Follow the money: A roundup of DFW tech and startup fundings, M&As and investor activity in June

The online educational marketplace is the latest in many startups lured to move or expand in the city by a grant from its economic development corporation’s Innovation Fund

Follow the money: A roundup of DFW tech and startup fundings, M&As and investor activity in June


North Texas startups pulled in more than $100 million in venture capital last month.

In all, more than 10 local startups raised new funds, and two other announced plans to start new raises. Most of that VC funding came from a handful of deals, including ride-hailing service Alto’s $45 million Series B, biotech firm OncoNano Medicine’s nearly $50 million Series B and a $25 million investment in newly formed solar tech company CubicPV.


Including the M&A deal between Hunt Perovskite Technologies and 1366 Technologies that formed CubicPV, the DFW scene saw 15 other M&A deals. Last month also saw Dallas’ Spectral MD go public in London, while logistics unicorn Lalamove, which has its U.S. hub in the region, confidentially file for IPO in the U.S.


However, the month did put a dampener on the recent wave of SPAC activity the region has seen in previous months. In June, three local blank check companies – Arctos Northstar Acquisition Corp., MDH Acquisition Corp., and DHC Acquisition Corp. – announced they had received delisting notices from the NYSE and Nasdaq due to an SEC statement asking SPACs to list warrants as derivative liabilities instead of equity securities.


To help you keep track of what’s going on around DFW, NTX Inno put together a roundup of June’s financial activity.


Pro tip: You can check out daily updates on funding, M&A and VC activity in our newsletter, The Beat.  

Funding

The Citizenry, which has sold wares direct to consumers online, said it raised $20 million in a B round from NextWorld Evergreen, a growth equity firm. The Dallas company had raised an A round at the end of 2019


Alto unveiled a $45 million Series B effort — and that brings its total to about $60M, according to Will Coleman, CEO of the company. The fresh financing was co-led by Tuesday Capital in the San Francisco area and Goff Capital in Fort Worth. Other investors include Franklin Templeton in San Mateo, Calif. The investment will back Alto’s nationwide expansion – and is set to more than triple the company’s footprint that now includes the Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles areas. At the same time, the company plans to shift to an electric fleet in early 2022 and fully ramp that up for all of its vehicles by the end of 2023, it said in a statement.


Fort Worth’s Simpli.fi, a localized programmatic advertising solutions company, received an investment from PE giant Blackstone. While specifics were not disclosed, the deal values the company at about $1.5 billion. Blackstone joins GTCR as a majority shareholder of Simpli.fi. The company is planning to use the new funds to continue its growth and fuel its acquisition strategy. Simpli.fi made its first acquisition of North Carolina-based accounting, billing and project management firm The Advantage Software Company in January, a move that brought its headcount to about 400.


Botisimo has a new investor – one that has already been using its tech to connect with fans. Dallas esports organization Envy Gaming made a strategic investment in the local cross-platform chatbot tool developer, adding to the $700,000 seed round Botisimo secured from Mason Bridge, LLC in October. Financial terms were not disclosed. As part of the deal, Rymer will join Botisimo’s board.


Colleyville-based Lender Compliance Technologies, a solutions provider for automotive and recreational vehicle lenders, announced landing a $4.15 million Series A round led by Automotive Ventures. Driven Capital Partners joined the round. The company, which launched last year, plans to use the funding to build out its software products. Its flagship product, which helps with compliance in F&I product cancellations and refunds, launched in April of this year.


PawTree, a Southlake-based maker of pet treats and accessories, reported raising $1 million in equity funding from nine investors, according to an SEC filing. In April, the company amended a previous filing to report raising nearly $8 million in equity funding. PawTree was founded in 2014. 


Grapevine-based video game retailer GameStop is cashed in on its meme status. The company raised $1.13 billion in an equity offering program. The move comes after the company announced it would offer or sell up to 5M shares at varying times earlier this month. It then turned around and unloaded the full amount. The move comes as activist investors attempt to transform the company into an e-commerce business, something aided by the fact it recently named Matt Furlong, who was formerly with Amazon, as its new CEO. As Reuters notes, the raise essentially turns GameStop into a sort of SPAC – a company with large amounts of cash looking to become something new.


