Axios Pro Rata

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January 14, 2022

🍾 You're invited to the Axios Pro virtual kickoff event, next Thursday at 12:30pm ET. Interviews with SoftBank Vision Fund CEO Rajeev Misra, Affirm CEO and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Authentic Brands Group CEO Jamie Salter and Google chief health officer Karen DeSalvo.

Top of the Morning

Photo illustration of Marc Benioff on a red square surrounded by other red squares, all resembling Time Magazines
Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

When Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne bought TIME from Meredith Corp. in 2018, it read to many as a vanity purchase. A billionaire buying a legendary media brand, to impress friends and influence people, without doing too much legwork.

But the carve-out is proving transformative for TIME, as Benioff seems to have actively brought a lot of his tech ethos to the company Henry Luce founded early 100 years ago.

  • Benioff tells me that TIME projects 30% revenue growth this year to over $200 million, with editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal saying that around one-quarter of that will come from a studios unit that's just two years old.
  • More broadly, the company used to be internally organized by function (editorial, marketing, tech, etc.), whereas now it's restructured around product (a la Salesforce).

"He's kept pushing us to get out of the boxes we were in," says Felsenthal, who averages at least one Benioff meeting per month (plus meetings with the board, on which both Marc and Lynne serve). "For example, our Time 100 event always used to be a gala. One of the first things we talked about after he came in was about if we could turn it into a summit. I said that we could the following year, since we were just two months out, but he suggested we try to make it work immediately. And it did. We ended up with a very successful event with people like Hillary Clinton and Jared Kushner and Tim Cook."

  • Felsenthal, adds that the Benioffs aren't involved in any editorial decisions.

Benioff says he doesn't view the success or failure of his TIME investment in dollar terms, although he does repeatedly mention his interest in becoming profitable, hitting $1 billion in revenue and becoming the world's "number one media brand."

  • Instead, he says he views all business endeavors as change catalysts, which is a reason why TIME will launch a large sustainability initiative that will "provide all the content, solutions, applications and tech to help our customers enter the net zero world."

The biggest post-acquisition challenge, he explains, was “individualization” from both Meredith and the businesses' former home within Time Inc.

  • Some of that was getting office space and setting up systems, but some was also realizing that TIME had much more editorial freedom now that it was separate from former Time Inc. mates like Fortune and People.

“I think innovation has to come organically and inorganically, just like it has at Salesforce when you look at things like the Slack deal," says Benioff, who says he's paid much more attention to the NYT/Athletic tie-up than to the BuzzFeed stock sag. "We’ve looked at acquisitions with TIME, but haven’t done any yet I think because the first three years were really about stabilization … One thing I’ve learned from buying TIME is that it’s a lot easier to buy a company and bring it in than it is to buy a company out of another company.”

The BFD

Illustration of a pattern of eyes looking around.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Bausch + Lomb, a Canadian maker of contact lenses and eyecare products, filed for an IPO.

Why it's the BFD: This could be the first mega-IPO of 2022, with Renaissance Capital estimating that the issuer could raise up to $3 billion.

Details: Bausch + Lomb plans to list on both the NYSE and Toronto Stock Exchange, and reports $139 million of net income on over $2.7 billion in revenue for the first nine months of 2021.

Backstory: Reports first surfaced last March that parent company Bausch Health (NYSE: BHC) was seeking to sell all or part of the eyecare business, which it bought from Warburg Pincus for $8.7 billion in 2013, with price talk in the $20 billion to $30 billion range. It confirmed spinoff plans in August, shortly after which there was a direct listing by Warby Parker, which has begun to expand into contact lenses.

