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This is a weekly newsletter covering the top stories in startups, venture capital, and cutting-edge technologies. The newsletter is organized into three sections: a recap of the biggest stories of the week, a long-form deep dive into a specific topic, and a profile of a lesser-known fund.
🌱 🥩 Impossible Foods cooks up a sizzling new round
The Silicon Valley plant-based meat manufacturer Impossible Foods raised $200 million in a Series G round, just a few months after its $500 million Series F. This new round brings its total funding to $1.5 billion, with a valuation of $4 billion. The round was led by new investor Coatue, with existing investors Mirae Asset Global Investments and Temasek also participating. Impossible Foods plans to use the funding to invest in research and development, scale up manufacturing, increase retail footprint, and expand its international market coverage.
🔔 Gong detects new funding
Revenue intelligence startup Gong raised $200 million in a Series D round, bringing its valuation to a healthy $2.2 billion. The San Francisco-based company helps revenue teams make decisions by analyzing customer patterns to predict churn and conduct sales forecasting. With a substantial amount of cash still left from earlier rounds, the funding will be used to prepare for a potential acquisition or other strategic moves. The round was also led by Coatue, with participation from Index Ventures, Thrive Capital, and Salesforce Ventures. Existing investors also included Nextworld Capital, Battery Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Wing Venture Capital.
💊 Atomwise finds a new pill of money
San Francisco-based Atomwise raised $123 million in an oversubscribed Series B round. The startup uses artificial intelligence for small molecule drug discovery, a market estimated to reach $40 billion in value by 2027. Atomwise plans to use the new funding to scale its AI technology platform, build its own internal pipeline, and work with larger partners. It has provided its AI technology to over 750 academic research collaborations to date. The round was led by B Capital Group and Sanabil Investments, with DCVC, BV, Tencent, Y Combinator, Dolby Family Ventures, and AME Cloud Ventures participating.
🎮 Wildlife Studio hits the start button on a new round
Gaming developer Wildlife Studios raised $120 million in a Series B round, bringing its valuation to $3 billion. The Brazil-based startup has launched over 60 titles with 2 billion mobile game downloads in the last 9 years. Wildlife plans to use the funding to continue growing existing titles, further accelerate its new game development engine, and invest in upcoming talent. The round was led by Vulcan Capital with participation from Human Capital.
📈Trumid trades its way to more funding
Bond trading platform Trumid raised $200 million in a new round of funding, becoming a unicorn 🦄 with valuation of $1 billion. The New York-based fintech has seen increased volume of nearly 500% on its platform across 500+ institutions. Trumid is hoping to further digitize the ancient area of corporate bond trading that is largely done over the phone through innovative technology and product design. The round was led by Dragoneer Investment Group, with TPG Capital, T. Rowe Price, and BlackRock participating.
🖥️ Skillshare learns how to raise $$
Online learning platform Skillshare raised $66 million in Series D funding. With over 12 million members and 30,000 video-based classes, Skillshare saw significant help with the pandemic accelerating the online learning market. The company specifically saw sales and rate of engagement double YoY largely due to the sudden spike in interest. Skillshare plans to use the funding to create more localized experiences and grow its enterprise offerings. The round was led by OMERS Growth Equity, with Union Square Ventures, Amasia, Burda Principal Investments and Spero Ventures also participating.
📱Parsable raises a new round of funding
Industrial collaboration/workflow platform Parsable raised $60 million in a series D round. The San Francisco-based startup connects front-line workers at industrial firms to vital information and systems via mobile devices for product inspections, precision work, and complex equipment shut-down processes. Parsable plans to use the new funding to expand distribution internationally, flesh out integration, and make products more accessible. The round was led by Activate Capital and Glade Brook Capital.
I like to profile lesser-known venture funds who are focused on impact investing, run specialized mandates, or have a diverse set of GP’s leading the fund. Let me know if you come across an interesting fund!