Plano’s Clapper attracted $3 million in a seed round, according to Edison Chen, CEO. The company will use the funding in office space, bandwidth and hiring, including engineering and operations. Clapper is a social media focused on video — and is not TikTok, the service that’s popular with teenagers. The Plano-based app is specifically for adults, with no admittance for those under 17, as it seeks to encourage a platform where folks show their “candid lives,” said Chen 


This one slipped by me last week. Karen Jo Matsler, a master teacher with UT Arlington’s UTeach Now program, teaches STEM to secondary students, and Ramón López, a UT Arlington professor of physics, landed a nearly $1 million NSF grant to teach quantum physics in the high school classroom. The initiative, called Quantum for All, is kicking off with a series of workshops next month to train teachers across the country in the subject. The goal is to prepare students for the skills they will need when entering emerging technology fields.


With nearly $67 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, Southlake-based biotech startup OncoNano Medicine announced raising a nearly $50 million Series B round. The round was led by Advantech Capital and joined by Dallas family offices and individual investors. The new funding will help kick off new trials for its cancerous tissue locating technology. In addition, it will help OncoNano begin clinical trials in Europe for its therapeutic development program, with plans of starting human trials in 2022.


Fort Worth’s Pumpjack Dataworks, the sports-focused customer data platform with offices in New York and Madrid, reported raising $150K in debt, equity, and convertible notes out of a $1.3 million offering. Based on previous SEC filings, Pumpjack has raised about $700,000 since its launch in 2018.


In May, Nickson CEO Cameron Johnson told NTX Inno he was closing on a “significant” Series A funding. In June, that round has closed. The Dallas-based furnishing subscription platform landed a $12 million round led by Pendulum OpportunitiesTechCrunch reports. It was joined by Motley Fool Ventures, Revolution's Rise of the Rest and Backstage Capital, which Dallas-native Arlan Hamilton founded. With the new funding, the subscription-based company is planning to invest in its technology as it looks to expand into Austin and Houston, where it has been recently beta testing and servicing from its Dallas warehouse.


Kathleen Erickson has identified more than 200 locations across the U.S. for her indoor golf concept. But first, she needs to start with one, and she's planning to make DFW its home. While she's been working on the concept – called The Short Game Place – since 1992, advances in architectural engineering and the quality of artificial turf have finally caught up with the technology and vision she has for it. Now, she's looking to raise $3 million in outside funding to bring it to life, with plans to scale from there rapidly. 


After launching Language Learning Market from McKinney at the end of April, the startup is rapidly expanding in the city. The online educational marketplace and language learning resource directory were the latest in many startups lured to move or expand in the city by a grant from its economic development corporation’s Innovation Fund. With the funding, Language Learning Market plans to create 17 new tech and leadership jobs over the next three years, bringing its total headcount to 20. In addition, it will be expanding its headquarters at the Millhouse McKinney.


After launching last year, Plano-based Aiden Technologies, autonomous endpoint security managed service provider, landed a $2.9 million seed round led by Right Side Capital Management. Joining the round were Congress Avenue Ventures, Intercept Ventures, SAJE Investments, the Gaingels, and other individual investors. With the new funding, Aiden is planning to bolster its tech offering and fuel its go-to-market strategy. The company said its technology helps organizations in highly regulated industries meet compliance standards. 


Anthony Cummings, an associate professor of geospatial information sciences at UT Dallaslanded a $523,000 five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study how far-off changes, like fluctuations in stock markets and metals' price, affect the landscapes of indigenous people. His work will specifically look at indigenous people in Guyana, using novel imaging techniques to map forest cover to determine changes in use and cover. 


When former NFL offensive lineman Jason Fox saw Cam Newton jamming some tune on his Beats, warming up while hyping up the crowd, he really wanted to know what he was listening to. And he realized the thousands of fans in the stadium likely wanted to know, too. That was the idea behind music tech startup EarBuds, which has workers in Dallas and Austin when it was formed a few years ago. The company announced it was looking to raise $3 million to build out its platform, of which $2.5 million has been committed, Fox said. The EarBuds platform adds a social component to the music listening experience, allowing users to curate, share playlists and engage with each other in real-time or retroactively. 


