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The FTC is ‘not going to back down’ on big business

January 20, 2022, 4:21 PM UTC

M&A regulators have been quite busy this month.

Here’s a recap: Last week, a federal judge gave the Federal Trade Commision the go-ahead to move forward with an antitrust case against Meta—a.k.a. Facebook’s parent company, for those who haven’t been paying attention—that challenged the social media giant’s allegedly monopolistic acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram. Should the FTC be successful, Meta may be forced to sell off the companies it acquired in 2012 and 2014. (The agency “may well face a tall task” in proving the allegations, according to the judge.)

On Tuesday, the FTC and Justice Department’s Antitrust division announced a joint inquiry aimed at modernizing M&A enforcement for the current era. “Recent evidence indicates that many industries across the economy are becoming more concentrated and less competitive,” the two agencies said in a joint statement. The regulators are seeking comment on evidence of mergers’ effects on competition as they plan revisions to guidelines, and they said they’d specifically look for information to evaluate startup acquisitions. 

Just yesterday, FTC Chair Lina Khan voiced her (strong) opinions on big corporations in her first televised interview since taking office in June. “We’re really showing these companies, but also showing the country, that enforcers are not going to back down because of these companies flexing some muscle or kind of trying to intimidate us,” Khan told CNBC yesterday. As a reminder, Khan has long been a critic of big business, and particularly Big Tech. She very well might be the most progressive head in the agency’s 106-year history, writes my colleague Nicole Goodkind. (Amazon and Facebook have both petitioned for her recusal in matters brought against them.) 

While it’s become evident the agency plans to take a rather aggressive approach, time and resources are limited. Khan has already experienced delays in moving forward with new privacy rules and has faced some resistance from two Republican commissioners at the FTC. Khan has until September 2024 to get things rolling, and the agency has to divy its resources to focus on cases with market-wide impact. 

That being said, all the activity has been enough to have businesses and industry groups in a tizzy, worried about how more regulation might harm the economy. And it’s throwing Microsoft’s massive $68.7 billion deal for Activision Blizzard announced earlier this week into question, as the deal would make Microsoft one of the three largest video game publishers in the world.

Speaking of regulation… The head of the brokerage industry’s regulator, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (or FINRA), said yesterday it plans to enhance disclosure requirements for broker-dealers that sell crypto and digital assets, and it might take a second look at its rules around options accounts.

A reminder: Term Sheet is partnering with Semaphore for its 14th annual confidence survey of private equity, venture capital, hedge fund and other professionals. Will 2022 afford an end to our public health burden? Has it influenced business interests and personal income? Fifty-six percent of respondents expressed confidence in then-new president Biden last year. Is the honeymoon over? Weigh in, if you like, and share your level of confidence in yourself, the economy, and your business; it’s anonymous and should take you 3-4 minutes. You can take the survey here. Have a look at last year’s results here.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com

VENTURE DEALS

- Lyra Health, a Burlingame, Calif.-based workforce mental health solutions provider for employers, raised $235 million in Series F funding from investors including Coatue, Dragoneer, Emerson Collective, and Salesforce Ventures.

- Autograph, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based NFT platform for brands and names in sports, entertainment, and culture, raised $170 million in Series B funding co-led by a16z and Kleiner Perkins and was joined by investors including Lightspeed and Katie Haun’s firm.

- Iterative Scopes, a Cambridge, Mass.-based precision-based gastrointestinal (GI) disease technologies and software developer raised $150 million in Series B funding co-led by Insight Partners and Clearlake Capital Group and was joined by investors including Obvious Ventures, Johnson and Johnson Innovation, Eli Lilly, and Breyer Capital.

- Wheel, an Austin, Tex.-based telehealth platform developer, raised $150 million in Series C funding co-led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tiger Global and was joined by investors including Coatue, Salesforce Ventures, CRV, Tusk Venture Partners, and Silverton Partners

- iTrustCapital, a Long Beach, Calif.-based crypto trading platform for individual retirement accounts (IRAs), raised $125 million in Series A funding led by Left Lane Capital.

- Apprentice, a Jersey City, N.J.-based intelligent manufacturing execution system developer for getting drugs to market, raised $100 million in Series C funding led by Alkeon Capital Management and was joined by investors including Silverton Partners, Insight Partners, Pacific Western Bank, and Colorcon Ventures

- Big Health, a San Francisco-based digital healthcare portal focused on mental health, raised $75 million in Series C funding led by SoftBank and was joined by investors including ArrowMark Partners, Octopus Ventures, Gilde Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, and Morningside Ventures.

- MILKRUN, an Australia-based grocery delivery startup, raised $75 million in Series A funding led by Tiger Global and was joined by investors including AirTree Ventures, Skip Capital, and Grok Ventures

- Canalyst, a Vancouver, Canada-based leading financial data and analytics provider, raised $70 million in Series C funding led by Dragoneer Investment Group and was joined by investors including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Alta Fox Capital, HighSage Ventures, Vanedge Capital, and ScaleUP Ventures.

