Monthly Archives: November 2014

StrictlyVC: November 26, 2014

It is Wednesday, woot! In observance of Thanksgiving, we’ll be shutting down the works until Monday. Before we go, we’d like to say thank you, so much, for reading and helping us to grow StrictlyVC. We hope you have a wonderful long weekend.

(P.S.: No column today. Also, web visitors, this version is easier to read than what you see below.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Uber, the 5.5-year-old mobile car-booking company, is closing in a round of funding that would value it at between an astonishing $35 billion to $40 billion, according to Bloomberg sources. T. Rowe Price Group is reportedly in the mix, though that could change, says Bloomberg, whose sources expect Uber to raise at least $1 billion. The company has raised $1.5 billion to date.

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New Fundings

Appear Here, a two-year-old, London-based online marketplace for short-term retail space rentals (it accommodates pop-up stores), has raised $7.5 million in new funding led by Balderton Capital. Earlier backers MMC Ventures, Forward Partners, and the real estate investment fund Meyer Bergman also took part in the round, which brings the company’s funding to $9.4 million.

Cell Medica, an eight-year-old, London-based cellular immunotherapy company, has raised £50 million ($78.5 million) in Series B funding, including from Imperial Innovations, Invesco Perpetual and Woodford Investment Management. The company has now raised $118 million across five funding rounds, shows Crunchbase.

Elara Technologies, a 3.5-year-old, Singapore-based company that runs PropTiger.com, an Indian real estate platform, has raised $30 million from News Corp. in exchange for a 25 percent stake in its business. Earlier investors SAIF Partners, Accel Partners and Horizen Ventures also participated in the round. The company has now raised roughly $44 million altogether, says the Economic Times.

Experiment Engine, a 10-month-old, Austin, Tx.-based A/B testing platform, has raised $1 million in seed funding from Founder Collective and Mercury Fund, along with individual investors.

Flipkart, the seven-year-old, Bangalore, India-based e-commerce giant, has raised another $600 million just months after raising $1 billion, reports the Economic Times. Earlier backers, including Tiger Global Management, Naspers and DST Global, have each poured $50 million to $100 million into the new round, with a new, undisclosed investor, “chipping in a nominal amount,” says the Economic Times. Flipkart has now raised nearly $2.5 billion dollars altogether.

Grabyo, a 1.5-year-old, London-based video platform that partners with TV broadcasters to allow TV viewers to legally share real-time clips of their content, has raised $2 million in funding from a global group of sports starts, including Premier League soccer stars Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie and NBA player Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs.

Harry’s, a three-year-old, New York-based company that mails shaving cream, razors, and “German-engineered” blades to customers, has raised a new round of “about $75 million” from an unknown group of investors,reports The Deal. The company’s earlier backers include Thrive CapitalLakestar Capital, Box Group, SV Angel, Red Swan Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and Tiger Global Management. The round brings the company’s total funding to $211 million, shows Crunchbase.

Higher Learning Technologies, a 2.5-year-old, Coralville, Ia.-based company that makes customized digital test prep programs, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding led by a group of angel investors in New York. The company had raised $1 million in seed funding earlier this year.

Inzen, a two-year-old, Singapore-based mobile game developer, has raised about $748,000 in Series A funding led by Japan’s Incubate Fund, with participation from China’s Global Mobile Game Confederation and returning investors Hatcher and Hans De Back, among others. To date, the company has raised roughly $1.2 million. More here.

Jumia, a two-year-old, Nigeria-based e-commerce player in Africa, has raised €120 million ($150 million) in new funding from Africa Internet Group at a $555 million valuation. In 2013, the Rocket Internet-incubated company had raised $35 million and $26 million in separate rounds from Millicom International Cellular and Summit Partners, respectively. More here.

Mobilize, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose community-management platform helps businesses mobilize members, freelancers, and other stakeholders into action, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Hillsven Capital, with participation from UpWest Labs and Eddy Shalev.

Scripted.com, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that sells written content on demand, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by Storm Ventures, with participation from earlier investors Crosslink Capital and Redpoint Ventures. Angel investors Gil Penchina, Auren Hoffman, and Justin Moore also participated.

SimilarWeb, a five-year-old, London-based mobile measurement service, has raised $15 million in Series D funding from earlier backers Naspers and angel investor Lord David Alliance. The company has now raised $40 million in total funding. TechCrunch has more here.

VigLink, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based platform for monetizing content-driven commerce for publishers, bloggers, forums, social networks and apps, has added roughly $2 million from Foundry Group and Costanoa Venture Capital to a now $20 million Series C round. VigLink has now raised $27.3 million altogether, including from Correlation Ventures, Google Ventures, First Round Capital, Emergence Capital Partners, and RRE Ventures. It also just acquired a company. (See “Exits.”)

Wealth-X, a 4.5-year-old, Singapore-based curator of research on ultra high-net-worth individuals, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Insight Venture Partners. The round appears to represent the company’s first institutional financing.

Yomp, a four-year-old, London-based gamification platform designed to boost employee health and well-being, has raised $315,000 in seed funding led by London-based angel investors.

YPlan, a two-year-old, London-based event discovery app that helps people find things to do and a way to buy tickets, has raised $24 million in Series B funding led by previous backers Octopus InvestmentsWellington Partners, and General Catalyst Partners. The company has now raised $38 million altogether. As part of its new funding, the company has laid off a number of its direct sales employees and is now building out a new DIY platform. TechCrunch has the story here.

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New Funds

Artis Ventures, a 13-year-old, San Francisco-based early stage venture fund, has raised nearly $52 million for a fund called Artis Ventures II that it began raising last year, shows a new SEC filing. The firm also recently raised a special purpose vehicle called Artis Juicy SPV that we reported on earlier this month. Artis famously invested in YouTube before its acquisition by Google. Its more recent bets include Practice Fusion, a company that offers doctors cloud-based electronic medical records software, and the in vitro meat producer Modern Meadow.

DAG Ventures, the 23-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture capital firm, is looking to raise a new, $300 million fund, shows an SEC filing that states that the first sale has yet to occur. The firm had targeted a much larger pool — $500 million — for its fifth fund in 2011. No word on what the firm ultimately raised for that vehicle. It had raised $451 million for its fourth fund in 2008.

Keiretsu Forum, a San Francisco-based network of angel investors, is launching a business accelerator called Keiretsu Ventures. More here.

MediaTek, Taiwan’s largest chip designer, will invest roughly $50 million in a Chinese government fund. MediaTek’s planned investment comes as China’s chip industry is expected to outpace global growth during the rest of this decade. The company is aiming to catch up with Qualcomm in China’s smartphone chip business, where Qualcomm has about half of the market. The EE Times has more here.

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IPOs

Boston Business Journal profiles Altiostar, a well-funded, 200-person startup that’s just emerging from stealth mode — and already has its sights on an IPO.

Zalando, the large online-only fashion retailer that went public last month on the Frankfurt stock exchange, says it’s on track to make its first annual profit this year. The Financial Times has more here.

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Exits

BranchOut, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based professional network service that once flourished on Facebook’s platform, is being acquire by 1-Page, an Australian company that sells cloud-based human resources technology, for $2 million in cash, plus stock worth around $4.7. BranchOut had raised $49 million from investors, including Floodgate, Mayfield Fund, Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners.

LinkSmart, a five-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based real-time bidding engine for brands and marketers to programmatically connect their content with publishers, has been acquired by the startup VigLink for an undisclosed amount. LinkSmart had raised $9.7 million from investors, including Costanoa Venture Capital and Foundry Group (which just joined VigLink’s newest round).

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People

Whoa. Netflix says former executive Mike Kail collected around $500,000 in kickbacks from vendors he helped connect to the streaming video company. Now Netflix is suing Kail, who was appointed Yahoo’s chief information officer in August. (Quel scandale.) Recode has the story here.

Oops: After threatening hacker Fidel Salinas with 440 years, prosecutors have settled for a misdemeanor. Wired has more here.

NBC Universal network SyFy ha green-lit a new, six-episode series that will follow teams of startups through two Silicon Valley accelerator programs: 500 Startups and Highway 1. Let’s hope it isn’t as intensely boring as it sounds (no offense to the participants intended).

