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May 12, 2021

It’s official.


Scooter startup Bird Rides is going public via merger with a special purpose acquisition company in a deal that values the business at $2.3 billion—about 19.3% below its last-known private market valuation in January 2020. The news, announced Wednesday, confirmed an earlier report from Dot.la.


The news comes after Bird and rival Lime struggled in the pandemic (Bird took on debt, while Lime took a downround). But investors and operators later said that consumers avoiding enclosed public transportation shifted toward such short-distance mobility options like e-scooters and bikes. Even cities seemed more willing to accept the trend: New York City, a staunch holdout, approved Bird, Lime, and VeoRide for coveted pilot deals in April. 


And now expansion seems back on the books. In March, Bird said it would invest massively in Europe, spending $150 million on the market.


I’m getting a sense of deja vu: It feels like 2018 all over again, when scooter startups were hotly competing for placement in U.S. cities, but now with a different region of focus. In the past year, heartened by cities’ friendlier attitudes toward scooter startups, investors have poured hundreds of millions of funding into many European scooter businesses like Dott , Tier, or Voi—not to mention the less well-funded businesses like Zeus and Superpedestrian


It mirrors the explosion in funding to companies like Bird, LimeBike, Spin, and Skip back in 2018.


But companies in the space vy for business in the same cities by virtue of the problem scooters are trying to solve—last-mile travel (which is why each has turned so quickly and early toward international expansion). And many now argue European cities are better configured for scooters. In short: Across the pond, it’s heavy competition.


Back before the pandemic, massive funding made way to quick acquisitions: In 2018, Ford acquired Spin (which was then largely focused on the U.S.) for an estimated $100 million. In 2019, Bird acquired Scoot for about $25 million—a measly sum given the company had raised $47 million in venture funding.


As the pandemic galvanized a new wave of scooter upstarts, no doubt the M&A wave will come again. And as with Scoot’s acquisition, not everyone will be getting a good deal.


IS INVESTING IN ASTROLOGY STARTUPS ETHICAL? Yesterday, I highlighted Sanctuary, an astrology startup that also sells psychic readings to users for no low price. U.S. laws around psychic readings are patchwork at best, with CEO and founder Ross Clark arguing the app is offering entertainment rather than fortune-telling—exempting it from the more onerous of state laws. The readings, Clark says, is a practice in empathy rather than actually peering into the crystal ball. But still, the question remains, is funding the practice ethical? 


Some investors think otherwise. Lux Capital’s Josh Wolfe on Twitter did not mince his words upon hearing news of the startup’s seed funding: “Seriously shame on anyone funding or encouraging this bullsh*t. No doubt there is demand, but this isn’t peddling entertainment, it’s encouraging slippery slope snake oil flapdoodle.” Here too is Vinod Khosla at Khosla Ventures in response to Wolfe’s tweet: “Agree. There is also demand for heroin, fat, sugar… I’d be ashamed to fund such a venture.” 


Proponents argue that astrology and psychic readings play a similar role as religion or therapy, while its detractors argue the practice is rooted in pseudoscience. 


So readers, what do you think?


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


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VENTURE DEALS

- Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce company, is in talks to raise $1 billion at up to a $30 billion valuation, per TechCrunch.


- Ethos Technologies, a San Francisco-based life-insurance startup, raised $200 million in funding valuing the business at over $2 billion. General Catalyst led the round and was joined by investors including Sequoia Capital, Accel and GV. 


- Huma Therapeutics, a London-based predictive health company, raised $130 million in Series C funding. Leaps by Bayer and Hitachi Ventures led the round and were joined by investors including Samsung Next, Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, Unilever Ventures and HAT Technology & Innovation Fund.


- CircleCI, a San Francisco-based integration and continuous delivery platform, raised $100 million in Series F funding, valuing it at $1.7 billion. Greenspring Associates led the round and was joined by investors including Eleven Prime, IVP, Sapphire Ventures, Top Tier Capital Partners, Baseline Ventures, Threshold Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, Owl Rock Capital, and Next Equity Partners


- Acko General Insurance, an India-based insurance startup, is weighing a $200 million fundraise that could value it at $1 billion, per Bloomberg. Amazon backs the firm.


- NetSPI, a Minneapolis-based testing and cybersecurity attack management company, raised $90 million. KKR led the round and was joined by investors including Ten Eleven Ventures


- Handshake, a San Francisco-based early career network, raised $80 million in Series E funding to value it at $1.5 billion. Lightspeed Venture Partners and Spark Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Coatue Management, Valiant Peregrine Fund, True Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, EQT Ventures, GGV Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Emerson Collective.


- Zenlayer, a Los Angeles-based edge cloud service provider, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Anatole Investment and Prospect Avenue Capital led the round and were joined by investors including Volcanics Venture


- Unmind, a London-based workplace mental health platform, raised $47 million in Series B funding. EQT Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Project A, Felix Capital, and True.


- SightCall, a San Francisco-based augmented reality-powered visual assistance platform, raised $42 million in Series B funding. InfraVia Capital Partners and Bpifrance invested.


- Spring Labs, a blockchain startup focused on credit data, raised $30 million in Series B funding, per TechCrunch. TransUnion led the round.


- Panaseer, a monitoring platform for enterprise security, raised $26.5 million in Series B funding. AllegisCyber Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Evolution Equity Partners, Notion, AlbionVC, Cisco Investments and Paladin Capital Group.


