PAI Partners’ Maud Brown oversees the firm’s sizable acquisition of PepsiCo’s juice brands

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing August 2, 2021

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PAI Partners’ Maud Brown oversees the firm’s sizable acquisition of PepsiCo Inc.’s juice brands – with Maud telling Women’s PE Briefs that the firm is “thrilled” at the opportunity to grow the business

The private equity firm has struck a deal to purchase Tropicana, Naked and other select juice brands across North America, as well as an irrevocable option for certain juice businesses in Europe for approximately $3.3 billion. After the transaction is complete, PAI will own 61 percent and PepsiCo will retain a 39 percent non-controlling interest in the newly formed joint venture. The businesses that PAI is acquiring generated approximately $3 billion in net revenue in 2020. PAI, Maud said, “has a long-standing track record in consumer and a history of successful partnerships with strategics. We are thrilled to bring this expertise to our new U.S. platform to the benefit of these iconic brands. We plan on investing on innovation to drive growth and category expansion.” Ramon Laguarta, PepsiCo’s chairman and CEO, said the corporation did the deal to realize “significant upfront value” while gaining “the focus and resources necessary to drive additional long-term growth for these beloved brands.” Maud joined PAI as a partner and head of its lone U.S. office in New York in the fall of 2019. She had previously spent 18 years at Investcorp. Maud has spoken at the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit and the Virtual Women’s Leadership Unbound Summit. PAI has raised funds totaling 15 billion euros since 1994 and completed 85 investments in 11 countries, representing more than 65 billion euros in transaction value.

In 2016 as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Christine Priori led the school’s student-led Social Venture Fund in backing Conversa Health. Well five years later, the patient engagement company has been acquired.

Terms of Conversa’s purchase by publicly traded Amwell were not disclosed, but Amwell said it is paying $320 million in cash and stock for Conversa and SilverCloud Health. The Social Venture Fund participated in the company’s Series B convertible note round in collaboration with the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Stephan M. Ross School of Business. The Portland, Ore. company’s backers also include Builders VC and Northwell Ventures. Conversa aims to improve patient engagement, adherence and health outcomes through a software-as-a-service platform. The Social Venture Fund invested in and supports innovative, for-profit companies that place social and environmental impact at the heart of their business models. The fund is managed by a team of approximately 40 students. Christine led a team of seven students in sourcing the deal and conducting in-depth due diligence on Conversa. The company was selected after the venture fund had screened nearly 160 companies that had submitted applications. The team then narrowed the pool to five before selecting Conversa. In a prepared statement at the time, Christine said she is “continuously impressed by the intelligence and dedication” of her fellow team members as they researched the opportunity. She is now director, partnership initiatives at Project N95, according to her LinkedIn.

Eurazeo’s Chloé Giard puts a bow on a funding round for a Barcelona-based online plant delivery service. 

Eurazeo led Colvin’s 45 million euros Series C round which also included participation from Capagro, according to TechCrunch. Colvin is a floriculture gifting company with a vision to inspire people to connect with each other more often and in more meaningful ways. With this bouquet of funding, the company plans to enter new European markets within the coming months, as well as continue investment in its B2B marketplace. In a statement to TechCrunch, Chloé said “Colvin’s trajectory in the flower delivery market has been outstanding. They have proved they could grow both fast and profitably, while expanding into new geographies. This is only a first step in their ambition to build the future of the flower industry. Colvin is leveraging years of industry expertise, a scalable supply chain, and a global network of trusted growers to seize this billion-market opportunity.” Chloé also is on the boards of Botify, Wefox,+Simple, Ogury, Onfido and Meero.

Huobi VenturesUnica Yin backs a Swiss platform provider for the cryptocurrency loans and derivatives market. 

