Monthly Archives: June 2014

StrictlyVC: June 30, 2014

Hi, good morning, everyone! Hope you had a great weekend.

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Top News in the A.M.

Introducing the Blackphone, the first consumer-grade smartphone to be built explicitly for privacy.

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Starting a Venture Fund? Your Timing Could Be Better

Last Friday, at a conference in San Francisco organized by the fund and incubator program 500 Startups, a group of institutional investors took the stage to discuss their perspective on the venture industry. Much of what the limited partners had to say was fairly predictable. But the comments of one LP in particular — Fred Giuffrida, who joined Horsley Bridge Partners in 1995, after serving as the firm’s general counsel for 12 years — struck us as particularly interesting, partly because Giuffrida has seen more cycles than many of his peers.

While some of the panelists sounded enthusiastic about the potential of venture mega funds, for example, Giuffrida noted that the bigger the fund, “the ability to hit the kind of returns [that LPs expect] gets more difficult.”

When the LPs were asked about general partner commitments, some of the panelists remarked that they expect to see general partners contribute between two and five percent of a fund from their own pockets. Aaron Gershenberg, a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank, said he gets particularly “excited if I see someone willing to put up 10 percent” (and much less excited, he noted, when someone who is raising a subsequent fund reduces his or her GP commitment).

But Giuffrida was more of an outlier on the topic, saying that “if you push too much, you inject too much risk aversion into the program,” adding that “the last thing I want is a risk averse venture capitalist.” Giuffrida isn’t in the charity business, he made clear, but he also stressed that “there should be a balance and that it should be meaningful within the context of people’s net worth.” Today, he said, a venture capitalist’s bank balance can determine his or her fund’s size, “which doesn’t necessarily seem to be rational.”

Yet Giuffrida stood apart from his fellow panelists most notably when it came to broader market conditions. While several of the investors talked optimistically about the “macro opportunity,” Giuffrida observed that “there are two things that VCs do: They invest and they exit. It is a great time for exits,” he said, “and I think it’ll be a good time for a while more.”

Based on traditional market cycles, though, Giuffrida doesn’t think the good times will continue uninterrupted for much longer. Using the hypothetical boiled frog as a metaphor – the one that’s placed in a pot of warming water and doesn’t realize the danger it’s in and is boiled alive – Giuffrida said the “heat is slowly rising. I kind of think we’re at 160 degrees, give or take, which maybe means . . . a correction in the next two to four years.”

A crisis could strike, compressing that period, he said. “Or you could have a series of softer corrections that push it out further. But if it is two to four years out, this is the most dangerous time to start a fund,” he continued. “Now, and over the last couple of years — because by the time [that correction] hits, you’ll have spent all your money and your reserves.”

And you’ll be cooked.

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New Fundings

Capillary Technologies, a six-year-old, Bangalore, India-based customer relationship management software company, is reportedly raising $15 million in Series B funding from earlier investors Norwest Venture PartnersQualcomm VenturesSequoia Capital, and American Express Ventures. The company has raised at least $20.1 million previously, shows Crunchbase.

CoreOS, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes a scalable version of Linux custom-tailored for servers, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Earlier investors investors Sequoia Capital and Fuel Capital also participated in the round. CoreOS, a Y Combinator alum, had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding last year, including from Andreessen Horowitz.

Earshot, a two-year-old, Chicago Heights, Il.,-based company whose technology helps brands identify and engage with customers who are located near their physical business location, has secured $1.7 million in seed funding, including from Birchmere VenturesCenterboard GroupMohr Davidow VenturesPoint B CapitalSerra Ventures and TriplePoint Ventures.

The Fancy, a five-year-old, New York-based online shop with eclectic goods curated by customers, is raising a new round of funding at a valuation of as much as $1.2 billion, says a Bloomberg source with “direct knowledge” of the matter. Such an investment would double the value of the company from last July, when it raised $53 million from investors, including American Express, billionaire Len Blavatnik and actor Will Smith.

Lisnr, a two-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based company whose mobile applications, which employ ultra-sonic frequencies, aim to help users connect with brands at the right moment, has raised $3.5 million in funding, Venture Capital Dispatch reported on FridayProgress Ventures led the round; other participants included CincyTech and Mercury Fund.

MapR, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based Hadoop vendor that competes with better-known companies like Cloudera, has raised $80 million in venture capital led by Google CapitalQualcomm Ventures also participated in the round, along with earlier investors Lightspeed Venture PartnersMayfield FundNew Enterprise Associates, and Redpoint Ventures. As part of the round, MapR also raised $30 million in debt financing. The company has now raised $174 million altogether. GigaOm has much more here.

Mattermark, a year-old, San Francisco-based deal intelligence company focused primarily on venture-backed startups, has raised $2 million in seed funding, says CEO Danielle Morrill, who writes candidly about the process of landing the new round here. Mattermark has raised $3.4 million altogether from investors, including Andreessen HorowitzVersion One VenturesFelicis VenturesFlybridge Capital PartnersSlow VenturesThe Gramercy Fund, and many individual investors.

Milk Mantra Dairy, a five-year-old, Orissa, India-based consumer dairy foods company, has raised $13.08 million in Series C funding by Fidelity Growth Partners India. Earlier investor Aavishkaar India II Company also participated in the round. The company produces a range of dairy products under the brand Milky Moo.

MiRagen Therapeutics, a seven-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing therapeutics to treat cardiovascular and muscle disease, has received $7 million in funding as part of a $20 million Series B round raised in 2012, with the final $6 million expected to come in the next year to 18 months, depending on when certain therapies reach clinical trials. The company’s investors include Remeditex VenturesAtlas VenturesBoulder VenturesAmgen Ventures and Broadview Ventures. The company has raised $45 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

Osper, a year-old, London-based banking service designed to be used by young people with their parents’ help and control, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Index VenturesHorizons Ventures also participated in the round, along with numerous individual investors, reports TechCrunch. The company, which participated in TechStars London last year, has raised $11.2 million altogether.

Seriously Digital Entertainment, a 10-month-old, Finnish mobile game developer that was founded by two former Rovio executives last summer, has doubled its seed funding to $5 million led the Lebanon-based venture capital firm Daher Capital, which was joined by earlier investors Upfront Ventures and Sunstone Capital. Some of its first games are coming soon, its chief creative officer tells the WSJ, saying, “We will be showing and announcing them later this summer.”

UrgentRX, a four-year-old, Denver-based company that sells line of fast-acting, portable over-the-counter medications in powder form, has raised $17.5 million in Series C funding, including from earlier investors and billionaires Sam Zell and David Bonderman. New investors in the round include William Morris Endeavor, the talent agency. The company has now raised $27 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Wish, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile-shopping app owned by parent company ContextLogic, has raised $50 million in new funding from new investor Founders Fund and earlier investors Formation 8GGV CapitalLegend Capital, and Yahoo Inc . co-founderJerry Yang. The company has raised $78.8 million to date, shows Crunchbase. Techcrunch has more here.

Yik Yak, an eight-month-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based company that acts as an anonymous community bulletin board, letting users view and reply to comments posted within a 1.5-mile radius, has raised $10 million in fresh funding led by earlier investor DCMAzure CapitalRenren Lianhe Holdings, and investor Tim Draper also participated. The company has now raised $11.5 million altogether.

ZetrOZ, a 4.5-year-old, Trumbull, Ct.-based ultrasound technology company whose small, wearable device uses ultrasound therapy for pain relief, has raised a little more than $2 million a few months after securing 510(K) clearance from the FDA, according to a Form D. Among its backers are Connecticut InnovationsStandard Oil VenturesAngel Investor ForumMass Medical AngelsBoston Harbor Angels and Launchpad Venture Group. The company has raised $6.8 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

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New Funds

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the 42-year-old, Sand Hill Road firm, is raising $450 million for its newest, early-stage fund, KPCB XVI, shows a new SEC filing. It’s separately raising a $750 million growth-stage fund, KPCB Digital Growth II. The funds are substantially smaller than their predecessors: the $525 million KPCB XV fund, raised in 2012, and the $1 billion inaugural Digital Growth fund, raised in 2010.

Rakuten, the 17-year-old, Japanese e-commerce giant, has just announced a new, $100 million fund designed to invest in startups across Asia-Pacific, as well as in Israel and the U.S. The vehicle will be overseen by managing partner Saemin Ahn, who is based in Singapore, reports Techcrunch. Rakuten is already an active startup investor and acquirer. In September of last year, it shelled out $200 million for Viki, a video site that has been described as Hulu for the rest of the world. It also acquired the messaging service Viber for $900 million in February of this year. Rakuten also led a $100 million round in the social bookmarking service Pinterest in 2012. Rakuten, which largely focuses on investing in discovery and social tools and large marketplaces, was founded by Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani, who is now one of Japan’s richest men.