Vladimir Vapnik, credited with coming up with the first support vector machine (SVM) algorithm, has joined Facebook. SVMs are widely used today for machine learning purposes. VentureBeat has more here.

Can’t get enough of Mark Zuckerberg? You are in luck. Facebook has scheduled another public Q&A with him on December 11 at 2 pm. PST.

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Data

Tumblr has overtaken Instagram as the fastest-growing social platform in the world, and Snapchat is the fastest-growing app, according to new research from the Global Web Index. TechCrunch has more here.

San Francisco’s “ultra-rich” population jumped 12 percent this year, pushing it past Los Angeles as the California home to the most residents worth $30 million or more. The survey, by the research firm Wealth-X in partnership with Swiss banking giant UBS, says San Francisco has 5,460 ultra-rich residents, up from 4,840 a year ago. Los Angeles has 5,135, up 4 percent from 4,945.

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Job Listings

Andreessen Horowitz still appears to be in the market for both a consumer and an enterprise partner.

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Essential Reads

Twitter introduces “Offers” to drive online, and offline, shopping.

Betaworks introduces Homescreen, an app that looks a lot like Max Levchin’s Homer, which came out of the gate to much enthusiasm in August, then floundered.

How startups are transforming major cities, in time-lapse maps.

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Detours

The hipster business name generator. (H/T: GMSV)

Terrible predictions. (H/T: Chris Dixon)

What surfing at 1000 frames per second looks like.

Another reason to feel thankful this week: You probably weren’t one of these people.

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Retail Therapy

The unofficial Goldman Sachs holiday gift guide for 2014.

Thanksgiving travelers are expected to put away nearly 1 million Cinnabons between today and Sunday. If you think this might describe you, we wish you safe travels and good luck.:)


StrictlyVC: November 25, 2014

Good Tuesday morning, everyone! (Web visitors, you can click here for an easier-to-read version of today’s email newsletter.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Shares of Apple reached a major milestone this morning, crossing the $700 billion market capitalization threshold just after trading began on Wall Street.

There are now more than 3 billion people online, with two-thirds of them in the developing world. More here.

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Same-Delivery Takes One on the Chin

Over the weekend, eBay took down a standalone app for its $5 same-day delivery service “eBay Now.” The company, which continues to make the service available online, is “rethinking how it wants to handle the high costs associated with running same-day delivery services,” reported TechCrunch.

It would be a mistake to declare same-day delivery economically unfeasible because of eBay’s sudden ambivalence about it. It’s tempting, though.

Despite the glut of same-day delivery services to materialize in recent years – from Google and Amazon to Deliv and PostMates – same day delivery services continue to face major challenges.

The biggest hitch appears to be the limited base of customers who are willing to pay more for faster service. Bargain hunters on eBay may be especially averse to additional fees. (Only a fraction of a small retailer’s sales come from customers who also opt for same-day delivery, asReuters noted last week.) The same seems true of Walmart, which launched its same-day delivery pilot program in 2011 and is still testing it in just three markets.

But they’re hardly alone. According to a recent business intelligence reportby Business Insider, only 2 percent of all shoppers living in cities where same-day delivery is offered have availed themselves of the services. Meanwhile, 92 percent say they’re willing to wait four days or longer for their e-commerce packages to arrive.

Very possibly, not all of these consumers have been educated about the new offerings they could be using — dazzling applications through which mobile workforces are now mobilized with a few taps of a smart phone. And same-day delivery margins are surely better than during the dot.com era, when companies like Webvan invested heavily in infrastructure.

Whether they’re good enough appears to be an open question. For example, even with an extremely efficient fulfillment system, the same-day delivery company Instacart marks up its goods meaningfully over standard grocery store prices.

Someone seems likely to figure out how to bring the various pieces together at scale. Uber, whose logistics system grows more sophisticated by the day, may be the strongest candidate for the job.

EBay has piles of data at its fingertips, too, though. That it’s cooling to same-day delivery after two years of experimentation — and planning to focus more on helping shoppers buy items online that can be picked up in stores — is worth slowing down to consider.

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New Fundings

Accounting SaaS Japan, a five-year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based company that sells its cloud-based software to tax accountant firms and small and mid-size businesses, has raised $8.5 million in funding from Fidelity Growth Partners Japan, Arbor Ventures, and iMercury Capital, along with earlier backer Mobile Internet Capital. The outlet e27 has more here.

Apto, a two-year-old, Woodlands, Tx.-based company behind an enterprise commercial real estate deal management app, has raised $1.4 million in Series A funding led by Mercury Fund. The company has now raised $2.4 million altogether.

Boomtown Network, a 1.5-year-old, Tiburon, Ca.-based company that provides on-demand remote and on-site tech support for small businesses, has raised $3 million in funding, according to an SEC filing that lists investor Dave Samuel of Freestyle Capital as a director.

Cbazaar.com, a 16-year-old, Chennai, India-based e-commerce site focused on “Indian ethnic wear,” has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding led by Forum Synergies, with participation from earlier investors Inventus Capital Partners and Ojas Partners.

Elance-oDesk — the Mountain View, Ca.-based company formed by the merger last December of the freelance companies Elance and oDesk — has raised $30 million in new funding led by earlier backer Benchmark. T. Rowe Price, FirstMark Capital, Sigma West, New Enterprise Associates and the Stripes Group also participated in the round, and Benchmark partner Kevin Harvey tells Recode that an IPO is the next stop: “With the companies now merged, the next step is to prepare for an IPO, and we think this financing gets us to that point. The company has the financials to be a public company.”

Everything But The House, an eight-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based online estate sale company, has raised $13 million in Series A funding from Spark Capital and Greycroft Partners. The company had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in January of this year, shows Crunchbase.

iHear Medical, a five-year-old, San Leandro, Ca.-based company that makes affordable hearing aids that users can customize at home, has raised $5 million in Series C funding led by Lighthouse Capital, a Shanghai-based venture capital firm. Japanese electronics maker Brother Industries and Ameritas Holding Company also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $7.8 million

Kensho Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that makes analytics tools for investment professionals, has raised $15 million from Goldman Sachs. Altogether, the company has now raised at least $25.5 million, shows Crunchbase. Its previous investors include Google Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Accel Partners, and General Catalyst Partners, among others.

PocketMath, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based self-service mobile demand-side ad platform, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Rakuten Ventures, the VC arm of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten. TechCrunch has more here.

Promethera Biosciences, a five-year-old, Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium-based company that’s developing a cell-based therapy to treat in-born errors of metabolism and acquired liver diseases, has raised €25.33 million ($31.4 million) in Series C funding from SFPI-FPIM, the Belgian Federal Holding and Investment Company, and SMS Investments, along with earlier backers. The company has now raised roughly $53 million altogether.

RealView Imaging, a six-year-old, Israel-based company whose 3-D holographic display and interface system is used in medical procedures, has raised $10 million in new funding led by the Chinese firm LongTec China Ventures.

Recsolu, a six-year-old, Chicago-based company that sells cloud-based recruiting software, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from the Chicago-based venture fund First Analysis, along with earlier investor Generations Capital.

Roomer, a three-year-old, New York-based online marketplace for people looking to sell their hotel reservations in case of cancellation, has raised $5 million in Series A funding. Disruptive led the round, joined by earlier investor BRM Group. The company has raised $12 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Spreecast, the three-year-old, San Francisco-based social video-broadcasting platform, has raised $3.1 million, shows an SEC filing. The company was cofounded by StubHub founder Jeff Fluhr; its newest funding brings the amount of capital it has raised to date to $16.4 million. Its backers include Great Oaks Venture Capital, Meakem Becker Venture Capital, GGV Capital, and MentorTech Ventures.

Vouchr, a two-year-old, Toronto-based company behind a peer-to-peer payment platform used for gift giving, among other things, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from earlier investor Kima Ventures and other angel investors. The company has raised $3 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Zendrive, a year-old, San Francisco-based data analysis company focused on making its customers’ on-demand fleets scale safely and efficiently, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from new strategic investors, including BMW i Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Expansion Capital and earlier backer First Round Capital. Venture Capital Dispatch has more on the company here.

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IPOs

Bloomberg takes a quick look at the Israeli IPO market.

Despite sizable market opportunities within the digital health care sector, the public “seems confused about what digital health is,” reports Forbes, which looks at eight related venture-backed IPOs, just two of which are trading above their IPO price.

