November 18, 2021

🚑 I'm pleased to share that the upcoming Axios Pro newsletter on health tech deals will be co-authored by Erin Brodwin and Sarah Pringle.

  • Erin comes to us from STAT, and her name came up nonstop when I asked health tech investors who to hire.
  • Sarah previously led healthcare coverage at PE Hub, constantly breaking deal scoop, and also wrote the daily Wire newsletter (which has historical ties to Pro Rata).
  • Be sure to join the waitlist.

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump was president when SPACs stopped being a cottage industry and instead became Wall Street Waterfront. Now he might be indirectly responsible for reining in some SPAC excesses.

Driving the news: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) yesterday sent a letter to SEC chair Gary Gensler, asking his agency to investigate the proposed merger between Trump's amoebic social media company and a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition Corp., as first reported by NY Times DealBook.

  • She’s particularly interested in a NY Times report that Digital World’s chairman and CEO Patrick Orlando held talks with Trump before the SPAC filed for its IPO in May or priced it in September. Those discussions apparently were related to a proposal that Axios scooped in April.
  • SPAC sponsors are not allowed to source potential merger targets prior to the SPAC going public, and DWAC made multiple representations in its IPO filings that its executives had followed the rules.
  • DWAC, currently valued at nearly $2 billion, may try to argue that DWAC didn't exist when Orlando talked with Trump, thus it couldn't have done anything untoward. But that may be a tough legal hill to climb, since Orlando did have other active SPACs (particularly if there's any paper trail linking the Trump opportunity to DWAC's creation).

What DWAC is alleged to have done is not unusual in SPAC-land. In fact, it's the industry's dirty little secret that many SPAC sponsors, particularly serial ones like Orlando, source deals before they're technically supposed to.

  • Securities regulators so far have turned a blind eye to the practice, which corrupts the legitimacy of being a blank check company.

The bottom line: Warren's letter, and the NY Times investigation on which it's based, may shine a spotlight that's impossible for the SEC to ignore. And if there is a crackdown, it could impact lots of SPACs that have nothing to do with Donald Trump or his social media dreams.


Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

SSE, the listed British utility with a market cap of nearly $23 billion, disclosed plans to sell 25% stakes in its transmission and distribution grid units, but said it won't spin off the businesses into independent companies. It also doesn't plan to separate out its renewables assets.

  • Why it's the BFD: This not only bucks the recent trend of corporate breakups — as employed by GE, J&J and Toshiba — but also pushes back against the wishes of activist investor Elliott Management.
  • Not alone: Bayer CEO Werner Baumann yesterday said that his company wouldn't follow rival J&J down the breakup path.
  • The bottom line: "No doubt emboldened by its success at EDP-Energias de Portugal, where it pushed for asset sales to reinvest in green projects, and then saw shares of EDP's listed renewables arm surge, Elliott had been meeting privately with SSE's representatives and investors to make its case for a breakup." — Fareed Sahloul, Bloomberg

Venture Capital Deals

Formstack, a Fishers, Ind.-based workplace productivity platform, raised $425 million co-led by Silversmith Capital Partners and insider PSG.

🚑 Generate Biomedicines, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of protein-based medicines, raised $370 million in Series B funding from founder Flagship Pioneering and co-investors ADIA, Fidelity, Alaska Permanent Fund, Arch Venture Partners, Altitude Life Science Ventures, Morningside Ventures and T. Rowe Price.

Farmers Business Network, a farmer-to-farmer information network, financing and e-commerce platform, raised $300 million in Series G funding. Fidelity led, and was joined by LN Mittal Family Office, ADM Ventures Investment Corp., Colle Capital Partners, Walleye Capital, and Tudor Investment Corp.

ConsenSys, a developer of apps and tools based on Ethereum, raised $200 million at a $3.2 billion valuation. Marshall Wace, Third Point, ParaFi Capital and Think Investments were joined by insiders Animoca Brands, Coinbase Ventures and HSBC.

🐉 Grammarly, an S.F.-based auto-editing tool for writing, raised $200 million at a $13 billion valuation. Baillie Gifford led, and was joined by BlackRock.

🚑 Owkin, a French developer of predictive algorithms for oncology, raised $180 million in equity funding from Sanofi, as part of a broader strategic partnership.

Netlify, a Jamstack-focused web dev tool, raised $105 million in Series D funding at a $2 billion valuation. Bessemer Venture Partners led, and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Bond, EQT Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Mango Capital and Menlo Ventures.

