Sep 10, 2021

Axios Pro Rata

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Top of the Morning

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When Bloomberg recently reported that Intuit is in talks to buy Mailchimp for more than $10 billion, we noted how the email marketing company hadn't taken any outside funding since its 2001 founding.

  • It got us to wondering about other bootstrapped success stories, particularly in this era of easy money for startups.

What we learned: Mailchimp is unique, so long as it sells for double-digit billions.

  • PitchBook compiled a list of exits, both IPO and M&A, for global companies that never took venture capital or private equity.
  • The vast majority were corporate carveouts, particularly in the telecom and cable sectors.
  • Several went public in small IPOs and later acquired for big money.
  • None of this includes bootstrapped companies that have remained private, like Epic Systems.

There have been a few other multi-billion dollar sales of bootstrapped companies, like Microsoft buying Minecraft maker Mojang for $2.5 billion, or Assurance IQ selling to Prudential Financial for $2.4 billion. But nothing close to what Mailchimp may fetch.

  • Bootstrapping is usually more a result of circumstance than intention, and bootstrapped startups typically grow slower and cap out lower than do VC-backed startups.

The bottom line: Mailchimp could stand alone.


Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Box (NYSE) won its proxy fight with hedge fund Starboard Value, which had nominated three directors, sought to oust CEO Aaron Levie and opposed a $500 million investment from KKR.

  • Why it's the BFD: Activist investors rarely lose when they go up against tech companies, either getting what they want via shareholder votes or settlements. Box's success, partially enabled by KKR's deep pockets, could represent a sea change; at least in terms of tech company confidence.
  • Cap table: Starboard continues to hold an 8.4% stake in Box.
  • The bottom line: "This appears to be the first proxy fight Starboard has lost ... since AOL in 2012." — Leslie Picker, CNBC
Venture Capital Deals

Varo Bank, an SF-based digital lender, raised $510 million in Series E funding at a valuation of $2.5 billion. Lone Pine Capital led, and was joined by Declaration Partners, Eldridge, Marshall Wace, Berkshire Partners, BlackRock and insiders Warburg Pincus, The Rise Fund, Gallatin Point Capital and HarbourVest Partners.

Agile Robots, a robotics startup with offices in Munich and Beijing, raised $220 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led, and was joined by Chimera Investments, GL Ventures, Sequoia China, Linear Capital, Xiaomi, Foxconn and Midas.

Scalapay, a Milan-based buy now, pay later startup, raised $155 million in Series A funding. Tiger Global led, and was joined by Baleen Capital and Woodson Capital.

🚑 InBrace, an Irvine, Calif.-based teeth straightening startup, raised $102 million in Series D funding. Farallon Capital Management and Marshall Wace co-led, and were joined by BlackRock, Endeavour Vision, Vivo Capital, Novo Ventures and venBio.

Vouch, an SF-based business insurance startup, raised $90 million from Redpoint Ventures, SVB Capital, Ribbit Capital, Allegis Group, Sound Ventures and SiriusPoint.

🚑 Flo, a London-based period-tracking app focused on fertility, raised $50 million in Series B funding at an $800 million valuation co-led by Target Global and VNV Global.

🚑 A-Alpha Bio, a Seattle-based protein discovery platform, raised $20 million. Madrona Venture Group led, and was joined by Perceptive Advisors and Lux Capital.

Wisetack, a buy now, pay later startup focused on in-person services, raised $45 million in Series B funding. Insight Partners led, and was joined by insiders Greylock Partners and Bain Capital Ventures.

Neat, a Norwegian video conferencing hardware provider, raised $30 million from Zoom.

Supabase, a Singapore-based backend-as-a-service startup, raised $30 million in Series A funding led by Coatue.

Private Equity Deals

The Blackstone Group ended talks to buy Chinese office developer Soho China (HK: 00410) for around $3 billion.

GS Foods Group, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based portfolio company of Highview Capital and A&M Capital Partners, acquired C&C Produce, a Kansas City-based produce distributor.

🚑 Monte Nido & Associates, an eating disorder treatment provider owned by Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, acquired Walden Behavioral Care, a provider of eating disorder and related psychiatric treatment.

Visma, a Norwegian enterprise SaaS company, raised new funding at an $18.9 billion valuation from GIC, Vind, Aeternum Capital and Norway's government pension fund. HgCapital remains the company’s largest shareholder.

Public Offerings

🚑 Cingulate, a Kansas City-based developer of a timed release drug delivery platform, filed for a $58 million IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CING) and raised around $15 million from backers like Werth Family Investment Associates.

Warby Parker said its direct listing on the NYSE will occur on Sept. 29.

SPAC Stuff

Marblegate Acquisition, a post-restructuring SPAC formed by Marblegate Asset Management, filed for a $300 million IPO.

🚑 Thrive Acquisition, a health and wellness SPAC led by Charles Jobson (ex-Delta Partners), filed for a $200 million IPO.

Liquidity Events

This one wasn't of food. Just of happiness, per Carbon founder Phil DeSimone and his daughters Mara and Gemma. Photo: Phil DeSimone

JPMorgan Chase agreed to buy The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery and information group that bought Zagat from Google in 2018. The Infatuation had raised $30 million had raised $30 million from WndrCo.

  • I asked Pro Rata readers to tweet photos of their best recent restaurant meals. If you want to get hungry, and see a few celebrations, take a look at the replies.

EG Group, a British gas station operator backed by TDR Capital, is exploring options that could include a sale at around a $15 billion valuation, per Bloomberg.

Mastercard (NYSE: MA) agreed to buy CipherTrace, a Menlo Park-based crypto risk intelligence startup that had raised $45 million from firms like Neotribe Ventures, Aspect Ventures and Third Point Ventures.

Permira is seeking a buyer for German specialty chemicals maker CABB, which could fetch more than €1 billion, per Reuters.

More M&A

Holcim (Swiss: HOLN) agreed to sell its Brazilian business for around $1 billion to Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional.

Santos (ASX: STO) agreed to buy Oil Search (ASX: OSH) for around A$8 billion in stock, creating one of the world's 20 largest oil and gas companies, although the Papua New Guinea government may move to block the deal.


Harvard Management Co., which oversees the country's largest university endowment, said it will divest from fossil fuels.

  • HMC has legacy LP investments in several private equity funds with fossil fuel holdings, representing between 1-2% of the endowment. It will continue to honor capital calls for these funds.
  • A Harvard spokesman declined to comment on if HMC would require future GP relationships to abstain from fossil fuel investments, or if it would insist on carve-out clauses.

Revaia (fka Gaia Capital Partners), a Paris-based VC firm, raised €250 million for its first growth equity fund.

Scout Ventures raised $55 million for its third fund. The Austin-based firm focuses on "hard-to-access founders building frontier and dual-use technologies."

It's Personnel

Carlos Whitaker (ex-Credit Suisse) and Chris Sullivan (ex-Barclays) joined The Blackstone Group as senior managing directors focused on credit.

In Memoriam
Dave Retik (left) and Chris Mello (right).

Please take a moment tomorrow to remember the thousands of innocents murdered 20 years ago.

  • Among the lost were Boston-based private equity investors David Retik and Chris Mello, both of whom were on Flight 11. The foundation established in their names has since awarded $2.8 million in grants to over 50 organizations.

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