Monthly Archives: January 2015

StrictlyVC: January 30, 2015

Happy Friday, everyone. Hope you have a super weekend. (Web visitors, this version of today’s morning email is easier to read than what you see below.)

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Top News in the A.M.

AOL is cutting 150 employees. More details here.

Google‘s fourth quarter results missed the mark yesterday.

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Mike Rothenberg: Virtual Reality is Not a Sector, People

Late last year, three-year-old Rothenberg Ventures announced it would be launching a startup accelerator, River, that planned to provide $100,000 in seed funding to virtual reality companies expressly. To some, it might have seemed like a calculated, and possibly unwise, bit of counterprogramming. After all, by backing a variety of startups, most accelerator programs are able to hedge their bets and reduce the risk that a whole batch will fall out of fashion.

Yet the San Francisco firm argues that the the 13 companies it has selected, from roughly 200 applicants, is as diverse as any early Y Combinator class. An eye-mounted head-tracking display that helps the physically challenged with daily tasks? Check. Virtual reality technology that changes the way people experience news events? Check. “Everyone keeps calling it a ‘sector,’” says the firm’s founder, Mike Rothenberg. “But just as the Internet is ubiquitous, virtual reality will be ubiquitous in 10 or 20 years. This technology is really going to change everyone’s life.”

We talked about it yesterday.

You’re about to welcome 13 companies into your new accelerator program, which will run from February through May. What was the criteria for acceptance?

We were really looking for the most innovative applications across every industry. We also wanted a mix of hardware and software. We didn’t know what we’d get, but we have companies coming from Japan, South Africa, New Zealand France — companies building great companies in education, in pain management . . .

How far along are they?

They’re pretty mature companies for the most part. Some have been building their companies for eight to ten years. Fove, which makes an eye-tracking head mounted display that lets users navigate using their eye movements, has a complete product that works and is amazing.

Have these companies raised capital in the past?

Some of them have some capital. [Fove, for example, passed through Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London last summer.] But in general, venture capital hasn’t been focused on virtual reality too much yet, so in some cases, the companies hadn’t raised anything prior. We have a South African company that bootstrapped and figured out a way to get customers to pay for VR from the beginning.

What size stake are you taking in exchange for your $100,000?

We aren’t disclosing that. We looked at Y Combinator and other accelerators and incubators and tried to learn [from what they do].

Just two companies you’ve accepted are hardware companies. Is that by design? Do you think most people will be creating virtual reality technology for platforms like Samsung Gear VR and the upcoming Oculus Rift?

We didn’t have set targets, but in my opinion, the big companies know what they’re doing. There’s a lot of good hardware being built by great tech companies with deeper pockets; smartphone use will become more common, too. So software and content companies might be a little more of a fit [for this program].

We also just saw so a lot of mind-blowing applications. We have a company, Psious, a smartphone-based tool that’s solving phobias by simulating heights and plane travel and spiders. Another, DeepStream, tackles pain management. Burn victims enter into a world of snow and it lessens their pain. A third company, Emblematic Group in L.A., is doing immersive journalism, showing reporters what it can feel like to be on the streets when a bomb goes off and hopefully making them more empathic in the process.

Why announce the companies now? Why not wait until they’re ready to meet with investors at a demo day you’re staging in May?

We want them to take advantage of their affiliation with River while they’re here in America. Some of them are already planning to move to San Francisco. Many of them are here for three months alone, and we want them to meet with the people they want to meet, including investors.

Those investors will invariably be conjuring up exit scenarios. Aside from Facebook and its subsidiary Oculus, which acquired two VR companies last month, do we know what companies are actively shopping for VR technologies?

The smartest companies. It’s the same for everything. Who’s going to buy the 360-degree action sports camera? Whoever is making cameras and wants to stay in business.

(For a full list of River’s companies, click here.)

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New Fundings

Anews, a two-year-old, Russia-based international news aggregation platform, has raised $2.7 million in venture backing, including from include TMT Investments, Run Capital, and 101Startup.

Aspire Bariatrics, a four-year-old, King of Prussia, Pa.-based company that’s commercializing a reversible, minimally invasive weight loss device for obesity, has closed on $12 million in venture debt financing from Hercules Technology Growth Capital. According to an SEC filing, the company had separately raised $5 million in equity last summer.

Atlas Genetics, a 10-year-old, U.K.-based company that makes molecular diagnostics tests for infectious diseases, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by RMI Partners, with participation from return backers Novartis Venture Funds, Consort Medical, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, BB Biotech Ventures and South West Ventures Fund.

Bench, a 2.5-year-old, Vanouver, B.C.-based online platform that pairs users with bookkeepers and bookkeeping software, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Altos Ventures with participation from Contour Venture Partners. The company has now raised $10 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

BioNano Genomics, a 12-year-old, New York-based company whose nanoscale imaging and analytic platforms are used to analyze DNA and other genome-related peptides and proteins, has raised $68.4 million in funding, according to an SEC filing — an amount that reportedly includes $53 million that BioNano raised in Series C funding last November. Legend Capital and Novartis Venture Fund co-led the round and were joined by Federated Kaufmann Fund and Monashee Investment Management. Earlier investors Domain Associates, Battelle Ventures, and Gund Investment Corporation also participated.

The 7.5-year-old parent company of CarDekho, a 6.5-year-old, Jaipur, India-based online marketplace for new and used cars, has raised $50 million from the Chinese investment firm Hillhouse Capital and the Hong Kong-based hedge fund Tybourne Capital. Earlier backer Sequoia Capital — which had provided the company with $15 million in Series A funding in 2013 — also participated. VCCircle has more here.

Cargomatic, a 1.5-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based company that enables users with shipping jobs to find truckers who are available to move their cargo, has raised $8 million led by Canaan Partners, with participation from Volvo Group Venture Capital, Morado Venture Partners, SV Angel, Sherpa Ventures, Structure Capital, and numerous angel investors. The company has now raised $10.6 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Cyanogen, a 5.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company that distributes smartphone software based on Google’s Android mobile operating system, is raising a $70 million round of financing that values the company in the “high hundreds of millions,” and Microsoft is poised to be a minority investor in that round, reports the WSJ. (The Information had published a smart piece about Cyanogen back in October.)

