Top of the Morning
ConsenSys, a company that develops apps and tools based on Ethereum, has launched a $50 million venture capital fund that will provide pre-seed and seed capital to blockchain technology startups. It will be led by Kavita Gupta, while ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin (also co-founder of Ethereum) also will be involved.
Gupta, who most recently led mission investing for Eric Schmidt's family foundation, tells Axios that she doesn't believe the advent of ICOs should result in the depreciation of traditional venture capital: "There is still value to due diligence and even if two PhD kids have sold tokens based on a brilliant white paper, they still have to figure out how to deliver a company. That's not necessarily something they have experience doing."
ConsenSys Ventures — which has not taken outside capital — will back startups that both do and don't plan to eventually offer digital tokens. It hasn't closed any deals yet, but does have three term sheets out.
- More crypto: Regulators are beginning to pump the brakes on ICOs. Kia has a country-by-country breakdown.
• Up round: TechCrunch reported last night that personal genomics company 23andMe is "raising close to $200 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital." A source tells me that the round is being done at around a $1.5 billion pre-money valuation, and that the infusion is likely to come in a bit above $200 million.
• What I Gather: Vista Equity Partners yesterday announced that it has invested in Gather, an Atlanta-based provider of event management services for restaurants and venues. No financial terms were disclosed, but word is that Vista invested $55 million and took out Gather's early venture investors.
• Broken bridges: President Trump originally had a specific order for his three big legislative priorities in 2017: Healthcare first, then taxes and finally infrastructure. Healthcare already spit the bit and we're now onto the tenuous work of taxes. But the White House yesterday dumped comprehensive immigration reform onto Congress, saying that Trump is unlikely to sign a DACA-only bill. That would seem to make near-term infrastructure reform little more than a pipe dream.
- Tax talk: Trump will be in North Dakota today to give another tax reform speech but, like last week's, it won't include any details. It is notable, however, that Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitcamp will travel with Trump on Air Force One. More: How corporate tax rates have changed over the years.
• Update: Last week we wrote about how Elliott Management was putting pressure on Bain Capital and Cinven to raise their takeover price for German generic pharma company Stada. As expected, the PE firms caved.
Measure, a drone-as-a-service startup that raised $15 million in Series B funding earlier this year, later today will announce a round extension led by PSP Growth. It also will say that PSP boss Penny Pritzker is joining its board of directors, making it the first corporate board she has formally joined since returning to the private sector after having served as U.S. Commerce Secretary.
- Why it's the BFD: Measure drones were in the Texas air during Hurricane Harvey, providing aerial shots for Fox News and doing tower inspections for companies like AT&T and Verizon. The WSJ has more on how drones are being used in Harvey recovery efforts.
- Biz model: Measure basically provides a fleet of drones and full-time drone pilots (mostly military vets), and has begun to productize its service beyond just providing pretty pictures. For example, the company offers a solar farm solution whereby its drones can identify dead panels from the air. It also provides an inspection service for wind turbines, where it detects blade cracks, and the aforementioned telecom tower sight audits that can provide information of the status of antennas. Overall, Measure has around 25 applications for the energy, construction, telecom and media sector.
Venture Capital Deals
• Turo, a San Francisco-based P2P car rental marketplace, has raised $92 million in new VC funding. Daimler and SK Holdings co-led the round, and were joined by Liberty Mutual and existing investors. http://axios.link/vUjh
• Bitmain, a Beijing-based bitcoin mining company, is raising a $50 million venture round that will include both IDG Ventures and Sequoia Capital, according to Bloomberg. https://bloom.bg/2vYtr9P
• Aras, an Andover, Mass.-based provider of product lifecycle management, has raised $40 million in equity funding led by Silver Lake Kraftwerk. www.aras.com
• Dataiku, a French data app creation platform, has raised $28 million in Series B funding. Battery Ventures led the round, and was joined by FirstMark Capital, Serena Capital and Alven. http://tcrn.ch/2gFYdib
• ThreatBook, a Beijing-based provider of enterprise security threat intelligence solutions, has raised $18.4 million in Series B funding led by Hillhouse Capital Group. http://axios.link/GbyD
• Labster, a Denmark-based developer of virtual lab simulations, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Balderton Capital led the round, and was joined by Northzone. www.labster.com
• RegTek Solutions, a New York-based provider of multi-jurisdiction regulatory reporting solutions, has raised $5 million in Series A funding co-led by Deutsche Börse and Illuminate Financial Management. www.regteksolutions.com
• Vericool, a Livermore, Calif.-based maker of sustainable cold chain packaging products, has raised $5 million in new VC funding from BillerudKorsnäs Venture AB. www.vericoolpackaging.com
