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At Davos, Sam Altman is a headliner, with star status scrutiny to match

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In Davos, Sam Altman’s a star. 

It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating—this time last year, ChatGPT was still pretty new to the public imagination (the chatbot had been released in late November) and Altman was the fresh-faced CEO of a juggernaut. Though he may have been en route to household name status by then, he still had a long way to go.

Now, this week, Altman’s a leading attraction at the World Economic Forum, following a year that’s been meteoric in every way possible. He’s soared, narrowly losing out on Time’s Person of the Year to Taylor Swift. And he’s cratered, getting temporarily booted from Open AI in November only to return in a blaze of glory. 

Altman has star power now and, because he’s a star, he has more leeway than ever to opine on all sorts of topics (though, to be sure, AI underpins all that he’s talking about on Davos stages). 


Altman spoke about elections, saying on a panel that, when it comes to how AI might affect elections, “the dangerous thing is not really what we understand, the existing images and videos, but it’s all the new stuff,” as reported by Bloomberg.

At an event run by Bloomberg, he offered words of caution about how much energy AI will use, and advocated for investment in renewable energy resources, even plugging nuclear fusion. Per Reuters, Altman told the audience that there has to be an energy “breakthrough” in order to meet the demands of a world increasingly run on AI. Altman also talked about artificial general intelligence, or AGI, saying that it’s coming in the “reasonably close-ish future.”

However, there’s at least one thing Altman doesn’t want to discuss. 

Two months after his dramatic fire-rehire at Open AI, Altman is more or less through with publicly rehashing the episode. In a forum with Bloomberg’s Brad Stone, he pushed back on repeated questions about the five-day drama, asking: “Is [that] really what you want to spend their time on? The soap opera rather than, like, what AGI is going to do?”

Without taking anything away from AGI—the notion of a future, super-intelligent AI that can handle most tasks as well or better than humans—Term Sheet readers could be forgiven for finding more than just frivolous entertainment in the Altman drama. Altman’s influence in the startup world goes beyond OpenAI, which Fortune has extensively reported on. He’s cofounded the eyeball-scanning orb company WorldCoin, and through his fund, Hydrazine Capital, Altman has investments in all sorts of startups, including Helion Energy, Cruise, Boom Aviation, and Retro Biosciences. Indeed, some of the rumored reasons for Altman’s still-unexplained ousting revolved around reports that he was trying to raise billions of dollars for an AI chip startup and that he was also fundraising for a separate hardware company on the side. 

OpenAI’s previous board of directors accused Altman of not being fully honest with them—whether that was related to Altman’s side ventures or to AGI, it seems like something worth knowing more about.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has been Altman’s staunchest ally, has also been taking Davos stages and did at least one talk in tandem with Altman. At one event, Nadella took the opportunity to reiterate his faith in Altman and in Open AI, saying: “I’m comfortable. I have no issues with any structure.” 

But people love a soap opera (myself included), and it doesn’t seem likely that questions about Open AI’s hectic five days will go away anytime soon. Such is the life of a star, I suppose. 

One scoop…Onbe, a payments company, has hired advisors to find a buyer, according to three banking and venture executives. Onbe is the former Wirecard North America that merged with daVinci Payments in 2020 and then, in 2021, changed its name to Onbe. The company could sell for more than $2 billion, people said. Investors include Centerbridge Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, Silversmith Capital Partners, MissionOG, and Nyca Partners. Onbe, BCV, Silversmith, and MissionOG did not return messages for comment. Centerbridge and Nyca declined to comment. —Luisa Beltran

Two scoops…M12, Microsoft’s in-house VC firm, now has a healthy $275 million at its disposal this fiscal year. It’s a number that’s been closely guarded by the software giant until now, and it’s an upgrade—previously M12 has invested between $150 million to $250 million each year. —Rachyl Jones

See you tomorrow,

Allie Garfinkle
Twitter:
@agarfinks
Email: alexandra.garfinkle@fortune.com
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Joe Abrams curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

Build A Rocket Boy, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based video game developer and publisher, raised $110 million in Series D funding. RedBird Capital Partners led the round and was joined by Galaxy Interactive, NetEase Games, Endeavor, Alignment Growth, and others. 

Forta, a San Francisco-based company looking to improve access to clinical care through the use of AI, raised $55 million in Series A funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by Exor Ventures, Alumni Ventures, and others. 

International Battery Company, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based producer of lithium ion batteries, raised $35 million in funding from RTP Global, Beenext, Veda VC, and others.

Panacea Financial, a Little Rock, Ark.-based financial services platform for doctors, dentists, and veterinarians, raised $24.5 million in Series B funding from Valar Ventures.

weavix, a Wichita, Kan.-based employee communication, efficiency, and safety platform for frontline workers, raised $23.6 million in Series B funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by Four More Capital, The Friedkin Group, and Perkins Cole.

