October 26, 2021

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Unlimited Technology

VC Daily: Indian Ed-Tech Startup Boosts U.S. Expansion With Summer Deals

Good day. Indian education-technology startup Think & Learn Pvt Ltd., which does business as Byju’s, is gaining traction on its plans to aggressively expand in the U.S. after an acquisitive summer.

The Bangalore-based company sees India and the U.S. as its two main markets, where it targets children in the K-12 age group. The startup mostly uses a so-called freemium model — a pricing system that starts with a free product that includes paid features — and it is organized around three main verticals: schools, test preparations and rescaling for professionals.

Last week, Byju’s agreed to purchase Los Altos, Calif.-based coding platform Neuron Fuel Inc., which does business as Tynker, for an undisclosed amount. The deal followed the acquisition of Redwood City, Calif.-based reading platform Epic Creations Inc. for $500 million in July.

The summer deals bring Byju’s closer to its goal of investing $1 billion in the U.S. ed-tech market, co-founder and chief executive Byju Raveendran said. Tynker and Epic have collectively been used by 110 million children worldwide and bolster Byju’s’ offering for its core age group.

The ed-tech industry has been on a tear since the start of the pandemic as children picked up learning online while schools were fully or partially closed. Globally, startups in this sector have nabbed $7.82 billion from investors in the first eight months of the year, outpacing the $6.07 billion they raised in the same period of 2020, according to CB Insights. Byju’s is the world’s most valuable ed-tech startup at $16.5 billion, according to CB Insights.

Byju’s had around 45 million students on its platform before gaining approximately 55 million more in the past year thanks to the tailwind of the pandemic, said co-founder and board member Divya Gokulnath, who is also Mr. Raveendran’s wife. The bulk of Byju’s users are in India.

And now on to the news…

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Top News

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan at the company’s offices in San Jose, Calif., in 2019. PHOTO: JASON HENRY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Zooming in. A Justice Department-led panel is investigating Zoom Video Communications Inc.’s deal to buy an American customer-service software company, citing potential national-security risks posed by the U.S. videoconferencing giant’s China ties, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The department said the interagency committee — known as Team Telecom — needed to review a license application that arose from the San Jose, Calif.-based company’s nearly $15 billion deal to buy Five9 Inc. to see if it “poses a risk to the national security or law enforcement interests” of the U.S., according to a letter posted on the Federal Communications Commission website. The department said there could be a risk from “the foreign relationships and ownership” associated with the application.

In the letter, dated last month, the Justice Department requested the FCC defer action on the application until Team Telecom finishes its review, putting Zoom’s deal for Five9 on hold.

$20 Billion+

Rough value of U.S. sports-betting operator Draftkings Inc.’s cash and stock offer for global gambling company Entain PLC. (WSJ)

SEC’s Gensler Doesn’t See Cryptocurrencies Lasting Long

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler said Tuesday he doesn’t see much long-term viability for cryptocurrencies, underscoring the importance of protecting investors in the market and bringing it under regulatory oversight, the WSJ reports. Mr. Gensler likened the thousands of cryptocurrencies in existence to the so-called wildcat banking era that took hold in the U.S. from 1837 until 1863 in the absence of federal bank regulation. Before President Abraham Lincoln created the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, banks issued their own currencies, which they sometimes refused to redeem for their purported value in gold or silver. “I don’t think there’s long-term viability for five or six thousand private forms of money,” Mr. Gensler said in a virtual event hosted by the Washington Post. “So in the meantime I think it’s worthwhile to have an investor-protection regime placed around this.”

Apple Is Working on iPhone Features to Help Detect Depression, Cognitive Decline

Apple Inc. is working on technology to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, aiming for tools that could expand the scope of its burgeoning health portfolio, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Using an array of sensor data that includes mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behavior and more, researchers hope they can tease out digital signals associated with the target conditions so that algorithms can be created to detect them reliably, the people said. Apple hopes that would become the basis for unique features for its devices, according to the people and documents. The efforts spring from research partnerships that Apple has announced with the University of California, Los Angeles, which is studying stress, anxiety and depression, and pharmaceutical company Biogen Inc., which is studying mild cognitive impairment.

