StrictlyVC: January 15, 2014

110611_2084620_176987_imageGood Wednesday morning! We have some good stuff coming up later this week so stay tuned. Also, a quick reminder that you can reach out anytime; I’m at connie@strictlyvc.com or @cookie.

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Top News in the A.M.

About 60,000 Silicon Valley workers have won court clearance to pursue a lawsuit that accuses Apple, Google, and other tech giants of conspiring to drive down pay by not poaching each other’s staff.

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For This Startup, The Hunt Is On

The hunt for new funding is on for community-driven shopping startup The Hunt, whose users seek out items like clothing with the help of other users.

The concept was inspired by the personal experience of founder and CEO Tim Weingarten, a former venture capitalist with Worldview Technology Partners. As Weingarten tells it, a few years ago, while surfing around Tumblr, he “happened to see pictures of a bunch of guys at a wedding wearing a really slick tux with a narrow cut and peaked lapels. I wanted one, but if you start looking for a tux, a billion options come up. It struck me that there was no good way to solve this problem.”

Investors apparently agreed it was a pain point in the market. In November, the now 17-person company closed on $5.5 million in funding from Javelin Partners, along with Ashton Kutcher, Tyra Banks, and other celebrity investors. Now, as Weingarten resumes talks with VCs — he says the company has “plenty of cash,” citing its “momentum” as a reason to reengage with investors – the question is whether The Hunt is growing fast enough.

Weingarten says that one million people have registered since the service launched last January and that 300,000 of them – 90 percent of them women between the ages of 15 and 30—actively use it.

Unlike platforms such as Pinterest, users’ “hunts” also demonstrate a stronger intent to purchase, says Weingarten, who compares the conversion rates to those of Google’s search results. “We don’t have to worry about proxies or guessing your intent based on what pages you’ve visited; we know what you want to buy, which puts us in a strong position.”

Indeed, Weingarten says the startup has already been approached by a number of brands looking to pay for greater visibility, with some, including clothiers Lulu’s and 22Singer.com, already actively jumping in to answer users’ searches. (Says Weingarten, “We encourage brands to solve hunts, though I let them know not to spam our users. I don’t want them posting 10 products in response to a user who’s looking for a certain kind of dress with stripes.”)

Naturally, the Hunt has plenty of challenges, including competition from other question-and-answer platforms. Just last week, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone launched a social search app called Jelly that invites users to ask their friends for help in finding information. The Hunt’s young demographic, while attractive to brands and advertisers, also tends to be fickle.

Perhaps most importantly, it still hasn’t established the kind of critical mass that is, in itself, a kind of defensibility.

Still, attempting from the outset to build a bridge between photo sharing and e-commerce is likely refreshing to some VCs. Knowing that a former investor is at the helm may also hold special appeal.

I ask Weingarten whether The Hunt is spending on marketing, for example, and he tells me that it’s “much more interesting to have less growth and for that growth to be purely organic. As an investor,” he adds, “if I thought that a startup was buying a bunch of ads, I’d look at it differently.”

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New Fundings

BankBazaar.com, a five-year-old, Chennai, India-based loan processing and information platform, has raised more than $13 million (Rs 80 crore) in a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital, reports theTimes of India. Previous investor Walden International, which provided the company with $6 million in early 2011, also participated in the funding.

Eyefreight, a six-year-old, Netherlands-based company that makes transportation management software, has raised €9 million (US$11.8 million) in a funding round led by existing investors De Hoge Dennen Capital and Global Cleantech Capital.

FarmLogs, a two-year-old, Ann Arbor, Mi.-based startup that helps farmers digitally manage their farm to increase yield and profitability, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Drive Capital. Existing investors, who’d earlier given the company $1 million in seed funding, also participated in the round, including Huron River Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels.

First Opinion, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose app makes it easy to text doctors, as well as track milestones and health concerns, has raised $1.2 million in funding from Greylock Partners,Yuri Milner, Felicis Ventures, and 500 Startups. TechCrunch hasmore here.

