February 13, 2024

📈 Situational awareness: U.S. inflation was slightly hotter than expected in January, with the Consumer Price Index rising 0.3%. Annual CPI growth was 3.1%.

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Axios Visuals

It's BFD day here in Miami, which is like back home in Boston except for more sun and less snow.

  • Hundreds of you are registered to attend in person, and everyone can watch via the livestream.
  • We kick off at 3pm ET with opening remarks from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and then get into our conversations with top dealmakers and business leaders.

Here's the run of show, and why each guest was invited:

3:05pm Keith Rabois, general partner at Khosla Ventures, interviewed by Dan Primack.

  • Rabois, a charter member of the PayPal Mafia, has become the pied piper of Miami venture capital, attracting money and talent from more traditional tech hubs. He's also an iconoclastic thinker who doubles as CEO of e-commerce aggregator OpenStore.

3:35pm Michelle Bernstein, chef and restaurateur, interviewed by Hope King.

  • There is no tougher business than restaurants, and Bernstein has helped lead Miami's dining scene since opening Azul back in 2001. She's also won a coveted James Beard award, hosted various TV shows, and guest judged on Top Chef.

4:20pm Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, interviewed by Dan Primack.

  • Duffy oversees around two dozen cities on the sea, which sail more than six million guests per year with the help of over 43,000 employees. Carnival and thee broader cruise industry have rebounded big from the pandemic, but still haven't fully recovered from what it took to survive.

4:40pm Tyler Epp, president of F1 Miami Grand Prix, and MSP Sports Capital CEO Jeff Moorad, interviewed by Hope King.

  • Pro sports has become as much about deals —ownership, media rights, athlete contracts etc. — as it is about the actual competition. Epp and Moorad have been on all sides of the action, from their current involvement on the grandstand-lined streets of Miami, to past roles as a top exec with the KC Chiefs (Epp) to an inspiration for Jerry Maguire (Moorad).

5pm Jared Kushner, CEO of Affinity Partners and former senior adviser to the president, interviewed by Dan Primack.

  • Kushner launched a multi-billion dollar private equity firm after leaving the White House, where his portfolio included Middle East relations and pandemic response. He sits at the nexus of business and political power.

The BFD

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Sierra, a builder of custom AI agents for enterprise customer service, raised $110 million from firms like Benchmark and Sequoia Capital.

Why it's the BFD: This is the new startup from Bret Taylor, a serial entrepreneur who often is found in the middle of Silicon Valley's greatest dramas.

  • Taylor joined the OpenAI board as part of Sam Altman's return, chaired Twitter during Elon Musk's takeover, and drove Salesforce's acquisition of Slack before leaving Salesforce (where he was widely assumed to be Marc Benioff's successor as sole CEO).
  • He serves as CEO of Sierra, which he cofounded with Clay Bavor (ex-Google Labs), and is a onetime entrepreneur-in-residence at Benchmark.

The bottom line: "There's already a whole slew of chatbots for customer service ... Taylor draws inspiration from the dotcom era, suggesting that in today's landscape, small startups possess an opportunity to outmaneuver larger incumbents, who might be beholden to bigger obstacles." — Kylie Robison, Fortune

Venture Capital Deals

🚑 BioAge Labs, a Richmond, Calif.-based developer of anti-obesity therapies, raised $170m in Series D funding. Sofinnova Investments led, and was joined by Longitude Capital, RA Capital, Cormorant Asset Management, RTW Investments, SV Health Investors, OrbiMed Advisors, Sands Capital, Pivotal bioVenture Partners, Osage University Partners, Lilly Ventures, Amgen Ventures and insider a16z. www.bioagelabs.com

Finom, a Dutch challenger bank for SMEs and freelancers, raised €50m in Series B funding. Northzone and insider General Catalyst co-led, and was joined by Target Global, Cogito Capital, Entrée Capital, FJLabs, and S16vc. https://axios.link/48gd5eN

Antithesis, an autonomous software testing and debugging startup, raised $47m in seed funding from Amplify Partners, Tamarack Global, and First In Ventures. www.antithesis.com

Bob W, a Finnish marketplace for short-term apartment rentals, raised €40m in Series B funding. Evli Growth led, and was joined by Flashpoint and Taavet+Sten. https://axios.link/42BCJJw

🚑 Sudo Biosciences, a Carmel, Ind.-based developer of precision TYK2 inhibitors, raised $30m in Series B funding from Dementia Discovery Fund, Leaps by Bayer, and UPMC Enterprises. www.sudobio.com

Analog, an SF-based cross-chain communications project, raised $16m at a $120m valuation led by Tribe Capital. https://axios.link/3HWQJUL

