Hershey acquires Tice’s Lily’s, Dweck-Maizel’s Sunbit is now a unicorn and Thoma Bravo invests in Andersz’s PDFTron Systems

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing May 24, 2021

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Hershey acquires Tice’s Lily’s Sweets

Hershey acquires a private equity-backed chocolate maker that was founded by Cynthia Tice and is now led by Jane Miller. Hershey did not disclose the price it is paying for Lily’s Sweets. VMG Partners, which Kara Cissell-Roell is a founding partner of, invested in Lily in 2018.

Based in Boulder, Colo., Lily’s creates low-sugar products including dark and milk chocolate style bars, baking chips, peanut butter cups and other confection products. Hershey said Lily’s will add a key better-for-you confection brand to its portfolio of chocolate and candy.

Lily’s traces its roots to Cynthia’s decision to raise awareness about better-for-you foods by opening Center Foods, a natural foods store, in Philadelphia in 1978. In 2012, Cynthia launched four Lily’s chocolate style bars nationally in Whole Foods Market, and now the expanded line of bars, baking chips and other confections can be found across the U.S. at key retailers. The brand’s mission is to offer consumers a range of great tasting, low sugar treats.

In a statement, Jane said, “Cynthia had the vision that consumers wanted a better-for-you option in confections and today 80 percent of adults want to cut back on their sugar intake. By joining the Hershey’s family of brands, Lily’s will become a platform confection brand making better-for-you options easily accessible to all consumers.” 

Larimer-led Peak-Ryzex acquires Bar Code Direct

Peak-Ryzex, a provider of automatic identification, data capture and factory automation whose CEO is Juliann Larimer, makes its third acquisition since getting a new private equity owner earlier this year. Peak-Ryzex acquired Bar Code Direct, a North Grafton, Mass. reseller of AIDC solutions for the manufacturing, retail, consumer and health care-end markets. Terms were not disclosed.

Peak-Ryzex in recent months has also acquired Optical Phusion, Inc. and Inovity. The deals come after Sole Source Capital, LLC acquired Peak-Ryzex from Keystone Capital.

Zhang’s Jerry Services raises $28M in Series B funding

An AI and machine-learning based car insurance comparison service co-founded by Lina Zhang raises additional capital. Jerry Services, Inc. raised $28 million in Series B funding from Goodwater Capital and a group of angel investors. It now has raised more than $57 million.

According to the Jerry, more than 70 percent of U.S. drivers renew their policies without comparing prices and miss out on potential savings. Jerry is removing existing time and money saving barriers by making insurance shopping more effortless, giving customized quotes from more than 45 insurance carriers in 45 seconds. The Palo Alto, Calif. company’s recent funding supports rapid scaling of the car insurance product and hiring of the right talent to expand its marketplace into additional categories, removing friction from additional car ownership needs.

NEA invests in Ding’s Merge

New Enterprise Associates invests in a company co-founded by Shensi Ding that enables the integration of products with HR, payroll, recruiting and accounting platforms. Merge raised $4.5 million in seed funding.

Merge, a San Francisco and New York-based API company, provides a solution to the way B2B companies build and maintain an ever-growing number of integrations with other vendors to sell to and support their customers. Through its unified API, Merge provides access to over 40 HR, payroll, recruiting and accounting platforms, effectively offering an integration layer for all business tools and applications. Shensi founded the company with Gil Feig.

In a statement, Shensi said, “Gil and I saw first-hand how B2B companies need to build and maintain new integrations as their customers demand them. We built Merge to help our customers make integrations their competitive advantage.”

Valade-led Black Box Intelligence acquires MillerPulse

Black Box Intelligence, a private equity-backed provider of benchmarks for the hospitality industry, which is led by Kelli Valade, checks in with an acquisition. Terms of Black Box’s purchase of MillerPulse, LLC were not disclosed. MillerPulse provides restaurant operators and observers near-real time insights on all restaurant segments in over 120 U.S. markets. The acquisition will add MillerPulse’s 50,000 restaurant units to Black Box.

In a statement, Kelli said, “we’re extremely excited to see the two powerhouse data sets come together to create an even more robust set of benchmarks that will truly be unmatched in the marketplace.” Black Box is backed by Diversis Capital.

