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After Snowflake windfall, Altimeter Capital captures dealmaking spotlight

When Snowflake went public last year, Altimeter Capital saw the kind of return that is the stuff of venture capital dreams.

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When Snowflake went public last year, Altimeter Capital saw the kind of return that is the stuff of venture capital dreams. The Boston-based firm held more than 36 million shares in the cloud data company for a stake worth around $8.3 billion at current prices.

Eight months later, Altimeter has gone from a relatively little-known investor to a headline name in some of the year’s biggest deals. Already in 2020, it has invested in more deals at a higher total deal value than in any other year in its history, according to PitchBook data.

This week, the firm spearheaded a deal to take Indonesia’s ridehailing and delivery giant Grab public through a reverse merger with Altimeter Growth. At $4.5 billion, it was in the largest-ever blank-check deal by amount raised and the biggest exit for a Southeast Asian company at a pre-valuation of $35 billion, PitchBook data shows.

Altimeter also led the $425 million round for fintech powerhouse Plaid at a $13.4 billion valuation last week. And it made two significant gaming bets: Altimeter co-led Roblox’s $520 million round in January and participated in Epic Games’ $1 billion funding round this week.

Grabbing the spotlight
Deals with Altimeter Capital participation

In addition to sponsoring two of its own SPACs, Altimeter has invested in PIPE deals that accompanied blank-check mergers for fintech company SoFi, used car marketplace operator Cazoo and genetic sequencing company 23andMe.

Altimeter manages about $16 billion in assets, according to a regulatory filing from Grab. That’s despite the firm’s relatively modest public fundraising record, at least by late-stage growth capital standards.

In 2018 it closed the $207 million Growth Partners Fund III, its largest. It also raised $60 million for its Lincoln Fund this year and closed two other funds last year: the Cascade fund at $101 million and the Castle fund at $32 million.

CEO Brad Gerstner reportedly founded Altimeter in 2008 with just $3 million as the global financial crisis was in full swing. It wasn’t until 2013 that the firm closed its first fund at $75 million, according to PitchBook data.

Over the years, Gerstner’s firm has amassed significant stakes in some of the world’s leading tech companies, including Facebook, Uber and Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo.

Altimeter’s sudden appetite for supersized private market deals remains a mystery, and the firm declined to be interviewed for this story.

Altimeter is part of a boisterous group of nontraditional investors, including hedge fund and private equity shops, that are coming to dominate late-stage VC. In Q1 2020, deals with nontraditional investor participation accounted for 78.6% of all VC deals by value—the highest level of participation on record by a long shot, according to the latest PitchBook Venture Monitor.

Featured image via butenkow/Getty Images

  • james-thorne.jpg
    Written by James Thorne
    James Thorne is a Seattle-based senior editor covering venture capital at PitchBook. He previously reported for GeekWire, Reuters, CNBC and Source Media. A native of Colorado, James graduated from Boston College and received his master’s degree in business journalism from New York University.
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