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Showing posts from September, 2020

Asana Completes Direct Listing

Justin Rosenstein, Co-Founder, Asana. Photo credit: Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile, licensed under Creative Commons Workplace management software company Asana has completed a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange, opening at $27 a share and rising as much as 9.6% minutes into trading. Asana, which was before its public listing valued at $1.5 billion by private investors, now sports a market capitalization of over $4 billion on the public markets. The company's direct listing marks one of the biggest ever for a technology company, on par with the likes of Spotify and Slack. Asana happens to have debuted at a time when another major technology company, Palantir, also listed directly, launching into the public markets with a market capitalization of over $20 billion. Asana has hit the public markets 12 years after its founding. The company was launched in 2008 by the duo of Justin Rosenstein and Dustin Moskovitz, two early Facebook employees including Moskovitz wh

General Atlantic Buys Into Reliance Retail

William Ford, Chief Executive Officer, General Atlantic. Photo credit: World Economic Forum/Sandra Blaser, licensed under Creative Commons US-based private equity firm General Atlantic has agreed to invest 36.8 billion Indian rupees ($498 million) in Reliance Retail, the retail arm of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries. The investment will give General Atlantic a 0.84% equity stake in Reliance Retail on a fully-diluted basis, implying a valuation of nearly $60 billion for the retail venture. General Atlantic's investment comes just on the heels of Reliance Retail also securing investments from two other US-based firms, $1 billion from Silver Lake  and $754 million from KKR. It also marks General Atlantic's second big bet on a business affiliated with Reliance Industries, the first being its telecom arm, Jio, which General Atlantic invested $870 million into. Reliance Retail is one of the biggest retail companies in India, currently with a network of 12,000 stores in the co

AppHarvest Eyes Reverse Listing

  Martha Stewart, board member, AppHarvest. Photo credit: Justin Hackworth/Alt Summit, licensed under Creative Commons AppHarvest, an indoor farming upstart, has reached a deal to go public by merging with blank-check firm Novus Capital Corp. The merger will add $475 million to AppHarvest's balance sheet, consisting of $100 million in already secured funding by Novus Capital Corp and $375 million in additional funds to be raised from investors. The reverse merger is expected to give AppHarvest an initial market capitalization of $1 billion on the public markets. As a private company, AppHarvest, which was founded just in 2017, has raised over $140 million in funding, with backers include notable names like ValueAct Capital and Steve Case's Revolution. AppHarvest will use the capital raised from its reverse listing to fund its operations which includes the building of additional high-tech controlled-environment indoor farms. AppHarvest currently operates just one of such farms a

Mubadala Buys Into Silver Lake

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Chief Executive Officer, Mubadala Investment Company. Photo credit: Georgina Coupe/Number 10, licensed under Creative Commons Mubadala, a sovereign wealth fund of the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has reached a deal to acquire a minority equity interest in Silver Lake, a well-known tech-focused investment firm, and also pony up $2 billion for the private equity firm to manage, a deal marks a tie-up and the establishment of a long-term investment strategy between both investment firms. Mubadala is purchasing a minority equity stake in Silver Lake from a current shareholder, Dyal Capital Partners, which is itself a division of asset management giant Neuberger Berman. Neuberger Berman acquired an equity interest in Silver Lake in 2016 and will now sell roughly half of the stake it acquired to Mubadala. Exact financial terms of the deal aren't disclosed.  Silver Lake is one of the world's biggest investment firms, currently with over $60 billion

Tim Cook Lands Fresh Pay Package

Photo credit: tua ulamac on Flickr , licensed under Creative Commons Tim Cook, the Chief Executive of technology giant Apple, has been granted a new pay package that'll run from this year through 2025, as indicated by a filing submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) by Apple. According to the filing, Tim Cook will receive 333,987 units of restricted stock that'll vest in thirds on an annual basis beginning 2023. The Apple CEO has also clinched a separate pay package of 333,987 units of stock that'll vest in 2023 and with an option to double if Apple meets certain performance targets. Under the compensation plan, Cook could pocket as much as 1 million shares over the next five years, shares worth $114 million going by Apple's current (as of writing) trading price of $114, and with even more potential to grow if Apple's share price climbs over the next five years. Cook, who took up the CEO position at Apple in 2011, has been handsomely paid ov

