Massenet, Notaras, Chambers and Hong among those leading their firms into deals this week
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing March 15, 2021
Imaginary Ventures’ Massenet backs Skuza’s NuORDER
Imaginary Ventures’ Natalie Massenet backs NuORDER, Inc., whose co-founder and co-CEO is Olivia Skuza, and which is a portfolio company of Greycroft’s Ellie Wheeler and Aileen Lee’s Cowboy Ventures. Imaginary and Brighton Park Capital led NuORDER’s $45 million round that valued the company at $800 million, according to Bloomberg. The Los Angeles company has previously raised capital from such other investors as NewSpring, Upfront Ventures and Argentum.
NuORDER has developed a solution that enables brands to communicate and transact with wholesale buyers. Olivia founded the company in 2010 with Heath Wells.
Imaginary last year closed its second fund at $160 million. Natalie founded Imaginary with Nick Brown in 2017. The firm’s investments include Cann, which has developed cannabis-infused social tonic; Mejuri, a direct-to-consumer jewelry brand co-founded by Noura Sakkijha; Universal Standard, a woman’s fashion brand co-founded by Polina Veksler and Alexandra Waldman; HUM Nutrition, a beauty nutrition company; and Daily Harvest, a food subscription service founded and led by Rachel Drori.
Natalie founded Net-A-Porter, a luxury fashion online retailer. She served as executive chair of the company until September 2015 when she stepped down following Net-A-Porter’s merger with YOOX.
Chen's Cormorant takes part in Graphite Bio's $150M Series B funding
Cormorant Asset Management, which is led by Bihua Chen, takes part in a new financing round for Graphite Bio, a next-generation gene editing company whose scientific co-founders include Dr. Maria Grazia Roncarolo. The South San Francisco, Calif. company raised $150 million in Series B funding from a group which in addition to Cormorant also included RA Capital Management, Rock Springs Capital, Deerfield Management, Federated Hermes Kaufmann Fund, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Janus Henderson Investors, Logos Capital, OrbiMed, Perceptive Advisors, Surveyor Capital, Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners and existing investors Versant Ventures and Samsara BioCapital. The round comes some six months after it landed $45 million in Series A funding.
Graphite Bio is focused on targeted DNA integration to precisely insert genetic payloads to treat a variety of severe diseases. Rather than attempting to knock out or randomly integrate genes, Graphite Bio is focused on correcting defective genes by high-efficiency site-specific integration of new genetic sequences. It has received IND clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to initiate its first Phase 1/2 clinical trial evaluating its lead candidate in sickle cell disease.
Maria is at Stanford University where she is a professor in stem cell and regenerative medicine, a professor of pediatrics and of medicine, the director of the Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine, and co-director of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Her earlier work at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan led to the first approved gene therapy, Strimvelis. Maria is one of two scientific co-founders of Graphite Bio. The other is another Stanford professor, Dr. Matthew Porteus.
Cormorant’s investments this year include Neurelis, Inc., which has launched an epilepsy treatment; Ventyx Biosciences, Inc., which is advancing a pipeline of immune modulators to treat inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders; AgomAb Therapeutics, which is developing drug candidates to modulate regenerative pathways to induce functional organ recovery in acute and chronic diseases; BlossomHill Therapeutics, Inc., an oncology company founded by Jingrong Jean Cui; FogPharma, a precision medicine company co-founded by WeiQing Zhou; DTx Pharma, Inc., which is creating RNA-based therapeutics to treat the genetic drivers of disease; Artiva Biotherapeutics, Inc., an oncology company; Ensoma, which is developing an in vivo approach to delivering off-the-shelf genomic medicines; Verve Therapeutics, which is developing gene editing therapies to permanently reduce risk of coronary artery disease in adults; Affinivax, Inc., which is developing vaccines utilizing its Multiple Antigen Presenting System platform; Biomea Fusion, Inc., a precision oncology company, and Immuneering Corp., which seeking to create better medicines through insights from bioinformatics.
Cormorant also has at least two companies in registration to go public, Design Therapeutics and Edgewise Therapeutics, and has had at least two companies this year go public: Pharvaris, which Anne Lesage co-founded, and Prometheus Biosciences, Inc., which just went public.
Quark Venture’s Avnur joins CalciMedica’s board after $21M Series D round
Quark Venture LP’s Zafrira Avnur joins the board of CalciMedica, Inc. after Quark – which is led by Karimah Es Sabar – backs the developer of treatments for severe acute and chronic inflammatory diseases whose CEO is A. Rachel Leheny. Quark and the Global Health Sciences Fund – which Quark and GF Securities established – led CalciMedica’s $21 million Series D round that also included prior investors Sanderling Ventures and Valence Life Sciences, which Rachel co-leads. The new round comes less than a year after the La Jolla, Calif. company raised a $15 million Series C round.
