Pulse 2.0’s Deal Roundup is a regular issue of some of the most interesting technology-related venture capital deals, mergers and acquisitions, and IPO filings that you should know about. Here are some recent highlights:
Venture Capital News
Alibaba Buys 8% Of Bilibili
Alibaba has reportedly acquired an 8% stake of Bilibili, according to a securities filing via TechCrunch. Alibaba made the deal through its Taobao marketplace subsidiary, which purchased 24 million shares of Bilibili.
“We can now leverage Taobao’s gigantic platform and seasoned e-commerce operating capabilities to further help our content creators realize and improve their commercial values, thereby building a more virtuous content community and commercialization-focused ecosystem,” said Bilibili chief executive and chairman Chen Rui in a statement.
OpenDoor To Raise $200 Million
OpenDoor, a service that offers an online home-selling service aiming to streamline the sales process to just a few days, has filed papers to raise about $200 million at a valuation of $3.7 billion. OpenDoor’s CEO and co-founder Eric Wu declined to comment on the rumors.
Student.com Secures $10 Million More For Series C+ Round
Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based Student.com has raised $10 million in Series C+ funding from CITIC Capital. Including this round, Student.com has raised about $80 million.
“At Student.com we believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the student accommodation sector – and its true value sits in the region of $180 billion globally,” said Student.com CEO and founder Luke Nolan in a statement. “Following our growth last year, we are looking at hitting the $1 billion completed gross booking value to date by the end of 2019. In order to achieve that we will continue to focus on using technological innovation in the platform to provide a marketplace to meet industry demand – both from a student and landlord perspective. It is encouraging to have the support of investors – such as CITIC Capital – who also see great potential in this market and Student.com ’s future growth.”
ShiftLeft: $20 Million In Series B
ShiftLeft, a Santa Clara, California-based innovator in application-specific cloud security raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Thomvest Ventures and joined by new investor SineWave Ventures. Existing investors Bain Capital Ventures and Mayfield also participated. Including this round, ShiftLeft has raised nearly $30 million.
With this funding round, ShiftLeft will be driving adoption of its code-informed runtime protection by expanding its product portfolio, application coverage, and global sales. Jim Sortino (former executive at Trend Micro and Dome9 Security) was also named the VP of worldwide sales at ShiftLeft.
“Our founding vision is that application security needs to be a seamless part of the development process, not an afterthought,” said ShiftLeft CEO and co-founder Manish Gupta. “The problem has long been inaccurate tools and a heavily manual process, leaving security and development teams frustrated and applications vulnerable. ShiftLeft completely upends this paradigm, delivering automated and customized protection for every software release, and the analytics dev teams need to improve on the overall security posture.”
ShiftLeft also created an advisor of security and development thought leaders including: Bob Flores (former CTO of the Central Intelligence Agency), Craig Rosen (CISO of AppDynamics), Shahar Ben Hador (CIO of Exabeam), Aaron McKeown (head of security engineering and architecture at Xero), Manish Arya (founder and CTO of Tavant) and Yonatan Ryabinski (chief enterprise architect at Vanguard).
“I’ve seen organizations struggle through a reactive, threat-focused security posture, resulting in overworked security teams and frequent breaches,” added Bain Capital Ventures partner and former Symantec CEO Enrique Salem. “Yet ShiftLeft gets at the root problem – vulnerable software – by automating the process of accurately and rapidly analyzing and plugging vulnerabilities in the applications themselves. It’s exciting to be an investor in a company that is meaningfully helping security teams by reducing the overall attack surface and providing direct root-cause insight for developers.”
Jobvite: $200 Million In Investments
K1 Investment Management announced it made a majority investment in Jobvite, a recruiting software company. And K1 and Jobvite announced three major acquisitions including recruiting marketing company Talemetry, employee referral company RolePoint, and text-based conversational recruiting company Canvas. This unique set of investments totaled more than $200 million.
With the acquisitions, Jobvite now has more than 2,000 customers resulting in more than 2,000 customers, including Fortune 500 enterprises. Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan will lead the combined company.
“We are excited to be investing in such an innovative set of technologies,” said K1 Investment Management managing partner Ron Cano, Managing Partner at K1 Investment Management. “The talent acquisition industry is critical to our economy and ripe for disruption with outdated software still prevalent. K1’s investment will create the only true end-to-end talent acquisition platform and will provide our customers with accelerated growth in innovation of product features and services.”