Northvolt Lands $600 Million Round

Swedish entrepreneur Cristina Stenbeck (of AB Kinnevik) chipped into Northvolt's new private round. Photo credit: picture alliance / Andreas Gebert, licensed under Creative Commons Northvolt, a Swedish battery developer and manufacturer, has announced that it's landed $600 million in fresh private funding from a group of investors that include automakers Volkswagen and Scania, investment bank Goldman Sachs, asset management firms Baillie Gifford and Baron Capital Group, and Swedish entrepreneurs Cristina Stenbeck (AB Kinnevik) and Daniel Ek (Spotify). Northvolt will use the new capital to make further investments in expanding its battery production and recycling capacity, as it aims to establish 150 GWh of annual battery manufacturing capacity in Europe by the year 2030.  Northvolt is currently building a battery 'gigafactory' in the Swedish city of Skellefteå that it says will have a potential annual production output of 40 GWh. In the same time frame, the company also

Tertill Names iRobot Veteran As CEO

Helen Greiner. Photo credit: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, licensed under Creative Commons Tertill, a gardening robot startup, has named a new Chief Executive and Chairman by the name of Helen Greiner, who is herself notably a co-founder of robotics powerhouse iRobot and also a founder of Aria Insights, a now-shuttered company that worked on drones for the commercial and military markets. Tertill, a startup that's best known for its garden weeding robot, will now be led by Greiner, a robotics veteran with high standing in the industry.  Tertill (formerly Franklin Robotics) is still a small upstart, founded five years ago and backed by a relatively little $1 million in funding so far. The company's flagship product is a solar-powered plant weeding robot that's tailored for use in small gardens, as demonstrated in the video below;   Greiner seems like an ideal candidate to lead Tertill, having previously co-founded a robotics powerhouse and stayed at the com

Allbirds Lands $100 Million Round

  Joey Zwillinger, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Allbirds. Photo credit: Marco Verch on Flickr , licensed under Creative Commons Allbirds, a popular footwear company that makes shoes from sustainable materials, has secured $100 million in Series E funding led by asset management company Franklin Templeton. The new round adds up the total amount of funding raised by Allbirds to more than $200 million and values the company at $1.7 billion, up slightly from $1.4 billion when it raised funding in 2018. Allbirds says it'll use the new funding to expand its burgeoning network of physical retail outlets as well as its existing direct-to-consumer sales operation. Allbirds was founded only four years ago but has in a relatively short time garnered a large following and brand loyalty, a key attraction for the company being its environment-friendly shoes made from bioplastics gotten from sources such as sugar cane plants and recycled plastic bottles.  Allbirds represents a veer-off in a footwear in

Compass Adds New Board Member

Charles Phillips. Photo credit: Oracle PR Compass, the digital real estate brokerage, has announced that it's added a new board member by the name of Charles Phillips, a long-time technology executive that previously served as president of software giant Oracle and chief executive officer of cloud software company Infor. Phillips is the third independent director to have joined Compass' board this year. With his addition, Compass now has six board members, including co-founders Ori Allon and Robert Reffkin, SoftBank partner Justin Wilson, former Bridgewater Associates co-CEO Eileen Murray, business veteran Pamela Thomas-Graham, and now Phillips. “Phillips has led software companies whose primary purpose is to make other businesses more productive,” Ori Allon, co-founder and executive chairman of Compass, said in a press statement. “His depth of leadership experience provides Compass with an authoritative voice as we continue to enhance our platform.” Phillips is a long-time tec