D-Wave Systems, the 16-year-old, British Columbia-based quantum computing company, raised $29 million Canadian dollars ($23 million) late last year from an unnamed “large institutional investor,” reports Venture Capital Dispatch. According to Crunchbase, the company has now raised roughly $124 million from investors, including Business Development Bank of Canada, DFJ, and Goldman Sachs.

Depop, a two-year-old, U.K.-based mobile marketplace that enables individuals to buy and sell their items, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Balderton Capital and Holtzbrinck Ventures. The company has raised $10.3 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

FullContact, a five-year-old, Denver-based company that sells a suite of suite of cloud-based contact management solutions for businesses and individuals, has raised $7 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Foundry Group, with participation from earlier investors 500 Startups and Blue Note Ventures. The company has raised $16.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Giphy, a two-year-old platform that makes it easy to search and share GIFs, has raised $17 million in Series B funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from General Catalyst Partners and earlier investors, including Lerer-Hippeau Ventures, betaworks, RRE Ventures, and CAA Ventures. Of the round, $225,000 has been set aside for accredited investors who might be interested in acquiring a stake in the company via the crowdfunding platform Alphaworks. The company had previously raised $2.5 million from investors.

The parent company of Grabhouse a two-year-old, Mumbai, India-based online rental accommodation site, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from Kalaari Capital and Sequoia Capital. LiveMint has more here.

Handpick, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose iOS app provides users access to more than 10 million socially shared food posts from Instagram, food blogs and recipe sites, has raised $3 million in funding led by ClearVue Partners, with participation from angel investors.

MaestroIQ, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based recommendation engine app used by marketers to help drive app engagement, has raised $1.75 million in seed funding from Foundation Capital, Deep Fork Capital, KEC Ventures, First Round Capital, Crosslink Capital, angel investor Jim Pallotta, and Eniac Ventures, where the company was incubated.

Ouya, a three-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based game-console maker, has raised $10 million from Alibaba, which has discussed incorporating Ouya’s software and library of more than 1,000 games into Alibaba’s set-top box, according to WSJ sources. Ouya had previously raised $15 million from investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mayfield Fund, Shasta Ventures and chipmaker Nvidia; it had also famously raised $8.6 million on Kickstarter.

Spotify, the 8.5-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based music streaming service, is working with Goldman Sachs Group on a new round of private fundraising, potentially putting off an IPO for another year, reports the WSJ. The amount to be raised and the valuation are yet to be settled, says the story, but talks include T. Rowe Price.

Swipe, a new social networking app that combines aspects of Instagram, Tinder, and Snapchat, has raised $6.5 million from Sherpa VenturesFirst Round Capital, Lowercase Capital and Binary Capital at a $50 million pre-valuation. Just two months ago(!), the company had raised $1.7 million in seed funding at a $10 million valuation (we’re not sure if that’s pre- or post). TechCrunch has the story here.

Ttyongche, a year-old, Beijing-based carpool mobile app maker, has raised roughly $10 million in Series B funding from Sequoia Capital, which had provided it with $3 million in Series A funding last June, according to Chinese media reports.

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New Funds

Cyber London (CyLon), a new startup accelerator based in London, hopes to launch a new wave of cyber-security technology companies from across Europe, reports The Guardian. Its first 13-week program kicks off in April. More here.

Utah-based Kickstart Seed Fund has closed a $39 million fund to fund very-early-stage startups in the state. It’s the firm’s third, and largest, fund. TechCrunch has more here.

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IPOs

Spark Therapeutics, a company that’s developing a treatment for rare blindness, hit the pubic market this morning. We’ll tell you on Monday how things go.

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Exits

DMG Media, owner of DailyMail.com, is acquiring the U.S.-based news website Elite Daily for undisclosed terms. According to Crunchbase, the three-year-old, New York-based startup had raised $1.5 million in a convertible note from Social Starts, Red Sea Ventures, Vast Ventures, and Greycroft Partners. According to Daily Mail, Elite Daily now boasts 74 million monthly unique visitors, mostly between the ages of 18 and 34.

SnipSnap, a 3.5-year-old, Philadelphia, Pa.-based company that makes a mobile couponing app, has been acquired by Toronto-based Slyce for $6.5 million in cash and stock. SnipSnap had raised $2.8 million from mostly individual investors. Slyce, a visual product search platform, has raised $28.7 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Beacon Securities, Cormark Securities, Salman Partners, and Canaccord Genuity Corp.

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People

Chrys Bader, one of the co-founders of the anonymous messaging app Secret, is leaving the company a year after its launch. Bader “won’t go away empty handed,” reports the WSJ. He and cofounder David Byttow collected roughly $6 million as part of a $25 million funding round last year, says the outlet.

Bain Capital Ventures has lost Boston-based managing directors Todd MacLean and Jeff Crisan, reports Fortune’s Dan Primack; he says the pair plans to launch a new venture capital firm with Jim Quagliaroli, who has stepped down as a managing director with Spectrum Equity. More here.

Billionaire Jim Clark, who left the tech scene in Silicon Valley more than a decade ago to build condos in Miami, is on a new real estate buying spree. According to the New York Post, Clark and wife Kristy Hinze just paid $37 million for the 40-foot-wide, eight-bedroom, 11,000-square-foot Mellon mansion on New York’s Upper East Side. (That’s down from the original asking price of $46 million in 2013.) Clark also recently shelled out $27.5 million for the Westchester, N.Y., mansion of director Ron Howard, a 17,000-square-foot property with pool, horse barn, greenhouse and much more.

Former Yahoo COO Jeff Mallett is ready to make a deal, apparently. According to Realtor.com, in 1999, Mallet bought an estate in Napa, Ca., that includes a private, USGA-member nine-hole golf course, and he’s been trying to sell it since 2012. Mallett was originally asking for $17.5 million. With no one coming “even close to making par on the offer,” says the outlet (ha, ha), Mallet has slashed the price by $8 million, meaning you can now acquire his vast property for $9.5 million should you be so inclined. More here.

