Top VC deals: Amazon buys Sqrrl, Facebook buys Confirm.io and more women are raising funds

  • Facebook acquired an identity authentication start-up called Confirm.io.
  • Amazon Web Services acquired a cybersecurity start-up called Sqrrl to bolster its threat detection capabilities.
  • A woman-led venture firm, Aspect Ventures, closed $181 million fund. Cisco and Melinda Gates are among its limited partners.

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

Exits

Source: Getty Images

Facebook acquired Confirm.io, a Boston-based start-up that helps businesses run identity authentication checks on government issued ID's. If Facebook fully integrates Confirm.io's "biometric identity authentication" APIs into its own platform, it may become easier for users to regain access to their accounts in extenuating circumstances by scanning in a drivers license. Today, Facebook's billions of users can send the company a copy of their photo ID by snail mail to regain access. The tech could also help Facebook create a digital passport.

Amazon's cloud business acquired Sqrrl, a cybersecurity start-up that spun out of the National Security Agency. The deal comes as Amazon Web Services aims to pick up more business from U.S. intelligence agencies. In November AWS announced the formation of a "secret" region of data centers meant to handle computing and data storage jobs from those clients. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sqrrl had raised $26.5 million in funding from Spring Lake Equity Partners, Matrix Partners, Rally Ventures and Accomplice.

Start-ups

SoftBank Vision Fund led an $865 million series D investment in Katerra, a construction tech start-up that is making buildings in a factory. The deal valued the start-up at just over $3 billion, Katerra chairman and co-founder Michael Marks told CNBC. Marks was previously the interim CEO of Tesla and CEO of Flextronics (now known as Flex).

An e-mail management firm called Front raised $66 million in series B funding to topple Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. Sequoia led the deal joined by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and the company's earlier backers. CEO Mathilde Collins, in an interview with TechCrunch, said fifty percent of her company's daily active users rely on the service exclusively to manage their e-mail, and never open their other inboxes.

Chicken breasts and parsley-pecan pesto with roasted beets and oranges from SunBasket
Sarah Whitten | CNBC
Chicken breasts and parsley-pecan pesto with roasted beets and oranges from SunBasket

Meal kit companies in the U.S. may have a hard time raising venture funding, especially after Blue Apron tanked in its first year as a public company. However, SunBasket raised $57.8 million in fresh funding in a round led by August Capital. SunBasket puts a "clean eating" twist on its meal kits, offering subscribers gluten-free, paleo and vegetarian options. Recipes are created by Executive Chef Justine Kelly, best known for her work at Slanted Door and appearances on Iron Chef.

Funds and firms

Aspect Ventures partners Jennifer Fonstad and Theresia Gouw closed their second fund at $181 million. Limited partners included Melinda Gates and Cisco, among others. The firm's portfolio has incldued a mix of early stage enterprise and consumer tech companies, notably: Birchbox, Urbansitter, Gusto, Cato Networks, and the now publicly traded ForeScout Technologies.

Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake and Jaiku co-founder Jyri Engeström, formerly investors with Founder Collective and True Ventures, have launched a new firm dubbed YesVC. The fund is raising $50 million and plans to invest in twenty to thirty seed-stage companies over the next several years, according to a blog post by Caterina Fake announcing her plans.

Privateer Holdings, which describes itself as "a private equity firm shaping the future of the global legal cannabis industry," added about $100 million to its coffers. With its focus on legal weed, Privateer also committed to donate $5 million worth of equity, at the firm's current value, to charities that "help communities harmed by cannabis prohibition." The firm has made prior investments in cannabis companies including Leafly, Tilray, Marley Natural and The Goodship.

CNBC's Jordan Novet contributed to this report.