InfluxData: $60 Million In Series D
InfluxData, the company behind the leading time series database InfluxDB, has raised $60 million in Series D funding led by Norwest Venture Partners. Sorenson Capital and existing investors Sapphire Ventures, Battery Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Trinity Ventures and Harmony Partners also joined this round.
And InfluxData enables enterprises to gain new insights, grow their customer base, and drive the need for purpose-built solutions. The company recently more than doubled revenue, signed many new customers, and is positioned to accelerate momentum through 2019 and beyond. InfluxData currently has more than 450 customers including Cisco, eBay, IBM, and Siemens.
“A majority of data is best understood in the time dimension, which is why time series data is the foundation of so many of today’s critical technology investments, including IoT, observability, machine learning, and predictive analytics,” said InfluxData CEO Evan Kaplan in a statement. “The new funding will enhance our ability to deliver versatile solutions to countless companies looking to harvest insights from time and support our aggressive plans to scale the company. We’re also honored to have such esteemed individuals joining our board of directors to enhance our strategic direction.”
Norwest Venture Partners and new InfluxData board member Rama Sekhar added that InfluxData’s time series vision is considered the future of data management. And as enterprises are experiencing a data revolution with massive increases in volumes of data, InfluxData is empowering them to discover insights about it by organizing it in the time dimension — which is a critical approach for use cases such as DevOps observability and IoT analytics.
This funding round will be used to further invest in product innovation with an increased focus on the cloud and to build out sales and marketing programs to meet growing product demand. And InfluxData will begin marketing its solutions for specific uses such as industrial IoT and network monitoring and target industries like e-commerce, gaming, and financial services.
And Sapphire Ventures director and member of the InfluxData board of directors Anders Ranum noted that InfluxData demonstrated consistent growth in a market with tremendous potential. Battery Ventures entrepreneur in resident and former CEO of MongoDB Max Schireson has been welcomed to InfluxData’s board of directors.
Elevate Security: $8 Million In Series A
About 93% of all breaches are the result of attacks targeting employees, according to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. And traditional security awareness training has not reduced this risk, which leaves employees concerned. This is a problem that Elevate Security is addressing.
Elevate Security recently announced that it raised $8 million in Series A funding to develop the first fully integrated Security Behavior Platform, which changes employees’ habits while providing security teams with unprecedented visibility into security readiness. Defy Partners led this round of funding and existing investor Costanoa Ventures also participated in this round. Including this round, Elevate has raised $10 million in funding. In conjunction with this round of funding, Trae Vassallo (co-founder and managing director at Defy) and Martina Lauchengco (Operating Partner at Costanoa Ventures) have joined the board.
“For too long, companies have treated their employees like the weakest link. We knew we could help customers empower their employees to be security superheroes against threats. I’m excited to build a team to make this a reality for more and more companies,” said Elevate Security co-founder and CEO Robert Fly.
This round of funding will be used for expanding the team and opening a new engineering hub in Montreal. Plus the company is going to accelerate go-to-market for its platform.
Recently, Elevate hired Jean-François Gailleur as vice president of engineering. Previously, Gailleur held key roles at AppDirect, SAP, and RadialPoint and he was brought in to build Elevate’s security team in Montreal. Gailleur als lectures at École de technologie supérieure in Montreal.
“We’re really proud to be building an inclusive security company, and partnering with Defy and Costanoa is enabling us to do that in a powerful way,” added Elevate Security co-founder and chief product officer Masha Sedova. “Our company is 50% female, engineering included, and we have an all-women outside board. The culture we’re building internally is just as exciting as what we’re building externally for our great customers.”
James Hong, Sr. Manager of Security Engagement at Autodesk said that Elevate is helping the company take their program beyond awareness to readiness by giving their employees visibility and insight to know how they are doing along the journey to “employee-centric risk reduction.”
Polly: $7 Million In Series A
Polly, a Seattle-based survey platform company, announced it has raised $7 million in Series A funding led Madrona Venture Group. Existing seed investors the Slack Fund, Amplify Partners, and Fathom Capital also participated in this round. With this funding round, Polly will expand the product and go-to-market teams. Prior to raising this funding round, Polly participated in the 2016 Seattle Techstars cohort. The company was founded by former Microsoft engineers Samir Diwan and Bilal Aijazi.