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Job Listings

PayPal is looking to hire a director into its growth and special operations team. The job is in San Jose, Ca.

SoftBank is reportedly looking to set up a five-member team in India. The firm is meeting with people now, says the Economic Times.

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Essential Reads

Rap superstar Jay-Z is about to take on Beats and Spotify. More here.

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Detours

Your shopping habits are one in a million — literally.

How Nick Hornby keeps his writing fresh.

The pursuit of beauty: Solving a pure math mystery.

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Retail Therapy

Measuring Paris wall sticker (great for the kids’ room).


Thirteen Virtual Reality Companies Head to San Francisco

samsung-gear-vr-innovator-editionLate last year, three-year-old Rothenberg Ventures announced it would be launching a startup accelerator, River, that planned to provide $100,000 in seed funding to virtual reality companies expressly. To some, it might have seemed like a calculated, and possibly unwise, bit of counterprogramming. After all, by backing a variety of startups, most accelerator programs are able to hedge their bets and reduce the risk that a whole batch will fall out of fashion.

Yet the San Francisco firm argues that the the 13 companies it has selected, from roughly 200 applicants, is as diverse as any early Y Combinator class. An eye-mounted head-tracking display that helps the physically challenged with daily tasks? Check. Virtual reality technology that changes the way people experience news events? Check. “Everyone keeps calling it a ‘sector,’” says the firm’s founder, Mike Rothenberg. “But just as the Internet is ubiquitous, virtual reality will be ubiquitous in 10 or 20 years. This technology is really going to change everyone’s life.” We talked about it yesterday.

You’re about to welcome 13 companies into your new accelerator program, which will run from February through May. What was the criteria for acceptance?

We were really looking for the most innovative applications across every industry. We also wanted a mix of hardware and software. We didn’t know what we’d get, but we have companies coming from Japan, South Africa, New Zealand France — companies building great companies in education, in pain management . . .

How far along are they?

They’re pretty mature companies for the most part. Some have been building their companies for eight to ten years. Fove, which makes an eye-tracking head mounted display that lets users navigate using their eye movements, has a complete product that works and is amazing.

Have these companies raised capital in the past?

Some of them have some capital. [Fove, for example, passed through Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London last summer.] But in general, venture capital hasn’t been focused on virtual reality too much yet, so in some cases, the companies hadn’t raised anything prior. We have a South African company that bootstrapped and figured out a way to get customers to pay for VR from the beginning.

What size stake are you taking for your $100,000?

We aren’t disclosing that. We looked at Y Combinator and other accelerators and incubators and tried to learn [from what they do].

Just two companies you’ve accepted are hardware companies. Is that by design? Do you think most people will be creating virtual reality technology for platforms like Samsung Gear VR and the upcoming Oculus Rift?

We didn’t have set targets, but in my opinion, the big companies know what they’re doing. There’s a lot of good hardware being built by great tech companies with deeper pockets; smartphone use will become more common, too. So software and content companies might be a little more of a fit [for this program].

We also just saw so a lot of mind-blowing applications. We have a company, Psious, a smartphone-based tool that’s solving phobias by simulating heights and plane travel and spiders. Another, DeepStream, tackles pain management. Burn victims enter into a world of snow and it lessens their pain. A third company, Emblematic Group in L.A., is doing immersive journalism, showing reporters what it can feel like to be on the streets when a bomb goes off and hopefully making them more empathic in the process.

Why announce the companies now? Why not wait until they’re ready to meet with investors at a demo day you’re staging in May?

We want them to take advantage of their affiliation with River while they’re here in America. Some of them are already planning to move to San Francisco. Many of them are here for three months alone, and we want them to meet with the people they want to meet, including investors.

Those investors will invariably be conjuring up exit scenarios. Aside from Facebook and its subsidiary Oculus, which acquired two VR companies last month, do we know what companies are actively shopping for VR technologies?

The smartest companies. It’s the same for everything. Who’s going to buy the 360-degree action sports camera? Whoever is making cameras and wants to stay in business.

You can find River’s full list of startups here:

DeepStream VR
Description: VR games for pain relief and rehabilitation
Tag line: Virtual Reality games to relieve pain
Founders: Howard Rose, Ari Hollander
Discovr
Description: immersive learning experiences about exploring the ancient world
Founder: Josh Maldonado, Omar Charles, Professor Bernard Frischer
Based in: Toronto, Canada
Emblematic Group
Description: immersive journalism in VR
Founder: Nonny de la Pena
EmergentVR
Description: application to create, edit and share 360 VR experiences with the world using mobile phones
Founders: Peter Wilkins, Chris Wheeler
Website: n/a
Fove
Description: The world’s first headset to use eye tracking to create an immersive experience
Founders: Yuka Kojima, Lochlainn Wilson
Based in: Tokyo, Japan
Innerspace
Description: high quality VR content focused on artistic and cultural expression
Founder: Balthazar Auxietre and Hayoun Kwon
Based in: Paris, France
Psious
Description: platform for mental health practitioners to help patients cure fears using immersion therapy in VR
Founders: Xavier Palomer, Danny Roig
Based in Spain
Reload Studios
Description: independent game studio made of ex-Call of Duty developers and ex-Disney artists
Founder: James Chung
SDK
Description: VR for industrial training
Founders: Shaun Wilson, Christian Yves Fongang
Based in: South Africa
Solirax
Description: education platform for exploration, discovery and creativity
Founders: Tomas Mariancik and Karel Hulec
 
Thotwise
Description: indie game studio focusing on exploration and suspense
Founder: Ariel Arias
Based in: Argentina
Website: thehumgame.com
Triggar
Description: 360-degree capture camera and system
Founders: Bruce Allan and Rob Allan
Based in: Australia
Vantage VR
Description: 180 degree viewing experience for concerts and live events
Tag line: Ticketmaster for VR events
Founders: Juan Santillan, Michael Richardson
Website: vantage.tv
 

StrictlyVC: January 29, 2015

Happy Thursday, everyone! No column today. We are way, way under the weather this week.