• Metawave, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based developer of "intelligent beamsteering radars for autonomous driving," has raised $7 million in seed funding from Khosla Ventures, Motus Ventures and Thyra Global Management. www.metawave.ai
• Wizer, a New York-based SaaS consumer research startup, has raised $4 million in Series A funding. State of Mind Ventures led the round, and was joined by Neilsen's venture capital group. www.getwizer.com
• Fast Travel Games, a Sweden-based VR games studio, has raised $2.1 million in Series A funding. Industrifonden led the round, and was joined by Creades, Inbox Capital and return backer Sunstone Capital. www.fasttravelgames.com
• Event Pop, a Thailand-based digital ticketing startup, has raised over $2 million in Series A funding led by InVent. http://tcrn.ch/2gIGRVb
• Cloud Lending Solutions, a San Mateo, Calif.-based provider of end-to-end loan and leasing software, has raised an undisclosed amount of new VC funding from existing investor ABN AMRO. www.cloudlendinginc.com
Private Equity Deals
• Absorb Software, a Canadian provider of cloud-based learning and performance management software for corporations and higher education institutions, has raised US$59 million in growth equity funding led by Silversmith Capital Partners. www.absorblms.com
• The Carlyle Group has acquired United Road Services, a Romulus, Mich.-based provider of vehicle transport and logistics solutions, from Charlesbank Capital Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. www.unitedroad.com
• The Carlyle Group has agreed to acquire Prima Solutions, a French provider of insurance software, for an undisclosed amount. http://axios.link/kH3A
• CI Capital Partners has acquired a majority interest in Summit Cos., a St. Paul, Minn.-based fire and life safety service and installation company, from Prospect Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. www.summitcous.com
• Hilltop Private Capital has acquired American Track Generations, a Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad track design, inspection and maintenance company. No financial terms were disclosed. www.atgcontractor.com
🚑 HMP Communications Holdings, a Fairfield, Conn.-based provider of healthcare content and continuing medical education events, has acquired Imedex, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based medical education company, from Vesey Street Capital Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. HMP is a portfolio company of Susquehanna Growth Equity. http://axios.link/oGa0
🚑 TorQuest Partners has acquired Amenity Health Care, an operator of retail pharmacies in Western Canada. No financial terms were disclosed. www.amenityhealthcare.com
• Vitamin World, a Bohemia, N.Y.-based vitamin and nutritional supplement retailer backed by Centre Lane Partners, says that it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company currently has 345 stores, and says the bankruptcy could help it end certain lease agreements. http://reut.rs/2xOixFE
• Japan Post Holdings (Tokyo: 6178) is expected to launch a $12 billion share sale, its first equity offering since going public two years ago, according to the FT. http://on.ft.com/2x9VzeT
🚑 Merck (NYSE: MRK) has agreed to acquire Rigontec, a German developer of RNA-based cancer immunotherapies. The deal is valued at upwards of €464 million, including a €115 million upfront cash payment. Rigonic backers include Forbion Capital Partners, Sunstone Capital, Wellington Partners, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, NRW.BANK and High-Tech Grunderfonds. www.rigontec.com
• Bell Pottinger, a British PR agency under fire for a racially-charged campaign in South Africa, is exploring a sale process. http://reut.rs/2wHublo
• GIC has agreed to acquire a 30% stake in San Francisco-based commercial jet leasing and management company BBAM, from sellers like Onex Corp. (which will retain a position). http://axios.link/IXJr
🏀 Tilman Feritta, owner of restaurant chain Landry's and the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, has agreed to buy the Houston Rockets from Leslie Alexander for $2.2 billion, which is a record sale price for an NBA franchise. The big takeaway here is that if you want to bet on Rockets games in Vegas, you'll have to find a sports book other than the Golden Nugget. http://axios.link/kXqh
🚑 OrbiMed Advisors has closed its third Asia-focused life sciences VC fund with around $551 million in capital commitments. http://axios.link/h4tu
• Atomico, a European VC firm, has promoted research chief Tom Wehmeier to partner. http://tcrn.ch/2vJVHBT
• Liz Bell has joined Jaguar Growth Partners as a principal. She previously was an investment manager with Aberdeen Asset Management. www.jaguargrowth.com
• Kelley Morrell has joined The Blackstone Group as a managing director and head of asset management for the firm's Tactical Opportunities business. She previously was EVP and chief strategy officer at CIT. www.blackstone.com
• Michelle Seitz has been named CEO of Russell Investments, replacing Len Brennan (who will serve as a senior advisor to the firm). She previously was head of investment management for William Blair. http://axios.link/nvnQ
• Tony Zhang has joined Hong Kong-based Jereration Capital Management as a partner, focused on direct private investments. He previously led Asia activities for Coatue Management. http://on.wsj.com/2f2V102