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Exits

Cooliris, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile photo app maker, has been acquired by Yahoo for undisclosed terms. Cooliris had raised roughly $28 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, T-Venture, The Westly Group, and DAG Ventures.

Unroll.Me, an app that lets users manage email subscriptions and unsubscribe to those they no longer want to receive, has been acquired by Slice, a shopping and package tracking app that was itself acquired earlier this year by Rakuten. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed. Unroll.Me was bootstrapped. TechCrunch has the story here.

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People

Sequoia Capital‘s Doug Leone, one of the most power venture capitalists in the industry, spoke openly about his life recently at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, telling students of his “pretty rough” high school years and their motivating effect on him: “I have to catch myself from letting my ego and my insecurities get the best of me, as I want my high school friends who I haven’t seen for 40 years realize how wrong they were. And I think it’s humorous that at the age of 57, I still think about the high school friends. Those are the little things that make me want to achieve.”

Twitter’s finance chief Anthony Noto suffered a direct messaging “fail” yesterday while trying to message another Twitter executive about buying a company. Anthony Weiner, who knows DM fails, was quick to step in with a joke about it.

Aaron Sorkin‘s Steve Jobs movie will get made after all. Probably.

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Job Listings

Capital One is looking for a director of business development to join its Growth Ventures unit. The job is in San Francisco.

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Essential Reads

Slack, the fast-growing workplace communication tool, will begin selling a new tier of service in January aimed at large enterprises. But there’s one feature about which Slack users should be aware: companies that subscribe will be able to request every message that employees have sent on the service, including direct messages to coworkers and a history of any changes made to messages, reports The Verge.

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Detours

Meet Nathan Sawaya, the most famous Lego artist in the world.

How the world’s first computer was rescued from the scrap heap.

Confessions of a private eye.

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Retail Therapy

A cutting-edge surfboard, made entirely of cork.

The 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600. We love that champagne flutes come standard.


Same-Day Delivery Takes One On the Chin

oofOver the weekend, eBay took down a standalone app for its $5 same-day delivery service “eBay Now.” The company, which continues to make the service available online, is “rethinking how it wants to handle the high costs associated with running same-day delivery services,” reported TechCrunch.

It would be a mistake to declare same-day delivery economically unfeasible because of eBay’s sudden ambivalence about it. It’s tempting, though.

Despite the glut of same-day delivery services to materialize in recent years – from Google and Amazon to Deliv and PostMates – same day delivery services continue to face major challenges.

The biggest hitch appears to be the limited base of customers who are willing to pay more for faster service. Bargain hunters on eBay may be especially averse to additional fees. (Only a fraction of a small retailer’s sales come from customers who also opt for same-day delivery, as Reuters noted last week.) The same seems true of Walmart, which launched its same-day delivery pilot program in 2011 and is still testing it in just three markets.

But they’re hardly alone. According to a recent business intelligence report by Business Insider, only 2 percent of all shoppers living in cities where same-day delivery is offered have availed themselves of the services. Meanwhile, 92 percent say they’re willing to wait four days or longer for their e-commerce packages to arrive.

Very possibly, not all of these consumers have been educated about the new offerings they could be using — dazzling applications through which workforces are now mobilized with a few taps of a smart phone. And same-day delivery margins are surely better than during the dot.com era, when companies like Webvan invested heavily in infrastructure.

Whether they’re good enough appears to be an open question. For example, even with an extremely efficient fulfillment system, the same-day delivery company Instacart marks up its goods meaningfully over standard grocery store prices.

Someone seems likely to figure out how to bring the various pieces together at scale. Uber, whose logistics system grows more sophisticated by the day, may be the strongest candidate for the job.

EBay has piles of data at its fingertips, too, though. That it’s cooling to same-day delivery after two years of experimentation — and planning to focus more on helping shoppers buy items online that can be picked up in stores — is worth slowing down to consider.

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


StrictlyVC: November 24, 2014

Good Monday morning, everyone, and happy almost Thanksgiving! (Web visitors, this version of today’s email is a little easier to read than what you see below.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Over the weekend, computer security researchers at Symantec announced that they’ve discovered a piece of malware circulating the world that appears to be used for spying and was likely created by a government agency (possibly one of ours). Recode has more here.

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A Part-Time VC No Longer

About a year ago, I sat down with Semil Shah, a plugged-in networker who, back then, was working nearly full time at a podcasting company called Swell and spending his spare time participating in some of the hottest seed-stage financings in Silicon Valley.

Today, Shah is no longer at Swell, which was acquired by Apple last July. Instead, the part-time VC, as I’d dubbed him, is moving closer to the life he has long wanted as a full-time investor, with a new fund and roles as a venture advisor at two very different venture firms, GGV Capital andBullpen Capital. We caught up on Friday to chat about how he’s pulling it off.

Last December, you were investing a $1 million fund. You’d backed 16 companies and you were beginning to think about a $5 million fund. Now I hear that you’re almost there with a second fund.

Yes, I wound up investing that $1 million vehicle pretty evenly across 35 companies. The idea was to get my feet wet and learn all the little things about investing, like what referrals are like and how you decide to invest and how you interact with a company when you want to fund it and how you interact with a company when you don’t. I learned a lot. Raising a million dollars was not easy. Just trying to put $25,000 into companies wasn’t easy. You have to explain a lot [about the value you bring] and you need other people who are investing to support you. The amount of work and reputation required, even to make a small investment, was surprising.

What would you say is the standout of that first fund, and have you had an exits?

The standout is probably [the same-day grocery delivery company] Instacart, which has grown quickly and attracted a lot of attention, though there are a number that are on a great trajectory: DoorDash, Hired, CoinHashiCorp.

I’ve had a couple of exits in fund one, but the money wasn’t significant enough to distribute, so I’m still holding it. I could technically recycle it versus distribute it, but I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to do that. In fund two, my hope is to follow on in one or two companies, but that’s always up to the entrepreneur, not investors.

Are you getting enough ownership in these startups to make this model work?

If you go in early enough, you can have decent size ownership without doing a follow-on. I’m looking at companies before they get to Y Combinator. Part of the reason I enjoy writing so much and being active on Twitter is that I can explain what I’m thinking in real time and people reach out. I’ve had people contact me who don’t know me and introduce me to startups; they’ll just say, I know you like this stuff, and I thought you’d like this company.

You also seem masterful at networking.

Honestly, everything I’ve done has been born out of pain more than opportunity. I’d hoped to invest for a long time but I don’t have the typical background required and there are very few jobs. A couple of my friends [in the industry] kind of pulled me aside a couple of years ago and slapped me and said, You have to stop asking people for a job and figure out how to do it yourself.

Have you been making investments from your newest fund?

I’ve invested in 20 so far, including Chain, a block chain company that ended up being funded by Khosla Ventures, and [office cleaning startup] Managed by Q.

Where do you want to be five years from now?

Right now I’m operating on instinct and making decisions in three, four, five days. I put a lot of thought into each investment, but there isn’t much data to go off. As I invest more, I’d like it to be on a path of more concentrated investments.

I also know I don’t want to be investing by myself. In general, it can be lonely, but you can also get stuck in your own way of thinking. I definitely want to be investing in the early stage somewhere, though.

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New Fundings

BitHound, a year-old, Toronto-based software analytics platform that helps developers improve their code quality, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Difference Capital, with participation from BDC Capital and additional angel investors.

EBrevia, a two-year-old, Stamford, Ct.-based company whose service applies machine learning to help review legal contracts, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Connecticut Innovations, along with unnamed angel investors. The company has now raised $2.1 million altogether.

Host Analytics, a 13-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company that makes web-based enterprise financial management software, has raised $25 million in funding led by Centerview Capital Technology, with participation from Advanced Technology Ventures, Next World CapitalStarVest Partners, and Trident Capital. The company has now raised at least $85.9 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Memoir, a two-year-old, New York-based photo-sharing smartphone application, has raised $5.5 million led by Redpoint Ventures, with participation from earlier investors, including Founder Collective, Box Group, Lerer Ventures and Thrive Capital. The company has raised $6.7 million to date. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Mirador Financial, a 1.5-year-old, Portland, Or.-based small business lending platform, has raised $2 million in seed funding from investors, including Collaborative Fund, Crosslink Capital, Vesta Corporation,Wicklow Capital and angels Eric Bunting, Bruce Gibney, Robert Harteveldt, Awy Julianto, George Kenny, Bruce Weinstein and Bill Ullman.

