XYZ's Hamilton and Grazioli-Venier, Springate's Muse Capital, Piper’s Gibson and EverYi’s Lin are among those making notable investments this week
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing April 26, 2021
UPMC Enterprises and CureDuchenne Ventures’ seed Code Biotherapeutics
UPMC Enterprises, which is led by Jeanne Cunicelli, and CureDuchenne Ventures, whose CEO is Debra Miller, seed a company co-founded by Lori Getts that is developing gene therapies for rare and prevalent genetic diseases. UPMC and 4BIO Capital co-led Code Biotherapeutics, Inc.’s $10 million round, which also included JDRF T1D Fund, New Enterprise Associates and Takeda Ventures, Inc.
Based in Hatfield, Pa., Code has developed a proprietary synthetic DNA-based vector that has demonstrated the potential to deliver genes of all sizes to multiple cell types as a re-dosable therapy, enabling utility across a broad range of genetic disorders. The company’s current focus is on developing a pipeline of novel gene therapies to treat rare genetic diseases. It is currently focused on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating genetic disorder caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, and type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which insulin producing cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. Lori, who is vice president, preclinical and process development, founded the company with Brian McVeigh, who is chairman and CEO.
In a statement, Debra said, “the rare disease community values all efforts from the biopharmaceutical community, and we particularly welcome technologies like Code Bio’s 3DNA platform, which aims to overcome current limitations in viral gene delivery.”
CureDuchenne Ventures recently invested in Entrada Therapeutics, Inc., which is using intracellular biologics to transform the treatment of devasting diseases. Another of its portfolio companies, Edgewise Therapeutics, went public this year. CureDuchenne is a nonprofit focused on a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
UPMCE is the innovation, venture capital and commercialization arm of health system UPMC. Jeanne took over as president of unit earlier this year. A portfolio company of UPMCE, Werewolf Therapeutics, recently filed to go public.
Deel becomes a uniform after Spark Capital’s Razavi re-invests in their Series C round
Spark Capital’s Yasmin Razavi re-invests in Deel and in doing so enables the company co-founded by Shuo Wang to become a unicorn. Spark and fellow existing investor Andreessen Horowitz led the San Francisco company’s $156 million Series C round at a valuation of $1.25 billion.
A payroll and compliance platform for international teams, Deel in 2020 grew by 20 times in revenue and now counts more than 1,800 customers globally. It employs 120 people in 26 countries.
The new round comes some seven months after Yasmin led Deel’s $30 million Series B round and only a year after it raised a $14 million Series A round. Deel’s prior investors include La Famiglia, a German venture firm led by Jeannette zu Fürstenberg and Judith Dada; YC Growth Fund; and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.
The company’s platform aims to help companies deal with the largest logical challenges that come with moving to a distributed, global workforce: payroll and compliance. Deel supports more than 500 companies and thousands of employees in more than 140 countries. During the pandemic, Deel’s customer base has doubled and there are now 14 times as many individual full-time employees and individual contractors on the platform since May 2020. Shuo founded Deel with Alex Bouaziz, who is CEO.
Fitzgerald leads AmEx Ventures into Candex’s $20M Series A round
American Express Ventures’ Lindsay Fitzgerald backs a payment processing company co-founded by Shani Vaza-Wahrmann. AmEx Ventures took part in Candex’s $20 million Series A round, which also included Altos Ventures, NFX and JP Morgan.
Founded in 2011, Candex acts as the “master vendor” for small suppliers, allowing large companies to pay it directly. Candex then remits payments to the suppliers. Candex currently serves 21 countries. Shani, who is vice president of R&D, founded the company with Jeremy Lappin, who is CEO. In a statement, Lindsay, said that AmEx believes Candex’s technology “creates a better experience for both enterprise buyers and their suppliers.”
In conjunction with the financing, Lindsay joined Candex’s board as an observer. She is also an observer on the boards of Flow, Better.com, Even Financial and Tradeshift. Earlier this year, another of her portfolio companies, Cloud Elements, was acquired by UiPath, Inc., which just went public.
