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.

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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.

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Job Listings

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

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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?

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Detours

Zen and the art of cubicle living.

The 2014 National Book Award winners.

A tiny hamster Thanksgiving.

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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.



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