Rentlytics, a 21-month-old, San Francisco-based online platform that enables apartment owners to provide their property metrics to clients to view and analyze, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by earlier investors Trinity Ventures and Rincon Venture Partners, reports VentureWire. The company has now raised $5 million altogether.

Scrollback, a 15-month-old, Singapore- and India-based chat platform for online communities, has raised $400,000 in seed funding led by Jungle Ventures. E27 has more here.

Sentient Technologies, a 7.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s been quietly developing technology to distribute artificial intelligence software to computer processors around the world, has raised $103.5 million in Series C funding from Access Industries and Tata Communications, along with earlier investor Horizon Ventures. The company has now raised $143 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has much more here.

SimplyTapp, a two-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based mobile payment software maker that enables users to make transactions with their smartphones, has raised $6 million in Series B funding, shows a new SEC filing. The round was led by a new, undisclosed lead investor with both Lightspeed Venture Partners and Blue Sky Capital participating. The company has now raised $7.6 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Tugg, a three-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based crowdfunding and social networking platform for film buffs, has just raised $5.9 million from 11 backers, according to an SEC filing. Built in Austin has more here.

VidCoin, a nearly-year-old, Lyon, France-based in-app video advertising start-up, has raised 1 million euros ($1.24 million) from Virtual Network and Kima Ventures.

Yik Yak, the 13-month-old, Atlanta-based anonymous-messaging app that has spread rapidly across college campuses, has raised $62 million in new funding led by Sequoia Capital, according to WSJ sources. The investment marks the third round this year in the young company, whose valuation has reportedly soared into the low hundreds of millions of dollars. Jim Goetz, the partner who led Sequoia’s WhatsApp investment three years ago, is joining Yik Yak’s board, says the WSJ. Yik Yak has now raised $73.5 million altogether, including from DCM, Azure Capital, Vaizra Investments, and Atlanta Ventures. Crunchbase also lists Niko Bonatsos as an individual investor in Yik Yak. Bonatsos, a principal at General Catalyst Ventures, is widely credited with bringing Snapchat to his firm.

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New Funds

Lip-Bu Tan, who famously founded Walden International in 1987, is raising a new fund called China Walden Venture Investments II, according to an SEC filing that says the “first sale has yet to occur.” The fund has a $150 million target.

Matter Ventures, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based seed fund and accelerator, is raising a second, $12 million fund, shows, an SEC filingthat states the first sale has yet to occur. Matter invests $50,000 and five months of mentoring and support in early-stage media companies.

Nicholas Chirls is raising $6 million for a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based venture fund entity called Notation Capital, according to an SEC filing. Chirls previously led seed investments at Betaworks, and founded alphaworks, a now nine-month-old, crowdfunding platform that helps startups sell equity to investors under their own label at their own sites. According to the filing, Chirls’s cofounder in the endeavor is Alex Lines, who spent the last five years at Betaworks and whose LinkedIn profile still lists him as a technical adviser to the Betaworks company Chartbeat.

Polaris Partners, the Boston-based venture capital firm, has raised a new fund of $450 million, it announced this morning. The fund is the firm’s seventh and represents a sizable step up from its sixth, $375 million fund. BostInno has more here.

Upfront Ventures, the 18-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based early stage venture firm, is looking to raise up to $250 million for its fifth fund, shows an SEC filing. It closed its most recent fund with $200 million in 2013.

Tech in Asia shines a light on Convergence Accel, Indonesia’s newest venture firm.

Venture Capital Dispatch dives into Work Bench, a New York-based accelerator for enterprise tech startups.

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IPOs

Jasper, a 10-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that offers its own Internet of Things management technology and also manages and brokers agreements between service providers, is working with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and other banks in preparation for an IPO for next year, according to VentureWire’s sources. The offering could raise $150 million for the business, which has already raised roughly $205 million from private investors, including Benchmark, Sequoia Capital, and AllianceBernstein.

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People

Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson on commercial air flight: “Beyond self-driving cars, I think all airplanes should go pilotless. Get the pilots out of there. Even better, have no cockpit at all, and turn it into a nice lounge with a bar. Why give people the illusion of control with a steering wheel? Take the wheel out. If you cut the pilot out, immediately the plane can no longer be used as a weapon of terror or be steered into a building.” (This is a good interview.)

Tom Rikert is the newest partner at Next World Capital, a San Francisco-based venture firm that invests in growth-stage companies and helps them expand in Europe. Rikert joins the firm from Andreessen Horowitz, where he helped bring numerous enterprise investments into the firm, including Zenefits, Optimizely, OpenGov, and Dwolla. Prior to Andreessen Horowitz, Rikert was the director of product management at Wildfire, a SaaS social marketing platform acquired by Google. At Next World, he’ll specialize in enterprise applications and the Internet of Things.

Whitney Wolfe, an early employee at the dating app Tinder, who sued the company for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, has joined up with two other early Tinder employees to launch a direct competitor to Tinder called Bumble. TechCrunch has the story here.

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Job Listings

Vulcan, which manages the business and charitable endeavors of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, is looking for a chief investment officer. The job is in Seattle.

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Essential Reads

Not all is well at Samsung, which is reportedly considering a major leadership shake-up after a difficult year.

Tech interns get paid.

When G.M. was Google: The art of the corporate devotional.

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Detours

In medicine, an unexpectedly precious commodity.

The dirty truth about “man buns.”

Back-home ballers.

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Retail Therapy

The Aldo Lounger. For cosseted pets that have grown accustomed to a certain standard of living.


Semil Shah: A Part-Time VC No Longer

semil.shahAbout a year ago, I sat down with Semil Shah, a plugged-in networker who, back then, was working nearly full time at a podcasting company called Swell and spending his spare time participating in some of the hottest seed-stage financings in Silicon Valley.

Today, Shah is no longer at Swell, which was acquired by Apple last July. Instead, the part-time VC, as I’d dubbed him, is moving closer to the life he has long wanted as a full-time investor, with a new fund and roles as a venture advisor at two very different venture firms, GGV Capital and Bullpen Capital. We chatted on Friday about how he’s pulling it off. Our conversation has been edited for length.

Last December, you were investing a $1 million fund. You’d backed 16 companies and you were beginning to think about a $5 million fund. Now I hear that you’re almost there with a second fund.

Yes, I wound up investing that $1 million vehicle pretty evenly across 35 companies. The idea was to get my feet wet and learn all the little things about investing, like what referrals are like and how you decide to invest and how you interact with a company when you want to fund it and how you interact with a company when you don’t. I learned a lot. Raising a million dollars was not easy. Just trying to put $25,000 into companies wasn’t easy. You have to explain a lot [about the value you bring] and you need other people who are investing to support you. The amount of work and reputation required, even to make a small investment, was surprising.

What would you say is the standout of that first fund, and have you had an exits?

The standout is probably [the same-day grocery delivery company] Instacart, which has grown quickly and attracted a lot of attention, though there are a number that are on a great trajectory: DoorDash, Hired, CoinHashiCorp.

I’ve had a couple of exits in fund one, but the money wasn’t significant enough to distribute, so I’m still holding it. I could technically recycle it versus distribute it, but I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to do that. In fund two, my hope is to follow on in one or two companies, but that’s always up to the entrepreneur, not investors.

Are you getting enough ownership in these startups to make this model work?

If you go in early enough, you can have decent size ownership without doing a follow-on. I’m looking at companies before they get to Y Combinator. Part of the reason I enjoy writing so much and being active on Twitter is that I can explain what I’m thinking in real time and people reach out. I’ve had people contact me who don’t know me and introduce me to startups; they’ll just say, I know you like this stuff, and I thought you’d like this company.

You also seem masterful at networking.

Honestly, everything I’ve done has been born out of pain more than opportunity. I’d hoped to invest for a long time but I don’t have the typical background required and there are very few jobs. A couple of my friends [in the industry] kind of pulled me aside a couple of years ago and slapped me and said, You have to stop asking people for a job and figure out how to do it yourself.