Airwallex, an Australian cross-border payments business, raised US$100 million in new Series E funding at a $5.5 billion valuation. Lone Pine Capital led, and was joined by 1835i Ventures and Sequoia Capital China.

Gradiant, a Boston-based provider of water treatment solutions, raised over $100 million in Series C funding co-led by Warburg Pincus and Schlumberger New Energy.

Expel, a Herndon, Va.-based managed security platform, raised over $100 million in Series E funding co-led by CapitalG and Paladin Capital Group.

🚑 Trusted, an S.F.-based labor marketplace for nurses and other health professionals, raised $94 million in Series C funding. Greenspring Associates led, and was joined by insiders Felicis Ventures and Craft Ventures.

Monarch, a Livermore, Calif.-based autonomous tractor maker, raised $61 million in Series B funding. Astanor Ventures led, and was joined by CNH Industrial, At One Ventures and Trimble Ventures.

🚑 Avilar Therapeutics, a Waltham, Mass.-based biopharma startup focused on extracellular protein degradation, raised $60 million in seed funding led by RA Capital Management.

Settle, a Stateline, Nev.-based cashflow management company, raised $60 million in Series B funding. Ribbit Capital led, and was joined by Kleiner Perkins, Caffeinated Capital, Activant Capital and Stripes.

Ultrahaptics, a British developer of mid-air touch technology, raised £60 million in Series D funding from Tencent, British Patient Capital CMB International and insiders Mayfair Equity Partners and IP Group PLC.

Nexar, a New York-based provider of analytics based on dash cam footage, raised $53 million in Series D funding. Qumra Capital led, and was joined by State Farm Ventures, Catalyst Investments, Banca Generali, Valor, Atreides Management, Corner Ventures, Regah Ventures and Aleph.

Yieldstreet, a New York-based multi-asset alternative investment platform, raised $50 million led by Mayfair Equity Partners.

Hightouch, a based warehouse data integration platform, raised $40 million in Series B funding at a $450 million valuation. Iconiq led, and was joined by Amplify Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, YC and Afore.

Workiz, an Israeli provider of digital tools to home services teams, raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Lead Edge Capital.

Stellar Cyber, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based security analytics platform, raised $38 million in Series B funding. Highland Capital Partners led, and was joined by Samsung and insiders Valley Capital Partners, SIG, and Northern Light Venture Capital.

Laminar, an Israeli public cloud data protection provider, raised $32 million in Series A funding. Insight Partners led, and was joined by SentinelOne, TLV Partners and Meron Capital.

Netomi, a San Mateo, Calif.-based customer service AI platform , raised $30 million in Series B funding. WndrCo led, and was joined by insiders Eldridge and Fin VC.

UNest, an L.A.-based financial planning tool for parents, raised $26 million in Series B funding. Artemis Fund led, and was joined by Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Franklin Templeton, Launchpad Capital, AltaIR Capital, OneWay Ventures, Unlock Venture Partners and Jim McKelvey.

Evina, a Paris-based cybersecurity startup, raised €20 million. Radian Capital led, and was joined by insiders 50 Partners, Saas Partners and Id4VC.

QuEra Computing, a Boston-based quantum computer developer, raised $17 million from Day One Ventures, Rakuten and Frontiers Capital.

🚑 Fountain Therapeutics, an S.F.-based biotech focused on chronic degenerative diseases, raised $15 million in Series A-2 funding from Eli Lilly, Alexandria Venture Investments, R42 Group and insiders Khosla Ventures and Nan Fung Life Sciences.

🚑 Sense Biodetection, a point-of-care molecular diagnostics startup, raised $15 million in new Series B funding (round total $65m) from insider Koch Disruptive Technologies.

Machina Labs, an L.A.-based on-demand robotics manufacturer, raised $14 million in Series A funding. Innovation Endeavors led, and was joined by Congruent Ventures and Embark Ventures., an Israeli automation platform for IT service management, raised $13 million in Series A funding. Dell Technologies Capital led, and was joined by Skywell Capital Partners, Samsung Next and insiders StageOne Ventures and AxessVentures.

🎮 DreamCraft, a San Mateo, Calif.-based game development platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by March Gaming.

Mangrove Lithium, a Vancouver-based lithium refiner, raised US$10 million in Series A funding. Breakthrough Energy Ventures led, and was joined by BDC Capital.