Carmoola, a London, U.K.-based direct-to-consumer car financing platform, raised £15.5 million ($19.6 million) in funding from QED Investors, AlleyCorp, VentureFriends, InMotion Ventures, and u.ventures

Kiln, a Paris, France-based enterprise-grade staking platform, raised $17 million in funding. 1kx led the round and was joined by IOSG, Crypto.com, Wintermute Ventures, and others. 

Granata Bio, a Duxbury, Mass.-based biopharmaceutical company developing therapies for women’s health and infertility, raised $14 million in Series A funding. Google Ventures led the round and was joined by CooperSurgical, Gedeon Richter, Alumni Ventures, and others. 

Element Zero, a Perth, Australia-based metal producing platform designed to produce metals with zero carbon emissions, raised $10 million in seed funding. Playground Global led the round and was joined by others.

GolfForever, a Snowmass, Colo.-based developer of an at-home golf training system, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Clerisy led the round and was joined by Scottie Scheffler and Tom Kim

WOO, a Taipei City, Taiwan-based developer of the WOO X crypto trading platform, raised $9 million in funding from Wintermute, Selini Capital, Time Research, Presto Labs, Pulsar, and others. 

TEMO, a Vannes, France-based producer of electric motors for boats, raised €6 million ($6.5 million) in Series A funding from At One Ventures, Bpifrance, and angel investors..

Upswing Financial Technologies, a Bangalore, India-based financial services platform, raised $4.2 million in pre-Series A funding. Quona Capital led the round and was joined by QED Investors.

PRIVATE EQUITY

Ara Partners acquired a majority stake in Paratus, a St. Peter Port, Guernsey-based provider of insurance policies designed to protect consumers and producers of renewable power from energy price risks, for $100 million. 

Accel-KKR agreed to acquire Accertify, an Itasca, Ill.-based provider of fraud prevention, chargeback management, and other protection services for businesses, from American Express (NYSE: AXP). Financial terms were not disclosed.  

Ardian acquired Costockage, a Paris, France-based storage space marketplace. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Highwire, backed by Shamrock Capital Advisors, acquired Candor Content, a Berkeley, Calif.-based content marketing company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Myers Emergency Power Systems, a portfolio company of Kohlberg & Company, acquired Storage Power Solutions, a Whitby, Ontario-based provider of battery energy storage systems. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

Ruppert Landscape, backed by Knox Lane, acquired The Greenery of Charleston, a Charleston, S.C.-based commercial landscape maintenance and installation provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

NewMarket Corporation (NYSE: NEU) acquired American Pacific Corporation, a Cedar City, Utah.-based manufacturer of chemicals for the U.S. government’s military and space programs as well as fire extinguishing agents, from AE Industrial Partners for $700 million in cash.

Sentinel Capital Partners acquired Market Performance Group, a West Windsor Township, N.J.-based provider of CPG omnichannel and strategy and consulting services, from Insignia Capital Group. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Wind Point Partners acquired MOREgroup, a Fort Worth, Texas-based group of design, architecture, and engineering brands, from Godspeed Capital. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

OTHER

Accenture (NYSE: ACN) acquired Impendi, a New York City-based provider of sourcing and procurement services for private equity firms. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

IPOS

BrightSpring Health, a Louisville, Ky.-based healthcare services provider, plans to raise up to $960 million in an offering of 53.3 million shares priced between $15 and $18. The company posted $8.4 billion in revenue for the year ending September 30, 2023. KKR and Walgreens back the company.

Kyverna Therapeutics, an Emeryville, Calif.-based biotech company developing therapies for autoimmune diseases, filed to go public. Bain Capital, Gilead Sciences, Northpond Ventures, RTW Investments, Vida Ventures, and Westlake BioPartners back the company.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

Pantheon, a London, U.K.-based fund of fund firm, raised $5.3 billion for its fourth fund focused on infrastructure secondaries. 

Rockpoint, a Boston, Mass.-based private equity firm, raised $2.7 billion for its seventh fund focused on real estate investments. 

Act One Ventures, a Los Angeles, Calif.-based venture capital firm, raised $73 million for its third fund focused on business software companies. 

PEOPLE

Acton Capital, a Munich, Germany-based venture capital firm, promoted Julius Luehr to partner. 

Blue Vision Capital, a Montreal, Canada-based venture capital firm, hired Vladimir Savic as managing partner. Formerly, he was with Cibus Capital.

Garnett Station Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm, hired Damola Adamolekun as an operating partner. Formerly, he was chief executive officer of P.F. Chang’s.

Red Cell Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm, hired George C. Barnes as president of its cyber practice. Formerly, he served as deputy director of the U.S. National Security Agency

Scale Venture Partners, a Foster City, Calif.-based venture capital firm, hired Noah Gross as principal. Formerly, he was with Cisco.

Sixth Street Partners, a San Francisco, Calif.-based private equity firm, hired Marcos Alvarado as a partner and head of U.S. real estate. Formerly, he was with Safehold.

Correction, Jan. 19, 2024: The digital version of this newsletter has been corrected to reflect that Greenery of Charleston is based in Charleston.

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