Squared, HV Capital, Kaszek, Mirae Asset, Monashees, Moving Capital, and Tiger Global.

- Smartling, a New York-based cloud translation technology platform company, raised $160 million from Battery Ventures.

- Kueski, a Guadalajara, Mexico-based online consumer lender, raised $102 million in funding led by StepStone Group and was joined by investors including OnePrime Capital, Glisco Partners, Altos Ventures, Cometa, Richmond Global Ventures, Cathay Innovation, Rise Capital, and Angel Ventures Mexico

- Shiftsmart, a New York City-based labor management software maker, raised $95 million in a Series B funding. D1 Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Imaginary Ventures, Spieker Partners, and S12F.

- Hotel Engine, a business travel booking startup, raised $65 million in Series B funding valuing it at $1.3 billion. Telescope Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Blackstone. 

- Kakao Mobility, a South Korea-based maker of a ride-hailing app, raised $55 million from GS Retail. It values Kakao at over $4.2 billion.

- Life House, a New York-based hotel technology platform, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by KAYAK and Inovia Capital and was joined by investors including Tiger Global, Derive Ventures, JLL, Trinity Ventures, Sound Ventures, Cooley, and others.

- Glorify, a London-based Christian worship and wellbeing app, raised $40 million in Series A funding led by a16z and was joined by investors including SoftBank Latin America Fund, K5 Global, Kris Jenner, Michael Bublé, Jason Derulo, and others.

- Sounding Board, an Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based leadership coaching platform, raised $30 million in Series B funding led by JAZZ Venture Partners and was joined by investors including Canaan, Bloomberg Beta, Correlation Partners, Gaingels, Engage.vc, and others.

- Uniform, a San Francisco-based developer platform, raised $28 million in Series A funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Elad Gil and Array Ventures

- Anchor, a New York based autonomous billing platform, raised $15 million in seed funding round led by Rapyd Ventures, Entrée Capital, and Tal Ventures.

- Goalsetter, a New York-based fintech platform and family financial education tool company, raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Seae Ventures and was joined by investors including Fiserv, Mass Mutual, Sterling National Bank, Citizens Financial Group, Cuna Mutual Financial Group, and Astia Fund.

- Convious, an Amsterdam-based platform for experiences, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Begin Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Market One Capital, MillionMonkeys, and FJ Labs.

- The Demex Group, a Washington D.C.-based climate risks company, raised $9 million in Series A funding. Anthemis Group, Blue Bear Capital, and QBE Ventures invested.

- Karamba Security, an Israel-based device security company, raised $8 million in additional Series B funding. VinFast led the round and was joined by investors including SVIC, YL Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Liberty Mutual, Presidio Ventures, Glenrock, Paladin Group and Asgent

- Inspectify, a Seattle, Wash.-based property inspection marketplace and software platform, raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Nine Four Ventures and was joined by investors including Foundation Capital, the HSB Fund of Munich Re Ventures, and Redfinand Socially Financed.

- Forum Mobility, an Oakland, Calif.-based fleet and infrastructure provider, raised $7.5 million in seed funding co-led by Obvious Ventures and Homecoming Capital and was joined by investors including Edison International and Overture VC.

- Butter, a payments failure prevention company, raised $7 million from founding investor Atomic. 

- aptuno, a Bogotá, Colombia-based rental property tech company, raised $5.1 million in seed funding led by Dalus Capital and Kayyak Ventures.

- Structure, a crypto and DeFi investment startup, raised $2 million in seed funding. Polychain Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Bixin Ventures and Ascensive Assets

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Textkernel, backed by Main Capital Partners, acquired Sovren, a Texas-based resume search and match tech maker. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- SDS Rx, backed by HCI Equity Partners, acquired Mission Critical Delivery Solutions, a Bangor, Me.-based healthcare supply chain solutions provider. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Mercer Global Advisors, backed by Oak Hill Capital and Genstar Capital, acquired Mirsky Financial Management, a Rochester, N.Y.-based wealth management firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Tilley Company, a portfolio company of SK Capital Partners, merged with Phoenix Aromas and Essential Oils, a distributor of flavor and fragrance ingredients and compounds. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Duraco Specialty Tapes, backed by OpenGate Capital, acquired 3 Sigma, a Troy, Oh.-based pressure sensitive coated product company, from Brixey & Meyer Capital. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Carlyle agreed to acquire CNSI, a healthcare tech company focused on Medicaid and Medicare, from Alvarez & Marsal Capital Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- New Mountain Capital acquired Cumming Group, a London-based consultancy, from Tailwind Capital. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- American Safety Council acquired TPC, a Chicago-based provider of industrial skills and workplace safety training compliance software solutions, from Frontenac. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

 OTHER

- Apollo (NYSE: APO) agreed to acquire the U.S. wealth distribution and asset management businesses of Griffin Capital. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

IPO

- Air Astana, a state-owned Kazakh airline, is weighing an IPO, per Bloomberg. Kazakhstan sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna owns a majority stake in the firm, and BAE Systems backs it.

- Ascend Performance Materials, a Houston Tex.-based chemical processing company, is weighing a 2022 IPO, according to Bloomberg. A public debut could value the company at around $5 billion. SK Capital Partners owns the firm.

- Ola, an Indian electric scooter and ridesharing company, plans to go public in the first half of 2022, according to Reuters. The company may seek a valuation of more than $8 billion, Bloomberg had previously reported. Softbank and Tiger Global back the firm.

- PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy, an Indonesian power company, plans to go public in the second quarter of 2022, per Reuters. The firm is a unit of state energy company Pertamina Group.

SPAC

- Rumble, a Toronto-based video management system company, plans to go public via a merger with CF Acquisition Corp. VI, a SPAC. A deal would value the company at $2.1 billion.

- Opal Fuels, a White Plains, N.Y.-based renewable natural gas producer and distributor, plans to go public via a merger with ArcLight Clean Transition Corp. II, a SPAC. A deal would value the company at $1.75 billion.

- Selina, a London-based accommodation and co-living space company for remote workers, plans to go public via a merger with BOA Acquisition Corp., a SPAC. A deal would value the company at approximately $1.2 billion.

PEOPLE

- KKR appointed Mukul Chawla as partner and head of growth equity in Asia Pacific.

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