Bleary-eyed greetings from Los Angeles, where today I'll be moderating a session at the Upfront Summit on investing in blockchain infrastructure and cryptocurrencies. Perhaps we'll discuss Facebook banning ICO ads. Then tomorrow will be a 1:1 with Tim Geithner. Okay, here we go...

Top of the Morning
Source: Giphy

President Trump unexpectedly raised the infrastructure ante in his State of the Union address last night:

I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need. Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment.

This totally changes the math, which already was challenged under assumptions of a $1 trillion plan based on a $200 billion federal outlay. Even if you include new revenue from things like interstate toll-roads and assume increased velocity in private equity infrastructure fundraising, this reads like the White House wants more from a Congress that already would have struggled to cough up the smaller amount.

  • The Blackstone Group last May said it would raise a $40 billion infrastructure fund that included a $20 billion matching commitment from Saudi Arabia. Then Bloomberg reported in October that it was seeking $10 billion in non-Saudi commitments for its first close.
  • But a January document from the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement Board, which is committing $500 million, shows that first close target now is just $7.5 billion.
  • In other words, Blackstone would be starting with around $15 billion rather than $40 billion.
  • Also from the PA doc: "The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that $3.3 trillion per year will be required globally to modernize existing assets and develop new infrastructure. In the U.S., the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates an approximately $2 trillion funding gap in U.S. infrastructure spending over the next 10 years. "

On the docket: The Waymo-Uber trial is about to kick off, and among those on the Waymo witness list are Benchmark's Bill Gurley, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, former Uber counsel Sallie Yoo and Google corp dev/investment pros Don Harrison and David Lawee.

Cold water: Axios' Bob Herman casts a skeptical eye toward the big healthcare announcement yesterday from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan: "A lot of companies have promised to 'disrupt' health care, but few have succeeded. The U.S. still spends wildly on a system with poor outcomes. It's far from clear this new conglomerate, premised on vague PR, will be able to do any better."

New fund alert: San Francisco-based Haystack has raised $23 million for its fourth seed-stage fund, and its first to be backed by institutions.

  • Haystack founder Semil Shah has argued that 2018 represents a seed-stage reset, based on a "muddled" market where old maxims like signaling risk no longer apply. For Shah, the plan is to write larger checks ($250k-$500k) so that he can better avoid "noisy syndicates."
Source: Giphy

The Blackstone Group has agreed to acquire a 55% stake in Thomson Reuters' Financial and Risk business, which provides data, analytics and trading solutions to financial professionals. The deal values F&R at $20 billion, with Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI) to receive around $17 billion in gross proceeds (including $3 billion in cash from Blackstone and the rest funded by debt).

  • Why it's the BFD: Besides the dawn of a New York billionaire battle between Steve Schwarzman and Michael Bloomberg? Okay, perhaps because this is Blackstone's largest buyout since the financial crisis, and already has some private equity tongues wagging about a new spate of mega-deals (albeit with more modern twists like LP co-investments and sell-side equity retention).
  • Bottom line: "A total valuation of $20bn, including an equity contribution from Thomson Reuters, looks about what the market already ascribes to the F&R in enterprise value. This is a small premium to the $17 billion Thomson paid for Reuters more than a decade ago. Even then, the investment may be no bargain. It could start to look costly if persistent rumors that Bloomberg has been cutting prices for its own terminals turn out to be true." — Lex
Venture Capital Deals

Wag, a Los Angeles-based dog-walking startup, has raised $300 million from SoftBank Vision Fund, confirming the talks Axios first reported in December. The company also named former LifeLock CEO Hillary Schneider as its new CEO.

Meiliche Financial, a Chinese used car financing platform, has raised $92 million in Series B funding. New Hope Group led, and was joined by Wacai.

Nuro, a Mountain View, Calif.-based maker of robotic delivery vehicles, has raised $92 million in Series A funding from firms like Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners.

Asana, a San Francisco-based task management platfrom, has raised $75 million in Series D funding at a $900 million post-money valuation. Generation Investment Management led, and was joined by return backers 8VC, Founders Fund, Sam Altman and Dustin Moskovitz.