GetOne Rewards, a three-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based company that automates the marketing, relationship, and management programs of its enterprise customers, has raised more than $2.5 million in Series B funding. The round was co-led by Fulcrum Growth Fund andMilestone Venture Partners, with participation from Atlanta Technology Angels and other investors. Silicon Valley Bankmeanwhile provided the company with a growth capital term loan.

Juno Therapeutics, a new Seattle-based startup that’s trying to eliminate cancer from the human body and last month closed on $120 million in Series A funding, has added $25 million to the round from two prominent investors, reports GeekWire. Bezos Expeditions, the investment arm of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now a backer, as is Venrock.

Main Street Hub, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company manages social media communications for small to medium-sized businesses in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland and Hong Kong, has raised $14 million led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with previous investors, including Harrison Metal Capital, participating in the round. The company has raised $20 million to date.

Media Gobbler, a three-year-old, L.A.-based company that backs up, transfers and organizes high-bandwidth media files like music, videos and photos, has raised $3.3 million as part of a $5 million fundraise, according to an SEC filing. The company had previously raised just north of $3 million. Its investors include ff Venture Capital, Black Ocean Group, and a long line of prominent individual investors, including Sky Dayton, Aber Whitcomb, Dan Rose, Jeremy Wenokur,Mike Jones and Matt Coffin.

Nextbit, a new, San Francisco-based startup operating in stealth mode, has raised $18 million in funding from Accel Partners and Google Ventures, reports TechCrunch. The startup’s founders were both formerly entrepreneurs-in-residence at Accel; one sold his last company to Motorola Mobility, later acquired by Google. You can learn more about the team here.

OpenSesame, a 2.5-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based online training company that’s trying to simplify the process of buying and selling eLearning content, has raised $8 million led by Partech Ventures. The company has raised $10 million to date.

Quench, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based outfit that’s among the country’s largest bottleless, filtered drinking water companies, has raised $38.5 million in equity and debt financing from new investor T. Rowe Priceand previous investors Element Partners, Virgin Green Fund, Douglas Brown, ORIX Ventures, Advent-Morro Equity Partners, Potomac Energy Fund and The Pohlad Companies. Quench has raised roughly $108 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

SiteMinder, an eight-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based company that helps major hotel chains book and record guest stays, has raised $30 million from Technology Crossover Ventures. The company, whose customers include Marriott, Hyatt, and Best Western, had previously raised $5 million in Series A funding in May 2012, reports the outlet Tnooz.

SuVolta, a seven-year-old, Los Gatos, Calif.-based semiconductor company focused on producing low-power chips, has raised $10.6 million in Series F funding from Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd., Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Northgate Capital and DAG Ventures. SuVolta has raised about $73 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Visual.ly, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based infographic platform company, has raised $8.1 million in Series A financing. Crosslink Ventures led the round with participation from Correlation Ventures,SoftTechVC, 500 Startups, Giza Ventures, Quest Ventures andKapor Capital.

WP Engine, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based hosting company that specializes in running WordPress sites, has raised $15 million in funding from North Bridge Growth Equity. The company’s CEO, Heather Brunner, tells TechCrunch that the round brings the company’s total funding to $18.2 million. (Silverton Partners and a long line of individuals, including Eric Ries, are among is earlier investors.)

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New Funds

Mayfield Fund has raised $86 million for its second Indian fund, Mayfield India II, according to a new SEC filing. The Sand Hill Road firm began marketing the fund one year ago. It closed its first India-focused fund, a $111 million pool called Mayfield India I, in 2008. Four partners are listed on the regulatory filing: James Beck, Navin Chaddha,Couldiplall Lala, and Zoubeir Khatib. Last month, StrictlyVC interviewed Nikhil Khattau, a venture partner who cofounded Mayfield India in Mumbai, about where the firm is seeing the most opportunity.