We also spent an inordinate amount of time last night reading over the explosive lawsuit filed Tuesday against entrepreneur-investor Joe Lonsdale by a former Stanford student and girlfriend who’s accusing him of gender violence and sexual assault.

It’s a major shocker. Lonsdale — a protégé of Peter Thiel who worked with Thiel at his hedge fund, Clarium Capital, before cofounding the big data company Palantir with Thiel, Alex Karp, Stephen Cohen and Nathan Gettings — has been described by Fortune as a “man in a hurry” given his hard-charging work ethic.

In addition to Palantir, Lonsdale also cofounded Addepar, whose software helps rich clients manage their wealth. The five-year-old company has raised $65 million from investors, including $50 million that poured in last spring. And Lonsdale cofounded four-year-old Backplane, a social network for people with “like-minded interests” that has raised roughly $14 million from investors.

More recently, Lonsdale has dived into the world of venture capital, co-founding Formation 8, a two-and-a-half-year-old firm that has already raised nearly $1 billion from investors across two funds. (Its first fund, the biggest debut fund raised since 1999, included an early bet on the virtual reality company Oculus VR, bought for $2 billion by Facebook last year.)

Despite his extensive network, Lonsdale is not a terribly public figure. He has tweeted 23 times in the last five years, almost exclusively to promote his business interests or those of his friends. Conference appearances are rare. On Quora, an anonymous poster characterizes working with him as “intense,” saying Lonsdale “tends to favor potential over experience, which results in a lot of personal and professional growth for the individuals he works with.”

Lonsdale won’t be battling this lawsuit quietly, though. Soon after the filing was leaked yesterday to the media, Lonsdale — who credits his start in the industry to his days “as a little kid at PayPal” — published a highly detailed, personal, and e-mail laden personal statement in a move meant to quickly quash questions raised by the suit.

Not only does he include love letters written to him by his accuser, Elise Clougherty, whom he dated for one year, but anyone curious can also find a two-page letter written to him by Clougherty’s mother, asking Lonsdale not to part ways with her daughter, and a somewhat excruciating email that Clougherty had written to Lonsdale about her history of mental health issues.

Lonsdale is also planning to file a defamation suit against Clougherty today. “I will counter these vindictive attacks at every turn,” he says in his statement. “I will not be bullied by lies and threats.”

According to Clougherty’s lawsuit, she and Lonsdale began a romantic relationship in February 2012 after becoming linked in a mentorship program at Stanford, where she was an undergraduate and Lonsdale, an alum of the school, was a volunteer. Lonsdale says in his statement that they’d first met the previous year, at a “meeting arranged by her mother in New York,” when Clougherty and her mother “sought me out through a mutual friend.”

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Top News in the A.M.

Microsoft’s Office for Android tablet apps arrive today.

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New Fundings

99.co, a 1.5-year-old, Singapore-based property rental and sales site that launched publicly late last year, has raised $1.6 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. The company had previously raised $650,000 in seed funding, including from 500 Startups.

Araxid, a 2.5-year-old, Mclean, Va.-based company whose software helps its customers link and privatize disparate identities stored in one or more databases, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding co-led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital.

AutoBot, a year-old, Beijing-based startup that provides smartphone-using drivers with analytics about their speed, proximity to other cars and more, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Gobi Partners and ABC Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Business Insider, the 7.5-year-old, New York-based business news site, has raised $25 million in fresh funding from a syndicate of investors led by Axel Springer SE, with participation from earlier backers, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The WSJ has more here. Business Insider is the most-visited business news site in the U.S., according to analytics firm comScore. It has now raised $57 million altogether, says the WSJ.

Datadog, a five-year-old, New York-based monitoring platform for cloud applications, has raised $31 million in Series C funding led by earlier backer Index Ventures, with participation from RTP Ventures, OpenView Venture Partners, and Amplify Partners, among others. The company has now raised $53.4 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Deliveroo, a 2.5-year-old, London-based food delivery company that focuses on high-end restaurants in densely populated areas, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Iterable, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company behind a marketing-automation platform for e-commerce companies, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Merus Capital, 645 Ventures, TEEC Angels, 500 Startups and individual investors.

Koru, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based talent marketplace that helps college grads find jobs at tech companies, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Maveron, with participation from City Light CapitalTrilogy Equity Partners and earlier backers Battery Ventures and First Round Capital. The company has now raised $12.6 million altogether.

Mashable, a 10-year-old, New York-based media site that covers tech, entertainment, and business news, has raised $17 million in new funding led by Time Warner Investments, reports the WSJ. The company has now raised $31 million altogether.

Meta, a two-year-old, Portola Valley, Ca.-based augmented reality headset maker, has raised $23 million in Series A funding led by Horizons Ventures, Tim Draper, BOE Optoelectronics and Y-Combinator partners Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian. Other participants in the round include Danhua Capital, Commodore Partners and Vegas Tech Fund. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Tripda, a 10-month-old, New York-based long-distance carpooling platform, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Rocket Internet AG and an unnamed New York venture firm.

Tune, a 5.5-year-old, Seattle-based company whose software helps marketers manage their performance advertising relationships, has raised $27 million in fresh funding led by Icon Ventures, with participation from Performance Equity Management and earlier backer Accel Partners. The company has now raised $36.4 million altogether. Recode has more here.

Whistle, the 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of dog activity trackers, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Nokia Growth Partners, with participation from Qualcomm, Melo7 Tech Partners, and QueensBridge Venture Partners. The company, which has now raised $25 million altogether, has also acquired a competitor, San Diego-based Tagg, for an undisclosed sum.

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New Funds

Recruit Holdings, a Tokyo-based human resources company, is launching a $20 million strategic corporate venture fund that will invest in human resource startups across various stages.

Techstars Ventures, which got its start nearly eight years ago in Boulder, Co., has closed a $150 million early-stage fund. Venture Capital Dispatch has much more here.

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Exits

Esker, which makes document process automation software and trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, has acquired TermSync, a Fitchburg, Wi.-based cloud-based accounts receivable platform, for undisclosed terms. TermSync had raised $2 million from individual investors.

