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As COVID-19 era drags on, VCs look beyond Zoom calls for due diligence and sourcing

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While the coronavirus has accelerated the dealmaking pace for many early-stage startups, activity has not come without adaptation.

Remote investment struggles for investors were clear from the get go: it’s challenging to invest millions in someone you have never met, and there’s not a lot to learn from “off-the-cuff” conversations that are calendared days in advance. Some investors said the pandemic was forcing them to stick with people they know in categories where they have experience, limiting the network that one can push money into.

Over six months into a global pandemic, though, new techniques are emerging to address some of these woes. The very art of a deal, from due diligence to sourcing, is changing from a cultural and technological standpoint.

One of the new places that recreates informal bonding and camaraderie is Matchbox.VC, formerly Fortnite.VC.

The service connects founders and investors over video games to network and source deals in a low-stress environment. Matchbox.VC was inspired from a tweet by Founders Fund principal Delian Asparouhov and has garnered interest from investors like Arjun Sethi from Tribe Capital, Ryan Shea, the ex-founder of Blockstack, Jake Chapman from AlphafundVC and Peter Rojas from Betaworks. Its last game night was backed by Yac, Tribe Capital and Shrug Capital.

The pitch is simple: founders and investors sign up on the website, answer basic questions about their focus, company and stage before picking three game choices from eight options that include Fortnite, COD: Warzone and Valorant.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/11/as-covid-19-era-drags-on-vcs-look-beyond-zoom-calls-for-due-diligence-and-sourcing/

Startups

Unity Software has strong opening, gaining 31% after pricing above its raised range

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Whoever said you can’t make money playing video games clearly hasn’t taken a look at Unity Software’s stock price.

On its first official day of trading, the company rose more than 31%, opening at $75 per share before closing the day at $68.35. Unity’s share price gains came after last night’s pricing of the company’s stock at $52 per share, well above the range of $44 to $48 which was itself an upward revision of the company’s initial target.

Games like “Pokémon GO” and “Iron Man VR” rely on the company’s software, as do untold numbers of other mobile gaming applications that use the company’s toolkit for support. The company’s customers range from small gaming publishers to large gaming giants like Electronic Arts, Niantic, Ubisoft and Tencent.

Unity’s IPO comes on the heels of other well-received debuts, including Sumo Logic, Snowflake and JFrog .

TechCrunch caught up with Unity’s CFO, Kim Jabal, after-hours today to dig in a bit on the transaction.

According to Jabal, hosting her company’s roadshow over Zoom had some advantages, as her team didn’t have to focus on tackling a single geography per day, allowing Unity to “optimize” its time based on who the company wanted to meet, instead, of say, whomever was free in Boston or Chicago on a particular Tuesday morning.

Jabal’s comments aren’t the first that TechCrunch has heard regarding roadshows going well in a digital format instead of as an in-person presentation. If the old-school roadshow survives, we’ll be surprised, though private jet companies will miss the business.

Talking about the transaction itself, Jabal stressed the connection between her company’s employees, value  and their access to that same value. Unity’s IPO was unique in that existing and former employees were able to trade 15% of their vested holdings in the company on day one, excluding “current executive officers and directors,” per SEC filings.

That act does not seemed to have dampened enthusiasm for the company’s shares, and could have helped boost early float, allowing for the two sides of the supply and demand curves to more quickly meet close to the company’s real value, instead of a scarcity-driven, more artificial figure.

Regarding Unity’s IPO pricing, Jabal discussed what she called a “very data-driven process.” The result of that process was an IPO price that came in above its raised range, and still rose during its first day’s trading, but less than 50%. That’s about as good an outcome as you can hope for in an IPO.

One final thing for the SaaS nerds out there. Unity’s “dollar-based net expansion rate” went from very good to outstanding in 2020, or in the words of the S-1/A:

Our dollar-based net expansion rate, which measures expansion in existing customers’ revenue over a trailing 12-month period, grew from 124% as of December 31, 2018 to 133% as of December 31, 2019, and from 129% as of June 30, 2019 to 142% as of June 30, 2020, demonstrating the power of this strategy.

We had to ask. And the answer, per Jabal, was a combination of the company’s platform strength and how customers tend to use more of Unity’s services over time, which she described as growing with their customers. And the second key element was 2020’s unique dynamics that gave Unity a “tailwind” thanks to “increased usage, particularly in gaming.”

Looking at our own gaming levels in 2020 compared to 2019, that checks out.

This post closes the book on this week’s IPO class. Tired yet? Don’t be. Palantir is up next, and then Asana .

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/18/unity-software-has-strong-opening-gaining-31-after-pricing-above-its-raised-range/

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Unity, a gaming startup and maker of software used to create 50% of all new mobile games, raises over $1.3 billion in IPO at $13.6 billion valuation

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Last month, we wrote about Unity Technologies (Unity) after the gaming startup filed to go public. For the first time, Unity also revealed its financials after it filed its S-1 statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. As of 2018, Unity software is used to create more than 50% of all new mobile games.

Today, Unity finally made its public debut. Its stock surges as shares of Unity opened at $75 in Friday morning trading, up 44% from its initial-public-offering price of $52 a share. The initial public offering (IPO) price came above a raised expected range of $44 to $48 a share. Unity share later settled at $68.85 raising more than $1.3  at a $13.6 billion valuation.

