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Crypto exchange Binance is picking a headquarters location ‘very soon’ as it strives to fend off regulators

April 1, 2022, 4:20 PM UTC

Binance’s first attempt at a physical location didn’t turn out so well.

Mere weeks after founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao—who often goes by C.Z.—registered the digital asset exchange in Hong Kong, China banned crypto trading. Zhao has since registered the company in the Cayman Islands, but that may be a temporary solution. Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, told regulators it will announce a proper headquarters “very soon”, Zhao told Vivienne Walt for Fortune’s latest cover story.

It’s just one of the ways the crypto exchange is trying to appease regulators—that and Zhao beginning to dress the part as he swaps out his standard sweatshirt-wear in favor of a $300 four-year-old suit. 

“We’re not dodging anywhere,” Zhao told Walt over breakfast earlier this month. “In fact, we’re engaging everywhere.”

The crypto market has grown enormously—its market cap passed $2 trillion once again earlier this month—and regulators worldwide are playing catch-up. Binance has become a popular target. The company isn’t allowed to advertise in the U.K. and Japan, which have issued warnings against the company, nor Thailand, which handed them a criminal complaint. U.S. officials opened an insider trading investigation against the company’s U.S. entity in September.

Binance’s headquarters—or lack thereof—has arisen as a major complication. Regulators in the U.K. and France have argued that it’s made the company very difficult to supervise. Now Binance wants to be more official, writes Walt: It’s hiring hundreds of compliance officers, a communications representative, and is working with an ex-U.S. Treasury investigator to address government concerns over money laundering and other criminal behavior. And, of course, it is picking a home base, though if Binance has made a decision as to where, they’re not saying just yet.

Walt’s reporting gave us a peek at Zhao as a person. For being one of the wealthiest billionaires in the world—nearly as wealthy as Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg—Zhao is relatively unknown. He hails from China’s Jiangsu province and moved to Vancouver, Canada, at 12 years old, where he would flip burgers at McDonald’s, referee volleyball games, and pump gas at Chevron before eventually helping build Bloomberg’s trading software as a developer.

Zhao’s wealth has largely come as a surprise even to him. “I went from being an entrepreneur to somebody telling me I have tens of billions,” he told Walt.

Binance will be at the forefront of Web3 if Zhao has anything to do with it. He has plans for everything from media, via its $200 investment in Forbes (a Fortune competitor), to gaming and social media. 

But Zhao seems just as puzzled as the rest of us at just how much money some individuals are willing to spend on NFTs: “I think people may have lost their mind,” he said.

More trouble at Activision… U.S. authorities are investigating a meeting that took place prior to a very profitable options trade made in Activision Blizzard, per the Wall Street Journal. Days prior to Activision agreeing to Microsoft’s $68.7 billion deal for the company, three traders allegedly bought options to purchase Activision shares. CEO Bobby Kotick had allegedly met with one of the three traders a week prior, according to the Journal. “Mr. Kotick had a social brunch with his friends at a popular restaurant. He, of course, didn’t share any information with them regarding a possible transaction with Microsoft,” an Activision spokesman told the Journal. You can read more about it here.

It’s April Fool’s Day… And it feels like a great time to launch the Term Sheet cartoon! Cartoonist Ian Foley, a startup founder and investor from Belvedere, Calif., will be bringing a little dose of humor to your inboxes each month. You can expect to have a chuckle at the likes of venture capital, blockchain, A.I., fintech, and quantum technology. We hope you enjoy, and you can check out some of his other work here if you are interested. 

Term Sheet cartoon - are we there yet

Until Monday,

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

VENTURE DEALS

- Cross River, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based technology infrastructure provider for financial service companies, raised $620 million in funding led by Eldridge and Andreessen Horowitz and was joined by investors including T. Rowe Price Investment Management, Whale Rock, Hanaco Ventures, and others.   

- LayerZero Labs, a Vancouver-based blockchain protocol developed to connect decentralized applications across multiple blockchains, raised $135 million in funding. Sequoia, FTX Ventures, and a16z led the round and were joined by investors including Coinbase Ventures, PayPal Ventures, Tiger Global, Uniswap Labs, and others. 

- Docker, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based application development provider of tools, content, and services for developers, raised $105 million in Series C funding led by Bain Capital Ventures and was joined by investors including Atlassian Ventures, Citi Ventures, Vertex Ventures, Four Rivers, Benchmark Capital, Insight Partners, and Tribe Capital.

- Neuron23, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company focused on developing medicines for genetically defined neurological and immunological diseases, raised $100 million in Series C funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and was joined by investors including Westlake Village BioPartners, Kleiner Perkins, Redmile Group, Cowen Healthcare Investments, Acorn Bioventures, HBM Partners, Perceptive Advisors, and Surveyor Capital. 