Have you been making investments from your newest fund?

I’ve invested in 20 companies so far, including Chain, a block chain company that ended up being funded by Khosla Ventures, and [office cleaning startup] Managed by Q.

Where do you want to be five years from now?

Right now I’m operating on instinct and making decisions in three, four, five days. I put a lot of thought into each investment, but there isn’t much data to go off. As I invest more, I’d like it to be on a path of more concentrated investments.

I also know I don’t want to be investing by myself. In general, it can be lonely, but you can also get stuck in your own way of thinking. I definitely want to be investing in the early stage somewhere, though.

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


StrictlyVC: November 21, 2014

Hi, happy Friday, everyone. StrictlyVC ran out of time for a column this morning, but we hope you have a terrific weekend and we’ll see you next week! (Psst, web visitors, this version of today’s email is easier to read than what you see below.)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

The streaming TV service Aereo, ruled against back in June by the U.S. Supreme Court — it said Aereo’s service violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals and routing them to subscribers for a fee — is calling it quits. Here’s it’s we-really-finally-completely-give-up announcement.

Last night, President Obama outlined plans to use executive authority to help millions of undocumented people, as well as to help foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools. But on the latter front, he didn’t go nearly far enough, tech insiders tell Reuters. While he announced changes that would enable spouses of certain H-1B visa holders obtain work permits, for example, he said nothing that would address the backlog of H-1B holders awaiting green cards. “This holiday season, the undocumented advocacy community got the equivalent of a new car, and the business community got a wine and cheese basket,” one lobbyist griped to Reuters.

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New Fundings

Assembly, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based community platform that pairs developers, designers and others who transparently create software together, has raised $2.9 million in funding led by Union Square Ventures. Other participants in the round include Thrive CapitalBox Group, and angel investors. The company, a Y Combinator alum, had previously raised a seed round whose amount it never disclosed.

BioNano Genomics, an 11-year-old, San Diego-based company whose nanoscale imaging and analytic platforms are used to identify structural variations among genomes, has raised $53 million in Series C funding co-led by Legend Capital and Novartis Venture Fund. Earlier backers Domain Associates, Battelle Ventures and Gund Investment Corp. also participated in the round. The company has now raised $102 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Dual Aperture International, a months-old, South Korea-based joint venture that’s developing a low-cost smart sensor technology that can be integrated into different types of consumer, automotive, and industrial products, has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding led by Value Invest Korea, a strategic investment firm based in Seoul. A company called eWBM Co. also participated.

FastPay Partners, a five-year-old, Beverly Hills, Ca.-based company whose tech platform assesses the creditworthiness of digital businesses and provide loans in real-time, has raised $15 million from Oak HC/FT, a fund launched by members of Oak Investment Partners. The company has now raised at least $50 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

FiscalNote, a 1.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based company that uses artificial intelligence to predict the outcome of legislation, has raised $7 million in new funding led by Visionnaire Ventures, with AME Cloud Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Winklevoss Capital, Enspire Capital, Green Visor Capital, Middleland Capital and individual investors participating. The company has raised $8.2 million to date.

Flashback Technologies, a five-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based company that has developed a machine learning framework for the real-time analysis of physiological data, has raised $2 million in Series A funding led by PAC Partners.

Flywheel Software, a five-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company whose mobile app allows users to hail, track and pay for licensed cabs from their smartphones, has raised $12 million in funding from earlier backers TCW/Craton, Rockport Capital and Shasta Ventures. The company has now raised roughly $35 million altogether. TechCrunch has much more here.

Honk, an 11-month-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based startup that has partnered with more than 20,000 contractors for its on-demand roadside assistance mobile app, has raised $1.8 million in seed funding from a long list of institutional and individual investors, including Double M CapitalVenture51, Karlin Ventures, AngelList cofounder Naval Ravikant and Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh. L.A. Biz has more here.

InfoBionic, a three-year-old, Lowell, Ma.-based company that makes heart-monitoring devices and software, has added $6.5 million to its Series B round, closing it at $17 million. Excel Venture Management and Zaffre Investments are the newest investors in the round; they join earlier backers Safeguard Scientifics, Mass Medical Angels, Broadview Ventures, The Indus Entrepreneurs, Beta Fund, Launchpad Venture Group, Cherrystone, TCA, HTC, Boynton, and Keiretsu. The company has now raised $19.2 million to date.

Metao, an eight-month-old, Beijing-based e-commerce firm that focuses on connecting Chinese consumers with overseas branded products, has raised $30 million in Series B funding by Vertex Venture Holdingsaccording to Chinese Money Network. Morningside VenturesGreenwoods Investment and earlier backer Matrix Partners also participated in the round. The company has now raised $35 million altogether.

Pluto TV, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based company whose service enables users to watch online video across devices, including TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by U.S. Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Chicago Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Luminari Capital Sky, and United Talent Agency.

Sunnova Energy, a 2.5-year-old, Houston, Tx.-based residential solar service company, has raised $250 million in what it’s calling the largest-ever round of funding raised by a private residential solar service company in the U.S. Franklin Square Capital Partners led the financing round, which also included Triangle Peak Partners. The company has raised nearly half a billion dollars this year, including a $110 million round in August and a $145 million round that closed in June.

Youbetme, a 20-month-old, San Francisco-based free social betting application that lets users bet on anything with their friends, has raised $2.7 million in Series A funding, including from SierraMaya360, Dakota Venture Group, and Abingdon Capital. The company has now raised roughly $5.1 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

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New Funds

Accel Partners India is raising a $250 million fourth fund to invest in e-commerce and other tech startups in the country, reports Live Mint. The firm’s last India-focused fund was a $155 million vehicle closed in 2011. Accel had acquired the operations of Erasmic Venture Fund in 2008 and Erasmic executives Subrata Mitra, Prashanth Prakash and Mahendran Balachandran remain partners at Accel, which added a fourth partner, Shekhar Kirani, in 2011. As Live Mint notes, Accel has made some very smart bets in India, including the online marketplace Flipkart, now valued at $7 billion, and fellow e-commerce operator Myntra, which Flipkart acquired for a reported $300 million in May.

Surge Ventures, a nearly four-year-old, Houston-based accelerator and seed investor for startups in the energy technology sector, is hoping to raise a $30 million fund to invest in its best companies, it tells VentureWire.

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Exits

The formerly high-flying online retailer Fab is in talks to sell to PCH International for $15 million in a half cash and half stock deal, reports TechCrunch. Though the company has suffered a string of massive layoffs as it has tried shoring up its balance sheet, the reported purchase price still surprises. Altogether, the company — just three-and-a-half years old — had raised roughly $340 million from investors, including First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures, SoftTech VC, Baroda Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Mayfield Fund, Atomico and many (many) others.

Lightbridge Communications, a 30-year-old, McLean, Va.-based network services company, is being acquired by Tech Mahindra, a 28-year-old, Pune, India-based network services giant, for $240 million. The Hindu has more here.

Smarterer, a four-year-old, Boston-based startup that offers skills test software for companies, has been acquired by the Utah-based online tech company Pluralsight for $75 million. The acquisition is Pluralsight’s fifth in the past 15 months; it follows a $135 million Series B funding round led by Insight Venture Partners that closed in August. Smarterer had meanwhile raised about $4.6 million from investors, including Google Ventures, Rethink Education, True Ventures, and Boston Seed Capital.

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People

Renowned business reporter Dan Lyons, who two years ago accepted a marketing position with the software company Hubspot, has returned to journalism and sounds prepared to flame all of Silicon Valley as the new editor of Valleywag. More here.

Bob Marley would be proud. Hopefully. His wife, son, and daughter are breathing life into a line of products called Marley Natural that will sell everything from hemp-infused sunscreen to cannibas strains inspired by the kind that the famed singer enjoyed before his death in 1981. How much the family will make from the deal isn’t being disclosed. Marley Natural is a wholly owned subsidiary of Privateer Holdings, a three-year-old Seattle firm that’s currently raising a $60 million fund to “create brands that elevate the conversation about cannabis.”

Alexey Pajitnov, who created the legendary video game Tetris, drives a Tesla whose license plate reads, simply, TETRIS. (Of course.) Vice profiles him in a fun piece here.

