Happy Thursday! Dan is still in Florida enjoying the sun, so I'm back to take you through the day's news from San Francisco where it's way too early.
As always, send me tips, scoops and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org (or just hit reply to this email). Here we go ...
Top of the Morning
Juul, the controversial vaping and e-cigarette company, is officially in bed with one of the largest tobacco companies, Altria. The companies confirmed early this morning Altria's investment of $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul.
- What Juul is saying: The company is adamant the deal is actually in line with its goal of helping smokers switch away from traditional cigarettes.
- The deal terms include stipulations that Altria will give Juul top retail shelf space, will include Juul inserts in cigarette packs and provide other access to its customers, and help with logistics, distribution and sales. In short, Juul says it's all about cannibalizing Altria's cigarette business from every direction.
- This is Juul's second time taking an investment from a tobacco company. In 2011, Japan Tobacco invested in the company, but four years later Juul (then called Ploom) gave back the money along with the rights to its ModelTwo vaporizer, a precursor to its current device. At an event in September, co-founder James Monsees wasn't too keen on taking tobacco money again. (Clearly that's changed.)
- What critics are saying: For many, it's hard to believe that Juul's deal with a major player in the very industry it claims to go against has any noble goals.
- The company is already in hot water for a number of things, including marketing campaigns that appear aimed at teenagers, developing tobacco flavors also aimed at them, and funding education programs in schools that promote its product, among others.
- Moreover, some advocates worry that Juul will now have access to the tobacco industry's huge lobbying powers in Washington.
- The bottom line: Even if this helps Juul convert more smokers to using its products, the company still needs to answer how it plans to not create more nicotine users who wouldn't have otherwise lit up a cigarette. And the answer to this is undoubtedly more complicated now that Altria (and its business interests) is involved.
• Food delivery: Swiggy, an India-based food delivery company, raised a $1 billion round led by Naspers, with DST Global, Meituan Dianping, Coatue Management, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, and Wellington Management also participating.
- This is notable because in October I reported that Swiggy had acquisition talks with Uber earlier in the year, but no deal was reached. Now, it has quite a bit of new cash to keep competing with Uber and others.
🎧 Podcast: Listen to a recently recorded interview between Dan and Ted Leonsis, CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment (which includes the Washington Capitals & Wizards) about the future of sports betting. Find it here.
Pinterest is reportedly considering an IPO next year that could be as early as April, according to the Wall Street Journal. It could seek a valuation of $12 billion, the same as when it last raised funding, though that could change.
- Why it's the BFD: There's been rumors for a bit that Pinterest was planning to go public next year, but the news of the timing means that 2019's first quarter or two will be full of excitement for Silicon Valley's VCs, who will finally see some of their hottest investments go public. Uber and Lyft are already rumored to be aiming for that period, and Airbnb could join them too.
- The bottom line: "The company generates revenue from ads scattered across its site and is poised to generate revenue in excess of $700 million this year, up 50% from the prior year. ... The IPO market has been hospitable for fast-growing tech companies—even those that lose money." — Maureen Farrell, WSJ
Venture Capital Deals
🚑 Relay Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company, has raised $400 million in Series C funding led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, with Foresite Capital, Perceptive Advisors, Tavistock Group, GV, Casdin Capital, BVF Partners, EcoR1 Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments, and a D.E. Shaw Research affiliate also participating. http://axios.link/08KL
🚙 Fair.com, a Santa Monica, California-based car leasing company, has raised $385 million in Series B funding led by SoftBank, with Exponential Ventures, Munich Re Venture’s ERGO Fund, G Squared, and CreditEase also participating. http://axios.link/H4RN
• Earnin, a Palo Alto, California-based maker of an app for workers to check and access wages, has raised $125 million in new funding from DST Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, March Capital Partners, Coatue Management, Ribbit Capital, and the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund. http://axios.link/5JYE
• Waves Platform, a Russia-based public blockchain network that helps startups create tokens, has raised $120 million in funding led by Dolfin. http://axios.link/anZ2
• Dataiku, a New York-based data platform, has raised $101 million in funding led by Iconiq Capital, with Alven Capital, Battery Ventures, Dawn Capital, and FirstMark Capital participating. http://axios.link/BRV8
• Sprout Social, a Chicago-based provider of social media monitoring, marketing and analytics services, has raised $40.5 million in Series B funding led by Future Fund, with participation from Goldman Sachs and New Enterprise Associates. http://axios.link/FleG
• Crew, a San Francisco-based chat app for businesses that employ shift workers, has raised $35 million in Series C funding from DAG Ventures, Tenaya Capital, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Harrison Metal Capital and Aspect Ventures. http://axios.link/Rnkt
• Bowtie, a Hong Kong-based insurance startup, has raised $30 million in Series A funding led by Sun Life Hong Kong, with Hong Kong X Technology fund also participating. http://axios.link/glCR
⛽️ Malta, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based developer of an electro-thermal energy storage system that spun out of Alphabet's Moonshot Factory (X), has raised $26 million in Series A funding led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, with Concord New Energy Group and Alfa Laval also participating. http://axios.link/ssSw
• Tagomi, a New York-based electronic brokerage for digital assets, has raised $16 million in funding from investors like Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund, SV Angel, Joe Lonsdale, Brainchild, Digital Currency Group, ZhenFund, Box Group, Elad Gil, and Charlie Noyes.
