Nov 5, 2018

Axios Pro Rata

Top of the Morning

Source: Giphy

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son this morning spoke publicly on the Saudi situation for the first time, during an earnings call. Not surprisingly, it was similar to statements of many other business leaders who have expressed disapproval without risking dollars.

Here's part of what Son said:

"We were deeply saddened by the news of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder and condemn this act against humanity and also journalism and free speech. This was a horrific and deeply regrettable act. Therefore we have raised our concerns with the party and we believe that this should not have happened...
At the same time, we have also accepted the responsibility to the people of Saudi Arabia, an obligation we take quite seriously to help them manage their financial resources and diversify their economy. As horrible as this event was, we cannot turn our backs on the Saudi people as we work to help them in their continued efforts to reform and modernize their society. So we hope to see those responsible held accountable."

As I wrote previously, there would be hypocrisy in bailing on Saudi but retaining business ties to governments like China. But, as I also wrote, this was a rare moment of time when Western business leaders could have influenced behavior, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman having staked so much of his and his country's future to those relationships.

But, so far, they've almost all taken a pass. In the name of the "Saudi people." Well, the Saudi people not named Jamal Khashoggi.

Related: View, a Silicon Valley-based maker of smart glass for commercial building windows, raised $1.1 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund. CEO Rao Mulpuri told Bloomberg that the deal was in the works prior to the Khashoggi murder:

“Obviously, what happened in the region there is quite concerning. But, at the same time, we’ve now built a relationship of getting to know SoftBank over a long period of time, and we are quite comfortable moving forward with this investment.”

Recommended reading: Recode's Kurt Wagner on interactive mobile game-maker HQ, including shrinking audience and strategic conflicts between two co-founders that resulted in them swapping CEO roles (the move was previously reported, but the backstory wasn't).

  • Notable is that Founders Fund partner Cyan Bannister, who led a $15 million investment earlier this year, gave up her board seat because Founders Fund doesn't believe in supporting one founder at the expense of the other. She's now a board observer.
  • I asked Bannister how she squares her decision with fiduciary duty to LPs. Her reply, in part: "Our LPs know what we stand for, and this stuff is super rare. We have the name for a reason and it’s one of the things we firmly believe in. So we make founders stronger — in that sense we can be a huge asset, but if you have two founders that can’t agree we are useless, just money at that point."

🎧 Pro Rata Podcast: We posted a special weekend edition, featuring parts of my recent conversation with Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Topics include data privacy, autonomous vehicles and the midterms. Listen here.


Source: Giphy

Qualtrics, a Provo, Utah-based maker of enterprise survey software, set IPO terms to 20.5 million shares at $18-$21.

  • Why it's the BFD: Not only is this around twice the $200 million that Qualtrics originally filed to raise, but also could double the $2.5 billion valuation that it received in its most recent round of venture capital funding.
  • Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith in July 2015: "Congratulating me for raising VC is like congratulating someone for taking out a mortgage."
  • Deal deets: Qualtrics plans to trade on the Nasdaq (XM) with Morgan Stanley as lead underwriter, and reports $1.5 million of net income on $290 million in revenue for the first nine months of 2018. It has raised around $450 million in venture capital, from firms like Accel, Insight Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital (24.1%).
  • Bottom line: "The company began as an academia-focused software solution, focused on university researchers to aid in collecting responses to various experiences and tests. As Qualtrics grew, however, it took its original mold and applied its survey-oriented tools for corporate use, which enables companies to gather data from customers, employees, and partners." Gary Alexander, via Seeking Alpha
Venture Capital Deals

🎵 VIP Peilian, a Chinese online music education platform, raised $150 million in Series C funding. Tiger Global led, and was joined by return backers Tencent, Orchid Asia, GSR Ventures and Bluerun Ventures.

RingDNA, a Los Angeles-based provider of sales engagement and conversation analytics software, raised $30 million. Goldman Sachs led, and was joined by return backers Palisades Growth Capital and Bryant Stibel.

Syntiant, an Irvine, Calif.-based chipmaker for edge devices, raised $25 million in Series B funding from Microsoft, Sunstone VC Fund, Intel, Amazon, Robert Bosch, Applied Materials and Motorola.

🚑 PatientPop, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based physician marketing platform, raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Leerink Transformation Partners.

Imbellus, a Los Angeles-based developer of simulation-based assessment technology, raised $14.5 million in Series A funding. Rethink Education was joined by return backers Upfront Ventures and Thrive Capital.

