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VC Daily : Venture Firm 500 Startups Rebrands, Closes Its Largest Fund

09/15/2021 | 07:58am EDT

Good day. Nostalgics may be disappointed that prominent San Francisco-based venture firm 500 Startups is changing its name to 500 Global. But what is even more striking is that a firm that made investing in companies in their infancy its trademark is now moving downstream, the latest sign that investing in growth and late-stage businesses is getting increasingly crowded.

500 Global closed its largest fund to date at $140 million to support its new strategy as it seeks to invest in growth and late-stage deals, including ahead of companies' public listings. At the same time, the fresh injection will be used to sustain the firm's wide-ranging presence in international markets.

The firm started cementing its global footprint since its foundation in 2010 by creating local teams that can source deals and gain allocations, an approach that gives it a competitive edge now that more U.S. firms are expanding overseas, founding partner and Chief Executive Christine Tsai said.

And now on to the news...

Top News

Indian fintech. Paytm, a pioneer in mobile payments in India and one of the country's best-known startups, set out years ago to build an ubiquitous digital-finance ecosystem much like Ant Group Co.'s Alipay in China, The Wall Street Journal reports. Now, as Paytm's owner nears a $2.2 billion listing that will see it beat Ant to the public markets, the company isn't the dominant player it wanted to become and faces mounting challenges in an increasingly crowded Indian payments market.

It has already been overtaken in one key area by deep-pocketed rivals including Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Walmart Inc.-backed Indian startup PhonePe.

One97 Communications Ltd., which owns Paytm, is targeting a market valuation of $25 billion when it goes public at home this autumn. The listing will generate hefty profits for 43-year-old founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and investors including SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

0.3%

How much consumer prices rose in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared with a 0.5% one-month increase in July, the Labor Department said. (WSJ)

SmartNews App Raises $230 Million, Considers Possible IPO

SmartNews Inc. has raised $230 million in its latest funding round, valuing the news-discovery app at roughly $2 billion and setting the stage for a potential listing of its shares, WSJ reports. SmartNews is a news-aggregation website that forms partnerships with external outlets such as USA Today and Time magazine to publish their content. The app prides itself on aiding local news organizations, many of which have been under extreme pressure, by driving traffic to their articles through a tab that shows personalized headlines based on a user's location.

Fintech Startup Pagaya Nears $9 Billion SPAC Deal

Pagaya Technologies Ltd. is close to an agreement to go public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company that would value the financial-technology startup at about $9 billion, said people familiar with the matter. Based in New York and Tel Aviv, Pagaya operates an artificial-intelligence network to make financial transactions like lending more efficient and give more people the ability to borrow, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Industry News

Funds

Alexandria, Va.-based fintech investor QED Investors closed its oversubscribed seventh fund with capital commitments of $1.05 billion. The new fund, which is a $550 million early-stage fund and a $500 million growth-stage fund, will continue to invest across the U.S., U.K., Latin America and Southeast Asia. QED Investors recently participated in funding rounds for Brazilian fintech startup Cora and small business services provider Hello Alice.

People

Rally Ventures, which is focused on early-stage business technology, said Jessi Howard joined the firm as chief people officer. She previously held positions at SportsEngine, RedBrick Health and Secure Computing. With offices in Menlo Park, Calif. and Minneapolis, Rally is currently investing from its $250 million fourth fund.

OpenWeb, a community engagement and audience development platform for publishers, appointed Andrew Sullivan as chief product officer and Boris Korenfeld as chief technology officer. Mr. Sullivan was most recently senior vice president of product and strategy at Operative. Mr. Korenfeld previously held positions at Google and Gett. Founded in 2012 and based in New York and Tel Aviv, OpenWeb is backed by investors including Insight Partners, AltaIR Capital, Norma Investments, Entrée Capital and Index Ventures.

Kepler Communications Inc., a startup working to develop a Low Earth Orbit satellite communication network, named Stephen Bennett to the post of chief operating officer. He was most recently senior vice president at Blue Origin. Toronto-based Kepler Communications recently raised a $60 million Series B round from Tribe Capital, IA Ventures, Costanoa Ventures and Canaan Partners.

