SoftBank Vision Fund Makes First Big Play Since Saudi Pressure

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.

Smart glass: SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBF, OTCPK:SFTBY) Vision Fund invested $1.1B in smart glass startup View. The investment was the Vision Fund’s first large move since Saudi Arabian agents killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia accounts for over half the funding of the Vision Fund.

View’s “dynamic glass” lets customers control the level of tinting by passing a low electrical current through the embedded metal oxide films. The internet-connected frame allows for mobile control and computes the appropriate tint level based on weather radar.

The glass cuts cooling costs and eliminates the need for blinds or curtains and is popular in airports, hospitals, and office buildings. The new cash will help double the size of the manufacturing plant, located in Mississippi, and continue glass development for futuristic applications.

Competitors: Saint-Gobain’s (OTCPK:CODYY) SageGlass and Pleotint’s Suntuitive Glass.

Robotic pizza delivery: SoftBank Vision Fund led a $750M infusion into robotic pizza delivery startup Zume at a $1.25B valuation. SoftBank put in $375M of the money, less than previous reports the fund was considering a $500M to $750M investment in Zume. The other investor is currently unknown.

Zume users robotics, AI, automation, and mobile kitchen tech to predict food trends and serve food in patented trucks that cook during the delivery drive. But the company says pizza was the starting point, and the tech could work for any restaurant or food category.

Booking Grab: Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) announced a $200M strategic investment in Grab (GRAB), the Southeast Asian ride-hail company. The investment will let users book travel services through Grab’s app and pay through the GrabPay digital wallet. Booking (formerly Priceline) users can use its apps to hail Grab vehicles.

Grab operates in 235 cities in businesses ranging from food delivery to ride-hailing to micro-loans. The company bought out Uber’s SE Asia business, which consolidated the local market. Booking properties include, KAYAK, and Booking previously invested $500M in Chinese ride-hail company Didi Chuxing (DIDI).

Cloud management: Snap (NYSE:SNAP) and Slack participated in a $100M round in open-source cloud management company HashiCorp at a $1.9B valuation. IVP led with backing from Cisco’s (NASDAQ:CSCO) AppDynamics, Bessemer Venture Partners, GGV Capital, Mayfield, Redpoint Ventures, and True Ventures.

HashiCorp helps enterprises use consistent workflows to provision, secure, connect, and run any cloud infrastructure for any application. The tools have been downloaded 45M times, according to the company. The company will use the funds to build out its worldwide operations and add staff.

Competitors: In the privileged access management solutions space, HashiCorp competes with Arcan, CA Tech (NASDAQ:CA), CyberArk (NASDAQ:CYBR), and IBM (NYSE:IBM).

Digital sports media: Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Ventures participated in a $40M Series C round in digital sports media company The Athletic, according to Axios. Founders Fund and Bedrock Capital co-led the round, which valued the startup at $200M. Other participants included Evolution Media Capital, Courtside Ventures, and The Chernin Group.

The Athletic calls itself both a D2C brand and a digital media company that earns money through subscriptions. The startup will use the money to invest in audience, data, and editorial teams to drive subscriptions. The Athletic currently has 300 full-time employees, over 100K subscribers, and a 90% renewal rate. Prior funds invested in journalists and the team now covers sports in 47 markets, up from 12 in January.

Competitors: ESPN+ (NYSE:DIS)(1M subscribers), Turner’s (NYSE:T) Bleacher Report, Barstool Sports ($100M valuation), and Vox Media’s SB Nation ($307.6M in total funding).

Fund watch: True Ventures announced closing two new funds: early-stage True Ventures IV LP with $350M in committed capital and True Ventures Select III with $285M in capital. Fund IV will focus on software, hardware, consumer goods, crypto, and digital biology. Select III will fund new investments in True’s existing portfolio companies.

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