Mar 30, 2020

Axios Pro Rata

🚴 You're amazing: On Saturday, 660 Axios Pro Rata readers got on their Peloton bikes at the same time to raise an astounding $117,000 for the Food Bank of New York City. More info at the end of the newsletter.

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Some Instacart workers plan to go on strike today, arguing that the grocery delivery unicorn's recent increases in pay and safety equipment are insufficient.

  • Why it matters: Instacart has become a lifeline for many Americans either unable or unwilling to leave their homes, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva and I report.

What's happening: It's unclear how many drivers plan to strike today, as the organizer intentionally doesn't keep lists (because contractors don't have legal protections from "employer" retaliation) and past gig economy strikes have been more successful on noise than numbers.

  • The strike also comes at a time when Instacart's workforce is surging, to meet increased orders, including via efforts to provide softer landings to recently furloughed or laid-off employees from industries like travel and hospitality (expect some company-specific announcements on that soon).
  • It's also worth noting that the two sides seem to negotiate via blog posts, rather than directly, which has led to some miscommunication.

Strike organizers last week asked for three things:

  1. Free safety products (e.g., hand sanitizer and wipes) for all workers.
  2. Hazard pay of $5 per order plus defaulting the tip amount to 10%.
  3. Expanding sick pay to those with pre-existing conditions that could put them at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, and to extend the deadline for benefits beyond April 8.

Instacart has since announced that it has:

  1. Signed a deal with a third-party manufacturer in Louisiana to produce and distribute its own hand sanitizer to workers in the field. It already had created sanitizer stations inside of stores and arranged for workers to enter and exit via back or side entrances.
  2. Established bonus payments based on the number of hours worked between March 15 and April 15.
  3. Extended for another month its 14 days of sick pay for all workers either diagnosed with COVID-19 or directed by a doctor or health official to stay home (i.e., someone showing symptoms). The guarantee now runs through May 8.

Between the lines: Both sides sincerely believe they are doing the right thing in the midst of a quickly-evolving natural disaster.

  • The organizers want workers to be safe, and also are using the crisis to boost wages after years of having little to no leverage.
  • Instacart was early among to implement sick pay for those with the virus, was early with contactless drop-off, and is trying to move new logistical mountains daily (everything from revised traffic patterns to new CDC safety guidelines to onboarding record numbers of new shoppers and customers).

The bottom line: Instacart has suddenly become America’s most vital gig economy company, after years of sitting in the shadows of fellow gig economy "unicorns" like Uber and DoorDash. And with greater profile comes greater pressure.


Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

OneWeb, a London-based developer of low-orbit satellite constellations for internet connectivity, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday. It had raised over $4.5 billion from such bankers as SoftBank.

  • Why it's the BFD: OneWeb was considered a leader in the competitive race to beam back high-speed broadband from space, which could pare the global digital divide. But it only managed to launch 74 of what was supposed to be an initial 900 satellites, and now it will seek a buyer in the midst of an economic crisis.
  • Other equity investors included SoftBank Group, Qualcomm Ventures, Grupo Salinas, Coca-Cola, Virgin, Intelsat, Bharti Airtel, Airbus, and the Rwandan government.
  • The bottom line: "OneWeb's exit leaves SpaceX's Starlink constellation as the clear frontrunner in this portion of the space industry, with Amazon's Kuiper also on the horizon." — Miriam Kramer, Axios
Pro Rata for Kids

Today's project is to ask your kid(s) to create their own Henri Matisse-inspired collage. You'll need some paper (colored construction or white with markers) and then ask them to watch this 5-minute YouTube video.

  • Please send me pics. Per usual, E leads us off:

Last Friday I asked your kid(s) to make their school classrooms out of stuff around the house. Either Hannah has a slide in her classroom, which makes it the best-ever classroom, or she's being aspirational:

Venture Capital Deals

🚑 ElevateBio, a Cambridge, Mass.-based cell and gene therapy startup, raised $170 million in Series B funding. The Invus Group, Surveyor Capital, EDBI, and Vertex Ventures were joined by return backers F2 Ventures, MPM Capital, EcoR1 Capital, Redmile Group, and Samsara BioCapital.

Preply, an online tutoring platform, raised $10 million. Hoxton Ventures led, and was joined by Point Nine Capital, All Iron Ventures, The Family, EduCapital, and Diligent Capital.

