Axios Pro Rata

A green watering can with a dollar sign painted on it.

May 23, 2017

Top of the Morning

Pink slip parade: Private equity firms typically fire the CEOs of companies they acquire, according to a survey conducted by turnaround consultant Alix Partners and executive recruiter Vardis.

The big numbers:

  • 58% of PE firms expect to fire inherited CEOs within two years.
  • 73% of PE firms expect to fire inherited CEOs over the lifecycle of their investment.

The most common explanation given was "a lack of fit with the portfolio company's new strategic direction." In terms of exceptions to the rule, respondents said that one key success factor is having had prior CEO experience under private equity ownership.

Caveat: The exact survey question was: "Upon acquiring a new portfolio company, when do you typically replace the CEO?" -- so there might have been a bit of leading the witness here. It's also too bad that respondents weren't asked about retention rates for non-legacy CEOs (i.e., the new ones PE firms bring in).

Visionary: Axios tech editor Kim Hart last night interviewed Revolution partner Steve Murray, as an on-stage intro to 1776's Challenge Cup competition kick-off event in D.C. Here is how Murray, who spent nearly two decades with SoftBank Capital, summed up his thoughts on Vision Fund:

"They're going to have to find certain companies that can take the kind of capital they can deploy — $250 million will be a small check for them. I think it will be a challenge to deploy that. If it was being managed by someone other than Masa, I'd bet against it perhaps, but I wouldn't bet against him."

New firm alert: Trail Mix Ventures is raising up to $15 million for its debut fund, which will focus on seed-stage e-commerce opportunities ("the future of living well," per its website). The New York-based shop's three principals are: Soraya Darabi, co-founder of FoodSpotting (acquired by OpenTable) and Zady; Will Nathan, co-founder of Homepolish; and Marina Hadjipateras, ex-VP of investor relations at Dorian LPG). So far it already has made 10 investments, including The Wing, Nautilus Labs and Henry The Dentist.

Bundled: TPG yesterday said that it will pay nearly $2.4 billion to acquire Kirkland, Wash.-based Wave Broadband, which it will merge with RCN to form the country's sixth-largest cable company (the platform also includes Texas-based Grande). Two notes after speaking with TPG partner David Trujillo:

  • Small but big: Trujillo says that taking on market leaders Comcast and Verizon isn't in the cards for RCN, but that growth will continue to come for players of all sizes. "The reason we like broadband companies is that they're the picks and shovels of everything else related to that scene. When people buy higher-resolution devices or want better digital music fidelity or add pieces to a connected home, all of that is a secular trend in broadband's favor.
  • Net neutrality: Trujillo says that the deal price was not at all affected by the FCC's net neutrality rollback plans, nor did the Obama-era rules affect RCN's infrastructure investments.

Oh Wilbur: U.S. Commerce Sec. and former LBO big Wilbur Ross joined President Trump in Saudi Arabia, and told CNBC's Becky Quick that it was "fascinating" that "there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard."

When Quick replied that this is less "fascinating" than the predictable byproduct of what happens when a repressive government effectively criminalizes public dissent, Ross blithely carried on about how "the mood was a genuinely good mood."


Hound Labs, an Oakland-based maker of a breathalyzer that measures marijuana, announced Tuesday that it has raised $8.1 million in venture capital funding led by Benchmark.

  • Why it's the BFD: THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can remain in a user's system for days (perhaps even weeks) after the period of impairment. That means traditional tests ― hair, urine, blood, etc. ― are less valuable in an age of increased legalization. What's key is knowing if someone is driving or working while high, which Hound Labs believes its test can accomplish.
  • Pedigree: Hound Labs co-founder and CEO Mike Lynn may be best known to Pro Rata readers as a former partner with private equity firm Adams Street Partners, but he also is a former ER doc and reserve deputy sheriff.
  • Trial track: There are not currently any legal breath standards for marijuana, so Hound Labs is basically replicating what was done with alcohol breathalyzers decades ago. Lynn tells Axios: "We get people high and have them drive in a controlled environment, to see what levels cause actual impairment."

Venture Capital Deals

• Auto1 Group, a Berlin-based used car marketplace, has raised €360 million in new equity and debt funding. Backers include Princeville Global, Baillie Gifford and Target Global.

• URWork, a Chinese co-working space operator, has raised $58 million at a $1.3 billion valuation, according to Bloomberg. Backers include Sequoia Capital China, Sinovation Ventures and Tianhong Asset Management Co.

• Fastly, a San Francisco-based cloud edge platform, has raised $50 million in new equity funding. Sorenson Capital led the round, and was joined by Sapphire Ventures and return backers Iconiq Capital, Amplify Partners, August Capital, OATV and IDG Ventures.

