Finance / Funding / Investing / Venture capital / Year in review

Super Money Moves: These venture-backed DC companies raised megarounds in 2021

In the top 10 deals alone, DC-area companies raised $1.464 billion in venture capital investment in 2021. Here who took home the $$.

Robotic Research's self-driving vehicle fleet. (Courtesy photo)

By this time last year, a trend among DC tech companies had emerged: The pandemic didn’t slow down big funding rounds. After a year of uncertainty, DC-area companies kept raising venture capital dollars, finishing out even stronger than 2019.

At the time, we were unsure of how this might play out in 2021. Would it continue on or fizzle out? As it turns out, the upward trend continued, big-time.

In the span of a single quarter to start the year, DC companies collectively raised over a billion dollars altogether. And there were plenty of megarounds, which are defined as investment rounds of $100 million or above. (We don’t have the numbers for the whole year just yet, but it’s definitely going to be huge).

This is a massive step up from the previous year: in 2020, DC-area companies raised $1.957 billion over 162 deals, and that was a 30% uptick from 2019. All in all, the average deal size of that year was $13.9 million, 41% higher than the previous year. Back then, DMV-area companies Pie Insurance, FiscalNote, Xometry and Ligado Networks took home the year’s top slots.

But that was last year, and we’re here to talk about 2021. Comparatively, in these top 10 deals (not including our honorable mentions or, you know, any other investments), DC-area companies raised a whopping $1.464 billion in total, and there are still 11 days of the year to go.

Without further ado, here are the top deals of 2021:

10.MPower Financing’s $100M raise (among others)

The MPower Financing team. (Courtesy photo)

DC-based education finance firm MPower Financing took home one of the year’s largest rounds in July, when it raised $100 million (plus $52.5 million in unrestricted corporate debt) to grow its local presence. That’s on top of the $30 million the company raised in March. By October, MPower was able to double its spending limit for students.

9. Class Technologies’ $105M Series B

A look at Class Technologies’ virtual learning software. (Courtesy photo)

Also in July, edtech firm Class Technologies completed a $105 million Series B, reaching an overall valuation of $805 million for the DC firm. Since it launched a little over a year ago, the company has already raised $160 million, including an additional $12 million raised in April from football star Tom Brady and Salesforce.

8. Arcellx closed a $115M round

Ahead of key trials of its cell therapy treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, Gaithersburg, Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company Arcellx raised $115 million in a Series C round in April. Led by Samsara BioCapital and CAM Capital, the financing marked one of a number of life sciences companies growing a footprint in suburban Maryland.

7. Pie Insurance’s $118M Series C

The Pie Insurnace office. (Courtesy photo)

In March, DC-based insurance tech firm Pie Insurance landed a $118 million Series C, led by Allianz X and VC firm Acrew Capital. This is the second year in a row that the company has landed in our yearly funding wrap-up after raising $127 million in 2020.

6. In a huge Series A, Cellular Biomedicine Group raised $120M

There are a lot of big-time VC deals on this list, but Cellular Biomedicine Group‘s is one of the largest earlier-stage deals on the list. In the third quarter, the Rockville, Maryland and China-based biopharma firm raised $120 million in a Series A led by AstraZeneca. The deal came after the company delisted from the Nasdaq earlier this year.

5. Expel’s $140M raise, and unicorn status

Members of the Expel team (Courtesy photo).

In November, Herndon, Virginia-based cybersecurity company Expel raised a $140.3 million Series E round, reaching unicorn status with a valuation of over $1 billion. CapitalG, a growth fund from Alphabet, and Paladin Capital Group led the round, which follows the company’s $50 million Series D in 2020.

“While we were well funded even before this raise, we saw so much opportunity in front of us,” CEO Dave Merkel told at the time. “…The dynamics of 2021 and beyond — more attacks, the Great Resignation, continued shortages of security talent — mean there is even more need for what we do.”

4. HawkEye 360’s $145M Series D round

This fall, fellow Herndon company HawkEye 360 closed $140 million in fresh funding through a Series D. This follows the additional $55 million in a Series C round the geospatial analytics firm raised in April, bringing its 2021 total to $195 million. With the (many) funds, HawkEye said it will be expanding its satellite constellation as well as its accompanying infrastructure to boost the company’s growth.

3. A $150M Series B from Rebellion Defense

AI-based defense tech company Rebellion Defense, headquartered in DC, raised $150 million in a Series B round in September. Insight Partners and Venrock led the round, with additional participation from Innovation Endeavors, Declaration Partners and Lupa Systems. At the time, the company noted in a statement that this signaled a growing interest among venture capitalists in defense firms.

2. Culinary brand Cava’s $190M

In Q2, DC-based Mediterranean culinary brand Cava landed one of the year’s top deals with a $190 million Series F deal from Baltimore, Maryland’s T. Rowe Price. At the time, Cava said it would put the funds toward its consumer packaged goods as well as expand its tech platforms. Since its founding, the company has raised a total of $738.3 million, according to Crunchbase data.

1. A $228M Series A from Robotic Research

Robotic Research’s self-driving vehicle fleet (courtesy photo)

While Cava held the #1 spot for almost the entire year, it fell to second place in early December with the $228 million Series A from Clarksburg, Maryland autonomous vehicle company Robotic Research. Head of Corporate Affairs Don Lefeve said the funding, which was led by SoftBank and Englightenment Capital, will be used primarily for expanding and industrializing the 20-year-old company’s commercial development operations.

Plus, here are some more megarounds, because you’d think raising $100 million would be enough to land you a spot in the top 10:

Companies: Robotic Research / Expel / Class Technologies / Pie Insurance / MPOWER Financing / Arcadia /

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