Lured by McKinney EDC's Innovation Fund grants, Irving-based robotic mowing company Robin Autopilot relocated its HQ to the city. It's bringing 17 employees, with plans to create 58 more jobs during the next three years. According to McKinney EDC senior VP Danny Chavez, the move marks the most significant relocation spurred by the Innovation Fund so far.


Buff City Soap, a maker of plant-based personal care products that moved its HQ to Dallas from Memphis last year, announced raising new funding from PE firm General Atlantic. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. With the funding, Buff City is looking to expand its product lineup and grow its e-commerce presence. The company has been franchising since 2018 and currently has about 100 U.S. locations. When the company announced plans to relocate to Dallas – a move spurred by the proximity to its backers Guideboat Capital and Crux Capital – CEO Justin Delaney said it was eyeing Japan and Korea for potential international expansion.


Productable, an Austin-based platform that helps organizations drive innovation insights and track new technology implementation with a distributed team in Austin and Dallas, landed a $1.2 million multi-phase contract with the U.S. Air Force's CyberWorx unit. The end goal is to build a custom innovation program to connect the Air Force to scalable solutions to its issues. Productable was launched in 2019 by Founder and CEO Rachel Kuhr Conn, the former head of product and innovation at Mark Cuban Companies.


M&As

Dallas’ Hunt Perovskite Technologies (HPT), a solar cell tech developer part of Hunt Consolidatedmerged with 1366 Technologies, a maker of solar wafers based in Bedford, Mass. The combined entity, called CubicPV, received $25 million in funding from Hunt Consolidated’s Dallas-based, energy-focused investment arm to bring the two companies' technologies into a single tandem module. Joining the funding were First Solar, an Arizona-based maker of solar panels, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a sustainable energy-focused fund founded by Gates in 2015. As part of the deal, Hunt Energy Ventures will get a seat on CubicPV’s board.


Frisco’s Dairy.com, a dairy industry-focused intelligence platform, acquired ever.ag, a Chicago-based risk management company. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The move brings Dairy.com’s total headcount to more than 200. 


Exeter Finance, a tech-enabled indirect auto finance company, based in Irving, announced plans to be acquired by Warburg Pincus with funds managed by Blackstone. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year, were not disclosed. Following its closing, Exeter’s CEO Jason Grubb will continue to lead the company.


Less than a year after its formal launch, KarbonPay made its first acquisition. The local cloud-based payroll automation SaaS provider scooped up Delaware’s XmartClock, a platform for employees to clock in and out remotely. XmartClock will help KarbonPay expand its capabilities and geographical reach, according to KarbonPay CEO and founder Brad Price. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.


Summit Off Duty Services, an Irving-based off-duty law enforcement staffing service company that’s part of the Athos Group (which also owns local tech company RollKall) acquired Georgia security provider Coastal Protective Services and LEO Traffic Safety, a construction security service provider. The terms of the two deals were not disclosed.


Plano’s asTech, an auto repair diagnostics company, acquired Austin-based startup Mobile Tech RX, a business management platform for auto repair shops, the Austin American-Stateman reports. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Mobile most recently raised a $4.2 million Series A in 2019. With the deal, Mobile expects to expand its presence while keeping its operations in Austin.


Miami’s H.I.G. Capital acquired Enseo, a Plano-based provider of in-room technology products focused on the hotel, senior living, education and health care markets. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The pandemic brought its ups and downs for the company. Last year, when the hospitality industry largely closed, Enseo expanded into education and senior living. Last April, the company also saw its sales fall by about 80% YoY, leading to layoffs and furloughs of most of its staff. However, a later PPP loan allowed Enseo to bring most of its workers back. While declining to disclose revenue figures, Founder, Chair, and interim CEO Vanessa Ogle said 2020 was still one of the company's strongest years. 


Dallas dating app giant Match Group wrapped up its biggest acquisition deal to date. Initially announced in February, Match has finalized its more than $1.7 billion cash and stock deal to acquire South Korean social media and video company Hyperconnect. The move will bring more than 400 employees under the Match umbrella.


Dallas retail company Neiman Marcus, which emerged from bankruptcy reorganization last year, bought Seattle-based retail and fashion SaaS platform Stylyze. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to finalize in the fall. Neiman and Stylyze have been working together since 2018. The deal is part of a three-year plan for Neiman to invest more than $500 million in digital technologies.   


