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Top VC deals this week: Amazon buys Blink, Daimler backs an Uber competitor, Didi raises billions

  • Amazon is acquiring the makers of wireless home security cameras, Blink.
  • Daimler is acquiring French Uber competitors, Chauffer Prive.
  • Didi Chuxing raised $4 billion to fuel its autonomous vehicle research and global expansion.

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

Exits

Jeff Bezos
Paul Morigi | Getty Images
Jeff Bezos

Amazon is acquiring Blink, a Boston-area start-up originally incorporated as Immedia Semiconductor. Blink makes wireless home security devices, including a camera and internet-connected doorbell that are compatible with the Amazon Echo. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, the company's investors confirmed that Immedia is being acquired in whole by Amazon. (It is not spinning out the Blink brand.)

Blink investor and board member David Aronoff, a general partner at Flybridge, told CNBC that the company's cameras have been popular because they work well in low-light environments, were affordable relative to competitors' devices, and were designed to be "super low power"-- they run for two years on a pair of replaceable, AA lithium batteries. The acquisition could help make Amazon more competitive with Google and its Nest brand security systems.

CEO of German carmaker Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, Dieter Zetsche.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images
CEO of German carmaker Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, Dieter Zetsche.

German automaker Daimler is acquiring Chauffer Prive, competitors to Uber in France, the companies announced on Thursday. The parent of Mercedes Benz, Daimler is investing in and acquiring ridesharing companies the world over. For example, it previously invested in Dubai-based Uber competitors Careem, and earlier this year acquired the German app Flinc, which facilitates short-distance carpooling. Other car companies are taking a similar tack to fight off competition from tech giants like Alphabet, which owns Waze and Waymo, and younger car makers like Tesla or BYD.

Start-ups

Chinese ride-hailing giants Didi Chuxingraised $4 billion in new growth funding to dominate the global market. The company is getting ready to expand in both Taiwan and Mexico in 2018. With a relatively new AI research and development office in Silicon Valley, Didi increasingly competes with Uber for a supply of tech talent, drivers and passengers. Didi's backers include Apple, Alibaba and Softbank, which has made an offer to invest significantly in Uber as well.

Carbon has raised $143 million of a targeted, $200 million series D round for its advanced manufacturing technology. The company's 3-D printers are already being used to manufacture a huge range of items, including car and airplane parts, props for Hollywood studios and, most famously, the lattice-like midsole in Adidas' Futurecraft 4D sneakers. Investors in the new round included: Baillie Gifford, Fidelity, Archina Capital, Adidas, General Electric and JSR Corp.

SoftBank Group is leading a $120 million investment in Lemonade, a New York City-based "insurtech" start-up. Lemonade's app lets home owners or renters in the U.S. quickly find and buy property and casualty insurance. The app also lets users file claims and get paid within minutes via mobile. Other investors in Lemonade include its earlier backers: Aleph, Allianz, General Catalyst, Google's venture arm GV, Sequoia Capital, Sound Ventures, Thrive Capital, Tusk Ventures, and XL Innovate.

Norwest Venture Partners led a $40 million investment in Common, a startup that offers "flexible, shared housing," mostly to young adults in the U.S. The "co-living" trend in real estate appeals to renters who don't want to buy their own furnishings or sign a traditional, long-term lease. At Common, members get their own private bedroom and access to well-appointed living spaces, stocked kitchens and bathrooms, and wifi. They can move to a room in another Common building and town with two week's notice. Poised to open new buildings across the U.S., Common competes with the WeLive subsidiary of WeWork and other regional players.

One Concern, a start-up using machine learning to predict the impact of natural disasters on different communities and industries has raised $20 million in a series A funding round led by NEA. The company's co-founder, Ahmad Wani, was inspired to develop the hazard modeling software after surviving the 2014 floods in Kashmir which devastated the region. The company's advisors include former CIA director General David Patreus, and John Roos, who was the U.S. ambassador to Japan during the tsunami that set off the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Alphabet's venture arm, GV (formerly Google Ventures), led a $60 million series C investment in FLX Bio, involved in the "discovery and development of oral small-molecule drugs to activate the immune system against cancer," according to a company statement. Other investors in the round included: Celgene, Kleiner Perkins, Topspin Parnters and The Column Group.

UpLift raised $15 million in venture funding to give loans to would-be travelers. The company's UpLift Pay Monthly Solution is used by United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and others to enable customers to pay for their big trips in monthly installments. According to the Global Business Travel Association, airfare and hotel costs are expected to rise next year in the U.S. which could boost UpLift or its competitors including Affirm and Airfordable.

FarmWise raised a $5.7 million seed round for its "autonomous weeding machines." Sebastien Boyer, co-founder and CEO of FarmWise, wrote in a statement that the company's technology could help reduce or even replace the use of herbicides on farms, and prove a boon to organic farmers. Investors included: Playground Global, Felicis Ventures, Basis Set Ventures and Valley Oak Investments. Playground's Bruce Leak, best-known as the inventor of QuickTime, is joining the start-up's board of directors.

Firms and funds

Sequoia is trying to raise a new, $5 billion to $6 billion fund, Recode reported. If successful, the fund would be the largest single fund closed by a U.S. venture firm to-date. But it would still would pale in comparison to the amount of capital managed by some sovereign wealth funds, corporations and the hugely ambitious SoftBank Vision Fund.

An accelerator called Yield Lab has raised a $150 million fund, according to SEC filings published on Friday. Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri with a second accelerator in Galway, Ireland, Yield Lab invests in start-ups working on agricultural technologies and food science. The fund is planning to expand its "agtech" accelerator to Buenos Aires, Argentina next year according to its website.