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Aug 12, 2020

Axios Pro Rata

We're halfway through the week, which means I'm dialing up my daily consumption of espresso. Meanwhile, TikTok is now 34 days away from Trump's deadline to sell or leave the United States.

🚨 Join us today 12:30pm ET for a conversation on how the coronavirus has accelerated a nationwide shift to e-commerce with Ellevest co-founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck and Kroger chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen.

Top of the Morning

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Stringer

Yesterday, Joe Biden announced Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate for November’s presidential election, which is likely great news for Silicon Valley and friends.

The big picture: Harris is not only from California, but she spent some of her earliest years in politics in San Francisco. And her ties to the tech industry run deep.

What to know:

1. Antitrust: Though she’s moved a bit to the left on this issue, Harris has not historically pushed for the wholesale breakup of Big Tech companies.

  • She was a tough questioner of Facebook during a Senate hearing and has more recently suggested that government should take a closer look, yet hasn’t made breaking up Big Tech a core issue of her campaign as other candidates have.
  • (That sound you hear is from VCs and corp dev teams exhaling a sigh of relief….)

2. Immigration: As the child of immigrants herself, Harris will undoubtedly continue to be pro-immigration.

  • She has been a supporter of continuing and expanding DACA, a program that includes a number of immigrants who currently work for tech companies.
  • This is good news for the tech industry as immigrants are not only a significant portion of rank-and-file workers but also founders and CEOs of countless companies.

3. Family/other ties: With a lifetime spent in the Bay Area, it’s no surprise that Harris has high-profile Silicon Valley supporters, including Sheryl Sandberg, Laurene Powell Jobs and Marc Benioff.

  • Her brother-in-law, Tony West, is also currently Uber’s chief legal officer.

Yes, but: She’s called for higher corporate taxes, supported SESTA (an anti-sex trafficking bill that took away some Section 230 protections from internet companies), and backed AB5, a California bill that makes it harder to classify workers as contractors (and one that Uber and others are fighting with a November ballot measure).

The bottom line: Her influence will be undoubtedly welcome by many in Silicon Valley if the Democratic ticket wins.


AirIPO: Airbnb is reportedly planning to file confidentially its paperwork to go public later this month, according to the WSJ.

  • This is far from surprising because CEO Brian Chesky has told just about every news outlet in recent weeks that going public this year is again an option (and, as we’ve reported, internal preparations resumed recently).
  • Plus, some employee stock grants expire later this year, so Airbnb is truly in a crunch.
  • The big question remains: IPO or something else? A direct listing has been a rumored path for Airbnb (and direct listing go-to firms Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are indeed in charge). But since it’s 2020, I would almost not be shocked to see it merge with a SPAC. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Scoop: Stedi, a Denver-based B2B messaging startup, is raising $50 million in a new round led by Stripe and Addition (Lee Fixel's new fund), per a source close to the situation. Post-money valuation is said to be north of $200 million. Stedi and Stripe declined to comment.

A note: Pinterest’s former COO Françoise Brougher is suing the company for gender discrimination and retaliation.

  • You can read her blog post about her allegations here, but it’s significant that women — even at the top of their profession — continue to face the same unfair treatment when it comes to compensation and reinforcing gender-based stereotypes. Every such lawsuit reads just like the one before…

🎧 Russia announced Tuesday that it approved a vaccine for COVID-19. "Axios Re:Cap" digs into the ramifications of this announcement for the global vaccine race with Derek Lowe, medicinal chemist, author and expert on drug development and the pharmaceutical industry. Listen here.


Photo: Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty

SPARC Group, a joint venture between Authentic Brands and Simon Property Group, has agreed to acquire Brooks Brothers for $325 million after upping its initial bid. As part of the deal, the new owners committed to keep 125 stores open.

  • Why it’s the BFD: Brooks Brothers, an apparel company founded in 1818, is among the casualties of the pandemic. It filed for bankruptcy last month.
  • The bottom line: “Sparc buys consumer brands, often out of bankruptcy, and revives them by shedding unprofitable locations. It owns hundreds of Aéropostale, Forever 21 and Nautica stores.” – Soma Biswas, WSJ
Venture Capital Deals

• HMD Global, a Finland-based Nokia mobile phone maker, has raised $230 million in funding led by Google, Qualcomm and Nokia Technologies. http://axios.link/cj52

• Gong, a San Francisco-based maker of revenue analytics software, has raised $200 million in Series D funding at a valuation of $2.2 billion led by Coatue, with Index Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Thrive Capital, Battery Ventures, NextWorld Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital and Wing Venture Capital also participating. www.gong.io

• SiFive, a San Mateo, Calif.-based semiconductors startup, has raised $61 million in Series E funding led by SK hynix, with Prosperity7 Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, Western Digital Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Intel Capital, Osage University Partners, and Spark Capital also participating. http://axios.link/06BY

• Varjo, a Finland-based maker of virtual reality hardware and software, has raised $54 million in Series C funding from Tesi, NordicNinja, Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank, Lifeline Ventures, Atomico, EQT Ventures, and Volvo Cars Tech Fund also participating. www.varjo.com