Exits

Digital life insurance provider Bestow Inc. acquired Centurion Life Insurance Co. for an undisclosed amount. In November 2020, Dallas-based Bestow said it raised $70 million in Series C funding from Breyer Capital, Valar Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Core Innovation Ventures, Morpheus Ventures and Sammons Financial Group.

Protective intelligence software developer Ontic acquired Sigma Threat Management Associates for an undisclosed sum. Austin, Texas-based Ontic is backed by Felicis Ventures, Silverton Partners, Floodgate Fund and Village Global.

Zenoti, a provider of business management software for the spa and salon industry, purchased competitor SuperSalon for an undisclosed amount. Bellevue, Wash.-based Zenoti recently secured $80 million in Series D funding at a valuation of over $1.5 billion. Investors in the company include TPG, Advent International, Tiger Global Management, Norwest Venture Partners and Accel.

New Money

DeepRoute.ai, a China- and Fremont, Calif.-based self-driving technology company focused on urban logistics and robotaxis, closed a $300 million Series B round. Alibaba Group led the funding, which included additional support from Jeneration Capital, Fosun RZ Capital, Yunqi Partners and Glory Ventures.

Melio, a New York-based B2B payments platform for small businesses, scored an additional $250 million in funding, tripling the company's valuation to $4 billion since January. The Series D round was co-led by Thrive Capital and General Catalyst, and included participation from Tiger Global Management, Accel, Bessemer Venture Partners, Coatue Management, Corner Ventures and Latitude Ventures.

Misfits Market, a Delanco, N.J.-based startup that helps eliminate food waste by delivering misshapen produce to consumers, closed a $225 million Series C1 round, bringing the company's valuation to $2 billion. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the investment, which included participation from Accel. Lydia Jett, an investor and partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join the company's board.

Canva, a free online visual communications and collaboration platform, picked up a $200 million investment, giving the company a valuation of $40 billion. T. Rowe Price led the funding, which included support from Franklin Templeton, Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Bessemer Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investments, Blackbird Ventures, Felicis Ventures and AirTree Ventures. The company has offices in Sydney, Manila and Beijing.

Xendit, a payments infrastructure provider for Southeast Asian countries, has achieved unicorn status with its $150 million Series C round. Tiger Global Management led the investment, which included contributions from Accel, Amasia and Goat Capital.

SkyKick Inc., a Seattle-based provider of no-code and low-code cloud automation software, completed a $130 million debt and equity round from Morgan Stanley, Hawk Equity, Schechter Private Capital and others.

AgBiome Inc., a Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based developer of naturally derived crop protection products, secured $116 million in Series D financing co-led by Blue Horizon and Novalis LifeSciences.

Sendoso, a San Francisco-based platform for businesses sending personalized gifts, branded swag, eGifts and virtual experiences, landed $100 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the round, which saw participation from Oak HC/FT, Struck Capital, Stage 2 Capital, Craft Ventures, Signia Venture Partners and Felicis Ventures.

Versatile, a Los Altos, Calif.-based construction-tech startup, grabbed $80 million in Series B financing. Led by Insight Partners, the round included participation from Tiger Global Management, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Entrée Capital, Root Ventures, Conductive Ventures and others.

Ribbon, a New York- and Charlotte, N.C.-based digital homebuying platform, snagged $75 million in Series C equity led by Greenspring Associates, in addition to $75 million in working capital. Previous backers including Greylock Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, NFX, Nyca Partners and Thomvest Ventures also participated in the Series C round, along with new investors First American Financial, Waterfall Asset Management, TriplePoint Capital, 75 & Sunny Ventures and others.

Zonos, a St. George, Utah-based cross-border commerce startup, nabbed a $69 million Series A investment. Silversmith Capital Partners led the round, with Managing Partner Todd MacLean joining the board.

strongDM, a Burlingame, Calif.-based infrastructure access platform, closed a $54 million Series B round. Tiger Global Management led the investment, which included contributions from GV, Sequoia Capital, True Ventures, Hearstlab and Bloomberg Beta.

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

09-15-21 0958ET

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