Feb 18, 2020

Axios Pro Rata

By Dan Primack
Dan Primack

Happy Tuesday! Hope everyone enjoyed the weekend.

Dan is on vacation this week so I'll be your captain — but don't fret, he's making some appearances throughout the week, including in today's newsletter. As always, send me your best gossip, tips and scoops at kia@axios.com or on Twitter @imkialikethecar!

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Playground Global is rebuilding, months after the departure of controversial founder Andy Rubin and just days after the failure of its highest-profile investment, Rubin's mobile-phone startup Essential Products, Dan writes.

What's new: Laurie Yoler, a Silicon Valley veteran with both investing and operating chops, has joined Playground Global as its fifth general partner.

Details: Yoler tells Axios she was recruited by several venture capital firms, but chose Playground Global because she felt it was going after some of the toughest challenges in autonomous tech and artificial intelligence.

  • She adds that all of her conversations with Playground Global came after the departure of Rubin, the "father of Android" who was accused of sexual misconduct while still at Google.

"We didn't overlap and, honestly, Andy wasn't even a thought for me," Yoler says.

  • Yoler has been advising self-driving startup Zoox for several years and serving on its board. She also was a founding director of Tesla Motors.
  • Her other roles have included president of Qualcomm Labs, managing director of GrowthPoint Technology Partners, founder of Sun Microsystems' corporate venture capital unit, and product manager for what became the Visa Check Card.
  • She's maintaining pre-Playground board seats at consumer electronics company Bose and home goods company Church & Dwight (maker of Arm & Hammer products).
  • Playground has invested less than half of a $500 million second fund raised in 2016, Yoler says, adding that she recently led a round for digital contracting startup Leaf Logistics.
  • Read more here.

2020 election: The N.Y. Times got a preview of presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s plan to regulate Wall Street. Here are the highlights...

  • Imposing a financial transactions tax of 0.1 percent.
  • Toughening banking regulations like the Volcker Rule and forcing lenders to hold more in reserve against losses
  • Creating a dedicated Justice Department team to fight corporate crime and “encouraging prosecutors to pursue individuals, not only corporations, for infractions.”
  • Merging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and “expanding its jurisdiction to include auto lending and credit reporting.”
  • Automatically enrolling borrowers of student loans into income-based repayment schemes and capping payments.

Yes, but: As the NYT notes, many of these are reversals of Bloomberg’s prior stances, hinting that even the more moderate Democratic candidates feel they need to take a big step to the left to compete in this election. (Of course, Bloomberg’s campaign insists that he’s been consistent.)

  • Check back on Axios.com for more analysis later.

No deal: If you missed Dan’s tweets (and posts in Axios’ new app, currently in invite-only beta), HQ Trivia was almost sold to Whistle Sports Network.

  • It’s unclear why the deal fell through, but sources say that it would have been for at least $20 million, which would have gotten the VCs their money back.

Editor's note: The top story has been corrected to show Playground Global's correct name and that is has five (not four) partners.


Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Dairy Farmers of America, the country’s largest milk co-op, said on Monday that it’s reached a deal to purchase a “substantial portion” of the bankrupt milk company Dean Foods. DFA will pay a base purchase price of $425 million to acquire 44 of Dean’s facilities and associated direct store delivery system plus other assets.

  • Why it’s the BFD: This merger is already under antitrust scrutiny by the Dept. of Justice, which has been investigating how the deal would affect pricing and competition given the two companies’ dominance in the industry.
  • The bottom line: “Dean’s bankruptcy followed a yearslong decline in sales of fluid milk, the Dallas company’s main business. Bottled water, fruit juices and plant-based milk alternatives have crowded out milk cartons in grocery store beverage cases, pressuring the milk business.” — Jacob Bunge, WSJ.
Venture Capital Deals

Toast, Boston-based maker of payment processing hardware and software for restaurants, has raised $400 million in Series F funding at a post-money valuation of $4.9 billion led by Bessemer Venture Partners, TPG, Greenoaks Capital, and Tiger Global Management, with Durable Capital Partners, TCV, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, G Squared, Light Street Capital, Alta Park Capital, and others also participating. http://axios.link/AvCS

🚑 Nyxoah, a Belgian maker of a neurostimulator that's implanted in the chin to address sleep-disordered breathing conditions, has raised €25 million from ResMed and others. http://axios.link/plQj

Concirrus, a London-based seller of marine and automotive insurance data to U.S. and Asia-based insurancers, has raised $20 million in Series B funding round led by AlbionVC, with IQ Capital, EOS Venture Partners and angel investors also participating. http://axios.link/kSjE

UltraSense Systems, a San Jose-based maker of touch user interface technology using 3D ultrasound, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Artiman Ventures and Robert Bosch Venture Capital, with Abies Ventures, Asahi Kasei Corporation, Hui Capital and Sony Innovation Fund also participating. www.ultrasensesys.com

Eureka AI, an Indonesia-based AI enterprise software company, has raised $20 million in series B funding led by Apis Partners, Gobi Partners, the Riyad Taqnia Fund, and MEC Ventures, with SG Innovate, GDP Ventures, Pacific Bridge, and Cianna Capital also participating. http://axios.link/mOLr

