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Top News in the A.M.
Facebook to enterprises: You want workplace collaboration tools? We’ve got your workplace collaboration tools.
Sometimes, a record-breaking IPO isn’t enough. According to Reuters, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba will be sounding out investors this week as it mulls its first bond offering. (The WSJ talks with cofounder Joe Tsai about some of the company’s other plans here.)
Tim Draper on Life Outside DFJ
Almost exactly a year ago, Fortune reported that billionaire investor Tim Draper would no longer be actively investing on behalf of DFJ, the firm he cofounded in 1985. As the news rippled throughout VC circles, Draper wrote StrictlyVC to clarify that was “not leaving DFJ. Ever. I am just skipping a fund to do some work building Draper University and experimenting with new models for venture capital. He added: “I will of course be an investor in any new fund we create.”
Draper, already known for his boundless energy, has seemingly been in overdrive since. In addition to his involvement with his 1.5-year-old Draper University — once characterized as an “unconventional boarding school for aspiring tech moguls” — Draper has become a highly active seed-stage investor. He’s betting heavily on bitcoin, too. In fact, in July, he purchased the 30,000 bitcoin seized when the feds took down the online drug bazaar Silk Road in October 2013. That’s saying nothing of his efforts this year to get an initiative on the California ballot to carve the state into six “startup” states. (It failed to qualify.)
How does he find the time? StrictlyVC asked Draper if he could answer a few questions about the past year; we emailed this past weekend in an exchange that has been edited lightly for length.
Last year, you said you decided to “skip a fund” at DFJ. How are you feeling one year later?
Everything I do helps all my funds, whether they be DFJ or Draper Associates [Draper’s seed fund].
Draper University; Boost.vc [son Adam’s investment fund], Hero City [Draper University’s coworking space]; and my long history in the VC world have all become an amazing source of deal flow.
What’s been the best part about this past year? What’s been the most challenging?
The best part is that I am able to innovate in the finance world. There are some things that can be done better for the entrepreneurs, and some that can be done better for the LPs. There are also some real technological innovations that are happening that I have been able to identify and apply to venture capital [including around bitcoin].
Also, [Draper University] has provided me a new vehicle for investment, new contacts I never would have made without it, and innovations I never would have seen without it.
The most challenging [thing for me] has been the sheer volume of opportunities I now have for investment.
You seem to be investing more actively than ever.
I think I am at my normal pace.
Would you ever raise institutional funding again?
What percentage of your bets this past year have been bitcoin-related?
Maybe 20 percent and rising.
When you successfully bid on those 30,000 bitcoin, you told Dealbook that you wanted to provide liquidity to markets that have been hamstrung by weak currencies. First, have you ever disclosed how much you paid? More importantly, how are you executing on that plan?
We have done it. [Editor’s note: Here, Draper points me to his portfolio company Mirror, formerly Vaurum, an exchange platform for bitcoin investors.] And the price I paid for the bitcoin was higher than the current price, but my belief is that the price of bitcoin will exceed $10,000 within three years because the infrastructure is being built that will lay the groundwork for universal adoption. We will be using bitcoin for transactions and all we will know is that the transaction was made faster, smoother and cheaper than it would have been with just fiat currency.
Will you invest as actively in bitcoin in 2015 or have you covered a lot of your bases at this point?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I expect bitcoin and the blockchain to be as prevalent in banking, commerce and finance as the Internet is in information, communications and software.
A lot of very smart people are divided about bitcoin. Like you, Marc Andreessen is a famous bull. In contrast, Peter Thiel recently said that he’s skeptical, that it’s “not obvious how easy it is to get a seamless payment system attached to [bitcoin].”
It is happening. I look forward to giving Peter a tour of Draper University and Hero City. Marc has already been there.
Andreessen and Thiel have also become very public figures. Meanwhile, you did a lot of press around your Six Californias initiative, but as an investor, you seem to have pulled back.
We just finished up another amazing session at Draper University. We are challenging the count at Six Californias. Draper Associates has been making some brilliant investments that I expect to have even greater outcomes than those I have made in the past. We have news cycles, too.:)
Your three children are now making their own startup bets. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given them about being investors in Silicon Valley?
Yes, Jesse, the Valley Girl, is one of the top supporters of women in entrepreneurship, and she has made some exciting investments. My son Adam is running Boost.vc, and my son Billy works with me making investments for Draper Associates. They all look at the world as something that can be improved through entrepreneurship. [The] best piece of advice [I’ve given them]: “Fail and fail again until you succeed.”