Setter, a home maintenance services platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding co-led by NFX and Sequoia Capital.

Currant, a Palo Alto-based developer of “smart outlets” for reducing energy consumption of IoT devices, raised $7 million in seed funding co-led by Uncork Capital and K9 Ventures.

Private Equity Deals

AVI-SPL, a Tampa, Fla.-based portfolio company of H.I.G. Capital, acquired Interactive Solutions, a Memphis-based provider of audio visual and videoconferencing and unified communications solutions.

Battery Ventures bought Audio Precision, a Portland, Ore.-based provider of instrumentation and software for audio testing and analysis.

Digital Room, a Van Nuys, Calif.-based portfolio company of H.I.G. Capital, acquired Logo Sportswear, a Wallingford, Conn.-based e-commerce provider of customized short-to-medium run promotional merchandise and workwear/uniforms.

Golden Gate Capital agreed to buy Vector Solutions, a Tampa, Fla.-based provider of e-learning and SaaS performance support, from Providence Equity Partners.

KKR increased its bid for the 82.4% stake it doesn’t already own in Australian cloud services company MYOB Group (ASX: MYO) from around A$1.75 billion to A$1.8 billion.

Interior Logic Group, an Irvine, Calif.-based portfolio company of Littlejohn & Co. and Platinum Equity, acquired Coleman Floor Co., a Schaumburg, Ill.-based design center services and flooring installation business, from BMC Stock Holdings (Nasdaq: BMCH).

Mercer Advisors, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based portfolio company of Genstar Capital, acquired UK-based Beacon Wealth Management.

One Equity Partners acquired Alltub, a French aluminum and laminate packaging company.

The Riverside Co. acquired SureWerx, a Canadian maker of professional tools, equipment and safety products, from Penfund.

Saba Software, a Redwood Shores, Calif.-based portfolio company of Vector Capital, acquired Lumesse, a UK-based provider of talent acquisition, talent management and learning experience technology, from HgCapital.

TPG offered to buy Australian pet store and veterinary clinics operator Greencross (ASX: GXL) for US$481 million, or A$4.54 per share (22% premium to Friday).

Public Offerings

Alzheon and CNFinance Holdings are the only two companies expected to price IPOs on U.S. exchanges this week. Four other companies can launch road-shows: Qualtrics, Centrexion, Caliburn International and Vapotherm.

Liquidity Events

Brookfield Asset Management is in talks to sell Atlanta-based industrial property developer IDI Logistics to Ivanhoe Cambridge for more than US$3 billion, per Bloomberg.

Neuberger Berman acquired Cartesian Re, an asset management group focused on insurance-linked investment strategies, from private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group.

Partners Group hired Rothschild to explore a sale of German catering company Hofmann Menü-Manufaktur, which could fetch around €500 million, per the WSJ.

Veronis Suhler Stevenson agreed to sell the assets of Movie Tavern, a New Orleans-based chain of dine-in movie theaters, to Marcus Corp. (NYSE: MCS) for around $126 million in cash and stock.

More M&A

Goldman Sachs agreed to increase its stake in Turkish travel agency Jolly Tur.

Icelandair Group agreed to buy rival Icelandic air carrier Wow Air.

Societe Generale (Paris: SOGN) sold its Euro Bank business in Poland to Bank Millennium (Warsaw: MILP) for $484 million.


Shunwei Capital, a Chinese VC firm, raised $1.21 billion for new funds.

It's Personnel

Atomico promoted Sophia Bendz, an early Spotify employee, from executive-in-residence to partner. She’ll focus on investments in the Nordic region.

Shawn Haghighi joined OpenGate Capital as general counsel and chief compliance officer. He previously was with Platinum Equity.

Matt Heiman left Greylock to join rival venture firm CRV.

Todd Kaplan joined Centerview Partners as a San Francisco-based partner. He previously was executive vice chairman of global banking BofA Merrill Lynch.

KPS Capital Partners promoted Raquel Palmer to co-managing partner, and both Ryan Baker and Kyle Mumford to partner.

Tomofumi Matsuyama, a former managing director for Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley, joined The Carlyle Group to focus on Japanese carve-outs, per Reuters.

Final Numbers
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Data: Bespoke Investment Group; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
  • Go deeper: "Stock-market investors are grumbling after a mere month or so of pain. For solace, they should look at the Treasury market."

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