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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Korean game-maker Krafton plans $5B IPO
The anticipated listing would rank as South Korea’s largest offering in years. Founded in 2007, Krafton previously raised at least $574 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, with Tencent as its largest backer.
Motif FoodWorks lands $226M
Motif FoodWorks is developing ingredient technology to make plant-based food better tasting and more nutritious, and has raised $226 million in Series B funding, co-led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.
Those backers were joined by AiiM Partners, Wittington Ventures, Rethink Food, Rage Capital and Rellevant Partners, alongside existing investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, CPT Capital, General Atlantic, Louis Dreyfus Co. and Viking Global Investors. The new investment gives Boston-based Motif a total of $345 million in funding since the company was spun out of Ginkgo Bioworks in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.
Motif intends to deploy the new funding into R&D, commercializing its food technologies, hiring, and expanding its facilities footprint. It has secured licensing partnerships with the University of Guelph and Coasun for technologies that create melting and stretching characteristics in plant-based cheeses, as well as healthier fat alternatives that marbleize plant-based meats.
Alternative proteins, which include plant-based foods, used to attract only vegetarians and vegans. But as technology advances within the sector, experts say there will be tasty options for everyone, even die-hard meat eaters, and that opens up a massive market for investment.
The plant-based food market grew 27 percent in 2020 to $7 billion, nearly double the growth rate of overall U.S. retail food sales during the same period. In 2020, just under $2 billion was invested in global venture-backed startups in the space, dominated by Impossible Foods’ total raise of $700 million in Series F and Series G rounds last year, according to Crunchbase data. That was a 101 percent jump in funding from 2019 to 2020, according to the database.
— Christine Hall
Thrasio acquires Yardline Capital
Amid reports of going public via SPAC, consumer goods company Thrasio announced the acquisition of Yardline Capital, a New York company focused on providing funds to Amazon sellers. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Founded in 2020 by Ari Horowitz, a former Thrasio executive, and Tomo Matsuo, Yardline raised $10 million in venture capital and debt from Thrasio and a network of angel investors in December. The deal marks Thrasio’s acquisition of the remaining portion of Yardline, according to the companies.
“The latest evolution of our partnership with Thrasio will accelerate the development and adoption of our innovative fintech solutions designed to support the digital commerce ecosystem and the sellers that operate within it,” said Matsuo, president of Yardline, via email. “Our latest product, Yardline’s Capital-as-a-Service solution, propels the growing trend in fintech to enable and provide embedded financial services directly within platforms fueling the e-commerce boom.“
Matsuo will continue to lead Yardline as president and will be joining Thrasio’s senior leadership team.
As the largest player in the e-commerce marketplace aggregator space, Thrasio raised more than $1.2 billion in various equity and debt rounds, according to Crunchbase data.
E-commerce aggregators have attracted investor attention for a while now, but investments heated up in 2021, with companies in the sector raising approximately $2 billion. In May, Perch raised $775 million in Series A funding.
— Christine Hall
BrowserStack raises $200M: India-based BrowserStack, operator of a software testing platform, raised $200 million in a fresh funding round led by Bond that sets a $4 billion valuation for the 14-year-old company.
— Joanna Glasner
Apna raises $70M Series B: India-based Apna raised a $70 million Series B round led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Lightspeed India, Greenoaks Capital and Rocketship VC also participated in the new round.
The professional networking and jobs platform has now raised more than $90 million and is valued at $570 million 16 months after launching its product. Apna plans to eventually expand to new international markets such as Southeast Asia and the United States in the coming year.
Sense raises $16M Series C: San Francisco-based Sense has closed a $16 million Series C. Investors in the new round include Avataar Venture Partners, Accel and GV. The talent engagement and communication platform has now raised a total of $40 million. The company’s platform helps companies find, recruit and deploy talent.
— Chris Metinko
— Joanna Glasner
Fintech and e-commerce
Novo banks $40.7M: Novo, a Miami-based digital banking platform for small businesses, secured $40.7 million in Series A funding led by Valar Ventures. Since its start in 2018, Novo has processed more than $1 billion in lifetime transactions, launched new features, opened a new office in Miami, and grew its leadership team. The company said it currently has more than 60 employees, with plans on more than doubling that headcount over the next year.
Diggs raises $13M: Pet products company Diggs announced $13 million in Series A funding. Venn Growth Partners led the round and was joined by Strand Equity. This is the first capital raise for the New York-based company, and funding will go toward developing new products, marketing, recruiting talent for new positions across all business functions, and creating a product design and development facility in Long Island City. Venture capital interest in U.S. pet-focused companies, from nutrition to travel to health care, grew 29.5 percent from 2019 and 2020 as pets received more attention from owners staying home for the past year. U.S. spending on pets reached nearly $100 billion in 2020, up from $95.7 billion in 2019, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Ten Little bags $5M: Ten Little, a predictive e-commerce platform for products for children, closed on $5 million in seed funding led by Kindred Ventures, NextView Ventures and a group of company executives. Founded in 2019, the New York-based company launched its brand in February 2020 with doctor-recommended, functional shoes. The new funding will enable Ten Little to grow its team, improve its technology, and create a community platform.
Løs Sundays drinks in $3.5M: California-based premium tequila brand Løs Sundays announced a $3.5 million Series A funding round which included CircleUp Growth Partners, joining earlier investments from Ketch Ventures and Room9. Løs Sundays intends to use the new funding to continue its expansion across the United States after launching into 30 markets and two countries during the first half of 2021.
Waeve inks $2M: Waeve, a Boston-based lifestyle brand made for and by Black women, raised $2 million in seed funding, led by Pillar VC, to launch a line of ready-to-wear wigs. The Black hair care industry is taking in more than $2.5 billion annually, according to the company. Venture capitalists are taking notice, with over $2 billion globally in investment in the beauty industry over the past year, per Crunchbase data.
BitDAO raises $230M: BitDAO, a new decentralized autonomous organization, announced its launch following a $230 million funding round led by Peter Thiel. The company allocates significant financial and talent resources to drive decentralized finance growth. Others involved in the private sale include Pantera Capital, Dragonfly Capital and Founders Fund.
Cross River Bank creates venture arm: Cross River Bank, a fintech providing core infrastructure and embedded finance tools, has announced its venture capital arm Cross River Digital Ventures. The new entity will invest in companies at the intersection of lending, payments, investing and fintech, and are of strategic value to the Cross River ecosystem. It has already invested in startups, including Innovative Assessments, Lev and Finix Payments.
— Christine Hall
Health care and insurtech
Betterfly catches $60M: Chile-based Betterfly, a technology company that combines well-being, insurance and social purpose, secured $60 million in Series B funding from a group of backers including partners of DST Global as well as QED Investors, Valor Capital, Endeavor Catalyst and the SoftBank Latin America Fund. The company said it has raised a total of $80 million since its inception in 2018. Betterfly, through gamification and behavioral science, tracks and rewards users’ good habits with charitable donations and life insurance coverage that grows daily.
Ochre Bio closes $9.6M: Ochre Bio, a UK-based biotechnology company, announced $9.6 million in seed funding led by Khosla Ventures. Ochre Bio is building a deep phenotyping platform to identify and validate new liver targets. The new funding will be invested in developing RNA treatments for chronic liver diseases.
— Christine Hall
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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