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Axios Pro Rata

🖥️ Please join us today for the Axios Pro kickoff event, at 12:30pm ET. Interviews with SoftBank Vision Fund CEO Rajeev Misra, Affirm CEO Max Levchin, Authentic Brands Group CEO Jamie Salter and Google chief health officer Karen DeSalvo.

‍⚖️ Situational awareness: Leon Black claims in new court papers that Josh Harris, with whom he founded Apollo Global Management, attempted to oust Black via "coup and smear campaign."

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Jared Kushner appears to have convinced the private equity market that he'll stick with his new firm, called Affinity Partners, even if his father-in-law returns to the White House.

The big picture: Private equity is littered with former presidential advisers and cabinet officials, and Trump's is proving to be no different.

  • Before Kushner opened shop, former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin founded Liberty Strategic Capital.

Driving the news: Affinity so far has secured just over $3 billion of verbal commitments for its debut fund, of which between 75% and 80% is closed on, per a source close to Kushner. A final close is expected within the next six months, while the firm's first deal is likely to come before the end of March.

  • The firm plans to mostly focus on U.S. growth equity deals, including focuses on fintech and health, but also will consider buyouts and non-U.S. companies. There were reports last year that Miami-based Affinity was scoping out Israeli office space, but it hasn't yet signed a lease.
  • It currently has around 20 staffers, nearly half of whom are investors. This includes partners Asad Naqvi, previously with London-based buyout firm Apis, Bret Pearlman, the former Blackstone and Elevation Partners exec who most recently was working for Josh Harris' family office.

The pitch: Like with most D.C.-to-PE pros, Kushner is, at least indirectly, pitching limited partners on contacts made during his time in political power. Particularly via his work in the Middle East, where some U.S.-based companies may want to expand.

  • "Jared's intention is for this to be his long-term opportunity and, other than the book he has coming out, he's spending most of his time on it," the source says. "He can't live his life just waiting on what [Trump] may or may not do .... People wouldn't have joined the firm if they thought Jared is going to leave in a couple years."
  • That said, Affinity's future could be complicated by a second Trump presidency. Not only in terms of deal-flow, given tech's overall hostility to Trump, but also because some of its LPs are said to be foreign sovereign wealth funds.
  • As an aside, don't be stunned if the firm's name changes — so as not to be confused with Affinity Equity Partners, a Hong Kong-based PE firm founded in 2002.

The bottom line: Kushner is setting his future course, no matter how national politics plays out.

The BFD

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Unilever (LSE: ULVR) said it's abandoned its $68 billion pursuit of GlaxoSmithKline's (LSE: GSK) consumer unit, which includes Advil painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste.

Why it's the BFD: This is a jarring U-turn from Unilever's position of just a few days ago, when it said it was undeterred by GSK's rejection of three takeover offers, and raises. One possibility is that Unilever thinks it's calling GSK's bluff, or that it has an alternate acquisition target in mind.

Look ahead: GSK continues to move forward with plans list the consumer unit, which is 32% owned by Pfizer, later this year.

The bottom line: Unilever must convince investors that it's not spinning its strategic wheels, as it tries to move deeper into health and beauty products and away from lower-margin items like food. The GSK bid suggested that CEO Alan Jope favored sudden, transformative change. Until he didn't.

Venture Capital Deals

Factorial Energy, a Woburn, Mass.-based maker of solid-state batteries, raised $200m in Series D funding co-led by automakers Mercedes and Stellantis. www.factorialenergy.com

Handshake, an S.F.-based career network for U.S. college students, raised $200m in Series F funding at a $3.5b valuation. Coatue and Valiant Peregrine Fund co-led, and were joined by Base10. http://axios.link/DPLy

Autograph, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based NFT platform, raised $170m in Series B funding. Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins co-led, and were joined Lightspeed Venture Partners, Katie Haun’s new firm and insider 01A. http://axios.link/2Ezg

Greenlabs, a South Koran agricultural supply chain digitization startup, raised $140m in Series C funding. BlueRun Ventures led, and was joined by Skylake Incuvest and SK Square. http://axios.link/Lylr

🚑 ImmPact Bio USA, a Camarillo, Calif.-based developer of cancer CAR-T cell therapies, raised $111m in Series B funding co-led by VenBio Partners, Foresite Capital and Decheng Capital. Others backers include Surveyor Capital, OrbiMed, Novartis, RMGP and Bukwang Pharma. http://axios.link/GyKF

Lummo, a Jakarta-based e-commerce enablement SaaS, raised $80m in Series C funding from Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital India and CapitalG. http://axios.link/jpuy