Secured Finance received $4 million in a seed round co-led by GSR Markets and Protocol Labs, with participation from FinTech Collective, HOF Capital, Huobi Ventures, along with individual investors James DeNaut, Vinny Lingham, Justin Kan, Richard Ma, Scott Keto and Juan Benet. Secured Finance seeks to revolutionize decentralized finance by offering investment-bank-grade financial products and services for cryptocurrencies and digital assets. In a statement, Unica said “Secured Finance is one of the rare teams with a deep understanding of both financial products and the on-chain market. We have been in close communication with the team for over six months and have witnessed first-hand their outstanding R&D and execution capabilities. We believe that Secured Finance will become an indispensable infrastructure within the Filecoin ecosystem." Huobi Ventures focuses on Huobi's venture investment portfolio and supporting innovative blockchain projects through long-term strategies.

Loretta Tse, a vice president at Tekla Capital Management, LLC, joins Novo VenturesTiba Aynechi on the board of Aristea Therapeutics after backing the San Diego drug development company. 

Tekela took part in Aristea’s $63 million Series B round which also included Fidelity Management & Research Company, LLC, Arena Pharmaceuticals and existing investor Novo. In late 2018, Novo Ventures provided $15 million of Series A financing – the same year it spun out of AstraZeneca. Aristea is developing novel immunotherapy drugs for the treatment of orphan diseases. Its lead candidate completed Phase 2a and is on track to initiate 2b this year. Its board also includes Ciara Kennedy, who is president and CEO of Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Cormorant Asset Management, which is led by Bihua Chen, invests in a company seeking to aid cancer patients whose board includes Jan Garfinkle, founder and managing director of Arboretum Ventures.

Cormorant and Arboretum took part in Strata Oncology Inc.’s $90 million Series C round, which also included Monashee Investment Management, Highside Capital Management and such other existing investors as Pfizer Ventures, Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, Deerfield Management, Renaissance Venture Capital Fund and Baird Capital. Strata’s board included Nicole Walker until earlier this year when she left Baird to join Jan at Arborteum as a Managing Partner. Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Strata is a precision oncology company advancing molecular indications for cancer therapies. The capital will be used to accelerate ongoing development of tissue and blood tests to broaden the reach and impact of precision medicine for patients with cancer.

SoftBank Investment Advisors Elena Viboch joins the board of Deep Genomics after the firm’s Vision Fund 2 backed the artificial intelligence therapeutics company in a round that also featured Magnetic Ventures, whose founder and managing partner is Christine Aylward

SoftBank led Deep Genomics’ $180 million Series C round, which in addition to Magnetic also included CPP Investments, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Alexandria Venture Investments, Amplitude Ventures, Khosla Ventures and True Ventures. Based in Toronto, Deep Genomics uses AI and machine learning to program and prioritize transformational RNA therapeutics for genetic diseases. Since its founding in 2015, the company has built a system which has made billions of predictions across the entire human genome, for millions of genetic variants, and hundreds of millions of novel compounds. Earlier this year, another company on whose board Elena serves, Pear Therapeutics Inc., agreed to become publicly traded through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, Thimble Point Acquisition Corp.

Manna Tree’s Pam Shepherd feeds capital to a company providing clean-ingredient meat snacks, seasoning, dressings and condiments. 

Manna Tree made a $15 million Series B investment in The New Primal. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, The New Primal offers grass-fed and pasture-raised products free from antibiotics or added hormones. Manna Tree's capital will boost The New Primal's organizational design, distribution and marketing reach, as well as support key hires and provide working capital support to meet significant expansion opportunities in retail. The New Primal's clean ingredient platform was the driving force behind its partnership with the private equity firm. In a statement, Pam said "Not only is The New Primal an excellent investment from a growth standpoint, but the company's innovative, clean ingredient platform supports Manna Tree's vision for a future where health, well-being, and longevity is attainable. Starting with its signature meat snack products, The New Primal has proven that it can expand across categories with the same, fresh flair that has made its sauces, seasoning and condiments a success in the sector." Manna Tree is an investment firm committed to improving human health through nutrition. Pam recently invested in Urban Remedy, a plant-based food company, in its Series D fundraising round.

Benson Capital Partners, which was launched by Gayle Benson, backs a company that enables individuals and businesses to convert gift and prepaid cards into cash. 

