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Softbank brings more VC muscle to fintech, with record $1b deal
<p>Japanese telecoms titan and early stage heavyweight SoftBank has just led a $1 billion Series E round for SoFi, the San Francisco-based online service that offers a way for debt-ridden students in the US to refinance their federal or private student loans.</p> <p>Softbank is calling it "the largest single financing round in the fintech space to date". The round included Third Point Ventures, Wellington Management Company LLP, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), RenRen, Baseline Ventures, DCM Ventures and others.</p> <p>The investment is set to aid SoFi - short for social finance - in its expansion into other areas of consumer finance including mortgages and personal loans. Nikesh Arora, president and COO of SoftBank Group Corp. said this:<br /> “SoftBank seeks to invest in large industries or geographies that are ripe for change. This investment gives SoftBank exposure to the financial services sector, which is one of the largest and most important industries in the world. SoFi is clearly a game changer in the fintech space.”<br /> SoftBank is an active early stage investor and has backed a plethora of tech start-ups via a variety of subsidiaries, affliates, and related funds. It tendrils have reached many of the largest e-commerce players around today and now there are early signs it is grasping for influence in the fintech.</p> <p>This deal comes just four months after SoftBank injected $1 billion into South Korean group buying platform Coupang and also invested $500 million in Snapdeal. It is also worth noting that this deal comes within days of Alibaba - in whom SoftBank owns a one-third stake - investing $680 million in India payments and e-commerce firm Patym.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Sold for $442m, how does Business Insider rank in the content boom?
<p>VC-backed media outlet Business Insider has just been sold to German publisher Axel Springer (fresh from its failed bid for the Financial Times) in a deal valuing the business at $442 million.</p> <p>Springer - which held a 9% stake in the business via Axel Springer Digital Ventures - was one of 24 investors to back the content startup, according to CrunchBase.</p> <p>The others included the likes of RRE Ventures, Marc Andressen, Kohlberg Ventures , International Venture Partners , and notably Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is reportedly retaining his stake.</p> <p>Business Insider managed to secure a healthly valuation but its not the largest in the recent content boom. A recent report by CB Insights ranked it ninth in a list of the largest valuations in the news and media space today.</p> <p>Many of these companies can be classed a startups, with venture capital firms and strategic investors funneling a reported $800 million into digital new and media start-ups over the past year.</p> <p>Vox Media and BuzzFeed are among those to reach unicorn status, putting them ahead of such old guard media giants as Forbes and the Washington Post. Here is CB Insights' media valuation ranking in full:</p> <p> Vice (2.5b)<br /> SNL ($2.23b)<br /> BuzzFeed ($1.5b)<br /> The Economist ($1.46b)<br /> Financial Times ($1.31b)<br /> Vox ($1b)<br /> Merger Market ($624m)<br /> Forbes ($475m)<br /> Business Insider ($442m)<br /> Refinery29 ($290m)<br /> Washington Post ($250m)<br /> ZY ($120m)<br /> .Mic ($100m)<br /> The Boston Globe ($70m)</p> <p>Photo: NexChange</p>
Alibaba ups its stake and pumps $680m into India's Paytm
<p>Alibaba has made yet another incursion into Indian e-commerce, chucking $680 million at Indian payments firm Paytm - alongside its financial affiliate Ant Financial - bringing their stake to 40%.</p> <p>Alibaba and Ant Financial are now the largest shareholders of One97 Communications, the firm behind Paytm, which is now valued at $3.4 billion, the Economic Times reports.</p> <p>Paytm offers a mobile wallet app, online phone credit recharge, and a shopping service. Its been working on synergies with Alibaba since the Chinese e-commerce giant first invested in February.</p> <p>The Indian payments firm has seen its services used by a number of big players in India's burgeoning e-commerce space including Uber and Snapdeal, another Alibaba investment.</p> <p>The firm was also part of a consortium - which also included SoftBank - that pumped $500 million into Snapdeal last month. It looks like Alibaba now has a formidable potion in the sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Silicon Valley's week of schmoozing with Asian leaders
