When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many speculated there would be a slowdown in funding for the remainder of 2020. But while the markets felt the initial shock of the pandemic, funding picked back up and several companies were able to raise billion-dollar rounds.
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To cap off a wild year, Crunchbase News rounded up the largest fundings of the year. Some are corporate rounds, others private equity and venture. Indian telecom network Reliance Jio, part of multinational conglomerate Reliance Industries, was a standout company this year, raising around $20 billion from tech giants including Facebook and Google. It’s not really a startup, so take its massive capital raise with a grain of salt.
This year also surpassed last year in terms of the largest funding round, thanks to Reliance Jio’s $5.7 billion raise from Facebook, which surpassed 2019’s largest round–Tenglong Holding Group’s $3.7 billion Series A. Companies from China, the United States and Australia also made the list, with auto (self-driving and electric companies) being a standout industry in terms of funding, as well.
Let’s take a look.
Reliance Jio: $5.7 billion
Indian telecom network Reliance Jio raised around $20 billion this year over the course of 10 corporate funding rounds. Facebook’s investment in Reliance Jio was the largest, with the social media company investing about $5.7 billion in April. Most recently, it raised $4.6 billion from Google in a corporate round in July. Other notable investors in the rounds include Intel Capital, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Reliance Jio sold an approximately 33 percent stake in the company this year to investors, according to TechCrunch. The company didn’t really face any competition to top the list, as it pulled in multiple multibillion-dollar rounds this year as tech companies look to invest in India. Google, for example, is partnering with Jio Platforms to develop an “entry-level affordable smart phone” that’s optimized for the Google Play Store and the Android operating system, according to a statement from the companies.
Rivian: $2.5 billion
Electric vehicle-maker Rivian landed its largest round yet with a $2.5 billion private equity raise in July led by returning investor T. Rowe Price. The investment brought the Minnesota-based company’s total funding to $5.6 billion, according to Crunchbase data. The company last raised money with a $1.3 billion private-equity round led by T. Rowe Price in December 2019. Rivian holds the top spot for a non-Reliance Jio company raising money this year.
Ke.com: $2.4 billion
Ke.com, a Chinese platform for buying and selling properties, raised its largest and most recent venture round this year, bringing in $2.4 billion in a Series D round in March, giving the company a valuation of about $14 billion. SoftBank led the round, which was the company’s last before its IPO in August. Ke.com went on to raise an additional $2.1 billion through its IPO, giving it a valuation of $22.5 billion when it went public.
Waymo: $2.25 billion
Waymo had no issues raising money during the pandemic, landing a nearly $2.3 billion venture round in March 2020 from investors including Silver Lake and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The round was the first time outside investors claimed a stake in Waymo, which began as Google’s self-driving car project before spinning out into its own company (though it’s still under the Alphabet umbrella). The company also raised $750 million in May from investors including T. Rowe Price and Fidelity Management.
SpaceX: $1.9 billion
Along with launching 26 missions this year, SpaceX also raised $1.9 billion in venture funding. Legendary Ventures led the round, which was announced in August and gave the company a valuation of about $46 billion. The company, which is based in Hawthorne, California, and headed by Elon Musk, had a big year, not just in terms of funding. In May, it became the first private company to send humans to the International Space Station.
Manbang Group: $1.7 billion
Manbang Group, which operates a platform that matches shippers with truck drivers and fleet operators, raised a $1.7 billion venture round in November from some of the biggest investing firms: Sequoia Capital China, Fidelity and the SoftBank Vision Fund. Manbang Group last raised money with a $1.9 billion private-equity round from investors including China Reform Fund Management and the SoftBank Vision Fund. The latest round brought Manbang Group’s valuation to about $12 billion, according to Crunchbase.
Zuoyebang: $1.6 billion
The edtech sector overall had a remarkable year as the COVID-19 pandemic swiftly pushed classrooms to tech-enabled remote learning. The latest large round for an edtech company came right toward the end of 2020, with Chinese online education startup Zuoyebang announcing on Dec. 28 that it raised $1.6 billion from investors including Alibaba Group. It’s unclear what the company’s exact valuation is, but Reuters reported back in September that Zuoyebang was raising money at a $10 billion valuation. Zuoyebang’s second Series E comes after the company raised $750 million in June from investors including Tiger Global Management and FountainVest Partners.
Epic Games: $1.53 billion
Epic Games is a bit of an outlier for a venture capital recipient: In contrast to Silicon Valley’s VC-backed startups, the company, which is known for making the wildly popular game Fortnite, was actually founded in 1991 and is based in Cary, North Carolina. It only started raising venture capital relatively recently (its earliest funding round, according to Crunchbase, was a $330 million corporate round from Tencent in 2012). Still, it made the list for the largest funding rounds of 2020, bringing in $1.53 billion in August. Combined with the $250 million the company raised from Sony in July, the company raised about $1.78 billion.
Tianqi Lithium Australia: $1.4 billion
Tianqi Lithium Australia is the only Australian company to make this year’s list. The company, which produces lithium, raised a $1.4 billion corporate round from Independence Group in December. Tianqi Lithium Australia is under China’s Tianqi Lithium, and operates a lithium hydroxide plant in the Kwinana Industrial Area, south of Perth (western Australia), according to the company’s website.
WM Motor: $1.5 billion
WM Motor is the second electric-vehicle company on this list, and the third auto-related company to raise a large round in 2020. The company, which is based in China, raised a CN¥10B (about $1.5 billion) Series D round in September led by SAIC Motor. The company’s total funding comes out to around $3.1 billion, according to Crunchbase. Its large capital raise could poise the company for an IPO in the near future–Bloomberg reported in July that the company was considering going public in Shanghai.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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