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November 17, 2021

Top of the Morning

Illustration of a coin with binary code being lifted by a crane in front of the Staples Center
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

The Staples Center in Los Angeles will be renamed Arena, effective just before the Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day.

Why it matters: Cryptocurrencies are pushing deeper into the American mainstream.

  • It's a 20-year naming rights agreement between, a Hong Kong-based crypto exchange and mobile wallet provider, and building owner Anschutz Entertainment Group. No financial terms were disclosed, but Axios hears the total value exceeds $700 million (which would make it the richest naming rights deal ever).
  • For context, SoFi paid over $600 million for 20-year naming rights to the new NFL stadium in Los Angeles, where the Chargers and Rams play, while Intuit paid over $500 million for 23-year naming rights to a new arena that will house the Los Angeles Clippers.

Behind the scenes: Staples originally paid around $120 million for a 20-year naming rights deal in 1999, when it was riding high as one of America's preeminent retailers. 10 years later it renegotiated for permanent naming rights for an undisclosed amount.

  • What no one knew, however, was that AEG was eager to bring in a fresher name. In early 2019 it quietly bought back the naming rights from Staples, which by that point was owned by private equity firm Sycamore Partners.
  • this past summer heard that AEG was seeking out a new sponsor, and the two sides began hammering out a deal that involves several experiential and philanthropic components.

Rationale: AEG gets to rebrand its building with something that feels more like the future than the past. For, it's about elevating its brand in the capital of America's entertainment and creator economy.

  • Rival crypto exchange FTX, which today added star baseballer Shohei Ohtani as an investor, earlier this year paid $135 million for 19-year naming rights to the NBA arena in Miami.
  • If and Robinhood weren't looking for arena deals yesterday, they probably are today.
  • Yes, there are some echoes of the dotcom boom, when Internet upstarts entered the naming rights game. One of them, CMGI, faltered before its football field even hosted a single game (instead, the New England Patriots play at Gillette Stadium).

The bottom line: Crypto is in. Retail is out.


Mac And Cheese Macaroni GIF by MOODMAN - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source: Giphy

Gooder Foods, maker of a new "better for you" mac and cheese brand, raised $6.4 million from Springdale Ventures, Willow Growth Partners, Third Craft, Gingerbread Capital, Purple Arch Ventures and First Course Capital.

Why it's the BFD: America is deeply divided, but we can all agree that mac and cheese is delicious.

The founding team includes former execs from Annie's and Kraft, plus actress Gal Gadot. It's also the fourth startup for CEO Jennifer Zeszut.

The bottom line: "Normally, the company would have staged a bunch of taste tests, but due to the pandemic, Gooder Foods created an online community, shipping out thousands of small bags of noodles for people to try. In fact, the company developed more than 1,000 versions of noodles to get the right one." — Christine Hall, TechCrunch

Venture Capital Deals

Heyday, an S.F.-based DTC consumer products platform, raised $555 million in Series C funding. The Raine Group and Premji Invest co-led, and were joined by General Catalyst, Victory Park Capital and Khosla Ventures.

Upgrade, an S.F.-based neobank focused on credit, raised $280 million in Series F funding at a $6 billion post-money valuation. Coatue and DST Global co-led, and were joined by Dragoneer and insiders Gopher Asset Management, G Squared, Koch Disruptive Technologies, Old Well Partners, Ribbit Capital, Sands Capital, Ventura Capital and Vy Capital.

Facily, a Brazilian social commerce marketplace, raised $250 million in Series D funding co-led by DX Ventures and Delivery Hero. Other company backers include Citius, Glade Brook, Tiger Global, Luxor Capital and Founders Fund.

CloudWalk, a Brazilian open payments networking company, raised $150 million in Series C funding at a $2.15 billion post-money valuation. Coatue led, and was joined by DST Global, A-Star, The Hive Brazil, Plug & Play Ventures and Valor Capital Group.

Mensa Brands, an Indian digital marketplace platform, raised $135 million in Series B funding. Falcon Edge/Alpha Wave Ventures led, and was joined by Prosus Ventures and insiders Accel, Norwest Venture Partners and Tiger Global.

