Jun 10, 2020

Axios Pro Rata

By Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Top of the Morning

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Police unions are under a political microscope, with reformers arguing that they too often help keep bad cops on the streets.

Why it matters: This controversy could soon move beyond elected officials to venture capital and private equity firms that count police unions among their limited partners.

Public employees unions have long invested in alternative investment funds, from mega-groups like CalPERS and CalSTRS down to small town firefighter pensions.

  • The NYC Police Pension Fund, for example, had around $2.5 billion worth of private equity investments as of last June, representing around 5% of its investment assets.
  • The L.A. Fire & Police Pensions had nearly $2.7 billion worth of private equity investments as of the end of March, representing 12.5% of its investment assets.
  • In both cases, venture capital funds are included under the "private equity" umbrella.

VC and PE firms are partial to public pensions because most of them are still defined benefit plans, and are particularly partial to public safety unions because it makes them feel like noble benefactors.

  • I recall a conversation from years ago with a VC (now retired) who took great pride in how his hometown’s fire department was among his firm’s limited partners. It was tiny compared to most of the other LPs, but it was the one he wanted to talk about.

Yes, but: Now police unions are beginning to get looked at as an exception to the rule.

  • In politics, for example, House Democrats are shelving a bill they introduced last year to enable more police to unionize, with its co-sponsor telling Axios that it could “contribute to acts of police brutality."
  • One major Bay Area venture firm tells me, on background, that it doesn’t have any police pensions as direct LPs, but is looking to see if it has any indirect police pension investors via funds-of-funds.
  • A spokesperson for Vista Equity, which counts both NYC and LA police pensions among its LPs, declined to respond to a request for comment — which is anything but a vote of confidence. Another PE exec, whose firm is currently fundraising, said “there’s no way in hell I want to be part of that story.”

To be clear, there isn't an active divestiture movement. And there won’t be, because it’s virtually impossible to force out an existing LP, so long as it keeps meeting its capital calls.

  • Plus, there is a very delicate balance between supporting the pensions of individual police officers and possibly opposing the organizations that oversee those pensions.

But don't be surprised if certain firms take this moment to reassess future fundraising, particularly in light of renewed (or new) emphasis on helping to improve racial equity. In addition to hiring, investment and philanthropy, it's an area where VC and PE firms can wield influence.

Source: Giphy

Macy’s (NYSE: M) secured around $4.5 billion in financing, including a $3.15 billion pledged against its real estate assets.

  • Why it's the BFD: This should remove the iconic retailer from bankruptcy watch lists, even if 2020 holiday sales are sluggish.
  • Investor reax: Not so great, after weeks of growth. Macy's did release preliminary fiscal Q1 numbers that met consensus estimates on the top line and beat them on the bottom line, but now it's more leveraged and warned that sales might not normalize until 2022.
  • The bottom line: "The retailer, which temporarily shut all its stores in response to local lockdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus, was struggling even before the beginning of the pandemic amid changing shopping habits." — Nina Trentmann, WSJ
Venture Capital Deals

Domino Data Lab, a San Francisco-based enterprise data science management platform, raised $43 million in new funding. Highland Capital Partners led, and was joined by Highland Europe, Dell Technologies Capital, and return backers Sequoia Capital and Coatue Management. www.dominodatalab.com

🚑 PatientPing, a Boston-based provider of health care coordination software, raised $60 million in Series C funding from Andreessen Horowitz, F-Prime Capital, GV, and Transformation Capital, with participation from existing investors. http://axios.link/QUEh

🚑 Lycia Therapeutics, a Bay Area biotech startup focused on protein degradation, raised $50 million led by Versant Ventures. http://axios.link/cSgw

🚑 CereVasc, a Boston-based biotech focused on hydrocephalus, raised $44 million in Series A funding co-led by ATON Partners and Perceptive Advisors. http://axios.link/Tunh

M1 Finance, a Chicago-based automated money management platform, raised $33 million in Series B funding. Left Lane Capital led, and was joined by Jump Capital and Clocktower Technology Ventures. http://axios.link/Et5O

💈 Squire Technologies, a New York-based provider of barbershop management and point-of-sale software, raised $27 million in Series B funding. CRV led, and was joined by Tiger Global, the San Francisco 49ers, Charles Phillips, and return backers Trinity Ventures, 645 Ventures, Comcast Ventures, and YC. It also secured $7 million in debt. http://axios.link/1AUV

Stirista, a San Antonio, Texas-based marketing startup, raised $13 million led by Wavecrest Growth Partners. http://axios.link/VvhJ

