SoftBank-backed construction giant Katerra said to be shutting down after raising billions

After burning through more than $2 billion in funding, SoftBank-backed construction startup Katerra has told employees that it will be shutting down operations, according to a report in The Information.

Last year, the company claimed it had more than 8,000 employees globally.

Menlo Park-based Katerra had already been struggling to find a viable business in cheaply building apartments properties for real estate developers when it was pushed to the edge of bankruptcy late last year, with the company blaming its latest struggles on climbing labor and material costs associated with the pandemic. The company was given one last chance after receiving a $200 million bailout from SoftBank, which reportedly bought up a majority stake after already having invested billions in the effort.

Katerra’s fall marks the most high-profile failure for SoftBank since the failed 2019 WeWork IPO. The firm has largely been seeing gains among its Vision Fund portfolio in the past year amid a larger tech stock rally, though some of those gains have receded in recent months.

In an interview with Barron’s last month, CEO Masayoshi Son highlighted Katerra as well as SoftBank’s investment in Greensill as “regrets” of his. Katerra’s other backers included Khosla Ventures, DFJ Growth, Greenoaks Capital and Celesta Capital.

TechCrunch has reached out to Katerra for comment.

 

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Argentina’s Digital House raises over $50M to help solve LatAm’s tech talent shortage

Digital House, a Buenos Aires-based edtech focused on developing tech talent through immersive remote courses, announced today it has raised more than $50 million in new funding.

Notably, two of the main investors are not venture capital firms but instead are two large tech companies: Latin American e-commerce giant Mercado Libre and San Francisco-based software developer Globant. Riverwood Capital, a Menlo Park-based private equity firm, and existing backer early-stage Argentina-based venture firm Kaszek also participated in the financing.

The raise brings Digital House’s total funding raised to more than $80 million since its 2016 inception. The Rise Fund led a $20 million Series B for Digital House in December 2017, marking the San Francisco-based firm’s investment in Latin America.

Nelson Duboscq, CEO and co-founder of Digital House, said that accelerating demand for tech talent in Latin America has fueled demand for the startup’s online courses. Since it first launched its classes in March 2016, the company has seen a 118% CAGR in revenues and a 145% CAGR in students. The 350-person company expects “and is on track” to be profitable this year, according to Duboscq.

Digital House CEO and co-founder Nelson Duboscq. Image Credits: Digital House

In 2020, 28,000 students across Latin America used its platform. The company projects that more than 43,000 will take courses via its platform in 2021. Fifty percent of its business comes out of Brazil, 30% from Argentina and the remaining 20% in the rest of Latin America.

Specifically, Digital House offers courses aimed at teaching “the most in-demand digital skills” to people who either want to work in the digital industry or for companies that need to train their employees on digital skills. Emphasizing practice, Digital House offers courses — that range from six months to two years — teaching skills such as web and mobile development, data analytics, user experience design, digital marketing and product development.

The courses are fully accessible online and combine live online classes led by in-house professors, with content delivered through Digital House’s platform via videos, quizzes and exercises “that can be consumed at any time.” 

Digital House also links its graduates to company jobs, claiming an employability rate of over 95%.

Looking ahead, Digital House says it will use its new capital toward continuing to evolve its digital training platforms, as well as launching a two-year tech training program — dubbed the the “Certified Tech Developer” initiative — jointly designed with Mercado Libre and Globant. The program aims to train thousands of students through full-time two-year courses and connect them with tech companies globally. 

Specifically, the company says it will also continue to expand its portfolio of careers beyond software development and include specialization in e-commerce, digital marketing, data science and cybersecurity. Digital House also plans to expand its partnerships with technology employers and companies in Brazil and the rest of Latin America. It also is planning some “strategic M&A,” according to Duboscq.

Francisco Alvarez-Demalde, co-founder & co-managing partner of Riverwood Capital, noted that his firm has observed an accelerating digitization of the economy across all sectors in Latin America, which naturally creates demand for tech-savvy talent. (Riverwood has an office in São Paulo).

For example, in addition to web developers, there’s been increased demand for data scientists, digital marketing and cybersecurity specialists.

“In Brazil alone, over 70,000 new IT professionals are needed each year and only about 45,000 are trained annually,” Alvarez-Demalde said. “As a result of such a talent crunch, salaries for IT professionals in the region increased 20% to 30% last year. In this context, Digital House has a large opportunity ahead of them and is positioned strategically as the gatekeeper of new digital talent in Latin America, preparing workers for the jobs of the future.”

André Chaves, senior VP of Strategy at Mercado Libre, said the company saw in Digital House a track record of “understanding closely” what Mercado Libre and other tech companies need.

“They move as fast as we do and adapt quickly to what the job market needs,” he said. “A very important asset for us is their presence and understanding of Latin America, its risks and entrepreneurial environment. Global players have succeeded for many years in our region. But things are shifting gradually, and local knowledge of risks and opportunities can make a great difference.”

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Reliance Jio Platforms to sell additional $600 million stake to Silver Lake

Silver Lake is doubling down its bet on India’s Reliance Jio Platforms. The U.S. private equity firm said Friday it is buying an additional stake worth $600 million in the top Indian telecom operator, which has now raised $12.2 billion in less than two months — at the height of a global pandemic.

The Menlo Park-headquartered firm, which invested nearly $750 million in Reliance Jio Platforms last month, said the additional infusion increases its stake in the Indian firm to 2.08%, up from 1.15%.

Silver Lake’s new investment is now technically the seventh deal Reliance Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of India’s most valued firm (Reliance Industries), has secured in just as many weeks by selling nearly 20% stake. Earlier on Friday (local time), Abu Dhabi-based sovereign firm Mubadala said it would invest $1.2 billion in Jio, a firm run by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man.

Mr. Egon Durban, co-chief executive and managing partner at Silver Lake, said, the recent investment momentum in Reliance Jio Platforms “validates a compelling business model and underscores our admiration for Mukesh Ambani, his team and their courageous vision in creating and building one of the world’s most remarkable technology companies.”

“We are excited to increase our exposure and bring more of our co-investors into this opportunity, further supporting Jio Platforms in its mission to bring the power of high-quality and affordable digital services to a mass consumer and small businesses population,” he added.

Silver Lake manages nearly $40 billion in combined assets and committed capital and has invested in dozens of tech firms over the years including in video game engine maker Unity, audio and video communication service Skype, consultancy firm Gartner, Alibaba’s Ant Financial, computer giant Dell, and Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing.

More to follow…

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