Here's a round-up of the most important deals in venture capital from the past week.
Target is acquiring same day delivery start-up Shipt for $550 million, the companies announced on Wednesday. Shipt, which is based in Alabama and has an office in San Francisco, will continue to work with other retailers even after the deal. Shipt's competitors include Instacart and Postmates. But the deal is seen as an attempt by Target to compete against Amazon, especially around groceries. Prior to the deal, Shipt had raised $65.2 million in venture funding from firms including Greycroft, e.ventures and Harbert Venture Partners.
Apple confirmed that it's acquiring Shazam, a popular song-identification mobile app, in a deal reportedly valued at $400 million. Founded in 1999, Shazam was profitable prior to the acquisition. Shazam sells ads and makes additional revenue by referring users to buy music downloads or stream songs on other music services including Spotify, Apple Music's major competitor. Apple has not yet disclosed plans for how it will use Shazam's audio-identification or other technologies moving forward.
Bill Gates's Cascade Investment, Y Combinator's Continuity Fund, Viking Global and General Atlantic poured $275 million into Boston-based Gingko Bioworks. The biotech company, founded in 2009 employs synthetic biology to develop custom organisms for companies in a range of industries. The organisms are used to make proprietary flavorings and fragrances, nutritional supplements, pharmaceutical and agricultural products. According to sources familiar with the deal, Gingko Bioworks is now valued at between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion.
Suzuki Motor, Konica Minolta, Japan Airlines, KDDI and several other Japanese investors are investing $90.2 million into ispace, a Tokyo start-up that is planning to send robots around the moon and to explore the surface of the moon by 2020. The company eventually wants to use its lunar landers and other robotics to set up a permanent, human colony on the moon, SpaceNews reported. It's also a finalist for the lucrative Google Lunar X Prize competing on Team Hakuto.
Founded by former Intel executive Raviv Melamed, Tel Aviv-based Vayyar Imaging raised $45 million. The company makes 3-D imaging sensors based on low power radio waves. The sensors can see through smoke, fog or solid surfaces. Vayyar will sell its sensors across a range of industries, including automotive, health and consumer electronics. Walden Riverwood and ITI co-led the deal.
AMC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox and Nickelodeon are among investors in a $30 million venture round for Dreamscape Immersive, a virtual reality start-up. As Variety described it, "Dreamscape Immersive is one of a handful of start-ups looking to take VR out of the living room." The company creates VR content that is accessed only at specific locations, such as a historic landmark or theme parks. The start-up also partnered with Nickelodeon to create a "VR experience" based on the intellectual property of the kids' network.
Beijing-based Xiaoe Weidian raised $30 million in for its "cashier-free stores." The company installs snack bars in office buildings where employees can purchase food and drinks by scanning a QR code and paying with their phones. China Money Network reports that Xiaoe Weidian places snack bars in offices where customers can buy snacks, drinks and instant noodles by scanning a QR code and paying via mobile phone. The start-up has thousands of its unmanned stores installed in offices throughout mainland China and boasts big clients like Tencent, Baidu and Didi Chuxing.
Groupon co-founder and ex-CEO Andrew Mason launched a new venture called Descript with $5 million in venture funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The company's software makes easier the work of podcasting and transcription. Among other things, it enables audio editors to manipulate text on a screen to change a track.
Koch Industries is expanding into venture capital, Axios reported, with its new venture arm, Koch Disruptive Technologies. The VC effort will be led by Chase Koch (son of Koch Industries' CEO and chairman Charles Koch). The newly revealed fund led a $150 million investment in Insightec, an Israeli medical device maker founded in 1999. Insightech, according to a company press release, makes "MRI-guided focused ultrasound" devices that could be used to treat Parkinson's disease, prostate cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer, as well as Alzheimer's.
Y Combinator is starting an accelerator-like program for start-ups that are already up and running but want to juice their growth. The YC Growth Program will be managed by Ali Rowghani and Anu Hariharan, partners in the Y Combinator Continuity Fund.