SoftTech VC, a 10-year-old, seed-stage firm with offices in Palo Alto, Ca., and San Francisco, announced the closing an $85 million fourth fund on Friday. The firm had kicked off its fundraising last October. Founded by Jeff Clavier, SoftTech raised its first institutional capital — $15 million — in 2007. Bolstered by some earlier successes, including Mint.com, SoftTech VC added Charles Hudson as a venture partner in 2011 before closing on $55 million. The firm is now operated by Clavier; Hudson, who is now a partner; and Stephanie Palmeri, a principal. Its bets include the wearable fitness tracker Fitbit and Eventbrite, the event ticketing company.

Susa Ventures, a new, seed-stage firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, and L.A. , is announcing a $25 million debut fund this morning. The firm has four general partners: Eva Ho, who was most recently the VP of marketing and operations at venture-backed Factual and a senior product marketing manager at Google for five years before that; Leo Polovets, most recently a senior software engineer at Factual who also logged time at Google and was one of LinkedIn’s earliest engineers; Seth Berman, who was most recently the VP of strategic marketing at the Richemont Group, a publicly traded company that owns luxury brands like Cartier and Chloe; and Chad Byers, who was most recently a senior director at the advertising company Integrate and a marketing analyst at Silver Spring Networks before that. LPs include investors “from the venture and private equity sector, as well as CEOs and founders from the tech community,” says Ho, who tells StrictlyVC that the firm has already backed 20 companies, 17 of which are listed on its site. The firm says it backs startups focused on data platforms, analytics, and tools that produces network effects.

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IPOs

Lending Club, the eight-year-old, San Francisco-based online credit marketplace, has started the process for going public, tapping banks including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to work on an IPO for later this year, reports WSJ. The offering could reportedly raise more than $500 million.

Several biotech companies missed their expected IPOs last week, suggesting that a recent slump in the sector isn’t over. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

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Exits

HowAboutWe, a 4.5-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based online platform that recommends dating activities for singles, is on the cusp of being acquired by IAC, which owns dating properties Match.comOK Cupid and a stake in the mobile dating site Tinderreports Business Insider. The deal is expected to close today and to include layoffs.

Orkut, Google’s early social network, is shutting down roughly 10 years after it was started.

TalkBin, a customer feedback platform for businesses that was incubated at Y Combinator and then acquired by Google in 2011, is being shut down owing to “dwindling usage.” TalkBin was just five months old at the time of its acquisition; terms of the deal were never publicly disclosed.

Ulthera, a 10-year-old, Meza, Az.-based company that makes non-invasive ultrasound-based devices for aesthetic medical procedures, is being acquired for up to $600 million by the hundred-year-old, international healthcare company Merz Pharma Group. Ulthera had been planning to go public. The company raised at least $34.2 million in venture capital, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Apposite CapitalNew Enterprise Associates, and 3i Group.

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People

Y Combinator‘s president, Sam Altman, says he is strongly opposed to co-working spaces or resident programs once a startup is up and running. “[T]he data shows pretty strongly that most of the really big companies started with their own door . . .It’s so important for startups to get their culture right at the start. They need to feel unique and that they are on their own important mission in the world.” The Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon believes Bitcoin’s army of mostly volunteer computer developers represents the largest R&D community in the world, telling the WSJ: “We bet on computer science innovation and since this is how computer science innovation happens today, this is the kind of stuff we bet on . . . I certainly wouldn’t want to bet against the 10,000 smartest people.”

Business Insider takes a look at the “fabulous life of Bill Gates.”

Anne Wojcicki, the 23andMe co-founder, charms the Washington Post, which just profiled Wojcicki’s “Washington charm offensive.” From the story: “Wojcicki considers herself a ‘freshman’ in Washington (she laughed, noting that she showed up at the roundtable in flip-flops because she’d arrived with only one dress shoe in her bag.) ‘I’m clearly just learning the system,’ she said.”

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Job Listings

Airbnb is hiring a corporate development associate in San Francisco.

HarbourVest, the Boston-based private equity firm, is looking for two or three pre-MBA associates.

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Essential Reads

Meet Project Ara, the modular Google phone of the future.

Have we been interpreting quantum mechanics wrong this whole time?

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Detours

Your Instagram photos aren’t where they used to be.

Real people, painted to look like two-dimensional works of art.

“In the face of the yelling, B. J. Perlmutt hesitated, then took the plunge. After all, this was boot camp, and wasn’t the point to break you down and make you a man? He was sweating a little but competently finished the task . . . The shrieking stopped. Mr. Perlmutt had changed his first diaper.”

powerful message for young girls, directed by award-winning artist Lauren Greenfield.

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Retail Therapy

The new Sony RX100 pocket camera. (David Pogue calls it “incredible.”)

Feeling grouchy? These might cheer you up.

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Starting a Venture Fund? Your Timing Could Be Better

explosionLast Friday, at a conference in San Francisco organized by the fund and incubator program 500 Startups, a group of institutional investors took the stage to discuss their perspective on the venture industry. Much of what the limited partners had to say was fairly predictable. But the comments of one LP in particular — Fred Giuffrida, who joined Horsley Bridge Partners in 1995, after serving as the firm’s general counsel for 12 years — struck us as particularly interesting, partly because Giuffrida has seen more cycles than many of his peers.

While some of the panelists sounded enthusiastic about the potential of venture mega funds, for example, Giuffrida noted that the bigger the fund, “the ability to hit the kind of returns [that LPs expect] gets more difficult.”

When the LPs were asked about general partner commitments, some of the panelists remarked that they expect to see general partners contribute between two and five percent of a fund from their own pockets. Aaron Gershenberg, a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank, said he gets particularly “excited if I see someone willing to put up 10 percent” (and much less excited, he noted, when someone who is raising a subsequent fund reduces his or her GP commitment).

But Giuffrida was more of an outlier on the topic, saying that “if you push too much, you inject too much risk aversion into the program,” adding that “the last thing I want is a risk averse venture capitalist.” Giuffrida isn’t in the charity business, he made clear, but he also stressed that “there should be a balance and it should be meaningful within the context of people’s net worth.” Today, he said, a venture capitalist’s bank balance can determine his or her fund’s size, “which doesn’t necessarily seem to be rational.”

Yet Giuffrida stood apart from his fellow panelists most notably when it came to broader market conditions. While several of the investors talked optimistically about the “macro opportunity,” Giuffrida observed that “there are two things that VCs do: They invest and they exit. It is a great time for exits,” he said.

Based on traditional market cycles, though, Giuffrida doesn’t think the good times will continue uninterrupted for much longer. Using the hypothetical boiled frog as a metaphor – the one that’s placed in a pot of warming water and doesn’t realize the danger it’s in and is boiled alive – Giuffrida said the “heat is slowly rising. I kind of think we’re at 160 degrees, give or take, which maybe means . . . a correction in the next two to four years.”

A crisis could strike, compressing that period, he said. “Or you could have a series of softer corrections that push it out further. But if it is two to four years out, this is the most dangerous time to start a fund,” he continued. “Now, and over the last couple of years — because by the time [that correction] hits, you’ll have spent all your money and your reserves.”

And you’ll be cooked.


StrictlyVC: June 27, 2014

Good morning! Hope you have a stellar weekend, everyone.

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Top News in the A.M.

Aereo investor Barry Diller: “It’s over now.”

Facebook: We’ve been fighting bulk search warrants in court.

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My Best Friend, Google

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote, “One way to think of Google is as an extremely helpful, all-knowing, hyper-intelligent executive assistant.”

And it’s only getting smarter. As Sundar Pichai, top banana at Google’s Android division, tells Manjoo of the near future: “If I go and pick up my kids, it will be good for my car to be aware that my kids have entered the car and change the music to something that’s appropriate for them.”

It’s an exciting prospect, though I must admit that so much connectedness raises some questions, such as which song from “Frozen” Android will choose: “Let it Go” or “For the First Time in Forever”? What if just one kid wants to hear “In Summer”?

If a fight breaks out in the back seat, I hope Android will turn up the volume so I don’t have to listen to my children screaming and punching each other.

Here’s another thing: I am generally a good, straightforward person, but occasionally, when my husband thinks that I’m working tirelessly in our home office, I’m really downtown shopping at Neiman Marcus. If our Dropcam or Nest thermostat alerts Google to the fact that I’m away, and the GPS in my phone provides the rest of the clues as to my whereabouts, I wonder about some of the implications. For instance, could Google maybe send me a discount code while I’m at the store? That would be terrific.

Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page tells Manjoo that people get “so worried about these things” like Google’s tracking us and profiting from our every move online and off that we could miss out on the “benefits” of this new “context aware” world over which Google suddenly looks to have iron-clad control.

But with Page and Google cofounder Sergey Brin at the helm of this “single, hyperaware computing system,” what’s to worry about?

The fact is I am done wasting time, changing the music in my car to suit a couple of little tyrants who happen to belong to me. I have more important things to do, and Google knows it, because it has already scanned this content of this email.

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New Fundings

Chloe & Isabel, the 3.5-year-old, New York-based jewelry company that connects its customers through their own social selling experience, has raised $15 million in fresh funding led by Softbank Capital, at a valuation of more than $100 million, reports VentureWire. The company had previously raised $17.5 million from investors, including General Catalyst PartnersFirst Round CapitalFelicis VenturesFloodgate and individuals Ashton KutcherMike DudaAndy DunnKirsten Green, and Ron Conway, among others, shows Crunchbase.

CrowdTwist, a five-year-old, New York-based company that sells loyalty and analytics software to marketers, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by StarVest Partners, with investment from earlier backers, including Fairhaven Capital and SoftBank Capital. The company has raised $16.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Distractify, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based new media startup that competes with the likes of Upworthy, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Other participants in the round included Lerer Hippeau VenturesAdvancit Capital, and CAA.

Dune Medical Devices, a 12-year-old, Caesarea, Israel-based medical device company, has raised $14 million from undisclosed investors for its cancer detection devices in a tranche that is expected to reach $21 million. The company had previously raised roughly $50 million from investors, reports VentureWireApax Partners and Boston MedTech Advisors are among its earlier investors.

IgnitionOne, a 10-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based digital marketing technology company, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by SoftBank Capital. Earlier investors ABS Capital Partners and Brown Savano — a company that buys private company shares from founders and early investors — also participated in the round. The company has now raised roughly $68 million.

Performance Lab, an 11-year-old, Auckland, New Zealand-based maker and marketer of real-time exercise measurement analysis and virtual coaching software, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel Capital.

Plumgrid, a 2.5-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based network infrastructure software vendor that helps secure cloud networks for public and private clouds, has raised $16.2 million in Series B funding led by Longworth Venture PartnersU.S. Venture PartnersHummer Winblad Venture PartnersQualcomm Ventures and Swisscom Ventures also participated in the round, which brings Plumgrid’s total funding to $29 million.

Sport Ngin, a 5.5-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based company that helps sports organizations build websites and mobile applications, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by Piper Jaffray Merchant Banking and Causeway Media Partners, with participation from existing investor ICON Venture Partners. The company has raised $35.1 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Tastemade, a two-year-old, Santa Monica., Ca.-based food video network company, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Liberty Media and Food Network parent Scripps Network Interactive. The company has raised $40.3 million altogether, including from Comcast VenturesRedpoint Ventures, and Raine Ventures, shows Crunchbase.

Wickr, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes a self-destructing and encrypted messaging app of the same name, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Jim Breyer’s Breyer Capital, with participation from CME Group and Wargaming. The company has now raised $39 million altogether, all of it this year.

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New Funds

500 Startups, the seed-stage firm, is embracing new federal rules for public fundraising, the first big-name organization to make use of the new rules. The firm plans to raise up to $100 million for its third fund, and it has partnered with the New York-based online investment platform Seedinvest to do it. The WSJ has more here.

First Round Capital, the eight-year-old, seed-stage investment firm with offices in Philadelphia and San Francisco, has closed a fifth fund of $175 million, up just slightly from its $160 million previous fund. The firm also announced that New York City-based partner Phin Barnes is relocating to San Francisco and that Wiley Cerilli, founder of former portfolio company SinglePlatform, is joining as a venture partner. The WSJ has more here.

MassMutual, founded in 1851 and one of the oldest businesses in Springfield, Ma., has committed $6.5 million to help out the region’s newest start-ups. MassLive.com has much more here.

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IPOs

Alibaba goes with the NYSE.

GoPro, the 10-year-old maker of high-definition video cameras, saw its shares soar 31 percent yesterday on their Nasdaq debut. The company now has a market value of $3.9 billion — nearly equal to that of Domino’s Pizza, notes the WSJ.

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Exits

Expedia has agreed to acquire the European car-rental reservation company Auto Escape Group from Montefiore Investment and Auto Escape Group’s management. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Skift has the story here.

Submodal, a five-year-old, Laguna Beach, Ca.-based Web design and software development studio, has been acquired by Tustin, Ca.-based Mophie, maker of the popular mobile battery case. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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People

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen shares a surprising detail about his firm’s funds with Vox, telling the outlet: “We basically have a 15-year lockup on our money, which is longer than you used to do with private capital. One of the reasons why our funds are so much larger than venture capital funds used to be is because we have to have the firepower to finance companies through the point of time where we take them public.”

Bill and Melinda Gates deliver a moving address to Stanford University’s 2014 graduating class, telling the students, “Sometimes, it’s the people you can’t help who inspire you the most.”

Venture Capital Dispatch interviews billionaire doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong, who has launched and sold two biotech behemoths and now heads up Nantworks, a venture that combines artificial intelligence, semiconductors, cloud databases, a supercomputer, nano-optics and fiber-optic cable. Says Soon-Shiong, who invests heavily in publicly traded biotech stocks, “The evolving tools of science, and their promise, have never been as exciting as right now . . . It’s not a bubble.”

Former WSJ tech reporter Ben Worthen has quietly left venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, reports Fortune. Worthen, who joined the firm roughly a year ago as its head of content, is now editor-in-chief and content director of Ready State, a Silicon Valley-based marketing company. Fortune says he will be replaced at Sequoia.

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Job Listings

StepStone Group in San Diego is looking for an associate to focus primarily on small market buyouts, venture capital and growth equity.

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Data

CB Insights takes a look at 347 venture-backed companies using Hadoop.

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Essential Reads

Foursquare is about to start charging some businesses for access to its database of restaurants, shops and other venues, as it tries to wring revenue out of the information it has gathered over five years’ worth of “check-ins.”

A new piece of software from Carnegie Mellon University can automatically edit out the boring bits of video and allow you to watch just the interesting parts.

How India can keep startups from moving to Singapore.

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Detours

Punk rock icon Bob Mould, playing guitar last week in Oakland, Ca.

How the Clintons went from “dead broke” to superrich.

Fast Company tried designing its own Iron Man suit. It wasn’t pretty.

The power of two.

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Retail Therapy

Leave the hoi polloi in your dust this summer with Blade.

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My Best Friend, Google

Larry Page and Sergey BrinIn yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote, “One way to think of Google is as an extremely helpful, all-knowing, hyper-intelligent executive assistant.”

And it’s only getting smarter. As Sundar Pichai, top banana at Google’s Android division, tells Manjoo of the near future: “If I go and pick up my kids, it will be good for my car to be aware that my kids have entered the car and change the music to something that’s appropriate for them.”

It’s an exciting prospect, though I must admit that so much connectedness raises some questions for my own young family, such as which song from “Frozen” Android will choose: “Let it Go” or “For the First Time in Forever”? What if just one kid wants to hear “In Summer”?

If a fight breaks out in the back seat, I hope Android will turn up the volume so I don’t have to listen to my children screaming and punching each other.

Here’s another thing: I am generally a good, straightforward person, but occasionally, when my husband thinks that I’m working tirelessly in our home office, I’m really downtown shopping at Neiman Marcus. If our Dropcam or Nest thermostat alerts Google to the fact that I’m away, and the GPS in my phone provides the rest of the clues as to my whereabouts, I wonder about some of the implications. For instance, could Google send me a discount code while I’m at the store? That would be terrific.

Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page tells Manjoo that people get “so worried about these things” like Google’s tracking us and profiting from our every move online and off, that we could miss out on the benefits of this new context aware world over which Google suddenly looks to have iron-clad control.

But with Page and Google cofounder Sergey Brin at the helm of this “single, hyperaware computing system,” what’s to worry about? (They will live forever, correct?)

The fact is I am done wasting time, changing the music in my car to suit my kids. I have more important things to do, and Google knows it, because it has already scanned this content of this post.

Photo: Peter Foley/EPA


StrictlyVC: June 26, 2014

Hi, good Thursday morning, everyone, and go U.S.A.! (The game starts at 9 a.m. PST.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Everything you need to know about Google’s I/O keynote yesterday. (And here is what didn’t come up, to the surprise of many attendees.)

Tell the holdouts in your life: Costco is now offering iPads and iPhones online on the cheap.

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The Promise, and Challenges, of Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology, a discipline that combines chemistry, engineering, and molecular biology to manipulate particular molecules for specific ends, is a little too complex for most Bay Area cocktail parties, where talk of Snapchat usually predominates. “It’s a quagmire of discussion,” says Hemai Parthasarathy, a neuroscientist who is today the scientific director at Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs in San Francisco.

It could also be one of the most lucrative fields in science. By using gene-sequence information and synthetic DNA, a growing number of established companies and startups are attempting to reconfigure the metabolic pathways of cells to perform new functions that could benefit everything from the agricultural to cosmetic industries.

One such company is Pareto Biotechnologies, which has already raised seed funding from Breakout Labs and other, undisclosed investors. Soon, Pareto will be seeking Series A funding, too.

The company, though young, is farther along than most. Ten year’s worth of lab work has already gone into its platform by founders who include a chemical biology and proteomics professor at the Salk Institute in San Diego, and a serial entrepreneur who has previously founded three other molecular biology companies.

“I don’t want to call other companies we’ve seen naïve,” says Parthasarathy. “But there isn’t necessarily depth to their underlying technology. A lot [of teams] will submit proposals to us that are theoretically sound, but execution is where synthetic biology lives and dies, and it always ends up being harder than you think.”

Pareto is also going after not just one molecule or organism but a system for designing whole classes of molecules, and the company has already developed enzymatic pathways that can, it hopes, lead more quickly to end products.

Right now, for example, the company is working with a cosmetics company that “has a molecule that’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars to them,” says Pareto’s CEO and cofounder Jamie Bacher. “The chemical falls perfectly in the class that we can work with,” and it wants Pareto to modify it in a way that improves its interaction with skin.

Pareto has designed a simple, two-week experiment to see if it can produce the desired outcome. If it succeeds, scaling comes next. Pareto wants to be able to generate enough molecules – maybe a few milligrams’ worth — to prove to the cosmetics company that it’s a viable commercial process. Cosmetics happens to be a $200 billion a year industry, but it’s just one of the sectors Pareto is targeting. “We can cross up and down industries,” says Bacher.

Pareto isn’t without its challenges. While it may have a jump on some of the competition thanks to its knowledge around certain metabolic pathways, it’s still in the process of proving out its technology.

The broader industry, while potentially quite lucrative, is also often dogged by concerns over the cultural implications of altering nature. Consumers might not care what was involved in the making of their anti-aging creams, but flavors and fragrances that are being genetically modified by micro-organisms in vats — rather than extracted from plants — are getting pushback from critics who say the technologies threaten farmers in third world countries.

There’s also debate over what’s “natural.” Explains Parthasarathy, “You can chemically synthesize some of these molecules of interest using organic chemistry processes, and people call that artificial flavoring. Or you can grow it in a forest and purify it and then it’s ‘natural’ flavor. People claim synthetic biology products are natural because they’re being grown in an organism, and there’s some question whether that’s a valid designation.”

Ultimately, it comes down to consumer buy-in, notes Parthasarathy. For her part, she thinks it’s all much ado about nothing. “I think it’s irrelevant how a particular chemical is produced, whether it’s natural or artificial. If it’s a purified chemical, it’s irrelevant to one’s health how it came to be purified.”

—–

New Fundings

Akvolution, a 1.5-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based water treatment technology company, has raised a “six-digit” seed funding round from High-Tech-Gründerfonds, it says.

BlockScore, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based maker of identity-verification and anti-fraud technology for online businesses, has raised $2 million in seed financing from a group that includes Battery VenturesKhosla VenturesLightspeed Venture PartnersNew Atlantic VenturesBoost VCY Combinator and several angels.

The Bouqs, a 1.5-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based cut-to-order online flower delivery service, has raised $6 million in Series A financing led by Azure Capital Partners, which was joined by KEC Ventures. The company had previously raised $1.1 million in seed funding from numerous individual investors and firms, including Mich MathewsDennis PhelpsAndy DunnBrian SpalyTelegraph Hill CapitalQuest Venture Partners, and Siemer Ventures.

Coherent Path, a two-year-old, Arlington Heights, Ma.-based retail analytics startup, has raised $6.3 million in Series A funding led by Sigma Prime Ventures and GrandBanks Capital. The company has raised roughly $7 million altogether, including from dunnhumby VenturesCommonAngels, and BOLDstart Ventures.

CoPatient, a two-year-old, Portland, Or.-based medical-billing company that helps patients spot mistakes in their medical bills, has raised $3.6 million in Series A funding led by .406 Ventures. Earlier investors Cambia Health Solutions and Athenahealth executive Jonathan Bush also participated in the round. CoPatient had previously raised $1.1 million in seed funding.

Couchbase, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based NoSQL database company, has raised $60 million in Series E funding led by WestSummit Capital and Accel Growth Fund, as well as earlier investors. The company has now raised $116 million, shows Crunchbase. The WSJ has much more here.

Curiyo, a 2.5-year-old, Jerusalem-based company whose browser app enables users to look up names, places, and other terms in a pop-up window without leaving a Web page, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding from OurCrowdCedar FundMorton MeyersonKima VenturesTom GlocerGigi LevyJumpSpeed Ventures, and other private investors. Curiyo was founded by Bob Rosenschein, founder and former CEO of Answers.com. The company has raised $3.3 million to date, shows Crunchbase data.

Deliveroo, a two-year-old, London-based restaurant take-out platform, has raised $4.6 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from Hoxton Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Fingerprint, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of mobile game apps for children, has raised $10.9 million in new funding led byDreamWorks Animation SKG, which was joined by Reed Elsevier and Corus Entertainment. The company has raised roughly $20 million to date.

mCube, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that makes semiconductor chips that are reportedly comparable to the size of a grain of sand, has raised $37 million in new funding led by previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersMediaTekiD Ventures America, and DAG Ventures. New investors Keytone VenturesSK Telecom Ventures, and Korea Investment Partners also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $70 million.

MobileRQ, a two-year-old, Portland, Or.-based company whose software aims to help travel and hospitality marketers deliver targeted content to travelers’ mobile devices, has raised $1.3 million in new funding from earlier investor Verizon Ventures and new investors Coremix CapitalRogue Ventures and TiE Oregon. The company has now raised $8 million altogether.

Nutmeg, a four-year-old, London-based online investment management company that builds and oversees investment portfolios for companies, has raised $32 million from investors, including Balderton CapitalSchroders, and individual investors Tim Draper and Daniel Aegerter. The company has raised $37.3 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

RedOwl Analytics, a 2.5-year-old, Baltimore, Md.-based company whose software helps organizations analyze their internal corporate data streams, has raised $4.6 million from investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc BenioffIgor Sill of Geneva Venture Group; Christian Lawless of Conversion Capital; Attractor VenturesPropel Baltimore; and Tedco’s new Veterans’ Opportunity Fund. The company has raised $7.5 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Sapho, a months-old, San Francisco-based mobile app that uses software APIs to pull from a company’s various enterprise applications and provide relevant updates for each user, has raised $3 million in funding from a group of investors that includes Raymond Tonsing of Caffeinated Capital, Bloomberg Beta, Redpoint Ventures founder Brad Jones, and Andy Rankin. TechCrunch has more on the company, cofounded by serial entrepreneur Peter Yaredhere.

TapZen, a two-year-old, L.A.-based mobile gaming startup, has raised $8 million in new funding from Tencent Holdings. The company had previously raised $10 million in “seed” funding from social games giant Zynga, reports the WSJ. More here.

Truveris, a five-year-old, New York-based health information technology company that provides pricing and analysis tools to sponsors of prescription benefit plans, has raised $12.75 million in Series C funding led by Canaan Partners. Earlier investors New Leaf Venture PartnersTribeca Venture PartnersNew Atlantic Ventures and First Round Capital also participated in the round, which brings the company’s funding to roughly $26.5 million.

Whoop, a 2.5-year-old, Boston-based wearable health tech startup, has raised $6 million, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Xconomy. Jeff Fagnan of Atlas Venture is listed as a director.

WISErg, a 2.5-year-old, Issaquah, Wa.-based biotech company that converts food scraps into organic fertilizer, has raised $5 million in Series B funding from undisclosed investors. The company has raised $7.75 million to date.

—–

IPOs

GoPro is going public today, and the San Jose Mercury News has anexcellent overview of its history, what customers love about the company, and why it needs a solid content strategy to stay in the good graces of public market investors. The San Mateo, Ca., company priced its shares last night at $24 apiece, with some early investors selling 17.8 million shares.

Taking a step back, Renaissance Capital reports that 18 IPOs are set to price this week (five had priced as of yesterday morning), which could make it the most active week for IPOs in a decade.

—–

Exits

Appurify, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that makes it possible for developers to automate the testing and optimization of their mobile apps and websites, has been acquired by Google, the search giant announced yesterday. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, butTechCrunch says it will “stay open as freemium cross-platform service.” Appurify had raised $6.3 million from investors, shows Crunchbase, including Google VenturesFoundation CapitalRadar PartnersFelicis VenturesWebb Investment NetworkData CollectiveInspovation Ventures and individual investors.

—–

People

Facebook released diversity-related stats about its workforce yesterday, and they look an awful lot like those of Google’s and LinkedIn’s, which is to say, not good.

Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz received a special birthday tribute this week by rapper Divine.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Aereo, a TV streaming service, had violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals and delivering them to subscribers for a fee. Calling the ruling a “massive setback,” the company’s founder, Chet Kanojia, went on to say in a published statement that, “We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”

Hey, L.A.: Serial entrepreneur Sean Parker is “having a serious sniff around a super-luxe, nearly three acre, compound-like estate in Brentwood owned by a billionaire financier (and hardcore real estate baller) who’s shopping the posh property on the QT with a $30-ish million price tag,”reports Real Estalker.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was in Silicon Valley yesterday and Tuesday to hear what the tech community thinks of net neutrality proposal. (We can imagine how that went.)

—–

Job Listings

Lerer Hippeau Ventures will be adding “one or two” new associates to its team, managing director Eric Hippeau told StrictlyVC on Tuesday. We’re not sure how soon the firm plans to bring anyone new on board, but you might want to start working your connections. The firm is based in New York.

Visa is looking for a director of portfolio management in Foster City, Ca., just south of San Francisco.

—–

Happenings

Tomorrow in San Francisco, 500 Startups hosts PreMoney, a one-day conference for accredited investors about the future of venture capital. You can check out the speaker line-up here; registration is over here. (We’ll be there for the first half of the day; hope to see some of you.)

—–

Data

Trying to keep tabs on who has what? You might check out this comprehensive database of venture funds that have raised $200 million or less since the beginning of 2011, care of Silk.

—–

Essential Reads

Google is about to make it easier for other Internet applications to use information in your email.

Amazon is rolling out a food takeout service, “a direct competitor to GrubHub, Seamless and DeliveryHero,” says someone who worked on the service to TechCrunch.

—–

Detours

The same family, in front of the same backdrop, every year for 21 years.

Dramatic wedding photos.

Do not let your doctor operate on you on a Friday.

Can I still eat it? Your guide to real expiration dates.

—–

Retail Therapy

Good people of San Diego, this one is for you.

And the purpose of your visit?

—–

To sign up for StrictlyVC, click here. To advertise, click here.


The Promise, and Challenges, of Synthetic Biology

synthetic-biologySynthetic biology, a discipline that combines chemistry, engineering, and molecular biology to manipulate particular molecules for specific ends, is a little too complex for most Bay Area cocktail parties, where talk of Snapchat usually predominates. “It’s a quagmire of discussion,” says Hemai Parthasarathy, a neuroscientist who is today the scientific director at Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs in San Francisco.

It could also be one of the most lucrative fields in science. By using gene-sequence information and synthetic DNA, a growing number of established companies and startups are attempting to reconfigure the metabolic pathways of cells to perform new functions that could benefit everything from the agricultural to cosmetic industries.

One such company is Pareto Biotechnologies, which has already raised seed funding from Breakout Labs and other, undisclosed investors. Soon, Pareto will be seeking Series A funding, too.

The company, though young, is farther along than most. Ten year’s worth of lab work has already gone into its platform by founders who include a chemical biology and proteomics professor at the Salk Institute in San Diego, and a serial entrepreneur who has previously founded three other molecular biology companies.

“I don’t want to call other companies we’ve seen naïve,” says Parthasarathy. “But there isn’t necessarily depth to their underlying technology. A lot [of teams] will submit proposals to us that are theoretically sound, but execution is where synthetic biology lives and dies, and it always ends up being harder than you think.”

Pareto is also going after not just one molecule or organism but a system for designing whole classes of molecules, and the company has already developed enzymatic pathways that can, it hopes, lead more quickly to end products.

Right now, for example, the company is working with a cosmetics company that “has a molecule that’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars to them,” says Pareto’s CEO and cofounder Jamie Bacher. “The chemical falls perfectly in the class that we can work with,” and it wants Pareto to modify it in a way that improves its interaction with skin.

Pareto has designed a simple, two-week experiment to see if it can produce the desired outcome. If it succeeds, scaling comes next. Pareto wants to be able to generate enough molecules – maybe a few milligrams’ worth — to prove to the cosmetics company that it’s a viable commercial process. Cosmetics happens to be a $200 billion a year industry, but it’s just one of the sectors Pareto is targeting. “We can cross up and down industries,” says Bacher.

Pareto isn’t without its challenges. While it may have a jump on some of the competition thanks to its knowledge around certain metabolic pathways, it’s still in the process of proving out its technology.

The broader industry, while potentially quite lucrative, is also often dogged by concerns over the cultural implications of altering nature. Consumers might not care what was involved in the making of their anti-aging creams, but flavors and fragrances that are being genetically modified by micro-organisms in vats — rather than extracted from plants — are getting pushback from critics who say the technologies threaten farmers in third world countries.

There’s also debate over what’s “natural.” Explains Parthasarathy, “You can chemically synthesize some of these molecules of interest using organic chemistry processes, and people call that artificial flavoring. Or you can grow it in a forest and purify it and then it’s ‘natural’ flavor. People claim synthetic biology products are natural because they’re being grown in an organism, and there’s some question whether that’s a valid designation.”

Ultimately, it comes down to consumer buy-in, notes Parthasarathy. For her part, she thinks it’s all much ado about nothing. “I think it’s irrelevant how a particular chemical is produced, whether it’s natural or artificial. If it’s a purified chemical, it’s irrelevant to one’s health how it came to be purified.”

Sign up for our morning missive, StrictlyVC, featuring all the venture-related news you need to start you day.


StrictlyVC: June 25, 2014

Hi, all, hope your Wednesday is off to a great start.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

A source tells TechCrunch that Facebook is building an enterprise product.

The FAA has released guidelines that explain when hobbyists can fly drones legally. Amazon says they won’t ground its drone delivery fleet.

—–

Eric Hippeau on His Firm’s New Fund and Where It’s Shopping Now

Lerer Hippeau Ventures announced yesterday that it has closed its fourth seed-stage fund with $62 million, up meaningfully from the $36 million it raised for its third fund. According to Eric Hippeau, one of the firm’s four managing directors, the firm plans to hire more support staff and its first checks to startups will likely grow from between $300,000 and $600,000 to between $400,000 and $800,000. Little is changing structurally, though.

What is shifting a bit is what interests the four-year-old, New York-based firm, whose bets include Warby ParkerBuzzfeed, and LiveIntent, among many others. Hippeau, a longtime venture capitalist and the former CEO of Huffington Post, told me more yesterday. Our chat has been edited for length.

You’ve been out fundraising numerous times in your career. What’s it like out there right now?

By design, we fundraise every 16 to 18 months, so it can’t be a long fundraising cycle; it’s about a three-month-plus period. We’re very fortunate in that we have very supportive existing [investors] who tend to reinvest with us. We do attract new LPs every time we raise a fund, so there’s a due diligence process with new LPs.

What was most important to the new LPs?

Every fund has to have a point of view and a differentiated position to succeed; that’s what new LPs are looking for. In our case, a number of things differentiate us. We’re seed-first investors . . and 70 percent our investments are in New York, with the rest tending to be in Silicon Valley.

I do think venture is increasingly intriguing to LPs; I think there’s recognition that something important is going on that’s more than just building technology for technology’s sake – that technology is, in fact, disrupting a huge number of sectors and touching people’s lives in a much broader way today than ever before and . . . creating new wealth. So if you have a unique proposition, it’s a good time to be talking with LPs.

You’ve said that just two partners need to agree to move forward on a deal, partly because it would be more time-consuming otherwise. Is the firm having to make quick decisions right now? How would you characterize the pace of deal-making?

Deal flow is the strongest I’ve seen since we started in 2010, both in terms of quantity and quality. In New York, things tend to slow down in the summer, which is fine; it give us a chance to catch up on other things. But we’ve been seeing super-high-quality companies coming through.

As seed investors, how much “there” should be there when you’re looking at a startup?

It doesn’t have to have a finished product but we do need to see a product. There are always exceptions. If it’s a repeat entrepreneur, and someone we know well, [or] if it’s [a] [business-to-business] enterprise startup, the product doesn’t have to be as far along.

Looking out six to 12 months, what might you be investing in that you’re less focused on today?

I think we’ll look more at [financial tech startups], because New York has a lot of relevant experience and because, for the most part, to this day, fin tech is built on proprietary technology, and our sense is that it will use the same consumer tech we use every day in our pockets.

You have a lot of media investments as a firm. Can you share some general thoughts about the future of the news business? Do you think, like Marc Andreessen, that it will grow 10x or more from where it is today?

We invested in content way before people on the West Coast did and [remain] very bullish on it. We believe, for example, that there’s a ton of new platforms that need native content. If you look at Instagram or Snapchat or WhatsApp or social mobile, all of these platforms are opportunities for people to consume more content, and those opportunities allow for new brands.

We also start content companies ourselves, [among them the animal-themed site] TheDoDo and NowThis News, which are short-form videos on Instagram.

Is content the dominant theme of your portfolio?

People think it is because of the Huffington Post and investments like Buzzfeed. It actually represents less than 20 percent of our portfolio.

—–

New Fundings

Aerospike, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based flash optimized, in-memory and NoSQL startup, has $20 million in Series C funding led by New Enterprise AssociatesColumbus Nova Technology PartnersAlsop Louie Partners and Regis McKenna also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total known funding to $22 million. (It raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding in 2012.) GigaOm has more here.

eCurv, a 2.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that’s rolling out a patented way to reduce electricity charges for commercial customers, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Constellation Technology Ventures. Other investors include Vodia Ventures and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Epoxy, a two-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based company that builds tools to help YouTube startups and other video creators deepen their relationship with audiences, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Upfront Ventures and Time Warner Investments. Earlier investors, including Advancit CapitalBertelsmann Digital Media InvestmentsGreycroft Partners and Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures, also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $14 million.

Helpshift, a young, San Francisco-based company that provides customer support for mobile apps, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Intel CapitalVisionnaire Ventures and earlier investors True Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners also participated in the round. The company has now raised $13.2 million altogether.

Kreditech, a two-year-old, Hamburg, Germany-based company that applies big data to score the creditworthiness of customers, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by the private equity firm Värde Partners. Earlier investors Blumberg Capital and Point Nine Capital also participated in the funding, which brings the total capital raised by the company to $63 million. TechCrunch has more here.

MyOptique Group, a nine-year-old London-based online optical retailer, has raised roughly $27.2 million in Series C funding from KorysBeringeaCipio PartnersSilicon Valley BankActon Capital Partners,Highland Capital Partners, and Index Ventures. The company has raised $55.4 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Next Step Living, a six-year-old, Boston-based company whose energy diagnostics services aim to help individuals and organizations to be more energy-efficient, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by Braemar Energy Ventures, with earlier investors VantagePoint Capital Partners and Black Coral Capital. The company has now raised $61.7 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Numerate, a seven-year-old, San Bruno, Ca.-based company that streamlines pharmaceutical production pipelines and intellectual property protections, has raised $8 million in new funding led by Atlas Venture and Lilly Ventures, with participation from existing investors. The company has raised at least $13.7 million to date, shows Crunchbase. Others of its investors include Foundation Capital and Lanza TechVentures.

OMsignal, a 2.5-year-old, Montreal-based “smart” clothing maker, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Earlier investors, including Real VenturesMistral Venture Partners,Golden Venture Partners, Techstars managing director David CohenFlextronics, and Primera Capital also participated in the round. The company had previously raised $1 million in seed funding.

One Month, a year-old, New York-based online education company that offers one month’s worth of tutorials on front-end Web development, growth hacking, Web security, and more (the idea is to teach users just enough to get a Web app up and running), has raised $770,000 in seed funding from Winklevoss CapitalInnovation WorksAndreessen HorowitzGeneral CatalystStart FundOliver JungLew MoormanY Combinator,FundersClub, and the crowdfunding platform WeFunder. The company is a Y Combinator alum; it passed through the program last year.

Schoology, a five-year-old, New York-based learning management system that helps educators use apps and other tech more effectively to teach and manage their classwork, has raised $15 million in Series C funding led by Intel CapitalGreat Oaks Venture Capital and Great Road Holdings also participated in the round, alongside earlier investors FirstMark Capital and Meakem Becker Venture Capital. The company has now raised at least $23 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

SmashFly Technologies, a 6.5-year-old, Stow, Ma.-based maker of recruiting software, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by OpenView Venture Partners.

Tasktop Technologies, a seven-year-old, Vancouver-based maker of so-called software lifestyle integration software, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Austin VenturesYaletown Venture Partners also participated in the round.

Vessel, a new startup founded by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, has raised $75 million from BenchmarkBezos Expeditions and Greylock Partners, sources tell Re/code, which says the still-stealth venture will “focus on content, and particularly on video.” More here, though it sounds like Kilar won’t be revealing much until year end.

WebPT, an eight-year-old, Phoenix, Az.-based company that says its Web-based medical records software is now used by more than 35,000 rehabilitation therapists in the U.S. and Canada, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Battery Ventures.

ZocDoc, a nearly seven-year-old, New York-based online medical care scheduling service, is raising a new round of funding worth $152 million, valuing the company at $1.6 billion, according to a Delaware Certificate of Corporation filing pulled by VC Experts and flagged by Fortune. ZocDoc had previously raised $97.9 million in funding, including from Goldman SachsDST GlobalFounders FundKhosla VenturesSV Angel and prominent individuals that include Jeff Bezos and Marc Benioff.

——

New Funds

General Electric and the four-year-old, San Juan Capistrano, Ca.-based venture firm Frost Data Capital are setting up a new incubator for industrial technologies. Called Frost I3, it expects to help advance ten companies per year over the next three years. VentureWire has the story here (subscription required). A two-week-old SEC filing shows that Frost Data has raised at least $38.4 million for its Frost VP Early Stage Fund II LP. Frost typically partners with major corporations to identify gaps in their big data analytics arsenals, has spun out a number of companies, including Predixion Software, Cirro, and OspreyData. The firm was founded by Stuart Frost, the founder of DatAllegro, a maker of data warehouse appliances that Microsoft acquired in 2008 for $275 million.

—–

IPOs

Cyber-Ark Software, a 15-year-old, Petach Tikva, Israel-based cybersecurity software company, has publicly filed for an IPO. According to an earlier Dow Jones report, Goldman Sachs Group led an investment round of $40 million in Cyber-Ark in 2011, buying out many of the previous investors. J.P. Morgan invested in the company in earlier rounds. The company’s prospectus shows that its largest shareholders today are Jerusalem Venture Partners, which owns 46.6 percent of the company; Goldman, which owns 24.2 percent; Vertex Venture Capital, which owns 11.6 percent; and Cabaret Security, which owns 7.7 percent.

—–

Exits

Carbon Design Group, a 19-year-old, Seattle-based industrial design and product engineering company, has been acquired by OculusVR, the virtual reality company now owned by Facebook. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Carbon Design Group is known for designing the XBox 360 controller, among other things.

Youbibi, a four-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based travel search startup that compares flights, hotels, and holiday packages for the China market, has been acquired by 11-year-old Skyscanner, itself a global travel search company that’s headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland but has offices throughout the world, including in Beijing and Miami. Youbibi, with 20 employees, doesn’t appear to have raised venture backing. Skyscanner, a 500-person company, had raised $5.2 million from Scottish Equity Partners back in 2007. Last year, it went on to raise an undisclosed amount of funding from Sequoia Capital.

—–

People

TechCrunch founder-turned-venture capitalist Michael Arrington says he has dropped his defamation lawsuit against a former inamorata who made explosive, public accusations against him in early 2013. Arrington says she has “retracted her statements and apologized, which is the very relief I sought before filing this action.”

Steven Burrill, the high-profile healthcare investor accused of fraud and wrongful termination by a former employee in a civil lawsuit, has canceled his annual speech at the biotech industry’s biggest convention, being held in San Diego this week. A spokeswoman for Burrill, who is lying low for now, said his lawyers should file a response to the lawsuit by July’s end.

James Conlon has been promoted to partner at the seed-stage firm Bullpen Capital in the Menlo Park, Ca. Conlon, who joined Bullpen as a principal in 2012, has one of the more interesting backgrounds we’ve seen. In addition to cofounding the venture-backed company Venture Scanner, Conlon has worked as a legal analyst at RPX Corp., spent a year implementing robotics education programs in Philadelphia schools as a member of AmeriCorps, and made a living for more than two years as a professional poker player. (He also has a law degree from American University.)

French billionaire and active tech investor Xavier Niel tells BusinessWeek that France’s economy isn’t a hopeless case, despite appearances in recent years. “You can say it’s worse in France than it is in other countries . . . We have too much debt, of course, and we had very bad management of the country. But we created a company with a market valuation of $19 billion. That’s not so bad, right? It is possible here.”

Businessweek calls Sundar Pichai, the new chief of Google’s Android division, “the most powerful man in a mobile.” He’s also eminently likable, say colleagues. “I would challenge you to find anyone at Google who doesn’t like Sundar or who thinks Sundar is a jerk,” says Caesar Sengupta, a vice president who has worked with Pichai for eight years.

Mike Randall, the global director of Facebook’s preferred marketing developer program, has been lured away by Snapchat, which has made him the company’s new VP of business and marketing partnerships. TechCrunch has much more here.

Oof. Kevin Rose of Google Ventures has abandoned his plans to demolish a century-old, Portland, Or., home he purchased earlier this year, after facing increasing pressure from his new neighbors to leave it intact. After much drama yesterday, with demolition trucks sitting outside the house, a cash offer from a neighbor who is a developer, and a general contractor who reportedly said he was told to proceed with the demolition despite the neighbor’s offer, Rose agreed by day’s end to sell the home and look elsewhere in Portland.

Full footage of that Kanye WestSteve Stoute and Ben Horowitz talk at Cannes Lions 2014 has been posted online; you can watch it here.

—–

Job Listings

Orbimed, the healthcare investment firm, is looking for a senior associate in New York.

Teknos Associates, a San Francisco-based valuation firm that works with technology companies and their VCs, is looking for an associate.

—–

Happenings

The Google I/O two-day conference kicks off today in San Francisco. Here’s what to expect.

—–

Data

The researchers at Datafox were intrigued by this week when Andreessen Horowitz handed over $90 million to Tanium, a 6.5-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based enterprise management startup that helps companies manage and secure the devices on their network via a Web browser. It decided to use DataFox to research Tanium and its competitive space; here’s a step­-by­-step walkthrough of what it uncovered.

—–

Essential Reads

It isn’t your imagination. BuzzFeed is watching you.

Venture-backed Bitcoin miner manufacturer CoinTerra is facing legal action for not fulfilling an order when it originally promised to. It’s the third Bitcoin-related startup to face litigation for breach of contract and/or fraud in recent months, reports Ars Technica.

—–

Detours

Balloon rides in Turkey.

Soccer organizations in the U.S. suggest that coaches start teaching children to head the ball only after those players turn 10.

The sociology of sorry.

—–

Retail Therapy

Flags, just in time for the big day.

We also like this amphibious camper, though we feared someone was going to be ghoulishly dispatched in its promotional video.

—–

To sign up for StrictlyVC, click here. To advertise, click here.

 


Eric Hippeau on His Firm’s New Fund and Where It’s Shopping Now

Eric HippeauLerer Hippeau Ventures announced yesterday that it has closed its fourth seed-stage fund with $62 million, up from the $50 million it raised for its third fund. According to Eric Hippeau, one of the firm’s four managing directors, the firm plans to hire more support staff, and the initial checks it writes to startups will likely increase from between $300,000 and $600,000 to between $400,000 and $800,000. Little is changing structurally, though.

What is shifting a bit is what interests the four-year-old, New York-based firm, whose bets include Warby Parker, Buzzfeed, and LiveIntent, among many others. Hippeau, a longtime venture capitalist and the former CEO of Huffington Post, told me more yesterday. Our chat has been edited for length.

You’ve been out fundraising numerous times in your career. What’s it like out there right now?

By design, we fundraise every 16 to 18 months, so it can’t be a long fundraising cycle. So it’s about a three-month-plus period [that we need to gather commitments]. We’re very fortunate in that we have very supportive existing [investors] who tend to reinvest with us. We do attract new LPs every time we raise a fund, so there’s a due diligence process with new LPs.

What was important to the new LPs?

Every fund has to have a point of view and a differentiated position to succeed; that’s what new LPs are looking for. In our case, a number of things differentiate us. We’re seed-first investors . . and 70 percent our investments are in New York, with the rest tending to be in Silicon Valley.

I do think venture is increasingly intriguing to LPs; I think there’s recognition that something important is going on that’s more than just building technology for technology’s sake – that technology is, in fact, disrupting a huge number of sectors and touching people’s lives in a much broader way today than ever before and . . .creating new wealth. So if you have a unique proposition, it’s a good time to be talking with LPs.

You’ve said that just two partners have to agree to move forward on a deal, partly because it would be more time-consuming otherwise. Are you having to make quick decisions right now? How would you characterize the pace of deal-making?

Deal flow is the strongest I’ve seen since we started in 2010, both in terms of quantity and quality. In New York, things tend to slow down in the summer, which is fine; it gives us a chance to catch up on other things. But we’ve been seeing super-high-quality companies coming through.

As seed investors, how much “there” should be there when you’re looking at a startup?

It doesn’t have to have a finished product but we do need to see a product. There are always exceptions. If it’s a repeat entrepreneur, and someone we know well, [or] if it’s [a] [business-to-business] enterprise startup, the product doesn’t have to be as far along.

Looking out six to 12 months, what might you be investing in that you’re less focused on today?

I think we’ll look more at fin tech, because New York has a lot of relevant experience and because, for the most part, to this day, [fin tech] is built on proprietary technology, and our sense is that it will use the same consumer tech we use every day in our pockets.

You have a lot of media investments as a firm. Can you share some general thoughts about the future of the news business? Do you think, like Marc Andreessen, that it will grow 10x or more from where it is today?

We invested in content way before people on the West Coast did and [remain] very bullish on it. We believe, for example, that there’s a ton of new platforms that need native content. So if you look at Instagram or Snapchat or WhatApp or social mobile, all of these platforms are opportunities for people to consume more content, and those opportunities allow for new brands.

We also start content companies ourselves, [among them the animal-themed site] TheDoDo and NowThis News, which are short-form videos on Instagram.

Is content the dominant theme of your portfolio?

People think it is because of the Huffington Post and investments like Buzzfeed. It actually represents less than 20 percent of our portfolio.


StrictlyVC: June 24, 2014

Hi, happy Tuesday morning, everyone!

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Google‘s Nest Labs is opening its platform to outside developers for the first time. It’s also sharing user information with Google for the first time, allowing Google to know when Nest users are at home or not.

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Relationship Science Trains Its Sights on the Venture Industry

In February of last year, a New York-based company called Relationship Science pulled back the curtains from an online platform it has been developing since 2010, one that now features 3.5 million profiles of the world’s “decision-makers,” all of them mapped out to illustrate how they’re connected to one another and everyone else.

Characterized as a “Rolodex for the 1 percent” by Dealbook, it’s not a directory that one is asked to join. Power players can’t remove themselves, either. Everything that Relationship Science uses is public data – some scraped from the Web, some from third-party data providers, and some turned up by some of its 500 employees in Indian and New York, who pore over SEC documents, campaign finance databases, annual reports and the like to create a graphical view of each individual and his or her “strong” to “weak” links to others.

The big idea is to help businesses and nonprofits recruit, strike deals, raise money and sell stuff by arming them with more information about how to get to particular people. And nearly 450 clients – many on Wall Street – have bought into the vision, paying Relationship Science between $9,000 and “upward of six figures” a year for its competitive intelligence. Now, the company is looking to pull others into the fold, from political campaigns to sports franchises to more VCs, the company’s chief marketing officer, Josh Mait, told me yesterday.

Relationship Science has already raised $90 million from investors, including billionaires Henry Kravis, Ken Langone, and Ron Perelman. Are you in the market again or will you be in the foreseeable future?

I don’t have a crystal ball. I think we’ve raised a decent amount of money and that it’s given us the ability to build a sophisticated asset that can now be extended in a number of ways.

The company doesn’t provide users with phone numbers or email addresses or a way to message anyone else on the platform, putting the onus on users to find creative ways to contact the people they research. Will that ever change?

We don’t have contact information because we’d have a big fat spam machine otherwise. We made a purposeful decision to provide instead deep dossiers on people and companies and to let our clients – who are pretty sophisticated businesspeople – figure out how to act on it.

What are some of the platform’s most-used features?

One, called Pathfinder, allows you to run paths between any entity to any entity. Say I’m a partner at a VC firm, looking at a company and trying to reach potential investors. I might make a list of all my board members, which would provide me with more axis points to find relationships. Our search capabilities also help clients to do smart prospecting. If you want to hire someone with a particular criteria, it might turn up 15,000 individuals, but we can help you find people in that grouping who are just one degree [of separation] away from you. And we have news and alerts on the people most important to you, which isn’t always a news item in a publication but can be when someone sells a stock or makes a donation to a cause.

Are you capturing people’s outside interests? I’d think that would be useful.

We’re able to capture some interests and affiliations. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate it , though. It’s hard data to capture other than sporadically. We do allow clients to put in their own information, and when they come across someone’s profile, we’ll surface any commonalities they have with that person.

VCs already have other options. Many might also argue that it’s not rocket science, figuring out who is connected to whom in the startup industry. It’s not nearly so big or opaque as Wall Street.

I think you’re right about that perception. But I’d argue that any firm that’s looking for a competitive advantage should have a good handle on what their strongest relationships are — especially during critical moments when you want any edge you can get.

—–

New Fundings

Bigtree Entertainment, a 15-year-old, India-based company that owns the online entertainment ticketing property BookMyShow, has raised $25 million from new investor SAIF Partners. Earlier investors Accel Partners and Network18 also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $43 million, according to Crunchbase.

Cargomatic, a 1.5-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based company that connects available truck drivers with companies needing to move freight (it calls itself the “Uber of trucking”), has raised $2.6 million led by Morado VenturesSV Angel, and Sherpa Venturesreports Venture Capital DispatchWinklevoss CapitalAcequia CapitalStructure Capital and several angel investors also participated in the round.

CloudPhysics, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based SaaS-based data management platform that helps corporate data centers run smoothly, has raised $15 million in Series C funding led by Jafco Ventures. Earlier investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Mayfield Fund also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $27.5 million.

Definiens, a 20-year-old, Munich, Germany-based pathology image-analysis company, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Wellington Partners. Earlier investors Gilde Healthcare PartnersCipio Partners, and TVM Capital also joined the round. The company has raised at least $33.3 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Grand Rounds, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that provides medical second opinions online, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Greylock Partners. Earlier investors Venrock and Harrison Metal also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $51 million. Re/code has more on the company here.

Housing.com, a two-year-old, Mumbai, India-based online real estate portal that helps people rent and buy homes, has raised $19 million in its fourth round of funding, from Helion Venture PartnersNexus Venture Partners, and Qualcomm Ventures. It isn’t immediately clear how much the company has raised to date. (Sorry.)

