Venture Capital Deals Of The Week: SoftBank Leads $200M Into Indian Insurance

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Includes: AMGN, AMZN, CLLS, CMCSA, CRM, CSCO, GILD, JNJ, MSFT, SFBTF, SFTBY, VMW
by: VCDeals

Welcome to Seeking Alpha’s Venture Capital Deals of the Week. Follow this account and turn on the e-mail alert to receive VCDeals in your inbox on Saturday mornings.

Indian digital insurance: SoftBank’s (OTCPK:SFTBF, OTCPK:SFTBY) Vision Fund led a $200M round in Indian digital insurance company PolicyBazaar. Existing investors including InfoEdge also participated. The round brings total funding up to nearly $350M.

PolicyBazaar operates a digital insurance brand and a marketplace that aggregates and selects insurance deals from the broader industry. The company says it processes 100M visitors on its website each year with transaction volume approaching 300K per month (2020 goal: 10M transactions). PolicyBazaar estimates that its online platform is used to purchase 20% of life insurance coverage in India and 7% of retail health coverage.

Genomic editing: Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD) and Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) Ventures participated in a $110M Series B round in genome editing specialist Precision Biosciences. ArrowMark Partners led the round with participation from Franklin Templeton Investments, OCV Partners, and Osage University Partners.

Precision will use the funding to expand applications of its Arcus gene-editing platform, which uses a synthetic homing endonuclease to edit DNA in a way Precision thinks is more specific than the competitors. The company hopes to advance its lead, off-the-shelf CAR-T product into the clinic, its lead in vivo gene therapy program into IND-enabling studies and a food program into field trials.

Competition: Cellectis (NASDAQ:CLLS) and Allogene Therapeutics are working on similar therapies.

Smart luggage: Comcast Ventures (NASDAQ:CMCSA) participated in a $50M round for smart luggage company Away. Other participants included Forerunner Ventures and Global Founders Capital.

Away plans to use the funding to widen its product line, expand into global markets, and open six retail stores this year. The founders say Away has reached profitability since its launch two years ago. Specific sales details aren’t provided, but the company says 2017 sales quintupled on the prior year. Forbes estimates over $125M in revenue.

Competition: Away competitors Raden and Bluesmart shuttered earlier this year when the FAA banned lithium batteries from checked-in bags. Away’s early model fell into this category, but the company rushed out a fix for an easily removed battery that was already in the works.

DevOps automation platform: Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) led and VMware (NYSE:VMW) participated in a $42M round in DevOps automation platform business Puppet. Other participants were Kleiner Perkins, True Ventures, and EDBI. The company had a $652M valuation in 2014 when it last disclosed a figure. Total funding now stands at over $150M.

Puppet says it has over 40K companies as customers, including over 75% of the Fortune 100, who use its open source and commercial products. Puppet tries to stand out in a crowded space by offering solutions that cover applications, cloud services, networking devices, and containerized services.

Competition: Broad competitors include investors Cisco and VMware.

Sleep headband: Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) co-led a $35M round in neurotechnology company Dreem, which creates a sleep headband. French state bank Bpifrance shared the lead. Total funding now nears $60M.

The Dreem headband improves sleep by monitoring brainwaves and using auditory stimulation to help users fall and stay asleep. The company will use the new funding to continue headband development and for sleep research. Dreem also hopes to expand its workforce from the current 70 employees.

Conversational AI: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Alexa Fund, M12 (NASDAQ:MSFT), Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) Ventures, and Comcast Ventures participated in a $27M Series C round in conversational AI company Tact.ai. Other participants included Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures, and Upfront Ventures and the round brought total funding to over $53M.

Amazon’s participation makes sense because Tact was one of the first services to launch through Alexa for Business last year. Tact has also announced a “Voice Intelligence” feature that serves as an in-car virtual assistant including meeting schedules, filed service tickets, or other relevant information useful to a sales professional on the road.

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