Fingerprint, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based kid-focused learning and entertainment platform, has acquired two smaller children’s mobile education companies: Cognitive Kid and Scribble Press. Fingerprint has raised $20 million from investors, including Reed Elsevier VenturesCorus Entertainment, and DreamWorks Animation. TechCrunch has more here.

Performant Financial Corp., whose software helps its customers reduce waste and recover lost assets, is acquiring Premier Healthcare Exchange for $108 million in cash and $22 million in Performant common stock. Premier had raised $4 million from the growth equity firm Edison Partners.

Slack, the enterprise collaboration service, has acquired Screenhero, a Y Combinator alum that competes against WebEx. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Screenhero had raised $1.8 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. TechCrunch has the story here.

Teespring, a Providence, R.I.-based custom apparel startup, has acquired London-based competitor Fabrily for undisclosed terms. Fabrily was bootstrapped. Teespring has raised $57 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, and Y Combinator.

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People

Arsenal Venture Partners, a Winter Park, Fl.-based venture firm, has appointed two new partners, promoting principal Jennifer Dunham and hiring Ryan Waddington. Dunham joined the firm nearly 17 years ago. Waddington most recently cofounded Michigan-based Huron River Ventures, a seed-stage venture firm.

Bryan Hale has re-joined DFJ as an EIR, the firm announced earlier this week. Hale worked for DFJ before joining its portfolio company, Chef Software, in 2009. Before first coming to DFJ in 2007, Hale worked in corporate development at Salesforce and as an analyst at UBS.

TPG has sued its former spokesman, Adam Levine, claiming he took confidential documents from the private-equity firm and leaked them to the New York Times after he was denied a promotion and told that TPG was considering replacing him atop its public relations group. Levine’s camp unsurprisingly has a very different story, saying he had “alerted TPG senior management to serious issues of noncompliance and defrauding its investors of millions of dollars in fees and expenses,” and calls the suit a “blatant and shameful attempt to discredit a whistleblower.” Much more here.

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Happenings

StrictlyVC’s first INSIDER event takes place two weeks from today in San Francisco, featuring Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, Strava cofounder Mark Gainey, Sigma West cofounder Greg Gretsch, and Haystack founder Semil Shah. Much thanks to our wonderful sponsors Ballou PR, Next World Capital and Standish Management for making the whole thing possible.

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Job Listings

Yahoo is looking to add an associate to its corporate development team. (We’d told you about this one a couple of weeks ago without a link; the company shot it to us yesterday.)

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Data

Facebook reported fourth quarter financial results yesterday that topped analysts’ estimates. Some of the interesting data points from its call: More than half a billion people access Facebook exclusively from their phones. Mobile now accounts for 69 percent of its ad business, up from 53 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. And video on the platform is exploding, with daily video views hitting 3 billion in the fourth quarter, up from 1 billion last September.

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Essential Reads

Apple and Samsung are in a dead heat for smartphone dominance, according to new data from the research firm Strategy Analytics.

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Detours

The rich design history of the selfie stick.

Optical illusions using typography.

Writer and blogging pioneer Andrew Sullivan signs off.

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Retail Therapy

After eight years in the making, the Acura NSX is available for purchase.

Way to ruin meal time, Ronit Baranga.


StrictlyVC: January 28, 2015

Good morning, everyone!

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Top News in the A.M.

Apple just finished up the most profitable quarter of any company — ever. You can find more numbers here.

In the fourth quarter, Yahoo will spin off the rest of its stake in China’s Alibaba Group, pleasing its many cash-hungry investors. BloombergView’s Matt Levine explains what’s going on.

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Richard Wolpert’s Big Idea: Tech Support for Your Parents

“I’m no spring chicken,” says Richard Wolpert. “But I’ve been at this for 30 years and I have a lot of great experience under my belt.”

Wolpert — who sold companies to Adobe and RealNetworks and launched Disney’s earliest online businesses before joining Accel Partners as a venture partner and cofounding Amplify.la — is explaining why, after more than seven years as a full-time investor, he just founded his fourth startup.

The L.A.-based company is three-month-old Hello Tech. Its big idea, the one that Wolpert couldn’t let go: remote tech support for consumers who own or want to buy products like Sonos speakers and Nest thermostats, but who need help in keeping them up and running.

“These are homeowners with disposable income who don’t how how to get through the newest digital security service or latest update [to their other products],” says Wolpert. “It’s much more than, “Let us catch that virus.” He adds with a laugh: “Most investors we pitched said, ‘I would buy this for my parents so I don’t have to do this anymore.’”

It’s really no joke. The tech support market — valued at $21 billion — appears to remain wide open at the moment.

Services like Geek Squad, the Best Buy subsidiary, have largely alienated U.S. consumers over the years. Meanwhile, no brand has managed to capture much of the market in its place. A sampling of Hello Tech’s current competitors include Student[at]Home, a London-based company that sends IT students to customers’ homes; iCracked, a two-year-old, Redwood Shores, Ca., company that sends out help to consumers who’ve damaged their Apple products; and Geekatoo of Mountain View, Ca., an Angie’s List-like service that connects product owners with “verified geeks” and which Wolpert doesn’t seem to take very seriously.

“You ask for help, then within 24 hours, someone like Tom at ComputerRepair.com arranges to come out and you pay him directly. It’s not an end-to-end service. We imagine something much tighter.”

Just don’t ask how it works. Aside from Hello Tech’s funding – it just raised $2.5 million co-led by Accel, Upfront Ventures, and Crosscut Ventures – Wolpert isn’t ready to disclose much, saying he prefers not to share “some of what we think will be the secret sauce.”

Indeed, he declines to answer numerous questions about how Hello Tech will manage supply and demand, how it will market the service, or how the company can ensure that its remote workforce represents the standards Wolpert envisions.

Wolpert offers instead that he cofounded Hello Tech with two former Disney colleagues who he has known for 19 years: Ninah Oh and Sascha Linn. He says Hello Tech will run “much like other marketplace models,” meaning it will take a percentage off every transaction and that users will rate the technicians who visit them. He also says that Hello Tech will launch in six cities to prove out its model, starting this spring in L.A. Asked another question about the company’s road map, Wolpert says only that, “We have some clever ideas and we don’t want to tip our hat to the market.”

