Portfolio companies of Xu, Chen and Quazzo's GSV Ventures go public

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing March 29, 2021

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Ji is CFO of a SPAC formed by Apollo Global Management

Julia Ji, who is a managing director with Apollo Global Management, is the chief financial officer of a special purpose acquisition company formed by Apollo – one whose board would include Apollo colleagues Olivia Wassenaar and Christine Hommes. Spartan Acquisition Corp. IV is seeking to raise $400 million and list on Nasdaq. Once public, it would look to merge with a private company and, in turn, bring it public. The SPAC would look to merge with a company in the renewable energy, energy storage, mobility, advanced fuels and carbon mitigation sectors.

Julia is the senior controller in the private equity and real assets segments of Apollo. She joined Apollo in 2014 from Deloitte. Spartan Acquisition IV is the third Apollo SPAC that Olivia and Christine would be board members of. One, Spartan Acquisition Corp. III, raised $480 million in February by pricing 48 million units at $10 per unit. And the other, Spartan Acquisition Corp. II, agreed in January to enter into a business combination agreement with Sunlight Financial, LLC, a residential solar financing platform. The combined company would be valued at approximately $1.3 billion and be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Spartan Acquisition Corp. II went public in November.

Olivia, a senior partner with Apollo, has long focused on the energy sector. She currently serves on the boards of Apollo portfolio companies Talos Energy, Inc., Jupiter Resources, Ltd., Pegasus Optimization Partners, LLC, Tidewater Logistics Operating, LifePoint Health, Inc. and High Road Resources. She joined Apollo in 2018 from Riverstone Holdings where she was most recently a managing director. Oliva has spoken at both the Women’s Private Equity Summit and the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit.

Christine, who has been with Apollo since 2011, is a partner in the firm’s natural resources group. She is on the boards of Talos, Chisholm Oil & Gas, Momentum Minerals, Momentum Minerals II, Belvedere Royalties, LLC, Boardwalk Holdings, LLC, Freestone Midstream Holdings, LLC, Northwoods Energy, LLC and Roundtable Energy Holdings.

Like Spartan Acquisition II and Spartan Acquisition III, the newest SPAC’s board also includes Jan Wilson, who is a senior advisor to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

SkinnyPop co-founder Netzky is president of a SPAC that is seeking to go public

SkinnyPop Popcorn Co-Founder Pam Netzky is president of a special purpose acquisition company that will be looking to pop on Wall Street. Venice Brands Acquisition Corp. I is seeking to raise $150 million and list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol VBAQ.U. Once public, the SPAC will look will merge with a private company and, in turn, bring it public. Venice Brands will look to acquire a company in the consumer sector, including food and beverage, health and wellness, beauty and personal care and pet products and services.

Pam served as president of SkinnyPop until 2014 when TA Associates acquired a majority stake and changed its name to Amplify Snack Brands. She transitioned to being a senior advisor and board member of Amplify, which went public in 2015. In 2018, The Hershey Co. acquired Amplify in a transaction valued at $1.6 billion.

A portfolio company of Quan Capital’s Xu and Chen’s Cormorant goes public

A portfolio company of Quan Capital’s Stella Xu and Bihua Chen’s Cormorant Asset Management goes public. Design Therapeutics, which is developing therapies to treat genetic disorders, raised $240 million by pricing 12 million shares at $20 a share. It is listed on Nasdaq under the symbol DSGN.

The offering comes a year after Quan and Cormorant took part in the Carlsbad, Calif. company’s $45 million Series A round, which also included SR One and WestRiver Group. Quan prior to the offering owned 11.29 percent while Cormorant held 10.4 percent. SR One owned 12.8 percent.

Stella joined Design Therapeutics’ board following the financing a year ago. A managing director with Quan, Stella is also on the boards of Centrexion Therapeutics, Tempest Therapeutics, Zidan Medical, Inc., Walking Fish Therapeutics, Inc. and NextCure, Inc., which went public in 2019.

Cormorant has now had at least four companies go public this year. The others are Pharvaris, which Anne Lesage co-founded; Prometheus Biosciences, Inc.; and Edgewise Therapeutics, which also just went public. The Boston life science-focused investment firm also has at least two other companies in registration to go public: VectivBio Holding and Biomea Fusion.

Design Therapeutics is focused on trying to treat patients with serious degenerative disorders caused by nucleotide repeat expansion. A set of genetic disorders, nucleotide repeat disorders are caused by repeat expansion in certain genes. Depending on where it is located, the repeat may cause a change in the regulation of gene expression or produce a toxic gene product, all of which are recognized as significant contributors to degenerative diseases.

Design’s lead candidate is aimed at treating Friedreich’s ataxia, and support advancement of its discovery programs for multiple other degenerative diseases, including fragile X syndrome and myotonic dystrophy. Friedreich ataxia is the most common form of hereditary ataxia in the United States, affecting about 1 in every 50,000 people. It affects the nervous system, resulting in progressive and life-altering movement problems and shortened life expectancy.

Edgewise Therapeutics raises $176M and lists on Nasdaq

Bihua Chen’s Cormorant Asset Management saw another company go public – a company developing orally bioavailable, small molecule therapies for musculoskeletal diseases whose backers also include CureDuchenne Ventures, whose CEO is Debra Miller. Edgewise Therapeutics raised $176 million by offering 11 million shares at $16 per share. It is trading on Nasdaq under the symbol EWTX.