Polly enables companies using work collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams with a way to quickly collect feedback with integrated surveys. As a result, companies can measure their workflows and iterate to improve employee and customer experiences.
“Polly fills a need that teams across an entire organization have. They want to understand how employees are working together, what they think the right direction for a product or process is, and how well the company is working as a whole,” said Diwan (CEO) in a statement. “We have been gratified to see that enterprises looking to move quickly across a broad range of functions have chosen Polly to measure the success of their workflows in real time. We tripled our user base in 2018 and launched our Enterprise version which has surpassed internal expectations – we are excited to continue to build on this success for our customers.”
Last year, Polly launched Polly for Enterprises in Slack, which gives large companies the ability to collect and aggregate feedback across the organization, enterprise-level security, and compliance. And companies that require tight feedback loops have been adopting Polly across nearly all their departments.
“The Polly team has taken a simple idea – surveys inside of Slack – and created a whole new way of collecting people-powered data on modern communication platforms,” added Madrona Venture Group partner Sudip Chakrabarti. “As modern workflows move to real-time messaging platforms, Polly enables enterprises to get a holistic picture of their customers, employees, product and brand. Samir and Bilal are leading a team passionate about making work better and we look forward to supporting them on their journey.” As part of the funding, Chakrabarti joins the company’s board of directors.
Pure Storage, one of Polly’s customers, uses the platform to connect important processes and teams within their organizations. PureStorage’s Director IT Service Delivery Anne Aviles said that the company uses Polly to share customer satisfaction scores with management and it is now essential to the IT department.
TuSimple Secures $95 Million In Series D At A $1 Billion Valuation
TuSimple, a San Diego, California-based global autonomous truck company, has raised $95 million in Series D funding on a pre-money valuation of $1 billion. This round will be used for funding TuSimple’s commercial ramp-up and product development. And the company will continue to grow its commercial autonomous fleet, which makes daily fully-autonomous deliveries in Arizona. The company will soon expand to Texas for larger shippers and fleets.
The fleet allows TuSimple to earn revenue while validating its SAE Level 4 fully-autonomous system. Currently, TuSimple has 12 contracted customers and it is making three to five delivery trips per day.
By June, TuSimple is planning to grow its fleet to over 50 trucks. And TuSimple will be using the funding for critical joint production programs with its OEM (Tier 1) and sensor partners to achieve full commercialization. TuSimple’s suppliers essential for truck manufacturing are working with them on the integration of autonomous software with powertrain, braking, and steering systems.
“Autonomous driving is one of the most complex AI systems humans have ever built. After three years of intense focus to reach our technical goals, we have moved beyond research into the serious work of building a commercial solution,” said TuSimple founder, president, and CTO Dr. Xiaodi Hou. “We are thankful for the continued support of our investors and partners. This is not only a great sign of confidence in TuSimple, but also for the future of autonomous trucking.”
This round of funding was actually completed in December 2018, but announced this month. Including this round, TuSimple has raised a total of $178 million. This round of funding was led by Sina, the China-based online media giant known for creating the Weibo social platform. Hong Kong-based investment firm Composite Capital also participated in this round.
“TuSimple consistently reaches their milestones on and ahead of schedule and we are confident that they are poised to bring the first commercial self-driving trucks to market,” added Sina’s Vice General Manager of the Investment Department Colin Xie. “We are focused on finding the global leaders in artificial intelligence and TuSimple is ahead of the pack. The combination of technical excellence and an impressive leadership team has propelled the company into unicorn status.”
TuSimple’s Level 4 fully-autonomous semi-trucks are the only ones that are capable of driving from depot-to-depot without human intervention. And to support Level 4 driving on complex highways and streets, TuSimple developed an innovative camera-centric perception solution so that the trucks can see 1,000 meters ahead.
Rapyd: $40 Million In Series B
Rapyd, a global fintech-as-a-service platform that enables businesses and consumers to make and receive payments using any payment method or cash for local and cross-border e-commerce, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst and Stripe. Target Global, IGNIA and other strategic payments and fintech companies also participated in this round.
“We’re excited to work with our new partners General Catalyst, Stripe, Target Global, IGNIA, and others, who today join our earlier investors including seed and series A lead TaL Capital. This marks a critical inflection point in our evolution as a company and at a time when market demand for our fintech-as-a-service platform approach is accelerating,” said Rapyd co-founder and CEO Arik Shtilman in a statement.