M Ventures’ Liechtenstein and Bioqube Ventures’ Dumont seed Anavo Therapeutics
M Ventures’ Therese Liechtenstein and Bioqube Ventures’ Debora Dumont seed a Dutch company led by Birgit Zech that is seeking to unlock the full therapeutic potential of human phosphatase biology. M Ventures and INKEF Capital led Anavo Therapeutics’ 20 million round which, in addition to Bioqube, also included Taiho Ventures.
Based in Eiden, The Netherlands, Anavo is looking to pioneer systematic drug discovery and development approaches aimed at phosphatases, a largely untapped target class. The funds will be used to advance a drug discovery portfolio in oncology and establish a platform to address the target space broadly across multiple indications. Phosphatases and kinases regulate the activity of numerous crucial signaling pathways by removing or adding a phosphate group from proteins or other biomolecules. Imbalances in this process can lead to a multitude of diseases. While kinases have been exploited by drug developers worldwide, phosphatases stayed largely untouched after setbacks earlier in this century. Birgit founded Anavo with Gerhard Muller. The two previously founded Gotham Therapeutics.
In a statement, Therese said that “Anavo’s novel approach and its experienced management team provide us with the best tools and key ingredients to address challenges in phosphatase drug discover and unlock this rich target class.”
In conjunction with the financing, Therese and Debora joined Anavo’s board. Therese is a principal with M Ventures, the strategic corporate venture arm of Merck. Her portfolio includes FoRx Therapeutics AG and Plexium, Inc. Debora is a managing partner and co-founder of Bioqube, a specialist life sciences investment firm.
XYZ’s Hamilton and Grazioli-Venier and Springate’s Muse Capital invest in Oath Care
Chauncey Hamilton, a partner at XYZ Venture Capital, and Muse Capital, which was co-founded by Assia Grazioli-Venier and Rachel Springate, invest in an effort by Camilla Hermann and Michelle Stephens to develop the future of health care. XYZ and Muse Capital joined General Catalyst and Eros Resmini in Oath Care’s $2 million round.
Based in San Francisco, Oath is creating a social, community-based network and mobile app that combines intimate connections and shared parental experiences with health care specialist support and guidance through group chat and 1:1 video calls. Starting with small groups for moms, Oath’s technology intelligently matches women in “circles” of six to 10 women based on criteria such as stage of pregnancy/age of child, location and career.
In a statement, Chauncey said, “Oath has tapped into an essential need, with an abundance of quality, highly vetted resources that deliver exactly the experience people crave in a very simple, direct and personal manner. The market is huge in motherhood alone, with more than 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year. When you extend this model of care throughout childhood and beyond, you have the opportunity to transform health care in a way that maps to the human experience.”
Muse’s investments include gohenry, which was founded by Louise Hill and is seeking to teach children healthy financial habits; Queens Gaming Collective, which was founded by Alisa Jacobs to bring more women into the gaming industry; and Haute Hijab, a direct-to-consumer fashion and lifestyle brand for Muslin women co-founded and led by Melanie Elturk.
Edwards helps lead TZP Group’s acquisition of Itzy Ritzy
TZP Group’s Erin Edwards helps lead the firm’s acquisition of a maker of juvenile products co-founded and co-led by Kelly Meyer Douglas and her husband, Brian Douglas. Terms of TZP’s recapitalization of Quintessential Tots, which does business as Itzy Ritzy, were not disclosed. Kelly and Brian, though, will remain significant shareholders.
Launched in 2007, Itzy Ritzy offers a diverse portfolio of products, including diaper bags, toys, pacifiers, teethers and other must-have baby related products. The Naperville, Ill. company sells its products through leading national, specialty and grocery retailers, Amazon and through its own website.
In a statement, Erin said, “Itzy Ritzy creates truly innovative products that are functional, fresh, and with a beautiful aesthetic. With success across numerous product categories and channels of distribution, we believe Itzy Ritzy has proven the strength of its brand and its product portfolio.”
