Top VC deals: Baidu invests in electric vehicles, Gilead buys cancer-fighting start-up

  • A Tesla and Toyota competitor in China, WM Motor, has raised $1.8 billion from investors including Baidu Capital to make smart electric vehicles.
  • Gilead Sciences acquired Cell Design Labs in a deal valued at $567 million. The company is developing cell-based cancer therapies.
  • Indigo Agriculture closed its series D round of funding at $203 million for probiotics that help farmers maximize crop yields.

Here's a round-up of the most important deals in venture capital from the past week.

Exits

Former Genentech executives Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Ryan Watts took their start-up, Denali Therapeutics, public this week. They raised more than $248 million in their stock market debut. Denali is expected to be the largest initial public offering in the biotech industry this year. The company is developing drugs to treat Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Denali priced its shares at $18 in the middle of the expected range. Prior to its IPO, it had raised about $350 million in venture funding from the Alaska Permanent Fund, Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, F-Prime Capital Partners and Fidelity Biosciences.

Drugmaker Gilead Sciences is acquiring Cell Design Labs, a start-up developing cell-based therapies for cancer and other complex diseases. The deal was valued at up to $567 million, Cell said. Previously, Cell Design Labs raised $34.4 million in venture funding from firms including: Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, Kite Pharma (a division of Gilead), Osage Ventures and Mission Bay Ventures.

Start-ups

Baidu Capital, the venture arm of China's search titan, announced their investment in electric vehicle maker WM Motor this week. The electric vehicle start-up has so far raised $1.8 billion of a targeted $4 billion round, WM Motor's CEO, Freeman Shen, confirmed in a press statement. A Toyota and Tesla competitor, WM Motor is also backed by SIG and Ameba Capital, among others. The company is expected to unveil its first mass-market, electric vehicle next week-- an all-electric SUV priced at around $30,000 with a 372-mile range.

Chinese commuters ride shared bicycles during rush hour on April 12, 2017 in Beijing, China.
Getty Images
Chinese commuters ride shared bicycles during rush hour on April 12, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Station-free bike sharing start-up Ofo raised more than $1 billion in equity funding in a deal that included Alibaba, according to a Financial Times report. The bike-sharing market in China is saturated enough that discarded bikes have become an issue in cities there, and at least one start-up, Bluegogo, recently folded. But Ofo and Mobike have become mainstays. According to FT, Ofo has "Put 10 million bikes on China's city streets, as well as 100,000 in 19 other countries around the world. On Wednesday Ofo launched in Paris."

SoftBank Vision Fund lead a $450 million investment into real-estate site Compass, which was previously known as Urban Compass. The company provides real estate agents with listings and other tools, and provides high-end home buyers and renters with listings targeted to their preferences. TechCrunch reported that Compass expects to rack up "16,000 transactions...and more than $350 million in revenue" this year.

Shell Technology Ventures, ABB Ventures and Cisco Ventures joined G2VP in a $33 million Series C funding round for Kespry. The start-up makes and uses drones to help businesses monitor and gather aerial data over industrial work sites, farms and infrastructure. Many of its customers are insurance companies that need to survey damages before paying out claims.

Fetch Robotics raised $25 million in a Series B round of venture funding for robots used in warehouses and other commercial settings. The company's autonomous robots can move loads around a warehouse or fulfillment center, and gather data about safety, productivity and more as they go. Sway Ventures led the round joined by O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), Shasta Ventures, and SoftBank.

Funds and firms

Steve Case
Paul McNamara | CNBC
Steve Case

Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Howard Schultz, Tory Burch and a cadre of other influential entrepreneurs and investors have joined Steve Case in his mission to back start-ups in underestimated "flyover" states. They have formed a new, $150 million fund called Rise of the Rest which will invest in fast-growing start-ups outside of Silicon Valley, Boston and New York.

Investor Shervin Pishevar exited his firm, Sherpa Capital, this week and Hyperloop One due to allegations of sexual misconduct with several women. Boston tech entrepreneur Laura Fitton shared details on the record with Axios. She said that Pishevar lured her to his hotel room under false pretenses, and made aggressive and unwanted advances despite her clear objections. He has also previously been accused of rape. Pishevar has denied any wrongdoing.

Despite rampant gender bias in tech and venture capital, the ranks of women are growing in the field, including in senior investing roles at major funds. This week, for example, FirstMark announced it had hired Beth Ferreira as Managing Director. And Acceleprise announced that it has hired Whitney Sales as General Partner.

Women who are investing partners at major venture firms have recently created a consortium called Female Founder to help women who are entrepreneurs. The group, founded by Sequoia's Jess Lee, is hosting "Female Founder Office Hours," and other events in different business and tech hubs across the U.S. The next event will be hosted by NEA Partner Dayna Grayson and USV Partner Rebecca Kaden in New York this January.