- Hadrian, a Hawthorne, Calif.-based space startup focused on aerospace and defense manufacturing through autonomous production, raised $90 million in Series A funding led by Lux Capital and a Series A-Prime led by a16z and were joined by investors including Lachy Groom, Caffeinated Capital, Founders Fund, Construct Capital, and 137 Ventures.

- Flight Schedule Pro, a Kansas City, Mo.-based business management software provider for flight schools, universities, flying clubs, and other aviation constituents, raised $31 million in funding from Mainsail Partners

- Yonder, a London-based credit card provider, raised £20 million ($26 million) in funding led by Northzone and LocalGlobe.

- Dagger, a San Francisco-based devops platform that delivers applications to the cloud, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Redpoint Ventures and was joined by investors including  Y Combinator, former Github CEO Nat Friedman, former Google Cloud CTO Brian Stevens, founder and CEO of solo.io Idit Levine, creator of Prometheus Julius Volz, former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, and Bitnami co-founder Daniel Lopez

- VideaHealth, a Boston-based dental diagnostic A.I. solution, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital and was joined by investors including Zetta Venture Partners and Pillar VC.

- Wing Security, a Tel Aviv-based security management platform for software applications, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by GGV Capital, S-Capital, Harmony Partners, and Silicon Valley CISO Investments Group.

- TransFICC, a London-based e-trading platform, raised $17 million in Series A extension funding led by AlbionVC and was joined by investors including Citi, HSBC, Illuminate Financial, ING Ventures, and Main Incubator

- Airhouse, a San Francisco-based e-commerce operations platform, raised $11 million in Series A funding led by DNX Ventures and was joined by investors including Elizabeth Street Ventures, Gaingels, James Beshara, RemoteNative Ventures, Trajectory Capital, Flexport, Easypost, and others. 

- Inner Cosmos, a Portola Valley, Calif.-based neurotechnology company focused on alleviating cognitive disorders, raised $10 million in seed funding led by lool ventures and was joined by investors including KittyHawk VC, Loup Ventures, and others.

- tru.ID, a San Francisco and London-based passwordless authentication platform, raised $9 million in funding from investors including Sorenson Ventures, Episode 1, MMC Ventures, and NHN Ventures

- Jia Finance, a Wilmington, Del.-based online residential mortgage platform for foreign investors, raised $5 million in seed funding led by TTV Capital and was joined by investors including Stanford Angels and others. 

- Archie, a New York-based freelance payroll platform, raised $4.5 million in seed funding from investors including B Capital Group, Mac Ventures, Worklife Ventures, Day One Ventures, Hof VC, Dash Fund, founder of Behance Scott Belsky, the founders of Cameo, Blank Street, Ramp, BloomTech, Eight Sleep, and others.

- Wing Assistant, an Irvine, Calif.-based company connecting businesses to remote talent, raised $2.1 million in seed funding from investors including Surface Ventures, Brookstone Venture Capital, UC Berkeley SkyDeck, and others.  

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Abris Capital Partners agreed to acquire a majority stake in Orbitvu, a Tarnowskie Góry, Poland-based automated product photography company. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Frontenac acquired Dealer Services Network, a Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based platform that automates the title, registration and compliance processes for mobility companies and consumers. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Lumanity, backed by Arsenal Capital Partners, acquired Innovative Edge, a Kent, U.K.-based pharmaceutical product launch services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Mercer Global Advisors, owned by Oak Hill Capital and Genstar Capital, acquired Convergent Wealth Management, a Chesterfield, Mo.-based wealth management firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Millpond Equity Partners and Wasena Capital Management acquired Paxton Patterson, an Alsip, Illinois-based career and technical education provider to elementary, middle, and high schools. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Right Time Group of Companies, majority owned by Gryphon Investors, acquired Wardlaw Heating and Cooling, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-based installer and service provider for heating, air conditioning, and air quality equipment. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Wheel Pros, backed by Clearlake Capital Group, acquired TeraFlex, a West Jordan, Utah-based designer, manufacturer, and distributor of aftermarket suspensions, shocks, and other components. Financial terms were not disclosed.

IPOS 

- Volkswagen selected bankers for its Porsche IPO, according to Bloomberg. A deal could value Porsche at around €90 billion ($100 billion). 

- Schott, a Mainz, Germany-based glass maker, is considering an IPO for its pharma arm sometime next year, according to Bloomberg. A deal could value the division at around $4 billion. 

- IndoSpace, a Mumbai, India-based developer and manager of industrial and logistics properties in India, is weighing an IPO in Singapore that could raise approximately $700 million, per Bloomberg.   

SPAC

- Prime Blockchain, a bitcoin mining and infrastructure startup, agreed to go public via a merger with 10X Capital Venture Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, according to Reuters. A deal could value the company at $1.25 billion including debt.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- Freestyle, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, raised $130 million for a sixth fund focused on seed-stage startups. 

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