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Top of the Morning

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

It's every founder's worst nightmare: You take money from a venture capitalist, who then uses what he learns from due diligence and board meetings to create a competitor.

Driving the news: Sure Inc., a startup provides the infrastructure layer between insurance companies and consumer brands, has sued Boost Insurance, a rival VC-backed startup whose founder and CEO was an early Sure investor and director.

Sure's founding story is that serial entrepreneur Wayne Slavin was on a very bumpy plane flight and thought there could be a market for instant insurance purchases, like buying travel or life insurance while at the airport gate.

  • Sure was founded in late 2014 as a branded distribution platform, but soon evolved into more of an invisible middleman, kind of like Shopify or Stripe.
  • It raised seed funding in 2015 and in early 2017 closed a Series A round led by IA Capital Group. IA partner Alex Maffeo joined Sure's board.

Per the suit: Several weeks after the round closed, and months after IA had begun due diligence, Maffeo told Slavin about an internal IA project that would basically act as a service provider to insure-tech startups like Sure (which declined to use Boost).

  • During board meetings with Maffeo, Sure claims that Slavin disclosed the startup's plans to evolve into more of an API provider, how it planned to do so and its customer acquisition strategy.
  • On March 2, 2017, Maffeo allegedly asked Slavin for "more info on the API" and that July asked for "insight on the technology side."
  • Boost soon spun out of IA Capital as an independent, VC-backed startup with Maffeo as CEO. He was replaced as IA's rep on Sure's board, but remained an "advisory partner" and kept attending Sure meetings until February 2018.
  • By mid-2019, Sure claims that Boost had pivoted into a full-fledged competitor, no longer calling itself a service provider to insure-techs. Sure would eventually come up against Boost in at least two customer acquisition efforts.
  • From the complaint: “It was now clear to Sure that Maffeo had stolen Sure’s ideas, technology, and trade secrets, all of which he obtained while he was a member of Sure’s Board, and misappropriated that information to turn Boost into a carbon copy of Sure.”

This isn't an open and shut case, no matter the optics.

  • Yes, New York law does have a pretty broad definition of trade secret.
  • But Boost will likely argue that there are more differences with Sure than similarities, such as how Boost self-underwrites.
  • I reached out to Maffeo for comment early this morning, but he said he was unaware of the suit (which was filed last night). I sent him a court-stamped copy, to which he replied: "I'll need some time to review with counsel before commenting further, but this is categorically untrue."
  • IA Capital, which focuses on insure-tech, is not named as a defendant.

Bottom line: Conventional wisdom in startup-land is that execution differentiates, not ideas. But this case may test the primacy of ideas, as Sure is essentially asking the court to shut Boost down.


Photo: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

David Swensen, Yale's longtime chief investment officer, has died of cancer at the age of 67.

  • Why it's the BFD: David Swensen is arguably the person most responsible for venture capital's growth over the past three decades, creating the so-called "endowment model" that emphasized illiquid alternative investments. We've never before put an individual in this section of Pro Rata, but there have been few investors of as much consequence as Swensen.
  • The bottom line: "Swensen had one major insight that utterly transformed the world of endowments, foundations and sovereign wealth funds: That investors pay a substantial premium for liquidity." — Felix Salmon, Axios
Venture Capital Deals

Bitso, a Mexico City-based crypto exchange, raised $250 million in Series C funding at a $2.2 billion post-money valuation. Tiger Global and Coatue co-led, and were joined by Paradigm, Bond Capital, Valor Capital Group and insiders Pantera Capital, Kaszek and QED. http://axios.link/jSaL

ReCharge, a Los Angeles-based subscription management platform, raised $227 million in Series B funding at a $2.1 billion valuation from Summit Partners, ICONIQ Growth and Bain Capital Ventures. http://axios.link/p4uv

Shift Technology, a Paris-based company that detects fraudulent insurance claims, raised $220 million in Series D funding at a valuation north of $1 billion. Advent International led, and was joined by Avenir and insiders Accel, Bessemer Venture Partners, General Catalyst and Iris Capital. http://axios.link/woqg