Verizon Mulls Selling HuffPost

Guru Gowrappan, CEO, Verizon Media Group. Photo credit: Verizon Verizon, the telecom giant which also happens to have a quite large digital media operation, is seeking to sell one of its most popular media properties, news site HuffPost, to potential suitors including famous digital media upstarts like Vox Media, Group Nine, and Bustle Group, according to a report from the New York Post . According to the Post, Verizon has shopped HuffPost around to suitors amid significant losses and as it seeks potential buyers that could help cut costs and stabilize its operations. Among prospective buyers who were pitched to include Vox Media, a media company famous for brands like The Verge , Vox , and Polygon , and Group Nine Media, a company whose CEO, Ben Lerer, happens to be the son of HuffPost co-founder Ken Lerer. According to the Post, both companies passed on acquiring the news property, leaving other potential suitors such as media upstart Bustle Group, Rolling Stone publisher Penske Med

Exotec Bags $90 Million Round

Photo credit: Exotec Exotec, a French warehouse robotics startup, has announced that it's raised $90 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm 83North, with participation from Dell Technologies Capital, Iris Capital, and Breega. Exotec says it'll use the new funding to fuel its international development, particularly in the US state of Atlanta and the Japanese capital of Tokyo, and with an ultimate ambition to begin churning out as much as 4,000 robots each year by 2021. Exotec makes warehouse robots used by retailers and e-commerce companies to organize their warehouse fulfillment operations. The company's flagship product is the  Skypod warehouse robot that's currently adopted by customers including French retail giant Carrefour and Japan's Fast Retailing, which is one of the biggest retailers in the country. Exotec, which is based out of France, has sought new international clients to boost business and has seemingly succeeded in doing so, with the

XtalPi Bags $319 Million Round

XtalPi XtalPi, an AI drug discovery startup with operations in both the US and China, has announced that it's secured a $319 million Series C funding round co-led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 along with investment firms Morningside and PICC Capital. Other participants in the round include existing investors Tencent, Sequoia Capital China, SIG, and China Life, with the total participants in the round numbering over a dozen. With the new funding, XtalPi, which was founded in 2014, has now raised a total of nearly $400 million in funding since its inception. Before now, the company's most recent financing was a $46 million Series B extension round raised in October of 2018.  XtalPi harnesses artificial intelligence and physics processes to build prediction algorithms that help research scientists to identify drug candidates. The company has garnered a high amount of clinical data that helps to predict and model the interaction between molecules and proteins at the atomic level and al

Uber Eyes Free Now Purchase

Photo credit: Daimler Ride-hailing giant Uber is considering a purchase of Free Now, a joint ride-hailing venture between automakers Daimler and BMW, according to a report [paywall] from Bloomberg . According to Bloomberg , Uber indicated an interest in a possible acquisition of Free Now after the ride-hailing joint venture struggled to attract additional investors as sought amid a coronavirus pandemic. Free Now, previously known as  Hailo and myTaxi , is one of the largest ride-hailing ventures in Europe and Latin America and could bolster Uber's business in those regions in the case of an acquisition. Free Now itself is one of the businesses housed under a joint venture between German automakers BMW and Daimler called You Now, which also includes other services such as Park Now, an app for finding parking spots, and Share Now, a car-sharing platform. Free Now is quite a big business, with a gross merchandise volume that last year amounted to about 2.5 billion euros ($2.9 bill

ShipBob Nabs $68 Million Round

Shawn Carolan, board member, ShipBob. Photo credit: Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch, licensed under Creative Commons ShipBob, a logistics upstart and Y Combinator alum, has announced that it's raised $68 million in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, a round that brings the total raised by ShipBob since its inception to about $130 million. ShipBob is an upstart that provides logistics and e-commerce fulfillment services to small and mid-sized businesses. It's more like an end-to-end fulfillment solution, providing additional solutions like inventory management, customer communication, and supply chain financing along with logistics and fulfillment services. The company says it'll use the new Series D capital to expand its fulfillment center footprint across the US and abroad, with plans to open two new fulfillment facilities in the US this year and another ten across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia in 2021. ShipBob has grown from humble

