August 09, 2017
Alex Wilhelm is the Editor in Chief of Crunchbase News, covering the intersection of startups and money.

Morning Report: What costs $330 million, is worth around three times that, and has no product in the market?

This morning the technology press is humming with stories concerning Essential, the company founded by Andy Rubin of both Danger (sold to Microsoft, which went poorly) and Android (sold to Google, which went well) fame. With that particular pedigree, Essential is in the smartphone game.

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And in a big way. Today’s morning crop of headlines includes the following:

The news that Amazon and Tencent back Essential is huge, but the funding news is somewhat old. CrunchBase, for example, has the $300 million round in question tied to June 7th. So what’s going on? Did Essential raise $300 million then, and now?

Of course not, as that would flirt with bike-sharing territory. But what’s notable here is that Essential is snacking two bites on the same KitKat. Let’s rewind to June:

What we actually learned this morning is which companies were behind the $300 million round, not that an additional $300 million has been raised—despite what some people will think.

We might not care much, normally, about this sort of unveil. However, given that potential distribution partners — and sometimes rivals — are the source of the lucre in question, we do care.

Now, to your question concerning when the damn smartphone is coming out? Sadly, though we now know where the money came from, ship dates remain occluded. Take us home, Wall Street Journal:

But the company stopped short of the big reveal: When exactly its $699 titanium-encased smartphone will be available.

“We’re a few weeks away,” said Niccolo De Masi, Essential’s president, repeating what company founder Andy Rubin said a few weeks ago. “I will give you an exact date in a week.”

Alright then. We’ll be back in a week.

From the Crunchbase Daily:

Disney spends $1.58B on BAMTech

  • Disney said it is spending $1.58 billion to acquire majority ownership of streaming technology provider BAMTech and plans to end its new releases distribution agreement with Netflix in 2019. The entertainment giant also said it will also launch an ESPN-branded sports service early next year, followed by a direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.

Roivant raises $1.1B for drug development

  • Roivant Sciences, a Basel- and London-based startup that operates a network of drug development subsidiaries, has raised $1.1 billion in a funding round led by SoftBank and joined by existing shareholders. (Around the same time, reports surfaced that SoftBank made another giant investment in a completely different sector, putting $1 billion into sports apparel retailer Fanatics.)

Putting SoftBank’s buying spree in perspective

  • So far this year, SoftBank has led or joined in over $15 billion worth of disclosed private funding rounds as it puts its massive $100 billion Vision Fund to work. To put this in perspective, Crunchbase News calculates that over five years, the average SoftBank-backed investment has grown from the low seven figures to the mid-to-upper nine figures. Today, the firm runs the very real risk of overwhelming markets for late-stage venture capital, which already have a lot of cash chasing relatively few opportunities.

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