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Dealmakers are thrilled to be operating in person again

March 14, 2022, 2:37 PM UTC

Esquire published the story that turned me on to magazine journalism in their October 2017 issue. I still remember pouring over it atop my loft in a room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. 

A then-teenager from the tiny town of Plainville, Mass. was sentenced to prison after a judge ruled she had encouraged her boyfriend—a boy she had met in person only a handful of times—to commit suicide. It was a landmark case: a girl deemed complicit in a crime, not from her actions, but from her text messages. 

Hulu’s new series, The Girl From Plainville, premiered at South by Southwest this weekend, where I moderated a panel and have been running around town, meeting people in person. The Hulu series was inspired by that story I read five years ago in Esquire, which was written by Jesse Barron, a freelance journalist who moved to Plainville for months after Michelle Carter was indicted, to interview her friends and immerse himself in her world. 

It felt surreal to watch a dramatization of the story I credit with inspiring my own career this weekend. But, living through a pandemic, it also has me reconsidering some of the story’s nuances in a new light. For one, how well can you know a person without face-to-face interaction? And here’s another: Would Barron have been able to capture the subtleties of this horrific and tragic case without picking up his life and moving to Plainville?

Many of us have—for good or ill—had the luxury of working from home for just over two years now. And as we start to re-engage in our lives (attending a conference, for instance, that has not taken place in person since 2019), there’s a palpable sense of relief coursing through the halls of the hotels in Austin. It’s come up in basically every conversation I’ve had the past couple days.

“We’re planting a flag” that starting a company in person is way more effective than doing so over Zoom, Tyler Norwood, managing partner at global startup studio for founders and early stage venture capital firm Antler, told me on the sidelines of the conference yesterday. “We were sort of forced to do an experiment to prove that our assumption was correct.”

The happenstance meetings are back: The intro between a venture capitalist and founder who are sitting near one another at a panel—or running into someone who has been reading Term Sheet for years.

You can see the appeal in the plethora of traffic in Austin this weekend—or the private equity firms that plan to up their travel budget this year by 20%. Even as a remote employee myself, there’s something to be said about doing things in person, at least every once and a while. Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon sure thinks so.

It’s hard to know exactly how all of this will ultimately pan out. There were never as many deals signed as last year, which you can credit, at least in part, to remote calls that speed up the pace of signage and allow firms to expand their reach into new territories. How do you strike some sort of new balance? 

A couple months after Esquire published the story that moved me so much in 2017, I emailed Barron and asked if we could meet and talk about how he wrote it. It was the story itself that shifted something within me. But when I sat across from him at a coffee shop in the West Village—and looked him in the eye as he explained putting his life on hold to write a story simply worth telling—that was the “aha” moment. 

Now please excuse me as I turn off my computer and run off to an in-person interview.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce helped curate the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- Socotra, a San Francisco-based core platform for insurtech companies, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Insight Partners and was joined by investors including 8VC, Portage Ventures, Brewer Lane, MS&AD Ventures, and Nationwide Ventures.

- ArchiPro, an Auckland, New Zealand-based online building marketplace, raised $35 million in Series A funding led by Tiger Global and was joined by investors including Icehouse Ventures and Liger Trading

- Encompass Corporation, a Glasgow-based due diligence automation platform, raised $33 million in funding led by Perennial Partners and was joined by investors including Serendipity Capital, Seven Seat Capital, Microequities Asset Management, Alan McIntyre, Tim Frost, and Ray Scott.

- 100ms, a San Francisco-based live video infrastructure startup, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Alpha Wave Incubation and was joined by investors including Matrix Partners India, LocalGlobe, Accel, and Strive.vc.

- Justpoint, a New York-based company connecting plaintiffs to attorneys using A.I., raised $6.9 million in seed funding. Divergent Capital and Charge Ventures led the round and were joined by investors including Crossbeam Venture Partners, Honeystone Ventures, Interplay.vc, Weekend Fund, Vijay Krishnan, Jackson Moses, and Ali Moiz.

- Omnia Fishing, a Golden Valley, Minn.-based online tackle store for the fishing industry, raised $4 million led by Dundee Venture Capital and Founder Collective and was joined by investors including Great North Ventures and others. 

- Trellis Data, a Canberra, Australia-based machine learning platform, raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Ultratech Capital Partners and was joined by Main Sequence Ventures.

- Cake Equity, a Queensland, Australia-based equity management platform, raised $2.2 million in seed funding led by LAUNCH, TheSyndicate.com, and Rampersand, with angel investors Jonathan Lui and Guy Pearson

PRIVATE EQUITY

- CapVest Partners acquired Virtus Health, a Sydney, Australia-based IVF service provider, for $704.8 million AUD ($514 million).

- Colibri Group, backed by Gridiron Capital, acquired Becker Professional Education, a Chicago-based exam prep company and OnCourse Learning, a Media, Pa.-based K-12 student management software provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Resolute Industrial Holdings, an AE Industrial Partners company, acquired Rocky Mountain Portable Cooling an Englewood, Colo.-based provider of heating, cooling, and power. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- unWired Broadband Holdings, a portfolio company of O2 Investment Partners, acquired Xobee Networks, a Fresno, Calif.-based IT services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

- BCM One, a Thompson Street Capital Partners portfolio company, acquired Flowroute, a Seattle-based cloud-based communications company, from Intrade Corporation, a portfolio company of Apollo Global Management. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Sentinel Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in TriMerch, a Glen Allen, Va.-based IT engineering and software services provider, from The Halifax Group. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Zone Climate Services, backed by WindPoint Partners, acquired Smart Care, a St. Paul, Minn.-based provider of kitchen equipment repair and maintenance services, from Audax Private. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

OTHER

- CoinShares increased its stake in FlowBank SA, a Geneva, Switzerland-based online bank, to 29.3% for ₣24.7 million ($26.5 million).

- Kering Eyewear acquired Maui Jim, a Peoria, Ill.-based sunglasses company. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Pancreta Bank SA agreed to acquire 15 bank branches from HSBC, a London-based bank. Financial terms were not disclosed.

IPOS 

- Navi Technologies, a Benagaluru, India-based digital lending platform, is planning to raise 33.5 billion-rupee ($440 million) in an IPO, per Bloomberg. Tech billionaire Sachin Bansal backs the company.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- KKR, a New York-based global investment firm, raised $17 billion for a fund focused on global infrastructure investments and investments in OECD countries in North America and Western Europe.

PEOPLE

- Coatue, a New York-based global investment firm, hired Sarah Cannon as general partner. Formerly, she was with Index Ventures

- Harris Williams, a Richmond, Va.-based global investment banking firm, promoted Anthony Basmajian, Jeff Kidd, John Lautemann, Andy Leed, Dan Linsalata, Priyanka Naithani, Larissa Rozycki, and Chris Smith to managing director. Ryan Costa, Jenson Dunn, Kevin Harper, Zach Ledwith, Nathan Robertson, Mike Rohman, Chris Toussaint, Mathew Tsui, Brant Wilczek, Taylor Will, and Elliott Yousefian were also promoted to director. Also, Julian Feneley was hired as managing director, healthcare & life sciences. Formerly, he was with Macquarie Group.  

- KKR, a New York-based global investment firm, hired Lindsey Wright as managing director and head of investment services for the firm’s real estate credit business. Formerly, she was with Greystone

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