Hoang-To, Wagner, Dolan, Choi and Shakir among those making notable investments this week
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing April 19, 2021
Maveron's Vardhana and Female Founders Fund reinvest in Co-Star
Maveron Partner Anarghya Vardhana and Female Founders Fund, which is led by Anu Duggal, re-invest in an astrology app co-founded by Banu Guler and Anna Kopp. According to Axios, Maveron and Female Founders Fund took part in Co-Star’s $15 million Series A round that also included Spark Capital and such other existing investors as 14W and Aspect Ventures, which was founded by Jennifer Fonstad and Theresia Gouw. The new round comes two years after Maveron led the New York company’s $5 million seed round.
Co-Star has developed an AI-powered astrology app that creates personalized horoscopes. The company utilizes NASA data along with the methods of professional astrologers. Since its launch in 2017, the app has been downloaded more than 20 million times. The app is free, but users can pay $2.99 to compare their chart with others who are not members. Banu, who serves as CEO, and Anna founded Co-Star with Ben Weitzman.
Obvious Ventures’ Hoang-To takes part in Medable's $78M round
Obvious Ventures’ Tina Hoang-To takes part in a new financing round for Medable, Inc., whose co-founder and CEO is Dr. Michelle Longmire. Obvious took part in the Palo Alto, Calif. company’s $78 million round, which also included existing investors Sapphire Ventures, GSR Ventures, PPD, Inc. and Streamlined Ventures. Cathy Gao, a partner with Sapphire Ventures, has been involved in the firm’s investment. In 2020, Medable raised a total of $116 million in two rounds and has now secured a total of $217 million.
Medable is focused on accelerating the life sciences industry’s shift to digital and decentralized clinical trials. The company’s platform brings together clinical trial participants, clinical research sites, partners and analytics to enable more patient-centric and informed clinical research. It is seeking to reduce clinical trial timelines by 50 percent and enable effective new therapies to reach patients faster. The company’s platform has been used for trials in more than 30 countries and 26 languages. In 2020, Medable played a role in enabling clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw revenue grow by more than 500 percent.
Michelle co-founded Medable in 2014 with Tim Smith, who is chief technology officer. Michelle is a board-certified dermatologist who continues to practice.
In a statement, Tina said, that “unlike competitors that have built technology for a single part of the value chain, Medable addresses every part of the clinical trial tech stack from patient recruitment to virtual visits to outcomes assessment – enabling customers to run trials anytime anywhere on a single platform.”
Wagner guides Atairos into Modern Times Group
Atairos Managing Director Rachael Wagner guides her firm into a publicly traded Swedish gaming and esports company whose CEO is Maria Redin, with Rachael telling Women’s PE Briefs that Atairos was “impressed” with the company’s strategy.
Atairos invested SEK 545.2 million, or $64.3 million, for 4.82 million shares in Modern Times Group. MTG trades on Nasdaq Stockholm under the symbols MTGA and MTGB. The shares issued by MTG were part of an offering of shares that raised SEK 1.1 billion or $129 million. MTG is using the capital, in part, to acquire Ninja Kiwi, a New Zealand-based game developer. It will also look to expand through organic and further M&A initiatives.
Rachael said Atairos has known the MTG management team for several years and “have been impressed with their recent pivot towards a roll-up strategy in the mobile video game space, which is one of the fastest growing parts of the media landscape.” The firm, she said, hopes to invest additional capital into MTG to support further M&A opportunities.
Last year, Rachael led Atairos into Arcis Golf and joined the board of the operator of public and private golf clubs. Rachael is also on the board of Bowlero Corp., a bowling and entertainment company. Rachael joined Atairos in 2016 after being a managing director at Lindsay Goldberg. Her background also includes roles with Lion Capital and Blackstone.
Atairos is a strategic holding company that was launched in 2016. It has more than $5 billion of equity and offices in New York City, Philadelphia, and London.
StandUp and MEDTEQ+ lead My Intelligent Machines’ 5M Canadian round
StandUp Ventures, which is led by Michelle McBane, backs an artificial intelligence and systems biology company co-founded and led by Sarah Jenna. StandUp and MEDTEQ+ led My Intelligent Machines, Inc.’s 5 million Canadian round that also included Desjardins Venture Capital, Anges Québec, Anges Québec Capital and Real Ventures.
Based in Montreal, My Intelligent Machines has developed a platform that enables the identification of targets for drugs, thus leading to increased efficacy, prioritization of indications at pre-clinical stages and a reduction of the clinical trial failure rates. It will use the capital to support its expansion into the Canadian, European and United States markets as well as ramp up hiring.
In a statement, Michelle said that “identifying subsets within a population is critical for the enablement of personalized medicine, but to do this effectively and at scale requires advanced artificial intelligence techniques - something life scientists often don't have expertise in. MIMs removes this barrier to entry, paving the way for better and faster drug development.”
