October 10, 2017
Alex Wilhelm is the Editor in Chief of Crunchbase News, covering the intersection of startups and money.
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Morning Report: Softbank has given yet another company a huge pile of money. Here’s what we know.

Softbank’s Vision Fund struck again this morning, with Mapbox raising a staggering $164 million led by the new capital vehicle.

Notably, the new capital is a multiple of how much Mapbox had raised before. According to its Crunchbase profile, Mapbox raised a comparatively modest $63.2 million previously. Combined with the new capital, the firm has raised over $227 million.

So what is Mapbox and what does it do? Unlike some companies, the firm is aptly named: it sells mapping technologies to software developers. So, in a sense, it’s a map in a box, or a box full of maps, made up of code.

In its coverage of the news, the WSJ framed the funding as partially a wager by Softbank on self-driving cars:

As auto makers and tech giants rush to develop autonomous vehicles, SoftBank Group Corp. is placing a sizable bet on a startup offering the navigation needed to help these cars find their way.

And, in some sense, a contra-Alpahbet move, whose Google mapping technology feels nigh-ubiquitous:

Mapbox is pitching itself as an alternative to Alphabet Inc.’s Google, whose mapping data powers a number of companies’ apps. Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, emerged out of Google’s efforts to create detailed maps of the world, giving it a head start in autonomous-vehicle development.

I think that both are notable, as is the total sum of money that Mapbox now has at its disposal. The firm previously raised capital in mid-2015, more than two years ago. When a venture-backed company goes that long between capital events, the situation can imply strong revenue growth and limited financial hilarity.

Whatever the case, Mapbox is now flushed to the tips of its fingers and Softbank has managed to park a fraction of a single point of its — first? — Vision Fund.

From the Crunchbase Daily:

China’s Tujia raises $300M

  • Tujia, Airbnb’s primary China-based rival, raised $300 million in a funding round led by Ctrip and All-Stars Investment that reportedly valued the company at more than $1.5 billion. The latest financing brings total funding for Beijing-based Tujia to more than $750 million.

AI funding up, rounds down

  • The volume of venture dollars going into artificial intelligence is hitting records. But investment is also consolidating around fewer companies. That means the barrier to entry for AI startups to secure their initial funding may be growing, a Crunchbase News analysis finds.

GM buys Strobe for self-driving tech

  • General Motors announced that it has acquired Strobe, a developer of LiDAR sensors for self-driving cars, for an undisclosed sum. Pasadena-based Strobe, founded in 2014, will join GM’s autonomous driving subsidiary, Cruise Automation.

Mapbox secures $164M Series C

  • Mapbox, a provider of mapping tools for mobile content providers, has raised $164 million in a Series C funding round. SoftBank led the round, with participation from existing investors including Foundry Group, DFJ Growth, DBL Partners, and Thrive Capital.