Boom.tv, a Menlo Park-based e-sports entertainment platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Bitkraft Esports Ventures led, and was joined by Crest Capital, PTW, Everblue, ImaginationVC, MTG Media Group, WTI, H. Barton Asset Management, and return backers Tandem Capital, First Round Capital, CrossCut Ventures, and Boost VC. http://axios.link/ODDK

Pando, an income pooling startup, raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Core Innovation Capital led, and was joined by Pear VC, Avalon Ventures, Ulu Ventures, Nimble Ventures, Stanford StartX Fund, WTI, and Slow VC. http://axios.link/tW8v

Axiom, a British startup focused on internal company data management, raised $4 million in seed funding. Crane Venture Partners led, and was joined by LocalGlobe, Fly VC, and Mango Capital. http://axios.link/URvg

BioFlyte, an Albuquerque-based developer of aerosol mass spectrometers for biodefense, raised $1.25 million in seed funding led by Anzu Partners. http://axios.link/yKjs

Private Equity Deals

• Ardian is nearing an agreement to buy a minority stake in the Telecom Italia’s mobile tower unit for around €1.5 billion, per Reuters. http://axios.link/keDN

🚑 Cerberus Capital Management is calling for two seats on the supervisory board of German lender Commerzbank, in which Cerberus is the second-largest shareholder, in order to “prevent Commerzbank’s demise.” http://axios.link/O4by

CINC Systems, a Duluth, Ga.-based provider of SaaS for the community association industry, raised an undisclosed amount of growth equity funding from Spectrum Equity. www.cincsystems.com

🦆 Duck Creek Technologies, a Boston-based provider of insurance industry SaaS, raised $230 million in new funding from Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment Management and Whale Rock Capital Management, per Bloomberg. The company filed confidentially for an IPO late last year. Existing backers include Apax Partners, Dragoneer, Insight Partners, Temasek, and Neuberger Berman. http://axios.link/Wmto

QGenda, an Atlanta-based provider of workforce management SaaS for the health care industry, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Iconiq Capital. Francisco Partners will retain a majority ownership position. www.qgenda.com

Public Offerings

Dun & Bradstreet, a Short Hills, N.J.-based business analytics firm owned by CC Capital Partners and other private equity firms, filed for a $1 billion IPO. It plans to list on the NYSE (DNB) with Goldman Sachs and BofA as lead underwriters, and reports $41.5 million of net income on $395 million in revenue for Q1 2020. http://axios.link/T4xb

🚑 Hygeia Healthcare, a Shanghai-based ­radiotherapy service provider whose backers include Warburg Pincus, is planning to raise upwards of $400 million via a Hong Kong listing http://axios.link/vYpy

Kensington Capital Acquisition, a blank check acquisition company focused on the auto industry, filed for a $175 million IPO. It’s led by Justin Mirro, founder and president of auto-focused investment firm Kensington Capital. http://axios.link/hHlO

Snowflake Computing, a San Mateo, Calif.-based data warehousing company that’s raised $1.4 billion in VC funding, filed confidential IPO papers, per Bloomberg. It most recently was valued at $12.4 billion, while backers include Sequoia Capital, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Redpoint Ventures. http://axios.link/vb3g

Liquidity Events

Trustly, a Swedish payments business acquired in 2018 by Nordic Capital, raised an undisclosed amount of funding at over a $1 billion valuation from BlackRock, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Investment Corp. of Dubai, and RSIC. The deal represents a partial exit for Nordic. http://axios.link/dGRQ

More M&A

Cloudera (NYSE: CLDR) is exploring a sale after receiving takeover interest, per Bloomberg. Company shares soared more than 18% on the news, giving it a market cap of around $3.5 billion. http://axios.link/H4Px

• LG Chem of South Korea agreed to sell most of its LCD polarizer business to China’s Ningbo Shanshan for $1.1 billion. http://axios.link/lnNr

• Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) amended some of its debt covenants to better enable its $16.2 billion takeover by LVMH. http://axios.link/vxFz


• Ethos, a new San Francisco-based VC firm led by John Andreini (EvCap Venture Funds) and Michael Eddy (KPMG), is raising its debut fund, per an SEC filing.

• EQT Partners, a Sweden-based private equity firm, is opening a Paris office. http://axios.link/s97W

It's Personnel

Ashok Aram is stepping down as Deutsche Bank’s CEO of Europe and MENA for “personal reasons,” per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/zw8G

Final Numbers: Startup layoffs during pandemic
Source: Station F survey of 120 global VC firms

But, but, but: Station F also found that 48% of startups have added at least some new employees since the beginning of March, and that 78% plan to hire by year-end.

Dan Primack

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