Likely, by “market,” Wolpert means Ron Johnson. As PandoDaily notes, Johnson, a former SVP of retail operations at Apple, also recently launched a company that’s largely operating in stealth mode.

It sounds as if it’s targeting the same, big opportunity, too. Back in October, Johnson talked with the Wall Street Journal about providing customers with the ability to touch and try expensive electronic goods before making a big purchase.

Johnson told the outlet: “That’s when you typically want something more than fast delivery; you might want a little help . . . There’s a place for high touch in a high-tech world.”

—–

New Fundings

Advance Health, a five-year-old, Chantilly, Va.-based company that provides in-home health risk assessments and chronic care management services, has raised $40 million in growth equity. The funding was led by Summit Partners, with Noro-Moseley Partners participating in the round.

Claritas Genomics, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company focused on producing next-generation genetic and genomics-based diagnostic tests, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by WuXi NextCODE Genomics. Earlier investors Boston Children’s HospitalCerner Corporation, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, also participated in the funding.

ClickTale, a nine-year-old, Tel Aviv-based customer experience analytics platform, has raised $35 million in new funding led by KKR, with participation from Amadeus Capital Partners, Viola Credit and other existing investors. The company has now raised $60 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Earnest, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based online lender that uses data science to determine customer rates, has raised $17 million in Series A funding led by Maveron, with participation from earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz and Atlas Venture. Including debt financing, the company has now raised $32 million altogether. StrictlyVC talked with founder Louis Beryl last year about his company’s ambitions.

Final, a year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based credit card that enables users to generate multiple card numbers, has raised $1 million in seed funding, including from Ludlow Ventures, T5 Capital Partners, Y­Combinator and several unnamed angel investors. (Final has one of the better promotional videos we’ve seen; if you’ve missed it, it’s here. Meanwhile, here’s a story about the company that produced it.)

GrubMarket, a three-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that delivers locally sourced, organic food to customers’ doors, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from investors, including GGV Capital, Jerry Yang, Y Combinator, Wang Gang, and New Gen Partners.

Impartus Innovations, a two-year-old, Bangalore-based educational video technology startup, has raised an undisclosed of Series A funding from the investment firm Kaizen. VCCircle has more here.

Nilas, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup (f.k.a. Inbox) that promises developers a better API for building email client applications, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Formation 8, with participation from earlier investors Fuel Capital, SV Angel, Data Collective, Great Oaks Venture Capital and others. The company has now raised $10 million altogether.

UserTesting, an eight-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based platform that enables companies to test user experiences across channels and devices, has raised $45.5 million in Series C funding led by Accel Partners, with participation from OpenView Venture Partners. UserTesting competes with ClickTale (see above).

RedShelf, a three-year-old, Chicago-based distributor of digital textbooks and academic papers, has raised $2 million in Series A funding from the National Association of College Stores and previous, unnamed, Detroit-based angel investors. The company had previously raised $1 million in seed funding.

Tradesy, a 2.5-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based company that operates an online consignment shop, has raised $30 million in funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from Rincon Venture Partners, billionaire Richard Branson, and others. The company has now raised $44.5 million altogether. Recode has more on the round — including investors’ recent perception that this was a “stale deal” — here.

Zipwhip, a six-year-old, Seattle-based cloud texting carrier, has raised $5 million in funding from undisclosed sources. In 2011, the company had raised a $3.1 million Series A round, including from Lakewest Venture Partners.

—–

New Funds

Victor Chu, chairman of First Eastern Investment Group, a Hong Kong-based direct investment firm with private equity investments in China, is creating a $50 million venture fund that will back startups in Nova Scotia and help them expand into Asia. CBC has more here.

Singulariteam, a venture firm in Tel Aviv that backs local startups and companies with Israeli founders, has closed its second fund with $102 million. Its LPs that include co-founders of Tencent Holdings and Renren. TechCrunch has much more here.

—–

IPOs

Five high-profile internet and tech IPOs poised to launch this year.

—–

Exits

The bitcoin business CoinTerra has filed for bankruptcy. According to Crunchbase, the company had raised roughly $2 million from investors. Austin Business Journal has more here.

—–

People

Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans (and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers) is trying to save Detroit, but there are lots of risks tied to his one-man effort, observes the National Post.

Sean Flynn, who joined the Sand Hill Road firm Shasta Ventures in 2008, has been named a managing director at the firm. Flynn was previously a senior director of communication and messaging products at Yahoo and, earlier in his career, an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley. Shasta closed a $300 million fourth fund last June.

Sony plans to cut an additional 1,000 employees in its smartphone business, mainly in Europe and China.

—–

Job Listings

AOL is looking for a director of corporate development in New York.

—–

Data

Tech exits jumped 58 percent last year, according to CB Insights. Here’s who did the most deals.

—-

Essential Reads

On-demand workers: “We are not robots.”

—–

Detours

A glimpse inside Dudley House, London’s reported most expensive private residence.

—–

Retail Therapy

smart mattress cover. It has to be better than what you’re using, which, let’s face it, just kind of lays around all day doing not much.


Richard Wolpert’s Big Idea: Tech Support for Your Parents

richard wolpert“I’m no spring chicken,” says Richard Wolpert. “But I’ve been at this for 30 years and I have a lot of great experience under my belt.”

Wolpert — who sold companies to Adobe and RealNetworks and launched Disney’s earliest online businesses before joining Accel Partners as a venture partner and cofounding Amplify.la — is explaining why, after more than seven years as a full-time investor, he just founded his fourth startup.

The L.A.-based company is three-month-old Hello Tech. Its big idea, the one that Wolpert couldn’t let go: remote tech support for consumers who own or want to buy products like Sonos speakers and Nest thermostats but who need help in keeping them up and running.

“These are homeowners with disposable income who don’t how how to get through the newest digital security service or latest update [to their other products],” says Wolpert. “It’s much more than, “Let us catch that virus.” He adds with a laugh: “Most investors we pitched said, ‘I would buy this for my parents so I don’t have to do this anymore.’”

