Philly PE/VC highlights; NewSpring, First Round, IPO Watch

Tom Paine

Radnor-based NewSpring Capital opened a new market segment- NewSpring Franchise – with its initial.investment in Blo Blow Dry Bar.

Blo Blow Dry Bar, which appears to be based in Toronto, currently has 130 stores and aspires with the new investment to grow to 300 stores.

The franchise market is a niche within the PE world, requiring in-depth knowledge that makes it difficult for outsiders to compete.

“The investment in Blo Blow Dry Bar is a landmark for NewSpring as it represents the first deal in our newly formed franchise portfolio,” said Patrick Sugrue, NewSpring General Partner, in a press release. “Our extensive diligence on the business revealed the strong combination of a unique concept in a high-growth sector with increasing demand, healthy income potential for its franchise partners, and a strong management team. We’re thrilled to launch the Franchise strategy with such an exciting investment and look forward to leveraging the Firm’s wealth of knowledge, experience, and resources to support many more multi-unit businesses.”

Atlanta-based Roark Capital is probably the best known PE participant in the franchise space, with a long list of companies such as Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and MAACO in its portfolio. But there are thousands of franchised brands, and franchise owner groups within that, many of which you’ve probably never heard of, out there. And once established, franchise businesses can provide steady cashflows that PE firms crave.

General Partners Satya Ponnuru and Sugrue head up the NewSpring Franchise team.

Looking at GoPuff’s latest billion dollar plus round, one thing that stands out is that there is no Philly investor involved. Nor has there ever has been, as far as I can determine.

Cofounders Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola like to say their $60,000 seed round was obtained by selling a family friend’s used office furniture. First Round’s Josh Kopelman reportedly looked at goPuff at some point, was impressed, but didn’t invest. I don’t know if goPuff ever did the rounds with Philly investors, but Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which usually picks up a slice of Philly’s most promising ventures, didn’t invest. In its later rounds, there is hardly a Philly VC who could have made a significant contribution given their size..

Of course, the business plan probably seemed like a stretch for two undergrads pursuing a new, untested model.

There are several Philly-area companies that could IPO this year, if market conditions remain right, and not necessarily companies you’ve heard of. But the two companies most will watch are Fanatics and goPuff.

Fanatics, actually based in Jacksonille but majority -owned by Michael Rubin’s Conshohocken-based Kynetic LLC, just achieved a $12.8 billion valuation with its latest round of $320 million. A Fanatics spokesperson said in a statement, “While an IPO is clearly an available option to us, there is no update on any timeline. Our focus remains on building a great global company and strengthening our vertical commerce business model.” Most observers think an IPO is highly likely, if not this year then in 2022.

goPuff’s latest $1.15 billion round gave it a valuation of $8.9 billion.Unlike Fanatics, its hard to tell what goPuff’s numbers might be, though I assume they’re heading in the right direction or it wouldn’t continue to be so heavily funded. But my guess is given SoftBank’s success with the recent DoorDash IPO, it won’ be hesitant to bring goPuff public as long as it can paint a credible pro forma picture of future profitability.

Dresher, Montco-based Ascensus, which has rolled up several retirement plan managers, has made its intentions clear that its looking towards a mid-year IPO. Owned since 2015 by PE firms Genstar Capital and Aquiline Capital Partners and continuing to be acquisitive, Ascensus says it is the largest retirement plan manager in the US in terms of Assets Under Management..

Former Wharton undergrad and First Round Capital intern Nat Turner, who went on to cofound Invite Media (acquired by Google) and Flatiron Health (sold to Roche), both with backing from First Round, led a prestigious investor group to complete the acquisition of Collectors Universe for $853 million. and take it private..Turner had long been an avid collector and trader of baseball cards and other sports collectibles..

Around the same time, Alt, which allows people to buy, sell and store sports cards, officially launched after raising $31 million combined in a seed and Series A financing. First Round joined the Series A.

