The Briefing: BYJU’S Buys Aakash For Nearly $1B, Alkami Plans $2B IPO, And More

Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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BYJU’S acquires Aakash for nearly $1B

Indian online learning giant Byju’s has acquired New Delhi-based Aakash, a provider of tutoring and exam prep, in a deal reportedly valued at nearly $1 billion.

Founded in 1998, Aakash is best known for its brick-and-mortar tutoring centers, but it has made inroads in online education in recent years. In 2019, the company raised $184 million from private equity firm Blackstone.

The purchase follows a spate of large fundraising rounds for BYJU’S, which has pulled in over a billion dollars in the past year from multiple investors.

— Joanna Glasner

Public offerings

Alkami eyes $2B valuation in IPO: Plano, Texas-based Alkami, a provider of digital banking software marketed to small and mid-sized banks and credit unions, is seeking a valuation of around $2 billion for its upcoming public offering, according to a Reuters report citing the company’s latest IPO filing. Founded in 2009, Alkami has previously raised at least $385 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data.

— Joanna Glasner


Meesho lands $300M in SoftBank-led round: Indian social commerce startup Meesho has raised $300 million in a new funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund II. The financing sets a valuation of $2.1 billion for the fast-growing company.

— Joanna Glasner

Health care

Inscripta lands $150M, ships first Onyx platform: Inscripta, a Boulder, Colorado-based digital genome engineering company, closed on $150 million in Series E financing led by Fidelity Management & Research Co. and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price. Including the new funding, Inscripta has raised a total of $459.5 million in known venture capital since it was founded in 2015, according to Crunchbase data.

In addition to the funding, the company announced the first commercial shipment of its Onyx platform, which it touts as “the world’s first benchtop system for scalable digital genome engineering and consists of a benchtop instrument, consumables, software and assays.” Using a CRISPR-based workflow, the Onyx platform enables quick, parallel and trackable editing of single cells. CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” and enables researchers to more easily identify DNA sequences and modify gene function to develop in vivo therapies that treat the underlying cause of disease, according to Benjamin Oakes, co-founder and CEO of molecular engineering company Scribe Therapeutics, which raised an oversubscribed $100 million round of Series B financing last week to further develop its “CRISPR by design” platform.

StimScience inks $6M for sleep device: Berkeley-based StimScience, a consumer neuroscience startup, said in a blog post that it raised $6 million in seed funding led by Khosla Ventures. The company says it has prototyped its first consumer device, focused on using brain stimulation to improve sleep health, and is planning its first in-home beta trial for later this year.

A number of startups have emerged in the past five years, including StimScience, that aim to inject technology into our sleep routine, a small part of our day that has an outsized impact on the quality of our waking hours and overall health. Since 2016, investors have pumped $1.9 billion into global companies focused on sleep technology and equipment, according to Crunchbase data.

Digital-health funding high again in Q1 2021: Investments into U.S. digital-health companies closed at $6.7 billion in the first quarter of 2021 — the most-funded quarter to date, according to a new report from Rock Health. That was compared to $3.1 billion handed out in the first quarter of 2020. Rock Health counted 25 “mega deals,” meaning $100 million or more, during the quarter, led by telehealth company Ro, which brought in a $500 million Series D round led by FirstMark, General Catalyst and TQ Ventures. In addition to bigger deals, the organization also reported that companies closed them earlier in their life cycles, with the average age of startups receiving mega deals down to six years in the first quarter of 2021 from 12 years in 2017. Meanwhile, special purpose acquisition company deals were also prevalent during the quarter. Rock Health said it knew of at least 10 deals within digital health, including Hims and Hers Health, which went public in January after merging with special purpose acquisition company Oaktree Acquisitions Corp.

— Christine Hall

Knotel co-founder leaves startup

Amol Sarva, co-founder of proptech company Knotel, is leaving the company, and had some harsh words for real estate investor Newmark on the way out.

“Over the last few months, Newmark was a stalking horse on a process that used bankruptcy to take control of Knotel with around $100 million of new capital,” Sarva wrote in an email to Knotel contacts. “This process undermined lots of important relationships and hurt lots of customer and partners. I’m so disappointed that this was the direction pressed.”

Sarva added that Newmark “literally hired a group of Adam Neuman-era (sic) WeWork bros to lead the company forward.”

Knotel was once a unicorn, but the company announced it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and that its assets were being acquired by Newmark. In the email, Sarva wrote that the company reached nearly $400 million of run rate in early 2020, posted gross profit, and kept more than two-thirds of revenue intact “while doing everything we could to support customer continuity and work with landlord partners amicably.”

Knotel had raised at least $560 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, and was backed by investors including Norwest Venture Partners and Newmark.

Illustration: Dom Guzman


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