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Cloud storage startup Wasabi raises $250M to reach unicorn status

The cloud services sector is still dominated by Amazon and the other so-called “hyperscalers” — e.g. the Microsoft Azures, Google Cloud Platforms…

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The cloud services sector is still dominated by Amazon and the other so-called “hyperscalers” — e.g. the Microsoft Azures, Google Cloud Platforms and IBM Clouds of the world. According to Synergy Group, an IT market research firm, Amazon, Microsoft and Google together held a 65% share of the global cloud services market as of Q2, up 61% year-over-year.

But that sobering fact hasn’t prevented a few entrepreneurs from trying to shake things up.

Two at the forefront are David Friend and Jeff Flowers, who co-founded Wasabi, a cloud startup offering services competitive with Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). Wasabi launched just a few years ago, in 2015. But despite that fact and in the face of the intense competition, Wasabi has grown its customer base to more than 40,000 organizations and nabbed eye-catchingly large funding tranches — most recently $250 million in a Series D round that closed this morning.

The Series D — which is part equity ($125 million), part debt ($125 million) — brings Wasabi’s total raised to $495 million and values the company at more than $1.1 billion. L2 Point Management led with participation from Cedar Pine and return investors Fidelity Management & Research Company and Forestay Capital.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Friend said that the new equity will help to drive Wasabi’s expansion into additional markets and support existing channel partnerships. As for the debt, he added, it’ll be used to finance equipment and infrastructure in Wasabi’s storage regions while extending the company’s capabilities with industry-specific offerings.

“Over the next 10 years or so, most of the world’s data is going to migrate from on-premises storage to the cloud, and we want as much of it as possible to end up in Wasabi,” Friend said. “I think closing a large up round in this environment speaks to the spectacular growth of Wasabi, the magnitude of the cloud storage opportunity and our leadership as the industry’s largest pure-play cloud storage vendor.”

Friend and Flowers joined forces in 2015 to start Wasabi, when Friend was still the CEO of cloud backup company Carbonite. Flowers, also previously at Carbonite, had been working with several founding engineers to create Wasabi and eventually convinced Friend to join the effort.

From the outset, Friend and Flowers decided to make Wasabi nearly identical to — but in some respects cheaper than — Amazon S3. The platform supports “hot” data (data that’s readily available), active archive “cool” data (data that’s accessed only occasionally) and inactive archive cool data (data that’s retrieved infrequently), with integrations for gateways, apps and third-party platforms.

Image Credits: Wasabi

Wasabi’s pay-as-you-go pricing is $5.99 per terabyte per month. The company also offers reserved capacity pricing with a 30-day retention policy that allows customers to purchase 50 terabytes or more for one-, three- or five-year terms.

Wasabi, which doesn’t charge fees for egress or API requests, claims its storage fees work out to one-fifth of the cost of Amazon S3’s. But it’s tough to compare the two directly because the pricing structures for Wasabi and Amazon S3 differ. Amazon S3 levies fees on transferring things in and out of storage, while Wasabi charges customers who store files the full amount even if they delete them.

Endeavoring to better position itself against S3, Wasabi over the past year has added storage regions in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Toronto, Osaka, Sydney and Singapore — bringing its total number to 13 and inching toward Amazon S3’s roughly two dozen. Wasabi also introduced an object lock feature to provide immutable storage for protection against ransomware, human error and other types of data loss.

“[The new regions] helps us optimize our performance for customers and channel partners internationally who are dealing with specific concerns like data sovereignty and thus need their data to be stored close by. Having multiple data centers around the world also means that our customers experience very little latency,” Friend said. “We’ve grown headcount and our partner network to support our presence in these regions.”

On the customer acquisition front, Wasabi now has clients across more than 100 countries, according to Friend, including from higher education, media and entertainment, data protection and disaster recovery and the public sector. Friend says that Wasabi poured outsourced resources into winning over professional sports organizations this year — an effort that seemingly paid dividends. The company recently landed contracts with the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins and Liverpool Football Club.

Brian Shield, CTO of the Boston Red Sox, said that Wasabi’s service made sense for the data work that the organization’s executing. “As our data needs continue to evolve, from player analytics, internet of things, digital assets and even security, this presents an enormous learning opportunity for the organization,” he added in a statement. “Wasabi provides a cost-effective cloud-based solution that enables us to retrieve content quickly and improve the level of video analysis and production we do here at the Red Sox.”

Continued Friend: “It’s lucky that we’re in the data storage business. The adoption of cloud storage skyrocketed during the pandemic, fueled by the rise of remote and hybrid work. Cloud storage is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity — everyone has data, they have more of it every year and it needs to be stored somewhere.”

That statement isn’t necessarily hyperbolic. According to Statista, 60% of all corporate data is now stored in the cloud. That’s up from 30% in 2015, the year the analytics firm began tracking the trend.

When asked about economic headwinds and competition from startups like Cohesity, Datrium, Reduxio and Rubrik, Friend asserted that Wasabi’s pricing model remains highly attractive for the clientele it’s after. That remains to be seen. But with Wasabi’s revenue doubling from 2020 to 2021, the startup’s evidently doing something right.

“Often users can store their data in Wasabi for less than just the maintenance costs alone of on-premises storage hardware … Moving data storage to Wasabi means that data storage becomes an operational expense rather than a capital expense — often a significant advantage for enterprise customers,” Friend said. “While many other tech companies have seen big drop-offs in business, our growth continues at a very robust level.”

Friend didn’t commit to firm hiring plans when asked, but he said that he expects Wasabi’s 250-person headcount to “grow as [the company] expands into additional vertical markets and geographies.”

Cloud storage startup Wasabi raises $250M to reach unicorn status by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

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With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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