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January 18, 2019
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U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Startups Weekly: Will Trump ruin the unicorn IPOs of our dreams?

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The government shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, upping concerns of potentially long-lasting impacts on the U.S. stock market. Private market investors around the country applauded when Uber finally filed documents with the SEC to go public. Others were giddy to hear Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates and Slack (via a direct listing, according to the latest reports) were likely to IPO in 2019, too.

Unfortunately, floats that seemed imminent may not actually surface until the second half of 2019 — that is unless President Donald Trump and other political leaders are able to reach an agreement on the federal budget ASAP.  This week, we explored the government’s shutdown’s connection to tech IPOs, recounted the demise of a well-funded AR project and introduced readers to an AI-enabled self-checkout shopping cart.

1. Postmates gets pre-IPO cash

The company, an early entrant to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, raised what will likely be its last round of private capital. The $100 million cash infusion was led by BlackRock and valued Postmates at $1.85 billion, up from the $1.2 billion valuation it garnered with its unicorn round in 2018.

2. Uber’s IPO may not be as eye-popping as we expected

To be fair, I don’t think many of us really believed the ride-hailing giant could debut with a $120 billion initial market cap. And can speculate on Uber’s valuation for days (the latest reports estimate a $90 billion IPO), but ultimately Wall Street will determine just how high Uber will fly. For now, all we can do is sit and wait for the company to relinquish its S-1 to the masses.

3. Deal of the week

N26, a German fintech startup, raised $300 million in a round led by Insight Venture Partners at a $2.7 billion valuation. TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet spoke with co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf about the company’s global investors, financials and what the future holds for N26.

4. On the market

Bird is in the process of raising an additional $300 million on a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion. The e-scooter startup has already raised a ton of capital in a very short time and a fresh financing would come at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Plus, Aurora, the developer of a full-stack self-driving software system for automobile manufacturers, is raising at least $500 million in equity funding at more than a $2 billion valuation in a round expected to be led by new investor Sequoia Capital.


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5. A unicorn’s deal downsizes

WeWork, a co-working giant backed with billions, had planned on securing a $16 billion investment from existing backer SoftBank . Well, that’s not exactly what happened. And, oh yeah, they rebranded.

6. A startup collapses

After 20 long years, augmented reality glasses pioneer ODG has been left with just a skeleton crew after acquisition deals from Facebook and Magic Leap fell through. Here’s a story of a startup with $58 million in venture capital backing that failed to deliver on its promises.

7. Data point

Seed activity for U.S. startups has declined for the fourth straight year, as median deal sizes increased at every stage of venture capital.

8. Meanwhile, in startup land…

This week edtech startup Emeritus, a U.S.-Indian company that partners with universities to offer digital courses, landed a $40 million Series C round led by Sequoia India. Badi, which uses an algorithm to help millennials find roommates, brought in a $30 million Series B led by Goodwater Capital. And Mr Jeff, an on-demand laundry service startup, bagged a $12 million Series A.

9. Finally, Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The startup, which makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, has revealed a total of $3 million, including a $2.15 million seed round led by First Round Capital .

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News Source = techcrunch.com

5 unicorns that will probably go public in 2019 (besides Uber and Lyft)

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There’s been plenty of fanfare surrounding Uber and Lyft’s initial public offerings — slated for early 2019 — since the two companies filed confidential IPO paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in early December. On top of that, public and private investors have had plenty to say about Slack and Pinterest’s rumored 2019 IPOs but those aren’t the only “unicorn” exits we should expect to witness in the year ahead.

Using its proprietary company rating algorithm, data provider CB Insights ranked five billion dollar companies most likely to perform IPOs next year in its latest tech IPO report. The algorithm analyzes non-traditional public signals, including hiring activity, web traffic and mobile app data to make its predictions. These are the startups that topped their list.

 

Peloton

Peloton Co-Founder and CEO John Foley speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 on September 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch).

Peloton, dubbed the “Netflix of fitness,” has raised nearly $1 billion in venture capital funding in the six years since it was founded by John Foley, most recently raising $550 million at a $4 billion valuation. The manufacturer of tech-enabled exercise equipment is more than doubling in size every year and is “weirdly profitable,” an unusual characteristic for a venture-backed business of its age. Headquartered in New York, Peloton doesn’t have any public IPO plans, though Foley recently told The Wall Street Journal that 2019 “makes a lot of sense” for its stock market debut.

Select investors: L Catterton, True Ventures, Tiger Global

Cloudflare

Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince appears on stage at the 2014 TechCrunch Disrupt Europe/London. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Cybersecurity unicorn Cloudflare is likely to transition to the public markets in the first half of 2019 in what is poised to be a strong year for IPOs in the security industry. The web performance and security platform is said to be preparing for an IPO at a potential valuation of more than $3.5 billion after last raising capital in 2015 at a $1.8 billion valuation. Since it was founded in 2009, the San Francisco-based company has raised just north of $250 million in VC funding. CrowdStrike, another security unicorn, is also on track to go public next year and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Illumio and Lookout make the jump to the public markets as well.