McGuirk-led Payslip raises an additional $10M

A company led by Fidelma McGuirk raises additional capital to help organizations automate and standardize their global payroll management. Payslip closed on an additional $10 million of Series A financing, bringing total funding to $14.5 million. MiddleGame Ventures and Mouro Capital led the financing with participation from Frontline Ventures and Tribal.vc.

Based in Westport, Ireland, Payslip helps organizations automate and standardize their global payroll management. Payslip’s platform and integration technology is designed to solve problems and respond to the challenges brought about by traditional payroll models. It aims to rectify the lack of data standardization and automation and enable reporting and analytics, compliance and payroll operational efficiency and facilitate the ability to grow a business by scaling into new countries and markets seamlessly.

In a statement, Fidelma said, “COVID travel restrictions, in-country business continuity requirements, and increased work from home acceptability have turbocharged international hiring and country expansion. Payslip customers use our technology to grow quickly into new countries, deliver a unified employee self-serve experience globally and, most importantly, to have real-time insights via the reporting available on Payslip around payroll costs, operational delivery and vendor performance.”

The Dougalls and Townshend team up with Queen’s Park Equity to acquire Sagacity Solutions

Anita Dougall, Malka Townshend and Harry Dougall team up with a private equity firm to acquire the data solutions company that they helped found. Terms of the acquisition of Sagacity Solutions were not disclosed. Queen’s Park Equity supported the deal. Sagacity had previously received backing from MXC Capital, according to Crunchbase.

Sagacity focuses on helping clients solve business challenges and maximize the value of their customers by connecting the dots between data, people, policies, processes and systems. The investment will enable the company to accelerate the deployment and development of new and existing solutions into adjacent markets.

Singh’s Artificial raises $21.5M in a Series A round

An automation platform co-founded by Nikhita Singh that creates seamless workflows closes an investment round. According to TechCrunch, Artificial raised $21.5 million in a Series A round led by M12 with Playground Global and AME Cloud Ventures also participating.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Artificial provides a unifying software platform that orchestrates and captures everything in a lab, including all the manual tasks, so that the lab can turn its previously inefficient and error-prone processes into seamless, reproducible and scalable workflows. Artificial plans to use the funding to continue building out its software and its capabilities, to hire more people and for business development.

Nikhita previously worked on human-robot interaction research at the MIT Media Lab, and before that spent years at Palantir and working on robotics at UC-Berkeley. With her prior roles, she has insight into how to bring the advances of robotics into environments that are quite analogue in culture.

Siambekos appointed CEO of ArborMetrix

A venture-backed company appoints Maria Siambekos as CEO. Maria now leads ArborMetrix, a provider of health care analytics technology that improves outcomes, advances research, and demonstrates safety, effectiveness, and value. Ann Arbor, Mich.-based ArborMetrix is backed by investors including Arboretum Ventures and ID Ventures.

Prior to joining ArborMetrix, Maria served in a multitude of executive leadership roles at such companies as Vynca, Healthbox, GE Healthcare and TheraDoc. In a statement, Maria said, “health care is complex. To achieve improved outcomes and higher quality care, we need to leverage data and insights to better understand why it happens, and how to improve. ArborMetrix delivers this clarity today, and I’m excited about its future and potential impact on the health care industry.”

Aggarwal’s Wysa raises $5.5M in Series A funding

A mental health app co-founded by Jo Aggarwal lands additional financing. Wysa raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from W Health Ventures, the Google Assistant Investment Program and existing investors pi Ventures and Kae Capital.

Based in Boston, Wysa is an artificial intelligence-based chat platform that was designed in collaboration with therapists. The company has facilitated more than 100 million conversations with users. Corporations using its platform include Accenture Global, L’Oreal and the Ministry of Health in Singapore. Jo founded the company in 2015 with Ramakant Vempati.

Dweck-Maizel’s Sunbit is now a unicorn

A buy-now, pay-later company co-founded by Ornit Dweck-Maizel is now a unicorn following a funding round. Sunbit secured $130 million in a Series D funding round that valued the company at $1.1 billion. The round was led by Group 11 with Migdal Insurance, Harel Group, AltaIR Capital and More Investment House participating, as well as returning investor Zeev Ventures.