Wiliot, an Israel-based internet-of-things chip company, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Vintage Investment Partners, with Verizon Ventures, Maersk Growth, PepsiCo and NTT DOCOMO Venture also participating. http://axios.link/ju1O

🚑 Apos Medical Assets, a New York-based medical device company, has raised $11 million in new funding from current investor aMoon, company insiders and directors. www.apostherapy.com

Enveil, a Washington, D.C.-based data security company, has raised $10 million in Series A funding ed by C5 Capital, with Mastercard, Capital One Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, and 1843 Capital also participating. www.enveil.com

Range, a San Francisco-based maker of software collaboration tools, has raised $6 million from General Catalyst, First Round Capital, Bloomberg Beta, Biz Stone and Ellen Pao, among others. http://axios.link/E37q

Sharpist, a Germany-based provider of professional skills development tools, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Vorwerk Ventures, with btov Partners and APX also participating. http://axios.link/jcYy

Ready2order, an Austria-based maker of point-of-sale tech tools, has raised €5 million in seed funding led by Reimann Investors and Speedinvest. http://axios.link/nQwY

Dovetail, an Australia-based maker of user research software, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Blackbird Ventures, with Felicis Ventures and Culture Amp CEO and co-founder Didier Elzinga also participating. http://axios.link/DvuQ

Lev, a New York-based company that uses machine learning (and humans) for real estate pricing, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding led by Animo Ventures, Ludlow Ventures, and Joel Schreiber. www.lev.co

N2uitive, a Seattle-based maker of insurance claims software, has raised $1.3 million in funding led by Cascade Seed Fund. http://axios.link/irfH

Private Equity Deals

Dell Technologies is nearing a deal to sell its RSA cybersecurity business to STG Partners for more than $2 billion, according to the WSJ. http://axios.link/CMIc

Stir Foods, an Orange, Calif.-based custom food manufacturer backed by Wind Point Partners, has acquired Celtrade Canada from The Succession Fund, a private equity firm managed by Argosy Partners. www.stirfoods.com

TA Associates has agreed to acquire Auction Technology Group, an online auctions platform, from ECI Partners and Proxibid, an online marketplace, from Primus Capital. www.ta.com

Platinum Equity has acquired Biscuit International, a Paris-based manufacturer of private label cookies, from Qualium Investissement. http://axios.link/1mex

Prudent Growth Partners has completed its $3.5 million acquisition of the Hickory Promenade shopping center in Hickory, N.C. www.prudentgrowth.com

Liquidity Events

New York’s attorney general said on Sunday it dropped its fight against the $40 billion merger of U.S. wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint, adding that the state would not appeal a judge’s approval of the deal. http://axios.link/nzgQ

France’s Alstom has agreed to buy the rail division of Canada’s Bombardier for up to €6.2 billion ($6.7 billion). http://axios.link/3KWH

Franklin Templeton has agreed to acquire Legg Mason for $50 per share, or $4.5 billion, in an all-cash deal and assume about $2 billion of debt as part of the purchase. http://axios.link/4HVR

More M&A

Trax, a Singapore-based maker of image-capturing tech for digitizing store aisles, has acquired Qopius, a Paris-based AI in-store software company. http://axios.link/fDSk

Quorum Software has acquired acquired EnergyIQ, a Denver-based provider of well master data management software applications. www.quorumsoftware.com

Gojek, an Indonesia-based ride-hailing company, reportedly purchased a 4.3% stake in local taxi operator Blue Bird for $30 million, according to Bloomberg. http://axios.link/FMn4

Public Offerings

Cole Haan, a Greenland, N.H.-based manufacturer of shoes and other luxury accessories, filed on Friday to go public and raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering, though likely a placeholder amount. The company will not receive any of the proceeds as the shares will be offered by existing shareholders. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol CLHN. BofA Securities, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are the joint bookrunners on the deal. http://axios.link/Hncd

Vontier, a Raleigh, N.C.-based carve-out of Fortive's mobility infrastructure services unit, filed on Friday with the SEC to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering, though likely a placeholder amount. It plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol VNT. Goldman Sachs is the sole bookrunner. http://axios.link/hx7v

🚑 LifeSci Acquisition, a New York-based blank check company targeting healthcare industry, announced terms for its IPO on Friday. It plans to raise $50 million by offering 5 million units at a price of $10 and would command a market value of $63 million. Each unit consists of one share of common stock and one warrant exercisable at $11.50. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol LSACU. Chardan Capital Markets is the sole bookrunner on the deal. http://axios.link/ToKv

🚑 Imara, a Boston-based Phase 2 biotech developing small molecule therapies for rare genetic disorders, filed on Friday with the SEC to raise up to $86 million in an initial public offering. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol IMRA. Morgan Stanley, Citi and SVB Leerink are the joint bookrunners on the deal. http://axios.link/zImB


Atomico, a London-based venture capital firm, has raised $820 million for its fifth flagship fund to back European startups. http://axios.link/DLYM

Grove Ventures, an Israel-based VC firm focused on “deep tech,” announced the final close of its second fund, with total commitments of $120 million. http://axios.link/rOOM

Pamlico Capital, a Charlotte, N.C.-based lower middle market private equity firm, has raised $1.4 billion for its fifth flagship fund. www.pamlicocapital.com

Final Numbers
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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Dan Primack