Argano acquired Irvine's Arbela Technologies, which has roughly 200 employees. With the deal, the company has about 600 employees. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Argano, which has been expanding its reach with acquisitions, is on the hunt for more deals. CEO Chip Register said in a recent interview that the business could have seven or eight by the end of the year in total.


Plano-based ResMan, a property management SaaS platform, acquired Investor Deal Room, a Missouri-based investor management software company. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. ResMan has raised $36 million since its launch in 2000, according to Crunchbase, it plans to continue developing and selling Investor Deal Room as a separate brand from its proptech platform.


Dallas-based Novo Labs, a restaurant-focused AI startup, was acquired by SYNQ3 Restaurant Solutions, a Colorado-based competitor in the space, Dallas Innovates reported. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to Pitchbook, Novo Labs was founded by CEO Clinton Coleman and Chief Product Officer Jeff Loukas in 2017 and has raised about $2.8 million. Based on LinkedIn information, it has about 12 employees.


Plano’s Siemens Digital Industries Software acquired French software startup Nextflow Software to make it part of its Xcelerator portfolio of services. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Last year, Nextflow raised a €3 million (or about $3.65 million) Series A round co-led by Ouest Ventures III, Litto Invest and Bpifrance.


Tyler Technologies, a public sector-focused software solutions provider, based in Plano, announced plans to acquire VendEngine, a Tennessee-based electronic payments company focused on corrections facilities, in an $84 million deal. The deal is expected to close in Q3. VendEngine will continue to operate out of the Nashville area.


Investor Activity

Mark Cuban’s firm Radical Investments was one of a handful of backers joining a $3.3 million seed round for D.C.-based Otolith Labs, a medical device maker focused on vertigo. The company declined to name other investors but noted the rest came from investors local to the Greater Washington and Baltimore region. With the funding, Otolith is planning to pilot research and finalize the design of its upcoming clinical trials.


In what it says is the largest funding round raised by a U.S. edtech company, Los Angeles’ Age of Learning, the company best known for its ABCmouse software, landed a $300 million equity investment led by Fort Worth- and San Francisco-based firm TPG. Joining the raise were Qatar Investment Authority and Madrone Capital Partners. Age of Learning, founded in 2007, said it plans to use the funds to invest in new products and tech.


Fort Worth-based Harvest Returns, an online investment platform focused on innovative agriculture tech and practices, announced Capra Foods, a Goldthwaite, Tx.-based lamb producer using regenerative practices, raised $1.1 million on its crowdfunding platform. Capra is planning to use the funding to increase its production capabilities and add to its flock. Since its launch in 2016, Harvest has raised more than $14 million for ag-related businesses. 


A local PE firm is looking to invest in tech. ReignRock Capital Partners raised more than $8 million in equity from 20 investors in a new fund titled “Cataboom ReignRock LLC” to invest in technology, according to an SEC filing. The firm invests in lower middle-market companies using tailored investments in energy, technology and telecommunications.


Dallas’ Sentiero Ventures, an early-stage investment firm focused on AI-enabled SaaS startups, was an investor on a $3.6 million seed round for Toronto-based Data Sentinel, a data management platform with its U.S. HQ in Austin. The round was led by Brightspark Ventures. Sentiero contributed $250,000, the first investment from its new $10 million fund, and was joined by Delbridge Capital Partners and several angel investors. Data Sentinel plans to use the funding to build out its tech and reach new customers.


Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was tapped to lead a new $5 billion climate-related fund for Fort Worth- and San Francisco-based investment firm TPG, the Wall Street Journal reports. Called the TPG Rise Climate LP fund, it has already received a $400 million commitment from the Washing State Investment Board. Like other Rise funds, it will focus on social and environmental impact. The new fund will look to deploy growth and private equity investments to reduce carbon emissions. 


While keeping tight-lipped on how much it’s looking to raise and raising funds for, Fort Worth- and San Francisco-based PE giant TPG filed for eight new vehicles to raise capital. None of those raises have any capital yet, but will be in pooled investment funds and limited partnership interests. Check out all of the new funds here


Princeton Equity Group, a firm co-headquartered in Dallas and New Jersey specializing in family- or founder-owned majority investments, raised $350 million for its first fund. The firm is looking to acquire and scale non-restaurant franchise-model businesses. Princeton seeks businesses expanding rapidly — 15-50 percent in organic top-line growth, with $2-20 million EBITDA. It’s planning to deploy the fund over the next four to five years, to close on about 10 platform acquisitions. 