CalciMedica is targeting calcium release-activated calcium channels for the treatment of acute and severe inflammatory diseases. CalciMedica’s lead candidate is currently being evaluated in severe and critical COVID-19 pneumonia and in acute pancreatitis.
Prior to CalciMedica and Valence, Rachel held roles with Caxton Advantage, Lehman Brothers, UBS Warburg and Hambrecht & Quist.
In a statement, Karimah said that her firm believes in the potential of CalciMedica’s lead therapy “to be a critical component of treatment for COVID-19 and other acute inflammatory indications.”
In 2020, two companies that Quark backed, SQZ Biotech and Keros Therapeutics, went public. Zafrira, who is Quark’s chief scientific officer, was on SQZ’s board prior to its IPO. She is also on the boards of EnClear Therapies, Volastra Therapeutics, Inc., Raziel Therapeutics, Lyndra Therapeutics, Pi Therapeutics and PhysIQ.
Notaras guides Brewer Lane Ventures into Lynk Global and Cowbell Cyber
Brewer Lane Ventures’ Martha Notaras guides the venture firm into two companies – including one founded and led by former private equity investor Peggy Choi. Brewer Lane and MassMutual Ventures co-led a new $24 million round for Lynk Global, which is led by Peggy. Brewer Lane also led Cowbell Cyber’s $20 million Series A round.
Lynk, a knowledge as a service-platform, connects clients with more than 840,000 experts in a range of fields. Lynk’s platform utilizes natural language processing, conversational AI analytics and machine learning with human-in-the loop. The company’s round also included returning investor Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund. Founded in 2015, Lynk has more than 200 employees across offices in eight cities. Prior to Lynk, Peggy held roles with Silver Lake and TPG. In conjunction with the financing, Martha joined Lynk’s board.
Martha also joined the board of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Cowbell, an AI-powered cyber insurance provider for small to medium enterprises. The company’s round also included Pivot Investment Partners, Avanta Ventures, Markel Corp. and existing investors ManchesterStory, Tri-Valley Ventures and Holmes Murphy. Cowbell Cyber in September launched a program which enables insurance agents to issue personalized cyber policies. The program is currently active in 38 states. In a statement, Martha said that Cowbell Cyber “is well positioned to disrupt today’s explosive cyber insurance market and redefine the industry.”
Martha, a managing partner, joined Brewer Lane in 2019 from XL Innovate.
Rivera's Ulu Ventures re-invests in Clewlow's Populus
Ulu Ventures, which was co-founded by Miriam Rivera, re-invests in a company co-founded and led by Regina Clewlow that is helping cities to manage shared mobility services, streets and curbs. Ulu took part in Populus’ $5 million round, which also included Storm Ventures, Magna and returning backers Precursor and Relay Ventures.
Based in San Francisco, Populus provides cities with digital solutions to manage such things as shared scooters, mopeds, cars and other commercial fleet vehicles. It is now in 80 cities around the world, including San Diego, Oakland, Calif. and Tel Aviv, Israel.
Octopus Ventures’ Chambers backs Salasky’s Legl
Octopus Ventures’ Zoë Chambers backs a company founded and led by Julia Salasky which is out to revolutionize the way law firms do business. Octopus led Legl’s 5.8 million euros round, which also included existing investors BACKED, Samaipata and First Round Capital and a group of angels.
Founded in 2019, Legl has developed a software platform that enables law firms to run their operations digitally – from streamlined onboarding, compliance and payment tools to giving management critical business insights. Legl is currently working with more than 100 law firms. Julia previously founded CrowdJustice, a platform crowdfunding legal matters. Her background also includes serving as a lawyer at Linklaters and the United Nations.
In a statement, Zoë said that “it’s rare to find a founder and team with such insider knowledge to tackle a big industry that has started to adopt technology quickly. COVID has accelerated the move to digital in the legal industry, and Julia and team, with deep expertise across legal, SaaS and fintech, are in prime position to win the market.”
An investor with Octopus, Zoë is on the boards of SLAMcore; vHive; Audiotelligence; ThirdEye Labs; Unmade, a fashion software company whose founders include Kirsty Emery-Laws; and OLIO, which was founded by Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One and is looking to reduce food waste. Zoë joined Octopus in 2017 after being a corporate lawyer with Jones Day. She also worked with the special situations group at Goldman Sachs.
Octopus Ventures is part of Octopus Group, a European venture firm.
Cascade Seed Fund takes part in Rock Paper Coin’s $1.6M round
Cascade Seed Fund, which is co-led by managing director Julie Harrelson, is among those tying the knot with a company co-founded by sisters-in-law Elizabeth Sheils and Nora Sheils that has developed software to help put on weddings and other events. Cascade Seed took part in Rock Paper Coin’s $1.6 million round which also included XYZ Venture Capital, Ascend.vc, Ashe Partners and Momentum Investment Group.
