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Top News in the A.M.
Apple reported its first quarter results yesterday and they were, meh. Revenue rose just 5 percent to $52.9 billion, and iPhones sales have been slipping. Bloomberg has more here.
Cloud communications company Twilio has also had better Tuesdays. Yesterday, it lost more than a quarter of its valuation in the first 20 minutes of after-hours trading after reporting a lower-than-expected outlook and “changes in the relationship” with its largest customer, Uber. SiliconAngle has more here.
Facebook says it’s now hiring 3,000 more people to monitor Facebook Live and keep murders, suicides and other horrifying content off the platform.
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How Softbank Became Tech’s Phantom Buyer
SoftBank is making quite a name for itself, but in ways it might not expect. Hardly a week has passed in 2017 when a headline hasn’t reported that SoftBank — the multinational conglomerate currently raising a stunning $100 billion fund — is in financial talks to invest in yet another tech company.
This week, SoftBank is reportedly in discussions to pour $1.4 billion into the India-based digital payments company Paytm. Last week, it was reported to be close to an investment in Improbable Worlds, a London-based virtual reality startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz. Last month, the reports centered on talks that SoftBank is having with coworking giant WeWork about a new round of funding that could reach into the billions of dollars. (So far, $300 million has come through.)
Even news of the ostensible closing of SoftBank’s new Vision Fund — which is unprecedented in its size — was leaked in February. The reality, say sources familiar with the fund, is that it could be another six to nine months before every i is dotted and t is crossed, given how many investors, countries and regulators are involved.
Certainly, some of these deals will happen as widely anticipated. SoftBank’s negotiations with Didi Chuxing, China’s ride-hailing giant, were leaked to the media nearly one month ago; the deal was made official this week.
Last October, it was reported that SoftBank was in talks with the satellite internet startup OneWeb about a strategic tie-up. SoftBank invested $1 billion in the company two months later. (In February, it invested another $1.7 billion into a merger that will see OneWeb combine with competitor Intelsat.)
Still, the internet is littered with stories of companies that were reportedly on the verge of sealing a deal with SoftBank and that did not. Last month, it scrapped a planned $100 million investment it was to make in renowned entrepeneur Andy Rubin’s newest startup. In 2014, it was reported to be eyeing an investment in the mobile giant Vodaphone Group; nothing came of it. Last year, at least a dozen outlets reported that SoftBank was in talks to buy a 20 percent stake in the beleaguered Indian handset maker Micromax Informatics for up to $1 billion. That deal never closed, and one source familiar with SoftBank’s thinking says it was “all bullshit. There was zero chance they would even consider investing in Micromax.”
For venture industry watchers, such leaks are highly unusual, to say the least. The typical modus operandi in VC land is to “keep quiet if you have an inside track on an investment, because you don’t want to create competition,” notes Tom Peters, the founding partner and managing director of the advisory services firm Inverness Advisors.
“Obviously, there are [venture] players that pay attention to each other and compete for deals and have relationships with the same founders, and they’d rather keep what they’re doing quiet until a deal is done.”
Abundant Robotics, a year-old, Hayward, Ca.-based company whose apple-picking robots could eventually be adapted to harvest other fruits, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by GV, with participation from BayWa AG, Tellus Partners, and earlier backers Yamaha Motor Company, KPCB Edge and Comet Labs. TechCrunch has more here.
Agolo, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based company that aims to help companies fight information overload through its AI-powered summarization software, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding co-led by Microsoft Ventures and CRV, with participation from Point72 Ventures and Franklin Templeton. VentureBeat has more here.
AltSchool, the four-year-old, San Francisco-based experimental school operator that has also begun licensing its educational tools, just raised roughly $40 million in a new round of funding that could reach $80 million, shows an SEC filing. The company had previously raised just over $133 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Axios has more here.
Bonsai, a two-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based AI enterprise development startup, has raised raised $7.6 million in funding co-led by Microsoft Ventures and New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Samsung, Siemens, and ABB Technology Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.
Cerevance, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based neuroscience drug discovery company, has raised $5 million in funding from The Dementia Discovery Fund. More here.
Decibel Insight, a three-year-old, U.K.-based startup whose analytics aim to help large companies understand how customers interact with their sites and apps, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Eight Road Ventures, with participation from John Simon, via his Ventureforgood investment entity. TechCrunch has more here.
Fornova, a nine-year-old, Israel-based company that makes market intelligence software for the travel and retail markets, has raised $17 million in Series B funding. Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners led the round and was joined by Waypoint Capital and return backer JAL Ventures. TNooz has more here.