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Data

VCs are hungry for specialty food companies, pouring $83.4 million into the industry during the third quarter, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. That’s the biggest quarter the organization has seen in 20-plus years, it says.

Venture Capital Dispatch pores over some data to determine Techstar graduates’ survival rates. Its findings: Of the startups that participated in the accelerator program from 2007 through 2010 (its first four years of operation), about 37 percent are still active, 33 percent have failed and 30 percent were acquired. More about those numbers here.

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Job Listings

Yelp tells us it’s looking for a business development associate. The job is in San Francisco.

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Essential Reads

Now you can share tweets through direct messages on Twitter.

Amazon is preparing to launch its own travel service.

A Google settlement underscores that the smartphone patent wars are dying down.

—–

Detours

The psychology of passwords.

An astronaut shares what life in space is really like.

The lessons of a Rosetta scientist’s shirt.

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Retail Therapy

This holiday season, show Twitter how much you love it with a diamond hashtag ring.


StrictlyVC: November 20, 2014

Hi there,  if you’re just visiting StrictlyVC online and not yet a subscriber, you might want to read this version of today’s email. (Easier on the eyes than scrolling through the text below.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Recent press reports suggest to Senator Al Franken that Uber has a “troubling disregard for customers’ privacy.” That’s what he wrote in a letter yesterday to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick that asks what policies Uber has in place around tracking the personal data of users. Franken, who chairs the Subcommittee On Privacy, Technology, and the Law, has asked that Kalanick respond to his inquiry by mid-December.

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A Former Mercedes Exec Tries Bypassing the Auto Industry

No one paid much attention when last week, a 15-person company called Apio Systems in Crystal City, Virginia, announced that it had raised $5 million in funding. Mercedes-Benz was probably watching, though.

In fact, Apio’s founder, Sascha Simon, spent nearly a decade at the company, including as head of its Advanced Planning Group, the same unit that launched Mercedes’s connected car system. But in 2012, Simon began thinking the technologies he was developing could live outside of Mercedes and every other car maker, so he left. We talked yesterday about that decision and what he’s trying to accomplish at his new company. Our conversation has been edited for length.

You had a big role at Mercedes. Why leave?

I felt the benefits of the connected car shouldn’t [accrue] just to Mercedes drivers but to everyone. Everyone carries a smart phone, so the idea was: Let’s use smart phones to bring safety benefits to drivers worldwide. I also thought I could do this faster outside of the car industry.

You’ve created a “situational awareness” technology that provides safety alerts and monitoring tools that help make drivers safer. How does it work, exactly?

The technology utilizes all the sensors in the smart phone that are there already — the gyroscope, accelerometer, audio and video sensors, barometric pressure [sensors] — and uses them to enable your phone or tablet to sense everything around it. [The smart device then] communicates with our cloud to make a determination about what’s happening. It’s almost like having an extra driver or passenger looking out for you.

So this is sort of tech for the here and now, until advanced car technologies are more ubiquitous.

If we had fully autonomous cars, no one would need what I’m doing, but they won’t come that fast. I think if we wait until car companies get there, it will be another 15 years. In the meantime, I believe that we’re building something that can be incredibly helpful in [hastening] that day. If everyone experiences [the advantages of the connected car], then everyone will want it.

How far along is your tech? And how – or to whom – are you selling it?

We have a functioning prototype and customers who are waiting, including Transdev, an international, multimodal transportation company that’s both a customer and an investor. It runs everything from trains to trucks and basically, what it will be buying is features and functionalities that will be packaged in the smart phones or apps it already has. [The technology] will allow it to be in constant communication with its vehicles to sense what its drivers are doing, if a vehicle is in trouble, how well a vehicle is performing. It’s a complete feed management platform.

It’s a subscription model?

Yes.

What does Mercedes think about what you’re doing?

I have communications with former colleagues all the time. That’s about all I can say at this point.

You just announced $5 million in funding. I don’t suppose you’re thinking about your next round?

Certainly we’re not ready to announce new funding plans yet, but you can imagine it’s all planned out. Our job right now is to take the money we’ve raised, get product to our customers and take it from there. I can tell you smart devices will continue to take over more functionalities from cars, and I plan to be a part of it.

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New Fundings

Altair Semiconductor, a nine-year-old, Hod Hasharon, Israel-based maker of chips for mobile networking, has raised an undisclosed amount of money from SanDisk Ventures. The company had previously raised at least $125 million, shows Crunchbase, which lists Giza Venture CapitalJerusalem Venture Partners, and Pacific Technology Partners among its other investors.

Bellhops, a year-old, Chattanooga, Tn.-based startup that provides on-demand moving help, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Binary Capital, with participation from Great Oaks Venture CapitalLowercase Capital, Queensbridge Venture Partners, and individual investors, including the rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones. The company has raised $7.8 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Bloc, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based online bootcamp for web and mobile development and design, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures. The company has now raised $8 million altogether, including from Baseline Ventures, Learn Capital, First Round Capital, and Harrison Metal.

CS Disco, a two-year-old, Houston, Tx.-based legal technology company that offers an electronic-discovery service, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investor LiveOak Venture Partners and individual investors. The company has raised $12 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Endgame, a six-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based security intelligence and analytics services company that sells to federal and commercial customers, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Edgemore Capital and Top Tier Capital Partners. Other investors include earlier backers Bessemer Venture Partners, Paladin Capital Group, Columbia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Kaufmann Mercantile, a five-year-old, New York-based online store for high-end, hand-selected goods, has raised $3.2 million in funding led by 14W, with participation from Slow Ventures and other private investors.

Getaround, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based peer-to-peer car sharing company, has raised $24 million in new funding led by Cox Enterprises (owner of AutoTrader, Kelley Blue Book and Manheim Auctions) at a roughly $200 million valuation, reports Venture Capital Dispatch. New investor Triangle Peak Partners also participated in the round, along with earlier backers Menlo Ventures and SOSVentures. Getaround has now raised roughly $43 million altogether.

LexShares, a year-old, New York-based comapny whose platform allows people to invest in commercial lawsuits and get a portion of the proceeds of cases that win, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Atlas Venture, along with several angel investors. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Live Auctioneers, a 12-year-old, New York-based live auctions marketplace, has raised $47.6 million in its first round of institutional funding from Bessemer Venture Partners. In a related press release, the company said it has helped facilitate almost $3 billion worth of gross merchandise sales over the last year.

N30 Pharmaceuticals, a seven-year-old, Denver-based clinical-stage company that’s working on a treatment for cystic fibrosis, has raised $30 million from new investors Wellington Management, RA Capital Management, Jennison Associates, Rock Springs Capital Management, and Sabby Management, with participation from earlier investor Deerfield Management Company. The company has now raised at least $40 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Overdog, a 2.5-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based company whose app enables fans to play games alongside their favorite athletes on Xbox and PlayStation, has raised $2 million in funding co-led by Atlas Venture and Chicago Ventures, with participation from Mountain Group CapitalUnited Talent Agency, and individuals, including Zynga founder Mark Pincus.

Plunify, a five-year-old, Singapore-based company whose software tools help semiconductor designers shorten their time to market, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Lanza TechVentures. The company had raised at least one previous round of funding from Singapore’s National Research Foundation and from Get2Volume. The amount of that earlier round was also undisclosed.

SendHub, a three-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company that enables users to quickly set up business phone systems using their personal phones, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Bullpen Capital, with participation from Kapor Capital, Menlo Ventures, Seraph Group, and Eric Ries. The Y Combinator alum has now raised $10 million altogether.

SimScale, a two-year-old, Munich, Germany-based company whose web service allows engineers to simulate and analyze the physical behavior of their products with a standard web browser, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from investors, including Earlybird Venture CapitalHigh-Tech Gründerfonds and Bayern Kapital.

ThreatConnect, a three-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based cyber security company formerly known as Cyber Squared, has raised $4 million in Series A funding from Grotech Ventures and unnamed strategic partners.

Valence Health, a 20-year-old, Chicago-based company whose software is used by hospitals and other health systems to track clinical integration, population health and more, has raised $15 million in growth-equity funding led by Heritage Group in Nashville. Foundation Medical Partners, North Bridge Growth Equity, and GE Ventures also participated in the round. The company has now raised $45 million altogether.

