June 25, 2020

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Top of the Morning

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new platform launches today to make connections between Black founders and a select group of top-tier venture capitalists, two groups that too rarely find themselves on the same term sheets.

  • Driving the news: It's part of Valence, a LinkedIn-type social network for Black professionals. Valence today also will announce a new CEO: Guy Primus, founder and former CEO of The Virtual Reality Co.

Backstory: Kobie Fuller, a partner with LA-based Upfront Ventures, says that his firm began putting diversity clauses into their funding agreements, but quickly realized that startups often didn't have adequate networks to find the best candidates.

  • "I kept getting asked for introductions to Black candidates, but we don't all know each other," Fuller tells me. "So I thought it would be interesting to create an interactive platform for the Black community to find each other, just to take that issue off the table."
  • Upfront plugged $1 million into Valence, which launched its beta last November and now has nearly 8,000 members.
  • Fuller adds: "There are all these VCs saying they want to meet Black founders. So we've now created a network of the best VCs to be on the platform to do just that. Everyone we asked said 'yes' — from places like Accel, Sequoia, GGV, USV, Greylock, and CapitalG. They specify the types of deals they're looking at, and some partners will have open office hours, hold open office hours, or mentor founders. We offered to help firms with qualifying inbound deal flow, which some took us up on."

Why it matters: As we recently noted, only 1% of VC-backed founders between 2013 and 2018 were Black.

  • We'll discuss this issue in an Axios live virtual event next Tuesday. Register here.

Neither Fuller nor Guy Primus would disclose Valence's business model, except to say it definitely doesn't plan to be a nonprofit.

The bottom line comes from Primus, who will remain on The VR Co.'s board:

"Just two weeks after Kobie and I met about Valence, COVID hit and the unemployment numbers started showing African Americans were disproportionately affected. Then George Floyd.
I can't just be on the sidelines. It's great to be one of the success stories, but I'd rather be one of the change agents."


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Source: Giphy

SpringHill, a new media company co-founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter, raised $100 million from Guggenheim Partners, UC Investments, Elisabeth Murdoch, and SC.Holdings.

  • Why it's the BFD: James is viewed as the entrepreneurial role model by many of his NBA peers, helping spark league-wide interest in investing and starting new businesses.
  • Flashback: In 2016 I spoke with Carter about his media ambitions, during a Fortune conference panel that also included Draymond Green and then-Warner Bros Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara. Video here.
  • Bottom line: "SpringHill is named for the Akron apartment complex where James and his mom moved when he was in sixth grade. It consolidates the Robot Co. marketing agency with two other businesses. The first, SpringHill Entertainment, is behind [NBC game show] The Wall and the movie Space Jam: A New Legacy. The second, Uninterrupted LLC, produces [HBO talk show] The Shop as well as Kneading Dough, an online partnership with JPMorgan Chase in which athletes talk about money to promote financial literacy." — Jason Kelly, Bloomberg Businessweek

Venture Capital Deals

Pipe, a Los Angeles-based SaaS subscription financing platform, raised $60 million in new seed funding. Fin VC led, and was joined by Tribe Capital, Uncorrelated Ventures, Lachy Groom, Anthemis, Craft Ventures, Fika Ventures, and MaC Ventures. http://axios.link/b8Wm

🚑 Enterome, a Paris-based biotech whose lead therapeutic is for Crohn's disease, raised €46.3 million in Series E funding from SymBiosiss, Tekeda Pharma, and return backers Seventure, Health for Life Capital, Principia, Omnes Capital, and Nestlé Health Science. http://axios.link/iJrN

🚑 Polares Medical, a Swiss developer of "hemi-replacement" solutions for mitral valves, raised $40 million. Longitude Capital led, and was joined by Decheng Capital, Endeavour Vision, IDO Investments, Earlybird VC, and Wellington Partners. http://axios.link/cuCL

ClickUp, a San Diego-based project management app, raised $35 million in Series A funding. Craft Ventures led, and was joined by Georgian Partners. http://axios.link/6llh

Aye Finance, an Indian digital lending platform for small businesses, raised $27.5 million in Series E funding. CapitalG led, and was joined by LGT Lightstone, Falcon Edge Capital, A91 Partners, and MAJ Invest. http://axios.link/JqxE

🚑 Simcha Therapeutics, a New Haven, Conn.-based developer of drugs to modulate cytokine pathways, raised $25 million in Series A funding from WuXi AppTec, Sequoia Capital China, and Connecticut Innovations. http://axios.link/GM4L

Librestream, a Canadian provider augmented service worker solutions, raised C$24 million in Series D funding. Canadian Business Growth Fund led, and was joined by ECD, Pender Technology Inflection Fund, and return backers Emerald Technology Ventures and BDC Capital. http://axios.link/Nvbo

Openly, a Boston-based homeowners insurance platform, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Obvious Ventures led, and was joined by Gradient Ventures and Point Judith Capital. http://axios.link/CvLa

HelloOffice, a San Francisco-based commercial real estate brokerage making, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Point Ventures led, and was joined by return backers investors Initialized Capital, Founders Fund, SaaStr, and House Fund. www.hellooffice.com

Codat, a London-based provider of financial software integration services for small businesses, raised $10 million led by Index Ventures. http://axios.link/dYci

Jumbo, a privacy protection app, raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Balderton Capital. http://axios.link/EgHH

Slice, an Indian prepaid credit card startup, raised $6 million in Series B funding. Gunosy led, and was joined by EMVC, Better Capital, and Das Capital. http://axios.link/TFXY

