August 31, 2021

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Top of the Morning

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

  • Then it got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.
  • Ours was the definition that stuck. And, last week, the number of such companies last week topped 800, per CB Insights, with a cumulative valuation of around $2.6 trillion.
Dr Evil GIF by Product Hunt - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source: Giphy

With apologies to Justin Timberlake Parker, $1 billion just isn't that cool anymore. It's not rare if there are over 800 of them, and certainly not mythical.

  • Plus, there's been a flurry of startups whose valuations have been inflated by investment dollars. Isn't it more impressive to be worth $500 million on $50 million of venture capital than $1 billion on $500 million of venture capital?

We need a new word: Dragons.

  • Dragons are much bigger, stronger and more awe-inspiring than unicorns. They destroy whatever's in their path, and their own destruction is viewed as catastrophic (at least if "GOT" is any guide).
  • To qualify, a company must be valued at $12 billion or more, net of venture funding. Yes, it's a somewhat arbitrary figure. But it reflects the >10x "unicorn" growth since the Fortune piece, and the rapidly ascending private funding trajectory.

By the numbers: Currently, there would be 19 dragons. Of those, nine are based in the U.S.

  • That's an even more exclusive club than Lee's original framing, although this is the sort of thing where less means more.
  • The U.S. dragons are: Stripe, SpaceX, Instacart, Epic Games, Databricks, Rivian, Chime, Fanatics and Plaid.

The bottom line: Welcome to the age of dragons.


Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Syndicate, a decentralized investing platform, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.

  • Why it's the BFD: Crypto is coming for investing, and not just as an asset in which to invest. Syndicate's mission is to make it easier to create DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, which basically enable groups of people to invest collectively and transparently.
  • Other investors include Bill Ackman's Table Management, Coinbase Ventures, Sound Ventures, Thirty Five Ventures, Alexis Ohanian and Snoop Dogg.
  • Elsewhere: FTX agreed to buy LedgerX, a crypto derivatives firm that had raised around $35 million from firms like Lightspeed, GV, Miami International and Digital Finance Group.
  • Bottom line: "DAOs are basically shared bank accounts on the blockchain with tools meant to facilitate group decision-making." — Cheyenne Ligon, CoinDesk 

Today in Theranos

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer. Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Jury selection begins today in U.S. v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8. Among the questions for potential jurors, per a court filing:

  • Do they have experience in such areas as venture capital investing, finance, healthcare or blood testing? Same question tied to family members or others close to them.
  • Have they ever received any form of medical treatment (including vaccinations) in a pharmacy and/or grocery store? You may recall that Theranos had in-store deals with both Walgreens and Safeway.
  • Have they commented, liked or otherwise interacted on social media with anything relating to Holmes, Theranos or Sunny Balwani? They'll also be asked if they follow any of 15 listed journalists (via Twitter, podcasts, etc), or if they've seen or listened to a list of programs that have discussed the case.

The potential witness list (which may track to the subpoena list) includes former Theranos board members like Jim Mattis, Bill Frist and Henry Kissinger.

  • Plus Rupert Murdoch, attorney David Boies, ex-Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, Coatue Management's Philippe Laffont, ex-Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond Hellmann, and journalists John Carreyrou (ex-WSJ) and Roger Parloff (ex-Fortune).

Go deeper: Get the full witness list and potential juror questions here.

Venture Capital Deals

• Offchain Labs, a Princeton, N.J.-based Ethereum rollup protocol, raised $100 million in Series B funding at a $1.2 billion valuation. Lightspeed Venture Partners led, and was joined by Polychain Capital, Ribbit Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Pantera Capital, Alameda Research and Mark Cuban.

🚑 Quip, a New York-based oral care company, raised $100 million from Cowen Sustainable Investments.

• Gatik, a Palo Alto-based autonomous delivery network, raised $85 million in Series B funding. Koch Disruptive Technologies led, and was joined by insiders Innovation Endeavours, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC and Intact Ventures.

• Vice Media is raising $85 million from existing investors and putting its SPAC plans on hold, at least for now, per The Information. Backers include Lupa Systems, TPG, TCV and Sixth Street Partners.

• Peak, an AI app creation platform, raised $75 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led, and was joined by insiders Oxx, MMC Ventures, Praetura Ventures and Arete.

🚑 Versanis Bio, an Oakland-based biotech focused on obesity, raised $70 million in Series A funding. Atlas Venture and Medicxi co-led, and were joined by Aditum Bio.

🚑 Doctor Anywhere, a Singapore-based omnichannel health services platform, raised around $66 million in Series C funding. Asia Partners led, and was joined by Novo Holdings, Philips, OSK-SBI Partners and insiders EDBI, Square Peg, IHH Healthcare, Kamet Capital and Pavilion Capital.

🚑 Genome Medical, a South San Francisco-based genomic care delivery startup, raised $60 million in Series C funding. Casdin Capital led, and was joined by GV, Amgen Ventures and insiders Perceptive Advisors, Canaan Partners, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Illumina Ventures, LRVHealth, Echo Health Ventures, Revelation Partners, HealthInvest Equity Partners, Avestria Ventures, Flywheel Ventures, Dreamers Fund and Blue Ivy Ventures.

Alpaca, a Tokyo-based provider of equities trading software, raised $50 million in Series B funding. Tribe Capital led, and was joined by Horizons Ventures and insiders Spark Capital, Portage Ventures and Social Leverage.

• Nifty Games, a Lafayette, Calif.-based publisher of head-to-head sports games for mobile, raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Vulcan Capital.