Dickinson’s District Ventures re-invests in Chickapea
Arlene Dickinson’s District Ventures Capital re-invests in Chickapea, a Canadian producer of gluten free and organic pasta founded by Shelby Taylor. District co-led the Collingwood, Ontario company’s 9.3 million Canadian Series C round with InvestEco Capital and Export Development Canada.
Chickapea produces pasta that is made from two ingredients: chickpeas and lentil flour. The company currently produces 11 different types of pastas, which are sold in more than 4,500 retail locations across North America.
Started by Shelby in 2015, Chickapea will use the capital to continue its growth in Canada and the United States and expand its product line to include more nutrient dense pasta. District first invested Chickapea in 2017.
Dolan guides Link Ventures into Creatively’s $5M seed round
Link Ventures’ Lisa Dolan guides the firm into a financing round, which also included Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, for a job platform for creatives co-founded by Stacey Bendet. Link led Creatively’s $5 million seed round, which in addition to Advancit also included Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company.
Based in New York, Creatively provides creatives of all disciplines and industries with free, immersive tools to showcase their portfolios, network with one another and find jobs. Since its launch last year, the company seen more than 125,000 creatives and more than 650 brands join its community. Companies using the site to recruit and hire talent include HBO, Tom Ford, CNN, SKIMS, The Gap and Nickelodeon.
Creatively will use the capital to expand its product and engineering team as well as its data capabilities. Stacey, who is CEO of alice + olivia, founded Creatively with Joe Indriolo, who is chief product officer.
In a statement, Lisa said, “there previously really hasn't been a job platform built for creatives. Creatively solves that problem. This is the LinkedIn for the creative world. Today's job market needs Creatively. Businesses are looking to recruit creatives directly, but lack the network and resources to find qualified, diverse talent. Creatively changes that. Their growth in less than a year is very impressive, and we're excited to be a part of the team."
Lisa joined Link in 2019 from Bullet Point Network and was promoted earlier this year to managing director. She is an observer on the boards of RealFriend, Stilt, Inc., HealthCare.com and Trust & Will.
M13’s Choi and Lux’s Shakir led adyn’s $2.5M seed round
M13’s Christine Choi, Lux Capital’s Deena Shakir and angel investors Anne Wojcicki and Ashley Mayer seed a company founded by Elizabeth Ruzzo that is developing personalized birth control. M13 and Lux led adyn’s $2.5 million seed round, which in addition in Anne and Ashely and several other angels also included Civilization Ventures, Concrete Rose Capital, Y Combinator and Madrona Pioneer Fund.
A Seattle-based precision medicine company, adyn is focused on providing personalized birth control recommendations aimed at minimizing medication side effects. The company’s flagship product, an at-home test, uses a woman’s biology to personalize her birth control choice. The test aims to quantify hormone baseline levels and assess genetic risk for depression and blood clots. The company currently has a waitlist for the test that will ship this year.
In a statement, Christine said “adyn is opening access to health through personalized scientific insights about genetics and hormone levels that are medically actionable. (Elizabeth’s) expertise in precision medicine will introduce a new standard of care for birth control and close gaps caused by historic inequity in medical research.” Christine is a partner with M13.
Also in a statement, Deena said that adyn “is finally offering women better options for family planning and more control over their health. (Elizabeth) and her team have achieved a breakthrough in both technology and business model, which together will fundamentally transform the quality and precision of healthcare diagnostics and delivery.”
Deena earlier this year led Lux into SteadyMD and joined the telehealth company’s board. Anne, co-founder of 23andMe, also invested in SteadyMD.
A partner with Lux, Deena has also invested in neo.tax, which helps startups secure R&D research credits from the federal government; Mos, which is seeking to make college more affordable; and Shiru, which leverages computational design to create enhanced proteins. She is also an observer on the board of AllStripes (formerly RDMD), a data platform for rare disease drug development. Deena joined Lux in 2019 from GV where she was a partner.
Lux is currently investing out of a $500 million early-stage fund and a $550 million growth stage fund. Both funds were raised in 2019.
Lamont leads Oak HC/FT into Clearco’s $100M round
Oak HC/FT’s Annie Lamont backs a company co-founded by Michele Romanow that describes itself as the world’s largest e-commerce investor. Oak HC/FT led Clearco’s $100 million round that also included Founders Circle and executives from a host of e-commerce companies. It is now valued at nearly $2 billion. It also raised $250 million of new debt from Credigy. Formerly known as Clearbanc, Clearco has raised more than $170 million of equity. The Toronto entity has invested $2 billion in 4,500 companies.
Clearco utilizes proprietary algorithms that are gender- race- and region-agnostic. As a result, it says it has funded eight times as many female founders as typical VCs. Michele, who is president, founded Clearco with Andrew D’Souza who is CEO.