- Curbio, a Potomac, Md.-based pay-at-closing home improvement solution for real estate agents, brokerages and home sellers, raised $65 million in Series B funding led by Revolution Growth and was joined by investors including Camber Creek, Comcast Ventures, Brick & Mortar Ventures, Second Century Ventures, Kayne Partners, and Masco Ventures.

- Dovetail, a Surry Hills, Australia-based customer research platform, raised $63 million in Series A funding led by Accel and joined by investors including Blackbird and Felicis Ventures.

- Ambient.ai, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based visual intelligence platform operator, raised $52 million in funding led by a16z and was joined by investors including Ron Conway and Ali Rowghani from Y Combinator, Okta co-founder Frederick Kerrest, Crowdstrike CEO George Kurtz, and Microsoft CVP Charles Dietrick

- Parallel Systems, a Culver City, Calif.-based electric vehicle manufacturer, raised $49.6 million in Series A funding led by Anthos Capital and was joined by investors including Congruent Ventures, Riot Ventures, and Embark Ventures

- Spekit, a Denver, Colo.-based onboarding and training platform for remote teams, raised $45 million in Series B funding led by Craft Ventures and was joined by investors including Felicis, Operator Collective, Matchstick Ventures, Renegade Partners, Foundry Group, and Bonfire Ventures

- Foresight Group, a San Francisco-based workers compensation and insuretech platform, raised $39 million in Series B funding led by OMERS Ventures and was joined by investors including Digital Garage Ventures, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Brick and Mortar Ventures, and Builders VC

- Walnut, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based sales and marketing demo experience platform, raised $35 million in Series B funding led by Felicis Ventures and was joined by investors including Salesforce CMO Sarah Franklin, Okta co-founder Frederic Kerrest, TripActions CEO Ariel Cohen, NFX, Eight Roads Ventures, and A Capital.

- Appcues, a Boston-based user onboarding platform, raised $32.1M in Series B funding led by NewSpring and was joined by investors including Columbia Partners, Sierra Ventures, and Accomplice.

- Banyan Security, a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solutions provider, raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Third Point Ventures and was joined by investors including SIG, Alter Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures, and Unusual Ventures.

- Topography Health, a Los Angeles-based clinical trials startup focused on community physicians, raised $27.5M in Series A funding led by Bain Capital Ventures and was joined by a16z.

- Capacity, a St. Louis, Mo.-based AI-powered support automation platform, raised $27 million in Series C funding from investors including TMC Emerging Technology Fund and Rice Park.

- Seurat Technologies, a Wilmington, Mass.-based 3D metal printing company, raised $21 million in Series B funding from investors including Xerox Ventures, SIP Global Partners, Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, True Ventures, Porsche Automobil Holding SE, and Maniv Mobility.

- Flying Embers, a Ventura, Calif.-based organic hand-crafted beer, hard kombucha, and hard seltzer producer, raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Beam Suntory and was joined by investors including Power Plant Ventures, Quadrant Capital, Monogram Cap, and Beechwood Capital.

- Honeycomb, a San Francisco-based online insurance platform for commercial real estate, raised $15.4 million in Series A funding led by Ibex Investors and was joined by investors including SiriusPoint, Phoenix Insurance, Distributed Ventures, IT-Farm, and Sure Ventures.

- Pathfinder Medical, a London-based medical device company for vascular procedures, raised £8.5 million ($11.6 million) in funding led by BGF and Parkwalk and was joined by investors including Deepbridge Capital

- Monos Travel, a Vancouver, Canada-based travel bag developer and manufacturer, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Venn Growth Partners and was joined by Strand Equity.

- Polar Security, a San Jose, Calif.-based cloud-native data security company, raised $8.5 million in seed funding led by Glilot Capital Partners and was joined by investors including IBI Tech Fund, Cloud Security Alliance CEO Jim Reavis, and former RSA CTO Tim Belcher.

- Castiron, an Indianapolis, In.-based e-commerce platform for independent food businesses, raised $6 million in seed funding from Bowery Capital, Foundry Group, and High Alpha.

- STILRIDE, a Stockholm, Sweden-based electro-mobility device developer, raised £2.5 million ($3.4 million) from investors including Gustaf Hagman, Saeid Esmaeilizadeh, Sam Bonnier, and Andreas Adler.