Lantern Pharma, a four-year-old, Dallas, Tex.-based biotechnology company at work on cancer therapeutics, has raised $3.7 million in Series A funding co-led by Bios Partners and GPG Ventures. More here.
Next Insurance, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based digital insurance company that partners with existing insurance providers and caters to small to medium businesses, has raised $29 million in Series A funding led by Munich Re/HSB Ventures, with participation from Markel and Nationwide. VentureBeat has more here.
PreparedHealth, a two-year-old, Chicago-based health engagement platform that aims to help patients recover more quickly outside of the hospital, has raised $4 million in funding led by Chicago Ventures, with participation from Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Beverly Capital, and Meridian Street Capital. Crain’s Chicago Business has more here.
Spindrift, a seven-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based maker of fruit-flavored sparking waters, has raised $10 million in growth equity funding led by VMG Partners, with participation from Prolog Ventures and Karp Reilly. More here.
WuXi NextCODE, a four-year-old, Shanghai, China and Cambridge, Ma.-based contract genomics company, has raised $75 million in Series B funding. Yunfeng Capital and Temasek co-led the round, and were joined by Amgen Ventures and 3W Partners. Bloomberg has more here.
Yieldify, a five-year-old, London-based company that builds tools to increase conversions on sites and through email campaigns, has raised $6 million in new funding led by Binomial Ventures, with participation from Tom Singh, founder of the fashion chain New Look; and John Giuliani, CEO of the digital marketing company Conversant, who also joined the board. Earlier backers did not participate in the new round; Yieldify has now raised $20 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
VC David Mount and his clean tech investing team at Kleiner Perkins are spinning out from the firm, shows an SEC filing. The new firm, called G2VP is looking to close its debut fund with $275 million and has already held a first close, says Term Sheet. Contact info is here if you’re looking to get in touch with them.
Longtime investors Maia Heymann and Nilanjana Bhowmik have created their own Boston-based venture firm, Converge, to focus on business-to-business opportunities. Heyman was most recently a general partner at Converge Venture Partners, a separate firm in Cambridge, Ma.; Bhowmik was a general partner at Longworth Venture Partners in Waltham. The Boston Globe has more here.
ShotSpotter, a 22-year-old, Newark, Ca.-based public safety technology company that’s best known for its gunshot location systems (and that more recently renamed itself SST Inc.), has filed to go public, revealing initial plans to raise $34.5 million. Its biggest outside shareholder is Lauder Partners, which owns 37.4 percent of the company. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised roughly $68 million altogether over the years. More here.
Publicly traded Quotient Technology has agreed to acquire Crisp Mobile, a 16-year-old, New York-based mobile marketing and advertising company, for $53 million. According to Crunchbase, Crisp had raised $16 million in funding, including from Meritage Funds, Intel Capital and EDB Investments. The New York Business Journal has more here.
Whirlpool Corporation, the home appliance company, is acquiring Yummly, a Redwood City, Ca.-based food discovery platform for undisclosed terms. Yummly had raised $22.8 million from investors, including First Round Capital, Harrison Metal, Intel Capital, Physic Ventures, and Unilever Ventures. In a press release, Whirlpool explained away the seemingly strange move as a way to strengthen its ability to “bring purposeful, consumer-relevant innovations to market in the emerging IoT space.” More here.
Publicly traded, L.A.-based Spark Networks and privately held, Berlin-based Affinitas GmbH, are a match made in heaven, it seems. The two companies, both of which operate online dating platforms, are merging to create a new company that will be based in Berlin and known as Spark Networks SE. More here.
There’s been a shakeup in Etsy’s leadership, with CEO Chad Dickerson and CTO John Allspaw departing. TechCrunch has more here.
Jennifer Fleiss, a co-founder of clothing rental service Rent the Runway, has joined and is overseeing Code Eight, the first portfolio company in Walmart Stores’ newly launched incubator, Store No. 8. Fortune has more here.
Reshmi Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, isn’t flattered that Ivanka Trump has cited her in her new book.
Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick has reportedly fired several of his deputies, while a handful of other senior managers have exited the company in recent months. Bloomberg has more here.
Apple‘s WeChat problem.
HBO is pulling its shows off Amazon’s streaming service next year.
Also, wow: Waymo says that Anthony Levandowski — the engineer at the center of its trade secrets fight with Uber — was awarded stock worth more than $250 million by the ride-hailing company that vested the day after he quit Waymo parent company Alphabet to work for Uber. More here.
We’d like this more if it actually flossed our teeth.