Hello and happy Wednesday morning, everyone! (Web visitors, click here for a version of today’s email that will not drive you blind.)
Top News in the A.M.
It’s official. The Democrats got crushed. What that means remains to be seen, but the Washington Post observes that with Colorado Senator Mark Udall’s defeat, NSA reformers just lost an ally on the inside.
Kleiner’s Mike Abbott on (Probably) Not Starting Another Company
Three years ago, Mike Abbott joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in the plum role of general partner. Yet one senses the longtime operator and entrepreneur — whose many past roles include as Twitter’s VP of Engineering; as SVP at Palm; and as cofounder of the data virtualization startup Composite Software, acquired by Cisco last year for $180 million in cash — isn’t completely finished getting his hands dirty as an engineer. We caught up the other day, chatting about everything from Kleiner’s well-documented management changes to Abbott’s closet coding. Our conversation has been edited for length.
When you joined Kleiner, it seemed to be undergoing a generational shift, with you and Megan Quinn reportedly charged with building the firm’s digital practice. Now, many younger partners the firm had brought on are gone, including Quinn, who has become a strategic advisor. What’s going on?
Megan decided for personal reasons that she and her significant other were moving to the U.K. We wanted her to be part of the KP family, so that’s totally distinct from [the decision the firm made a year ago to downsize] . . . But we’re very much making sure that KP’s platform is getting built for the future and clearly we’ll be adding a couple of new folks as we find the right people for us.
You joined the firm less than two years before it shook up its management team. How has that impacted your work and your outlook on KP?
I don’t think I knew the company, or the firm would [be involved in] different legal issues or what not. I’m not going to lie and say I was aware of everything. But I was aware there was a conviction to make changes and I applaud [longtime general partners] Ted [Schlein] and John [Doerr] for doing [what they felt was best for the firm]. We have a long history of handling generational transitions and a great history to leverage; it doesn’t change the fact that we have a lot of work to do.
John Doerr is joining the board of Slack, Kleiner’s latest high-profile deal. What are your new investments? What interests you?
I’ve been spending a lot of time around computer vision. I think the advancements in deep learning that Google and Facebook are making are interesting. One of my most recent investments is Airware [a three-year-old company that’s developing a drone operating system]. It’s going to be really interesting to see what kinds of applications get built [because of it].
I’ve spent my career focused on big data, but now we have efficient ways to query it and store it and [the next step] is extracting real intelligence out of it.
How? What are some of the other related applications and services that interest you?
I think it’s interesting to think through how, if you were to build a Salesforce or NetSuite today, you would build it. RelateIQ, which Salesforce acquired, was starting to do interesting analytics around the email accounts of sales teams to enable them to do better lead forecasting – like looking at the frequency that [a rep] talks with a customer, and the time between that outgoing email and the customer’s response.
What we haven’t seen yet is more work around the quantified employee, meaning: How do you start building metrics that go beyond performance management? If I usually send X number of emails, and check in so many times on Github, and you build a fingerprint of me as an employee and that [fingerprint] suddenly changes, well, maybe it’s because of my personal life or maybe it’s because I don’t like who I’m working with and maybe now I’m at risk [of leaving the company]. I’m not suggesting monitoring employees for bad behavior, but when I was at Twitter, managing a couple hundred employees, boy, if there’d been a way for me to get different metrics that were implicitly derived and would have helped me be a more effective leader and manager . . .
Before joining Kleiner, you were a fairly active angel investor. What’s your pacing like as a VC?
I’ve done two Series A deals [for the firm] this year and one Series B. It’s not like, “You used your two; you’re done.” But if you look at the size of the fund and reserves, it kind of ends up that way.
Is that frustrating?
It’s not easy, even if I’m writing more software [on the side]. I really enjoy the mentoring and service aspect [of venture capital], but I won’t lie; as someone who has built products for 20 years, the feedback cycles are a lot longer than when you’re shipping software.
Wait. You still go home and write software?
I do. I’ve recently met with a number of companies doing deep learning and just wanted to see what state-of-the-art was for someone like me to try out.
A couple of weeks ago, I also wrote a couple of [scripts] for custom keyboards, which you can use for i0S 8 [as it now allows third-party keyboards in the App store]. I don’t necessarily know if there’s a company or not, but different keyboards for different locations is fascinating to me.
Are you talking about helping another team incubate a company or are you tempted to start another company?