You’d think First Round would seek to work with Turner, who has demonstrated an uncanny understanding of how markets work and how to make money in them. But of course, buyouts of public company is not within First Round’s DNA. Turner is not listed as an investor in Alt.

Its amazing – and a shame – that given the amount of biotech investment running through Philly, as well as the wealth of intellectual property, that there isn’t a significant venture fund based here that prioritizes the local biotech industry.

Haverford College grad Dan Primack, Axios business editor and author of its Pro Rata newsletter, may have to watch what he says about SPACS. He’s written extensively about SPACS, both positively and negatively, But now, rumors (at this point) emerge that Axios may consider merging with The Athletic and going public via a SPAC. I can somehow imagine a scenario in which Primack is called as an expert witness to testify against his own company.

Shanahan, CardConnect founder, sells 2nd company to Fiserv

Tom Paine

Brian Shanahan, who sold King of Prussia-based CardConnect to Fiserv (formerly First Data) in July 2017 for $750 million, today had another exit to Fiserv: Pittsburgh-based Pineapple Payments.

“The acquisition will expand the reach of market-leading payment solutions from Fiserv, including the CoPilot partner platform, Clover® and Clover Connect, through the technology- and relationship-led distribution channels of Pineapple Payments”. Fiserv said in a statement.

Founded in 2016, Pineapple Payments provides payment processing based on proprietary technology and omni-channel payment acceptance solutions for integrated software vendors (ISVs) and small and medium businesses (SMBs). The company currently serves more than 25,000 merchants.

Terms were not disclosed. Pineapple Payments is a private company. CrunchBase said it had raised $35 million, and made six acquisitions. Fiserv expects the deal to close in the 2nd quarter.

CardConnect went public thru a SPAC in 2016, before SPACs became an everyday ocurence.

CardConnect was actually a trend setter, the first of Philadelphia financier Betsy Cohen’s nine SPACs.

goPuff Raises $1.15B, Solidifying Its Market-Leading Position in the Instant Needs Category

More Than Doubles Its Valuation to $8.9B as It Accelerates Geographic Expansion, Further Invests in the Customer Experience and Continues to Introduce New CategoriesMarch 23, 2021 10:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time

PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–goPuff, the go-to platform for consumers’ everyday needs, today announced that it has secured $1.15 billion in new funding, more than doubling its valuation to $8.9 billion in just five months and solidifying its position as the market leader for instant needs. Investors in the round include D1 Capital Partners, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Baillie Gifford, Eldridge, Reinvent Capital, Luxor Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund 1.

goPuff Raises $1.15B, Solidifying Its Market-Leading Position in the Instant Needs CategoryTweet this

“We are grateful for the confidence of our longtime returning partners as well as the new, top-tier institutions joining this round who understand our differentiation in the market. We look forward to their support as we accelerate our growth plans and continue to define and transform the instant needs space,” said Rafael Ilishayev, co-founder and co-CEO of goPuff. “This milestone further validates the success of goPuff’s vertically integrated model as well as the massive global opportunity for the category. Our technology platform and infrastructure enable us to expand goPuff’s offerings while bringing more products, new categories, and experiences to customers,” Yakir Gola, co-founder and co-CEO of goPuff added.

goPuff is uniquely positioned to grow its business as it advances its mission to become the world’s go-to solution for immediate, everyday needs. With these new funds, goPuff will continue to accelerate its strategic priorities, which include geographic expansion across the U.S. and internationally, introducing new product categories, and investing in new technology and top-tier talent that will further enhance the customer experience.

