A court case for DeSantis, Amazon nears that deal to buy MGM, and Chinese firms halt their U.S. IPO plans

May 24, 2021
Top News
 
Florida governor Ron DeSantis today signed into law a restriction on social media companies’ ability to ban candidates for state offices and news outlets. The law is almost certain to be challenged in court, notes TechCrunch. More here.
 
Amazon is reportedly close to a deal to buy MGM Studios for between $8.5 billion and $9 billion. It would be Amazon's biggest acquisition since it bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, and a transaction could be announced as soon as tomorrow, reports CNBC.
 
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said today a proposed $52 billion boost in U.S. government funding for semiconductor production and research could result in seven to 10 new U.S. factories. Reuters has more here.
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This Crypto Monitoring Startup ("We're Bomb-Sniffing Dogs") Just Raised Series A Funding
 
Solidus Labs, a company that says its surveillance and risk-monitoring software can detect manipulation across cryptocurrency trading platforms, is today announcing $20 million in Series A funding. It's pretty great timing, given the various signals coming from the U.S. government just last week that it's intent on improving its crypto monitoring efforts -- such as the U.S. Treasury's call for stricter cryptocurrency compliance with the IRS.
 
Of course, Solidus didn't spring into existence last week. Rather, Solidus was founded in 2017 by several former Goldman Sachs employees who worked on the firm's electronic trading desk for equities. At the time, Bitcoin was only becoming buzzier, but while the engineers anticipated different use cases for the cryptocurrency, they also recognized that a lack of compliance tools would be a barrier to its adoption by bigger financial institutions, so they left to build some.
 
Fast forward and Solidus today employs 30 people, has raised $23.75 million, and is in the process of doubling its head count to address growing demand. On Friday, we talked with Solidus's New York-based co-founder and CEO Asaf Meir -- one of those former Goldman engineers -- about the company's new round, which was led by Equity Partners and included Hanaco Ventures, Avon Ventures, 645 Ventures, the exchange FTX, and a few government officials, including former CFTC chair Chris Giancarlo and former SEC commissioner Troy Paredes. We also talked about the kinds of crypto crimes that are on the rise. Excerpts from that chat follow, edited lightly for length.
 
Massive Fundings
 
Aurora Solar, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based solar panel installation startup, has raised $250 million in Series C funding led by Coatue, with participation from earlier backers Iconiq, Energize Ventures and Fifth Wall Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Chia Network, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based programmable money platform founded by BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, has raised $61 million in Series D funding at a $500 million post-money valuation co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Richmond Global Ventures. Breyer Capital, Slow Ventures, True Ventures, Cygni Capital, Naval Ravikant, Collab+Currency and DHVC also participated in the round for the company, which tells Bloomberg it's weighing a traditional IPO as soon as this year. More here.
 
ComplyAdvantage, a seven-year-old, London-based company that sells risk-detection software designed to reduce money laundering threats and other financial crimes, has raised $70 million in Series C funding led by Goldman Sachs. The company's earlier backers include Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board, Index Ventures and Balderton Capital. More here.
 
Riiid, a seven-year-old, South Korean-based personalized learning startup focused on test prep, among other things, has raised $175 million from SoftBank Vision Fund 2 (just). The company has now raised $250 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Tenstorrent, a five-year-old, Toronto, Canada-based silicon design firm is looking to challenge Nvidia in the AI market, has raised $200 million at a post-money valuation of $1 billion. Fidelity Management & Research Company led the round, joined by Eclipse Ventures, Epic CG and Moore Capital. TechSpot has more here.

Zeta, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based banking tech startup that's focused on enabling couples to organize, track, share and manage their finances with each other, has raised $250 million in Series C funding at a post-money valuation of $1.45 billion. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the round, joined by earlier backer Sodexo. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
Faculty, a 5.5-year-old, London-based startup that works out with its customers what they could do with AI, then helps them to do it, has raised £30 million ($42.5. million) in growth funding from the Apax Digital Fund. The startup has now raised a total of $56.6 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Fireflies.ai, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based AI voice assistant that joins videoconferencing meetings to take notes, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Canaan Partners and angel backers. The company has now raised $19 million altogether. VentureBeat has more here.
 
Little Birdie, a year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based an e-commerce startup that wants to become the “new homepage of online shopping,” has  raised $30 million AUD (about $23.2 million) from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the largest of Australia’s banks, which will integrate the startup's shopping content into its consumer banking app, which reaches 11 million retail customers in the country. TechCrunch has more here.

ProducePay, a seven-year-old, L.A.-based financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, has raised $43 million in Series C funding. G2VP led the round, joined by International Finance Corp., IDB Invest, Anterra Capital, Coventure, Astanor Ventures, IGNIA and Finistere. Cheddar has more here.
 
