Top of the Morning
Lyft put "an acquisition offer on the table" for Otto, the self-driving truck startup that is at the center of the Waymo vs. Uber trial, Otto co-founder Lior Ron testified yesterday.
- Although the companies discussed an acquisition price and milestones that Otto would have to reach as part of the deal, Lyft never sent a formal term sheet.
- It remains unclear how serious Otto was about going with Lyft, or about its meetings with venture capitalists. There are some on Sand Hill Road who believe Otto (or at least co-founder Anthony Levandowski) was just going through the pitch motions, in order to make the eventual Uber acquisition look better.
- But... It's kind of delicious to imagine the alternative universe were Lyft to have bought Otto. Perhaps Uber's board never feels misled by Travis Kalanick, or at least not to the same extent. Google not only doesn't sue Uber, but it also doesn't invest in Lyft (but SoftBank might have).
- More Lyft: The company yesterday named a COO (ex-Tesla sales lead Jon McNeill), although word is that the idea of Lyft going public in 2018 seems a bit less likely now than it did a couple of months back.
- More Waymo-Uber trial: Travis Kalanick took the stand, and detailed his frayed relationship with Google.
• Nothing to see here: Abraaj Group yesterday sent the following statement, in regards to allegations of financial impropriety with one of its healthcare private equity funds:
"KPMG has now completed its findings and reported that all such payments and receipts have been verified, in line with the agreed upon procedures performed, and that unused capital was returned to investors."
This does not mean, however, that some of the fund's LPs will call off the forensic accountant they reportedly hired.
• Unicorn delivery: Instacart is raising up to $250 million in Series E funding, according to a stock authorization filing in Delaware (per Lagniappe Labs). One year ago the grocery delivery service raised around $400 million in Series D funding at a $3 billion pre-money valuation.
- Amazon and Whole Foods just announced "free two-hour delivery of natural and organic products from Whole Foods Market through Prime Now." My understanding was that Instacart still had an exclusive delivery agreement with Whole Foods for perishable goods, so more on this in the stream later this morning.
• Big story? BlackRock reportedly is seeking to raise upwards of $10 billion to make direct investments, under the direction of former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board CEO Mark Wiseman.
- This one is getting tons of attention, but I'm not quite sure why. BlackRock has been making direct investments for years (e.g., Domo, Chewy, etc.), and also has been a consistent LP in private equity funds. It also was among those who submitted bids to help manage the CalPERS private equity portfolio, which would likely include co-investment responsibilities.
- Perhaps it's just that this looks a bit more like buyouts (i.e., Larry Fink's old partners at Blackstone) than growth equity. Or maybe because it reads a bit like Berkshire Hathaway. But, even so, $10 billion isn't the kind of scale that would make any potential rivals nervous (at least not yet).
SoftBank is in talks to acquire up to a one-third stake in reinsurer Swiss Re (SWX: SREN), which currently is valued just north of $33 billion.
- Why it's the BFD: Because this may be more about highly-leveraged SoftBank wanting steady cash-flow to fund future investments than it is about insurance. In other words, Masa Son is reading Warren Buffett's playbook.
- Bottom line: "Swiss Re, which has a history spanning more than 150 years, is one of the world’s biggest reinsurers and has a $215 billion balance sheet. In 2016, it reported net income of $3.6 billion but its results for 2017 will have been dented by the hurricanes that hit the U.S. and the Caribbean last September." — The Financial Times
Venture Capital Deals
• Swiggy, an India-based food delivery company, has raised $100 million in new funding from Naspers and Meituan-Dianping. http://axios.link/Lmxi
• GOAT, a Los Angeles-based online sneaker marketplace, has raised $60 million in Series C funding. Index Ventures led, and was joined by return backers Accel, Matrix Partners and Upfront Ventures. The company also is merging with aftermarket sneaker retailer Flight Club. http://axios.link/x4Uw
🚑 Tilray, a Toronto-based medical cannabis company, has raised C$60 million in Series A funding from undisclosed investors. Previously, the company had been solely funded by Privateer Holdings. http://axios.link/W0dw
• Cityscoot, a French electric scooter service, has raised around $50 million in VC funding. RATP Capital Innovation and Inventure Partners co-led, and were joined by Caisse des Dépôts and LeasePlan. http://axios.link/w2xN
• Icertis, a Bellevue, Wash.-based provider of enterprise contract management solutions, has raised $50 million in Series D funding. Meritech Capital Partners led, and was joined by PSP Growth, Cross Creek Advisors and return backers B Capital Group, Ignition Partners, Greycroft and Eight Roads Ventures. http://axios.link/9AXs
• HighFive, a Redwood City, Calif.-based video conferencing platform, has raised $35 million in Series C funding. Dimension Data led, and was joined by return backers Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst and Lightspeed Venture Partners. http://axios.link/9xF1
• VReal, a Seattle-based VR broadcasting startup, has raised $11.7 million in Series A funding. Axioma Ventures led, and was joined by Intel Capital, Akatsuki Entertainment Tech Fund and return backers Upfront Ventures, Vulcan Capital and Youku. http://axios.link/tgRt
• Niche, a Pittsburgh-based platform for helping people choose schools and neighborhoods, has raised $6.6 million in Series B funding co-led by Allen & Co. and Grit Capital Partners. www.niche.com