🚑 Chroma Medicine, a Cambridge, Mass.-based epigenetic editing startup, raised $125 million in Series A funding. Cormorant Asset Management led, and was joined by Atlas Venture, Newpath Partners, Sofinnova Partners, Casdin Capital, Janus Henderson Investors, Omega Funds, T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management.

🚑 Geneoscopy, a St. Louis-based developer of diagnostic tests for GI health, raised $105 million in Series B equity and debt funding. Insiders Lightchain Capital and NT Investments co-led, and were joined by Morningside Ventures, Labcorp, Cultivation Capital, BioGenerator Ventures and Innovatus Capital Partners.

🚑 H1, a professional network for healthcare, raised $100 million in Series C funding. Altimeter Capital led, and was joined by Goldman Sachs, Flex Capital and insiders IVP, Menlo Ventures, Transformation Capital, Lux Capital and LeadEdge.

🚑 Cala Health, a Burlingame, Calif.-based bioelectronic medicine company, raised $77 million. Ascension Ventures led, and was joined by Dolby Family Ventures. PEAK6 Strategic Capital, Innovatus Capital Partners and insiders like Lux Capital and Lightstone Ventures.

AnyDesk, a German maker of remote desktop software, raised $70 million in Series C funding at a valuation north of $600 million. General Atlantic led, and was joined by insiders Insight Partners, EQT Ventures and Possible Ventures.

EasySend, an Israeli provider of no-code software for customer journey processes, raised $55.5 million in Series B funding. Oak HC/FT led, and was joined by insiders Vertex IL, Intel Capital and Hanaco Ventures.

StarkWare, an Israeli blockchain scaling startup, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Sequoia Capital at a $2 billion valuation.

• Ozow, a South African payments gateway, raised $48 million in Series B funding. Tencent led, and was joined by Endeavor Catalyst and Endeavor Harvest Fund.

🚑 Ribbon Health, a New York-based API data platform for care decisions, raised $43.5 million in Series B funding. General Catalyst led, and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, BoxGroup, Rock Health and Sachin Jain.

Luxury Presence, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based provider of marketing software for real estate brokers, raised $25.9 million in Series B funding. Bessemer Venture Partners led, and was joined by insiders Toba Capital and Switch Ventures.

People Data Labs, an S.F.-based provider of APIs for making B2B data products, raised $45 million in Series B funding. Craft Ventures led, and was joined by Flex Capital.

Cymbio, an Israeli B2B dropship automation platform, raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Corner Ventures.

Velocity, an Indian revenue-based financing platform for e-commerce and DTC businesses, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Valar Ventures.

GoKwik, an Indian e-commerce enablement startup, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Sequoia Capital India led, and was joined by insiders Matrix Partners India and RTP Global.

PayZen, an S.F.-based, raised $15 million in Series A funding. SignalFire led, and was joined by Link Ventures, 7wireVentures and insiders Viola Ventures and Picus Capital.

Facet, a photo editing tool that can be accessed via APIs, raised $13 million. Two Sigma Ventures led, and was joined by Accel, Basis Set Ventures, Slow Ventures and South Park Commons.

Nym Technologies, a Swiss anonymous overlay network, raised $13 million in Series A funding at a $270 million valuation led by Andreessen Horowitz.

PreAct Technologies, a Portland, Ore.-based provider of pre-collision auto safety tech, raised $13 million in Series A funding. State Farm Ventures led, and was joined by Elev8.VC, Gotham Partners, Traylor Capital and Stargazer Ventures.

Hydrosat, a Washington, D.C.-based geospatial data startup, raised $10 million in seed funding. OTB Ventures led, and was joined by Freeflow Ventures, Cultivation Capital, Santa Barbara Venture Partners and Expon Capital also participated.

Brimstone Energy, an Oakland-based developer of carbon-neutral cement, raised $5.1 million from DCVC and Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

NFTfi, a South African startup that lets users collateralize their NFTs, raised $5 million. 1kx led, and was joined by Sound Ventures, Maven 11, Scalar Capital and Kleiner Perkins.

Ozonetel, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of cloud communication services, raised $5 million from Stakeboat Capital.

