Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Celebrities participating in venture capital is nothing new, not even peaking when Ashton Kutcher plastered his TV character's laptop with stickers for tech startups. But it does feel that we're seeing new escalation and formalization:
Bottom line: It's easy, almost tempting, to dismiss these efforts as vanity projects. But that would be a mistake.
Professional venture capitalists always stress the importance of network, and the only thing celebs often have more of than money is network. Plus, remember that Ashton Kutcher's portfolio includes both Pinterest and Uber, while Snoop Dogg launched a cannabis-focused VC firm when recreational marijuana was legal in only one U.S. state.
On that last point...
🌲 Canada's Canopy Growth made headlines yesterday by agreeing to buy U.S. cannabis company Acreage Holdings for $3.4 billion. But there's a catch:
The deal only gets consummated if marijuana is federally legalized in the U.S.
🚗 Surge: Uber last night confirmed that it's raised $1 billion for its self-driving unit at a $7.25 billion post-money valuation, from SoftBank Vision Fund, Toyota and Japanese auto parts maker DENSO.
🔺 IPO pops: Zoom Video finished its first day of trading up 72.22%, giving it a market cap of $15.9 billion. It also had some coattails for a Chinese wireless company called Zoom Technologies, which laid first claim to the ZOOM ticker symbol.
• Today in Abraaj: Sev Vettivetpillai, a former managing partner with the collapsed private equity giant, was arrested in London on fraud charges and faces possible extradition to the U.S. This comes shortly after the British arrest of former Abraaj CEO Arif Naqvi and the NYC nab of ex-managing partner Mustafa Abdel-Wadood.
🎧 Pro Rata Podcast: We discuss how the gig economy is distorting America's labor data, making job numbers look better than they really are. Listen here.
American Media, backed by Chatham Asset Management, agreed to sell the National Enquirer and two sister publications to James Cohen, CEO of airport newsstand operator Hudson News, for a reported $100 million.
🚑 Arrakis Therapeutics, a Waltham, Mass.-based developer of RNA-targeting drugs, raised $75 million in Series B funding. VenBio Partners and Nextech Invest co-led, and were joined by Omega Funds, HBM, GV, WuXi, Alexandria Venture Investments and return backers Canaan Partners, Advent Life Sciences, Pfizer Ventures, Celgene, Osage University Partners and the Henri Termeer estate. http://axios.link/ocAw
• Stord, an Atlanta-based network of warehouses and distribution centers, raised $12.3 million in Series A funding. Kleiner Perkins led, and was joined by seed backers Susa Ventures and Dynamo. http://axios.link/ImDS
• StockX, a Detroit-based online sneaker resale marketplace, is raising new funding from DST Global and GGV Capital at a valuation north of $1 billion, per Recode. http://axios.link/le70
⛽ ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) agreed to sell its British North Sea oil and gas assets to Chrysaor, a London-based portfolio company of Global Natural Resource Investments and NGP, for $2.68 billion. http://axios.link/gDpY
• Sumeru Equity Partners invested in 3Gtms, a Shelton, Conn.-based provider of transportation management software. http://axios.link/NVOI
🚑 Surge Private Equity acquired Access Dental, a network of nine specialty dental practices in Texas. www.accessdental-tx.com
• Ancestry.com, the Lehi, Utah-based genealogy company, is prepping a second-half IPO, per Bloomberg. The company previously scuttled IPO plans in 2017. Shareholders include Silver Lake, GIC, Spectrum Equity and Permira. http://axios.link/5sfw
• Fastly, a San Francisco-based content delivery network, filed for a $100 million IPO. It plans to trade on the NYSE (FSLY) with BAML as lead underwriter. The company reports a $31 million net loss on $144 million in revenue for 2018, and raised around $220 million firms like August Capital, Iconiq, Amplify Partners, OATV, Battery Ventures, Deutsche Telekom, Sozo Ventures and Swisscom Ventures. http://axios.link/2y9U
⛽ Austin Energy agreed to buy the Nacogdoches Generating Facility, a 115-MW plant in Austin, Texas, from a subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) for $460 million. http://axios.link/vPw5
• CloudBees, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of continuous delivery solutions, bought Electric Cloud, a San Jose-based continuous delivery and automation platform. CloudBees has raised around $50 million in VC funding. http://axios.link/3r0w