The bottom line: "Founded in 1853, Bausch & Lomb is an iconic name in eye care. The company invented Ray-Ban sunglasses for military pilots and later introduced some of the first mass-produced soft contact lenses and contact-lens solutions." — Kimberly Chin, WSJ

Venture Capital Deals

Bolt, an SF-based e-commerce checkout experience company, raised $355m in Series E funding at an $11b valuation. BlackRock led and was joined by Schonfeld, Invus Opportunities, CreditEase, H.I.G. Growth and insiders Activant Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures. http://axios.link/z2Jn

Highspot, a Seattle-based provider of salesperson efficiency software, raised $248m in Series F funding at a $3.5b valuation. B Capital Group and D1 Capital Partners co-led, and were joined by Iconiq, Madrona Venture Group, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire Ventures and Tiger Global. http://axios.link/k3TZ

Virtana, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of hybrid cloud monitoring solutions, raised $73m from Atalaya Capital Management, Elm Park Capital Management, HighBar Partners and Benhamou Global Ventures. http://axios.link/goyh

Yamaha Studios, a Finland-based platform for building no-code games, raised $50m from 5Y Capital, HillHouse Capital, Coatue, ZhenFund, Bertelsmann Asia Investments, BiliBili and Xiaomi. http://axios.link/uWFH

🏈 Fan Controlled Football, an L.A.-based pro sports leagues in which fans make key decisions, raised $40m in Series A funding. Animoca Brands and Delphi Digital co-led, and were joined by Gemini Frontier Fund, 6th Man Ventures, Jump Crypto, Red Beard Ventures, Spartan Capital, NGC Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Talis Capital, Verizon Ventures, Correlation Ventures and Basecamp. http://axios.link/ErI5

Observable, an S.F.-based data visualization platform for developers and engineers, raised $35.6m in Series B funding. Menlo Ventures led, and was joined by Sequoia Capital and Acrew Capital. http://axios.link/FFPW

EVage, an Indian developer of commercial electric delivery trucks, raised $28m in seed funding led by RedBlue Capital. http://axios.link/qnF5

WorkStep, an S.F.-based HR platform for supply chain companies, raised $25m in Series B funding. NewRoad Capital Partners led, and was joined by Prologis Ventures, FirstMark Capital, Social Capital, Quiet Capital, Latitude Ventures and Engage VC. http://axios.link/XDJa

Vangst, a Denver-based hiring platform for the cannabis market, raised $19m in Series B funding led by Level One Fund. http://axios.link/GU69

Gr4vy, a San Mateo, Calif.-based provider of cloud-native payments orchestration solutions, raised $15m in new Series A funding led by March Capital. www.gr4vy.com

Sastrify, a German SaaS procurement startup, raised $15m in Series A funding. FirstMark Capital led, and was joined by HV Capital. www.sastrify.com

Emberion, a Finnish maker of graphene photonics, raised €6m from Nidoco AB, Tesi and Verso Capital. www.emberion.com

Superhi, a New York-based online coding school, raised $5m in Series A funding. Frameworks Ventures led, and was joined by Designer Fund, Torch Capital, Reach Capital and Expa. www.superhi.com

Private Equity Deals

Court Square Capital Partners bought a majority stake in GoEngineer, a Salt Lake City-based provider of 3D design and additive manufacturing solutions. www.goengineer.com

Entrepreneurial Equity Partners and Mubadala Capital bought Mercer Foods, a Modesto, Calif.-based provider of provider of freeze-dried fruit and vegetable ingredients, from Graham Partners. www.mercerfoods.com

🚑 Lee Equity Partners bought Therapy Partner Solutions, a Fernandina Beach, Fla.-based physical therapy services provider. www.therapypartnersolutions.com

Mayfair Equity Partners invested $120m for a majority stake in LoopMe, a London-based mobile ad platform. www.loopme.com

Mimecast (Nasdaq: MIME), a London-based email security company that Permira agreed to buy last year for $5.8b, received a higher offer from Thoma Bravo-backed Proofpoint during its go-shop period, according to Bloomberg. But Mimecast rejected the Proofpoint offer over antitrust concerns. http://axios.link/Ldsa

Public Offerings

LG Energy Solutions, a Seoul-based battery maker, raised $10.7b in what’s the largest-ever South Korean IPO. http://axios.link/aEZ5

Rhodium Enterprises, a Wilmington, Del.-based bitcoin miner, set IPO terms to 7.7 million shares at $12-$14. It would have a $1.6b valuation, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the Nasdaq (RHDM). http://axios.link/dynI

StubHub, the ticket resale company carved out of eBay by Viagogo in 2019, is considering a direct public listing, per Bloomberg. Backers include Madrone Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Declaration Capital and WestCap Management. http://axios.link/5Lwd