With this funding round, Rapyd is going to expand its technology platform that supports any local or cross-border commerce use case requiring local payments like bank transfers, e-wallets, and cash for local acceptance and payouts. And Rapyd is addressing a growing market opportunity since more than half of all transactions worldwide are facilitated via bank transfer. But merchants are finding it difficult to digitally enable local payment methods and process cross-border sales that are necessary for international expansion.
General Catalyst partner Adam Valkin pointed out that Rapyd’s product offering helps merchants, fintech companies, and telcos expand the scope of products they offer and increase the number of customers they reach. Target Global general partner Mike Lobanov added Rapyd is a unique solution that allows merchants and banks that work globally to be able to access hundreds of payment methods with one integration around the world, which ensures access to services who are most in need so that they can pay the way they are used to instead of being obliged to use the “existing rails of card schemes.” And TaL Capital co-Managing Partner Eyal Dior said that his team saw Rapyd’s vision to fundamentally rethink how money movement and payment services could be delivered through a cloud computing model through a single technology stack early on so they were pleased to lead the seed round and co-lead the Series A.
Rapyd also provides Single Point of Reconciliation and Settlement of all funds across 65 currencies and the ability to payout in over 170 countries. And Rapyd offers advanced real-time foreign exchange services that provide a lower cost to clients and their consumers and are more profitable due to advanced FX hedging technology. Plus Rapyd offers comprehensive global Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Counter Financing Terrorism (CFT) services.
Dandelion Energy: $16 Million In Series A Funding
Dandelion Energy, a leading home geothermal company, offering homeowners a clean and cost-effective heating and cooling solution has raised $16 million in Series A funding. Including this round, Dandelion Energy has raised $23 million in total funding. This round of funding was co-led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Comcast Ventures. Lennar Corporation and previous investors NEA, Collaborative Fund, Ground Up, Zhenfund, and several others also participated in this round.
“In partnership with world-class investors including GV, Comcast Ventures, and Lennar Corporation, the nation’s leading home builder, as well as with the continued support of our existing investors, we’re eager to continue to advance our mission of enabling the widespread adoption of geothermal,” said Dandelion Energy’s co-founder and CEO Kathy Hannun in a statement.
With this funding round, Dandelion Energy is going to accelerate growth, invest in R&D, and expand operations across the state of New York (opening new warehouses and hiring more team members). In conjunction with this funding round, GV partner Shaun Maguire and Comcast Ventures managing director Sam Landman are joining the company’s board.
“In a short amount of time, Dandelion has already proven to be an effective and affordable alternative for home heating and cooling, leveraging best-in-class geothermal technology,” added Maguire. “Driven by an exceptional leadership team, including CEO Kathy Hannun, Dandelion Energy is poised to have a meaningful impact on adoption of geothermal energy solutions among homeowners.”
Dandelion Energy has a mission to modernize home heating and cooling through the widespread adoption of geothermal energy. The Dandelion Energy team began working on this mission while being incubated at Google parent company Alphabet’s X lab before spinning out as an independent company in New York City in May 2017.
“The home heating and cooling industry has been constrained by lack of innovation and high-costs,” Landman commented. “The team at Dandelion and their modern approach to implementing geothermal technology is transforming the industry and giving consumers a convenient, safe, and cost-effective way to heat and cool their homes while reducing carbon emissions.”
There are millions of homeowners in the U.S. who heat homes with fossil fuels like natural gas, heating oil, and propane. In fact, over 7 million homes have either heating oil or propane based home heating systems in the northeastern region part of the country alone. Not only are heating fuels expensive and inconvenient, but it is also responsible for about 11 percent of all carbon emissions related to the heating of homes and businesses in the U.S.
By investing in heat pump and drilling technology, Dandelion Energy has been able to address the main factor that limited the growth of geothermal in the United States, which is cost. The Dandelion Home Geothermal System is half the cost of traditional geothermal installations, meaning that geothermal heating and cooling systems are economically viable for millions of homeowners for the first time. Last summer, Dandelion Energy launched the Dandelion Air heat pump and the company became New York’s largest residential geothermal installer by volume within six months of launch.