In a statement, Annie said Oak HC/FT “is thrilled to partner with the market leader in the alternative funding space. We strongly believe in Clearco’s mission to democratize access to capital, and we’re excited to see this next phase of growth.”
In conjunction with the financing, Annie joined Clearco’s board. Annie earlier this year led Oak HC/FT into Advise Health Holdings, a licensed Medicare agency, and joined the company’s board. She is also on the boards of Truepill, Brightline, CareBridge, Independent Living Systems, Oncology Analytics, OODA Health, Precision Medicine Group, Quartet, Vesta Healthcare and VillageMD and is an observer on the board of Notable Health. Annie is a past speaker at the Women’s Private Equity Summit and the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit and will speak at the upcoming Women’s Leadership Unbound Summit.
Haynes' Luminate Capital Partners acquires Axonify
Luminate Capital Partners, which was founded by Hollie Haynes, makes its first investment in some 17 months, acquiring Axonify, Inc., the provider of frontline employee training whose co-founder and CEO is Carol Leaman. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported that Luminate bought out Axonify’s prior backers – JMI Equity, Harmony Partners and BDC Capital – for “close to $250 million” and now owns 70 percent of the company.
Carol will continue to lead Waterloo, Ontario-based Axonify, which earlier this year acquired MLevel, an Atlanta data-driven digital learning platform. Axonify has developed a SaaS employee knowledge platform which organizations use for corporate learning to achieve specific business outcomes. Utilizing brain science, adaptive learning, gamification, micro learning and knowledge-on-demand, the company’s platform encourages employees to take the right actions. The company has more than 160 customers in 150 countries, including Walmart, Levi’s and Merck.
In a statement, Hollie called Axonify a “true market leader” and said “they provide a winning combination of frontline-focused technology training solutions and content that help organizations support and nurture their employees’ performance.” In conjunction with the investment, Hollie is joining Axonify’s board, which also includes Carol and the company’s chief revenue officer, Christine Tutssel.
Axonify is Luminate’s first new deal since it invested in Quantivate, a SaaS governance, risk and compliance solution provider in November 2019. The San Francisco private equity firm has instead been active on the liquidity front. During a six-month period between the summer of 2020 and February of this year, Luminate had five liquidity events, the most recent being the sale of AMTdirect to MRI Software.
Luminate, which Hollie formed in 2015, is investing from its $425 million second fund, which closed in 2018. Hollie has spoken at the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit, the Women’s Private Equity Summit and the Leadership Unbound Summit.
Union Square’s Kaden backs soona
Union Square Ventures’ Rebecca Kaden backs a company founded by Liz Giorgi and Hayley Anderson that is out to transform how brands shoot photos and videos for e-commerce. Union Square led soona’s $10.2 million Series A round, which also included follow-on investments from Matchstick Ventures, Starting Line Ventures, 2048 Ventures and Range Ventures.
Based in Denver, soona has developed a platform that enables virtual photo and video shoots. By doing so, the company can provide professional crews, 24-hour turnaround and transparent pricing. It already has more than 4,000 customers including Wild Earth, The Sill and Lola Tampons. Liz, who is CEO and Hayley, who is chief creative officer, previously founded Mighteor, which was acquired by Standard.tv.
In a statement, Rebecca said that “soona’s technology solves for the missing piece of the e-commerce stack. There is a huge opportunity to meet the demand of e-commerce brands as the category continues to grow.” The company, she added, has “already achieved exceptional organic growth and high customer retention.”
Rebecca, a managing partner, led Union Square earlier this year into SmartHop, a logistics company. Union Square also in 2021 closed its seventh early-stage venture fund at $250 million. Rebecca is a past speaker at the Women’s Private Equity Summit and the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit and also spoke during a Perspectives Webinar.
Ascension Ventures’ Butler reinvests in Renovia
Ascension Ventures’ Dr. Tara Butler reinvests in Renovia, Inc., which is developing treatments for women with pelvic floor disorders and which since October has been led by Eileen Maus. The Boston company raised $17 million in additional financing from Parian Global Management and such existing investors as Ascension, Perceptive Life Sciences, Longwood Fund and OSF Ventures. Ascension co-led Renovia’s $32.3 million Series B round in 2018 with Tara joining the board. That round also included Cormorant Asset Management, whose CEO and founder is Bihua Chen.
Renovia is focused on discovering and delivering digital therapeutic and diagnostic devices for women with pelvic floor disorders. This includes urinary incontinence, which affects an estimated 20 million women in the United States. Renovia will use the new funding to support the national commercial launch of its flagship product that is designed to help women living with bladder leaks and urgency. The proceeds will also be used to accelerate clinical development related to Renovia’s motion-based mechanism of action to treat urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders.