Axios Pro Rata

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

March 21, 2017

My Axios colleague Mike Allen will be interviewing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin this Friday morning in Washington, D.C., for our debut News Shapers event. Topics could include everything from his role in tax reform to his role in Suicide Squad (yeah, that's on Treas Sec). You can RSVP by going here.

Top of the Morning

Vendor machine: Quanergy, a Silicon Valley-based "unicorn" best known for its LiDAR sensors, is among the hundreds of companies that have expressed interest in helping to build Trump's southern border wall, per an Axios review of federal records. No additional information was provided, nor did Quanergy respond to a request for comment. Three notes:

  1. Quanergy appears to be the only VC-backed startup listed as an "interested vendor," although an angel-backed company called Repperio (Virginia-based contracting analytics platform) is in there.
  2. Being an "interested vendor" does not necessarily mean that an actual bid is forthcoming. Need proof? Both CNN and NPR also are listed as interested vendors, most likely when junior researchers pressed the wrong button while accessing the system (it was very confusing).
  3. Quanergy has raised around $150 million in funding, most recently at a post-money valuation of around $1.6 billion. Backers include Sensata Technologies, Delphi Automotive, Samsung Ventures, Rising Tide Fund, Motus Ventures, Alrai Capital and GP Capital. It is led by co-founder and CEO Louay Eldada, who is a Lebanese immigrant.

• Drill down: Credit Suisse says that around "30 privately held drillers, oil field service companies and pipeline operators could go public this year in transactions worth a total $8.5 billion," per a report on the Houston Chronicle's FuelFix blog. That would be around a 4x increase over last year's total.

Drawn out: Crickets currently coming from the Time Inc. sale process, which would suggest that the board is in active discussions with either a prospective buyer or investor (an alternative, of course, being that the silence is only designed to keep the share price artificially high). I do hear that David Pecker, the Trump pal whose American Media owns the National Enquirer, was brought around to select staffers within the past few weeks. As you might imagine, it didn't go so well from the editorial point of view. It's unclear if Pecker still has any interest, after last week he agreed to buy People rival US Weekly from Wenner Media. Similar visits from Edgar Bronfman Jr., who subsequently dropped out of the process, were better received.

• Re-Demo Day: Last week we discussed how former Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad had raised $7 million for his new startup, Rippling. We also noted that Y Combinator was among the investors, which made more sense when Conrad appeared yesterday on the YC Demo Day stage. He spoke briefly with Kia about why the 3-time founder opted to again go through the accelerator program.

Off-demand: As we await the next subtweet to emerge from the Uber-Jeff Jones mess, it reminds me of how Uber has done such a phenomenal job of "hard" marketing (i.e., recruiting users and drivers) and such a lousy job of "soft" marketing (i.e., creating conditions whereby it receives the benefit of the doubt). What's kind of ironic, of course, is that Jones ― the former CMO at Target ― was widely viewed as someone who would help with the latter, even though it wasn't in his formal job description. It's also not helping that the company is keeping its senior execs (including top female leaders) under PR bubble-wrap.


Jellyvision, a Chicago-based maker of an employee communications platform called ALEX, has raised $20 million in growth equity funding from Updata Partners. Existing shareholders include Jackson Square Ventures.

Why it's the BFD: In part as a reward for writing the most amusing press release I've seen in quite some time. Highlights:

  • Jellyvision is a 100-year-old tech company, give or take 85 years.
  • Following the tragic death of the CD-ROM software market, the company pivoted.

More importantly, that pivot is legit. Jellyvision began life as an educational software company that quickly morphed into the gaming company responsible for such late 90s hits as You Don't Know Jack and the CD-ROM version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The visual and writing creatives teams stuck together and turned into a project-based marketing agency whose output often reflected the "question and response" aspects of its games. Eventually a client asked for help explaining healthcare plans to employees, which led to the current ALEX SaaS platform ― whose 800 enterprise customers include more than 80 in the Fortune 500.

Bottom line: "We ride on top of or next to the enrollment platform, so we're not really competing against them." ― Jellyvision CMO Bob Armour, who adds that the company is cash-flow positive.