🚑 TP Therapeutics, a San Diego-based biopharma startup focused on oncology drug resistance, has raised $45 million in Series C funding. Lilly Asia Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors and S.R. One were joined by return backers Cormorant Asset Management and SV Tech Ventures.

🚑 VitalConnect, a San Jose, Calif.-based maker of wearable biosensors, has raised $33 million in Series C funding co-led by MVM Life Science Partners and Baxter Ventures.

• Frichti, a French meal delivery startup, has raised €30 million in new VC funding. Verlinvest and Felix Capital co-led the round, and were joined by Alven Capital and Idinvest Partners.

• Echodyne, a Bellevue, Wash.-based developer of lightweight radar systems for vehicle autonomy, has raised $29 million in Series B funding. NEA led the round, and was joined by Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital and The Kresge Foundation.

• Cloudwise, a Beijing-based provider of cloud application performance management software, has raised $26 million in Series C funding from SIG and return backers Sequoia Capital China.

🚑 CANbridge Life Sciences, a Beijing-based developer of "Western drug candidates in China and North Asia," has raised $25 million in Series B funding. Lapam Capital led the round, and was joined by Qiming Venture Partners, Yuanming Capital, Yanyuan Capital, Biossom Investment Management and Wuxi App Tec.

• EcoIntense, a German maker of safety and sustainability compliance software, has raised €22 million from One Peak Partners and Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital.

• Frontier Car Group, a Berlin-based developer of used car marketplaces for emerging markets, has raised $22 million in new VC funding from Balderton Capital, EchoVC, TPG/Satya, NEA and Partech Ventures.

• LedgerX, a Vail, Colo.-based bitcoin options exchange operator, has raised $11.4 million in Series B funding co-led by Miami International Holdings and Huiyin Blockchain Venture Investments.

⛽ SkyX Systems, a maker of drones for monitoring oil and gas fields, has raised $5 million from Kuang-Chi Group.

• Sayspring, a New York-based platform for creating interactive voice app prototypes without using code, has raised $1.5 million in VC funding led by Compound.

• HubHaus, a San Francisco-based co-living space operator, has raised $1.4 million in first-round funding led by General Catalyst.

• NooBaa, a Westborough, Mass.-based object storage startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of new VC funding from JVP, OurCrowd and Akamai.

Private Equity Deals

• Clayton Dubilier & Rice has agreed to acquire a 60% stake in Capco, the management consulting unit of Fidelity National Information Services (NYSE: FIS) for $477 million. Capco will be spun out into an independent business, although FIS will retain a 40% equity interest.

🚑 EQT Partners is the frontrunner to acquire a minority stake Ottobock, a German maker of artificial limbs that could have a total value of around €3 billion, according to Reuters. CVC Capital Partners also remain in the process.

• Funko, a maker of pop culture consumer products that is owned by ACON Investments, has agreed to acquire Loungefly, a California-based maker of fashion accessories. No financial terms were disclosed.

• High Road Capital Partners has acquired Storage Battery Systems, a Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based assembler and distributor of rechargeable industrial battery solutions and test equipment, from Supply Chain Equity Partners. No financial terms were disclosed.

• ICV Partners has acquired LeadingResponse, a Tampa, Fla.-based provider of client acquisition solutions to the professional services market, from Huron Capital Partners. No financial terms were disclosed.

• Insight Equity has completed its previously-announced purchase of the soup and infant feeding business of TreeHouse Foods (NYSE: THS). No financial terms were disclosed, except that the unit generated around $210 million in 2016 sales.

• Olympus Partners has acquired Petmate, an Arlington, Texas-based maker of pet products, from Wind Point Partners. No financial terms were disclosed.

• Partners Group has agreed to acquire an 80% stake in SPi Global, a Philippines-based business process outsourcing company, from CVC Capital Partners at an enterprise value of $330 million, according to Reuters.

Liquidity Events

• Quadrant Private Equity reportedly is seeking to sell Australian mining equipment provider CQMS Razer for around A$300 million.

• Target (NYSE:TGT) held talks to acquire VC-backed mattress maker Casper for around $1 billion, but instead will lead a new investment round that will be announced within the next few weeks, according to Recode.


⛽ Blue Water Energy, a UK-based private equity firm focused on the mid-market energy space, is nearing a final close on its second fund, which is expected to garner between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, according to Private Equity International. Asante Capital Group is serving as placement agent.

• CIVC Partners, a Chicago-based middle-market private equity firm, has closed its fifth fund with $400 million in capital commitments.

Francisco Partners is pre-marketing its fifth flagship buyout fund with a $3 billion target, according to Bloomberg.

• PWP Growth Equity has closed its second fund with $750 million in capital commitments.

🚑 Zai Lab, a Chinese biopharma company led by former Sequoia Capital China managing director Samantha Du, is raising up to $150 million for a VC fund, per an SEC filing.

Final Numbers