Baidu's latest fund. Drones in Switzerland. Roku's S-1.


SoftBank Group is trying to seize the future by the throat. 

It launched its massive $93B Vision Fund late last year with the promise of fueling a wave of innovation. 

So far this year SoftBank has made or participated in 23 $100M+ investments to private companies, with 8 of them being a billion dollars or more in size. The last was the $250M Series G round to Slack this week at a $5.1B valuation.

It is now without a doubt the Godzilla of startup investing. 

The big fear voiced by some analysts is that SoftBank’s large check book will help firms stay private longer, which would be bad for the IPO market. That does seem to be the case with Slack, which
said it would be quite a while before it looks to IPO. 

But SoftBank has set a goal of 44% returns for the fund, and has outside investors including Saudi Arabia and Apple. It will want to see liquidity as much as anyone else. These are not strategic investments.

Meanwhile, companies receiving SoftBank investments are seeing a valuation bump. Among the 23 deals YTD, for disclosed valuations, companies saw an average 51% bump and a median bump of 29% to their valuations.

Have a great weekend.


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This week in data:
  • 60+: Georgia-based cybersecurity firm Core Security and California-based identity management company SecureAuth announced a merger this past week. Both companies are focused on developing solutions for identity management. SecureAuth was recently featured in our market map of 60+ leading cybersecurity companies securing the future of digital identity. Core Security was featured in our market map of 135+ companies securing the future of fintech, available to our expert research clients.

  • $1.75B: This week, Decolar, a travel booking service in Latin America, went public. The company — previously backed by investors including TPG Capital, Tiger Global Management, Accel Partners, and Sequoia Capital, among others — raised $332M at a valuation of $1.75B in its IPO. At a $1B+ value, Decolar’s IPO makes it the latest exit to appear on our real-time Unicorn Exits Tracker, which looks at billion-dollar VC-backed exits since 2009.
  • $1.1B: This week, Google signed an agreement with Taiwanese consumer electronics company HTC to acquire the unit that works on developing Pixel smartphones. As part of the deal, HTC will receive $1.1B in cash. In a separate deal, Google will receive a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property, and the transaction is expected to close by early 2018. Google previously acquired smartphone maker Motorola Mobility in 2012 for $12.5B, before selling it to Lenovo in 2014. This Google’s 10th acquisition of 2017. For real-time updates, check out our Google Acquisitions tracker.
  • $1.5B: Baidu announced a $1.5B Apollo Fund to invest in “100 autonomous driving projects in the next three years.” The fund was announced alongside the release of Apollo 1.5, the latest version of the company’s open-source autonomous driving platform. Baidu is one of at least 44 corporations working on driverless vehicles.

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  • 299,649: The number of accounts Twitter has removed in the first half of 2017 for “promotion of terrorism.” Less than 1% of the account suspensions resulted from government requests; Twitter led the investigation to remove radical content using “proprietary tools,” and three-quarters of the accounts were suspended before having a chance to post their first tweet. The company said it removed 935,897 related accounts between August 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017.
  • $5.1B: California-based Slack, a chat platform that connects teams, raised $250M in Series G funding from SoftBank Group. With the round, the unicorn of nearly 3 years saw its valuation jump to $5.1B. Slack has seen its valuation increase every year since it entered the unicorn club, from $1.12B in 2014 to $2.8B in 2015 to $3.8B last year. Slack is featured on our United States of Unicorns map, highlighting private companies valued at $1B+.

  • 12 milesMatternet, developer of autonomous drones, announced the upcoming implementation of a drone network in Switzerland. The company says it is the “first company in the world to receive authorization for full operations of drone logistics networks over densely populated areas in Switzerland.” The logistics platform, known as the Matternet Station, aims to facilitate deliveries of medical supplies to hospitals within 30 minutes, and can travel about 12 miles while carrying up to 4 pounds. Other companies, such as Zipline, operate in a similar fashion, but deliver medical supplies via drones across less populated areas. Matternet can be found on our drones market map, along with a number of other companies working on delivery & transportation-related drones.

  • $1,020.61: Today, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were released for sale starting at $699 and $799, respectively. But if you live outside the United States, you’ll likely be paying close to what it would cost to buy the iPhone X, which starts at $999. According to this analysis, purchasing an iPhone 8 in Hungary is equivalent to paying $1,020.61. Out of the 26 countries listed — including the United States — 16 show prices higher than $900, including Italy, India, UK, and Mexico. The lowest price on the list is $708, which belongs to Japan. We recently looked at Apple patents to gain insight on which direction the company may go with future iPhones. We surfaced a recently granted patent indicating the use of FaceID, an upcoming feature with the new iPhone releases, as shown below.

  • $252M: Device manufacturer and streaming service, Roku, filed a new S-1 and is looking to raise $252M in its IPO. Earlier this month, the company proposed raising $100M in its IPO. The company has $200M in total disclosed funding and is backed by investors including Netflix, Viacom, Menlo Ventures, and Luminari Capital. Roku is featured in our 2017 Tech IPO report, which looks at tech's 369 most highly-valued and high-momentum private companies.

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