VENTURE CAPITAL MARKET REVIEW, ISSUE 23 (FEBRUARY 2-8)
Last week was full of news: large (Microsoft) and small (Monotype) acquisitions, few new venture funds’ launch and new programs start – venture ecosystem starts its active movement
M&A. Microsoft Is Acquiring Calendar App Sunrise
Software giant Microsoft is in the process of trying to reinvent itself, and part of that reinvention evidently involves acquiring startups that have created products that compete with its own. The latest acquisition is calendar app maker Sunrise, which Microsoft shelled out at least $100 million for according to our sources.
Sunrise has a suite of calendar products for mobile and desktop users that connects with and consolidates calendars from different providers. It’s available on the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and on the Mac App Store, as well as offering a web client.
Users can access their calendars from Google, iCloud, and Microsoft Exchange, as well as connecting to a wide range of other third-party apps. That cross-device and cross-platform support has helped it gain significant traction among users.
Founded in 2012, Sunrise raised $8.2 million from investors that include Balderton Capital, Resolute.vc, NextView Ventures, Lerer Ventures, SV Angel, BoxGroup, 500 Startups, John Maloney, Slow Ventures, David King, Andrew Kortina, Adam Nash, Elliot Shmukler, Hunter Walk, Gustaf Alströmer, Loic Le Meur, Bill Lee, and Adam Mosseri.
M&A. Monotype Acquires Sticker Startup Swyft Media
Monotype Imaging Holdings, a publicly traded company focused on fonts, just announced that it has acquired New York City-based ad startup Swyft Media.
The startup helps messaging apps like Kik, KakaoTalk, TextPlus, and Viber make money by selling branded, digital stickers and other ad products — as a recent story in Fortune put it, Swyft “is turning emoji into cash.”
The idea might sound a little niche at first, but the Swyft’s founders Evan Wray and Sean O’Brien convince that stickers are a smart way for brands to get in front of messaging app users, without being obtrusive or annoying.
The company says it has worked with 300 brands so far, including Sony, MGM, SEGA, Dreamworks, and Hearst.
Under the announced deal terms, Monotype will pay $12 million for Swyft up front, with $15 million in potential earn outs. Founded in 2012 as TextPride, the startup announced a $1 million seed round last fall.
STARTUP. Mobile Wallet For LatAm Draws $19M From LIV Capital And Others
YellowPepper, a mobile virtual wallet startup aimed at the Latin American market, has closed $19 million in a Series C funding round, bringing its total funding to $34 million to date. The round was led by LIV Capital, a Mexican venture capital firm with approximately $130 million in assets under management. Also participating was Mexico Ventures, a program managed by Sun Mountain Capital (a US-based venture fund), Fondo de Fondos, International Finance Corporation / World Bank Group and an existing group of strategic investors.
Last month the company launched Yepex, which is being pitched as Latin America’s ‘mobile smart wallet’. The proceeds of this round will mainly be dedicated to its development and commercialization. Banamex, the 2nd largest bank in Mexico, was the first bank to try the Yepex app in a controlled pilot and will now launch a beta with users and merchants in Mexico.
The Yepex wallet is an Android and iOS-based wallet where the users can store all their different debit and credit cards and start purchasing without giving away sensitive information (such as PAN, expiration date, CVV), but can instead transact with a unique token that can either be communicated to the merchant manually or via HCE or QR codes.
STARTUP. Mumbai-Based Baby Products Startup Nabs $26M In New Funding
FirstCry.com is the latest Indian e-commerce company to scoop up funding. The startup, which is based in Mumbai, announced that it has raised $26 million led by Valiant Capital Partners. Existing investors also returned for the round, which brings the total FirstCry has raised so far to $55 million.
India’s e-commerce market is one of the fastest-growing in the world and expected to be worth $43 billion by the end of this decade. Unlike e-commerce giants like Flipkart and Snapdeal, both of which have received significant rounds of funding, FirstCry stands out by focusing on baby products.
The baby care product market in India is worth $10 billion, but only 5 percent of transactions are done through online retailers, leaving plenty of room for growth. In addition to its website, however, FirstCry.com also taps into offline sales with a franchise network of over 100 brick-and-mortar stores in 85 cities.
The company plans to use its latest funding to expand its offline presence by adding 400 new stores over the next three years. FirstCry.com’s founders have also said that they plan to expand into other verticals, including family care products.
INVESTMENT. 500 Mobile Collective Makes It First Investment
500 Startups’ mobile-focused micro-fund has made its first investment, putting some cash into a startup that plans to bring mobile apps to the desktop. The company’s investment is in Andy OS, an Android-based operating system that runs mobile apps on Windows and Mac, as well as in the cloud.
Andy OS enables users to access their favorite Android apps and content from the Google Play store on new platforms. It brings those apps to the billions of personal computers that are already out there, and gives developers a new way to reach users.
The cloud-based operating system offers all the same features you would expect, including a customizable UI and desktop notifications. It also allows users to use their phones as a remote control for games that run on their desktop.
According to co-founder and CEO Sean Murphy, Andy OS was built to bring a sort of continuity between apps that users can access on their mobile phones and those that are on the desktop. While Apple has its own “continuity” between iPhone and Mac products, nothing like that exists between Android and Windows, or even Android and Mac.
That’s an idea that’s caught on among early users: The product has been around for fewer than nine months, but has already amassed more than 3 million users worldwide. About 60 percent of those are active daily, and they spend an average of 23 minutes on Andy OS each day.
Its growth attracted the attention of Edith Yeung and the 500 Mobile Collective, which invested in the company as part of a $3 million round. Other investors include DeNA, China Rock Ventures, Weiming Angels, Cherubic Ventures and SEA Ventures.
INVESTMENT. Alibaba Launches Financing Program For U.S. Businesses
Alibaba.com and peer-to-peer financing site Lending Club have inked a strategic partnership designed to get more U.S. businesses to buy inventory from the e-commerce giant’s wholesale marketplace. The two will offer a new financial service called the Alibaba.com e-Credit Line that will let American companies apply for credit lines of $5,000 to $300,000 through the site, which they can then use to make purchases there.
The program will eventually expand beyond the U.S.
Though Alibaba dominates China’s e-commerce market, holding about 45 percent of the market, its growth stalled last year thanks in part to increasing competition from rivals like JD.com. Furthermore, Alibaba’s earnings have worried investors since its record-setting IPO in September. Last week, the company disclosed revenue for the quarter ending in December that was below expectations, due in part to ongoing investments in its mobile business.
In order to develop new markets for its e-commerce businesses, Alibaba has taken a two-pronged approach. In China, it is targeting smaller cities and villages by developing its logistics system. Meanwhile, initiatives like Alibaba.com e-Credit Line may help Alibaba (and Lending Club) secure new international customers.
INVESTMENT. Salesforce Ventures Leads $41M Apttus Investment
Apttus, a company that helps customers manage the second half of the sales cycle involving quotes, contracts, and collecting the money, announced $41M in Series B funding today.
The investment was led by Salesforce Ventures, the investment arm of Salesforce.com. It’s worth noting that it’s the largest investment ever in a company that Salesforce wasn’t buying outright, according to Apttus CEO Kirk Krappe.
Additional investors include K1 Capital and Iconiq. Today’s money brings the total raised to $78M.
Apttus is built on top of the Salesforce platform, and according to Krappe it’s a perfect complement to Salesforce CRM.