- Wrangle, a Durham, N.C.-based ticketing and workflow product for chat platforms like Slack, raised $2 million in pre-seed funding led by Bloomberg Beta and Eniac Ventures and were joined by investors including Liquid 2 Ventures, Hustle Fund, and TDF Ventures.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- All Star Auto Lights, an Atlantic Street Capital portfolio company, acquired Autolights, a Ferndale, Mich.-based refurbished headlights, taillights, and fog lights company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- InTandem Capital Partners acquired Providence Care, a Rock Hill, S.C.-based post-acute and end-of-life services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Outdoor Living Supply, a Trilantic North America portfolio company, acquired Bulks Landscape Supply, a Marietta, Ga.-based landscape supply and distribution company, Edgefield Plant & Stone Center, a Greensboro, N.C.-based plant and stone seller, and Parker Hardscapes, a Reno, Nev.-based concrete wall and outdoor product company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- OpenGate Capital acquired Chemisphere, a St. Louis, Miss.-based solvent blender and chemical distributor. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- PayrHealth, backed by Osceola Capital, acquired SilverCreek RCM, a Pittsburg, Kansas based revenue cycle management (RCM) company serving healthcare providers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- PhotoShelter, backed by Clearhaven Partners, acquired Third Light, a U.K.-based DAM software provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Precisely, backed by Clearlake and TA Associates, agreed to acquire PlaceIQ, a New York-based data and technology provider for marketing and business decisions. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Prototek Holdings, a TruArc Partners portfolio company, acquired Sacramento EDM, a Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based manufacturing company with CNC machine capabilities.

- Sigma Defense, a Sagewind Capital portfolio company, acquired SOLUTE, a San Diego, Calif.-based system modernization technology and engineering firm focused on software engineering, cybersecurity, cloud architectures, and Development Security Operations (DevSecOps) for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Financial terms were not disclosed.

- TIMETOACT GROUP, backed by Equistone Partners Europe, acquired PKS Software GmbH, a Ravensburg, Germany-based tailored business-critical software developer. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Unbounce, a Crest Rock Partners portfolio company, acquired LeadsRx, a Portland, Oreg.-based marketing attribution SaaS platform that provides brand and agency marketers with data and insights. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

- Venus Medtech acquired Cardiovalve, an Or Yehuda, Israel-based transcatheter mitral and tricuspid valve replacement company, for $300 million from Peregrine Ventures.

- Stillfront Group agreed to acquire a 34.8% stake in Six Waves, a Hong Kong-based gaming app developer, from Nexon for approximately $93 million.

- Arsenal Capital Partners acquired Eckhart Holdings, a Warren, Mich.-based industrial solutions company that solves complex manufacturing needs, from LFM Capital. Financial terms were not disclosed.

OTHER

- Gemini acquired Omniex, a San Francisco-based institutional crypto trading technology and portfolio management platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Psomas acquired KPG, a Seattle-based design firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- SRAM acquired Hammerhead, a New York-based cycling technology company and Karoo 2 cycling computer maker. Financial terms were not disclosed.

IPOS 

- Dynasty Financial Partners, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based business services and technology provider for independent wealth management firms, filed for an IPO. The company reported $49.2 million in total revenue in the nine months ending in Sep. 2021 and $10.6 million in net and comprehensive income. Envestnet and Mariner Wealth Advisors back the firm.

- Tropical Smoothie Cafe, an Atlanta-based smoothie and restaurant chain, is planning an IPO this year, per Bloomberg. A deal could value the company at more than $1 billion. Levine Leichtman Capital Partners backs the firm.

SPAC

- Eleusis, a London-based psychedelic drug therapy developer, agreed to go public via a merger with Silver Spike Acquisition Corp. II, a SPAC backed by Silver Spike Capital. A deal values the company at $446 million.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- Monomoy Capital Partners, a New York-based middle-market private equity firm, raised $1.1 billion for its fourth fund.

- PeakSpan Capital, a San Mateo, Calif.-based growth equity firm focused on B2B software companies, raised $567 million for its third growth fund.

- Ten Coves Capital, a Darien, Conn.-based growth equity firm focused on fintech investments, raised $293 million for its third fund.

PEOPLE

- Lindsay Goldberg, a New York-based private equity firm, promoted Vincent Ley and Ali Nensi to partners and Winnie Liu to principals.

- Odyssey Investment Partners, a New York-based middle-market private equity firm, promoted Jennifer Rogg to managing principal; Rob Denious to principal; and Paul Ampofo, Forrest Beck, Zack Coleman, Jake Gillman, Kelly Radutzky, and Matt Veneman to vice presidents.

- Permira, a London-based private equity firm, hired Barry O’Sullivan as senior advisor. Formerly, he was with Genesys, a Permira portfolio company.

- Revelstoke Capital Partners, a Denver-based private equity firm focused on healthcare and related business services companies, promoted Anthony Hayes to partner; Will Oliver, Michael Constantinides, and Cy Barton-Dobenin to principal; Gabriel Gonzalez to vice president, and Ronan McIntosh to senior associate.

- Thomvest Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, promoted Nima Wedlake to partner. 

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