Top VC deals: Toyota and JetBlue invest in flying taxis, Tyson backs lab-grown meat

Key Points
  • Softbank Vision Fund is investing $300 million in a dog-walking app called Wag.
  • Toyota, JetBlue and Intel are among investors in Joby Aviation, a start-up building electric 5-passenger planes billed as "flying taxis."
  • Tyson Foods venture arm is investing in Memphis Meats, a company making meat alternatives grown from cells in a lab.

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


Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen steps down

Dish Network acquired ParkiFi for an undisclosed sum. The Denver-based company developed and installs sensors and gateways in parking spots. ParkiFi helps garage and lot operators, and other transportation organizations, to predict occupancy and direct drivers to available spaces. Earlier, ParkiFi raised around $12.9 million in venture funding from investors including Grotech Ventures and Crosslink Capital.


SoftBank Group Corp. founder, Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son.
Alessandro Di Ciommo | NurPhoto | Getty Images

SoftBank Vision Fund was the sole investor in a $300 million round for Wag, an app that lets dog owners book and track a walker for their pets. Wag also appointed a new CEO, former Yahoo and LifeLock executive Hillary Schneider. Based in Los Angeles, Wag competes with Rover, and had previously raised $61.5 million in venture funding from firms including: Bullpen Capital, Greylock, General Catalyst and Battery Ventures, to name a few.

Nuro unveiled its autonomous delivery vehicles on Tuesday. In a statement, the company said it had also raised $92 million in venture funding late last year. Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners led the round. Nuro was founded by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, veterans of the Google self-driving car project, and competes with a number of "delivery robot" makers, among them: Starship, Toyota and Udelv.

Joby Aviation is developing electric passenger planes and an air taxi service.

Joby Aviation raised $100 million in a series B round of funding to develop its air taxis, which are small, electric passenger planes that can take off and land vertically. Among investors in the start-up were corporate backers Intel Capital, Toyota AI Ventures and JetBlue Technology Ventures, with AME Cloud Ventures, 8VC and Capricorn Investment Group (and early SpaceX investor). The company is facing competition from Airbus-incubated Vahana, Uber Elevate, Boeing and others who are betting some people would rather take to the skies than drive through traffic.

Tyson Foods' venture arm has invested an undisclosed sum into Memphis Meats, the companies announced on Monday. The start-up, led by cardiologist turned CEO Uma Valeti, is on a quest to provide the world with protein that looks, tastes and cooks exactly like meat, but can be grown from cells in a lab, no livestock or farmland required.

Source: Halo Neuroscience

Investors are pouring $13 million in series B funding into Halo Neuroscience, a wearables and brain science company. Halo's headsets and software help athletes, dancers and musicians train their muscles and minds before a big event. TPG Growth led the new round joined by Lux Capital, JAZZ Ventuere Partners and Xfund. The company tested its Halo Sport devices with professional athletes including Olympians and NFL players.

Kleiner Perkins, Greylock and Index Ventures are among investors in a $25 million round for design software venture Figma. The company was founded by college dropouts who were part of Peter Thiel's controversial fellowship program in 2012. Figma is used to make collaboration easier among disparate teams working on any app prototype or digital interface.

Funds & firms

Andrew Ng, Coursera chairman.
Source: Coursera

Former Baidu chief scientist and Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng raised $175 million for a new, AI-focused foundry and fund. In a blog post on Tuesday, Ng wrote that the capital would go into AI-businesses "initiated" by the AI Fund, and called artificial intelligence the "new electricity. Limited partners in his fund included: NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners and the SoftBank Group.

Science, a start-up incubator in Santa Monica, California closed its first venture fund at $75 million, according to an SEC filing. The incubator helped to launch consumer companies like Urban Remedy, DogVacay (now merged with Rover), and Dollar Shave Club. Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club in a deal valued at $1 billion in 2016.