<p>Last week we saw a who's who of Silicon Valley rub shoulders with two of Asia's biggest leaders: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Here we summarize the two visits and how they reflect on Silicon Valley's evolving ties with Asia.</p> <p>China </p> <p>Xi decided to  kick off his trip to the US last week by meeting with 28 top tech executives. Among them was Apple's Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, and's Jeff Bezos.</p> <p>The meeting - which actually took place in Seattle - was awkward at best. CEOs hoping to talk with the Chinese leader on such pressing issues as cyber attacks and the theft of intellectual property by Chinese companies instead got a brief address and a photo op.</p> <p>There were some brief moments of light relief: Zuckerberg's exchange with Xi in Mandarin, and the Xi's frequent - if somewhat cheesy- references to US popular culture.</p> <p>The most significant development were a series of proposed tech alliances. Among them was an agreement by search engine  Baidu to promote Window 10 to its users if Microsoft made Baidu the default search engine for operating system's China release.</p> <p>Also ride-hailing app Didi Kuaidi -  which recently backed US counterpart Lyft - agreed to a tie-up with social network LinkedIn to develop artificial intelligence solutions.</p> <p>India</p> <p>Unlike his Chinese counterpart, the Indian prime minister went to meet with US tech leaders in their home turf for a two-day tour where he had a much warmer reception.</p> <p>The highlight was Modi's teary one-on-one chat with Zuckerberg at Facebook's campus. Modi, who is one of the world's most popular political leaders on social media, spoke of his commitment to his "Digital India" agenda, which Zuckerberg also pledged to support.</p> <p>He then went on to Google's headquarters where he met with the firm's India-born CEO Sundar Pichai. The visit coincided with Google's announcement that it would bring wireless to 500 Indian railway stations.</p> <p>But perhaps the biggest score following Modi's trip was Qualcomm Ventures - the investment arm of the US chipmaker - revealing its $150 million India-focused venture capital fund for startups in the mobile and internet-of-everything (IoE) ecosystem.</p>
Didi Kuaidi snaps up stake in Ola
<p>This week in unicorns, Chinese decacorn Didi Kuaidi and its backers have turned their fight against Uber all the way up to 11.</p> <p>According to TechCrunch, China’s largest ride sharing firm taken part in funding round worth about $500 million for India’s dominant ride-hailing app, Ola.</p> <p>How much the Beijing-based company invested in Ola is still unknown, what we’re sure of though is that the round valued the Bangalore-based firm at $5 billion, making it one the largest ride-app companies currently going.</p> <p>This is the latest salvo in a war being waged against Uber being waged by a global consortium that also includes the likes SoftBank, Alibaba and Singapore fund Temasek. As the raging quinquagintacorn continues to scale up, the coalition has been backing Uber's competitors in all its key markets – including Uber’s home turf.</p> <p>Didi inked a deal with US-based Lyft this month that will allow the two companies to shares riders across the world, and just to be sure, it invested $100 million in the firm as well. It also injected an unspecified amount of cash in Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi, an investment that will surely cement Didi’s place in the region’s burgeoning car service arena.</p> <p>How Uber will respond to this is anyone’s guess, but given Didi’s great choice of investments, CEO Travis Kalanick is no doubt having some sleepless nights.<br /> Photo: Abhijit Patil</p>
Cava Grill reports second multimillion dollar funding round
<p>Cava Grill is serving up funding rounds and venture capitalists can't eat it fast enough.</p> <p>The fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant chain just raised $45 million in venture funding, reports the Washington Business Journal. This is the second multimillion dollar funding round Cava has had in just a few months. The group announced a $16 million raise in April.</p> <p>Previous investors The Invus Group and Swan &amp; Legend Ventures led the Series B funding. AOL founder Steve Case's Revolution Growth also participated.</p> <p>Cava Grill is primarily located in the D.C. area, but is expanding to Los Angeles and possibly other locations. The company says it isn't committing to specific numbers for restaurant openings to give themselves more flexibility.<br /> Photo: Steven Depolo</p>
