Jun 15, 2021

Axios Pro Rata

Welcome to Tuesday — Dan Primack is on assignment in Texas, so I'll be taking you through the news this morning. Don't worry, he'll be back in time to pilot tomorrow's newsletter.

🎧 Axios Re:Cap: Sotheby's last week auctioned off the first fine art NFT ever created. In this episode, we go deeper to understand how the fine art and cryptocurrency worlds are colliding, including a conversation with Kevin McCoy, the artist whose work was just auctioned off. Listen here.

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Meet Chicago-based Frank, a startup with $2 million in VC funding that’s been in beta for the past year, and provides a communication space for employees (no managers allowed) to chat.

Why it matters: It's capitalism building tools to push back on ... capitalism.

Details: Frank's app lets coworkers create chatrooms to discuss issues and campaigns around a particular demand they want to make of their company, and they can even use it to organize a unionization effort.

  • It includes ways for coworkers to approve others they trust, and keeps records of polling, approvals, and more.
  • Founder Logan LaHive started getting involved in and researching labor issues and organizing following the 2016 election and leaving his prior startup, Belly.

The big picture: The growing movement from workers to gain more power and say in the workplace has been boosted by the pandemic — with employees demanding more flexibility, higher wages, and even quitting jobs that aren’t meeting their needs.

Between the lines: "For a company to manage their workforce, there are tons of tools but there are barely any that are for workers to manage their workplace," says LaHive.

Similarly, a startup named Unit is building software to make it easier for employees to unionize with turnkey tools (and also raised VC funding).

  • To be sure, there is some skepticism that tools like this are even needed as the hard part of unionizing has to do with people.

The big question: Whether companies like Frank can both build a sustainable for-profit business and navigate the capitalistic forces around it.

  • It currently has no revenue, though it plans to eventually introduce ways for users to pay for the service, likely through some form of tipping or other flexible pricing.
  • The company opted for B-Corp certification as a way to show commitment to its social goals, but it's a for-profit company nevertheless. LaHive tells me he doesn’t believe that being a non-profit should be the only structure for organizations working on such issues.
  • During the company's fundraising (via SAFE, which keeps its investors at arms distance, for now), LaHive says he was yelled out of a few rooms. "Some of the questions like, 'why should workers have more power?'" he adds. "They couldn't get over that they're venture capitalists and have some companies that are actively trying to avoid unionization."

Still, Frank raised from Hyde Park Venture Partners, Starting Line, Hyde Park Angels, and Shomik Dutta from Higher Ground Labs, suggesting at least those VCs don’t see this as a contradiction.

  • "I view the real American worker as our constituent," Starting Line's Ezra Galston told me via email. "The better they are compensated and the more aligned their work lives are with their needs, the better I believe our portfolio will perform holistically. If Frank is successful, I believe it is accretive to our portfolio, not detrimental."

The bottom line: The future of work could include some new workplace power structures.

Editor's note: The story has been corrected to note that Frank raised $2 million (not $3 million).

Also...

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz on Tuesday launched a content site called Future, after months of anticipation, Dan reports.

  • Behind the scenes: The site is expected to provide what a firm spokesperson calls an "optimistic" view of technology, in contrast to what it believes is excessively negative coverage in the traditional tech media.
  • Read the full story.
The BFD

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bitwise Asset Management, a San Francisco-based cryptocurrency index fund manager, has raised $70 million in Series B funding at a valuation of more than $500 million led by Elad Gil and Electric Capital.

  • Details: Henry Kravis, Stanley Druckenmiller, Third Point, Willoughby Capital, Vetamer Capital, David McCormick, Daniel Sundheim, Kevin Warsh, Nadeem Meghji, Tracey Brophy Warson, Fidji Simo, Helen Riley, Coinbase Ventures and others also participated.
  • Why it's the BFD: That's a fat list of big Wall Street names putting money into crypto investing.
  • The bottom line: "Bitwise, now four years old, became profitable this year when it crossed $1.2 billion in assets under management at the end of the first quarter. Part of the motive for this fundraise was to bring big stakeholders in the young company's journey, CEO Hunter Horsley told CNBC." — Tanaya Macheel, CNBC
Venture Capital Deals

🚙 Carro, a Singapore-based auto marketplaces in Southeast Asia, raised $360 million in Series C funding at a valuation above $1 billion led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with MSIG, EV Growth and others also participating. http://axios.link/Un86

Thumbtack, a San Francisco-based marketplace for home services, raised $275 million at a valuation of $3.2 billion led by Qatar Investment Authority, with Blackstone Alternative Asset Management, G Squared, Baillie Gifford, CapitalG, Founders Circle Capital, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global Management also participating. www.thumbtack.com/

🚑 Lyra Health, a Burlingame, Calif.-based provider of mental health care benefits for employers, raised $200 million in new funding at a valuation of $4.6 billion led by Coatue, with Sands Capital and existing investors also participating. http://axios.link/eOxr

Addepar, a Mountain View, Calif.-based wealth management company, raised $150 million from D1 Capital Partners at a pre-money valuation of $2 billion as part of its Series F financing. www.addepar.com

Formative, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based student data company, raised $70 million in funding led by Summit Partners, with Emerson Collective, Fika Ventures, Mac Ventures and Rethink Education also participating. www.goformative.com