It’s really no joke. The tech support market — valued at $21 billion — appears to remain wide open at the moment.

Services like Geek Squad, the Best Buy subsidiary, have largely alienated U.S. consumers over the years. Meanwhile, no brand has managed to capture much of the market in its place. A sampling of Hello Tech’s current competitors include Student@Home, a London-based company that sends IT students to customers’ homes; iCracked, a two-year-old, Redwood Shores, Ca., company that sends out help to consumers who’ve damaged their Apple products; and Geekatoo of Mountain View, Ca., an Angie’s List-like service that connects product owners with “verified geeks” and which Wolpert doesn’t seem to take very seriously.

“You ask for help, then within 24 hours, someone like Tom at ComputerRepair.com arranges to come out and you pay him directly. It’s not an end-to-end service. We imagine something much tighter.”

Just don’t ask how it works. Aside from Hello Tech’s funding – it just raised $2.5 million co-led by Accel, Upfront Ventures, and Crosscut Ventures – Wolpert isn’t ready to disclose much, saying he prefers not to share “some of what we think will be the secret sauce.”

Indeed, he declines to answer numerous questions about how Hello Tech will manage supply and demand, how it will market the service, or how the company can ensure that its remote workforce represents the standards Wolpert envisions.

Wolpert offers instead that he cofounded Hello Tech with two former Disney colleagues who he has known for 19 years: Minah Oh and Sascha Linn. He says Hello Tech will run “much like other marketplace models,” meaning it will take a percentage off every transaction and that users will rate the technicians who visit them. He also says that Hello Tech will launch in six cities to prove out its model, starting this spring in L.A.

Asked a related question about the company’s road map, Wolpert says only that, “We have some clever ideas and we don’t want to tip our hat to the market.”

Likely, by “market,” Wolpert means Ron Johnson. As PandoDaily notes, Johnson, a former SVP of retail operations at Apple, also recently launched a company that’s largely operating in stealth mode.

It sounds as if it’s targeting the same, big opportunity, too. Back in October, Johnson talked with the Wall Street Journal about providing customers with the ability to touch and try expensive electronic goods before making a big purchase.

Johnson told the outlet: “That’s when you typically want something more than fast delivery; you might want a little help . . . There’s a place for high touch in a high-tech world.”


StrictlyVC: January 27, 2015

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. (Hope you’re holding up in New England; we’re thinking of you.)

By the way, a few of you let us know you’d found yesterday’s email in your spam folder. Perhaps it was all the exclamation points! If you missed your issue, you can check it out here.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

You can now post videos and send group messages on Twitter.

The Waze mobile traffic app by Google can also be used to hunt and harm police, say some in law enforcement, who want Google to disable users’ ability to notify other users about nearby police. As notes the Associated Press, the “growing concern is the latest twist in Google’s complicated relationship with government and law enforcement.”

Yahoo will report its newest earnings after today’s market close.

—–

Pushbullet, Beloved by Users, Shoots for Fresh Funding

Pushbullet, a San Francisco-based, six-person software startup whose free app makes it easy for users move notifications, links, and files between devices, is announcing $1.5 million in seed funding from General Catalyst Partners, SV Angel, Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Paul Buchheit, and other angel investors.

It’s in the market again, too. As is often the case with today’s startups, Pushbullet is announcing a round that came together some time ago – 10 months ago in this case – as a way to kind of raise its flag. Says founder Ryan Oldenburg, a former Android developer at Hipmunk who formed Pushbullet with several former Hipmunk colleagues: “We don’t need a giant round to power a sales force – just a standard Series A. Everyone here has two jobs and I’d like to start making that not be the case anymore.”

VCs could certainly do worse. Since launching in 2013, Pushbullet says it has distributed “tens of millions” of notifications and transferred hundreds of thousands of links, files, and text snippets across users’ various devices, garnering rave reviews from CNet, Wired, and LifeHacker in the process. Just this morning, GigaOm described it as “one of those rare apps where, once you start using it, you’ll likely begin wondering how you lived without it for so long.”

Now, it’s a matter of raising user awareness, preferably before Apple and Google find other ways to better tie together their operating systems across devices. (With Pushbullet ranked far below the most downloaded productivity apps, according to both AppAnnie and Android Rank, the race is on.) We talked with Oldenburg about the company last week.

What compelled you to start Pushbullet?

It started about a year-and-a-half ago. I had a smart phone, but as a programmer, I spent a lot of time working on computers, which traditionally didn’t work with smart phones, nor did anyone think they should. As a result, people were doing odd things, like emailing themselves to get their files on their phone. A world where people have both smart phones and tablets is great, but nobody had been acknowledging the opportunity to make it much better.

How did you know you’d struck on something?

It was just a side project, but it had an unexpectedly awesome reception. The first 15,000 [users] signed up within a couple of weeks without any PR. I just submitted it to Reddit and it struck a nerve.

You then headed to Y Combinator. What did the program do for you?

Y Combinator has a way of making you feel not good enough and like you have to work 10 times harder – which isn’t a bad thing. If you’re the right person [to lead a startup], it makes you want to do what it takes to grow beyond tens of thousands of users to tens of millions. It got us to think much bigger.

How much bigger? Will we see an enterprise version of Pushbullet?

At this point, we’re focused on building it for consumers. But as we get later stage, this [technology] is definitely something that will fit into enterprises and [where we’ll probably get the most financial support]. Dropbox [straddles] both worlds, too, and that model works for us.

—–

New Fundings

3Scan, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s focused on new technologies for pathology, including a “knife edge scanning microscope” that sections and images tissue samples, has raised $6.67 million in Series A funding led by Lux Capital.

Beckon, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that makes analytics software for marketers, has raised $13 million in new funding led by Venrock, with participation from earlier backers August Capital and Canaan Partners. The company has now raised $23 million to date. (StrictlyVC talked with CEO and cofounder Jenny Zeszut last year about what it’s like when things don’t go as planned.)