Tesla Seals New Lithium Supply Deal

Photo credit: Tesla Electric carmaker Tesla has announced that it's entered into a binding agreement to purchase lithium ore mineral from Piedmont Lithium Limited, a publicly-traded lithium company that's based out of Australia. The agreement between both companies is initially for a five-year period, in which Tesla has committed to purchasing roughly one-third of Piedmont's annual output 160,000 tonnes of lithium ore mineral for each year as well as additional amounts that the electric carmaker has the option to request. The agreement is conditional on deliveries of the lithium ore beginning sometime between July 2022 and July 2023. Piedmont says it expects the Tesla deal to generate between 10-20% of total revenues from its proposed lithium project for the initial five-year period. That project, in particular, is the 'Piedmont Lithium Project', a lithium ore mining project being spearheaded by the company in the US state of North Carolina. A deal between Pied

Gemini Expands Into UK

Tyler Winklevoss, CEO, Gemini. Photo credit: TechCrunch/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Gemini, the popular US-based cryptocurrency exchange founded by the Winklevoss brothers, has officially fully expanded into the UK, now supporting cryptocurrency trading and custody transactions in pounds sterling (GBP), the UK's official currency. Gemini's launch, as expected, comes on the heels of the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) granting the company an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) license, a license that normally grants a firm the permission to store clients' money for longer periods and to also issue cards, e-wallets and other instruments that facilitate the usage of their clients' money. Gemini overall is one of the first crypto businesses to be given such a license in the UK. With Gemini's launch, users can now make crypto purchases with British pounds and also make pound deposits to fund their accounts on the go without any major need to transac

Uber Wins Fight To Stay In London

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, under Creative Commons license Ride-hailing giant Uber has won a legal fight to continue operating in the city of London after it got stripped of its license to do so for the second time in November of last year. A London judge has overturned a decision by the city to not renew Uber's operating license, marking the second time the ride-hailing company is fighting such a battle in the city and emerging victorious. In November last year, Transport for London (TfL), the city's transportation regulator, refused to renew Uber's license after stating that it observed a “pattern of failures” as regards security checks and balances which as a result put passengers at risk. “Despite their historical failings, I find (Uber), now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London PHV (private hire vehicle) operator’s licence,” Tan Ikram, a deputy senior district judge of the UK judiciary, said as he

Stripe Leads New Round For PayMongo

Patrick Collison, CEO, Stripe. Photo credit: JD Lasica/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Stripe, the US-based payments giant, has led a $12 million Series A round for PayMongo, a payments upstart based out of the Philippines. PayMongo is a payments service that can be integrated into websites and apps to allow them to accept payments from bank cards and digital wallets, very similar to Stripe. Both companies also passed through the famed Y Combinator accelerator program, drawing them even more similar. In basic terms, PayMongo is sort of a Stripe for the Filipino market, making it no surprise that Stripe itself has chosen to lead a strategic round for the company, given such rounds usually act as a gateway for partnerships and tie-ups between Stripe and its counterparts. For a fact, Stripe is not at all new to investing in other fintech companies, with the company having backed more than 20 fintech startups in total ( Crunchbase data). PayMongo launched last year with $2.7 milli

Peeking Into Postmates' Finances

Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann. Photo credit: Fortune Magazine, under Creative Commons license Food delivery service Postmates in on the cusp of a deal to merge with counterpart Uber, which is coughing up $2.65 billion in stock to take over the company. As the merger nears, appropriate filings have been made with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), giving a peek into Postmates' finances, information not publicly revealed up until now. Filings with the SEC show that Postmates recorded roughly $321 million in revenue in 2019, but with a net loss of $420 million in the same year. In 2018, the San Francisco-based company reported roughly $156 million in revenue and a net loss of $129 million in that same year. As at the end of 2019, Postmates had $186 million in cash on its balance sheet, after having raised about $900 million in funding up until that point as a private company. In 2019, a year that Postmates sought to go public , the company burned through $3