🚑 Lumeon, a Boston-based digital health startup, has raised $30 million in Series D funding led by Optum Ventures and Endeavour Vision, with LSP, MTIP, IPF Partners, Gilde and Amadeus Capital Partners also participating. http://axios.link/3WOa

🚑 Nurx, a San Francisco-based provider of care and prescription services focused on women's health, has raised $22.5 million in new funding led by Trustbridge, with Comcast Ventures and Wittington Ventures also participating. http://axios.link/8aCa

• Cred.ai, a Philadelphia-based digital banking startup, has raised $18 million in Series A funding led by Darco Capital, with Michael Rubin, Ben Simmons, John Legend and Tim Armstrong also participating. www.cred.ai

• Public Goods, a NYC-based startup selling essential consumer packaged goods, has raised $15 million in new funding from L Catterton’s Growth Fund. www.publicgoods.com

• Springbig, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based cannabis dispensary marketing service, has raised $11.5 million in Series B funding led by TVC Capital, with Key Investment Partners, Argonautic Ventures, Halley Venture Capital, and SaleXCapital also participating. www.springbig.com

🚑 Bodyport, a San Francisco-based digital health startup focused on heart disease, has raised $11.2 million in Series A funding led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, with Playground Global, Initialized Capital, and others also participating. www.bodyport.com

🚑 ImmunoScape, a Singapore biotech company focused on the human immune system, has raised $11 million in new funding led by Anzu Partners, with University of Tokyo Edge Capital and NPR Holdings also participating. www.immunoscape.com

• Till, a Washington, D.C.-based maker of renter payments software, has raised $8 million in seed funding from Route 66 Ventures, MetaProp and NextGen Venture Partners. http://axios.link/mJfx

• Trala, a Chicago-based maker of music education software, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Next Play Ventures, with Lachy Groom, Techstars Ventures, Blue Titan Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, Webb Investment Network, Phoenix Rising, and Concrete Rose Capital also participating. www.trala.com

🚑 Allergy Amulet, a Madison-based maker of an allergen sensor, has raised $3.3 million in seed funding led by TitletownTech, a joint venture between Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers. www.allergyamulet.com

• GoPeer, a Boston-based virtual tutoring startup, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Ed Baker. www.gopeer.org

• Brella Insurance, a NYC-based provider of supplemental health insurance, has raised $1.5 million in new funding from Digitalis, Operator Partners, and Ron Bouganim. www.joinbrella.com

Private Equity Deals

🚑 Santa Monica Fertility, backed by Webster Equity Partners, has acquired Newborn Advantage Surrogacy, a Dallas-based surrogacy agency. www.santamonicafertility.com

• Arcline Investment Management has acquired Jersey Elevator, an Aberdeen, N.J.-based elevator maintenance and installation company. http://axios.link/KXUG

Public Offerings

• Best, backed by Alibaba, is seeking a Hong Kong listing for its express delivery and freight delivery businesses, according to Reuters. It’s currently listed on the NYSE with a market cap of $1.8 billion. http://axios.link/DxbX

• Duck Creek Technologies, a Boston-based software company, raised the proposed range for its upcoming IPO, now planning to raise $360 million by offering 15 million shares at a price range of $23 to $25. Insiders intend to purchase $100 million worth of shares in the offering. At the midpoint of the range, it will raise 20% more in proceeds than previously anticipated to command a fully diluted market value of $3.1 billion. http://axios.link/qXkf

🚑 Inhibrx, a La Jolla, Calif.-based Phase 1 biotech company developing targeted therapies for cancer and rare diseases, announced terms for its IPO. It plans to raise $102 million by offering 6 million shares at a price range of $16 to $18. At the midpoint of the proposed range, it would command a fully diluted market value of $620 million. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol INBX. Jefferies, Evercore ISI and Credit Suisse are the joint bookrunners on the deal. It is expected to price during the week of Aug. 17, 2020. http://axios.link/GiYX

SPAC Stuff

• Fortress Value Acquisition Corp. II, the latest SPAC from Joshua A. Pack and Andrew A. McKnight, will begin trading on the NYSE today. http://axios.link/BBQ2

Editor's note: Item has been updated to correct that it's the second Fortress Value Acq. Corp (not third).

More M&A

• SpotOn has acquired Seatninja, a Sacramento-based restaurant reservation management company. www.spoton.com

⛽️ Chevron has made a $5 billion offer to acquire Noble Energy, in which it originally wanted to acquire a 50% stake, per a proxy filing. http://axios.link/oDM2


• Rocketship.vc, a San Francisco-based early stage firm, has raised $100 million for its second fund. http://axios.link/is25

• La Famiglia, a Berlin-based venture firm focused on B2B startups, has raised €50 million for its second fund. www.lafamiglia.vc

It's Personnel

• Jay Abramson has joined Halle Capital as a senior partner. He was previously at Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn as CEO and Co-CIO. www.hallecapital.com

Final Numbers
Data: IQVIA, company financial documents; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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