🚑 Air Doctor, and Israeli doctor search platform for travelers, raised $7.8 million in Series A funding co-led by Kamet Ventures and The Phoenix Insurance Co.

Nohbo, a Melbourne, Fla.-based developer of dissolvable drops containing shampoos and other personal care products, raised $3 million in seed funding. Material Impact led, and was joined by Safer Made and Radical Investments.

Code Institute, an Ireland-based online coding school, raised €1.2 million co-led by Kernel Capital and Infinity Capital.

🚑 Hualan Biological Vaccines, a vaccines unit of listed Chinese drug company Hualan Bio, is raising around $292 million from Hillhouse Capital and Liu Xiaodan, per DealStreetAsia.

Plenty, a South San Francisco-based vertical farming company, is in talks to raise at least $100 million in Series D funding led by existing backer SoftBank Vision Fund, per Bloomberg. The round is expected to value the company at or below the $1 billion mark it received in its prior round.

Tiger Global Management has acquired an undisclosed stake in ByteDance, the Chinese maker of TikTok whose other backers include SoftBank and Sequoia Capital China.

Private Equity Deals

Apollo Global Management reportedly ended its efforts to buy local television broadcaster Tegna (NYSE: TGNA), due to "market dislocation" caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This follows an earlier withdrawal by rival Gray Television (NYSE: GTN), and leaves offers from Byron Allen and Najafi Cos/Trinity Broadcasting Network.

🚑 BGH Capital terminated its agreement to buy Australian dental care chain Abano Healthcare, due to a “material adverse change” related to the coronavirus.

Calera Capital acquired Thayer Power & Communication, a Pataskala, Ohio-based provider of repair, maintenance, and upgrade services for the utility and telecom industries.

Palm Beach Capital invested in Allen Brothers, a Philadelphia-based wholesale distributor to the convenience and grocery store market.

Public Offerings

WiMi Hologram Cloud, a Chinese augmented reality platform, is the only company planning to price a U.S. IPO this week. It expects to raise around $33 million and list on the Nasdaq (WIMI).

Liquidity Events

🚑 Ares Management is seeking a buyer for Unified Women's Healthcare, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based provider of OB/GYN practice management services, per PE Hub.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is paying a reported $1.35 billion to buy Affirmed Networks, an Acton, Mass.-based 5G software company that had raised nearly $240 million in VC funding (most recently at an $888 million valuation). Affirmed backers include Bessemer Venture Partners, Centerview Technology Capital, CRV, Matrix Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, MicroVentures, and DTCP.

More M&A

Banco de Sabadell (Madrid) SABE) agreed to sell its depository unit to BNP Paribas (Paris: BNPP) for €115 million.

Marubeni (Tokyo: 8002) completed its $1.14 billion acquisition of Stamford, Conn.-based aircraft lessor Aircastle.

Tata Motors said it plans to spin off its cars business, including Jaguar, from its trucks business.


APA Venture Partners has launched as a pre-seed and seed-stage firm, co-led by veteran startup CFO Paul Kinrich (One Medical,, Extend Health) and Alex Kaufman (ex-JetBlue Technology Ventures).

Greyrock Capital Group, a mezzanine debt and equity firm, is raising up to $300 million for its fifth fund, per an SEC filing.

Final Thanks

On Saturday morning, 660 Axios Pro Rata readers got on their Peloton bikes at the same time to raise an astounding $117,000 to benefit the Food Bank for New York City.

  • Huge gratitude to Chris and Crystal Sacca for their $50,000 donation. And to Peloton CEO John Foley and Peloton directors Howard Draft and Jon Callaghan for each donating $10,000.
  • We also had $5 per rider matching funds from Accomplice, GGV Capital, FirstMark Capital, Founders Fund, Patrick Chun, Jeremy Liew, and Mark Suster.
  • And additional donations from Ian Loring, Paul Madera, Om Malik, Jeff Jordan, and Margit Wennmachers.
  • Last, but not least, is Bullish's Mike Duda, who not only matched but helped me come up with this idea in the first place (and picked the ride!).

Lots of readers posted photos, including leaderboard "winner" Patrick Cairns. I retweeted many of them on my Twitter feed (just scroll down a bit).

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