LIFX, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company making a Wi-Fi enabled, multi-color LED light bulb, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia Capital. The company had also raised $1.3 million via a Kickstarter campaign in 2012.

OwnerIQ, an eight-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based company that provides real-time media buying services to advertisers, has raised $11 million in funding led by existing investors in a round that was closed over two tranches, beginning in April. The company, which looks to have raised roughly $40 million to date, counts Kepha PartnersLongworth Venture PartnersEgan-Managed CapitalCommonAngelsMassachusetts Technology Development Corporation, and Atlas Venture among its backers.

Passare, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that’s “simplifying end-of-life management” through an online portal where family and friends of the deceased can make funeral and travel arrangements, create online memorials and invite guests, has raised $6 million from a group of funeral homes, angel investors and the Abilene, Tx.-based insurance company Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company. The WSJ has the story.

Patreon, a year-old, San Francisco-based subscription platform that enables fans and sponsors to support artists and creators, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from Alexis OhanianSam AltmanDavid MarcusJoshua Reeves and numerous other individual investors. TechCrunch has much more here.

Phunware, a five-year-old, Austin-based company focused on creating mobile experiences for brands, including through mobile software development, has raised $30.7 million in Series E funding led by Firsthand Technology Value Fund. Other investors in the round included Fraser McCombs VenturesMaxima VenturesWild Basin Investment, the Central Texas Angel NetworkCisco SystemsWorld Wrestling Entertainment, and Samsung Ventures. The company has now raised $48.3 million to date.

RelayRides, a 5.5-year-old, San Francisco-based peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace that now focuses only on providing long-term (day-long, at least) rentals, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Canaan Partners. Earlier investors August CapitalGoogle Ventures and Shasta Ventures also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $44 million.

Soundhawk, a 2.5-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based company that makes a “smart listening” system that looks like a Bluetooth headset to help people hear what they’re listening for in noisy environments, has raised $5.5 million in funding from tech manufacturing giant Foxconn Group. The WSJ has much more on the company here. Soundhawk had previously raised $5.7 million from True Ventures.

Transifex, a 4.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca., and Athens, Greece-based startup that helps developers translate sites and apps into multiple languages quickly and inexpensively (comparatively), has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by New Enterprise Associates. Other participants in the round included Toba CapitalArafura Ventures, and several individual angel investors. More here.

White Ops, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based company focused on online fraud detection (it says it isolates and eliminates bot-infected traffic), has raised $7 million in funding from new investors Paladin Capital Group and Grotech Ventures.

—–

IPOs

Intersect ENT, an 11-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca., company that makes drug-eluting, self-expanding implants for use in surgery on patients with chronic sinusitis, has filed for an IPO. The company has raised at least $80 million over the years, shows Crunchbase. Its largest shareholders include U.S. Venture Partners, which owns 22.7 percent of the company; Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which owns 20.3 percent; PTV Sciences, which owns 14.7 percent; Norwest Venture Partners, which owns 12.8 percent; and Medtronic, which owns 6.8 percent.

—–

Exits

99dresses, a four-year-old, New York-based platform whose app helped connect people wanting to buy and sell used clothing, is closing, according to its cofounder and CEO, Nikki Durki. The company, a Y Combinator alum, had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Draper AssociatesPersefon Ventures, and Fenox Venture Capital. Durki has written about her experience in shutting down the business on Medium, in a post titled, “My Startup Failed, and This is What It Feels Like.”

A Little Market, a 5.5-year-old, Paris-based online marketplace for handmade items, has been acquired by its bigger U.S. peer Etsy for an undisclosed amount of money, reports TechCrunch. Etsy says the company is its “sixth and largest acquisition to date.” A Little Market will continue to operate independently. Etsy has raised $97.3 million in funding from Accel PartnersUnion Square VenturesIndex Ventures and other investors.

—–

People

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation, funded by a group of high-profile Silicon Valley luminaries, including Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner, has named five winners of its first mathematics prize. Re/code has the list here.

Shawn Atkinson, an attorney in the venture capital practice of the international law firm Edwards Wildman Palmer, is leaving to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Edwards Palmer has reportedly struggled to grow its business in recent years. Cooley is also reportedly among those firms looking to pick up the pieces; according to the Global Legal Post, the firm is interested in recruiting senior lawyers from Edwards Wildman in order to launch a London office.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is somewhat famous for keeping people waiting. Still, as the WSJ reports, appearing two hours late last week for a private dinner in Cannes that was organized expressly for Mayer and ad execs from major companies, including Chobani, MillerCoors, and Mondelez International, was an especially bad move. At least one CEO left before Mayer arrived. Another executive at the dinner tells the WSJ: “It is another instance where she demonstrated that she doesn’t understand the value of clients, ad revenue or agencies.” (VC Hunter Walk, who worked with Mayer for numerous years at Google, tweeted in response to the story, “Hey ad exec who leaked the Marissa story. At least have guts to go on record w WSJ if you’re gonna throw mud.”)

—–

Job Listings

Tamr, a Cambridge, Ma.-based company that announced $16 million in funding last month from Google Ventures and NEA, has just opened a San Francisco office and is looking for business development pros, among other things. (Sorry we don’t have a better link for you; we’re told you should just email the company.)

—–

Essential Reads

Is time spent a better metric than pageviews? Upworthy says it is, and it’s opening up its code for “attention minutes” to anyone who wants to use it.

Why Twitter and Facebook ads aren’t effective.

A recent study out of HBS finds that venture capitalists have a strong tendency to team up with other VCs whose ethnic and educational backgrounds are similar to their own – a tendency that’s lousy for business.

—–

Detours

From Wired: A summer binge-watching guide to “Arrested Development.”

The most-connected New Yorkers.

“Star Wars,” recut into a modern trailer.

No, no, no, no.

—–

Retail Therapy

James Nestor’s “Deep,” for the beach.

The Alen 68 yacht, for the water.

—–

To sign up for StrictlyVC, click here. To advertise, click here.


Relationship Science Trains Its Sights on the Venture Industry

relsciIn February of last year, a New York-based company called Relationship Science (RelSci) pulled back the curtains from an online platform it has been developing since 2010, one that now features 3.5 million profiles of the world’s “decision-makers,” all of them mapped out to illustrate how they’re connected to one another and everyone else.

Characterized as a “Rolodex for the 1 percent” by Dealbook, it’s not a directory that one is asked to join. Power players can’t remove themselves, either. Everything that Relationship Science uses is public data – some scraped from the Web, some from third-party data providers, and some turned up by some of its 500 employees in Indian and New York, who pore over SEC documents, campaign finance databases, annual reports and the like to create a graphical view of each individual and his or her “strong” to “weak” links to others.

The big idea is to help businesses and nonprofits recruit, strike deals, raise money and sell stuff by arming them with more information about how to get to particular people. And nearly 450 clients – many on Wall Street – have bought into the vision, paying Relationship Science between $9,000 and “upward of six figures” a year for its competitive intelligence. Now, the company is looking to pull others into the fold, from political campaigns to sports franchises to more VCs, the company’s chief marketing officer, Josh Mait, told me yesterday.

Relationship Science has already raised $90 million from investors, including billionaires Henry Kravis, Ken Langone, and Ron Perelman. Are you in the market again or will you be in the foreseeable future?

I don’t have a crystal ball. I think we’ve raised a decent amount of money and that it’s given us the ability to build a sophisticated asset that can now be extended in a number of ways.

The company doesn’t provide users with phone numbers or email addresses or a way to message anyone else on the platform, putting the onus on users to find creative ways to contact the people they research. Will that ever change?

We don’t have contact information because we’d have a big fat spam machine otherwise. We made a purposeful decision to provide instead deep dossiers on people and companies and to let our clients – who are pretty sophisticated businesspeople – figure out how to act on it.

What are some of the platform’s most-used features?

One, called Pathfinder, allows you to run paths between any entity to any entity. Say I’m a partner at a VC firm, looking at a company and trying to reach potential investors. I might make a list of all my board members, which would provide me with more axis points to find relationships. Our search capabilities also help clients to do smart prospecting. If you want to hire someone with a particular criteria, it might turn up 15,000 individuals, but we can help you find people in that grouping who are just one degree [of separation] away from you. And we have news and alerts on the people most important to you, which isn’t always a news item in a publication but can be when someone sells a stock or makes a donation to a cause.

Are you capturing people’s outside interests? I’d think that would be useful.

We’re able to capture some interests and affiliations. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate it , though. It’s hard data to capture other than sporadically. We do allow clients to put in their own information, and when they come across someone’s profile, we’ll surface any commonalities they have with that person.

VCs already have other options. Many might also argue that it’s not rocket science, figuring out who is connected to whom in the startup industry. It’s not nearly so big or opaque as Wall Street.

I think you’re right about that perception. But I’d argue that any firm that’s looking for a competitive advantage should have a good handle on what their strongest relationships are — especially during critical moments when you want any edge you can get.

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