Axcient, an eight-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company whose data protection service aims to make online backup simple for smaller businesses, has raised $10 million in Series E funding, according to anSEC filing that lists a $13.2 million target. The company had previously raised at least $64.2 million, including from Allegis Capital, Scale Venture Partners, and Thomvest Ventures.
BeiGene, a four-year-old, Beijing-based biotech company that develops targeted and immune-oncology therapeutics, has raised 450 million yuan ($75 million) in Series A funding from new investors CITIC Capital Partners, Hillhouse Capital, and an undisclosed U.S. public-investment fund, along with earlier, unnamed angel investors.
Bion Pharma, a new, Princeton, N.J.-based company that aims to help Indian and European drug makers receive regulatory clearance and expand their distribution rights in the U.S., has raised $21 million from two investors, according to an SEC filing that shows a $30 million target. Bio was founded by five U.S.-based execs who left Indian generic drugmaker Ranbaxy last month. MedCity News has the story.
Curatio Healthcare, a nine-year-old, Chennai, India-based mobile healthcare engagement platform, has raised Rs 100 crore ($16.2 million) from Sequoia Capital in exchange for a reported 20 to 25 percent stake. Times of India has more here.
InsightSquared, a four-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based business intelligence company, has raised $13.5 million in Series C funding from earlier backers Atlas Ventures, DFJ, and NextView Ventures along with new investor Two Sigma Ventures. The company has now raised $27 million to date.
Into the Gloss, a four-year-old, New York-based beauty site and maker of its own skin and beauty products that ship directly to consumers, has raised $8.4 million from Thrive Capital and other investors, says VentureWire. The company had earlier raised $2 million in seed funding from Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Forerunner Ventures.
Onename, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based company that makes it easy for anyone to be listed in the directory for Bitcoin, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding Union Square Ventures, with participation from Barry Silbert, Naval Ravikant, Cyan and Scott Banister, SV Angel, High Line Venture Partners, and others. Onename graduated from Y Combinator’s Summer 2014 batch. VentureBeat has more here.
Scaled Inference, a six-month-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that’s building a cloud-based platform for third parties that want to use artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to run their apps and services, has raised $8 million in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures. The company has now raised $13.6 million, following a seed round earlier this year that included Tencent and Felicis Ventures, among others. TechCrunch hasmore here.
Sliced Investing, a months-old, San Francisco-based graduate of this summer’s Y Combinator class, has raised $2 million in seed funding to pursue its plans to bring crowd funding to hedge funds. Participants in the round include Khosla Ventures, Data Collective, and TriplePoint Venture Growth.
SomaLogic, a 15-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based clinical diagnostics company that provides protein detection equipment and more to its customers, has raised $16.5 million, including from Novartis AG, which recently extended a research agreement with SomaLogic. CEO Byron Hewett tells VentureWire that the company, which has raised more than $200 million over the years, is targeting $40 million for this current round.
SysCloud, a four-year-old, Cranford, N.J.-based company that sells a suite of tools that provides protection for data in Google Apps through real-time backups, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Inventus Capital Partners, with participation from earlier investor KAE Capital.
FibroGen, a 21-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s developing drugs in anemia, fibrosis and cancer, debuted on Nasdaq Friday, after pricing 8.1 million shares at $18 apiece, near the top of its projected range of $16 to $19 per share; its shares closed the day at $22 per share.
Karen Mills, Obama’s former SBA chief, is now working part-time at Harvard Business School. She’s also writing checks as an angel investor, often alongside General Catalyst Partners, reports BostInno.
Mahbod Moghadam, the ousted co-founder of Genius.com (formerly Rap Genius) posted a how-to story on Friday that’s generating a lot of attention, and not the good kind. Moghadam wrote about shrinking his tab at Whole Foods by switching price tags, pocketing fruit, putting pricey food in soup containers and (unfortunately) much, much more.
Michael Solomon and Rishon Blumberg, longtime talent agents, have begun serving as agents for desirable developers, and their firm, 10x, is crushing it, reports the New Yorker in an entertaining new profile.
Bridge Ventures, a U.K.-based investment firm that funds businesses that are located in or serve underserved communities, is looking for a partner in New York.
Golden Seeds, an early-stage firm focused on women-led businesses, is looking for a venture fund analyst. The job is in New York.
The future of Google Glass grows cloudier.
Baltic Sea photography.
Fastest roast turkey.
Three years ago, he was flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Today Matt Haag, 22, skinny and blindingly pale, makes more than $1 million a year by playing the popular war game Call of Duty.
Oh, hey, for the right price, the first official Batmobile can now be yours.