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New Funds

Golden Venture Partners, a three-year-old, Toronto-based mobile-focused early-stage venture firm, has closed its second fund with C$40 million. Golden Venture Partners was founded by Matt Golden, its sole GP, who was previously a partner at Blackberry Partners Fund. His LPs include Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund and BDC Capital.

—–

Exits

RelativeWave, the company behind the mobile app prototyping software Form, has been acquired by Google, notes 9 to 5 Mac.

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People

Anand Subramanian is newly a partner and the head of private capital markets at the San Francisco-based investment bank Qatalyst Group. Previously, he worked at Morgan Stanley as a managing director and head of private capital markets.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has joined Primary Data, a new company from the founders of Fusion-io. Primary Data plans to extend the concept of virtualization more broadly in data centers. Wozniak will be the company’s chief scientist. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

—-

Job Listings

Nike is looking for a new senior director of business development. The job is in Portland, Ore.

—–

Essential Reads

Brands are wasting money on Facebook and Twitter, Forrester says.

A new study shows that Amazon keeps cutting prices to take on rivals like Walmart, begging the question: Good strategy, or mutually assured destruction of profits?

—–

Detours

Zen and the art of cubicle living.

The 2014 National Book Award winners.

A tiny hamster Thanksgiving.

—–

Retail Therapy

Yoda slippers.

A carbon steel axe with hickory wood and horn handle, handmade in Brazil and lovingly delivered in a vegetable-tanned leather sheath. Even though it is an axe.


A Former Mercedes Exec Tries Bypassing the Auto Industry

Large Image (optional)No one paid much attention when last week, a 15-person company called Apio Systems in Crystal City, Virginia, announced that it had raised $5 million in funding. Mercedes-Benz was probably watching, though.

In fact, Apio’s founder, Sascha Simon, spent nearly a decade at the company, including as head of its Advanced Planning Group, the same unit that launched Mercedes’s connected car system. But in 2012, Simon began thinking the technologies he was developing could live outside of Mercedes and every other car maker, so he left. We talked yesterday about that decision and what he’s trying to accomplish at his new company. Our conversation has been edited for length.

You had a big role at Mercedes. Why leave?

I felt the benefits of the connected car shouldn’t [accrue] just to Mercedes drivers but to everyone. Everyone carries a smart phone, so the idea was: Let’s use smart phones to bring safety benefits to drivers worldwide. I also thought I could do this faster outside of the car industry.

You’ve created a “situational awareness” technology that provides safety alerts and monitoring tools that help make drivers safer. How does it work, exactly?

The technology utilizes all the sensors in the smart phone that are there already — the gyroscope, accelerometer, audio and video sensors, barometric pressure [sensors] — and uses them to enable your phone or tablet to sense everything around it. [The smart device then] communicates with our cloud to make a determination about what’s happening. It’s almost like having an extra driver or passenger looking out for you.

So this is sort of tech for the here and now, until advanced car technologies are more ubiquitous.

If we had fully autonomous cars, no one would need what I’m doing, but they won’t come that fast. I think if we wait until car companies get there, it will be another 15 years. In the meantime, I believe that we’re building something that can be incredibly helpful in [hastening] that day. If everyone experiences [the advantages of the connected car], then everyone will want it.

How far along is your tech? And how – or to whom – are you selling it?

We have a functioning prototype and customers who are waiting, including Transdev, an international, multimodal transportation company that’s both a customer and an investor. It runs everything from trains to trucks and basically, what it will be buying is features and functionalities that will be packaged in the smart phones or apps it already has. [The technology] will allow it to be in constant communication with its vehicles to sense what its drivers are doing, if a vehicle is in trouble, how well a vehicle is performing. It’s a complete feed management platform.

It’s a subscription model?

Yes.

What does Mercedes think about what you’re doing?

I have communications with former colleagues all the time. That’s about all I can say at this point.

You just announced $5 million in funding. I don’t suppose you’re thinking about your next round?

Certainly we’re not ready to announce new funding plans yet, but you can imagine it’s all planned out. Our job right now is to take the money we’ve raised, get product to our customers and take it from there. I can tell you smart devices will continue to take over more functionalities from cars, and I plan to be a part of it.


StrictlyVC: November 19, 2014

Hi, happy Wednesday, everyone! (Web visitors, here’s an easier-to-read version of what you see below.)

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Top News in the A.M.

WhatsApp, the hugely popular instant-messaging platform, has “begun encrypting all its data by default, a move that privacy advocates say will aid dissidents and human rights activists seeking to protect their communications from governments and hackers alike,” reports the Washington Post.

Yesterday, the Senate voted down the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would have ended the controversial phone record metadata collection by the NSA. The Verge has more here.

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On Startups’ Need for Speed

Some of today’s fastest-growing startups act as if they’re immune to bad publicity.

While Uber was in the news yesterday for deciding to retain it senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, despite his veiled threats against a journalist, it’s hardly alone. This past May, when troubling, years-old emails by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel were leaked to the media, Spiegel issued a short public apology and then went back to business as usual.

Partly, today’s companies recognize that consumers and journalists have short attention spans. But today’s startups also realize that their window to succeed has never been smaller. As far as they’re concerned, nothing must get in their way.

A new report tries to quantify this situation. According to the Bay Area consultancy Play Bigger, those select companies that hit the big time are meeting major milestones (including $500 million, $1 billion, and $5 billion valuations) two to three times faster than they did roughly 15 years ago.

Indeed, poring over 500,000 venture-backed tech companies dating back to 2000, Play Bigger found that the winners founded between 2000 and 2003 took 8.5 years to reach a valuation of $1 billion, while a corresponding set of companies founded around 2009 and afterward have been hitting the same milestone in just 2.9 years. Similarly, startups founded in 2000 to 2003 took 4.5 years on average to reach a $500 million valuation, and companies founded in 2009 and afterward have been hitting the same target in just 1.6 years. The firm’s report is here.

The reasons for this hyper-growth aren’t surprising. Thanks to social media, word-of-mouth about products and services spreads faster than ever before. The costs of scaling have fallen dramatically with cloud services. Ubiquitous mobile devices mean global distribution is easier than at any time in history. And startups have a wider variety of funding sources.

Still, Uber and its brethren are making a mistake if they think their need-for-speed trumps good crisis management.

Yes, the startup world forgets many of these stumbles quickly, but the public markets are much less forgiving. And when the same company keeps experiencing one public relations disaster after another, one has to wonder whether there’s some sort of systemic problem.

Yesterday, in pardoning Michael, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted, “I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them – myself included.” We hope so. Time will tell.

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New Fundings

Airware, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company behind a hardware, software, and cloud services platform for commercial drone development and operation, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from GE Ventures. Airware had raised roughly $40 million previously, including from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersAndreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, and Google Ventures.

AllUnite, a 1.5-year-old, Copenhagen-based company that offers free Internet and location-based marketing for retailers, has raised €3 million ($3.7 million) in Series A funding led by Northzone, along with Denmark’s largest grocery chain retailer, Coop. The company had previously raised €1 million ($1.6 million), including from Danish investor Christian Stadil.

Bigcommerce, a 5.5-year-old, Austin-based start-up whose software-as-a-service helps more than 55,000 companies create and manage their online stores, has raised $50 million in Series D funding led by SoftBank Capital, with participation from Telstra Ventures, American Express, and earlier investors General Catalyst Partners and Revolution Growth. The company has now raised $125 million altogether.

Boost Media, a 5.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that uses crowdsourcing and split testing to help businesses find effective words and images for their online ads, has raised $19 million in Series C funding led by Battery Ventures. Earlier investors Javelin Venture Partners,Pinnacle Ventures, and Webb Investment Network also invested in the new round, which brings the company’s total funding to $31 million.

Clef, a 1.5-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based company whose two-factor service enables sites to replace passwords with verification from Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint reader, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from Morado Ventures and angel investors.

Cue, a 4.5-year-old, San Diego startup developing an inexpensive diagnostic screening device for the home, has raised $7.5 million in funding led by Sherpa Ventures. Actor Leo DiCaprio, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina also participated in the round.

Dispatch, a nearly two-year-old, Boston-based company that helps schedule and track on-demand services like home repairs, has raised $3.1 million in seed funding led by Promus Ventures and GrandBanks Capital. Other participants in the round include Kima Ventures, Launch Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, along with individual investors.

