The year featured major investments in exciting new technology companies, from business software makers, biofuel farmers--and one troubled electric carmaker.
The past twelve months didn’t offer the rush of new venture capital funding many had hoped for. Indeed, a lack of major acquisitions and the high-profile slumps of Facebook’s and Groupon’s public offerings put a damper on investors’ appetite for venture-funded deals, says Tracy Lefteroff, global managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers venture capital practice. “We didn’t see many deals that venture guys were fighting over. You don’t see that frothy activity out there right now.”
The year will end up with about the same number of deals as 2011, says VCExperts.com director Justin Byers. “It’s been pretty steady…Going forward it’s going to be based on what happens with the economy.”
Still, the year featured major investments in exciting new technology companies, from business software makers, biofuel farmers--and one very troubled electric carmaker. Here are seven of the biggest.
No. 7 - Box
Financing Round: $125 million
Reported Valuation: $1.1 billion
Based: Los Alto, California
Date Announced: July 31, 2012
Lead Investors: General Atlantic, Bessemer Venture Partners, DFJ Growth, New Enterprise Associates, SAP Ventures, Scale Venture Parnters, Social+Capital Partnership
Box helps employees at companies from Procter & Gamble to the San Francisco Giants organization access computer files in one centralized, cloud-based location. But the company’s CEO, Aaron Levie, sees it doing more than just helping people manage files across their various computers. He wants Box to be the primary platform employees use to work and communicate with one another over the internet. Meanwhile, observers believe the company plans to IPO in 2013.
No. 6 - Deezer
Financing round: $130 million
Based: Paris, France
Date Announced: October 10, 2012
Lead Investors: Access Industries, Idinvest
Can 6 million French users and $130 million be wrong? Deezer, a streaming music service that lets people listen to music free with ads, or subscribe for a monthly fee, has attracted over 26 million users in 160 countries--but has yet to enter the U.S. So far it has avoided the world’s largest music market, opting to stake a claim in smaller, less competitive territories. Now, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, the company is ready to cross the Atlantic, and is seeking a partner to launch in America, and face off against its biggest rival, Spotify.
No. 5 - Sapphire Energy
Financing round: $139 million
Based: San Diego, California
Date Announced: April 2, 2012
Lead Investors: Arrowpoint Partners, Monsanto
On manmade ponds in New Mexico, Sapphire Energy grows algae that it converts into oil. In this latest investment, the company’s Series C round, it announced it had the backing of agriculture and genetics giant Monsanto. By 2014, the biofuel company believes it can produce 1.5 million gallons a year of this "green crude" on 300 acres of ponds.
No. 4 - Square
Financing round: $200 million
Reported Valuation: $3.25 billion
Based: San Francisco, California
Date Announced: September 17, 2012
Lead Investors: Citi Ventures, Rizvi Traverse Management, Starbucks Coffee Company
Mobile payments are the latest battleground between disruptive start-ups and established behemoths (in this case, big banks, American Express, and PayPal). Upstart Square, which lets business owners process payments with just a swipe of a credit card through its diminutive iPhone attachment, added $200 million to its war chest--and gained a new ally: Coffee chain Starbucks, which invested $25 million, will now accept Square payments from its caffeine-addled customers at 7,000 stores.
No. 3 - Intarcia Therapeutics
Financing round: $210 million ($160 million in equity, $50 million in private debt)
Based: Hayward, California
Date Announced: November 15, 2012
Lead Investors: Fidelity Investments, Baupost Group, Farallon Capital Management, New Enterprise Associates, New Leaf Venture Partners, and Venrock
To fund research for its promising Type II diabetes treatment, biopharmaceutical start-up Intarcia skipped partnerships with big pharma companies and sought private money instead. The investment will fund Phase 3 clinical trials for the implantable device, which, if proven effective, could regulate glucose levels for up to 12 months at a time--paving the way for the drug to go on sale as early as 2016.
No. 2 - SquareTrade
Financing round: $238 million
Based: San Francisco, California
Date Announced: January 25, 2012
Lead Investors: Bain Capital Partners, Bain Capital Ventures
Did you crack your iPhone screen? Accidentally throw your Nintendo Wii controller out the window? If you’d purchased a warranty from SquareTrade, which sells coverage on those products, as well as many sold on eBay and Amazon.com, the 13 year-old company would have you covered. The company’s massive funding round--the largest awarded this year--came after it nearly tripled sales in 2011. The money will go to helping it further expand its warranty business. When the deal was announced it said it expected sales tomore than double again in 2012.
No. 1 - Fisker Automotive
Financing round: $277 million
Based: Anaheim, California
Date Announced: September 26, 2012
Lead Investors: Advanced Equities, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates
After the U.S. Department of Energy froze the electric carmaker’s $529 million loan, citing operational failures, the company sought private investments to complete construction of its hybrid-electric car factory. The company has continued to struggle with everything but funding: It changed CEOs twice, issued a recall for its cars’ cooling fan unit after a car combusted in a California parking lot, and experienced a further setback in May when Consumer Reports reported the Karma it tested immediately broke down with under 200 miles on the odometer.
Data: PwC MoneyTree Report, Thomson Reuters
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BURT HELM is a senior writer for Inc. magazine. In 2013, his Inc. feature “After the Squeeze” was awarded the Stephen Barr Award for Feature writing, and his stories “After the Squeeze,” and “Turntable.fm: Where Did the Love Go?” received awards from Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Prior to Inc. he worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News and a department editor for Businessweek. He is a graduate of Yale University with a double major in Physics and English. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.