Brief: Audi Eyes New EV Tie-Up

Markus Duesmann, CEO, Audi. Photo credit: Audi German automaker Audi is in discussions with FAW Group, a Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer and long-term partner of the company, to create a new joint venture to build electric cars, as first reported by German automobile news site  Automobilwoche . Both companies already have a joint venture to build usual combustion-engined cars in China, which is a major market for Audi. China has the world's biggest yet still growing electric vehicle market, making it not far-fetched that Audi is seeking to make a dent in the country. Audi itself has already forayed into the electric car maket, with the company's first set of all-electric cars set to hit the markets by next year. Audi has a big market in China, where it sold nearly 700,000 vehicles last year. The German automaker initially entered the country's market over three decades ago and has made strides over there since then. As a whole, Audi is a major global automaker,

Epic Games Snaps Up SuperAwesome

  Dylan Collins, CEO, SuperAwesome. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile, licensed under Creative Commons Gaming powerhouse Epic Games has announced that it's acquired SuperAwesome, a tool adopted by software developers to build kid-friendly digital apps and services. Financial terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed. As a private startup, SuperAwesome had raised $58 million in total funding from investors including notable names like Hoxton Ventures, YYX Ventures, Twenty Ten Capital, and Microsoft's M12. The company will continue to operate as a standalone firm even after Epic's acquisition. With SuperAwesome, Epic is adding yet another toolkit to its suite of software services. The company, which is majorly a gaming studio known for its gaming megahit Fortnite , operates the popular Unreal gaming engine as well as Houseparty, a video-centric social platform that it acquired last year. SuperAwesome's core product is its Kids Web Services (KWS) pla

BMW Settles SEC Charges With Fine

  Harald Krüger, CEO, BMW Group. Photo credit: Picture Alliance for DLD | Verwendung weltweit, licensed under Creative Commons German automaker BMW has agreed to pay an $18 million fine to settle charges of disclosing inaccurate and misleading sales information that was brought against the company by the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC). The SEC charged BMW with inflating sales numbers between the years of 2015 to 2019 while the company tapped the markets to raise roughly $18 billion in corporate bonds. In particular, BMW itself and two of its U.S. subsidiaries are alleged to have reported unfactual sales figures by among other actions maintaining a reserve of unreported retail vehicle sales that it used to meet internal monthly sales targets regardless of when the sales actually occurred and also making payments to dealers to inaccurately tag vehicles as demonstrators or loaners in order for them to appear as sold when they had not actually been.  Given the allegations,

Hims On Cusp Of Reverse Listing

Hims CEO Andrew Dudum. Photo credit: Christopher Michel on Flickr, under Creative Commons license Hims, a telemedicine upstart, is on the cusp of a deal to go public by merging with blank-check firm Oaktree Acquisition Corp, according to a report [paywall] from Bloomberg , which states that a deal could be announced as early as next week. According to Bloomberg , Oaktree Capital Group, the asset management firm which controls the blank-check firm, is in discussions with investors to raise about $75 million in new funds to fund a merger with Hims, which could be valued at up to $1.6 billion from the deal. Hims is a telemedicine upstart that's best known for offering online prescriptions to treat conditions that are usually stigmatized, such as sexual dysfunction. The company facilitates online consultations with doctors and deliveries of prescription drugs to patients. Also, Hims sells its own line-up of skincare products and vitamins. As a private company, Hims, which wa

Alexis Ohanian Eyes New Fund

Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder, Reddit. Photo by Diarmuid Greene / Collision / Sportsfile, licensed under Creative Commons Not long after stepping down from Initialized Capital, a venture capital firm he co-founded, and also  departing the board of Reddit , the famous online news aggregation and content forum which he also co-founded, Alexis Ohanian has sought to strike gold once again, this time with a new fund, named 776 , that's seeking to raise up to $150 million from investors as indicated by a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC). The fund's name appears to be a reference to the year 776 B.C.E., when the first-ever Olympics games were held. Ohanian is somewhat personally tied to the Olympics tournaments, given his wife, tennis superstar Serena Williams, has won four Olympic gold medals throughout her career. Williams herself is also a regular venture investor with her own firm, Serena Ventures. Ohanian is apparently looking to score gold again after