🚑 Wandercraft, a French exoskeleton tech developer, raised $45m in Series C funding. Quadrant Management led, and was joined by Bpifrance, MACSF, Malakoff Humanis, AG2R La Mondiale, Mutuelles Impact, Sofiouest, Xange, Eurazeo, LBO France and Cemag Invest. http://axios.link/RHbx

🚑 ONI, a desktop microscopy platform, raised $75m in Series B funding. Arch Venture Partners and Casdin Capital co-led, and were joined bySection 32, ARTIS Ventures, Vertical Venture Partners, Axon Ventures and insider Oxford Science Enterprises. www.oni.bio

PlanRadar, an Austrian digitization platform for construction and property documents, raised $70m. Insight Partners and Quadrille Capital co-led, and were joined by Proptech1, Russmedia, GR Capital and insiders Headline, Berliner Volksbank Ventures, aws Gründerfonds and Cavalry Ventures. http://axios.link/CkGT

M2P Fintech, an Indian payments infrastructure startup, raised $56m. Insight Partners led, and was joined by MUFG Innovation Partners and insiders Tiger Global and Better Capital. http://axios.link/YWJD

Ambient.ai, a Menlo Park-based computer vision startup focused on building security, raised $52m led by Andreessen Horowitz. http://axios.link/JqRc

SaaS Labs, an Indian SMB automation platform, raised $42m in Series B funding. Sequoia Capital India led, and was joined by insiders Base 10 Partners and Eight Roads Ventures. http://axios.link/6mOP

HugePOD, an S.F.-based provider of print-on-demand apparel design and manufacturing, raised $40m in Series B funding. Joyy Inc. led, and was joined by insiders Engage Capital, Source Code Capital and ZhenFund. www.hugepod.com

Lean Technologies, a Saudi fintech focused on accessing bank customer data, raised $33m. Sequoia Capital India led, and was joined by Jeff Immelt. http://axios.link/SMCV

Banyan Security, an S.F.-based provider of zero trust network access solutions, raised $30m in Series B funding. Third Point Ventures led, and was joined by SIG, Alter Venture Partners and insiders Shasta Ventures and Unusual Ventures. www.banyansecurity.io

Inspect Point, a Troy, N.Y.-based provider of business management software for the fire inspection industry, raised $28m from Mainsail Partners. www.inspectpoint.com

Mention Me, a London-based customer referrals platform, raised $25m in Series B funding. Octopus Ventures led and was joined by insider Eight Roads Ventures. http://axios.link/D41i

Smartcar, a Mountain View-based API developer platform for connected vehicles, raised $24m in Series B funding. Energize Ventures led, and was joined by insiders Andreessen Horowitz and NEA. www.smartcar.com

Carry1st, a South African social games publisher, raised $20m in new Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. http://axios.link/zwXv

Honeycomb, a digital insurer focused on multi-family properties, raised $15.4m in Series A funding led by Ibex Investors. www.honecombinsurance.com

Zingtree, a Larkspur, Calif.-based provider of contact center software, raised $15m in Series A funding. Conductive Ventures led, and was joined by Storm Ventures and Madrona. http://axios.link/jgdi

POAP, a web3 "proof of attendance" startup, raised $10m in seed funding. Archetype and Sapphire Sport co-led, and were joined by Sound Ventures, The Chernin Group and Advancit. http://axios.link/FWR7

StructionSite, an Oakland-based provider of construction project tracking software, raised $10m from 500 Global, PCL Construction and GS Futures. www.structionsite.com

Chatdesk, a New York-based customer support startup, raised $7m led by Cultivation Capital. www.chatdesk.com

🎬 Filmhub, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based film distribution startup, raised $6.8m in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz led, and was joined by 8VC, FundersClub and Eleven Prime. http://axios.link/6PE1

StaffAny, a Singapore-based shift worker management startup, raised $3.4m led by GGV Capital. http://axios.link/Qt6Q

Vinter, a Stockholm-based crypto assets index provider, raised $3.4m led by Octopus Ventures. www.vinter.co

Dropee, a Malaysian B2B wholesale platform, raised $3m in Series A equity and $4m in debt led by Vynn Capital. http://axios.link/BNCk

Private Equity Deals

Arsenal Capital Partners bought Eckhart, a Warren, Mich.-based industrial automation solutions provider, from LFM Capital. www.eckhartusa.com

Avance Investment Management invested in Synergy Infrastructure Holdings, a Tampa, Fla.-based construction equipment rental company. www.synergy-infra.com

The Blackstone Group completed its $1.6 billion purchase of Singapore-based precision components maker Interplex from Baring PE Asia. http://axios.link/1Rps