Harvest Returns, a Fort Worth-based crowdsourced investment platform focused on agricultural technologies and innovative practices, reported raising two new funds. The first, called Harvest Invest-021, has raised $580,000 in debt and equity funding from 16 investors on a proposed $3.15 million raise. The other, called Harvest Invest-025, has raised $645,000 in equity funding from 21 investors on a proposed $3.65 million raise. 


Fort Worth- and San Francisco-based TPG Capital was the lead investor on a $160 million funding round for Nashville's Monogram Health, a health management company, marking one of the most significant capital raises in the Music City, according to the Nashville Business Journal. Joining the round were First Cressey Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners and Humana. As part of the deal, TPG Capital Co-managing Partner Todd Sisitsky will join Monogram's board. 


Mark Cuban was one of the first investors in the 3D-printed rocketry startup Relativity Space. Last year, he continued his support of the company joining its $500M Series D, which valued the company at more than $2 billion. Last month, he watched Relativity's valuation double as he joined its $650 million Series E round. The round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company and joined by investors including BlackRock, Coatue and Tiger Global. According to TechCrunchRelativity has now raked in more than $1.2 billion in funding.


In its first Form D SEC filing, Dallas-based firm Alternative Wealth Partners reported raising $590,000 in limited partnership interest from two investors on a proposed $50 million fund called AWP Diversity Fund I, LP. Alternative Wealth was launched last year by Kelly Ann Winget. It says it focuses on finding “off Wall Street” opportunities that aren’t market-correlated for high net worth investors.


Dallas Venture Partners, an Irving-based early-stage VC firm focused on emerging technologies that rebranded from Naya Ventures last year, was the lead investor on a $3 million funding round for Minnesota’s Equals 3 Inc. (which does business as Lucy). Other investors were not disclosed. The new funding brings the AI company’s total funding to about $10 million.

 

The Rise Fund, Fort Worth- and San Francisco-based TPG’s impact investing platform, made a $100 million strategic investment in Kentucky-based intelligent weather services platform Climavision. As part of the deal, Edward Beckley, Steven Mandel and Mariana Popa – all of whom invest on Rise’s behalf – will join Climavision’s board.


Impact Ventures recently launched the Dallas Inclusive Capital Fund. Ultimately, the fund is looking to raise $20 million. Impact Ventures is in the middle of a $5 million raise for a pilot fund and has about $1 million of the capital already committed.


IPOs/SPAC Activity 

Spectral MD, a Dallas-based company, working on new technology for treating wounds, went public across the pond. According to a statement, the company said it began trading last week on the AIM market, London Stock Exchange's market for small- and medium-size growth companies. The oversubscribed placing delivered gross proceeds of £11.3 million, or $16 million. It had a market capitalization at the “placing price” of approximately £80 million on admission, or more than $100 million. Spectral is planning to use the net proceeds, which came in at about £9.5 million or a little more than $13 million, to provide capital for developing a key product, building a European presence, building U.S distribution, and providing working capital.


Lalamove, an on-demand logistics and delivery startup valued at around $8 billion in 2020, has confidentially filed for a U.S. IPO, Bloomberg first reported. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report said the company is looking to raise a minimum of $1 billion with the offering. However, details and total raise amounts could still change. The report also said the company has no specific timeline for when it will hit the public markets. When the Hong Kong-based startup set up shop in DFW late last year, the city became the startup’s de facto hub for its U.S. operations, including the Houston and Chicago markets. Since then, it has amassed a local team of about 20, including roles in H.R., marketing and finance. 


Dallas aquatech company NaturalShrimp, which focuses on tech-enabled indoor shrimp production, selected Lake Street Capital Markets as its capital markets advisor to help its growth strategy. The company, which is currently listed on the OTC markets under the ticker symbol SHMP, is looking to uplist onto the Nasdaq by the end of Q3. The company’s CFO and Treasurer William Delgado also hinted at future M&As in a statement. NaturalShrimp has its production facilities near San Antonio and Webster City, Iowa.


In April, an SEC statement asking SPACs to list warrants as derivative liabilities instead of equity securities led to the delay of quarterly report filings and