• Indio Technologies, a San Francisco-based commercial insurance processing platform, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. 8VC led, and was joined by Merus Ventures, 500 Startups and Compound. http://axios.link/CIep
🚑 Univfy, a Los Altos, Calif.-based startup that uses machine learning to predict IVF success rates, has raised $6 million in VC funding led by Rethink Impact. http://axios.link/uZns
• Joveo, a Redwood City, Calif.-based recruitment platform, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Nexus Venture Partners. It also acquired programmatic media buyer Ripple Labs. www.joveo.com
• Triller, a San Francisco-based “AI-powered” music video platform, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Carnegie Technologies. www.triller.co
• BurnAlong, an Owings Mills, Md.-based streaming fitness class platform, has raised $1 million from backers like Baltimore Angels, Brown Advisory, Machem Capital and Johns Hopkins University. http://axios.link/sJG7
Private Equity Deals
• Domaille Engineering, a portfolio company of Thompson Street Capital Partners and Onward Capital, have acquired Tech Manufacturing, a Wright City, Mo.-based maker of complex 5-axis structural aerospace parts. www.domailleengineering.com
🚂 Global Infrastructure Partners has increased its takeover offer for Italian railway group Italo from €1.9 billion to around €2 billion (both excluding debt), according to Reuters. http://axios.link/hTKf
• New Heritage Capital has acquired a minority stake in Flying Colours, a Canadian refurbishment, completion and MRO business. www.flyingcolourscorp.com
• Platinum Equity Partners is in advanced talks to acquire the European vacation rentals unit of Wyndham Worldwide for around $1 billion, per the WSJ. http://axios.link/HyNL
• Property Brands, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based provider of property management technology, has raised new funding from Insight Venture Partners. Existing backer Providence Strategic Growth will retain a minority stake.
• TDC, a listed Danish telecom giant, said that it has turned down an indicative takeover offer from Macquarie and Danish pension funds ATP, PFA and PKA. http://axios.link/u97a
• Victory Capital Holdings, a Brooklyn, Ohio-based asset management firm with $59 billion in AUM, raised $152 million in its IPO. The company priced 11.7 million shares at $13 (below its $17-$19 range), and will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker VCTR. J.P. Morgan served as lead underwriter. Shareholders include Crestview Partners and Reverence Capital Partners. www.victoryconnect.com
• Goldman Sachs is in talks to buy Clarity Money, a New York-based personal finance app focused on monthly bills, according to Bloomberg. Clarity, founded by Adam Dell, has raised nearly $15 million from firms like RRE Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Maveron and Citi Ventures. http://axios.link/S4A2
• Oak Hill Capital Partners is considering a sale process for FirstLight, an Albany, N.Y.-based regional fiber network provider, per Dow Jones. www.firstlight.net
• Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) has agreed to invest $486 million for a 38% stake in Shiji Retail Information Technology Co., a Chinese company focused on hotel and retail data. http://axios.link/f7ln
⛽Eneco, a Dutch energy firm, is under shareholder pressure to pursue a private sale rather than an IPO, according to Reuters. The company could be valued at around €4 billion. http://axios.link/7Q3q
• LogMeIn (Nasdaq: LOGM) has agreed to buy Jive Communications, an Orem, Utah-based provider of enterprise communications services, for $342 million in cash (plus another $15m in possible earnouts). http://axios.link/cTc1
🚑 Janssen (a unit of J&J) and Theravance Biopharma (Nasdaq: TBPH) have signed what could become a $1 billion strategic development deal for a JAK inhibitor for inflammatory bowel disease (including $100m upfront, and $900m in milestone/royalty payments). http://axios.link/fTi2
• CITIC Private Equity of China is nearing a $1.4 billion first close for its latest fund, which is targeting a total of $2 billion, according to PE International. http://axios.link/6il0
• Swan & Legend Venture Partners is raising up to $250 million for its fourth fund, per an SEC filing. www.swanandlegend.com
• TrueBridge Capital Partners has closed its fifth VC fund-of-funds with $450 million. www.truebridgecapital.com
• Ava Hahn has stepped down as general counsel with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in order to join CA Technologies (Nasdaq: CA) as EVP, general counsel and corporate secretary. www.ca.com
• Liza Landsman is stepping down as president of Jet.com, and will become a venture partner with NEA. http://axios.link/Uc5U
• Kay Sano has joined Boston-based fund placement agent Monument Group as a director in Tokyo. She previously was with Bain Capital. www.monumentgroup.com
🚑 Milen Todorov has joined private equity firm HealthpointCapital as a managing director. He previously was a med-tech investment banker with UBS. www.healthpointcapital.com
Traders piled into Wynn Resorts on Wednesday, following the resignation of founding CEO Steve Wynn.
- Caveat: Wynn stock is still around 13% lower than before sexual assault allegations against Wynn were first published by the Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday's bump may suggest faith in new CEO Matt Maddox, even though Wynn Resorts last year said in an SEC filing:
Our ability to maintain our competitive position is dependent to a large degree on the efforts, skills and reputation of Stephen A. Wynn... If we lose the services of Mr. Wynn, or if he is unable to devote sufficient attention to our operations for any other reason, our business may be significantly impaired.
Another possibility is that traders believe the casino empire will eventually be broken up — perhaps by a reconstituted board — and that it's currently valued lower than the sum of its parts.