Erin was also recently involved in TZP’s acquisition of Kindred Bravely, which produces maternity apparel and is co-founded and co-led by Deeanne Akerson. Erin joined TPZ last July from North Castle Partners and also took part in the firm’s investment in Feel the World, Inc., which was co-founded by Lena Phoenix. That company makes Xero Shoes, which are built with a foot-first design.
Williams’ Serena Ventures participates in Zigazoo’s $4M round
Leah Ringelstein, a former elementary school teacher, lands funding for her children’s app from a group that includes Serena Ventures, the venture firm of tennis superstar Serena Williams. Zigazoo raised $4 million from a group that also included MaC Venture Capital, Jimmy Kimmel and Matthew Rutler, head of talent at MasterClass.
Leah and her husband, Zak Ringelstein, created the app in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic after struggling to find interactive, engaging content for their three children.
As a serial tech investor and mother to a three-year-old, Serena was drawn to Zigazoo because it was designed specifically for kids, rather than retrofitting a product made for adults. In a statement to CNN Business, Serena said, “existing social media sites were not necessarily designed with young children in mind and require parental supervision to make sure kids only consume content intended for their age group. Kids-first platforms like Zigazoo are important because safety is in their DNA and content is specifically developed to meet children's social and emotional needs.”
Van Pelt brings Intel Capital back into Mighty Networks
Intel Capital’s Trina Van Pelt brings the chipmaker’s venture arm back into Mighty Networks, a platform for creators and brands founded and led by Gina Bianchini, in a round that also included fellow returning investors BBG Ventures, which is led by Susan Lyne and Nisha Dua, and angel investors Marie Forleo and Gretchen Rubin. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company raised $50 million in Series B funding from a group that also included Owl Ventures, Ziff Capital Partners, LionTree Partners and such other returning investors as Reid Hoffman, Lucas Venture Group and Great Oaks Venture Capital.
Mighty Networks is a SaaS platform for creators and brands to start and grow communities. The company will use this new capital to fund product development across media types, payment options and move into new markets. The company’s products enable a new creator the ability to tap into community memberships, events and live online courses, making it easy to launch with digital subscriptions and payments.
Prior to Mighty Networks, Gina was the CEO and co-founder of Ning, where she pioneered the opportunity for early creators and brands to build their own social networks.
This new capital takes the total that Mighty Networks has raised to $67 million.
GSV Ventures makes its first investment in an India-based edtech company
Last week, we told you that GSV Ventures, the edtech venture firm led by Deborah Quazzo, had makes its first investment in Indonesia. Now, we can tell you about the firm’s first investment in India, in a deal in which they backed a company co-founded by Smita Deorah. GSV and WestBridge Capital led LEAD School’s $30 million Series D round.
LEAD has developed a system to help schools with the curriculum they are teaching and to secure necessary books and resources. It currently serves more than 2,000 schools and 800,000 students. LEAD has now raised more than $69 million. Smita, who is chief operating officer, founded the company in 2012 with Sumeet Mehta, who is CEO. In a statement, Deborah said that LEAD “is rapidly emerging as a paradigm for transforming K-12 education.”
GSV’s investment in LEAD comes on the heels of the firm co-leading Co-Learning’s Series A round. The Indonesian company has created an AI-powered problem-solving platform that enables students to receive instant homework support.
So far this year, GSV has closed its second fund at $180 million, backed Disco, a “business in a box” platform for creators co-founded by Candice Faktor; had one portfolio company, Coursera, go public, and another Nearpod, acquired by Renaissance Capital for a reported $650 million.
Gibson leads Piper’s investment in Wild Nutrition
Piper’s Libby Gibson leads the firm’s investment in a natural health supplements brand co-founded by Henrietta Norton. Wild Nutrition secured 5 million pounds in funding from Piper. The company will use the fresh capital to drive online growth, expand internationally, and create new products.
Based in Lewes, UK, Wild Nutrition was created by Henrietta to find a solution for her ongoing battle with endometriosis. As an author and nutritional practitioner, her work as a formulator for some of Europe’s largest food supplement brands forced her to confront the reality of poor-quality artificial products that make up 95 percent of the fast-growing supplements market. Henrietta founded the company with her husband, Charlie Norton, in 2013.