Based in Portland, Ore., Rock Paper Coin is focused on automating the entire wedding process and supports three-way communications between the event planner, the couple and vendors. The company evolved out Nora’s wedding and event planning business.
Omidyar Network India leads Riskcovry’s $5M Series A round
Omidyar Network India, which is led by Treasa Mathew, invests in an insurance technology company co-founded by Vidya Sridharan. Omidyar Network India led Riskcovry’s $5 million Series A round that also included Pentathlon Ventures, DMI Sparkle Fund and existing investors Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund, Varanium Capital and Better Capital, according to VCCircle.
Riskcovry has created a platform that enables any company to offer digital insurance products and services. Vidya, who is chief technology officer, founded the company in 2018 with Suvendu Prusty, Sorabh Bhandari and Chiranth Patil.
Treasa was quoted as saying that “we believe that embedded insurance could play a powerful role in creating new channels for insurance access, which will help improve the financial health of the next half billion consumers and micro, small and medium consumers.”
Trilogy’s McCullough re-invests in JetClosing
Trilogy Equity Partners’ Amy McCullough re-invests in a digital title and escrow company that is now led by Anna Collins. Trilogy took part in JetClosing’s $11 million Series B round, which also included T. Rowe Price Associates and another existing investor, PSL Ventures.
Anna, who will serve as president and CEO, has previously held roles at Amazon, Microsoft, aQuantive and several startups.
Seattle-based JetClosing will use the funding for market growth and to invest in its operations and technology. Since its founding in 2016, JetClosing has closed $5.5 billion in home value, has been licensed in seven states and has partnered with more 2,000 real estate agents.
Sharpley’s Juvo Ventures takes part in SchooLinks’ $8.3M Series A round
Juvo Ventures, which was co-founded by Maia Sharpley, backs a company founded and led by Katie Fang that is seeking to improve the college counseling process. Juvo took part in SchooLinks’ $8.3 million Series A round that also included LiveOak Venture Partners and SJF Ventures.
Based in Austin, Texas, SchooLinks has created a site that enables students to view college possibilities, receive career guidance and learn about scholarship and internship opportunities. It is currently used by more than 500,000 students. On the other side, it serves as a central platform for college counselors. Katie founded the company in 2015.
Maia co-founded Juvo with Dre Bennin. The Salt Lake City-based venture firm focuses on education startups. Maia was previously a partner at Learn Capital.
Novo Ventures’ Hong backs Agbandje-McKenna’s StrideBio
Novo Ventures’ Karen Hong backs a gene therapy company co-founded by Mavis Agbandje-McKenna and whose board includes UCB Ventures’ Erica Whittaker. Novo and Northpond Ventures co-led StrideBio, Inc.’s $81.5 million Series B round that included Pontifax, Octagon Capital, Sarepta Therapeutics, CaaS Capital, UF Innovate Ventures and existing investors UCB, Hatteras Venture Partners, Takeda Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments.
Based in Durham, N.C., StrideBio is developing novel AAV vectors for in vivo gene therapies. The company’s platform uses structure-guided evolution to discover novel capsids with a reduced antibody binding profile in multiple tissues, with improved properties for in vivo gene delivery applications. StrideBio’s underlying technology is based on the work of Mavis, who is a professor at the University of Florida, and co-founder, Aravind Asokan, who is a professor at Duke University.
In conjunction with the financing, Karen joined StrideBio’s board. Erica joined the board after UCB took part in StrideBio’s $15.7 million Series A round in 2018.
In a statement, Karen said that “novel gene therapies enabled by StrideBio’s unique lead vectors have the potential to benefit patients with no other treatment options.”
Karen is also on the board of Cyteir Therapeutics, which is developing synthetic lethal therapies for cancer. She joined Novo Ventures in 2019 from Takeda Ventures – the venture arm of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd.
Novo Ventures is the venture arm of Novo A/S which is fully owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Kabbage co-founder Petralia takes part in WorkChew’s $2.5M seed round
Kabbage co-founder Kathryn Petralia is among those backing a company co-founded by Maisha Burt and Allyson McDougal that turns hotels and restaurants into on-demand flexible workspaces. Kathryn took part in WorkChew’s $2.5 million seed round, which also included Harlem Capital, Wilshire Lane Partners, Invictus Advisory Group, Techstars Ventures, RW Capital Partners and Etsy co-founder Chris Maguire.
Based in Washington, D.C., WorkChew allows remote professionals to find and book workspace in cities and suburbs across the United States. The company is currently in Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago and will open soon in New York, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver. WorkChew sells memberships that are covered by employers.