VENTURE CAPITAL MARKET OVERVIEW, ISSUE 39 (MAY 25 – 31)
It’s been a really a saturated week on venture capital market. Among the M&A participants – Apple, Salesforce, Vox Media and Snapdeal, few interesting and smart startups all over the world raised money, new investment possibilities are announced.
M&A. Apple Acquires Augmented Reality Company Metaio
Apple has acquired Metaio, an augmented reality startup that launched way back in 2003 as an offshoot of a project at Volkswagen. The company’s site said it stopped taking new customers, and now a legal document shows Apple has bought it. The document confirms a transfer of shares of the startup to Apple on May 21st/22nd.
When asked, Apple responded with its standard reply it gives as confirmation of acquistions, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
Metaio hadn’t taken traditional Silicon Valley venture capital, but had raised some money from Atlantic Bridge and Westcott.
The company is well established. Many impressive projects have been produced using its tools including one of with Ferrari that gives a potential buyer an AR tour of the car. Metaio boasts a big community of developers with a 1000 customers and 150,000 users worldwide in 30 countries.
M&A. Salesforce Acquires Smart Calendar Startup Tempo
Сalendar app Tempo announced that it has been acquired by Salesforce.com.
The company was incubated by SRI International, the birthplace of the voice-powered (and Apple-acquired) assistant Siri. When Tempo launched two years ago, founder and CEO Raj Singh pitched it as another type of assistant that automatically brings up relevant information for your meetings.
For example, when one looks up meetings in the Tempo app, he can view a map of the location (plus look up nearby parking lots or call an Uber), bring up social media posts from everyone invited and read related emails and documents. If it’s a conference call, one can also join the call with one tap.
Tempo goes on to say that joining Salesforce allows it to “continue our mission at a much larger scale.”
Whether that means Salesforce will use Tempo’s technology or is basically just hiring the Tempo team isn’t clear. Regardless, it’s bad news for users of the existing Tempo app, which is no longer accepting new users. The company plans to fully discontinue the app on June 30.
Tempo has raised $12.5 million in funding from investors, including Relay Ventures, Sierra Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Horizon Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, SingTel Innov8, Miramar Venture Partner, Golden Venture Partners, Seavest Capital Partners and ENIAC Ventures.
M&A. Vox Media Acquires Re/code
Digital media conglomerate Vox Media has acquired Re/code, the technology industry news publication led by renowned tech journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.
Financial details of the size of the deal, which was reportedly all-stock, have not been disclosed.
Re/code launched in January 2014 by Swisher and Mossberg and a number of their colleagues from AllThingsD, the erstwhile tech news vertical of the Wall Street Journal which spun out as an independent entity in September 2013 after months of negotiations. According to the New York Times, Re/code has 44 full-time employees, all of whom are expected to join Vox as part of the acquisition.
It’s also worth mentioning that Vox Media owns the Verge, so this deal brings two formidable tech publications — with quite different focuses and reporting styles — together under one roof.
M&A. Indian E-commerce Giant Snapdeal Acquires MartMobi To Build Its Mobile Platform
Snapdeal, one of the largest e-commerce players in India, has snapped up MartMobi for an undisclosed amount. Based in Hyderabad, Martmobi helped vendors build mobile apps and sites. Snapdeal said the acquisition will help improve its mobile experience for sellers and customers on its marketplace.
India is Asia’s fastest-growing smartphone market, according to IDC, and mobile is the first point of access for many Internet users. For e-commerce platforms, this means it is essential to make mobile apps and sites that are not only easy to browse and purchase from, but also navigable for vendors managing large amounts of inventory and transactions.
Mobile is important enough that Snapdeal competitor Myntra recently closed down its website to direct more customers to its apps, while Flipkart is also reportedly planning to go “app-only.”
STARTUP. Turkish Online Payment Company Iyzico Closes $6.2 Million Series B
Turkey’s Iyzico, which provides a platform to let e-commerce sites and other apps easily accept online payments, has raised a $6.2 million Series B. Leading the round is International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s investing arm, while Istanbul-based VC 212, Endeavor Catalyst, and Austria’s Speedinvest also participated. The startup has now raised $9.4 million in total since it was founded in 2012.
Initially dubbed the ‘Stripe of Turkey’, in reference to the widely popular San Francisco-based payments company that it counts as a potential competitor, Iyzico says it will use the new capital to expand its research and development team, and “scale its payment technology globally.”
Specifically, the startup is planning to go beyond Turkey and target the Middle East, with the aim to become the leading payments platform in the region. Noteworthy is that neither Stripe nor Rocket Internet’s Stripe-clone Paymill has a local presence in Turkey (or the Middle East), a situation Iyzico and its backers believe can be exploited.
STARTUP. Taiwan-Based Media Startup The News Lens Raises Series A
The News Lens, an independent news site based in Taipei, has scooped up its Series A. The exact amount of the funding was undisclosed, but the startup tells it was between $1 million to $2 million.