SPAC Stuff

Akulaku, an Indian online lender is in talks to go public at an implied $2b valuation via Catcha Investment Corp. (NYSE: CHAA), per Bloomberg. Company backers include Ant Group, Sequoia Capital India, Welight Capital and January Capital. http://axios.link/A6he

Alset Capital Acquisition, a real estate SPAC, filed for a $75m IPO. http://axios.link/kfs5

Relativity Acquisition, a cannabis SPAC, filed for a $125m IPO. http://axios.link/CkAr

Quiet Plus I Acquisition, a tech SPAC formed by Quiet Capital, withdrew registration filed last March for a $250m IPO. http://axios.link/oJVa

Sports & Health Tech Acquisition, sports and health SPAC whose board includes Tiger Woods and Caroline Wozniacki, filed for a $150m IPO. http://axios.link/xaEP

Liquidity Events

GoFundMe, a Redwood City, Calif.-based fundraising platform, agreed to buy Classy, a San Diego-based provider of nonprofit fundraising software that had raised around $220m from firms like Mithril, Norwest Venture Partners, Morgan Stanley and Salesforce Ventures. http://axios.link/3Tzb

Stone Canyon Industries is seeking a buyer for Mauser Packaging Solutions, an Oak Brook, Ill.-based metal and plastics packager that could fetch $8b, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/C3MQ

More M&A

Citigroup (NYSE: C) agreed to sell its consumer business in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to Singapore-listed United Overseas Bank for around US$3.7b. http://axios.link/QdYH

Hitachi (Tokyo: 6501) will sell around half its stake in Hitachi Construction to Itochu (T: 8001) for around $1.6b. http://axios.link/j8Hn

ODP Corp. (Nasdaq: ODP), the parent of Office Depot, said it will delay previously-announced plans to split into two public companies. Instead, it will reconsider takeover offers for its consumer business, including a $1 billion bid from PE-backed Staples. http://axios.link/ig9C

The U.S. Justice Department's antitrust unit is investigating CAA’s proposed merger with rival talent agency ICM, per The Hollywood Reporter. http://axios.link/mvCw

Fundraising

HgCapital of London is seeking to raise $8.5b for its third large-company buyout fund and $6.25b for its tenth midcap buyout fund, per public pension docs. http://axios.link/B8dP

🚑 Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe is targeting $5b for its 14th healthcare-focused PE fund, per public pension docs. http://axios.link/e8X0

Wonder Ventures, an L.A.-focused VC firm, raised $31 million for its third fund. www.wondervc.com

It's Personnel

Former Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohri.
Photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

Nitin Nohria, who spent 10 years as dean of Harvard Business School before stepping down in 2020, is joining Thrive Capital as a partner and executive chairman.

  • Nohria first met Thrive founder Joshua Kushner in 2010, while Kushner was enrolled at HBS. "He was literally the first student I met when I became dean that summer," Nohria tells me.
  • At the time, Kushner was launching both Thrive and health insurance startup Oscar, and didn't think he could also continue at HBS. Nohria told him that if he was really a great entrepreneur, he'd figure out how to do all three.
  • Nohria and Kushner remained close, serving as an informal advisor, and began virtually sitting in on Thrive meetings upon stepping down from HBS, while also being recruited for various university president, CEO and public company board roles.
  • "My whole life has been a series of happy accidents, and maybe I wouldn't have gotten so involved if not for the pandemic," says Nohria. "I’ve never been a VC investor and am excited about it."

Angelo Acconcia is leaving Blackstone to join energy-focused ArcLight Capital Partners as a senior managing director, per Reuters. http://axios.link/amsA

President Biden made three nominations to the Fed's board of governors: Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson. Go deeper.

Terah Lyons joined Zetta Venture Partners as an executive-in-residence. She’s a former White House science policy advisor who most recently was founding exec director of Partnership on AI. www.zettavp.com

Sander Thiadens joined investment bank Lincoln International as an Amsterdam-based managing director of capital advisory. He previously was with ING. www.lincolninternational.com

424 Capital promoted Mike Samek to VP. www.424capital.com

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