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Industry News

Funds

Growth-stage venture firm Section Partners raised $245 million across two new funds. Section Capital IV LP and a parallel co-investment fund closed on commitments of $213 million, exceeding the fundraising target of $150 million. Section Ventures LP is a new $32 million strategy that complements Fund IV’s direct equity investment activity. Section Partners has offices in Palo Alto, Calif. and New York.

Venture and growth equity firm Blue Bear Capital closed its second fund at its $150 million hard cap to continue the firm’s focus on digital technologies making an impact in the wind, solar, electric grid, EV infrastructure, transportation and energy-intensive industries. Investors in the new fund include Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, ZOMA Capital and the McKnight Foundation, along with private-equity firms and energy companies.

People

Clear Ventures appointed Vijay Reddy as partner. He was previously a partner at Intel Capital. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Clear Ventures has $330 million of assets under management.

Fintech investor QED Investors promoted Laura Bock to partner. She joined the Alexandria, Va.-based firm from management consultant Oliver Wyman in 2018. QED Investors recently closed on $1.05 billion in commitments across its latest early-stage fund and a new growth fund.

Facet Wealth, a personal financial planning services provider, named Shruti Joshi to the post of chief operating officer. She previously worked at Verizon and Altman Vilandrie & Co., and founded Compell’d. Baltimore-based Facet Wealth has raised $79 million in funding from Warburg Pincus, Slow Ventures and others.

Exits

Supply-chain technology provider project44 acquired Austin-based last mile delivery startup Convey for $255 million. The acquisition is project44’s third of the year and its largest to

date. Project44’s technology offers companies visibility into how their shipments are moving across supply chains. Founded in 2013, Convey says its delivery management technology is used by retailers including the Home Depot Inc.

Influencer marketing platform CreatorIQ acquired influencer marketing analytics provider Tribe Dynamics for an undisclosed amount. Earlier this month, Los Angeles-based CreatorIQ announced a $40 million funding round from TVC Capital, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors’ Kayne Partners Fund, Affinity Group, Unilever Ventures and Silver Lake Waterman.

Privacy, security and third-party risk technology platform OneTrust agreed to purchase Tugboat Logic Inc., which automates information security assurance and audit readiness for security frameworks. Terms weren’t disclosed. Based in Atlanta and London, OneTrust has raised a total of $920 million in funding from investors including Insight Partners, Coatue Management, TCV and SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Tugboat Logic’s backers include Inovia Capital and Westwave Capital.

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New Money

Sorare, a Paris-based fantasy football platform, raised $680 million in Series B financing led by Softbank, giving the company a valuation of $4.3 billion. New investors including Atomico, Bessemer Ventures, D1 Capital Partners, Eurazeo and IVP also contributed to the round, along with existing backers Benchmark, Accel and Headline. Marcelo Claure, chief executive of SoftBank Group International and chief operating officer of SoftBank Group, will join Sorare’s board.

Mirakl, a Paris- and Boston-based enterprise marketplace SaaS platform, scored $555 million in Series E funding, more than doubling the company’s valuation to over $3.5 billion since its $300 million Series D round last September. Silver Lake led the new round, which included participation from 83North, Elaia Partners, Felix Capital and Permira.

Genesis Digital Assets, a bitcoin mining company, picked up a $431 million investment. Paradigm led the round, with Co-Founder and Managing Partner Matt Huang joining the company’s board.

MarketFinance Ltd., a London-based business lender, landed GBP280 million ($382.5 million) in a debt and equity round. Investors including Intesa Sanpaolo provided the debt portion, with the equity funding led by Black River Ventures.

Blockdaemon, a Los Angeles- and Ireland-based blockchain infrastructure platform, completed a $155 million Series B round at a valuation of $1.25 billion. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the funding, which saw participation from Sapphire Ventures, Boldstart Ventures, Greenspring Associates, Borderless Capital, CoinFund, Lerer Hippeau and others.

TrueLayer Ltd., a global payments network, grabbed a $130 million investment from Tiger Global Management and Stripe.

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

September 22, 2021 10:03 ET (14:03 GMT)

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