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People

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla sends a scathing letter to the producers of “60 Minutes” in the wake of its grim report on cleantech, which featured Khosla along with one of his struggling portfolio companies. Writes Khosla, “The pontificators at 60 Minutes, with their agenda-driven bastardization of news reporting, failed to do the most elementary fact checking and source qualification, as was the case with your Benghazi reporting. No wonder one major media outlet wrote that you have been ‘widely criticized for leaving out crucial information about the state of the clean tech sector.’ Is this the new CBS standard?”

New York magazine has dinner with Ken and Ben Lerer in the West Village, where father and son share how they came to run their increasingly high-profile venture firm together. Says the elder Lerer: “I was at the Huffington Post, and I was doing investment for the family. Then Foursquare raised money. I called Benjamin, and I was like, ‘This sucks, I wish I had known about this.’ He said, ‘You’re an idiot, I know those guys, why didn’t you call me?’”

Summit Partners announced a heap of promotions late last week that we’d missed. In case you did, too: Leonard Ferrington, who joined Summit’s West Coast office in 2006 as an associate, has just been promoted from principal to managing director. Meanwhile, Andrew CollinsMatthew Hamilton and Jay Pauley were promoted to principal. Collins joined Summit’s West Coast office as an associate in 2008, and became a VP in 2011; Pauley was joined Summit’s Boston office in 2010 as a VP and moved to Menlo Park last year; Hamilton joined Summit’s Boston office in 2005 as an associate and had served as a VP since 2009.

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IPOs

The re-opening of China’s mainland IPO market is off to a bad start, with five Chinese companies announcing they will halt their IPOs in the wake of an unexpected announcement from the China Securities Regulatory Commission on Sunday. THE CSRC had promised a more hands-off approach to IPOs after resuming them earlier this month; it has since announced it will make random inspections on the procedures of book-building and roadshows.

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Exits

MyEdu, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company whose online platform helps students to create a personalized graduation plan, as well as find job and internship opportunities, has been acquired by the education software giant Blackboard. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. MyEdu had raised $18.7 million, including from Bain Capital Ventures and the Baylor Angel Network.

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Jobs

Apple is looking for a corporate development analyst to join its corp dev group in Santa Clara, Calif., a team that’s responsible for evaluating and executing Apple’s acquisitions, as well as for conducting other complex financial analysis. To apply, you’ll need at least two years of experience in investment banking, venture capital or management consulting.

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Data

Venture funding in the healthcare IT sector almost doubled in 2013, growing to $2.2 billion across 571 deals, from $1.2 billion across 163 deals in 2012, says the research and consultancy Mercom Capital Group.

Israeli venture capital funds raised 28 percent less capital in 2013 than in 2012, says a new report from the IVC Research Center and KPMG Somekh Chaiken Israel. Specifically, 13 funds raising $526 million in 2013, compared with the $725 million raised by 14 funds in 2012. IVC attributes the drop to the creation of more micro VC funds, noting that only two funds last year raised more than $100 million. You can learn more here.

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Essential Reads

Some ideas about what we should do about net neutrality, now that a federal appeals court has rejected equal access rules for Internet providers.

Quartz on why Nest will be even bigger for Google than Android.

As the world turns: Fast-growing Practice Fusion is taking over San Francisco office space from fast-shrinking Zynga, reports Xconomy.

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Detours

A pair of Stanford students has developed an attractive, functional, and affordable brace that can help cure club foot for $20.

From the New Yorker: “There is, I think, a trace of shame in the veryenterprise of tweeting, a certain low-level ignominy to asking a question that receives no response, to offering up a witticism that fails to make its way in the world, that never receives the blessing of being retweeted or favorited.”

Living the dream: Ah, the life of a senior search engine marketing specialist.

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Retail Therapy

The Dark Motorcycle Helmet, made for the “not-quite-average guy.” (Shark-Repellent Bat Spray and grappling gun sold separately.)

No. Sorry. Nope.

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