🚑 Neuraptive Therapeutics Inc, a Colorado and Pennsylvania,-based biotech company, has raised $11.5 million in Series A funding led by New Rhein Healthcare Investors.
🚑 Foldax, a Salt Lake City-based company developing synthetic heart valves, has raised $10.3 million in funding, according to an SEC filing.
• PopDog, a Los Angeles-based company developing tools for esports, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Makers Fund, with Korea Investment Partners also participating. http://axios.link/tUEg
• Kindur, a New York-based wealth management company for "baby boomers,” has raised $9 million in Series A funding from investors including Anthemis, Point72 Ventures and Clocktower. www.kindur.com
🚙 BacklotCars, a Kansa City, Missouri-based online used car marketplace for automotive dealers, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Origin Ventures, with Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, KCRise Fund, Royal Street Ventures and Chaifetz Group, among others also participating. http://axios.link/LuwG
• Gamelearn, a Spain-based company that develops video games to deliver corporate training, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Kibo Ventures, Oak3Capital, All Iron Ventures, UL Invest, and Inveready. http://axios.link/n9FT
• Devcon, an Atlanta-based cybersecurity startup focused on combating fraud in ad tech, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding led by Las Olas VC. http://axios.link/aDb7
• Layer1, a startup focused on investing in digital tokens, has raised $2.1 million in funding from Peter Thiel, Digital Currency Group, Jeffrey Tarrant and others. http://axios.link/PwG9
🚑 Pandion Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the JDRF T1D Fund. www.pandiontx.com
Private Equity Deals
• Pelican Energy Partners has invested in Axon Pressure Products, a Houston-based maker of pressure control equipment. The transaction that was done in partnership with Keith Klopfenstein and Gus Halas.
• Cinven has agreed to buy One.com, a London-based provider of domain names and web hosting backed by Accel-KKR.
• American Securities has acquired FleetPride, an Irving, Texas-based distributor of aftermarket parts for the U.S. heavy-duty truck industry, from TPG Capital.
⛽️ Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and Brookfield Asset Management, along with other investors, are considering buying oil and gas pipeline company Tallgrass Energy, according to Bloomberg. http://axios.link/fYX3
• Alantra has acquired a stake in Access Capital Partners, a France-based private asset manager with 8.8 billion euros of accumulated assets raised. www.access-capital-partners.com/en
• Permira has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Cielo, a Brookfield, Wisconsin-based recruitment process outsourcing company, from Accel-KKR. www.cielotalent.com
🚑 Beaver-Visitec International has agreed to acquire PhysIOL Group, a Belgium-based ophthalmic company specializing in the research, development and manufacture of intraocular lenses, from TA Associates with backing from TPG Capital. www.physiol.eu
• Jiayin Group, a China-based online lending marketplace, filed on Wednesday with the SEC to raise up to $57.5 million in an IPO. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol JFIN with Roth Capital and Shenwan Hongyuan Securities as joint bookrunners.
• Investcorp Technology Partners, a European lower middle market technology investor, raised $400 million for its new fund, Investcorp Technology Partners IV.
• Zigg Capital is raising a new venture capital fund with a $100 million target, according to an SEC filing.
• Siris Capital Group, a New York-based private equity firm focused on technology, has raised $3 billion for its fourth fund, according to an SEC filing.
• Arsenal Capital Partners has named BG Porter as an industry and operations partner and John DiGiovanni as a principal. It also promoted Robbie Cahill to vice president and Taylor Holland to senior associate. www.arsenalcapital.com
• Campbell Lutyens hired ex-Park Hill Group executive Fred Han as a principal. He was also previously at UBS and Greenhill Cogent. www.campbell-lutyens.com
• Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating has joined the board of directors of Global Holdings. www.globalholdings-mgmt.com
- The bottom line, from Axios' Felix Salmon: In the 50 years before the financial crisis, the real Federal Funds rate was positive more than 80% of the time. Its recent return to positive territory, for the first time in over a decade, is something to be welcomed. Sign up for Felix's weekly newsletter Axios Edge, and for our upcoming daily Markets newsletter.