By Marc Vartabedian, WSJ Pro
Good day. Corporate-venture firms are experiencing their own coronavirus slowdown.
Global corporate-venture backed deals in March declined 21% to 216 from the same month last year, according to a report by data and news provider Global Corporate Venturing. Meanwhile, the investment value of the March deals dropped 12% to $8.8 billion from a year earlier.
March liquidity events that involved corporate venturers as either acquirers or exiting investors were also muted. There were 17 such exits, amounting to $1.2 billion in total estimated exited capital, the lowest level in over a year and an 88% decline from February, the report said.And now on to the news…
Digital retooling. Some venture-backed technology firms are using digital tools designed for other enterprise applications to help the travel industry reassure wary airline passengers and hotel guests as it prepares for a return to business, CIO Journal’s Angus Loten reports.
Paine Field Passenger Terminal, a private airport in Everett, Wash., on Wednesday began deploying a camera aimed at screening passengers for fevers, a key Covid-19 symptom, before they board planes. The camera, developed by Austin, Texas-based technology firm Athena Security, was originally designed to spot individuals carrying guns inside banks, schools and other high-security locations.
Software maker Automation Anywhere Inc. has retooled its robotic process automation software, leveraging existing applications designed for the hospitality industry to create a bot to help carriers tackle the surge in demand for refunds, said Prince Kohli, the company’s chief technology officer.
Drop in investment value for global corporate-venture backed deals in March compared with March 2019.
AI funds. Hedge funds that use artificial intelligence models to suggest trades and stock picks declined when stock markets unraveled in late February, but now have largely recovered, according to benchmarks tracking these strategies, WSJ Pro’s James Rundle reports. Yet market experts warn the unpredictable nature of the economy these days could trip up some algorithms that continue to rely on data gathered during better times.
Reading Picks. For some, the coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on travel, perhaps leaving a little more time for a favored read. WSJ Pro Private Equity wanted to know which books won out with readers. See selected responses.
Trade secrets during lockdown. The risk of trade-secret theft is increasing as remote working, video conference calls with third parties and layoffs become common, according to a brief from the law firm Farella Braun + Martel LLP.
Companies are required to take reasonable steps to protect their trade secrets under federal and state laws. But that’s becoming more complicated.
Cybersecurity threats, such as phishing emails, are increasing, which can expose sensitive information. Restricting access to highly confidential information to those with a “need to know” is one way to respond, the law firm wrote.
Layoffs can cause a problem, too. “With so many employees leaving so many companies during this crisis, the risk that some may seek to misuse valuable company information is especially high,” the lawyers wrote. One way to adjust is to preserve a former employee’s laptop to save any evidence of “misconduct if the employee moves to a competitor or starts a competing line of business.”
The prevalence of online meetings means that some of the standard protective measures around non-disclosure agreements, such as requiring the signing of NDAs before coming into a building or joining a presentation, are eliminated. The law firm suggests creating a template confidentiality agreement before participating in a video conference. —Yuliya Chernova
Ridge Ventures appointed Susan Stella as head of investor relations and Kamil Saeid as principal. Ms. Stella was previously a principal and director of investor relations at Knightsbridge, as well as a director at Thunderbird Global Private Equity Center. Mr. Saeid joins San Francisco-based Ridge from Aspect Ventures.
Insurance provider and health-plan operator Bright Health Inc. acquired Brand New Day health plan for an undisclosed sum. Minneapolis-based Bright Health raised a $635 million Series D round of funding in December from investors including New Enterprise Associates, Bessemer Venture Partners, Meritech Capital Partners, Redpoint Ventures and others.
Publicly traded MobileIron acquired incapptic Connect, a provider of mobile automation app release software, for an undisclosed amount. Berlin-based incapptic Connect was backed by High-Tech Gründerfonds.
ASAPP Inc., a New York-based startup whose technology automates and augments human workflows, closed a $185 million Series B round of funding. Investors included Emergence Capital, March Capital Partners, Euclidean Capital, Telstra Ventures, HOF Capital and Vast Ventures.
Otonomo, an Israeli automotive data services platform, raised $46 million in Series C funding from SK Holdings, Avis Budget Group, Alliance Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners.
KlearNow, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based customs clearance and document management platform, completed a $16 million Series A round. GreatPoint Ventures led the investment, with participation from Autotech Ventures, Argean Capital and Monta Vista Capital.
Knowde, a San Jose, Calif.-based marketplace for chemicals, ingredients and polymers, snagged $14 million in Series A financing. Sequoia Capital led the round, which included contributions from Refactor Capital, Bee Partners, Cantos Ventures and Knollwood Investment Advisory.
WindESCo Inc., a Burlington, Mass.-based wind energy startup, completed a $10 million Series B funding round. WAVE Equity Partners led the investment, with participation from Tenaska Inc. and others.
Plantible Foods, a San Marcos, Calif. plant-based protein startup, landed $4.6 million in seed funding. Vectr Ventures and LererHippeau co-led the round, which included participation from eighteen94 Capital and FTW Ventures.
Superior Sensor Technology, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based developer of application specific sensors for the industrial, medical and automotive markets, picked up a $4.5 million investment led by 40 North Ventures.
- Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla’s stock was too high. The market agreed.
- A smartphone app tries to guide the way out of coronavirus lockdowns.
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called to testify before Congress.
The best robot toys for building kids’ STEM skills.
Around the Web
Mark Cuban: ‘Raising money isn’t an accomplishment, it’s an obligation’ (TechCrunch)
Microsoft is in talks to buy startup Softomotive. (Bloomberg)
Discovering your spouse’s annoying work personality. (The Information)
Facebook, Google and Snap find knight in shining armor as ad spending craters. (CNBC)
Google travel data show lockdown fatigue in U.S., Australia. (Reuters)
The WSJ Pro VC Team
This newsletter was compiled by Matthew Strozier and Zachary Cole.
WSJ Pro Venture Capital is a premium service of The Wall Street Journal. We cover venture capital and the global startup ecosystem. Share your tips, comments and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Team: Matthew Strozier, TomioGeron, Yuliya Chernova, Brian Gormley and Marc Vartabedian.
Follow us on Twitter: @wsjvc, @tomiogeron, @ychernova, @BrianPGormley, @marcvarta.Correction: Intel Capital led an $11.5 million funding round into Hypersonix Inc. A summary in Friday’s newsletter incorrectly said that Intel Capital invested $11.5 million into Hypersonix.