“goPuff is truly in a league of its own. We believe that the company’s vision and differentiated model drive industry-leading economics and sustainable growth,” said Daniel Sundheim, Founder & Chief Investment Officer at D1 Capital Partners. “Since we initially invested in goPuff last fall, we have been consistently impressed by the team’s ability to successfully execute against its growth plans. The company’s potential is tremendous, and we look forward to the unique opportunities that lie ahead.”

goPuff will also continue to leverage its platform to enter new verticals and expand its thriving local partnership program. This includes investing in innovative programs like its recently launched media offering, goPuff Marketing Solutions (GMS), which enables brands to run media campaigns on and off goPuff’s platform to instantly reach consumers and translate those interactions into purchases. Additionally, the company is launching new categories, like goPuff’s new Better for YouBeauty and enhanced Baby categories. It also recently debuted Curated Mystery Boxes and it has introduced over 500 new local products to the platform to expand and enhance the customer experience.

Baillie Gifford’s investment demonstrates market confidence in this new business category pioneered by goPuff. “goPuff’s proven business model has yielded strong, sustainable results in growing and developing a new category of instant needs that it continues to define,” said Chris Evdaimon, Investment Manager at Baillie Gifford. “We are thrilled to support goPuff as the company expands its market position and propels itself to new heights.”

About goPuff
goPuff is the go-to solution for immediate everyday needs, fulfilling customer orders of cleaning and home productsover-the-counter medicationsbaby and pet products, food and drinks, and in some markets, alcohol – in just minutes. With micro-fulfillment centers in every market it serves, the company delivers thousands of products quickly for a flat $1.95 delivery charge. goPuff is open 24/7 in many markets and late night everywhere else to bring customers what they need, when they need it most.

Founded in 2013 by co-founders and co-CEOs Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, goPuff currently operates more than 250 micro-fulfillment centers servicing over 650 U.S. cities, in addition to the recently acquired BevMo! locations. To learn more, visit www.gopuff.com or follow goPuff on FacebookTwitter or Instagram. Download the goPuff app on iOS and Android.

Contacts

Eva Behrend
press@gopuff.com

goPuff raises another billion dollar round

Tom Paine

goPuff today announced that it has secured $1.15 billion in new funding, more than doubling its valuation to $8.9 billion in just five months . Investors in the round include D1 Capital Partners, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Baillie Gifford, Eldridge, Reinvent Capital, Luxor Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund 1.

“We are grateful for the confidence of our longtime returning partners as well as the new, top-tier institutions joining this round who understand our differentiation in the market. We look forward to their support as we accelerate our growth plans and continue to define and transform the instant needs space,” said Rafael Ilishayev, co-founder and co-CEO of goPuff.

goPuff says it “will also continue to leverage its platform to enter new verticals and expand its thriving local partnership program. ”

goPuff has now raised close to $2.5 billion. Its model is presumably producing promising results or it wouldn’t be receiving more investment. Future questions will include goPuff’s timetable for an IPO, and how volume will hold up as the pandemic recedes.

Separately, goPuff has recently added several high-profile executives.

Google lays out investment plans for 2021 ; Where’s Philly?

Tom Paine

Source: Google Blog

Google posted on its blog Thursday its plans to invest across the US in 2021. Nothing on the scale of Amazon’s second city search, but Google says it will invest over $7 billion in offices and data centers, and add at least 10,000 new jobs in 2021.

There is nothing close to staggering about those numbers, since Google has 135.000 employees already and $85 billion in PP&E (Property, Plant & Equipment) on its balance sheet. Google plans to significantly expand its Pittsburgh presence. And it sounds like a major expansion is planned for the DC & Northern Virginal area. But one thing about Google’s plans is there is no mention of the Greater Philadelphia area.

i wasn’t able to retrieve the exact number of Google employees around Philly, but based on what I’ve seen my guess is its in the low hundreds (I don’t pay for premium access to LinkedIn).The major concentration seems to be around Google Cloud Platform (GCP). That may be partly due to GCP’s closeness to SAP in building its enterprise cloud business. Another area of emphasis for the Philly area is Life Sciences.

In terms of physical plant, there is nothing in the Philly area in Google’s listing of locations nationwide. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean Philly doesn’t have a Google office, as we found out once before.

