StrictlyVC: August 6, 2014

Good Wednesday morning, everyone. Semil Shah here, filling in with a shortened version of StrictlyVC while Connie is out for a couple of weeks. If you’d like to talk about today’s column or anything else, you can find me on Twitter at @semil.


Top News in the A.M.

China’s government has excluded iPads and MacBook laptops from the list of products that can be bought with public money because of security concerns, says a new Bloomberg report that suggests the implications could be wide-reaching. “When the government stops the procurement of products, it sends a signal to corporates and semi-government bodies,” a Hong Kong-based analyst tells Bloomberg. “The Chinese government wants to make sure that overseas companies shouldn’t have too much influence in China.”


Adam Besvinick on Breaking Into Today’s VC Market

Breaking into VC requires plenty of hustle, and Adam Besvinick has been hustling since graduating from Duke University in 2009 — nabbing summer stints at places like Accrue Ventures and DreamIt Ventures, an MBA from Harvard, and a part-time associate job at Lowercase Capital along the way.

Last month, Besvinick, who was most recently working as the head of business development at the e-commerce site Wanelo, landed a full-time job as a principal with the early-stage venture firm Deep Fork Capital. We caught up with him last week to find out more about his new gig, how he operates, and where he’ll be shopping.

Tell us about where you’ll focus your investing, including geographically.

I’ll be based full-time in New York, making monthly trips to the Bay Area and fairly regular trips to other hubs like L.A. and Boston, where we have portfolio companies. I won’t be constrained to a particular geography, but the first few opportunities I sourced for Deep Fork are in New York, and we think it’s increasingly valuable to have a constant presence there.

Most of my attention will be spent on seed-stage investment opportunities in content, commerce, and marketplaces, both consumer-facing and enterprise-facing companies in those sectors. However, my “first love” is social, so if I find something interesting in this world, I’m definitely going to take a hard look.

You were most recently working at a startup. What precipitated this shift back into venture?

Coming from a finance background, I always had a latent interest in investing, and when I started to break into the startup ecosystem, I felt like it was easier to get in front of VCs than to get in front of founders or other early-stage operators. And my first thorough exposure to the world of startups was through being fortunate enough to work with Chris Sacca and Lowercase Capital, as opposed to being on the operating side of things. I loved the different types of work I got to do with Chris and had a passion for and obsession with startups, so I knew that VC was where I ultimately wanted to end up.

Since working for Chris in business school, how have you seen the early-stage market change?

One major change is how we, as consumers, are inundated with apps and products in a way that we weren’t even two-and-a-half years ago. As a seed-stage investor, it makes it that much more difficult to extract signal from noise. Also, consumers have begun to develop engrained “mobile flows”—they have a set group of apps that they go to repeatedly, and it’s difficult to break up that flow unless you’re sufficiently different and valuable.

What tools and products do you use daily in your VC work?

I’m on Product Hunt, AngelList, and Crunchbase for checking out companies and products. I like Mattermark’s emails and Twitter feed but haven’t pulled the trigger on a subscription yet. LinkedIn and Rapportive are both critical for contacts. I read email newsletters from StrictlyVC, Term Sheet, and CB Insights daily. I downloaded Homer after adding it to Product Hunt and came across a couple of interesting apps on people’s phone screens that were shared, but I’m not sure this will be a persistent use case. I’ve also been playing around with Weave and SwiftIntro for meeting people who are building cool things, and I’m in a few interesting Facebook groups that have led to the discovery of compelling products. Last, but certainly not least, is Twitter – it’s my go-to for staying on top of everything that’s relevant to me.

How are you and Deep Fork thinking about using crowd-funding platforms such as AngelList? And how do you feel founders should be thinking about these platforms?

So far, I’ve used AngelList as a sourcing tool and to generate some inbound deal flow. It’s a great way to get a lay of the land, particularly if you follow a fair amount of individual investors and funds, which I’ve been making a point of doing.

When it comes to raising, I have seen it be a great way to fill out rounds after there are initial commitments and/or a lead. I’m carefully watching [AngelList’s] Syndicates to see how they evolve.


New Fundings

Doctor On Demand, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that offers doctor consultations via mobile video chat, has raised $21 million in Series A funding led by Venrock, with participation from Shasta Ventures and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson.

InVision, a three-year-old, New York-based company whose software enables users to more easily design their own apps, has raised $21 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global Management, with FirstMark Capital participating. The company has now raised $35 million altogether.

Kiwi, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based mobile game developer, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Northgate Capital, with participation from DFJ and returning investor Sequoia Capital. The company has now raised $21 million altogether.

Spoqa, a three-year-old, Seoul-based mobile loyalty platform, has raised $3.9 million in new funding led by Daesung Private Equity group and Bokwang Investments. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

Felicis Ventures, the Palo Alto, Ca.-based early-stage investment firm founded by former Googler Aydin Senkut in 2006, has closed its fourth fund with $96 million in commitments. Reuters has much more here.



Vivint, the three-year-old, Provo, Ut.-based home security and solar-energy provider owned by Blackstone Group, has confidentially filed for an IPO, reports Reuters. The company is now the second-biggest installer of residential solar panels in U.S. behind SolarCity, backed by Elon Musk. SolarCity went public in late 2012 at roughly $8 per share; its shares are currently trading at $71 a piece.

Zendesk, the 6.5-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand customer service platform, handily beat Wall Street estimates in its first, post-IPO earnings report. Investors Business Daily has more here.

The European IPO market remains superhot, says Christoph Stanger, Goldman Sachs’s co-head of equity capital markets for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “When I look at our pipeline – and I think that’s representative for others’ – it’s actually jam-packed . . .We can assume that if markets hold, it will be a very, very active second half of the year.”



Greg Coleman, who spent the last three years as president of the now-public ad tech company Criteo, has joined BuzzFeed as its new president. Before joining Criteo, Coleman had been the president of Huffington Post. The WSJ has more here.

Dev Ittycheria, who joined OpenView Partners as a managing director late last year and who was formerly the president of BMC Software, was just appointed CEO of database giant MongoDB, reports Forbes. He replaces Max Schireson, who spent just one year at the helm. More here.

Speaking of venture capitalist Chris Sacca (see today’s column), did you know his brother Brian starred in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street?” More here.

The 25 most famous Harvard students of all time.


Job Listings

Comcast Ventures is looking for a market development analyst. The job is in New York.


Essential Reads

A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, reports the New York Times. Forbes goes on to note that the security firm that reported the breach to the New York times is hoping to directly profit from it.

Bitcoin supporters are stepping up the pressure on New York’s top financial regulator to extend the comment period for the state’s new virtual currency rules.



It’s hard giving away money,” says Jason Buzi, who made a fortune in the real estate business and has been trying to share the wealth by announcing cash giveaways via Twitter.

The Japanese literature trend that conflates one extreme after another.

“Meet Noah Ritter, Wayne County Fair attendee and Human of the Year. He’s being interviewed about rides on which he has been scared HAFF TUH DEFF.”


Retail Therapy

Timex is teaming up with AT&T and Qualcomm on a connected version of the Ironman GPS series. A “Dick Tracy watch this is not,” notes Recode. (We’ll be looking for it this fall anyway.) More here.

Oh, wow, every 10-year-old boy’s dream bike, made real.

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