The San Francisco-based Unity makes 3D gaming software and tools that enable developers to create games and other computer-generated entertainment, and its game engine runs thousands of console, mobile, and PC titles. As of 2018, Unity has been used to create 60 percent of augmented reality and virtual reality content.

Unity’s rival, Epic Games, is currently in a fight with Apple after the Fortnite game’s maker announced new payment options that allow players to buy in-game credits direct from Epic Games. Epic has since sued Apple in court. The ongoing saga with Apple could put Epic’s Unreal Engine in jeopardy and open more opportunities for Unity to increase its market share.

Unity was founded in Denmark in 2004 by David Helgason, Joachim Ante, and Nicholas Francis as Over the Edge Entertainment. The company later changed its name to Unity Technologies in 2007. Unity is the creator of the world’s leading real-time 3D development platform, giving users the most powerful and accessible tools to create, operate, and monetize experiences for the real-time world. The 16-year old gaming startup boasts business from game makers such as EA, Microsoft, and Zynga. Unity is based in San Francisco. It has 3,379 employees as of June 30. Backers include DFJ, Sequoia Capital, and Silver Lake Partners.

Unity’s technology software is by over 1.5M monthly active creators. In 2019 more than half of the top 1,000 games in the App Store and Google’s Play Store were built with Unity, the company said in Monday’s filing. In addition to offering the game engine for development, Unity derives revenue from service that can help companies monetize their content, including through advertising. Customers include BMW, EA, Microsoft, Niantic, Sony, Tencent, and Zynga.


Source: https://techstartups.com/2020/09/18/unity-gaming-startup-maker-software-used-create-50-new-mobile-games-raises-1-3-billion-ipo-13-6-billion-valuation/

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FBI finally arrested NS8 founder and CEO Adam Rogas after SEC fraud investigation found he defrauded investors of $123 million

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A little over a week ago, we wrote about cyber fraud protection tech startup NS8 after SEC started a fraud investigation about the startup and its CEO following the company’s $100+ million summer financing. A week earlier, NS8 CEO, Adam Rogas, abruptly left the company and the company laid off hundreds of employees.

Finally, justice is about to be served. Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that “Adam Rogas, founder, and CEO of a cyber fraud prevention startup has been arrested and charged with the securities fraud scheme.” DOJ said, “Adam Rogas allegedly raised $123 million from investors using financial statements that showed tens of millions of dollars of revenue and assets that did not exist.”

According to DOJ, ROGAS, 43, of Las Vegas, Nevada, is charged with one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of fraud in the offer or sale of securities, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences, in this case, are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

In a statement, DOJ said:

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that ADAM ROGAS, the co-founder and former CEO, CFO, and member of the board of directors of Las Vegas-based cyberfraud prevention company NS8, Inc. (“NS8”), was charged in a Complaint in Manhattan federal court with securities fraud, fraud in the offer and sale of securities, and wire fraud. ROGAS used fraudulent financial data to obtain over $123 million in financing for NS8, of which he personally obtained approximately $17.5 million. ROGAS was arrested today in the District of Nevada and is expected to be presented before a judge there tomorrow.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, Adam Rogas was the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. While raising over $100 million from investors for his fraud prevention company, Rogas himself allegedly was engaging in a brazen fraud. Today’s arrest of Rogas ensures that he will be held accountable for his alleged scheme.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “It seems ironic that the co-founder of a company designed to prevent online fraud would engage in fraudulent activity himself, but today that’s exactly what we allege Adam Rogas did. Rogas allegedly raised millions of dollars from investors based on fictitious financial affirmations, and in the end, walked away with nearly $17.5 million worth of that money. Within our complex financial crimes branch, securities fraud cases remain among our top priorities. We’ve seen far too many examples of unscrupulous actors engaging in this type of criminal activity, and we continue to work diligently to weed out this behavior whenever and wherever we find it.”

Back in June, we wrote about NS8 after the fraud prevention startup raised $123 million Series A funding to provide online fraud detection and prevention for small-and-medium-sized businesses. The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and AXA Venture Partners (AVP).

Founded in 2016 by Adam Rogas, NS8’s fraud prevention platform combines behavioral analytics, real-time scoring, and global monitoring to help merchants of all sizes optimize order processing and minimize risk. Built on the Protect API, this app integrates directly into NS8’s platform and allows merchants to begin fighting fraud within minutes.

ADAM ROGAS was a co-founder of NS8 and served as its CEO, CFO, and a member of its board of directors.  ROGAS was also primarily responsible for the company’s fundraising activities.  NS8, based in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a cyberfraud prevention company that developed and sold electronic tools to help online vendors assess the fraud risks of customer transactions.  In the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2020, NS8 engaged in fundraising rounds through which it issued Series A Preferred Shares and obtained approximately $123 million in investor funds.


Source: https://techstartups.com/2020/09/18/fbi-finally-arrested-ns8-founder-ceo-adam-rogas-sec-fraud-investigation-found-founder-cyber-fraud-prevention-tech-startup-defrauded-investors-123-million/

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