Poshmark Files To Go Public

Manish Chandra, CEO, Poshmark. Photo credit: Niall Kennedy/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Poshmark, the popular clothing resale marketplace, has announced that it's confidentially filed for an intended public listing with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), as the Redwood City, California-based company looks to go public nine years after its founding and nearly $160 million in equity funding over the years. Among Poshmark's backers who may be in line to reap significant profits from its IPO include venture capital firms GGV Capital, Menlo Ventures, Mayfield, and Temasek. Poshmark is majorly a resale marketplace for fashion and clothing items, currently with millions of sellers. The company makes money by taking a cut of each sale facilitated through its platform. Poshmark reports currently having 8 million sellers and 60 million registered users in total. It's such that the company last raised private funding in 2017, implying that it's likely b

Rappi Nabs $300 Million Round

  Rappi Co-Founders Sebastian Mejia, President (left) and Simón Borrero, CEO (right). Photo credit: Rappi Rappi, a Colombian on-demand delivery upstart, has announced that it's raised over $300 million in fresh funding from investors including asset management firm T. Rowe Price. As indicated by a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), Rappi sought to raise up to $350 million in the new funding round, which adds up the total amount of funding that the company has raised since its inception to  $1.7 billion . “We are happy to work with this team of investors who trust our growth model, who believe in our region and the role we are playing,” the company said in a press statement. The valuation that came with the new funding isn't disclosed. Rappi overall is one of the most capitalized upstarts both in Latin America and globally and was valued at $3.5 billion post-money when Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank invested $1 billion into the company la

EU Fights Apple Tax Fine Reversal

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President, European Commission. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile, licensed under Creative Commons The European Commission has said that it'll appeal an Irish tax penalty reversal that was recently granted to Apple  after the technology giant won an appeal to a $15 billion tax penalty that was levied against it by the European Union's second-highest court. The tax penalty in concern was levied against Apple in 2016 over allegations that the European nation of Ireland granted selective tax breaks to the company, which maintains its European headquarters in Ireland. That penalty was later appealed by Apple as well as the Irish government, which both came out victorious in July of this year. Now, the European Commission's Executive Vice President, Margrethe Vestager, has said that it'll appeal the penalty reversal in the EU's highest court.  Vestager is taking forward the matter to the European Court of Justice, offi

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Earnings: Covid Vaccines Deliver Big Sales, Profit For Moderna

Moderna was among the few biotech companies that saved the day with the development of an emergency-authorized vaccine to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a breakthrough for the company, which was before then a cancer-fighting moonshot with minimal revenues and no working product. Being a publicly-traded company, Moderna is mandated to release quarterly earnings reports to the public and it has done so this time around, releasing its financial results for the first quarter of this year 2021. Moderna's latest earnings report shows that of a company that saw big success from its Covid vaccines, as it reported record revenue and its first-ever net profit as a public company. By the numbers: Moderna made $1.9bn in revenue in Q1' 21, compared to a paltry $8mn for the same quarter in 2020. The revenue came wholly from Covid vaccine sales in the US and foreign markets. Moderna reported a huge net income of $1.2bn in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $124mn for the same perio

Court Docs: Fortnite Maker Epic Made $15B In 2018-2020

Fortnite maker Epic Games is having a court battle with Apple over the latter's App Store practices and that battle has led to several documents coming out of the shadows with valuable information about Epic Games not publicly known before.  Among the information revealed in court proceedings between Epic and Apple is the sheer scale of Epic's revenue largely gotten from its hit game Fortnite . Official documents indicate that Epic Games made respective annual sales of $5.6bn, $4.2bn, and $5.1bn in 2018, 2019, and 2020, summing up to just shy of $15bn. Epic's revenue in 2018 and 2019 was revealed in financial documents made public as part of its court battle with Apple while its revenue for 2020 was separately revealed in a court testimony by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. The vast majority of Epic's revenue comes from Fortnite while its other products like the Unreal Engine and the Epic Games Store bring in a minority of revenues. Specifically, Fortnite brought in $5.5bn a