Participants include returning investor North Base Media, a firm created by former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editor Marcus Brauchli and Media Development Loan Fund founder Sasa Vucinic to support independent media in emerging markets, as well as 500 Startups; Lionrock Capital founder and chief executive officer Hari Kumar; venture capitalist Herbert Chang; and angel investor Jim Wu.
The capital will be used to launch an iOS and Android app next month and continue The News Lens’ expansion into markets beyond Taiwan. The site was originally launched in 2013 to provide an independent and analytical alternative to the country’s newspapers, which are known for their strong political biases and obsessive coverage of minor celebrity gossip.
Since then, it has expanded its operations to Hong Kong, where it now has an office, and Southeast Asia. The News Lens currently claims five million monthly unique visitors, with nearly one million from outside of Taiwan. Its audience skews young, with 75 percent between the ages of 18 to 35.
STARTUP. Nigeria’s Hotels.ng Grabs $1.2M To Expand Listings Across Africa
Hotels.ng, which claims to be the largest hotel booking site in Nigeria, has raised $1.2 million to expand across Africa. Investors include EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network, a venture capital firm launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
The site will launch new operations in Ghana first, says founder Mark Essien, and then move on to all of West Africa before tackling the rest of the continent. It also plans to focus on its mobile platform, since many consumers in Africa access the Internet exclusively through their smartphones.
Users performed more than a million hotel searches on the site last year, while 70,000 new customers signed up. Hotels.ng’s growth in its home market hinges on two factors: Nigeria’s Internet penetration rate, which is the highest in Africa and still increasing rapidly, and the government’s investment in its tourism industry, which is expected to contribute 5.8 percent of its gross domestic product by 2024.
INVESTMENT. London’s Passion Capital Raises $69M For Its Second Early Stage Fund
London-based Passion Capital has raised a second fund for investing in early stage U.K.-based startups — today announcing a coffer of £45 million ($69M) to power its next phase of investments.
Passion Capital Fund II is another ECF (Enterprise Capital Fund), so the U.K. government is providing a portion of the funding (via the British Business Bank) as was the case with Passion’s first fund. This time the taxpayer is contributing £17.5 million of the pot. Other investors in the fund include family offices in Europe and across Southeast Asia.
The firm said that it intends to continue its strategy of investing more like “super angels” or a “micro VC” rather than a traditional VC, and still fully focused on the earliest stage tech and digital companies.
Passion partner Eileen Burbidge told it’s expecting to make between 30 to 35 investments in total with fund II — so “potentially slightly fewer” than it made from its first fund in order to bump its first seed cheque averages from £193k to around £250k — “for greater ownership”.
INVESTMENT. Weibo Invests $142M In Taxi-Hailing Firm Didi Kuaidi
Weibo, the NASDAQ-listed microblogging company from China, is an unlikely investor in China’s soon-to-merge taxi-hailing services Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache.
Didi and Kuaidi, two rivals that together are estimated to account for over 95 percent of China’s taxi app market, announced their surprise coming-together in February. Though the deal is not done yet, an SEC filing from Weibo — first reported by Reuters — confirmed it will invest $142 million in the new entity, known as Didi Kuaidi.
Weibo is an unexpected backer, but it already has a strong link with Didi Kuaidi. That’s Alibaba, which is an investor in Kuaidi and also owns shares in Weibo courtesy of a $586 million investment in 2012.
INVESTMENT. Taxi-Hailing App Flywheel Adds A Group Of New Investors
Cab-hailing startup Flywheel has been gradually expanding its availability in new markets, and also offering new ways for customers to pay. To do so, the company has extended its Series C financing to make room for a group of investors with experience building huge businesses and ties to its new CEO.
The Flywheel app enables users to hail — and now pay for — cabs from their mobile phones in various cities across the country. It partners with local taxi fleets in six markets along the West Coast, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and San Diego.
Last fall, Flywheel announced a $14 million Series C financing round and a new CEO, former Stratify, Snapstick, and Droptalk founder Rakesh Mathur. That brought the total amount Flywheel had raised since being founded to $35 million.
Flywheel is not disclosing the amount of this investment, but the deal adds new investors who have worked with Mathur before. That includes former Flextronics CEO Michael Marks, former Aricent CEO Ash Bhardwaj, former OpenTable CFO Duncan Robertson, as well as Smart Modular founder Ajay Shah. They join previous investors TCW/Craton, Rockport Capital and Shasta Ventures.
INVESTMENT. JD.com Leads $70M Round In Online Produce Retailer FruitDay
Chinese e-commerce site and Alibaba rival JD.com is putting its money into fresh fruit and vegetables after it led a $70 million Series C round in FruitDay, a company that sells fresh produce across China.
The investment in six-year-old FruitDay, which claims to be China’s largest online produce firm, also included participation from previous backers Susquehanna International Group (SIG) and ClearVue.
FruitDay imports over 80 percent of its produce from overseas, and it claimed to be on course to hit 10 million customers before the end of the year — up fourfold from last year.
The company said in a statement that it will use the new capital to develop its infrastructure and logistics, hire new management and for general business development.