Top of the Morning
Last Thursday night, attendees of the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami were treated to an official afterparty at a local nightclub called E11even. But as conference-goers soon learned, "nightclub" in this context is code for "high-end strip club."
I'd like to say this was an ignorant oversight, or that conference organizers already taking flack for their extreme lack of female speakers — just 3 out of 88 — wouldn't intentionally compound the error.
I'd also like to say it's 80 degrees outside the home office right now. But it just isn't.
Conference organizer and crypto entrepreneur Moe Levin first told me via email that "there was no sexualized imagery or performers anywhere in the venue" until after the official event was over at 11pm.
Leaving aside the fact that attendees had nowhere else to go afterwards (i.e., many of them stuck around for the more explicit show), Levin misrepresented the pre-11pm festivities. When I followed up by telling him that female attendees had told me about hostesses in lingerie and burlesque dancers on small stages in the corners, he replied: "We asked the venue multiple times to have their staff dressed professionally and were not accommodated."
Levin also acknowledged that one of the event MCs "made an offensive remark about women in crypto, and was fired immediately."
At this point I stopped emailing back, because it's hard to concentrate when your head is shaking so much.
• IPO speculation: Bloomberg yesterday reported that Dell considering various options to deal with its massive debt load, including a possible IPO, floating Pivotal or buying up the rest of VMWare. Reads more like the white-boarding part of this process than the decision-making part...
- Also on the possible IPO path is Airbnb, which yesterday took the forward step of naming its first independent board member: Ken Chenault, the outgoing AmEx CEO who also just joined Facebook's board.
- Spotify continues to move forward with its direct listings plan, and could soon get a certainty boost from Congress. Axios' Sara Fisher with more on the Music Modernization Act, which today is the of a House hearing.
• YouTube time: While we were both in D.C. last week, Axios senior tech correspondent Ina Fried and I chatted about Amazon's dominance and calls for it to be broken up. Watch the video.
• All hail settles down: Benchmark's fraud lawsuit vs. Travis Kalanick is officially over, as expected.
• Bonus season: Home Depot yesterday became the latest company to announce one-time, tax cut-related cash bonuses to employees and hourly workers.
- The headline number was $1,000, which would only go to employees with 20 years or more of service. But HD won't say how many employees, or what percentage of employees, will get the max.
- Even if every Home Depot employee qualified, the entire payout would represent less than 5% of the company's 2017 profit.
- To be sure, these bonuses can matter a lot to employees, particularly to those living paycheck-to-paycheck. But employers like Home Depot are being disingenuous to claim they needed tax cuts in order to provide such largesse.
HNA Group has agreed to sell an office building in Sydney, Australia to The Blackstone Group for around $161 million, per Reuters.
- Why it's the BFD: Because this is the latest episode of the Great HNA Garage Sale, through which the once-acquisitive HNA is being forced to shrink in response to both its over-leveraged balance sheet and global regulatory scrutiny.
- Bottom line: "For a company regularly in the news, HNA remains shrouded in mystery. American government officials are seeking more information about the conglomerate’s ownership, the Chinese government has been asking questions and the European Central Bank is considering a review of its own." — Bloomberg
Venture Capital Deals
• Tryb Group, a Singapore-based provider of online financial services in Southeast Asia, has raised $30 million from Makara Capital. http://axios.link/LyRq
• Arundo Analytics, a Houston-based provider of analytics software for heavy industry, has raised $25 million in Series A funding from Sundt AS, Stokke Industri, Horizon, Canica, Strømstangen, Arctic Fund Management and seed backers Stanford-StartX Fund and Northgate Partners. www.arundo.com
• Heetch, a French ride-hail service, has raised $20 million from Felix Capital, Via ID, Alven Capital, Idinvest Partners and InnovAllianz. http://axios.link/W3ki
🚑 XtalPi, a U.S.-China biotech startup that leverages AI for drug development, has raised $15 million in funding from firms like Sequoia Capital China, Tencent and Google. http://axios.link/y3g5
• Occipital, a San Francisco-based developer of 3D scanning technology, has secured $12 million of a $15 million-targeted Series C round led by Foundry Group. http://axios.link/13G9
• Botkeeper, a Boston-based automated bookkeeping solution, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Ignition Partners. http://axios.link/LxrI
• Enertiv, a New York-based provider of building operations software for commercial real estate, has raised $4.25 million in new funding from backers like Fifth Wall. www.enertiv.com