Einride, a Swedish developer of autonomous freight trucks, raised $110 million in Series B funding. Temasek, Soros Fund Management, Northzone and Maersk Growth were joined by insiders EQT Ventures, Plum Alley, Norrsken VC, Ericsson and NordicNinja VC. http://axios.link/zW2A

🚑 Vida Health, a San Francisco-based virtual chronic care platform, raised $110 million in Series D funding. General Atlantic led, and was joined by Centene, AXA Venture Partners, Ardea Partners and insiders Ally Bridge Group, AME Cloud Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Canvas Ventures, Guidewell, NGP Capital and Workday Ventures. www.vida.com

🚑 Dyno Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech that applies AI to gene therapy, raised $100 million in Series A funding. Andreessen Horowitz led, and was joined by Casdin Capital, GV, Obvious Ventures, Lux Capital and insiders Polaris Partners, CRV and KdT Ventures. www.dynotx.com

• Oculli, a Dayton, Ohio-based provider of AI software for radar perception, raised $55 million in Series B funding. Catapult Ventures and Conductive Ventures co-led, and were joined by Taiwania Capital, SIG, Hella Ventures, PHI-Zoyi Capital, R7 Partners, VectoIQ, ACVC Partners, Mesh Ventures, SV Tech Ventures, Schox Ventures and Signature Bank. www.oculli.com

Cymulate, an Israeli cybersecurity breach simulation startup, raised $45 million in Series C funding. One Peak Partners led, and was joined by Susquehanna Growth Equity, Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and Dell Technologies Capital. http://axios.link/JUN5

Huntress, an Elliott City, Md.-based provider of managed detection and response solutions, raised $40 million in Series B funding. JMI Equity led, and was joined by insiders ForgePoint Capital and Gula Tech Adventures. www.huntress.com

Timescale, a New York-based open-source time-series database, raised $40 million in Series B funding. Redpoint Ventures led, and was joined by insiders Benchmark, New Enterprise Associates, Icon Ventures and Two Sigma Ventures. http://axios.link/N7hU

Bitski, an NFT enablement platform, raised $19 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. http://axios.link/1rmP

Rainforest, a Singapore-based Amazon marketplace rollup, raised $6.5 million in equity and $30 million in debt. Nordstar led the equity tranche, and was joined by Insignia Venture Partners. http://axios.link/RhWH

🚑 Ifeel, a Madrid-based online therapy platform, raised €5.5 million in Series A funding led by Nauta Capital. http://axios.link/Mvou

Text Blaze, an Oakland-based speed-writing automation service, raised $3.3 million in seed funding co-led by Two Sigma Ventures and Susa Ventures. http://axios.link/l0G7

Gong.io, a San Francisco-based provider of sales software, is in talks to raise new funding led by Franklin Templeton at a valuation north of $7 billion, per Bloomberg. It previously raised $330 million from firms like Cisco, Norwest Venture Partners and Next World Capital. http://axios.link/d46y

Private Equity Deals

Altrad, a French construction firm backed by Tikehau Capital, has ended efforts to buy listed German industrial services provider Bilfinger, after the two sides couldn’t agree on price, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/HUbF

Hellman & Friedman is in talks to buy At Home Group (NYSE: HOME), a Plano, Texas-based home décor provider whose market cap is around $2 billion. http://axios.link/yvKD

🚑 Partners Group agreed to buy a majority stake in Axia Women’s Health, a Voorhees, N.J.-based provider of non-clinical women’s health services, from Audax Private Equity. PE Hub puts the price just shy of $800 million. http://axios.link/ZHeO

KKR agreed to invest in Charter Next Generation, a Milton, Wis.-based maker of polyethylene films, becoming an equal co-owner with existing backer Leonard Green & Partners. No financial terms were disclosed, but the WSJ says the deal values Charter at more than $4 billion (including debt). http://axios.link/oROk

KPS Capital Partners agreed to buy a 75% stake in Metra, an Italian manufacturer of extruded aluminum. www.metrabuilding.com