Select investors: Pelion Venture Partners, NEA, Venrock

Zoom

San Jose-based Zoom Video Communications has reportedly tapped Morgan Stanley to lead its upcoming IPO.

Zoom, a provider of video conferencing services, online meeting and group messaging tools that’s raised $160 million in VC cash to date, is eyeing a multi-billion IPO in 2019 and has reportedly hired Morgan Stanley to lead the offering. Founded in 2011, the company most recently brought in a $100 million Series D financing, entirely funded by Sequoia, at a $1 billion valuation in early 2017. Based in San Jose, Zoom is hoping to garner a valuation significantly larger than $1 billion when it IPOs, according to Reuters.

Select investors: Sequoia, Emergence Capital Partners, Horizons Ventures

Rubrik

Data management company Rubrik co-founder and CEO Bipul Sinha.

Data management company Rubrik has quietly made moves indicative of an impending IPO. The startup, which provides data backup and recovery services for businesses across cloud and on-premises environments, hired former Atlassian chief financial officer Murray Demo as its CFO earlier this year, as well as its first chief legal officer, Peter McGoff. Palo Alto-based Rubrik was valued at over of $1 billion with a $180 million funding round in 2017. The company has raised nearly $300 million to date.

Select investors: Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greylock, Khosla Ventures

Medallia

Medallia, a customer experience management platform that’s nearly two decades old, may finally become a public company in 2019. The San Mateo-based company, which has been rumored to be planning an IPO for several years, hired a new CEO this year and reported $250 million in GAAP revenue for the year ending Jan. 31, 2018, according to Forbes. Medallia hasn’t raised capital since 2015, when it secured a $150 million funding deal at a $1.2 billion valuation. It has raised a total of just over $250 million.

Select investor: Sequoia

News Source = techcrunch.com

Report: Morgan Stanley lands coveted Uber IPO role

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Uber has reportedly picked Morgan Stanley to lead its upcoming initial public offering, news of which became public last week when the ride-hailing giant filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO expected in the first quarter of 2019.

Uber’s choice, first reported by Bloomberg, comes after a months-long bidding war, of sorts, between Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. The pair of investment banks presented IPO plans to Uber this fall, in hopes of landing the top underwriting spot in what will be one of the largest stock market debuts to date. Morgan Stanley, having won the battle, can expect to receive a large portion of the fees that come with an IPO.

We’ve reached out to Uber and Morgan Stanley for comment.

Michael Grimes, managing director of global technology for Morgan Stanley, speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

Uber’s pick isn’t too surprising; rumors pointing to Morgan Stanley have floated the tech ecosystem for months. Morgan Stanley’s head of technology investment banking Michael Grimes, the lead underwriter on Facebook’s initial public offering, resorted to gimmicks to ensure his spot in Uber’s IPO. According to The Wall Street Journal, Grimes moonlighted as an Uber driver for years to demonstrate his loyalty.

Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are investors in Uber. Morgan Stanley participated in Uber’s Series G funding in 2016 and Goldman Sachs has been a backer for years, investing in the company as early as 2011.

Uber was most recently valued at $72 billion and is expected to garner a valuation as high as $120 billion upon its stock market debut. Lyft, its key competitor in the U.S., also recently filed to go public. It has picked JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the lead underwriter of its offering, per reports, which is also expected as early as Q1 2019. People familiar with the company’s IPO plans said its valuation will exceed the $15.1 billion it was valued at earlier this year.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Coinbase abandons its cautious approach with plan to list up to 30 new cryptocurrencies

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Coinbase is the most conservative exchange in cryptoland, largely because it operates in the U.S. under the watchful eye of the SEC. The $8 billion-valued company trades fewer than ten cryptocurrencies to consumers but on Friday announced it announced a major expansion that could see it list up to 30 new tokens.

The company said it is considering support Ripple’s XRP, EOS — the Ethereum challenger that held a year-long ICO that raised $4 billion — Stellar, a creation from a Ripple co-founder, chat app Kik’s Kin token and more.

The full list is below:

Cardano (ADA), Aeternity (AE), Aragon (ANT), Bread Wallet (BRD), Civic (CVC), Dai (DAI), district0x (DNT), EnjinCoin (ENJ), EOS (EOS), Golem Network (GNT), IOST (IOST), Kin (KIN), Kyber Network (KNC), ChainLink (LINK), Loom Network (LOOM), Loopring (LRC), Decentraland (MANA), Mainframe (MFT), Maker (MKR), NEO (NEO), OmiseGo (OMG), Po.et (POE), QuarkChain (QKC), Augur (REP), Request Network (REQ), Status (SNT), Storj (STORJ), Stellar (XLM), XRP (XRP), Tezos (XTZ), and Zilliqa (ZIL)

The company last announced new asset explorations in July, although today it did add four new ERC tokens to its pro service.