The Boulder, Colo. company’s lead drug candidate is targeted at Becker muscular dystrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The offering comes a little over three months after Edgewise raised a $95 million Series C round. That round marked Cormorant’s first investment in Edgewise while CureDuchenne was a return investor. The amount held by the two firms was not disclosed in the company’s filing. OrbiMed was the largest shareholder prior to the offering with a 36.4 percent pre-IPO stake. Novo Holdings owned 13.6 percent while U.S. Venture Partners had 9.5 percent and Deerfield Management 9 percent.

Edgewise’s board includes Laura Brege, who is a senior advisor to BridgeBio Pharma, Inc.

CureDuchenne saw another portfolio company, Avidity Biosciences, Inc., go public in 2020. CureDuchenne is a nonprofit focused on a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Duchenne is a devastating muscle disease that impacts young boys, most of whom end up in wheelchairs by age 12 and do not live beyond their mid-20s. There are some 15,000 such individuals in the United States and an estimated 300,000 globally who have the disease for which there is no current cure.

Debra and her husband, Paul Miller, co-founded CureDuchenne in 2003 after their only son was diagnosed with the disease. The organization is supported through philanthropy. In 2019, another of its portfolio companies, Exonics Therapeutics, Inc. was acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals for an upfront payment of $245 million. Exonics shareholders could receive as much as $1 billion based on the company achieving specified development and regulatory milestones.

Cormorant has now had at least four companies go public this year. The others are Pharvaris, which Anne Lesage co-founded; Prometheus Biosciences, Inc.; and Design Therapeutics, which also just went public. (See Story in Stepping Out in Public.) The Boston life science-focused investment firm also has at least two other companies in registration to go public: VectivBio Holding and Biomea Fusion.

Biomea Fusion files to go public and trade on Nasdaq

A company that Cormorant Asset Management’s Bihua Chen just backed three months ago has filed to go public. Biomea Fusion is seeking to raise $100 million and trade on Nasdaq under the symbol BMEA. Based in Redwood City, Calif., Biomea is developing small molecule therapies for genetically defined cancers. The company was founded in 2017.

Bihua, who founded and leads Cormorant, joined Biomea’s board in December after Cormorant led the company’s $56 million Series A round. Cormorant, according to the filing, currently owns 11.5 percent of the company’s shares. The largest shareholders are Biomea Healthcare, LLC – which is controlled by the company’s co-founders – and A2A Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Both own 22.1 percent of the company prior to the offering. The Tavistock Group owns a 6.4 percent pre-IPO stake. Others who invested in its December round included Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, RTW Investments, LP, Aisling Capital, Point Sur Investors, Logos Capital and Clifton Capital.

Cormorant has at least one other company in registration to go public: VectivBio Holding. It has had at least four companies go public this year, including two – Design Therapeutics and Edgewise Therapeutics – in the past week. (See Stories Above.) Its other two known IPOs are Pharvaris, which Anne Lesage co-founded, and Prometheus Biosciences, Inc.

Mercury Fund’s Cardenas is chief strategy officer of a SPAC that has filed to go public

Christy Cardenas, who holds roles with venture firms Mercury Fund and Grit Ventures, is vice president and chief strategy officer of a special purpose acquisition company that has filed to go public. Mercury Ecommerce Acquisition Corp. is seeking to raise $175 million and list on Nasdaq under the symbol MEACU. Once public, it will look to merge with a private company and, in turn, bring it public. The SPAC is focused on the e-commerce sector, specifically businesses offering SaaS products and services to enterprise customers globally.

Christy serves as head of research and data at Mercury and is a managing partner with Grit. Previously, she held roles with Ecliptic Capital and First Reserve. Mercury Ecommerce’s executive team also includes Chairman Blair Garrou, who is co-founder and managing director of Mercury Fund, and Andrew White, who is a special limited partner for Mercury Fund.

The SPAC’s board includes Mia Mends, who is chief administrative officer of Sodexo North America, and Carolyn Rodz, co-founder and CEO of Hello Alice.

A portfolio company of GSV Ventures goes public 

GSV Ventures, which is led by managing partner Deborah Quazzo, has a portfolio company go public – one co-founded by Daphne Koller. Coursera, an online learning platform, raised $519 million by pricing 15.73 million shares at $33 a share. It is trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol COUR.

Based in Mountain View, Calif., Coursera reported a net loss of $67 million on revenue of $294 million in 2020. The company has raised more than $450 million in venture funding. New Enterprise Associates was the largest shareholder prior to the offering with an 18.3 percent stake. G Squared owned 15.9 percent while Kleiner Perkins had 9.2 percent and Future Fund held 7.9 percent. GSV’s stake was not disclosed nor was Daphne’s.

Coursera enables individuals to take online classes and specializations from hundreds of learning institutions, including Columbia University, Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan. More than 77 million learners have registered on the platform and more than 2,000 organizations and 4,000 academic institutions have used its service to offer courses to their employees and students.

Coursera’s board includes Sabrina Simmons, who previously served as executive vice president and CFO of The Gap, and Amanda Clark, who is chief development officer of Papa John’s International, Inc.

Daphne founded the company in 2012 with Andrew Ng. She stepped down as president in 2016 and is now CEO of venture-backed Insitro, which she founded and which is focused on utilizing advancements to discover and develop new drugs.

Coursera is GSV’s second significant liquidity event in 2021 as another portfolio company, Nearpod, recently agreed to be purchased by Renaissance Capital for a reported $650 million. GSV also just closed its second fund at $180 million.

 

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