GoGoVan, a 1.5-year-old, Hong Kong-based on-demand delivery service serving Asia, has raised $10 million from the Chinese social networkRenren in exchange for a 10 percent stake n the company, reports the WSJ. GoGoVan, which says it has access to 20,000 vehicles and 74,000 drivers, had raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Centurion Private Equity in August.

Kik Interactive, a five-year-old, Waterloo, Ontario-based mobile messaging app focused on young teens, has raised $38.3 million in new funding led by Valiant Capital Partners, with participation fromMillennium Technology Value Partners and SV Angel, and earlier backers Foundation Capital, RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. The company, which has now raised $70.5 million altogether, is using part of its new round to acquire a Toronto-based messaging service called Relay that it will integrate into its product. (Relay had raised $700,000 in funding, including from Valar Ventures and Real Ventures.) Some of the new funds are also being used to buy employee stock.

LeddarTech, a seven-year-old, Quebec, Canada-based company that develops LED detection systems for object recognition and distance measurement applications, has raised $7 million in new funding led by earlier backers BDC Capital and GO Capital Fund. The company has now raised $16 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Novaerus, a three-year-old, Chicago-based company whose technology scrubs the air using a plasma field to reduce airborne pathogens, has raised $10 million from new investors Polaris Partners and Fidelity Biosciences. Novaerus had previously received an undisclosed amount of funding from Oyster Capital Partners, an Ireland-based investment firm.

Prezi, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes interactive, cloud-based presentation software, has raised $57 million in funding led by Spectrum Equity. Earlier backer Accel Partners also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $71.3 million.

Redbooth, a nearly six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based communication and collaboration platform for enterprises, has raised $11 million in Series B funding led by Altpoint Ventures and Avalon Ventures. The company has now raised $17.5 million to date, including from Data CollectiveFJME Ventures, and individual investors.

Seriously Digital Entertainment, a year-old, Helsinki, Finland-based mobile gaming company that was founded by two former Rovio executives, has raised $5 million from existing investors, including Daher Capital,Sunstone Capital and Upfront Ventures. The company has now raised $10 million altogether.

Sweetgreen, a seven-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based farm-to-table healthy restaurant chain, has raised another $18.5 million from earlier investor Revolution Growth to expand to the West Coast. The company has now raised $57.5 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

WeMail, a new, Seattle-based email app maker founded by two Y Combinator alums (who happen to be brothers), has raised $1 million in funding from other founders in the YC network, including Twitch co-founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, Parse and Scribd co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, Flurry founder Sean Byrnes, and Reddit and Hipmunk co-founder Steve Huffman. TechCrunch has more here.

Zipnosis, a five-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based telemedicine company that offers 24/7 online diagnoses for common medical conditions, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Arthur Ventures, an investor in health-related software. The company, which was mostly bootstrapped prior, has now raised more than $2 million altogether, its chief executive tells VentureWire.

Zomato, a six-year-old, New Delhi, India-based restaurant search and discovery service that provides information on hundreds of thousands of restaurants across 18 countries, has raised $60 million in new funding, this time from India’s Vy Capital and earlier backers Info Edge and Sequoia Capital. The company has now raised roughly $113 million altogether. TechCrunch has much more here.

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New Funds

500 Startups has created a new $10 million fund focused on mobile startups called 500 Mobile Collective that will be managed by partner Edith Yeung.

Kensington Capital Partners, an 18-year-old, Toronto-based firm has held an initial close on its Canada-focused fund of funds called Kensington Venture Fund with roughly $160 million. LPs in the fund include Royal Bank of Canada, BMO Financial Group, CIBC, and TD Bank Group, as well as the Canadian government, which owns 33 percent of the fund.

Zetta Venture Partners, a firm launched last year by Mark Gorenberg, has raised more than it was targeting for its debut fund, shows a new SEC filing. Gorenberg, who spent more than 20 years as a managing director at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, had initially set out to raise $40 million and fairly quickly assembled $30 million. The new filing shows he has since raised $56.5 million altogether. Zetta, where Gorenberg is the sole GP, is focused on early-stage analytics startups that are focused on the enterprise.

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IPOs

The American Depository Shares of EHi Car Services, a Shanghai-based car rental and chauffeuring company, began trading yesterday on the NYSE and remained fairly flat. Initially sold at $12 each, raising $120 million for the company, the shares closed the day at $11.70 apiece.

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Exits

500friends.com, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that creates incentive programs for businesses, has been acquired by digital marketing company Merkle for “tens of millions” of dollars, the company tells Venture Capital Dispatch. The company had raised $10.9 million from investors, including Crosslink Capital, Intel Capital and Fung Capital. Merkle, a 25-year-old company, raised its first institutional funding in 2010 — a minority investment from Technology Crossover Ventures.

BinOptics, a 14-year-old, Ithaca, N.Y.-based maker of optoelectronic components, has been acquired for $230 million in cash by M/A-COM Technology Solutions, a 50-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based company that makes semiconductor devices and components. BinOptics had raised at least $37 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its backers includeRand Capital, Advantage Capital Partners, and Cayuga Venture Fund.

Galvanize, a two-year-old, Denver-based venture-backed company that runs software-development education programs, has acquired Zipfian Academy, a year-old, data-science boot camp in San Francisco. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

MedeAnalytics, a 20-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based health-care analytics company, has acquired software provider OnFocus Healthcare, a 29-year-old, Brentwood, Tn.-based performance management software company that targets hospitals and healthcare organizations. OnFocus has raised minimal amounts of outside funding over the years; MedeAnalytics raised $50 million from Bain Capital Ventures in 2008.

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People

Another day, another lawsuit filed by a former frat brother who says his best friends squeezed him out of the social media company they founded together. This time, it’s Yik Yak. Forbes has the story. (StrictlyVC wrote about Yik Yak’s growth in late October.)

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Job Listings

Snapchat is looking for a product analyst. The job is in Venice, Ca.

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Essential Reads

Twitter now lets you search for any tweet ever sent.

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Detours

Why it’s so hard for Millennials to find a place to live and work, in graphs.

GQ spends a few days with comedian Dave Chappelle who is, as always,hilarious.

Please Stop Spreading Around That Meme of Me Choking on a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

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Retail Therapy

Like baseball? Shoot baskets? Can we perhaps interest you in a sports site?


On Startups’ Need for Speed

images (3)Some of today’s fastest-growing startups act as if they’re immune to bad publicity.

While Uber was in the news today for deciding to retain it senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, despite his veiled threats against a journalist, it’s hardly alone. This past May, when troubling, years-old emails by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel were leaked to the media, Spiegel issued a short public apology and then went back to business as usual.

Partly, today’s companies recognize that consumers and journalists have short attention spans. But today’s startups also realize that their window to succeed has never been smaller. As far as they’re concerned, nothing must get in their way.

A new report tries to quantify this situation. According to the Bay Area consultancy Play Bigger, those select companies that hit the big time are meeting major milestones (including $500 million, $1 billion, and $5 billion valuations) two to three times faster than they did roughly 15 years ago.

Indeed, poring over 500,000 venture-backed tech companies dating back to 2000, Play Bigger found that the winners founded between 2000 and 2003 took 8.5 years to reach a valuation of $1 billion, while a corresponding set of companies founded around 2009 and afterward have been hitting the same milestone in just 2.9 years. Similarly, startups founded in 2000 to 2003 took 4.5 years on average to reach a $500 million valuation, and companies founded in 2009 and afterward have been hitting the same target in just 1.6 years. The firm’s report is here.

The reasons for this hyper-growth aren’t surprising. Thanks to social media, word-of-mouth about products and services spreads faster than ever before. The costs of scaling have fallen dramatically with cloud services. Ubiquitous mobile devices mean global distribution is easier than at any time in history. And startups have a wider variety of funding sources.

Still, Uber and its brethren are making a mistake if they think their need-for-speed trumps good crisis management.

Yes, the startup world forgets many of these stumbles quickly, but the public markets are much less forgiving. And when the same company keeps experiencing one public relations disaster after another, one has to wonder whether there’s some sort of systemic problem.

Today, in pardoning Michael, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted, “I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them – myself included.” We hope so. Time will tell.

Photo courtesy of David Paul Morris, Bloomberg