Moment Energy, a Vancouver based developer of energy storage systems made from second life electric vehicle EV batteries, raised C$3.5 million in seed funding. Version One Ventures led, joined by Fika Ventures, Garage Capital and MCJ Collective.

Deskimo, a Singapore-based coworking space finder, raised $3 million in seed funding from YC, Global Founders Capital, Pioneer Fund, Seed X, Starling Ventures and TSVC.

Runway, an "air traffic control" system for mobile app releases, raised $2 million in seed funding led by Bedrock Capital.

Private Equity Deals

Illustration of the Pittsburgh Penguin's logo skating away with cash trailing behind it.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fenway Sports Group, the private equity-backed owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C., is in talks to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins from Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux.

  • Word is that talks are at a very advanced stage, with a sale price shy of $1 billion. FSG first signaled its interest in a second U.S. pro sports franchise while trying to solicit investors last year for an unsuccessful SPAC deal.

AllTrails, an S.F.-based hiking trail app that’s majority-owned by Spectrum Equity, raised $150 million in minority funding from Permira.

🚑 The Blackstone Group agreed to invest in Life Science Logistics, a Dallas-based provider of healthcare supply chain solutions.

The Blackstone Group completed its $1.3 billion buyout of International Data Group, a Needham, Mass.-based provider of tech content, data and market research, from China Oceanwide.

The Carlyle Group agreed to buy Swiss industrial software maker AutoForm from Astorg.

Chatham Asset Management offered $663 million to buy printing company RR Donnelley & Sons Co. (NYSE: RRD), in which it holds a 14.9% stake. The $9.10 per share bid tops an $8.52 deal that RR Donnelley signed with Atlas Holdings.

🚑 Cinven agreed to buy Durham, N.C.-based drug research services firm BioAgilytix from Cobepa (which retains a minority stake). No financial terms were disclosed, but Bloomberg reported a price-tag north of $2.5 billion.

🚑 EQT and Goldman Sachs completed their $8.5 billion buyout of Parexel International, a Newton, Mass.-based outsourced pharma R&D firm, from Pamplona Capital Management.

New Mountain Capital bought Profile Products, a Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based maker of specialty agriscience materials, from Incline Equity Partners.

Pacur, an Oshkosh, Wis.-based medical packaging company owned by Gryphon Investors, agreed to buy Carolex, a French polyethylene terephthalate glycol sheet extruder.

Partners Group agreed to buy DiversiTech, a Duluth, Ga.-based maker of HVAC parts, for $2.2 billion from Permira (which retains a minority stake).

Roark Capital acquired Mathnasium, a franchisor and operator of over 1,000 math learning centers across 46 states, from Symmetric Capital.

SS&C Technologies (Nasdaq: SSNC) offered to pay £1.16 billion to buy Blue Prism (LSE: PRSM), a British robotic process automation company, topping a £1.1 billion deal with Vista Equity Partners.

Sabrosura Foods, a Minneapolis-based portfolio company of Centre Partners, acquired Pancho's Mexican Foods, a West Memphis, Ark.-based queso dip maker.

TA Associates and True Wind Capital invested in e-Emphasys Technologies, a Cary, N.C.-based provider of software to heavy equipment dealers and dental companies.

Public Offerings

Braze, a New York-based customer engagement platform, raised $520 million in its IPO. It priced at $65 (above $55-$60 range), for a $5.87 billion market value, will list on the Nasdaq (BRZE) and reports a $26 million net loss on $104 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. It raised $177 million from firms like Battery Ventures, Iconiq, InterWest Partners, Blumberg Capital and Meritech Capital Partners.

Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse chain with 60 locations, filed for an IPO and plans to list on the NYSE (FOGO).

UserTesting, an S.F.-based provider of usability testing SaaS, raised $140 million in its IPO. It priced 10 million shares at $14, versus plans to offer 14.2 million at $15-$17, for a $1.99 billion market cap. The company will list on the NYSE (USER) and reports a $24 million net loss on $66 million in revenue for the first half of 2021. Shareholders include Accel (23% pre-IPO stake), Greenspring (19.2%), Insight Partners (17.3%) and OpenView Venture Partners (7.1%).