Coinbase recently revamped its policy on new token listings. Instead of abruptly adding new assets, a process that sent their valuations spiking along with rumors of inside trading, it now goes public with its intention to “explore” the potential to list new assets in order to lower the impact of a listing. It also doesn’t guarantee which, if any, will make it through and be listed.

“Adding new assets requires significant exploratory work from both a technical and compliance standpoint, and we cannot guarantee that all the assets we are evaluating will ultimately be listed for trading,” the company said.

Support for tokens is pretty nuanced. Coinbase lists some assets on its professional service only, with just nine supported on its regular consumer-facing exchange — those are Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Zcash, USD Coin, 0x and Basic Attention Token.

The company may also introduce some tokens on a state by state basis in the U.S. in order to comply with laws.

Brian Armstrong told the audience at Disrupt San Francisco that Coinbase could list “millions” of cryptocurrencies in the future

Coinbase is looking into this glut of new tokens — some of which, it must be said, are fairly questionable as projects let alone operating with uncertain legal status — at a time when the market is down significantly from its peak in January, both in terms of trading volume and market valuations.

In recent weeks, sources at a number of top exchanges have told TechCrunch that trading-related revenues are down as much as 50 percent over recent months and, while the numbers for Coinbase aren’t clear, there’s no doubt that its revenue is taking a big hit during this ‘crypto winter.’ That makes it easy to argue that Coinbase is widening its selection to increase potential volumes and, in turn, its revenue — particularly since it just raised $300 million from investors at a massive $8 billion valuation.

Coinbase defenders, however, will argue that a greater selection has long been the plan.

Ignoring the reasons, that’s certainly true. It is well known that the company wants to massively increase the number of cryptocurrencies that it supports.

CEO Brian Armstrong said as much as our TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco in October, where he sketched out the company’s plan to be the New York Stock Exchange of crypto.

“It makes sense that any company out there who has a cap table… should have their own token. Every open source project, every charity, potentially every fund or these new types of decentralized organizations [and] apps, they’re all going to have their own tokens. We want to be the bridge all over the world where people come and they take fiat currency and they can get it into these different cryptocurrencies,” he said during an on-stage interview at the event.

That tokenized future could see Coinbase host hundreds of tokens within “years” and even potentially “millions” in the future, according to Armstrong.

The company has done a lot of the groundwork to make that happen.

Coinbase bought a securities dealer earlier this year and it has taken regulatory strides to list tokenized securities in the U.S, albeit with some confusion. In addition, its VC arm has backed a startup that helps create ‘digital security tokens’ and the exchange introduced a new listing process which could potentially include a listing fee in exchange for necessary legal work.

These 30 new (potential) assets might not be the digital security tokens that Coinbase is moving to add, but the fact that the exchange is exploring so many new assets in one go shows how much wider the company’s vision is now.

The crypto community has already reacted strongly to this deluge of new assets. As you might expect, it is a mix of naive optimism from those invested in ‘under-performing’ projects (shitcoins) who think a Coinbase listing could turn everything around, and criticism from crypto watchers who voiced concern that Coinbase is throwing its prestige and support behind less-than-deserving cryptocurrencies.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled to pay SEC fines for flogging garbage ICOs

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. and DJ Khaled have agreed to “pay disgorgement, penalties and interest” for failing to disclose promotional payments from three ICOs including Centra Tech. Mayweather received $100,000 from Centra Tech while Khaled got $50,000 from the failed ICO. The SEC cited Khaled and Mayweather’s social media feeds, noting they touted securities for pay without disclosing their affiliation with the companies.

Mayweather, you’ll recall, appeared on Instagram with a whole lot of cash while Khaled called Centra Tech a “Game changer.”

“You can call me Floyd Crypto Mayweather from now on,” wrote Mayweather. Sadly, the SEC ruled he is no longer allowed to use the nom de guerre “Crypto” anymore.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Mayweather and Khaled agreed to pay disgorgement, penalties and interest. Mayweather agreed to pay $300,000 in disgorgement, a $300,000 penalty, and $14,775 in prejudgment interest. Khaled agreed to pay $50,000 in disgorgement, a $100,000 penalty, and $2,725 in prejudgment interest. In addition, Mayweather agreed not to promote any securities, digital or otherwise, for three years, and Khaled agreed to a similar ban for two years. Mayweather also agreed to continue to cooperate with the investigation.

“These cases highlight the importance of full disclosure to investors,” said Stephanie Avakian of the SEC. “With no disclosure about the payments, Mayweather and Khaled’s ICO promotions may have appeared to be unbiased, rather than paid endorsements.”

The SEC indicted Centra Tech’s founders, Raymond Trapani, Sohrab Sharma, and Robert Farkas, for fraud.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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