As a developer of buy-now, pay-later technology for everyday needs and services, Los Angeles-based Sunbit aims to ease the stress of buying things by offering access to fast, fair and transparent payment options to people everywhere. Ornit is the company’s chief technology officer. Prior to co-founding Sunbit, she worked as vice president of R&D at Whipclip and as R&D manager at SuperDerivatives. With the new investment, Sunbit plans to expand its merchant footprint to reach more retailers and service providers, online and offline, and develop more products that serve its customers and merchants.

Vausselin’s Aroma-Zone breathes in capital

A company co-founded by Anne-Cécile Vausselin breathes in capital for its essential oils, natural beauty and wellness products. The amount Pemberton and Eurazeo invested in Aroma-Zone was not disclosed.

Based in Cabrières-d’Avignon, France, Anne-Cécile created Aroma-Zone to provide natural and DIY beauty and wellness products through a direct-to-customer online model. The company offers over 1,900 products, including a wide range of essential oils, raw beauty products, as well as utensils, containers and recipes to create natural cosmetic products. The financing provides flexibility for Aroma-Zone to pursue its growth strategy, intensify the digitalization of its business and expand its presence outside of France.

Pemberton is a European private debt manager investing in non-investment grade debt on behalf of institutional investors globally.

Investors bite into Torrivilla’s Goldbelly

Investors bite into an e-commerce platform co-founded by Vanessa Torrivilla making it possible to order food from restaurants around the U.S. such as New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace, NYC’s Union Square Café, San Francisco’s Wayfare Tavern and more. Goldbelly raised a $100 million Series C investment led by Spectrum Equity with participation from existing investor Intel Capital.

Based in San Francisco, Goldbelly allows anyone to order America’s signature dishes no matter where you are located, including Maine lobster rolls, New York bagels, Chicago deep dish pizza and Texas BBQ. Its mission is to connect people with their favorite foods, restaurants and experiences. With prior experience in design, Vanessa co-founded the company with her husband Joe to bring people together through food. 

Thoma Bravo makes a growth investment in Andersz’s PDFTron Systems

Thoma Bravo makes a growth investment in PDFTron Systems, Inc., whose founder and CEO is Catherine Andersz. The amount invested by the private equity firm in the Vancouver, BC company was not disclosed, but existing investor Silversmith Capital Partners and PDFTron’s management team will remain “significant” shareholders.

PDFTron provides document technology solutions for software developers. Founded in 1998, the company has more than 2,000 customers. Its platform provides organizations with a secure, cost-effective and reliable way to embed advanced document functionality within their software applications. 

Ou’s Figure Technologies closes a $200M Series D round

Investors back a company co-founded by June Ou that is providing financial services using blockchain technology. Figure Technologies, Inc. closed a $200 million Series D funding round that valued it at $3.2 billion. The round was led by 10T Holdings and Morgan Creek Digital and also included DCM Ventures, Digital Currency Group, HCM Capital, Ribbit Capital, RPM Ventures and partners at DST Global.

Based in San Francisco, Figure uses a blockchain for its digital asset marketplaces including home lending, capital table management, fund management and administration, banking and payments.

June, who is chief operating officer, founded Figure with Mike Cagney, who is CEO and the founder of SoFi. Prior to helping create Figure in 2018, June spent five years at SoFi – most recently as vice president product management and engineering.

Castelletti and Twist’s Ever/Body raises $38M in Series B funding

Investors apply capital to a personalized, tech-enabled cosmetic dermatology provider founded by Karen Castelletti and former Clinique executive Kate Twist and now led by Amy ShecterEver/Body raised $38 million in Series B funding from Tiger Global Management, Addition, Fifth Wall, MetaProp, Gaingels, Declaration Partners, ACME Capital and Redesign Health.

The New York-based company was founded as an alternative to traditional Upper East Side cosmetic dermatology offices, offering a tech-enabled consumer experience, curated menu of treatments and tailored approach to each patient’s unique, long-term skincare goals. The capital will be used to open more locations in New York and gradually around the East Coast, as well as to launch a product line of branded prescription dermatology products, aimed at addressing key concerns such as acne, hyperpigmentation, wrinkle reduction, rosacea and hair growth.

In a statement, Amy said, “Ever/Body is poised to lead this growth by delivering personalized care that is far beyond the industry standard, made possible by our proprietary technology, training programs, and a highly-customized client experience.”

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