In a statement, Libby said, “in a market filled with poor quality products, Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown supplements are a unique way of delivering efficacy while remaining completely natural, sustainable and ethical. It’s been great to hear their customers talk about just how life-changing their supplements have been and how strongly they believe in Wild Nutrition as a brand, describing it as caring, reliable and honest and, as a result, well placed to help look after the whole family at every life stage.”
EverYi Capital’s Lin applies capital to frank body
EverYi Capital’s Susan Shui-Shien Lin applies capital to an Australian beauty and personal care brand co-founded by Bree Johnson and Jess Hatzis. The amount invested in frank body was not disclosed, but the company did say it valued it at 100 million Australian ($77.7 million). The company is planning on doing a U.S. Series B round later this year.
frank body was started by five friends in a coffee shop with an investment of 5,000 dollars Australian in 2013. This financing will enable the company to expand its Asian footprint over the next three years. Susan will join the frank body’s co-founders and a representative of Unilever Ventures on the board.
In a statement, Susan said, “frank body's clean, coffee-based beauty and personal care products and authentic Australian brand identity are known in China and we expect the brand to resonate well with millennials and Gen Z, who are looking for quality and uniqueness. The body care category in China is a relatively untapped market in relation to affordable, premium brands. We believe frank body's expansion in China will benefit from this opportunity and we are excited to support the business in this next phase.”
A portfolio company of Keystone’s Jin has been sold
Earlier this month, we told you that Peak-Ryzex, Inc., whose CEO is Juliann Larimer had been sold by Keystone Capital to another private equity firm, Sole Source Capital, LLC. What we failed to realize at the time is that Peak-Ryzex was a portfolio company of Keystone Managing Director Chaoran Jin. Terms of Sole Source’s acquisition of Columbia, Md.-based Peak-Ryzex were not disclosed.
Peak-Ryzex provides automatic identification, data capture and factory automation. Sole Source, though, did acquire another company, Optical Phulsion, Inc., that it is merging with Peak-Ryzex. Juliann, who joined Peak-Ryzex as CEO in 2018, will lead the combined company. Keystone originally invested in Peak in 2011 and oversaw six add-on acquisitions.
In a statement, Chaoran said, “we are extremely appreciative for the hard work, dedication and commitment from the Peak management team in building a market-leading business and delivering a successful outcome for shareholders.”
A portfolio company of Sofinnova Investments’ Katabi is poised to be acquired
Sofinnova Investments’ Maha Katabi currently has two portfolio companies in registration to go public. Now, another of her companies – one led by Ciara Kennedy – is poised to be acquired. Terms of Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s purchase by Pfizer, Inc. were not disclosed.
Based in San Diego, Amplyx develops therapies for debilitating and life-threatening diseases in patients with compromised immune systems. It is focused on developing novel antifungal agents for life-threatening fungal infections.
Pfizer has been an investor in the company since December 2019. Amplyx also had received backing from Adage Capital Management, Lundbeckfonden Ventures, Arix Bioscience, Pappas Capital, New Enterprise Associates, RiverVest and BioMed Ventures. According to Crunchbase, Amplyx raised a total of $198 million in venture funding.
Ciara joined Amplyx as chief operating officer in October 2015 and was elevated to president and CEO in 2017. She previously served as vice president and cholestatic liver disease program head at Shire Pharmaceuticals, which had acquired Lumena Pharmaceuticals, where she had served as chief operating officer.
Amplyx’s board also includes Elaine J. Heron, who previously served as BioMarin’s chair and CEO.
For Maha, the proposed acquisition comes as two other companies on whose boards she sits – Vera Therapeutics – and Gyroscope Therapeutics, Ltd. – are in registration to go public. (See Story in Stepping Out In Public). Maha is also on the boards of Aerovate Therapeutics, Inc., NorthSea Therapeutics and Quanta Therapeutics, Inc. Maha, who joined Sofinnova in 2019 and is a general partner, spoke during a Perspectives Webinar in September 2020.