Diraq, an Australian quantum computing startup, raised A$15m in Series A2 funding led by Quantonation. https://axios.link/3ut4g3r

Navro (fka Patrix), a London-based international payments company, raised $14m co-led by Bain Capital and Unusual Ventures. https://axios.link/4bDgqYj

Camus Energy, an SF-based grid orchestration platform, raised $10m in Series A extension funding co-led by Congruent Ventures and Wave Capital. www.camus.energy

Quilter, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based automated circuit board design company, raised $10m in Series A funding led by Benchmark. www.quilter.ai

🎵 Groover, a French music promotion platform, raised $8m in Series A funding from OneRagtime, Trind, Techmind, MozzaAngels, and insiders Partech, Bpifrance, Verve Ventures, and Frenchfounders. https://axios.link/48ffF4v

Seal Security, a London-based cybersecurity startup focused on open source vulnerability remediation, raised $7.4m in seed funding. Vertex Ventures Israel led, and was joined by Crew Capital, PayPal Alumni Fund, and Cyber Club London. www.seal.security

Superform Labs, a crypto yield marketplace, raised $6.5m in seed funding. Polychain Capital led, and was joined by BlockTower Capital, Maven 11, CMT Digital, Circle, Hypersphere Ventures, and Dialectic. https://axios.link/3P3npAb

Motif Analytics, an SF-based provider of sequence analytics raised $5.7m in seed funding co-led by Amplify Partners and Felicis. https://axios.link/4bwVjGR

Civic Roundtable, a Boston-based collaboration platform for government employees, raised $5m in seed funding led by General Catalyst. www.civicroundtable.com

Cascading AI, an SF-based loan origination platform, raised $3.9m in pre-seed funding. Peterson Ventures led, and was joined by YC, The Sarah Smith Fund, and Clocktower Technology Ventures. www.cascading.ai

Private Equity Deals

ADC Aerospace, a Beuna Park, Calif.-based portfolio company of GreyLion, acquired Cast Rite, a Gardena, Calif.-based provider of die casting and fabrication solutions. www.adc-aerospace.com

Blackstone is merging St Modwen and Industrials REIT, both U.K. industrial property owners, along with related assets to form a new company called Indurent. https://axios.link/3utKZin

🎵 Cinq Music, an LA-based music rights management firm, raised $250m from parent company GoDigital. https://axios.link/49CqeA1

Clayton Dubilier & Rice completed its purchase of Massillon, Ohio-based snack-maker Shearer's Foods from Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board. https://axios.link/3NotrdC

Nordic Capital agreed to buy a majority stake in Zafin, a Canadian provider of SaaS core modernization solutions for financial institutions that had raised funding from Kayne Anderson and Vistara Growth. www.zafin.com

Rind Snacks, a portfolio company of Valor Equity Partners, acquired Small Batch Organics, a Manchester Center, Vt.-based maker of granola products. https://axios.link/42DCf5O

Sixth Street Partners invested in Blue Stream Fiber, a Coral Springs, Fla.-based broadband provider owned by GI Partners. www.bluestreamfiber.com

🚑 Whistler Capital Partners invested in AmeriPro, an Atlanta-based medical transportation and patient logistics company. www.ameriprohealth.com

Zendesk, a portfolio company of Hellman & Friedman and Permira, acquired Klaus, an Estonian QA startup that had raised over $19m from Global Founders Capital, Acton Capital, Icebreaker.vc, and Creandum. https://axios.link/3SWxRM5

Liquidity Events

Blue Road Capital is seeking to sell Diamond Foods, a Stockton, Calif.-based maker of nut products, per PE Hub. https://axios.link/49bqSnY

More M&A

Carl Icahn reported nearly a 10% stake in JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU), and said he has interest in board representation. https://axios.link/49fwQV2

Fundraising

Homebrew, the seed-stage firm led by Hunter Walk and Satya Patel, is raising $50m for a new fund, per an SEC filing.

  • The firm previously said it only would invest partner capital, but a source says it's also raised several SPVs to fund pro rata, follow-on investments. This fund, which is expected to close soon, will be for those sorts of deals.

Inyarek Partners launched as a Boston-based PE firm focused on the energy transition, led by three former partners of Old Ironsides Energy. www.inyarek.com

It's Personnel

Greenfield Partners of Israel promoted Raz Mangel to partner. https://axios.link/4buXM4N

Final Numbers

Data: PitchBook; Note: Data is for funds age 5 to 10 years old; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: PitchBook; Note: Data is for funds age 5 to 10 years old; Chart: Axios Visuals

Venture capital and private equity distributions have fallen to lows not seen since the financial crisis, Axios' Kate Marino writes.

  • The VC data comes from PitchBook, while the PE data comes from Raymond James Financial.

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