Benson Capital Partners led Prepaid2Cash’s $5.1 million Series A round, which also included Relevance Ventures and Alabama Futures Fund. Based in Birmingham, Ala., Prepaid2Cash enables users to exchange their cards and receive cash or Bitcoin payment directly to their bank account or crypto wallet within minutes. Benson Capital Partners is focused on investing in New Orleans and across the Gulf South. The firm said it held an initial close of more than $50 million on its inaugural fund last year, with Gayle being among the limited partners. Its investments include AxoSim Inc., a New Orleans biomedical modeling company. Gayle is the principal owner of the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and the New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

Heather Wood, a partner with Cultivation Capital, plugs the firm into a cable and fiber digital commerce company. 

Cultivation led Atlas Digital Group’s $3 million seed round, which also includes several industry executives. The St. Louis company will use the capital to further the accessibility of its CORE platform, which is designed to enable cable and fiber operators to rapidly transition their sales to digital. In a statement, Heather said, “with surging investment in state-of-the-art networks and the never ceasing demand for faster high-speed Internet services, CORE is ideally positioned to enable a transition in the industry to efficient and rapid sales growth through digital commerce."

OMERS Infrastructure, whose global head is Annesley Wallace, acquires a stake in a publicly traded renewable power producer located in India.

OMERS said it has signed an agreement to acquire 19.4 percent of Azure Power from International Finance Corp. and IFC GIF Investment Company I for a total consideration of approximately $219 million. Founded in 2008, Azure has an asset base of approximately 2 gigawatts of operational capacity and approximately 5 gigawatts of capacity under construction or rewarded. In a statement, Annesley said the agreement to invest in Azure “demonstrates OMERS’ strong global interest in high-quality renewable power and energy transition assets, as well as our interest in India as an investment destination and Asia-Pacific more broadly. This transaction directly supports our mission of building a strong portfolio of well-run assets that will help pay pensions to our members over the long term.” OMERS Infrastructure manages investments globally in infrastructure on behalf of OMERS, the defined benefit pension plan for municipal employees in the Province of Ontario, Canada. OMERS is one of Canada's largest defined benefit pension funds, with net assets of 105 billion Canadian. 

Last month, we told you that Anna Haghgooie had left her role as a managing director with Sandbox Industries and Sandbox’s Blue Venture Fund to join Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe as an Operating Partner. Well, now we have a bit more understanding of what exactly she will be doing. 

Anna is part of the founding leadership team of Valtruis, which WCAS is launching with an initial commitment of $300 million. Valtruis, according to WCAS, will invest in and partner with healthcare companies whose mission is to realign and transform U.S. health care along the principles of value-based care. Anna is leading Valtruis with fellow managing partners Tracy Bahl and Karey Witty. In a statement, she said, “for over 40 years, WCAS has partnered with healthcare businesses to grow, innovate, and deliver value. We look forward to continuing that tradition with Valtruis, supporting companies that are focused on long-term growth and the drive to reduce costs, expand access and increase quality with our capital and expertise." Over the past four decades, WCAS has invested approximately $10 billion of equity in over 90 health care companies through its 13 private equity funds.

LSP’s Karin Kleinhans backs a T-cell receptor company developing a pipeline of therapeutics for solid tumor patients. 

T-knife Therapeutics, Inc. raised $110 million in a Series B financing led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, LLC., with participation from other new investors including LSP, Qatar Investment Authority, Casdin Capital, Sixty Degree Capital and CaaS Capital, along with existing investors RA Capital Management, Versant Ventures and founding investor Andera Partners. Based in San Francisco and Berlin, Germany, T-knife Therapeutics is developing a pipeline of T-cell receptor therapeutics against targets with high unmet medical need, including cancer testis antigens, viral antigens and commonly shared neoantigens. The company plans to use proceeds from the financing to expand its scientific team, increase manufacturing capacity and advance its pipeline of T-cell receptor engineered T cell therapies. In a statement, Karin said "The field of TCR-T holds significant promise to change the treatment paradigm for many cancer patients. We are highly encouraged by the progress being made at T-knife to advance its important next-generation therapies.” With the investment, Karin joined T-knife’s board. She also is on the board of Cardior and an observer on the boards of Endotronix and Lumeon. Karin joined LSP in 2015 and is a partner of the European healthcare investment firm.

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