Public Offerings

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

🚑 FIGS, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based medical scrubs and healthcare apparel brand, filed for a $100 million IPO. It plans to list on the NYSE (FIGS) and reports $58 million of profit on $263 million in revenue for 2020. Shareholders include Viking Global, PSERS, Breyer Capital, Thermal and Reform Ventures. http://axios.link/qkWH

DLocal, a Uruguayan cross-border payments company, filed for an IPO that Renaissance Capital estimates could raise $500 million. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (DLO) and reports a $28 million profit for 2020 on $104 million in revenue. DLocal raised $350 million from firms like Alkeon Capital, Bond Capital, D1 Capital Partners and Tiger Global. http://axios.link/gCSr

Five Star Bancorp, a Sacramento-based bank with seven retail branches, raised $105 million in its IPO. It priced at $20, the high end of its range, and will list on the Nasdaq (FSBC). http://axios.link/dqIy

🚑 Hear.com, a hearing care services provider being spun out of Denmark's WS Audiology, set IPO terms to 16.2 million shares at $17-$20. It would have a fully diluted value of $2.1 billion, were it to price in the middle, plans to list on the Nasdaq (HCG) and reports a €23 million net loss on €151 million in revenue for the nine months ending Sept. 30, 2020. http://axios.link/Vn26

Zenvia, a Brazil-based customer experience communications platform, set IPO terms to 12.9 million shares at $15.50-$17.50. It would have a $607 million market cap, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the Nasdaq (ZENV). Zenvia reports a $14 million pro forma net loss for 2020 on $95 million in revenue. http://axios.link/R3I1

SPAC Stuff

Reinvent Technology Partners X, the latest tech SPAC from Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus, filed for a $220 million IPO. http://axios.link/PsM3

Liquidity Events

EQT Corp. (NYSE: EQT) will pay $2.93 billion to buy Alta Resources, an Appalachian gas producer backed by The Blackstone Group and Denham Capital Management. http://axios.link/Majt

🚑 General Electric (NYSE: GE) acquired Zionxa, a French developer of breast cancer diagnostics that had raised over $40 million in VC funding from firms like Denos, iXO Private Equity and Sofimac Investment Managers. http://axios.link/N3t1

Kahoot (Oslo: KAHOT) agreed to buy Clever, a San Francisco-based single sign-on portal for K-12 education, for up to $500 million of cash and stock. Clever raised around $60 million from Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Streamlined Ventures, Initialized Capital, GV, Uncork Capital and GSV Ventures. http://axios.link/f8In

🚑 Onex Corp. is relaunching a sale process for Carestream Health, the former Eastman Kodak imaging equipment maker that it previously tried to sell in 2013, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/FlvV

Warburg Pincus is seeking a buyer for Hawkwood Energy, a Denver-based oil and gas E&P company that would be valued south of $1 billion, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/Hb9T

Wix (Nasdaq: WIX) agreed to buy Rise.ai, an Israeli social gifting platform that had been seeded by Peregrine Ventures and The Library. http://axios.link/FTDE

More M&A

Deutsche Boerse agreed to buy the 49% stake it doesn’t already own in Zurich-based fund distribution platform Clearstream Fund Centre from UBS for around $427 million. http://axios.link/J1Vg

🚑 Mitsui & Co. is considering a takeover bid for IHH Healthcare, a listed Malaysian hospital group with a market cap of around $12 billion, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/xW3D


Audax raised $1.85 billion for its fifth mezzanine debt fund. http://axios.link/1MfR

Emergence, a San Mateo, Calif.-based VC firm focused on enterprise software startups, raised $575 million for its sixth early-stage fund, plus $375 million for its first opportunity fund. http://axios.link/2Ubb

Moonfire, a European seed firm led by Atomico co-founder Mattias Ljungman, raised $60 million for its debut fund. http://axios.link/36RG

Shenkman Capital Management raised $325 million for a tactical credit fund. www.shenkmancapital.com

It's Personnel

CIBC promoted Charlie Kelly to co-head of U.S. tech banking, per his LinkedIn. http://axios.link/JrJM

Amit Sanghvi joined Northzone as head of IR, per his LinkedIn. He previously was with CapMan. http://axios.link/stmm

Final Numbers
Source: PitchBook Q1 M&A Report. Geography: Global.

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