SPAC Stuff

🚑 Accelus, a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based maker of implants for spinal surgery, agreed to go public at an implied $482 million valuation via CHP Merger Corp. (Nasdaq: CHPM). It had raised over $30 million from firms like Eastward Capital Partners.

SoundHound, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based voice assistant company, agreed to go public at an implied $2.1 billion valuation via Archimedes Tech SPAC Partners (Nasdaq: ATSPU). SoundHound had raised $425 million from firms like Global Catalyst Partners Japan, Walden VC and TransLink Capital.

Semantix, a Brazilian integrated data software platform, agreed to go public at an implied $1 billion valuation via Alpha Capital (Nasdaq: ASPC).

• Bullpen Parlay Acquisition Co., a SPAC led by Paul Martino (Bullpen Capital) and David VanEgmond (Bettor Capital), filed for a $200 million IPO.

Nubia Brand International, a wireless telecom SPAC, filed for a $100 million IPO.

Liquidity Events

Curo Group (NYSE: CURO) agreed to buy Heights Finance, a Greenville, S.C.-based consumer finance company, from Milestone Partners for $360 million in cash and stock.

Hilti Group, a Liechtenstein-based construction services firm, acquired Fieldwire, an S.F.-based provider of field management software for construction, for around $300 million. Fieldwire had raised $50 million from Hilti Group, Menlo Ventures, Brick & Mortar Ventures, and Formation 8.

Medium acquired Knowable, an L.A.-based audio learning platform that had raised $12.5 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, Initialized Capital, First Round Capital, Mucker Capital and CLF Partners.

TA Associates agreed to sell Power Line Systems, a Madison, Wis.-based provider of software for designing overhead electric power lines, to Bentley Systems (Nasdaq: BSY) for around $700 million.

More M&A

MoneyLion (NYSE: ML) agreed to buy Malka Media, a Jersey City, N.J.-based creative studio.


Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister at a 2019 conference. Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Long Journey Ventures today will disclose that it raised $35 million for its first fund since Cyan Banister left Founders Fund to join firm founder Lee Jacobs in early 2020. LJV has already deployed a lot of the capital, but its original announcement plans got waylaid by the pandemic.

  • Banister and Jacobs first met while working at AngelList, and Banister tells me that Jacobs later became her "secret weapon" while sourcing at Founders Fund. "He was sending me deals that no one else was sending or seeing... Being a VC is kind of like being a journalist, in that we both have 'sources' who we really guard."
  • LJV focuses on writing small checks for sizable ownership stakes, but can use SPVs for larger deals. Jacobs says the firm views itself as "a federation of angels."
  • The pair declined to discuss raising a follow-on fund, but expect that to happen soon. Their past deals have included Niantic, Loom, Kettle & Fire and Rappi.

Balderton Capital, a European VC firm, raised $600 million for its eighth early-stage fund.

Offline Ventures raised $100 million for its debut fund. The firm was launched last year by Dave Morin, Brit Morin, James Higa (ex-Apple) and Nate Bosshard (co-founder of Tonal).

Spring Lane Capital, a PE firm focused on sustainability, held a $151 million first close on its second fund, which is targeting $400 million.

It's Personnel

Jeff Housenbold, a former SoftBank Vision Fund managing partner and CEO of Shutterfly, joined home services company Leaf Home as CEO.

  • He's expected to continue managing Honor Ventures, the solo VC firm he formed after leaving SoftBank, although its debut fund size will target $150 million instead of $600 million. Housenbold also formed a SPAC with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy (ex-president of StubHub), but they never took the trust public.

James Gwertzman is leaving Microsoft, where he was GM for gaming cloud, to join Andreessen Horowitz as a partner. The firm also promoted gaming-focused investor Jonathan Lai to partner.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division by a 68-29 vote.

Final Numbers

Data: Axios research, SEC reports; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A key watchdog doled out more money to whistleblowers in the past year than it has in every prior year combined, Axios' Courtenay Brown writes.

  • The SEC paid out three of the largest awards in its history in 2021, per a new report — including a $114 million payout to a single individual.
  • It received a record 12,200 tips, almost twice the all-time high set in 2020. Accusations of manipulation made up a quarter of those tips.

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