Briefing

The Briefing: Plus.ai Lands $200M, Kaepernick Forms A SPAC, 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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Plus.ai lands $200M for self-driving trucks

Self-driving trucking startup Plus.ai has reportedly raised $200 million in fresh capital from investors in a round led by China-based investment firm Guotai Junan International Holdings and joined by multiple Silicon Valley venture firms.

Founded in 2016, Cupertino, California-based Plus.ai previously raised funding from Sequoia Capital China and GSR Ventures, per Crunchbase data.

Joanna Glasner

Colin Kaepernick forms a SPAC

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the latest public figure to launch a blank-check acquisition company, filing paperwork for a $250 million SPAC called Mission Advancement Corp. The SPAC will seek to find an acquisition target at the “intersection of consumer and impact.”

Kaepernick, famous for kneeling during the national anthem in protest against racial injustice, is working in partnership with Phoenix-based investment firm The Najafi Cos.

Joanna Glasner

Match buys Hyperconnect for $1.725B

Dating app operator Match Group announced that it reached an agreement to acquire social platform Hyperconnect for $1.725 billion in cash and stock.

Seoul-based Hyperconnect is a social platform and video technology company primarily known for two apps: Azar, a one-on-one video and audio chat app, and Hakuna Live, a social live-streaming app.

Joanna Glasner

Fintech and e-commerce

  • Ramp brings in $150M debt facility: Ramp, a corporate card focused on helping businesses spend less money and automate their finances, announced $150 million in debt financing from Goldman Sachs. The funds will enable the New York-based company to keep up with its pace of growth — it grew 6,000 percent in 2020 — and to “power customer card purchases, bring on more customers and increase credit limits,” Eric Glyman, Ramp CEO, told Crunchbase News. The new funds come two months after Ramp raised $30 million in Series A3 financing from D1 Capital and Coatue Management. In total, the company brought in just over $200 million in both equity and debt since Ramp was founded in 2019, Glyman said.
  • Nymbus, Marble, Celo raise rounds: Banking technology company Nymbus, based in Miami, raised $53 million in a Series C round led by Insight Partners. The round is the company’s largest since it was founded in 2015, and gives Nymbus just under $100 million in total funding, according to Crunchbase data. The company says it intends to use the funds to partner with financial institutions looking to make a digital transformation and create new revenue streams. Meanwhile, Marble, a digital wallet and loyalty platform for insurance, secured $2.5 million in seed funding from a group of investors including IA Capital Group. The platform enables members to earn as much as 5 percent of the value of their insurance premium in rewards. New York-based Marble is currently in beta and plans to open its platform to any U.S. personal policyholder in March, according to the company. Celo, an open-source blockchain ecosystem focused on making decentralized financial systems and tools accessible to anyone with a smartphone, raised $20 million in new backing from a group of purchasers and partners including Andreessen Horowitz. Since being founded in 2017, Celo has brought in more than $65 million. While startups are coming out with tools and products under DeFi, which is financial software built on the blockchain that can be pieced together, experts say DeFi is still not consumer-ready, but will be an important aspect of financial services blockchain.
  • Win Brands Group has raised $50 million from Assembled Brands and funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management to grow its platform of consumer brands, which includes the newly acquired weighted blanket company, Gravity. Win focuses on acquiring successful brands selling on marketplaces, such as Shopify, then taking them to the next level. According to the company, U.S. e-commerce sales reached $794.5 billion in 2020. Thrasio and Branded Group, two startups that acquire successful Amazon resellers, separately raised large rounds of new venture funding on Feb. 9 as the e-commerce sector continues to draw intense investor interest. Thrasio said it brought in another $750 million of financing from a group of existing investors, including Oaktree and Advent International, while Branded, which also consolidates smaller retailers selling on Amazon’s platform, reportedly raised $150 million in a fresh funding round led by Target Global.

— Christine Hall

Health care

  • Equip, Insightin Health raise rounds: Equip, a health tech company developing a program to deliver evidence-based eating disorder treatment to families at home, closed a $13 million Series A financing, led by Optum Ventures, which brings its total funds raised to $17 million since being co-founded in 2019 by Kristina Saffran and Erin Parks. San Diego-based Equip uses the family-based treatment model of care, providing families with a five-person dedicated care team, while its virtual platform enables families to arrange treatment to fit their schedules and needs, instead of sending a child to a residential facility. Meanwhile, Baltimore-based Insightin Health, a provider of data-driven decision-making technology for health care member acquisition, retention and engagement, announced a $12 million Series A funding round co-led by The Blue Venture Fund and Sandbox. A profitable business, Insightin Health will use the new capital to scale its platform, bring on new clients and service existing customers.
  • Sema4 to go public via SPAC: Sema4, a genomic and clinical data company based in Stamford, Connecticut, announced a merger with special purpose acquisition company CM Life Sciences, backed by Casdin Capital and Corvex Management. The deal, which values Sema4 at approximately $2 billion, is expected to close during the second quarter of 2021. The company estimates the transaction will provide up to $793 million in case proceeds. Founded in 2017 by Eric Schadt, Sema4 uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze patient data to provide insights to transform the practice of medicine and how disease is diagnosed, treated and prevented. The company has raised a total of $241 million in known venture capital funding, most recently a $121 million Series C round led by BlackRock Innovation Capital. CM Life Sciences trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol CMLF.

— Christine Hall

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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