• TeacherGaming, a Finnish developer of an in-classroom gaming service, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding. Makers Fund led, and was joined by Founders Factory. http://axios.link/zW2G
Private Equity Deals
Medical Park, a Turkish private hospital chain, raised upwards of $488 million in its local IPO. http://axios.link/491Q
PlayAGS, a Las Vegas casino equipment company owned by Apollo Global Management, raised $164 million in its IPO. The company priced 10.25 million shares at $16 (low end of range), and will trade on the NYSE under ticker AGS. Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank served as lead underwriters. https://axios.link/Z9YZ
ResTORbio, a Boston-based developer of therapeutics for age-related diseases, raised $85 million in its IPO. The company priced 5.7 million shares at $15 (middle of range), for a fully-diluted market value of around $410 million. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker TORC, while BoA Merrill Lynch served as lead underwriter. ResTORbio had raised $65 million in VC funding from firms like OrbiMed (20% pre-IPO stake), Novartis (9.4%), Fidelity, Rock Springs Capital, Quan Capital and Nest Bio. www.restorbio.com
Solid Biosciences, a Cambridge, Mass.-based drug developer focused on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, raised $125 million in its IPO. The company priced 7.8 million shares at $16 (below upwardly-revised range), giving it a fully-diluted market value of $531 million. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker SLDB, while J.P. Morgan served as lead underwriter. Solid Bio had raised over $50 million in VC funding, from firms like JPMorgan (11.4% pre-IPO stake), Perceptive Advisors (11%), Bain Capital Life Sciences (6.7%), RA Capital (6.4%), RTW Investments, Foresite Capital, Cormorant Asset Management, Janus Capital Management and Biogen. www.solidbio.com
🚑 Allergan (NYSE: AGN) is considering a takeover of British women’s health startup KaNDy Therapeutics for over $400 million (including earnouts), according to Bloomberg KaNDy has raised an undisclosed amount of VC funding from Advent Life Sciences, Forbion Capital Partners, Fountain Healthcare Partners, OrbiMed and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. http://axios.link/2vse
🚑 Equistone Partners has sold Concept Life Sciences, a British provider of outsourced lab and consulting services, to Spectris (LSE: SXS) for £163 million. www.conceptlifesciences.com
🚑 Landmark Health, a Huntington Beach, Calif.-based home healthcare company focused on chronically-ill patients, has hired Barclays to find a buyer, according to Dow Jones. The company projects $53 million in 2018 EBITDA, and is backed by Francisco Partners, Oxeon Partners and McKesson Ventures. http://axios.link/qBow
• Skydance Media, a Hollywood entertainment and gaming studio, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Tencent. http://axios.link/FJk6
🚑 Sorenson Capital is considering a sale of Utah-based digital hearing aid company TruHearing, according to Dow Jones. www.truhearing.com
• Sotheby’s (NYSE: BID) has acquired image recognition startup Thread Genius, which had been part of a TechStars NYC class. http://axios.link/AhA4
• ESPN, a unit of Walt Disney Co., is considering a sale or spinoff of the Nate Silver-founded FiveThirtyEight site, according to Variety. http://axios.link/RrVO
🚑 Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) has pulled out of the $20 billion auction for Pfizer’s (NYSE: PFE) consumer health business, according to Reuters. Remaining bidders include GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) and Reckitt Benckiser (LSE: RB). http://axios.link/Jojj
• Kering (Paris: KER) confirmed reports that it has held talks about selling its 50% stake in fashion label Stella McCartney back to the eponymous founder. http://axios.link/xfgo
• Siemens is seeking a buyer for mechanical drive unit Flender, which could fetch more than €1 billion, per Bloomberg. Private equity and Chinese strategics have expressed interest. http://axios.link/iv9o
• Viacom (Nssdaq: VIAB) and CBS (NYSE: CBS) have discussed merging, according to Reuters. http://axios.link/hJcv
• Stirling Square Capital Partners of London is targeting €800 million for its fourth fund, with a first close slated for later this quarter, according to PE International. http://axios.link/oSQN
• Wael Mohamed, president of Japan's Trend Micro, has raised $100 million for a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund called Trend Forward Capital, per an SEC filing. There is only one LP listed, so it's likely this is a corporate group (will try to find out later today).
• Ann DeWitt has joined MIT-affiliated The Engine as COO, per her LinkedIn profile. She previously was senior director of biz dev and licensing transaction at Sanofi. www.theengine.xyz
• Michael Page, a former managing director in the equities unit of Jefferies, has joined Cowen as chief operating officer. www.cowan.com
- Q4 GDP came in at 2.6%, below not only consensus analyst estimates, but also below both Q3 (3.2%) and Q4 16 (3%).