Venture Capital Deals

• Rocket Lab, a Huntington Beach, Calif.-based developer of commercial rocket launch services for imaging and communications satellites, has raised $75 million in Series D funding at a valuation north of $1 billion. Data Collective led the round, and was joined by Promus Ventures and return backers Bessemer Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures and K1W1.

• SutroVax, a Foster City, Calif.-based developer of conjugate vaccines and antigen-based vaccines for "erious infectious diseases," has raised $64 million in Series B funding. Frazier Healthcare Partners and Pivotal bioVenture Partners co-led the round, and were joined by return backers Abingworth, Longitude Capital, Roche Venture Fund and CTI Life Sciences Fund.

• Pulmocide, a London-based developer of drugs designed for inhaled delivery to treat respiratory syncytial virus and pulmonary aspergillosis, has raised $30.4 million in Series B funding. SR One led the round, and was joined by Longwood Fund and return backers SV Life Sciences, F-Prime Capital, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Touchstone Innovations.

• Reduxio Systems, a South San Francisco-based provider of storage and data management solutions for cloud-based virtual machines, has raised $22.5 million in a first closing for a Series C round designed to secure a total of $32 million. C5 Capital led the round, and was joined by return backers Jerusalem Venture Partners, Carmel Ventures, Intel Capital and Seagate Technology.

• KNIME, a Zurich-based developer of open-source enterprise analytics software, has raised €20 million from Invus.

• Databerries, a Paris-based marketing company for bricks-and-mortar retailers, has raised $16 million in Series A funding. Index Ventures led the round, and was joined by ISAI, Mosaic Ventures and individual angels.

• Akeneo, an open-source product information management software provider with offices in France and Boston, has raised $13 million in VC funding from Partech Ventures and Alven Capital.

• Hypereal, a Shanghai-based VR headset developer, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Qiming Venture Partners.

• Beautycon, a Los Angeles-based startup hybrid of entertainment, commerce and fashion, has raised $9 million in new VC funding. A+E Networks and Main Street Advisors were joined by return backers like CAA, BBG Ventures and Hearst Media.

• Beekeeper, an employer communication platform focused on blue-collar and service-oriented workers, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Keen Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by Fyrfly Venture Partners, Polytech Ecosystem Ventures and b-to-v Partners.

• Gro Solutions, a New York-based provider of digital growth solutions for banks and credit unions, has raised $4.25 million in VC funding. TTV Capital led the round, and was joined by BIP Capital, C&B Capital and BLH Venture Partners.

• Bivarus, a Durham, N.C.-based analytics platform for healthcare patient experience and employee engagement, has raised $4 million in Series B funding. Hatteras Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by Excelerate Health Ventures, NueCura Partners and Boston Millennia Partners.

• PlateIQ, a San Francisco-based provider of restaurant management software, has raised $4 million in new VC funding. Eileses Capital led the round, and was joined by Initialized Capital, Restaurant Group, Y Combinator Continuity Fund and the Tamares Group.

• Fam, a Boston-based group video chat app, has raised $1.8 million in new VC funding. Backers include Flybridge Capital Partners, Boston Seed Capital, NEA, Bessemer Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Social Capital and Highland Capital Partners.

• PlacePass, a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of in-destination experiences for travelers, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from Marriott International.

Private Equity Deals

• Ardian has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Prosol, a French fresh food retailer. No financial terms were disclosed.

• Bain Capital is among several private equity firms prepping a bid for The Body Shop, a UK-based retailer being sold by L'Oreal (Paris: OREP) for upwards of €1 billion, per Reuters. Other private equity suitors are expected to include Advent International, BC Partners and CVC Capital Partners.

• BC Partners is in advanced talks to acquire National Surgical Hospitals, a Chicago-based operator of surgical centers owned by Irving Place Capital, according to Reuters. A deal could be valued at nearly $1 billion (including debt).

The Blackstone Group and M7 Real Estate have acquired a €1.28 billion portfolio of Dutch and German logistics assets from Hansteen Holdings (LSE: HSTN).

• Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services (Kennesaw, Ga.) has agreed to merge with Safway Group (Waukesh, Wis.) in order to form a single provider of scaffolding and motorized aerial access solutions and insulation and coating services in North America. No financial terms were disclosed. Brand Energy owner Clayton Dubilier & Rice will be control shareholder of the combined company, while Safway backer Odyssey Investment Partners will exit its holding.

