Nov 19, 2019

Axios Pro Rata

By Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Top of the Morning

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

All eyes today on the House of Representatives, which this morning hosts a hearing that could significantly impact the 2020 presidential election.

  • No, not impeachment. I'm talking about the House Financial Services hearing on private equity, an industry that yesterday received two fresh lashings from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The session is titled "America for Sale: An examination of the practice of private funds."

  • Witnesses are PE industry lobbyist Drew Maloney, academic Eileen Applebaum, former Toys 'R' Us employee Giovanna De La Rosa, SBIA president Brett Palmer, and Los Angeles public pension fund trustee Wayne Moore.
  • It begins at 10am EST, and you can find the webcast and the witness' prepared statements here.

What to watch: Retail will be to this hearing what healthcare has been to Democratic presidential debates — an important topic, but also one that might be exhausted to the point of crowding out others. Particularly given the presence of an ex-Toys employee.

  • Also interested in the back-and-forth between Maloney and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, as her reputation for sharp questioning hasn't extended to private equity, where to date she's not seemed to have a firm grasp on how the industry functions (e.g., last month's suggestion that WeWork's valuation drop "fleeced" mom and pop investors).
  • Don't be surprised to see some mention of private-equity-as-landlord, given Warren's argument yesterday that The Blackstone Group has profited "shamelessly" from the 2008 housing crisis.

The bottom line is that private equity faces a more precarious election season in 2020 than it did in 2012, when Bain Capital founder Mitt Romney was the Republican Party's nominee.

  • Back then, most of the relevant focus was on Romney and Bain specifically, rather than on the industry as a whole, as President Obama never proposed wide-ranging legislative fixes (beyond carried interest tax treatment, which never came to pass). Plus, Romney hadn't been with Bain for more than a decade by that point.
  • Today, Warren and the Democratic Party's left flank seem determined to make private equity a visible punching bag, with concrete plans to cut it open if given the chance by voters.
Source: Giphy

Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton said wants to buy back the company, which Sprint is selling per an agreement to secure regulatory approval of its merger with T-Mobile US.

  • Why it's the BFD: Adderton says he's willing to pay up to $2 billion for Boost, a rich premium to the $1.4 billion that Sprint agreed to sell its entire prepaid wireless unit for to Dish Network. No word yet on how he'd finance such a bid.
  • Bonus: After selling Boost in 2004, Adderton founded an MVNO called Amp'd Mobile, which raised over $370 million before going under. Not an extraordinary amount of funding by today's standards but, at the time, it led several VC news cycles.
  • Bottom line: "Adderton has been outspoken that the [Sprint/T-Mobile] combination would harm lower-income consumers who depend on prepaid phones... [and] has also questioned Dish’s commitment to serving Boost customers, as the satellite company has focused its priorities on building a next generation 5G wireless network." — Sheila Dang, Reuters
Venture Capital Deals

EquipmentShare, a Columbia, Mo.-based construction equipment rental platform, is in talks with SoftBank Vision Fund to raise at least $150 million at around a $1.5 billion valuation, per Forbes.

Blue Vine, a Redwood City, Calif.-based provider of banking services to SMBs, raised $102.5 million in Series F funding. ION Crossover Partners led, and was joined by MUFG, O.G. Tech, Vintage Investment Partners, Maor Investments, and return backers M12, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, 83North, SVB, Nationwide, and Citi Ventures.

SmartNews, a Tokyo-based news aggregation app, raised $64 million in new Series E funding at a $1.2 billion post-money valuation co-led by Japan Post Capital and ACA Investments. It previously held a $28 million first close led by JPC.

Abnormal Security, a San Francisco-based cloud email security startup, raised $24 million in Series A funding led by Greylock.

CyCognito, a Palo Alto-based continuous attack surface testing platform, raised $23 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Luko, a Paris-based home insurance startup, raised €20 million in Series A funding. Accel led, and was joined by Founders Fund and Speedinvest.

Wellframe, a Boston-based digital health management company, raised $20 million in Series C funding. BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners led, and was joined by return backers Threshold Ventures and F-Prime Capital.

Aerospike, a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of NoSQL data solutions, raised $32 million in Series D funding. Triangle Peak Partners led, and was joined by return backers NewView Capital Partners, Alsop Louie Partners, and Eastward Capital Partners.

Bungalow, a San Francisco-based co-living company, raised $32 million in Series B funding. Founders Fund and Coatue Management co-led, and were joined by A-Rod Corp, Atomic VC, CAA Ventures, Cherubic Ventures, Maverick Capital, Nine Four Ventures, and Wing Ventures.

Eden, a San Francisco-based workplace management platform, raised $25 million in Series B funding. Reshape led, and was joined by Fifth Wall Ventures, Mitsui Fudosan, RXR Realty, Thor Equities, Bessemer Venture Partners, Alate Partners, Quiet Capital, S28 Capital, Canvas Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Upshift Partners, Impala Ventures, ENIAC Ventures, and Crystal Towers.

Viisights, an Israeli developer of real-time video analytics, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Awz Ventures led, and was joined by Firstime Ventures.

Perlego, a London-based textbook subscription service, raised $9 million in Series A funding from individuals, ADV, and Dedicated VC.

IOTech, a UK-based IoT edge platform, raised $7.5 million in Series A funding. Dell Technologies Capital led, and was joined by SPDG, Northstar Ventures, and Scottish Enterprise.

Ad-Lib, a London-based marketing platform for global brands, raised $6 million in Series A funding from Fog City Capital.