- Birdie, a London-based elderly care tech business, raised $11.5 million (£8.2 million). Index Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Kamet Ventures


- Anvilogic, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based cybersecurity detection automation company, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Cervin Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Foundation Capital, Point 72 Ventures, and Dan Warmenhoven


- VIA, a Somerville, Mass.-based  blockchain and A.I. company for the energy industry, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Westly Group led the round.


- Transcend Software, a Princeton, N.J.-based design and engineering automation tool maker, raised $10 million. Aspen Capital Group, HG Ventures, and PureTerra Ventures led the round.


- Salted, a Los Angeles-based company for Quick Service Restaurant brands, raised $9 million in seed funding. Kamine Development Corporation led the round and was joined by investors including Craft Ventures, Valor Equity Partners, Proof Ventures, and Wonder Ventures


- Synthesis School, a Los Angeles-based e-learning business focused on Elon Musk’s Ad Astra model, raised $5 million in funding at a $50 million valuation. Anthony Pompliano led the round and was joined by investors including Term Sheet alumna Polina Marinova Pompliano.


- Ontop, a Colombia-based multi-country payroll manager for Latin America, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Point72 Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including  Funders Club, ClockTower Technology Ventures, H2O Capital, Magma Partners, SOMA Capital, and Supernode.


- Kitch, a Lisbon-based food delivery startup, raised €3.3 million ($4 million) in seed funding. Atlantic Food Labs led the round and was joined by investors including  Market One Capital, Seedcamp and Mustard Seed MAZE.


- Twosense, a New York-based biometric authentication startup, raised $3 million. Atypical Ventures and Preface Ventures led the round and were joined by investors including Jonathan Cogley (LogicBoost Labs), Glasswing Ventures, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, and Brand New Matter Ventures.


- OtterTune, a Pittsburgh-based automatic database tuning service, raised $2.5 million. Accel led the round.


- Maptician, an Atlanta-based provider of space and occupancy management tech, raised $1.7 million in funding. Nelnet led the round.


- Jellysmack, a Los Angeles-based creator company, raised an undisclosed amount of Series C funding valuing it above $1 billion. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the round.


PRIVATE EQUITY

- Caris Life Sciences, an Irving, Texas-based company focused on precision medicine, raised $830 million for a valuation of $7.8 billion. Sixth Street led the round and was joined by investors including T.Rowe Price Associates, Silver Lake, Fidelity Management & Research Company, and Coatue.


- Turn/River Capital invested €315 million ($383 million) in Redwood Software, a Netherlands-based provider of cloud-based business and IT process automation solutions.


- Sixth Street Growth invested $50 million in DrFirst, a health tech business.


- Alliance Technical Group, backed by Align Capital Partners, acquired Air Quality Services, an Evansville, In.-based emissions monitoring company serving the Midwestern United States. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- Godspeed Capital invested in Prime Engineering, a Pennsylvania-based architecture, engineering, and surveying firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- NWN Corp., backed by New State Capital Partners, acquired Carousel Industries, an Exeter, R.I.-based IT management company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- Susquehanna Growth Equity invested in LiveBarn, a Canadian provider of  subscription-streaming service for amateur and youth sports. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- SFW Capital Partners made a majority recapitalization of Granite River Labs, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based test and certification services and automated test solutions. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


EXITS

- Jamf (NASDAQ: JAMF), agreed to acquire Wandera, a London-based Apple-first cloud security and mobile access company for $400 million. Wandera’s investors include 83 North, Bessemer, and Sapphire Ventures.


- Centroid Investment Partners agreed to acquire TaylorMade Golf Company, a golfing goods retailer, from KPS Capital Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


OTHER

- L Brands plans to spin-off its Victoria’s Secret brand.


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IPOS

- Full Truck Alliance, a Chinese trucking startup, is aiming to raise around $1.5 billion in an IPO in New York that could value it at $20 billion, per Reuters. Tencent and SoftBank back the firm.


- Oatly, the oat milk company, is seeking a valuation of about $10 billion in its IPO. 


SPAC


- Better.com, a U.S.-based mortgage and real estate startup, will go public via merger with Aurora Acquisition, a SPAC. A deal values SoftBank-backed Better at $7.7 billion.


- Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: Wynn) is spinning off its online-betting business via merger with Austerlitz Acquisition Corp. I, a SPAC. Wynn will hold 58% of the business to be valued at $3.2 billion.


- Hedosophia, a London-based investment firm backed by Ian Osborne, plans to raise a SPAC via a listing in Amsterdam. It plans to acquire a tech firm and raise about $588 million.


F+FS


- Miroma Ventures, a Los Angeles-based venture firm, plans to spend $100 million in capital and marketing services in consumer brands and media platforms.


- YouTube, the Alphabet-backed video platform, created a $100 million YouTube Shorts Fund to pay creators on its TikTok competitor platform.


- VamosVentures, an L.A.-based venture capital fund, raised $50 million for a fund focused on early-stage investments in tech companies led by Latinx and diverse founders. Apple is contributing to the fund.


- BLCK VC, Sequoia and Lightspeed partnered to create a scout program for Black investors. 


PEOPLE

- Felicis Ventures, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture firm, promoted Niki Pezeshki to general partner. 


- B Capital Group, a Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based investment firm, hired Sami Ahmad as a general partner based in New York. He was previously Co-Head of Co-Investments within the Alternative Investments & Manager Selection Group at Goldman Sachs.


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