Top News in the A.M.
You want access to your phone’s data while in flight. But watch what you wish for. “We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself,” F.C.C Chairman Tom Wheeler tells the New York Times. “Ultimately, if the F.C.C. adopts the proposal in the coming months, it will be airlines’ decisions, in consultation with their customers, as to whether to permit voice calls while airborne.”
A Venture Firm Focused on — Wait — Youth Tournaments?
We’ve heard about startups backing professional sports athletes, including Fantex, which sells stocks designed to track athletes’ economic performance.
Now, Capital Sports Ventures, an eight-month-old, Washington, D.C.-based venture firm, is targeting what it argues is a much bigger market: non-professional athletes. Specifically, the firm is targeting all manner of minor league and participatory sports opportunities, from youth tournaments to startups that enable people to track their performance during sports events.
It may be far afield from the typical venture investment, but it’s a world that Capital Sports Ventures knows well. Firm founder Greg Bibb was previously EVP of business operations for the Washington Wizards NBA team and COO for the Washington Mystics WNBA team. Meanwhile, Bibb’s joint partner in the endeavor is SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, whose managing director, Fred Schaufeld, is also a partner in Monumental Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Washington Wizards; the Washington Mystics; the Washington Capitals NHL team; and the Verizon Center sports arena.
I talked with Bibb and Schaufeld recently to learn more about their plans. Our conversation has been edited for length.
What’s so interesting to you about youth tournaments?
FS: There are 10,000 professional athletes in the U.S, but hundreds of millions of sports fans out there and it’s a disjointed market.
GB: That’s right; it’s a much bigger marketplace when you look at participatory sports. There are a lot of organizations that could be very successful, that are built on the relationships and expertise of folks who’ve spent the majority of their careers in that space. But while they’ve built these tournament businesses, perhaps they don’t have the expertise that professional sports teams enjoy including around sponsorships, licensing, ancillary event creation, and so forth. We’d make an investment, keep the operator in place, let them what they do best, and we’d bring capital and expertise to the equation.
Are you disclosing how much money you’ll put to work? Have you raised a pool of capital, or will you be investing on a deal-by-deal basis?
GB: SWaN & Legend is a $70 million fund and they are our anchor tenant, however they have multiple investments in addition to [us]. The precise amount that’ll ultimately be invested into [Capital Sports] from all sources is unclear and will be based on the opportunities we find.
We have about 30 LPs altogether, most of whom are CEOs of companies [who add value to the firm]. Essentially, we’re looking for opportunities where our background can accelerate the ventures as much as money can. We run the gamut in terms of sports and entertainment experience. Ticket sales, branding, social media, event creation – there’s not an aspect of the sports entertainment space that we can’t speak to.
Have you made any investments yet?
GB: We haven’t but we’ve been close on a couple. It takes a while to go through the due diligence process. One particular case required a partnership to be created around certain regional entities around the country, but unless they could work out their partnership issues, we didn’t think we could bring the sport to the Nikes [and other major sponsors] of the world.
FS: Getting to scale takes a while. I’m personally in the ownership of four pro sports team and these things take a while. But we’re patient. And Greg is very “trend right”; he knows what’s coming up next.
What’s is coming up next, when it comes to youth sports?
GB: LaCrosse right now seems to be a sport that’s on a significant rise; you’re really starting to see it spread west across the country. Another is girls’ volleyball, which is now one of the fastest-growing and lucrative sports in the country and is played more and more at the high school and middle school level, driven by club teams. Then, of course, soccer is the old “new.” The sport was long ago established at the youth level, but it’s starting to [become popular with older kids], too, and it just expands as a generation of kids who had to educate their parents on the sport are now grown and beginning to educate their own children.
What’s the exit strategy with these types of investments, and what’s your timeline?
FS: We’ll see where the opportunities take us, but with professional leagues, some have sold to Providence Equity and people like that. Between myself and my partners, we’ve been involved with every kind of exit you can have — multiple times — and we feel comfortable letting the underlying businesses dictate [what happens].
Addwish, a five-month-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based company that provides “wish list services” to users (type a desired item into a field, and you’re shown similar products from its retail partners), has raised $1.8 million in seed funding. The capital comes from Sunstone Capital Technology Ventures, also based in Copehagen.
Aujas, a five-year-old, Bangalore-based information risk management service, has raised 31 crore ($4.97 million) from new investors IvyCap Ventures and Rajasthan Venture Capital Fund. IDG Ventures India — which incubated Aujas as part of its entrepreneur-in-residence program and provided it with its initial, $3 million, round — also participated in the funding, reports the Economic Times.
CoinJar, a nine-month-old, Melbourne, Australia-based bitcoin exchange and online wallet service, has raised the equivalent of $455,000, led by the Australian venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures. CoinJar is one of numerous companies to emerge from the Australian startup incubator AngelCube, a company that offers teams $20,000 in startup capital, along with mentorship and networking opportunities. The outlet CoinDesk has more here.
Ekso Bionics, an eight-year-old, Richmond, Calif.-based company that makes mechanical exoskeletons for people with spinal cord injuries, has raised $5 million in a combination of debt and other securities, according to an SEC filing. The company, previously called Berkeley Bionics, raised $9 million last year from undisclosed sources and, according to the San Francisco Business Times, received separate funding in 2010 from IronPort cofounder Scott Banister, who sits on the company’s board. Ekso also reportedly received a $10 million grant from the Department of Defense in 2008.
Girnar Software, a six-year-old, Jaipur, India-based company behind an online automotive marketplace (Cardekho.com), a bike-buying marketplace (Bikedekho.com), and a comparison shopping platform (Pricedekho.com), has raised $15 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital.
MetaPack, a 14-year-old, London-based, e-commerce delivery management platform, has received £20 million ($33 million) in funding from Index Ventures. TechCrunch has much more on the company — and its efforts to take on Amazon — here.
Money Dashboard, a five-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based online money management platform, has received £2.7 million ($4.09 million) in Series A funding. The round was led by Calculus Capital, a 14-year-old, London-based investment firm.
PingTune, a months-old, London-based, iPhone messaging app that invites users to share music with friends, has raised $1.6 million. According to TechCrunch, the funds come from Rupert Hambro, the chairman of J O Hambro Capital Management, and Dominic Perks, a former investment banker who has founded several small companies and actively invests in startups.
Seriously, a months-old, Pacific Palisades, Calif.-based mobile gaming firm, has raised $2.35 million, shows an SEC filing. The company was founded by Andrew Stalbow, who was previously Rovio Entertainment’s General Manager of North America, where he worked on growing the “Angry Birds” franchise. The filing doesn’t list any of the company’s backers, but Seriously’s Southern California headquarters are reportedly home to its business operations, while its games are being developed in Finland.
Trice Orthopedics, a two-year-old, King of Prussia, Pa.-based company that makes camera-enabled needles with miniaturized opto-electronics that are used in diagnostic procedures, has raised $3 million in financing. BioStar Ventures led the round with participation from Millennium Life Sciences. Previous investors and unnamed private investors also contributed to the funding.
Alpha Venture Partners, the new, early-stage venture firm of New York-based venture capitalist Steve Brotman, has raised $5.33 million for Alpha Venture Partners Fund, according to an SEC filing that lists the total offering amount as “indefinite.” Brotman was formerly a managing director and founder of Silicon Alley Venture Partners, where he spent 15 years; Brotman also spent more than two years advising New World Ventures (recently renamed Pritzker Group Venture Capital). According to his LinkedIn profile, he focuses on financial services, media, publishing, pharma, and enterprise IT infrastructure.
FTV Capital, a 15-year-old, San Francisco-based investment firm that typically follows venture capitalists into later-stage rounds, has raised $365.9 million for its fourth fund, according to an SEC filing. The Form D shows the firm began raising the fund one year ago, and that its target is $500 million. Three members of the firm are listed on the filing: Richard Garman, David Haynes, and Brad Bernstein. The firm, which mostly looks for investments in business services and financial services, typically invests somewhere between $10 million and $75 million in its portfolio companies.
Gilde Healthcare Partners, a 31-year-old, Netherlands-based healthcare investment firm, has closed its third fund with €145 million ($197 million) of capital commitments, reports Pitchbook, which says the firm has been raising the fund since 2010. Gilde’s previous fund, closed in 2007, was a similar-sized €150 million ($204 million) pool.
The Verge profiles Fab cofounder Jason Goldberg, who raised loads of venture capital for his last startup, too — and it later sold for pennies on the dollar. Says veteran tech reporter John Cook, who has tracked Goldberg’s career for years and was interviewed for the article: “You would think having burned through so much money and then hitting the wall, [Goldberg] would have learned a thing or two. But watching Fab these days I just feel like, I’ve seen this movie before.”
Michael Rubin may be the richest tech founder you don’t know. Entrepreneur writes the rags-to-riches story of the man behind GSI Commerce (acquired by eBay for $2.4 billion in 2011) and Kynetic, the holding company behind the online sports gear site Fanatics, the Internet fashion flash sale site Rue La La, and the two-day shipping membership site Shop Runner. (“Relaxing is not a core strength of mine,” says the 41-year-old, whose net worth is estimated at $2.7 billion.)
Snapchat‘s cofounder Evan Spiegel handily manipulated his well-heeled parents during their divorce, suggests a new CNET feature on Spiegel that’s rich with details (and fun to read). Of the period when Spiegel’s parents were splitting up and Spiegel, then 17, was living with his father, CNET’s Jennifer Van Grove writes: “His father’s exceptional generosity was put to the test after 17-year-old Spiegel repeatedly overdrafted his bank account and begged for the BMW 535i, a $75,000 car…At the time, Spiegel Sr. was giving Spiegel Jr. an allowance of $250 a week. Along with the new car, the younger Spiegel made a strong case for why he should get $1,992 a month for car, food, entertainment, and clothing expenses. He also wanted a $2,000 ’emergency fund’ because his ‘life is full of unforeseen expenses,’ as he wrote in the note to his father.” (Grove reports that Spiegel’s father said no to the car; soon after, his mother leased it for him.)
China’s securities regulator said on Saturday that China will likely streamline its IPO approvals process by January; the commission also predicted that “around 50 companies may be able to complete their registration procedures” for public offerings by January’s end.
The International Conference on Connected Vehicles and Expo kicks off today in Las Vegas, if you happen to be in Sin City. Here are some of the details.
So far in 2013, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is leading the venture pack when it comes to the number of portfolio companies to go public; as peHUB’s Mark Boslet reports, the firm had seven IPOs under its belt as of Nov. 18, including Twitter, Epizyme, Chegg and Veracyte.
5AM Ventures, an early-stage venture firm focused on life sciences, is looking to hire an associate in its Menlo Park, Calif., office to participate in all of its investing activities, from sourcing new, early-stage investments to helping manage the firm’s existing portfolio. To apply, you need an MD and/or PhD. Also, some “exposure” to venture capital, investment banking or business consulting is preferred. According to a filing registered with the SEC in mid-October, the 12-year-old firm is currently raising a fourth, $240 million fund.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed an experimental drone-based delivery service in a “60 Minutes” segment last night. Bezos said the service, dubbed Amazon Prime Air, could be ready for customer use in “four or five years.”
How happiness boosts the immune system.
The graffiti artist Banksy moves on to Paris.
A father colors his children’s drawings during his business trips. (What he comes up with is magical.)
He prayed. He won. And then he disappeared. Will we ever see Tim Tebow in the NFL again?
We like this idea of a beanie with wireless bluetooth headphones built in, though we’d be really impressed if it were a cowboy hat.
This holiday season, you can shower your dog with bones and chew toys, but nothing says, “I love you, Caractacus,” like a $200 fireproof, shockproof earthquake preparedness suit.
Please feel free to send us any and all story suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) by clicking here. If you’re interested in advertising in our email newsletter, please click here. To sign up for the newsletter, visit strictlyvc.com.