“We’re incredibly excited to invest in Dandelion Energy,” explained Lennar Ventures general partner Eric Feder. “The possibility of incorporating geothermal heating & cooling systems in our new homes is something we’ve explored for years, but the math never made sense. Dandelion Energy is finally making geothermal affordable and we look forward to the possibility of start including it in the homes Lennar builds.”
JibJab Acquired By Catapult Capital
Digital entertainment studio company JibJab has been acquired by Los Angeles-based private equity firm Catapult Capital. And a portion of the financing was provided by St. Cloud Capital. The financial terms were undisclosed.
“From our political parodies in the early days to our more recent personalized expression content, JibJab’s bread and butter has always been creating high-quality content and products with the goal of making billions of people happy,” said JibJab CEO Paul Hanges. “With Catapult Capital and the investor group’s support, we’ll be able to make additional investments in product, new markets, and technology, and help more people create and share our best content. We’re eager for the opportunities ahead of us.”
JibJab has a direct-to-consumer ecard greeting business and a children’s educational brand called StoryBots. Plus the company has an Emmy award-winning Netflix original TV series called Ask the Storybots.
“JibJab has created a successful business through a combination of product innovation, premium content, and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Gary Hsueh, Founding Partner of Catapult Capital. “With the addition of our product, operational, and distribution resources to support the company’s evolution, we intend to accelerate JibJab’s new growth phase. We look forward to working with Paul, our co-investors, and the JibJab team to continue growing the business and expanding into new markets and formats.”
Fiverr Buys ClearVoice
Fiverr announced that it has acquired Phoenix-based premium subscription-based content marketing platform ClearVoice. Bringing ClearVoice to the Fiverr portfolio will ensure that professionals and businesses can conveniently and consistently access freelance talent when they need it.
Content marketing is one of the most highly demanded services on Fiverr right now. And it is one of the highest grossing verticals on Fiverr Pro, which is Fiverr’s top tier of freelancers.
“As a market leader, Fiverr is strategically pursuing acquisition opportunities that add depth, expertise and expanded functionality to create more touch points between us and the $100+ billion freelance economy,” said Fiverr CEO Micha Kaufman in a statement. “We are uniquely positioned to consolidate best-in-class vertical players to offer our customers a better solution and an improved experience. Having the ClearVoice team on board, with their strong expertise in building products for larger businesses, allows us to advance our efforts in this area and continue our strategic move upmarket towards higher-end digital services and customers.”
Phoenix-based ClearVoice was founded by Jay Swansson and Joe Griffin in 2014. Some of the company’s customers include Intuit, Carfax, and Esurance.
Johnson & Johnson Agrees To Acquire Auris Health For $3.4 Billion
Johnson & Johnson announced that it is going to acquire Auris Health for $3.4 billion in cash. And the company will make additional contingent payments of up to $2.35 billion in the aggregate upon reaching certain predetermined milestones. This acquisition is going to accelerate Johnson & Johnson’s entry into robotics.
Auris Health is a privately held developer of robotic technologies, which is initially focused on lung cancer. And it has an FDA-cleared platform currently used in bronchoscopic diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
“In this new era of health care, we’re aiming to simplify surgery, drive efficiency, reduce complications and improve outcomes for patients, ultimately making surgery safer,” said Johnson & Johnson EVP and Worldwide Chairman of Medical Devices Ashley McEvoy. “We believe the combination of best-in-class robotics, advanced instrumentation, and unparalleled end-to-end connectivity will make a meaningful difference in patient outcomes.”
Auris Health’s Monarch Platform robotic technology is going to play an important role within the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson (LCI). And it will enable the development of a differentiated solution that addresses key steps in the lung cancer care journey.
Auris Health CEO and Founder Frederic Moll will be joining Johnson & Johnson upon the transaction completing. “This combination is a testament to the incredible work of the Auris Health team and the innovation engine behind the Monarch Platform, which represents a huge step forward in endoluminal technology. We look forward to continuing to shape the future of intervention with the added expertise and resources of the world’s largest healthcare organization,” added Dr. Moll.
Medium Buys The Bold Italic
Blog platform company Medium has acquired The Bold Italic, which is an online publication about life in San Francisco. The Bold Italic started publishing exclusively on Medium about three years ago. The Bold Italic editor in chief Clara Hogan and the company’s three-person editorial team is going to work on contract at Medium going forward.
“We’re excited to now have greater resources to produce even better content, and most importantly, pay our contributors — old and new — significantly more,” said Hogan in a Medium post.