Acquire, a San Francisco-based live customer communication platform, raised $5.4 million in seed funding led by S28 Capital.

LIV, a Prague-based mixed-reality game streaming platform, raised $2.6 million led by Hero Capital.

Private Equity Deals

A&R Logistics, a Louisville-based portfolio company of Wind Point Partners, acquired Plantgistix, a Houston-based provider of packaging, warehousing, and export services to the plastic resin market.

🚑 Baring PE Asia agreed to buy Lumenis, an Israeli maker of minimally-invasive clinical devices, from XIO Group for more than $1 billion.

🚑 CIC Capital invested C$30 million into Care Group of Pharmacies, a Canadian chain of independent pharmacies that was advised on the deal by Gravitas Securities.

Hillhouse Capital is among the bidders for the elevator unit of Thyssenkrupp, with a non-binding bid north of €15 billion, per Bloomberg.

KKR is seeking a buyer for Goodpack, a Singapore-based bulk container maker that could fetch at least $2 billion, per Reuters.

Luminate Capital Partners invested in Quantivate, a Woodinville, Wash.-based risk mitigation and compliance platform for financial institutions.

Providence Equity Partners acquired N2y, a Huron, Ohio-based provider of software and curriculum to the K-12 special ed market, from Riverside Partners.

Serenova, an Austin, Texas-based portfolio company of Marlin Equity Partners acquired ProScheduler, a Sweden-based provider of contact center workforce management software. Sellers include Almi Invest and MIC Invest.

Vista Equity Partners bought Accelya, a Spanish provider of financial and commercial analytics to the airline industry, from Warburg Pincus.

Vista Equity Partners acquired Sonatype, a Fulton, Md.-based open-source automation company that had raised around $160 million from firms like Accel, TPG, Goldman Sachs, Founders Circle Capital, Humer Winblad, and Blue Delta Capital Partners.

🦟 Woodstream, a Lancaster, Penn.-based portfolio company of Vestar Capital Partners, acquired Dynamic Solutions Worldwide, a Milwaukee-based maker of insect traps.

Public Offerings

🎧 Pro Rata Podcast drills down into the Saudi Aramco IPO. Listen here.

Liquidity Events

🚑 Alkermes (Nasdaq: ALKS) agreed to buy Cambridge, Mass.-based CNS biotech Rodin Therapeutics for upwards of $970 million (only $100m upfront). Rodin had raised over $50 million in VC funding from GV, Third Point Ventures, Atlas Venture, Hatteras Venture Partners, and Remeditex Ventures.

🌮Apollo Global Management is seeking a buyer for Qdoba, the Tex-Mex restaurant chain it bought last year for $305 million.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) acquired CloudSimple, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of cloud infrastructure services that had raised some VC funding from Microsoft.

NV5 Global (Nasdaq: NVEE) agreed to buy Quantum Spatial, a Sheboygan, Wis.-based geospatial data firm, for $303 million from Arlington Capital Partners.

Orange España agreed to buy SUMA Mobile, a Spanish mobile virtual network enabler, from Grupo Ingenium, a Spanish portfolio company of Alantra Private Equity.

TA Associates hired Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for Russell Investments, an investment manager with $293 billion in AUM, per the FT.

Zayo Group (NYSE: ZAYO), a Colorado-based fiberoptic network operator that agreed in May to be acquired by Digital Colony Partners and EQT Partners, is seeking to raise around $1 billion via a sale of its colocation unit, per Bloomberg.

More M&A

🚑 Novartis (Swiss: NOVN) is considering a takeover offer for The Medicines (Nasdaq: MDCO), a Parsippany, N.J.-based cardio biotech with a market cap of nearly $4.7 billion, per Bloomberg.

🚑 Smiths Group (LSE: SMIN) is seeking to fetch more than $3 billion in a sale of its medical equipment unit, per Bloomberg.

📺 Sony Pictures agreed to pay $380 million to AT&T for the 42% stake it didn't already own in Game Show Network.

TJX Cos. (NYSE: TJX) acquired a 25% stake in Russian discount apparel retailer Familia for $225 million.


The House Fund, a venture group focused startups founded by UC Berkeley students and alumni, raised $44 million for its second fund.

Impact Engine, a Chicago-based social impact VC firm, raised $25 million for its second fund.

Kindred Ventures, a new VC firm and startup lab co-founded by Steve Jang and Kenny Maqubela, launched with a $55 million debut fund.

Sightway Capital, the private equity unit of Two Sigma, raised $1.2 billion for its debut fund.

Unusual Ventures raised $400 million for its second fund.

It's Personnel

• Andy Boyd is leaving Fidelity Investments, where he's overseen the mutual fund manager's investments in private companies. Word is that he plans to launch his own fund, and that his to-be-named successor will be internal.

• Paul Cohn, a former managing director with Fort Washington Investment Advisors, formed a new PE secondaries advisory firm called Tail End Capital Partners.

🚑 Jawad Hasan joined TPG to focus on healthcare investments, per his LinkedIn page. He previously was a principal with Navab Capital Partners and, before that, with Apax Partners.

Final Numbers
Expand chart
Data: Yahoo; Chart: Axios Visuals
  • Peloton shares yesterday closed above their IPO price for the first time, suggesting that the IPO market's death has been greatly exaggerated.
Dan Primack

🙏 Thanks for reading Axios Pro Rata. Please ask your friends, colleagues, and prepaid phone users to sign up.