Sanity Group, Berlin-based cannabis startup, raised $44.2 million in Series A funding led by Redalpine, with Navy Capital, SOJE Capital and GMPVC also participating. www.sanitygroup.com

🚑 The Pill Club, a San Mateo, Calif.-based reproductive health startup, raised $41.9 million in Series B extension funding led by Base 10, with ACME, GV, Shasta Ventures, VMG, Dara Khosrowshahi, George Ruan and iGlobe also participating. http://axios.link/5tSo

Macrometa Corporation, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based edge computing cloud and global data network company, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Pelion Venture Partners, with DNX Ventures, Benhamou Global Ventures, Partech Partners, Fusion Fund, Sway Ventures and Shasta Ventures also participating. www.macrometa.com

Booste, a Polish provider of revenue-based financing, raised €12m in Series A funding from undisclosed investors. www.booste.com

Dishpatch, a U.K.-based meal kit startup, raised £10 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz and LocalGlobe. http://axios.link/ew8f

ThreatX, a Denver-based web application and API protection company, raised $10 million in funding led by .406 Ventures, with existing investors Access Venture Partners and Grotech Ventures also participating. www.threatx.com/

nSure AI, an Israel-based fraud protection startup, raised $6.8 million in seed funding led by DisruptiveAI, Phoenix Insurance, Kamet, Moneta Seeds and private investors. http://axios.link/cZWD

Anrok, a San Francisco-based maker of sales tax software for SaaS businesses, raised $4.3 million in seed funding led by Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures. http://axios.link/TGX7

Specto, a San Francisco-based mobile app performance monitoring startup, raised $3.25 million in seed funding from Susa Ventures, Fuel Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Liquid2 Ventures, SV Angel, Mike Vernal and Mary Pimenova. http://axios.link/fWeb

🚑 Framework, a New York-based platform for wellness and health-focused virtual communities, raised $3 million in seed funding led by True Ventures, with Uprising, Clay Point Investors and Looking Glass also participating. http://axios.link/nLVr

Finley, a San Francisco-based company developing software for debt capital raise and management, raised $3 million in seed funding led by Bain Capital Ventures, with Haystack, Nine Four Ventures, Twenty Two Ventures and Y Combinator also participating. www.finleycms.com

Private Equity Deals

TA Associates has agree to sell Paula’s Choice, a Seattle-based skin care brand, to Unilever. http://axios.link/E3fs

Ara Partners has acquired Anesco Holdings, the U.K.-based parent company of renewable energy company Anesco Group. www.anesco.co.uk

Bain Capital Credit has agreed to acquire Surf Broadband Solutions, an Elkhart, Ind.-based fiber-based high-speed broadband provider in the Great Lakes region. www.surfbroadband.com

Public Offerings

Alzamend Neuro, a Tampa, Fla.-based preclinical biotech company developing therapies for Alzheimer's disease, raised $12.5 million by offering 2.5 million shares at $5. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol ALZN. Spartan Securities acted as sole bookrunner on the deal. http://axios.link/ajK2

🚑 LinkDoc Technology, a Chinese healthcare data company specializing in oncology patients, filed for an IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol LDOC. Morgan Stanley, BofA Securities and CICC are the joint bookrunners on the deal. http://axios.link/9rga

SPAC Stuff

DILA Capital Acquisition, a blank check company formed by DILA Capital targeting tech-enabled sectors in Latin America, raised $55 million by offering 5.5 million units at $10. http://axios.link/79Yr

G Squared Ascend II, a second blank check company formed by G Squared targeting the tech sector, raised $125 million by offering 12.5 million units at $10. http://axios.link/yslc

Hindenburg Research is out with a report on DraftKings, including allegations of "black-market gaming, money laundering and organized crime" related a company it merged with when it also merged with a SPAC last year. DraftKings stock is down about 8%. http://axios.link/kuxx

Liquidity Events

Ideanomics Mobility has agreed to acquire Solectrac, a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based manufacturer and distributor of zero-emission electric tractors. www.solectrac.com

More M&A

Jensen Hughes has acquired FES Ghent, a Belgium-based fire protection engineering company. http://axios.link/gFVv

Automattic has acquired Day One, a Lehi, Utah-based journaling app for Mac and iOS devices. http://axios.link/caFR

Fundraising

8VC, an Austin-based venture capital fund founded by Joe Lonsdale, is raising $640 million for its fourth flagship fund, and $880 million for its second opportunity fund, per SEC filings.

SNÖ Ventures, a Noway-based VC firm, is raising $100 million for its second fund focused on early stage Nordic tech companies. Investors include Peter Thiel, Karl Christian Agerup, Eilert Hanoa, KLP and Investinor. www.sno.vc

It's Personnel

Zhenni Liu has joined MaC Venture Capital as partner. She was previously at Commerce Ventures. http://axios.link/TdST

Charlie Smith has joined Stifel Financial Corp. as managing director in the venture and fund banking group. He was previously at City National Bank. www.stifel.com

Eric Tansky and Stephen Rubin joined Accelmed Partners as general partner and partner, respectively. www.accelmed.com

Raj Singh joined JLL Spark as managing partner. He was previously head of investments and then as interim co-head at JetBlue Technology Ventures. www.jllt.com

Renee Jones has been appointed director of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's division of corporation finance, with acting director John Coates becoming general counsel. Jones was previously a professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs at Boston College Law School. http://axios.link/vsW2

Final Numbers
Data: University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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