Former SAP executive Rob Enslin is Google’s California-based President of Cloud Sales.. Phillip Moyer, a Philly-based onetime Safeguard Scientifics exec, moved in 2019 from Amazon to GCP, setting off a suit over an alleged non-compete violation from Amazon (since settled). His title is Vice President- Strategic Industries (encompassing Financial Services, Healthcare, Retail, CPG, Telco, Media & Entertainment, Gaming).

I’ve requested of Google’s press center any information it can provide on specific stats or plans it may have for Philadelphia. I’ll let you know if I get anything back

Game Changers: Social Critique and Activism in Games at Moore College of Art & Design: Wednesday the 17th

Game Changers: Social Critique and Activism in Games at Moore College of Art & Design Wednesday the 17th

Philadelphia, PA – Game Changers, Moore College of Art & Design’s annual event featuring women who work in animation and gaming, is back! Hosted by Moore’s Animation & Game Arts program, it is a yearly event that brings women and nonbinary professionals together to speak with the Moore community. The webinar will be held Wednesday, March 17, 2021, at 5 pm. This online event is FREE but registration is required. Visit moore.edu/2021gamechangers for more information and to register.

The theme this year is social change and activism in games. Game Changers speakers include artist and scholar Susana Ruiz, PhD, who will serve as moderator; artist and UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor A.M. Darke; and feminist media artist Angela Washko

***Images are attached for your use. For more information, call or email Mellany Armstrong, associate director of communications, at 610.32.4022, or marmstrong@moore.edu, .*** 

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS 

Susana Ruiz 

Moderator 

Susana Ruiz, PhD (she/they) is an artist and scholar whose creative and scholarly work is broadly concerned with how the intersection of art practice, playful design, and digital storytelling can enable new approaches to social activism, aesthetics, and public pedagogy. Her work is collaborative, interdisciplinary, experimental, and takes the hybrid form of intertwined theory and practice. She is an assistant professor of film and digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ruiz holds a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, an MFA from the Interactive Media and Games program at the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. from USC’s Media Arts + Practice program.

A.M Darke 

Panelist 

A.M. Darke is an artist designing radical tools for social intervention. Still in the class war. Now in the pandemic. He’s in the combination class war and pandemic. Assistant professor of digital arts and new media, and critical race and ethnic studies at UC Santa Cruz, she directs The Other Lab, an interdisciplinary, intersectional feminist research space for experimental games, XR and new media. Darke’s recent work includes Ye or Nay?, a Kanye West-themed game about Black culture, and she is currently developing the Open Source Afro Hair Library, a 3D model database for Black hair styles and textures.

Angela Washko 

Panelist 

As a feminist media artist working in a variety of forms, Angela Washko is committed to telling complex and unconventional stories about the media we consume from unusual perspectives. Washko’s practice spans interventions in mainstream media, performance art, digital works, video and video games. In 2012, she founded The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft, an intervention inside the popular online video game. Washko’s recent project, The Game: The Game, is a critical feminist video game in which professional pickup artists attempt to seduce the player using their coercive signature techniques sourced from their instructional books and video materials. She is currently finishing Workhorse Queen, a documentary film exploring the impact of reality television on public understandings of gender, sexuality, aging, and community by following the life and career trajectory of former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Mrs. Kasha Davis. 

 A recent recipient of the Creative Capital Award, the Impact Award at Indiecade, and the Franklin Furnace Performance Fund, Washko’s practice has been highlighted in The New YorkerFrieze magazine, Time magazine, The GuardianArtForumThe Los Angeles TimesArt in AmericaThe New York TimesRhizome and more. Her projects have been presented internationally at venues including Museum of the Moving Image (New York), Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Milan Design Triennale, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Helsinki), Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennial and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Washko is an associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Founded during the original industrial revolution to advance women in new fields, Moore College of Art & Design is the first and only historically women’s college for art and design. Our mission is more relevant than ever, as technology, sustainability and diverse cultures drive and disrupt new and existing industries. Through dynamic BFA and Graduate Studies programs, educational programs for creatively curious youth and professional adult learners, and our own public and dedicated space for contemporary art—The Galleries at Moore—we are influencers and advocates for breakthrough artists and designers of all ages and backgrounds. The world needs Moore. For more information about Moore, visit www.moore.edu and follow us on social media @moorecollegeart. Visit The Art Shop at Moore online at moore.edu/theartshop. 