Api.video, a French video platform for developers, raised $5.5 million in seed funding. Blossom Capital led, and was joined by Kima Ventures. http://axios.link/HYwR

7bridges, a London-based logistics optimization platform, raised $3.4 million in seed funding co-led Crane Venture Partners and LocalGlobe. http://axios.link/DeB6

Create & Learn, a Palo Alto-based provider of STEM education to kids, raised $1.7 million in seed funding led by GSV Ventures. www.create-learn.us

Private Equity Deals

• CEC Entertainment, the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It is owned by Apollo Global Management. http://axios.link/r4fK

NTI Connect, a Chicago-based portfolio company of ORIX Capital Partners, acquired the fiber network engineering business of Precision Design Services. www.nti-connect.com

Public Offerings

Dun & Bradstreet, a Short Hills, N.J.-based business analytics firm owned by CC Capital Partners and other private equity firms, set IPO terms to 65.8 million shares at $19–$21. It would have an initial market cap of $8 billion, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the NYSE (DNB) with Goldman Sachs and BofA as lead underwriters. http://axios.link/m7Ke

🚑 Fusion Pharma, a Canadian developer of targeted alpha-particle radiotherapeutics for treating cancer, increased the number of shares being offered in its IPO from 8.4 million to 12.5 million (range remains $14-$16). million shares at $14-$16. The pre-revenue company plans to list on the Nasdaq (FUSN) and raised in VC funding from HealthCap (12.6% pre-IPO stake), Adams Street Partners (12.3%), J&J (10.4%), CPPIB (8.5%), TPG Biotech (8.1%), OrbiMed (7.8%), and Seroba Life Sciences (6.5%). http://axios.link/h2We

🚑 iTeos Therapeutics, a Belgian immuno-oncology company, filed for a $100 million IPO. The pre-revenue company plans to list on the Nasdaq (ITOS) with JPMorgan as lead underwriter, and raised $200 million in VC funding from MPM Capital (15.1% pre-IPO stake), RA Capita, (13.4%), Boxer Capital (13.4%), UBS Oncology Impact Fund (9.4%), Janus Henderson (6.8%), and Fund+ (6.3%). http://axios.link/jxoy

Lemonade, an Israel-based digital insurer for homeowners and renters, set IPO terms to 11 million shares at $23–$26. It would have an initial market cap of $1.3 billion, were it to price in the middle, plans to list on the NYSE (LMND), and has raised around $480 million in VC funding from firms like SoftBank Group (27.3% pre-IPO stake), Aleph (10.3%), General Catalyst (7.3%), XL Innovate (5.2%), Sequoia Capital Israel, and Thrive Capital. http://axios.link/1aBw

🚑 Relay Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech focused on solid tumors, filed for a $200 million IPO. The pre-revenue company plans to list on the Nasdaq (RLAY) with JPMorgan as lead underwriter, and raised $520 million in VC funding from firms like SoftBank Vision Fund (40.7% pre-IPO stake). Third Rock Ventures (20.7%), BVF Partners, GV, Casdin Capital, EcoR1 Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments, and Section 32. http://axios.link/tM5a

Cambricon, a Beijing-based AI chipmaker that's raised around $500 million in VC funding, is prepping a $400 million IPO on China’s Star Market. http://axios.link/bO6V

Liquidity Events

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) acquired Fleetsmith, a San Francisco-based device management startup that had raised around $40 million from firms like Menlo Ventures, Harrison Metal Capital, Upfront Ventures, and Tiger Global Management. http://axios.link/y1bL

Crescent Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: CRSA), a blank-check acquisition company, agreed to buy Australian fitness chain F45 Training for US$845 million (including assumed debt). F45 raised VC funding from FOD Capital and Mark Wahlberg. http://axios.link/vSuw

🚑 Novozyme, a listed Danish enzymes maker, will pay $91 million to buy PrecisionBiotics, an Irish startup backed by Seroba Life Sciences and Enterprise Ireland. http://axios.link/RqE4

Stewart Information Services (NYSE: STC) acquired United States Appraisals, an Overland Park, Kan.-based property appraisals business, from Petra Capital Partners. www.unitedstatesappraisals.com

More M&A

Databricks, a San Francisco-based unified data analytics platform that’s raised nearly $900 million, bought Redash, an Israeli provider of data visualization dashboards. http://axios.link/eqhR

GNC Holdings (NYSE: GNC), a Pittsburgh-based nutritional supplements retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will close 248 of its stores. http://axios.link/MoXp

Mitie Group (LSE: MTO) agreed to buy the facilities management arm of Interserve for £271 million. http://axios.link/7brs

Wirecard, the listed German fintech company in the midst of a financial fraud scandal, said it plans to file for insolvency. http://axios.link/8UD1


Connect Ventures, a London-based seed-stage firm, raised $80 million for its third fund. http://axios.link/NhYK

Recast Capital has launched as a fund-of-funds focused on emerging VC managers. It’s co-founded by Courtney Russell McCrea (Weathergage Capital) and Sara Zulkosky (ex-Greenspring Associates). www.recastcapital.com

It's Personnel

Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank Group, stepped down from the board of Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA). http://axios.link/KojO

Grant Thornton promoted Carlos Ferreira to national managing partner for private equity, effective in August. He succeeds the retiring Doug Gawrych. www.grantthornton.com

Final Numbers: Pandemic VC

Source: PitchBook survey of 110 VC investors attending the Collision at Home conference (June 23-25).

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