November 26, 2019

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Michael Bloomberg's entry into the 2020 presidential race was reflexively roasted in certain quarters as little more than a billionaire trying to buy an election. Or, in the more succinct words of Anand Giridharadas, "plutes gonna plute."

  • What gets lost in between aren't the specifics of Bloomberg's record, of if he'd make a better or worse president than his rivals. It's the intrinsic value of entrepreneurship, and if that remains an aspirational touchstone for American voters.

This was an issue raised by Sen. Cory Booker during the last week's presidential debate, when he argued that Democrats are doing themselves a disservice if they talk about taxing wealth to the exclusion of talking about creating wealth.

  • Those comments were directed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who repeatedly ignored the dichotomy — instead responding only with more detail about her wealth tax proposal.
  • Other than Booker, no one on stage mentioned "small business" or "entrepreneurs."

Bloomberg, as one of America's most successful living entrepreneurs, has created and amassed a lot of wealth. More than any man could spend in his lifetime, and perhaps more than he could responsibly give away.

  • There should be a thorough accounting of how he made his money, and how it affected others along the way.
  • If there are legitimate criticisms, let 'em fly. Just as they should for any other part of his professional and personal conduct, in both the private and public sectors.
  • And there is certainly value in a robust debate over the future viability of plutocracy in America, including the idea of taxing wealth (as opposed to only taxing income).

But dismissing a candidate's validity because he was a very successful entrepreneur feels like something new in our politics and in our culture. A deliberate mildewing of the American Dream.

  • Of course it's unlikely that Bloomberg will become president. He has loads of unrelated liabilities. Let alone a very late start.
  • If he does indeed falter, though, pay close attention to the post-game analysis. Was it all of those other reasons, or because enough Americans have concluded that successful entrepreneurship has become a vice instead of virtue?

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starboard Value, the activist hedge fund led by Jeffrey Smith, has taken a "relatively small" stake in CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS), per The Wall Street Journal.

  • Why it's the BFD: We don't know what Starboard wants from CVS, except that it isn't the status quo. Plus, this comes just weeks after reports that private equity is kicking the tire on CVS rival Walgreens, while Starboard just realized a win yesterday when eBay agreed to sell StubHub to Viagogo for $4 billion.
  • Market reax: CVS shares rose more than 1.7% yesterday, giving it a market cap of nearly $100 billion.
  • Bottom line: "Starboard is one of the top activist-investment firms and its presence in a stock usually causes a company to sit up and take notice." — Corrie Driebusch, WSJ

Venture Capital Deals

Ualá, an Argentine personal finance management app, raised $150 million in Series C funding co-led by Tencent and SoftBank.

Appier, a Taipei-based self-serve prediction platform for online marketers, raised $80 million in Series D funding from TGVest Capital, HOPU-Arm Innovation Fund, Temasek, Insignia Venture Partners, JAFCO, and UMC Capital.

Shuttl, an India-based shuttle bus operator, raised $36 million from Toyota Tsusho and Sparx Group.

V2food, an Australian plant-based meat startup, raised A$35 million in Series A funding. Main Sequence Ventures and Horizons Ventures co-led, and were joined by Marinya Capital and Sequoia Capital China.

🚑 Deep 6 AI, a Pasadena, Calif.-based provider of clinical trials acceleration software, raised $17 million in Series A funding. Point72 Ventures led, and was joined by GSR Ventures.

🚑 Nines, a Palo Alto-based teleradiology startup, raised $16.5 million in Series A funding from backers like Accel and 8VC.

Buguroo, a Madrid-based online fraud detection and prevention startup, raised $11 million in Series A funding. Ten Eleven Ventures and Seaya Ventures co-led, and were joined by return backers Inveready and Conexo Ventures.

Altruist, a Los Angeles-based digital brokerage for financial advisors, raised $8.5 million in Series A funding led by Venrock.

Yulu, an India-based e-bike sharing startup, raised $8 million in Series A funding from Bajaj Auto.

Vibenomics, an audio out-of-home programmatic ad marketplace, raised $5 million in new seed funding from High Alpha, Elevate Ventures and The Ricker Family.

Popmenu, an Atlanta-based provider of restaurant customer engagement software, raised $4.5 million in Series A funding. Base10 Partners led, and was joined by Felicis Ventures.

uLesson, a Nigerian online curriculum and tutoring startup, raised $3.1 million in seed funding led by TLcom Capital.

Private Equity Deals

🚑 The Blackstone Group will invest $400 million into joint venture with Swiss pharma company Ferring, which is developing a gene therapy for bladder cancer.

The Carlyle Group and Japan's T&D Holdings (Tokyo: 8795) agreed to pay $1.8 billion for a majority stake in reinsurer Fortitude Re from AIG (NYSE: AIG). Carlyle will increase its position from 19.9% to 71.5%, while T&D will hold 25%.

Cinven will invest in Barentz, a Dutch ingredients distributor for the food, pharmaceutical, personal care, and animal nutrition markets.

🍦 ClearLight Partners invested in Youngstown, Ohio-based ice cream shop franchisor Handel’s.

Great Hill Partners and Spectrum Equity agreed to buy the assets of IBM’s sales performance management unit, and rename it Varicent Software.

Kartesia bought Richardson, a Philadelphia-based provider of enterprise sales training to the Fortune 1000, from ClearLight Partners.

Nothing Bundt Cakes, an Addison, Texas-based portfolio company of Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, bought six NBC franchisee bakeries in the San Diego market.

Public Offerings

Sanlorenzo, an Italian yacht maker, launched a Milan IPO that could value the company at upwards of €656 million.

Liquidity Events

🚑 CapVest is seeking a buyer for French nuclear medicine company Cirium, which could detch upwards of €3 billion, per Reuters.

More M&A

Alimentation Couche-Tard (TSX: ATDb) of Canada increased its takeover offer for Australian convenience store chain Caltex (ASX: CTX) to A$8.61 billion.

Anta Sports of China is seeking a buyer for U.S. fitness equipment company Precor, which could fetch around $500 million, per Bloomberg.

Hitachi (Tokyo: 6501) is nearing an agreement to sell Hitachi Chemical (Tokyo: 42170) to Showa Denko (Tokyo: 4004) for around $8.74 billion, per Nikkei.


Novacap, a Canadian private equity firm, raised C$940 million for its fifth fund.

Weekend Fund, a seed-stage firm led by Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover, raised $10 million for its second fund.

It's Personnel

Rob May, former CEO of Talla, joined Point Judith Capital as a general partner focused on AI startups.

Jill Wight joined Morgan Stanley Capital Partners as a managing director focused on mid-market deals in the healthcare and consumer sectors, per Bloomberg. She previously was a principal with The Carlyle Group.

Final Numbers

Adapted from BloombergNEF; Chart: Axios Visuals
Adapted from BloombergNEF; Chart: Axios Visuals

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