Speculation: Who will be FCC chair? (From CableFax)

“I think [Jessica Rosenworcel] has the inside track, but there could always be a dark horse. We’ve had two or three chairmen over the last generation who got the FCC chairmanship as a consolation prize for not being named Secretary of Commerce. So, there’s already that possibility. Other dark horses are Gigi Sohn, former aide to Tom Wheeler, as well as Ed Smith, former NTIA administrator Larry Strickland, probably former FTC commissioner/Biden staffer Terrell McSweeney. I think any of those three or four could probably be a third commissioner, but at this point I’d put my money on Jessica Rosenworcel—probably 65% to maybe 35% on a dark horse.”

– Andrew Lipman, partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius speaking at Deutsche Telecom’s investor conference on who may be named FCC chair.

Dashboard 03-12-21

THE 16 NJ COMPANIES THAT RECEIVED A TOTAL OF $450K FROM CSIT FOR SBIR/STTR ASSISTANCE

Dr. Anders Laursen, CEO and Karin Calvinho, CTO of RenewCO2 | Courtesy RenewCO2

 

March 9, 2021  Esther Surden 

The New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology (CSIT)  awarded a total of $450,000 to 16 early-stage companies through the state’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Direct Financial Assistance Program.

Each of the awardees is currently engaged in the federal SBIR and/or STTR programs. The awards will enhance the state’s innovation economy by strengthening the competitiveness of Garden State businesses participating in the federal programs, according to a release. To date, CSIT has awarded a total of $825,000 to 28 New Jersey companies during the program’s two funding rounds. (See previous story: The 12 NJ Tech and Life Sciences Companies Awarded CSIT Innovation Economy Grants, June 23, 2020).

Of the 16 companies in the second round, 14 received federal SBIR/STTR Phase I, Fast-Track or Direct to Phase II awards/contracts, and were each awarded a grant of $25,000. The remaining two companies received $50,000 each in bridge funding; they had successfully completed Phase I and have applied for Phase II of the federal SBIR/STTR programs. The company descriptions below were taken from their websites, other public materials, or from email interactions.

Recipients of the $25,000 grants:

  • Atux Iskay Group (Plainsboro) – This company specializes in consulting, drug discovery, pharmaceutical and medicinal chemistry, and organic synthesis and synthetic technology.
  • BRISEA Group ­(Parsippany) – A New Jersey state-certified woman/minority-owned company, BRISEA provides professional environmental and energy services, technology and know-how to developing countries.
  • DMK Pharmaceuticals (Gladstone) –  This company’s lead, clinical-stage molecule is currently being developed for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
  • Drone Go Home (Oceanport) –  Drone Go Home, rebranded as AeroDefense, is a New Jersey State-certified woman-owned business that was founded in 2015. It offers solutions that detect drones and pilots at correctional facilities, stadiums, critical infrastructure and other high-value targets. AeroDefense’s drone detection system, AirWarden, detects and locates both drone and pilot simultaneously, providing actionable intelligence for security teams, thereby enabling them to respond safely and effectively to drone threats.
  • Innovations Unlimited (Pennsauken) – This New Jersey State-certified woman-owned business is finalizing the design of its flagship product, the TrachAlarm, a patented novel, low-cost, life-saving accessory that automatically detects and alerts caregivers to accidental tracheostomy tube decannulation.
  • Mgenuity Corporation (Princeton) – Mgenuity Research was founded in 2012 with the goal of developing exciting educational software that helps students deeply understand core concepts in science and mathematics. The team includes accomplished science writers and teachers, internationally known mathematicians and math-education experts, as well as enthusiastic 3D designers and software developers.
  • MRIMATH  (Voorhees) – MRIMATH’s technology delivers precise contouring of a tumor, distinguishing it from surrounding healthy tissue and organs to reduce the time it takes to plan radiation treatment and boost patient outcomes. The underlying technology is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent that prevents organ damage from radiation and decreases human error and variability. The AI agent interacts with the physician to achieve a precise delineation of the target boundaries within few minutes. Tumor delineation and quantification remains the weakest link in the search for accuracy in radiotherapy. Inaccuracy and variation in defining critical volumes could compromise treatment outcomes. This critical task is generally performed manually. Conventional manual delineation is quite tedious, time consuming and variable. The time of a segmentation can vary from 30 to 90 minutes per MRI, but some difficult cases can take several hours.
  • Neutroelectric (Williamstown) – This New Jersey State-certified woman-owned company, now doing business as Becq, is a materials engineering startup that’s developing high-performance radiation shielding technology.
  • RenewCO2 (Jersey City) – For chemical companies that want to get ahead of the competition in renewable sourcing, RenewCO₂ develops clean electrochemical processes that convert CO₂ into monomers and other organic chemicals. Different from traditional fossil-derived feedstocks, this company’s process is carbon negative and has a positive environmental impact.
  • RizLab Health (Princeton) – This company is bringing complete blood count analysis to the patient’s fingertips using a wireless AI-fired pocket-sized fully electronic analyzer.
  • SAPHTx (Newark) – With a dedicated team of engineers, biologists and inventors that have a passion for scientific innovation, SAPHTx develops protein-based therapeutic strategies for some of the biggest health issues we face. The company also excels at translating the innovations and inventions of engineers and scientists in academia.
  • Shock Tech (Mahwah) – Shock Tech provides custom solutions to your vibration, shock-energy, noise and acoustic challenges — from innovation to manufacturing.
  • SunRay Scientific (Eatontown) – Also a New Jersey State-certified woman/minority-owned company, SunRay Scientific has created a suite of engineered solutions called “ZTACH ACE,” which is an anisotropic conductive adhesive that will enable manufacturers to use high throughput processes in flexible electronics assembly and deliver on the low-cost promise of flexible electronics.
  • Telluric Labs (Red Bank) – Telluric Labs develops data acquisition networks and systems.

Recipients of the Bridge Funding Grants:

  • Andluca Technologies (Princeton) – Andluca, a Princeton University spin-out, has developed an ultraviolet-solar-powered smart glass for improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Andluca’s patented technologies can reduce building energy use by up to 40 percent, while significantly enhancing occupant comfort and productivity. Unlike wired smart glass products, which require installation and renovation by an electrician, Andluca’s wireless smart glass can be installed quickly and nondisruptively.
  • BioInvenu (East Hanover) – BioInvenu is a biotech company that provides proprietary cell-based assay products and services to drug discovery researchers. The company develops these products/services by utilizing a novel cell-based protein–protein interaction assay technology: LinkLight technology.

This article, THE 16 NJ COMPANIES THAT RECEIVED A TOTAL OF $450K FROM CSIT FOR SBIR/STTR ASSISTANCE, first appeared in NJTechWeekly. It is republished here with the permission of its founder and publisher, Esther Surden.

CitiusTech, after completing FluidEdge acquisition, is considering SPAC

Tom Paine

CitiusTech, a provider of healthcare technology solutions.which views Princeton as its primary headquarters though its roots are in India, is considering going public via a SPAC, Bloomberg reports. Baring Asia, whch acquired Citius for a reported $750 miilion in 2019, is said to be seeking a $1 billion valuation.

In December 2020, CitiusTech completed the acquisition of Malvern-based FluidEdge Consulting and CitiusTech also announced the appointment of Eric Schultz as the executive vice president of CitiusTech and president of FluidEdge Consulting..

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