SevenFifty, a 10-year-old, New York-based company behind a three-tier platform that connects buyers, distributors and retailers of alcoholic beverages, has raised $23 million in new funding led by Level Equity. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
SiLC Technologies, a three-year-old, Monrovia, Ca.-based maker of a chip for machine vision, has raised $17 million in Series A funding. Alter Venture Partners and Dell Technologies Capital co-led the round, joined by OSRAM Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, Epson, UMC Capital, Yamato Holdings, and Global Brain. More here.
 
Smaller Fundings
 
AcuityMD, a two-year-old, Boston-based platform for commercializing and improving medical devices with data (meaning, for example, a surgical device might go through a one-time clinical trial, but data about real-world results never makes it back to the manufacturer and with Acuity, it will), has raised $7 million in funding. Benchmark, led the round, joined by Ajax Health. More here.
 
Beacons, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile landing page builder that provides users a single link/hub to display to their social media followers, has raised $6 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in the round include Atelier Ventures, The Chainsmokers’ Mantis Fund, Night Media Ventures and LOUDgg, the Brazilian esports group. The company had previously raised $600,000. TechCrunch has more here.

Boox, a year-old, Petaluma, Ca.-based startup at work on a platform for creating reusable shipping boxes, has raised $9.25 million in Series A funding. Valor Siren Ventures led the round, joined by Village Global and Kid VC. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Future Family, a 4.5-year-old, Bay Area-based startup that makes fertility treatments more widely accessible by pre-negotiating terms with fertility clinics and converting the upfront costs into monthly payment plans, has raised $9 million in extended Series A funding, bringing an original round that closed with $10 million in 2018 to $19 million altogether. Mindset Ventures is among the company's new investors; TechCrunch has more here.
 
iLife, a two-year-old, L.A.-based life insurance sales automation platform, has raised $4 million in seed funding. Foundation Capital led the round, joined by AME Cloud Ventures and Cherubic Ventures. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Mile Auto, a four-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based insurtech company that charges users based on their mileage, has raised $10.3 million in seed funding, including from Ulu Ventures, Emergent Ventures, Thornton Capital, and Sure Ventures. More here.
 
Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings
 
Leif, a five-year-old, New York-based education finance company that enables partners with schools to provide students with income-share agreements that they can use to pay for their tuition after graduating, has an undisclosed amount of equity funding from Insita Group, along with a $60 million debt facility from LL Funds. More here.
New Funds
 
Kaszek. a 10-year-old, São Paulo, Brazil-based venture firm, has backed 91 companies over the years; now, it has a lot more capital to put to work toward that end. As it tells TechCrunch, it just closed on its biggest funds to date -- a $475 million early-stage fund, and a second opportunity fund for its breakout portfolio companies, which it closed with $525 million in capital commitments. Much more here.
 
Flat6Labs, a 10-year-old, Cairo, Egypt-based regional accelerator and seed-stage fund, has closed its second Egypt fund to support early-stage startups and provide follow-up investment. The fund had a target for EGP50 million (~$3.2 million) but eventually closed at EGP207 million ($13.2 million), it tells TechCrunch. More here.
Exits
 
Invoca, a 13-year-old, still-private, Santa Barbara, Ca.-based conversation intelligence platform, is making its first acquisition, acquiring DialogTech, a 16-year-old, Chicago-based company that builds tools for marketers to analyze inbound phone calls and other contacts and had raised around $77 million over the years, per Crunchbase data. Terms of the deal aren't being made public but TechCrunch sources peg the deal at $100 million. More here.
Going Public
 
According to Nikkei Asia, Kanzhun, a Chinese online recruitment platform backed by Tencent Holdings, has filed to raise up to $100 million in an IPO offering in the U.S. as it seeks funds to support its expansion plans. Still, the broader boom in Chinese listings in the U.S. is coming to a sudden halt, reports Bloomberg.
People
 
Bernard Arnault, the luxury titan, has unseated Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest person.
 
Meet Heath Freeman, the hedge fund boss who just bought Tribune's newspapers.
 
Elon Musk took to Twitter today to signal support for an apparent effort by Bitcoin miners to make their operations more environmentally friendly. Bitcoin shot up in price afterward, but subsequently but fell again, suggesting the market is growing wary of his pronouncements or, at least, more immune to them. “If the market continues to see wild swings based on Elon Musk tweets, it’s going to be a big set back for this asset class,” Matt Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co, told Bloomberg afterward.
Jobs
 
F-Prime Capital, the 51-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based venture firm that invests in both healthcare and tech, is looking to bring aboard an associate in a full-time position with its tech team. 
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Essential Reads
 
Square, the publicly traded outfit that has upending the way small businesses take card payments, is reportedly preparing to offer checking and savings accounts to those customers, taking direct aim at behemoths such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. Evidence of the still-unannounced plan appeared in hidden code in a recent update to Square’s app for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad, says Bloomberg. More here.
 
Airbnb has announced more than 100 new changes and updates to its platform.
Detours
 
Why more accurate clocks may add more disorder to the universe.
 
The secret psychology of sneaker colors.
 
Milk -- it's good for you again maybe.
 
Prom picture with dad.
Retail Therapy
 
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