Noissue, a New Zealand-based sustainable packaging platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Felix Capital.

Coros, a Mountain View-based provider of e-commerce supply chain visibility solutions, raised $6.1 million. Dynamo Ventures led, and was joined by Susa Ventures, Greenhawk Capital, Fontinalis Partners and Engage VC.

Kippa, a Nigerian small business finance management app, raised $3.2 million. Target Global led, and was joined by Entrée Capital, Alter Global and Rally Cap Ventures.

Mployer Advisor, an Inlet Beach, Fla.-based insurance broker rating service, raised $1.6 million led by Martin Ventures.

Gemini Trust, a crypto exchange founded by the Winklevoss twins, is seeing to raise $400 million at a $7 billion valuation, per Bloomberg.

Private Equity Deals

BCM One, a New York-based portfolio company of Thompson Street Capital Partners, acquired CoreDial, a Blue Bell, Pa.-based white label cloud communication services company, from LLR Partners.

The Blackstone Group closed its $1.2 billion buyout of shapewear maker Spanx, and said that co-investors included Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd.

HgCapital invested in Revalize, a British portfolio company of TA Associates that provides manufacturing revenue operations software.

🚑 Ncardia, a Belgian developer of stem cell-based therapies, raised more than $60 million via a strategic partnership with Kiniciti, an investment platform backed by Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe.

Ratos agreed to buy a 75% stake in Presis Infra, a Norwegian transportation infrastructure maintenance firm, at a valuation of nearly $300 million.

Sentinel Capital Partners acquired Empire Auto Parts, a Totowa, N.J.-based distributor of aftermarket collision parts, from Tenex Capital Management.

Warren Averett Asset Management, a wealth management firm, secured equity funding from HGGC and Wealth Partners Capital Group.

Public Offerings

Super Bowl Bear GIF by ADWEEK - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source: Giphy

Chobani, a Berlin, N.Y.-based Greek yogurt maker, filed for an IPO that Renaissance Capital estimates could raise $1.5 billion. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CHO) and reports a $24 million net loss on $1.2 billion in revenue for the first nine months of 2021. Backers include Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.

Redaptive, an S.F.-based provider of energy efficiency solutions for commercial and industrial companies, filed for an IPO. It plans to list on the NYSE (EAAS) and reports a $29 million net loss on $52 million in revenue for the first nine months of 2021. Backers include CBRE and Linse Capital.

Sono Group, a German developer of solar-powered vehicles, raised $150 million in its IPO. The pre-commercial company priced in the middle of its $14-$16 range, for a $1.1 billion market cap, and will list on the Nasdaq (SEV).

🥗 SweetGreen, a fast casual salad restaurant chain, raised $364 million in its IPO. The company priced 13 million shares at $28, versus plans to offer 12.5 million shares at $23-$25, for a $2.98 billion market value. It will list on the NYSE (SG) and had raised $670 million in VC funding from backers like Revolution, T. Rowe Price, Red Sea Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Signatures Capital, Scott Belsky, Danny Meyer and Daniel Boulud.

SPAC Stuff

Bitdeer Technologies, a Singapore-based crypto miner, agreed to go public at a $4 billion valuation via Blue Safari Group Acquisition (Nasdaq: BSGA).

Liquidity Events

NextEnergy Capital is seeking a buyer for a portfolio of solar power plants in southern Italy, which could fetch more than €400 million, per Reuters.

nCino (Nasdaq: NCNO) acquired SimpleNexus, a Lehi, Utah-based provider of digital homeownership software, for $1.2 billion in cash and stock. SimpleNexus had raised over $120 million from Insight Partners and TVC Capital.

Nutrafol, a New York-based hair supplements maker backed by L Catterton and Unilver, is seeking to raise up to $1 billion in a sale, per Bloomberg.

More M&A

Deutsche Telekom reportedly is seeking a buyer for IT services unit T-Systems.

iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT) acquired Aeris Cleantec, a Swiss maker of HEPA air purifiers.


Fort Ross Ventures raised over $200 million for its fourth fund, with plans to expand into Europe.

LiveOak Venture Partners of Austin raised $210 million for its third fund.

It's Personnel

William Abbot joined Goldfinch Partners as a principal. He was previously a director of corp dev at Starbucks.

Sozo Ventures promoted Spencer Foust to managing director.

Trilantic North America promoted Dan Siegman to managing director.

Final Numbers

Source: Yahoo Finance. Chart: Axios Visuals

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