This week, I’ll be profiling Kapor Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm backing companies committed to closing gaps of access, opportunity, or outcome for disadvantaged communities. Kapor Capital is an Oakland-based fund that truly believes in the competitive edge of diverse teams, as evidenced by their investment history. In their current portfolio, 38% of investments have a founder who identifies as a woman, compared to 8% nationally and 34% of investments have a founder from a racially underrepresented background. They focus on tech-driven companies in all areas including but not limited to education, work, finance, justice, food, and health. Kapor Capital seeks entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, especially people of color and women, and are currently interested in companies that address gaps that are especially relevant to the African-American and Latin communities.
Kapor Capital generally chooses the pre-seed and seed round as their entry point, where companies generally have a working product or service and a small number of active users, but are open to later Series A and B rounds as well.
I’m excited by these recent investments in the last year:
Bodyport, a biomarker platform for prevention and management of heart disease via a weighing scale-like device
Blokable, a prefabricated smart home startup that aims to solve the housing crisis
Planet FWD, a carbon-neutral food manufacturer aiming to reverse climate change through sustainable practices
Recent exits include:
Managed by Q, an office management platform
Life360, a location-based family management platform
Propeller Health, a digital health mobile platform for respiratory health management
I’m especially excited by Kapor Capital’s commitment and dedication to promoting diversity through their investments, and their continued efforts to invest in companies that specifically provide opportunities, access, and improvements to disadvantaged communities.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Congress’s antitrust investigation into big tech. I discussed Apple’s 30% tax on payments that flow through its app store briefly, which has been thrown into the spotlight by the massive showdown between Apple/Google and Epic Games.
Let’s provide some context: this week, Apple removed Epic Games’ massively popular Fortnite from the App Store after Epic Games implemented its own in-app payment system that bypassed Apple’s standard 30% fee. Epic countered with a well-detailed 62 page anti-trust lawsuit which was prepared well in advance, along with this amazing parody of Apple’s immensely popular 1984 ad where Apple launched its Macintosh computer in contrast to IBM’s control over the computer industry at the time. It’s glorious.
Google followed right behind Apple by removing Fortnite from its Play Store, but didn’t recieve the same attacks by Epic Games. It’s clear that Epic Games is specifically targeting Apple’s longstanding control over the iOS app ecosystem. Furthermore, not only has Apple removed Fortnite this week, but it’s also prevented cloud gaming platforms from being available on the App Store for download. Together, Apple’s facing a grand challenge to its everlasting control over the app store, and setting up a battle for the fate of the app ecosystem.
Apple’s continuously made a case that it carefully reviews every item that passes through its ecosystem to ensure that the app doesn’t violate its strict content guidelines. In an effort to explain its ban on cloud gaming, it stated that cloud gaming services don’t belong since they offer access to a library of games that Apple can’t review individually. In fact, they state that games must be individually submitted for inspection, subject to user reviews, and findable in search results.
That logic completely falls through. What about music, TV shows, and movies? Apple’s allowed Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime to be on the app store, with each application providing access to millions of media content, free of any review. (Interestingly, Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon don’t have to pay a 30% tax to Apple and are still allowed to be on the app store…special treatment much?) The true reason behind Apple’s decision is that it can’t enforce that 30% tax on cloud gaming platforms, as the game is streamed over Microsoft’s xCloud or Google’s Stadia instead of locally on their phones.
The true question is this: should the App Store become a more democratized platform with the ability to implement diverse payment systems?
Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney surely believes so. I think that Apple’s continued consolidation of power across its ecosystem is beginning to stifle growth and profitability for many app makers and software developers, and that Apple continues to exert unmatched and unfairly high influence on app makers while it builds its own competing products. More and more companies are beginning to challenge Apple’s control, with Basecamp raising a huge social media campaign after Apple prevented it from updating its email client Hey.
As Apple continues to maintain and strengthen its app ecosystem castle, it faces a volley of continued antitrust attacks on the horizon, with many deciding to pivot and create new innovations outside.
If you have any suggestions, comments, or ideas, please feel free to reach out to me at rohil at upenn dot edu.Written on August 16th, 2020 by Rohil Sheth