2015 VC unicorn report
<p>PitchBook has published its inaugural VC Unicorn Report, which dives into the terms, conditions and trends affecting VC-backed companies worth $1 billion or more. For highlights from the report, which covers protection terms, liquidation preferences and much more.</p> <p>See charts and full report below:</p> <p>PitchBook_2015_VC_Unicorn_Report (1)<br /> Photo: Adam Selwood</p>
Goldman Sachs' startups to watch
<p>Goldman Sachs is edging its way into the hearts and minds of startups looking for funding and support, particularly the unicorns. The investment firm examined some of the up-and-coming firms for a list of the top 10 startups to watch, reports Business Insider.</p> <p> Appear Here- $9.4 million, London- finds pop-up shop storefronts to rent, much like booking a hotel room.<br /> EquipmentShare- $2.2 million, Missouri- allows contractors to rent and lend construction equipment.<br /> Getaround- $43 million, California- lets you rent your car in advance or on demand.<br /> Mast Mobile- $5.4 million, New York- combines your business and personal mobiles into one device.<br /> Narrative Science- $32.4 million, Illinois- automates simple reports and journalistic stories.<br /> Nutmeg- $37.3 million, London- customized financial portfolios to replace traditional advisors.<br /> Plated- $56.4 million, New York- food delivery services that provides the exact ingredients and recipes needed to cook.<br /> TradeBlock- $2.8 million, New York- bitcoin data provider.<br /> Vestorly- $2 million, New York- automated content marketing for businesses and leveraged use of online connections.<br /> Yhat- $2.6 million, New York- tool to make big data implementation more efficient.</p> <p>Photo: George Redgrave</p>
VC-backed phone giant Xiaomi launches new service
<p>Xiaomi made big waves in the smartphone industry when it introduced its first low-cost phone in 2011. Now the Chinese electronics firm plans to bring its unique brand of disruption to the laptops and telecoms space.</p> <p>This week Xiaomi launched its new telecoms service, Mi Mobile, alongside its latest Mi 4C budget smartphone. The company has been given a state license for a virtual telecoms network, which means it can lease infrastructure from one of China’s three big telecoms to offer self-branded services.  </p> <p>The fact that Xiaomi is bringing its brand to a fresh and potentially very lucrative sector should no doubt be welcome  to its venture capital backers which include IDG Capital, Morningside Group, GIC, DST Global, Hopu investments, and All-Star Investments.</p> <p>Tech in Asia reports that less than 1% of China’s mobile users subscribe to China’s virtual telecom operators. Xiaomi hopes to topple the existing but lackluster service providers by leveraging its brand and offering both pay-as-you-go and contract services.  </p> <p>And it’s not just China's virtual operators that are facing fresh competition. Xiaomi has confirmed it will be releasing a laptop. The details are sparcse at this point, but the firm is looking to launch in the second quarter of 2016.<br /> Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns</p>
Asia's bulging unicorn birth rate is close on US heels
<p>When it comes to churning out unicorns - startups valued over $1 billion -  the US rides high, but the Asian stampede is growing. For now at least. </p> <p>Business Insider points out that while many expect a  unicorn extinction event soon, this does little to stop the rise in the number of unicorns coming into existence.</p> <p>CB Insights' Unicorn Tracker reveals that of the current 137 unicorns, 83  are in the US. The rest are found in Asia, Europe, and South America. China alone had 25.</p> <p>But the gap between Asia and the US is closing, In the second quarter of 2015, the US produced 12 new unicorns and Asia created nine, buoyed by several mega-financings. These included  Tujia, Panshi, and One97 Communications which each raised in excess of $200 million.</p> <p>A look over the past year shows that Asia has produced 20 unicorns, nearly two-thirds of the US's 34. This is impressive considering the relative infancy of Asia's start-up ecosystem compared with that of the US.  The only issue is whether Asia will maintain this kind of momentum in the face of slower economic growth in China.<br /> Photo: Owlana<br /> &nbsp;</p>