🚑 CapVest Partners offered to buy Australian fertility services firm Virtus Health (ASX: VRT) for around A$609m, just topping a prior takeover offer from BGH Capital. http://axios.link/lqTt

🚑 Gale Healthcare Solutions, a Tampa, Fla.-based nurse staffing platform, raised $60m from FTV Capital. http://axios.link/92ik

KKR acquired Merchants Mortgage, an Austin, Texas-based provider of short-term mortgage products. www.merchantsmtg.com

Sky Island Capital acquired a majority stake in Polished Metals, a Hillside, N.J.-based supplier and polisher of architectural and ornamental metals. www.polishedmetals.com

Axios Pro Review

Source: Giphy

Some highlights from yesterday's Axios Pro newsletters:

💰 Fintech: A dive into the post-SPAC performance of fintechs, in light of Acorns Growth terminating its own deal. In short, it's been a SPAC splat.

🛒 Retail: Neiman Marcus' CEO talked about the luxury retailer's financial situation and its strategic plan, plus more on Kohl's vs. the activists.

🚑 Health Tech: Scoop on Kinderhook's new $2.5 billion deal, plus more on the Lyra Health round and an exclusive on Topography Health getting funding from Bain Capital Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

SPAC Stuff

🚑 Eleusis, a London-based psychedelics company, agreed to go public at an implied $446m valuation via Silver Spike Acquisition Corp. II (Nasdaq: SPKB). http://axios.link/v7mV

Intrepid Acquisition I, an energy SPAC led by the co-founder of Intrepid Potash (NYSE: IPI), filed for a $200m IPO. http://axios.link/BZWx

🚑 Valuence Merger I, a life sciences and sustainability SPAC led by Sun Yoon Woo (Credian Partners), filed for a $200m IPO. http://axios.link/6CM7

Liquidity Events

🚑 CVC Capital Partners is seeking a buyer for Theramex, an Italian maker of women's health products that could fetch more than $1b, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/kcBw

Fundraising

A* Capital quietly raised $300m for its debut fund. The VC firm was co-founded last year by Kevin Hartz (Eventbrite, Founders Fund), Gautam Gupta (Uber) and Bennett Siegel (Coatue).

Andreessen Horowitz plans to target $3.5b for its next crypto fund, plus another $1b for a seed-stage crypto fund, per the FT. http://axios.link/s2Y9

The Carlyle Group will target up to €7.5b for its sixth European buyout fund, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/3Cll

Cherry Ventures of Berlin raised €300m for a new seed fund. www.cherry.vc

Inflection, an early-stage crypto VC firm, raised $41m for its second fund. http://axios.link/5g08

PeakSpan Capital of San Mateo, Calif. raised $567m for its third growth equity fund. http://axios.link/nyN0

Summa Equity, an Oslo-based PE firm, raised €2.3b for an impact investing fund. http://axios.link/tKt4

Viola Ventures of Israel raised $250m for its sixth fund and promoted Yael Alroy to partner. http://axios.link/gqZV

Worklyn Partners, a Philadelphia-based growth equity firm focused on cybersecurity, raised over $35m for its first fund. www.worklynpartners.com

2048 Ventures, a pre-seed investment firm, raised $67m for its second fund. www.2048.vc

It's Personnel

Ryan Williams is joining Coatue as chief sustainability officer and Shahed Fakhari Larson is joining as a general partner and chief marketing and communications officer, Axios has learned. Williams previously was an operating partner with NextWorld Evergreen, while onetime M&A lawyer Larson was a partner at Brunswick Group.

Lars Albright, co-founder of Quattro Wireless (bought by Apple) and SessionM (Mastercard), joined Unusual Ventures as a general partner. He'll help the Silicon Valley firm open a Boston office, to which existing UV partner Sarah Leary will relocate. http://axios.link/7f0n

🚑 Julian Feneley joined investment bank Harris Williams as a London-based managing director of healthcare and life sciences. He previously was with Macquarie Capital. www.harriswilliams.com

Ilonka Jankovich joined Amsterdam-based Rubio Impact Partners as a venture partner. She previously founded Taptrove Ventures. www.rubio.vc

Fifth Wall, a real estate tech VC firm, promoted Sarah Liu and G.M. Nicholas Vik to partners and Michael New to principal. www.fifthwall.com

🚑 Third Rock Ventures promoted David Kaufman to partner and added Jigar Raythatha (ex-Constellation Pharma) and Jeff Walsh (ex-Bluebird Bio) as venture partners. www.thirdrockventures.com

Final Numbers
Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Go deeper: Biden's stock market gets Trumped

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