BrowserStack, an India-based mobile and browser testing platform, has raised $50 million in Series A funding from Accel.

EBANX, a Brazil-based cross-border payment processing company, has raised $30 million in new VC funding. FTV Capital led, and was joined by Endeavor Catalyst Fund.

Drop, a Toronto-based rewards program startup focused on millennials, has raised US$21 million in Series A funding. NEA led, and was joined by Sierra Ventures, White Star Capital, ff Venture Capital, Portag3 Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

Bench, a Vancouver-based bookkeeping service for small businesses and independent professionals, has raised US$18 million in Series B-1 funding. iNovia Capital led, and was joined by return backers Bain Capital Ventures, Altos Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

Origami Logic, a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of marketing performance measurement solutions, has raised $15.2 million in new VC funding co-led by Viola Ventures and Saban Ventures.

🚑 Halo Neuroscience, a San Francisco-based maker of neurostimulation headsets, has raised $13 million in Series B funding. TPG Growth led, and was joined by Lux Capital, JAZZ Venture Partners and Xfund.

Mammoth Media, maker of the Yarn chat fiction app, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Greylock.

🚑 Engine Biosciences, a drug discovery startup that utilizes AI and genomics, has raised $10 million in seed funding. Danhua Capital and 6 Dimensions Capital co-led, and were joined by WuXi Apptec, EDBI, Pavilion Capital, Baidu Ventures, WI Harper and Nest.Bio Ventures.

Funraise, a Long Beach, Calif.-based provider of nonprofit fundraising software, has raised $9.7 million in Series A funding led by Toba Capital.

Xperiel, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based builder of predictive gaming apps, has raised $7 million in Series A funding from Founders Fund, WTI, the Sacramento Kings, Fox Hollow Ventures and Scott Cook.

VirZoom, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of VR fitness apps, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding from firms like Skywood Capital.

Cake, a Provo, Utah-based mobile browser startup, has raised $5 million from Peak Ventures, Pelion Ventures and Kickstart Seed Fund.

Humanoo, a Berlin-based digital health companion for employees, has raised a “seven-figure” round from Creathor Ventures, DvH Ventures, Rheingau Founders and Rocket Internet.

Private Equity Deals

APCT, a printed circuit board maker owned by Saugatuck Capital, has acquired Cartel Electronics (Placentia, Calif.) and Cirtech (Orange, Calif.).

Daxko, a Birmingham, Ala.-based portfolio company of GI Partners, has acquired Club Automation, a Chicago-based provider of fitness club management software.

H.I.G. Capital has acquired Town & Country Living, a Lakewood, N.J.-based home textiles company.

Polaris Capital Group has agreed to buy a 70% stake in Fujitsu’s (Tokyo: 6702) mobile phones unit.

Liquidity Events

Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) has acquired CoreOS, a San Francisco-based container management company, for $250 million. CoreOS has raised around $53 million in VC funding (most recently at a post-money north of $250m), from firms like GV, Intel Capital, Accel, Fuel Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Y Combinator.

More M&A

Fujifilm (Tokyo: 4901) has agreed to acquire control of longtime joint venture partner Xerox (NYSE: XRX) in a $6.1 billion transaction.

Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to sell its stake in Thailand’s Bongkot gas field and adjoining acreage to PTT Exploration & Production for $750 million.

SoftBank has agreed to acquire a 51% stake in the mobile telecom business of Japan’s Line Mobile.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is in talks to buy a minority stake in Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce company most recently valued at $11.6 billion, per The Economic Times.


Hinge Capital (f.k.a. Venture51), a San Diego-based early-stage firm, is raising up to $80 million for its fourth fund, per an SEC filing.

It's Personnel

Melissa Bethell is stepping down as a London-based managing director with Bain Capital after nearly 20 years with the firm, per Private Equity News.

Philip Kemp has joined Snow Phipps Group as a managing director and head of investor relations. He previously was with Waud Capital Partners.

Final Numbers
  • No, that's not a typo on the final line. Preqin reports that private equity dry powder (i.e., the amount of fund capital raised but not yet deployed) has topped $1 trillion.