I certainly can and would [help incubate a company]. KP has a history of people starting companies out of its offices, which made me feel better [when I joined], thinking I could start one. But having started companies, I know what kind of investment that takes and I’m not sure I’ve been able to reconcile whether [I] can really do [a startup] and provide enough time and support to the companies on whose boards I sit.
I wouldn’t say no way [will I ever start another company]. But I have a deep respect for what it requires.
Blued, a two-year-old, China-based Grindr-style chat and matchmaking app for Chinese men, has raised $30 million in funding led by DCM. The company had earlier raised $1.6 million in seed funding from Zhonglu Capital and Crystal Stream.
BlueSnap, a 12-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based payment services company, has raised $50 million in growth equity led by Parthenon Capital Partners, with earlier investor Great Hill Partners participating in the round alongside BlueSnap management.
CheckoutSmart, a two-year-old, London-based company that makes a cashback app for supermarket shoppers in the U.K., has raised £1.5 million ($2.4 million) in seed funding from a long list of angel investors.
Chime, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based bank account and rewards app “for mobile millennials,” has raised $8 million in funding led byCrosslink Capital, with participation from investors Homebrew, Forerunner Ventures and PivotNorth Capital.
Contactually, a three-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based relationship marketing platform, has raised $2 million in seed funding from earlier investors, including 500 Startups, Boston Seed Capital, Point Nine Capital and Gil Penchina’s AngelList syndicate, along with new investors Crystal Tech, Middlebridge Partners and Middleland Capital. The company has now raised $3.5 million to date.
Ease Entertainment Services, a six-year-old, Beverly Hills, Ca.-based payroll and software services company for the entertainment industry, has raised $17 million from Bison Capital Asset Management.
Evermind, a two-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based company whose sensor-laden outlets detect when appliances are turned on or off, sending email and text alerts when changes in activity could be cause for concern, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Tristar Technology Ventures, with participation from Solidus, Launch Tennessee, and numerous angel investors. MedCity News has more here.
Fuel3D, a year-old, London-based company that makes a high resolution handheld 3D scanner, has raised $6.4 million in funding led by earlier investor Chimera Partners. A spin-out of Oxford University, the company raised $300,000 last year via Kickstarter and another $2.6 million in funding from Chimera and Parkwalk Advisors earlier this year.
Gigya, an eight-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that helps online businesses and publishers manage customer logins, has raised $35 million in a funding round led by Intel Capital. Other participants in the round include Common Fund Capital, Vintage Investment Partners and earlier investors Adobe, Advance Publications, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Greenspring Associates, and Mayfield Fund. Gigya has now raised $104 million altogether. (Intel Capital actually announced new investments in 16 companies yesterday. Here‘s the full list.)
Gravitant, a 10-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based company that provides businesses with a way to compare and select cloud service providers, has added $25 million to a $10 million Series B it had closed last year. New investor Cielo Private Equity led the funding, alongside earlier investor S3 Ventures. The company has now raised roughly $40 million to date, including from Corsa Ventures.
InList, a months-old, Miami Beach, Fl.-based company whose app allows users to make reservations at exclusive venues and events, has raised $3 million in funding from investors, including Moneta Group and Star Capital Partners. The company has raised $4 million to date, it says.
Kash, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile payments company, has raised $2 million in seed funding from investors, including Draper Associates, Green Visor Capital and Structure Capital.
Minus, a four-year-old, New York-based company whose “MeowChat” app prompts users to create profiles of themselves describing their age, gender, location, and hobbies so they can be matched with similar users in chat rooms, has raised $8 million in funding from investors, including Eniac Ventures, Social Starts, IDG-Accel, and SIG. Venture Capital Dispatch has the story here.
Prelert, a five-year-old, Framingham, Ma.-based cyber security company, has raised $7.5 million in new funding from Intel Capital and earlier investors Fairhaven Capital and Sierra Ventures. The company had previously raised on round of $3.8 million, shows Crunchbase.
Thanx, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based customer loyalty program startup, has raised $4.7 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital. The company has now raised $6 million altogether, including from earlier investor SoftTech VC.
Wanderu, a three-year-old, Boston-based travel search site, has raised $5.6 million in Series A funding led by Metamorphic Ventures, with participation from Alta Ventures, 500 Startups, Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners and individual investors, including venture capitalist Brad Feld. The company has raised $8.1 million to date.
Xiaomi, the 4.5-year-old, Beijing-based electronics manufacturer and smartphone maker, is exploring the option of raising funding that could value the company at more than $40 billion, reports Forbes, noting the valuation would make Xiaomi the world’s most valuable privately held technology company. The company has previously raised at least $347 million, including from Morningside Group and QiMing Venture Partners.
Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, founded two years ago by its sole general partner, Charlie O’Donnell, is in the market for its second fund, he tells the WSJ. His debut fund, which closed with $8.3 million, has been used so far to invest in 19 startups and has produced an IRR of 53 percent, he says, though none of the companies in his portfolio has exited yet.
Mérieux Développement, a five-year-old, Lyon, France-based private equity investment arm of Institut Mérieux, has launched a second pool of 150 million euros ($188.4 million) to invest in health care and nutrition companies.
Xiaomi, the four-year-old, Beijing-based electronics powerhouse, announced yesterday that it plans to invest $1 billion in online video content to support its smart television ecosystem. The investment will be overseen by two Xiaomi executives with extensive experience in building online content, reports TechCrunch. More here.
Allegiance, a nine-year-old, South Jordan, Ut.-based company whose software helps businesses analyze and apply customer feedback, has been acquired by the sales and marketing services company Maritz Holdings for an undisclosed amount. Allegiance had raised at least $51.7 million over the years, shows Crunchbase. Its investors include Nippon Venture Capital, Allegis Capital, El Dorado Ventures and Rembrandt Venture Partners.
ChanTest, a 16-year-old, Cleveland, Oh.-based biotech that provides ion channel testing services, has been acquired by Wilmington, Mass.-based Charles River Laboratories International for $52 million, with another $2 million in payments tied to future milestones. ChanTest had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the private equity firm Ampersand in 2007.
Corona Labs, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based maker of a mobile app development platform, has been acquired by the mobile monetization company Fuse Powered for undisclosed terms. Corona had raised $3 million in equity and debt from Merus Capital and Western Technology Investment, shows Crunchbase. Fuse Powered has raised at least $13 million from investors, shows Crunchbase, including Relay Ventures, Pinetree Capital, and NFQ Ventures.
CyVek, a six-year-old, Wallingford, Ct.-based company that has developed a new immunoassay technology, has been acquired by publicly traded Bio-Techne Corp. for $60 million. CyVek had raised at least $22.3 million over five rounds, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Connecticut Innovations.
Definiens, a 20-year-old, Munich, Germany-based company focused on imaging and data analysis technology, is being acquired by the U.K.-listed drug maker AstraZeneca for $150 million, including additional, pre-determined milestone payments. Definiens had raised at least $33 million from investors, shows Crunchbase, including VM Capital, Cipio Partners, and Wellington Partners. The Telegraph has more here.
Shareholder InSite, a six-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based software company that provides shareholder management and analytics services to venture and private equity firms and private companies, has been acquired for an undisclosed amount by Ipreo Holdings, a capital-markets research company backed by Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs Group. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Shareholder InSite had raised at least $4.8 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include the Council & Enhanced Tennessee Fund.
Damon Kirchmeier has joined the Salt Lake City, Ut.-based venture firm EPIC Ventures as a director. Kirchmeier was previously the president of Rockwell Time USA, which distributes athletic watches. He earlier co-founded the investment firm InnoVentures Capital Partners, where he spent 10 years as a managing director.
GoPro has hired media veteran Zander Lurie to be its senior vice president of media, a new role, reports Recode. Lurie — whose past gigs include as the former CFO and head of business development at CNET and as SVP of Strategic Development at CBS Interactive — was most recently a partner at Guggenheim Partners, a role he left in January.
For the last 12 years, Michael Skok was a venture capitalist at North Bridge Venture Partners. Now Skok is on a listening tour and contemplating what’s next. BostInno has more here.
Yesterday, StrictlyVC asked CB Insights for a list of the top five funding rounds of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The data it provided is a stark remind that bigger rounds do not always translate into bigger exits. More here.
Facebook is looking to hire a strategic partner manager to manage and maintain strategic relationships for Instagram. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.
The car leases that Uber is promoting to drivers are quickly turning into albatrosses around those drivers’ necks, reports Valleywag in a must-read piece. Meanwhile, The Verge reports on Uber’s efforts to recruit 50,000 veterans with the promise of good jobs when, “in reality, it’s a very precarious way to make a living,” notes a former Army machine gunner. Oh, and Vanity Fair has just published a new feature about Uber, too, authored by reporter-entrepreneur Kara Swisher.
Don’t bother waiting for the grandchildren to start preschool. Now, you can set up a 529 when they’re still a mere glimmer in your child’s eye.
The art of not working at work.
Wired loves Jawbone’s new wearable, the Up3. Perhaps you will, too?