• The Carlyle Group has completed its previously-announced acquisition of Arctic Glacier Group, a Canadian packaged ice company, from H.I.G. Capital for a reported US$723 million. H.I.G. had bought the company out of bankruptcy in 2012, while Carlyle transacted the deal via its "long-duration" fund.

• Daxko, a Birmingham, Ala.-based portfolio company of GI Partners, has acquired Zen Planner, a Denver-based provider of member management and payment software to gym operators, from Mainsail Partners. No financial terms were disclosed.

• EQT Partners has agreed to acquire Innovyze, a Broomfield, Colo.-based provider of smart water infrastructure modeling and simulation software, from Stantec (NYSE: STN).

• Iceland's government has sold a 30% stake in Arion Bank (the successor to failed Kaupthing) to a consortium that includes Goldman Sachs, Och-Ziff Capital Management, Taconic Capital and Attestor Capital.

• Parthenon Capital Partners has formed M2 Group Holdings, a new fintech acquisition platform focused on retirement plan, bank trust and wealth management providers. It will be led by John Moody, co-founder and former president of Matrix Financial Solutions (sold to Broadridge Financial Solutions). No financial terms were disclosed.

• Sussex Wire, an Easton, Penn.-based maker of 4-side component parts backed by Argosy Private Equity, has acquired Marox Corp., a Holyoke, Mass.-based provider of orthopedic implants and aerospace components. No financial terms were disclosed.

• U.S. Lumber Group, an Atlanta-based distributor of specialty building products, has secured an undisclosed amount of growth equity funding from Madison Dearborn Partners.

• Vivo Capital and ZQ Capital have acquired Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, a Vancouver-based maker of medical consumables in the wound closure and ophthalmology sectors. No financial terms were disclosed. Other members of the buying consortium include GSO Capital Partners, China Orient Asset Management, Fung Shing Investments, ZZ Capital, Cathay Ventures, ABCI Investment Management and Fan Fung Group.

Liquidity Events

• Altice has agreed to acquire Teads, a Luxembourg-based video ad player, for €285 million (net of cash and debt). Sellers would include Draper Esprit, Elaia Partners, Bpifrance and GIMV.

More M&A

• Downer EDI (ASX: DOW) has offered to acquire Australian facilities services company Spotless Group (ASX: SPO) for A$1.27 billion.

• Lubrizol, a chemicals unit of Berkshire Hathaway, said that it will bump up its stake in an Indian JV with state-run Indian Oil Corp. from 50% to 74%.

• National Health Investors (NYSE: NHI) has acquired five memory care facilities in Texas and Illinois for $61.8 million.


• Apollo Global Management has held a $360 million interim close on a debut special situations fund that is targeting $750 million, per an SEC filing.

• Idinvest Partners, a Paris-based private equity firm, is nearing a final close on its third secondaries fund with between €420 million and €440 million in capital commitments, according to Dow Jones.

• Wal-Mart has launched a corporate VC group called Store No. 8, which will be led by Seth Beal (Wal-Mart's former SVP of global marketplace and digital store operations) and Kate Finnegan ('s head of corporate development).

• Z Capital Partners, an Illinois-based private equity firm, is raising up to $1 billion for its third fund, per an SEC filing.

It's Personnel

• Bing Gordon, a former partner with Kleiner Perkins and currently the VC firm's chief product officer, has stepped down from the board of Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) after 13 years. He will continue to consult Amazon and serve as a board observer.

• Maria Karaivanova and Alice Ryder have joined Madrona Venture Group as a principal and director of investor relations/business development, respectively. Karaivanova previously was with Cloudflare, while Ryder was with King Digital Entertainment.

• Damon Krytzer has joined Highland Capital Management as a managing director. He previously was a managing director with Greywolf Capital Management.

• Steve Mills, former EVP of IBM Software & Systems, has joined private equity firm Bridge Growth Partners as a senior advisor.

• Dave Ulrich has joined Luminate Capital Partners as a vice president. He previously was with Mainsail Partners.

Final Numbers: U.S. Bank earnings