Kevala, a provider of energy grid infrastructure data analytics, raised $21 million in Series A funding co-led by C5 Capital and Thin Line Capital.

Poppi, a prebiotic soda brand, raised $13.5 million in Series A2 funding led by CAVU Ventures.

Hum Capital, a New York-based fundraising platform, raised $9 million in Series A funding. Future Ventures led, and was joined by Webb Investment Network, Wavemaker Partners and Partech.

• Clay, a business and personal relationship management tool, raised $8 million in seed funding led by Forerunner Ventures led, and was joined by General Catalyst.

Private Equity Deals

Apax Partners agreed to buy SavATree, a Bedford Hills, N.Y.-based tree and lawncare provider, from CI Capital Partners.

CDI, a New York-based portfolio company of One Equity Partners, acquired Candoris, an Annville, Pa.-based managed IT services firm.

Crestview Partners acquired a majority stake in JMP Solutions, a Canadian automation systems integrator.

FiscalNote, a Washington, D.C.-based portfolio company of Arrowroot Capital and Runway Growth Capital, acquired Curate Solutions, a Madison, Wis.-based provider of municipal civic intelligence and monitoring services.

Inhabit IQ, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based portfolio company of Providence Equity Partners, acquired ResMan, a Plano, Texas-based provider of business management software for property management, from Mainsail Partners.

Public Offerings

Allbirds, a San Francisco-based sneaker maker, filed for an IPO (which it's calling a "sustainable public equity offering"). The company plans to list on the Nasdaq (BIRD) and reports a $21 million net loss on $118 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. It raised around $200 million from firms like Maveron, Tiger Global, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

Amplitude, a San Francisco-based data analytics startup, filed for a direct listing. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq (AMPL) and reports a $17 million net loss on $72 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. The company raised over $330 million from firms like Benchmark (15.3% pre-IPO stake), Battery Ventures (14%), IVP (8.8%), Sequoia Capital (7.8%) and Jasmine Ventures (5%).

💍 Brilliant Earth Group, a San Francisco-based online seller of ethically sourced jewelry, filed for an IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (BRLT) and reports $11 million of net income on $163 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. Backers include Mainsail Partners.

Clearwater Analytics, a Boise, Idaho-based provider of investment portfolio management software, filed for an IPO that reportedly could value the company north of $4 billion. It will list on the NYSE (CWAN) and reports $3.2 million of net income on $118 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. Backers include Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, Permira, Warburg Pincus and Dragoneer.

🚑 Healthcare Triangle, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based provider of data science and health care information solutions, filed for a $50 million IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (HCTI).

Remitly, a Seattle-based digital remittance company, filed for an IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (RELY) and reports a $9 million net loss on $202 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. The company raised around $480 million from backers like PayU (23.9% pre-IPO stake), Stripes (12.1%), Threshold Ventures (9.4%), Generation Investment Management (8%) and Trilogy Equity (6.2%).

Xplor Technologies, an Atlanta-based payments firm owned by Advent International, hired Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to explore going public via IPO or SPAC, per Bloomberg.

Liquidity Events

ByteDance bought Pico, a Chinese VR headset maker that had raised over $60 million in VC funding.

Check Point Software (Nasdaq: CHKP) acquired email security startup Avanan for a reported $250-$300 million. Avanan raised around $40 million from such firms as StageOne Ventures, Greenfield Partners and Magma Venture Partners.

EQT agreed to sell Zemax, a Kirkland, Wash.-based provider of optical and illumination design software, to Ansys (Nasdaq: ANSS).

Oaktree Capital Management agreed to sell Riggs Distler & Co., a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based provider of power and utility services, to a subsidiary of Southwest Gas Holdings (NYSE: SWX) for $855 million.

Prosus agreed to buy Indian digital payments company BillDesk for $4.7 billion, and then combine it with PayU. BillDesk had raised around $92 million from firms like General Atlantic, March Capital and TA Associates, most recently in early 2019 at a $1.5 billion valuation.

More M&A

The Federal Trade Commission plans to probe mergers of retail gas stations, per a letter obtained by Axios. Go deeper.

Adtran (Nasdaq: ADTN) offered to but listed German telecom equipment maker ADVA Optical Networking for around €789 million in stock.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) bought Primephonic, an Amsterdam-based classical music app.

Berlin Hyp AG, a commercial real estate lender, is being put on the block for at least €500 million by Germany’s public sector savings banks, per Bloomberg.

Patreon, a creator platform valued by VCs at $4 billion, acquired tech recruiting firm Clear Talent.

Yandex (Nasdaq: YNDX) of Russia said it would buy Uber’s (NYSE: UBER) stakes in their joint food delivery and self-driving businesses, and increase its stake in their joint ride-hail business, in a $1 billion deal.


Clearlake Capital Group is targeting $10 billion for its seventh fund, per the WSJ.

Coral Capital, a Tokyo-based VC firm, raised $128 million for its third fund.

Lightspeed China Partners is raising $450 million for its fifth flagship VC fund and $400 million for its second “select” fund, per SEC filings.

LoftyInc Capital, a pan-African VC firm, raised $10 million for its third fund.

MiddleGround Capital, a Lexington, Ky.-based midmarket private equity firm, raised $800 million for its second flagship fund, plus $250 million for an overage fund.

Susa Ventures of San Francisco raised $375 million for its fourth fund, and hired Hammad Aslam (ex-Vista Equity, Morgan Stanley) as an investor.

It's Personnel

Emily Calkins joined Spectrum Equity as a VP. She previously was with Floodgate and Mainsail Partners.

Final Numbers

Source: CB Insights

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