CaratLane, a 7.5-year-old, Chennai, India-based online jewelry store, has raised $31 million in Series D funding from earlier backer Tiger Global Management. CaratLane has raised roughly $52 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

CloudBees, a 4.5-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based company that’s focused on the “continuous delivery” market in which developers make their code ready to deploy at all times instead of in fixed release cycles, has raised $23.5 million in Series D funding led by earlier backer Lightspeed Venture Partners. Other participants in this round include previous investors Matrix Partners, Verizon Ventures, and Blue Cloud Ventures. The company has now raised $51.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Colu, a new, Tel Aviv-based bitcoin blockchain platform and upcoming consumer app, has raised $2.5 million in funding led by Aleph and Spark Capital, with participation from BoxGroup and Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. Venture Capital Dispatch takes a longer look at the company here.

Curiyo, a 4.5-year-old, Jerusalem-based company whose software enhances online articles with links that direct readers to related facts, has raised just less than $1 million in new funding from new and existing investors, including the crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer, and Techra Investments. The company had previously raised $1.9 million in seed funding.

Dizzion, a 3.5-year-old, Denver, Co.-based company whose cloud-based service allows users to access their desktop applications and data from any device, has raised $3.9 million in Series A funding co-led by Access Venture Partners and Grotech Ventures, with participation from Correlation Ventures, Point B Capital and the new venture outfit Service Provider Capital. The company has raised $4.6 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Ele.me, a 6.5-year-old, Shanghai, China-based food delivery service, has raised $350 million in Series E funding from CITIC, Tencent Holdings,JD.com, Dianping.com, and Sequoia Capital. Tencent, which owns stakes in both JD.com and Dianping.com, looks to be playing catch-up with this deal, suggests TechCrunch, which notes that its biggest rivals, Alibaba and Baidu, already have investments in food delivery services (Meituan and Nuomi, respectively).

EnGene, a 15-year-old, Montreal-based company that’s been developing a mucosal immunotherapy platform to deliver genes to cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, has raised $10.8 million in Series B funding led by Forbion Capital Partners, with participation from new investors Pharmstandard International and Quebec’s Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Earlier backer Lumira Capital also participated in the round. The company has raised at least $31.2 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Fuse, a 3.5-year-old, Oslo, Norway-based mobile app development platform, has raised $2.8 million in new funding led by Northzone. The company, which recently opened an office in Palo Alto, Ca., has now raised $7 million altogether, it says.

MoFang, a two-year-old, Beijing, China-based mobile game media platform, has raised RMB100 million ($16 million) in Series A funding led by Shenzhen Capital Group, reports China Money Network. Earlier backer Matrix Partners also joined the round.

Research Now, an 11-year-old, Plano, Tx.-based digital data collection provider, has a new shareholder in Court Square Capital Partners, after it acquired its stake from shareholders TA Associates, Polaris Partners, and Sutter Hill Ventures. More here.

Roadie, a nine-month-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based startup whose mobile app helps connect people who have stuff to ship with neighbors and other drivers already heading in that direction, has raised $10 million from investors, including UPS Strategic Enterprise FundTomorrowVentures, and individual investors, including Warren Stephens, chairman and CEO of the boutique investment bank Stephens, and Square co-founder Jim Mckelvey. Roadie was founded by Marc Gorlin, who also cofounded the six-year-old online lending company Kabbage.

Scout RFP , a two-year-old, Cleveland, Oh.-based cloud-based project-bidding platform, has raised $2.75 million in seed funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Google Ventures, Zapis Capital, and numerous angel investors, including former LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy.

Starcounter, an 8.5-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based company behind a high performance database for real-time transactional applications, has raised $1.8 million in funding, most of it from Industrifonden.

USGI Medical, a 14-year-old, San Clemente, Ca.-based company that’s developing incision-less procedures for weight loss, has raised more than $19.5 million in equity and debt. Earlier, unnamed investors contributed the equity portion of the financing. Meanwhile, GE Capital and Healthcare Financial Services provided the company with a senior secured debt facility, with East West Bank participating as a syndicate partner.

Xenex Disinfection Services, a six-year-old, San Antonio, Tx.-based maker of robotic pesticide devices designed to kill germs in hospitals, has raised $25 million in new funding from new investor Brandon Point Industries, along with earlier backers Battery Ventures, Targeted Technology Fund, and RK Ventures. The company has raised $36.3 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

—–

New Funds

A new secondary player has officially emerged on the scene: New York-based Manhattan Venture Partners, a merchant bank “focused on the emerging secondary market for late-stage private technology companies.” More here.

Partech Ventures, the 33-year-old, Paris-based venture firm, has closed its newest fund with 200 million euros ($224 million), from LPs that include the state-owned bank BPI France; insurers CNP Assurances and AG2R La Mondiale; the French IT services group Ingenico; the carmakerRenault; and Europe’s largest retailer, Carrefour. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

—–

IPOs

Zosano Pharma, a 8.5-year-old, Fremont, Ca.-based maker of transdermal delivery patches that treat severe osteoporosis, has increased the proposed size of its offering. According to a filing yesterday, the company now plans to raise $47 million via 4.3 million shares priced at between $10 and $12, up from 3 million shares at the same range. Zosano first filed to raise $70 million at a $139 million market cap last July but postponed the offering amid a then-shaky market. The company’s biggest outside shareholders include BioMed Realty, which owns 45.5 percent of the company; and New Enterprise Associates, which owns 38.8 percent.

—–

Exits

American Healthcare Lending, a Sandy, Ut.-based network that gives doctors and other healthcare providers the ability to offer loans to patients for elective medical procedures at their offices, has been acquired by the online lending company Prosper Marketplace for $21 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Code School, a four-year-old, Orlando, Fl.-based online learning platform that teaches programming and web design skills, has been acquired by the online IT training company Pluralsight for $36 million. More on Code School, which appears to have been bootstrapped, here. And here, more on its acquisition in Wired.

Pixelapse, a four-year-old, Palo Alto-based startup that offers version control and other collaboration tools for designers, has been acquired by cloud storage company Dropbox for undisclosed terms. Pixelapse had been incubated by Y Combinator and StartX and had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding, including from Spark Capital.

—–

People

New York Times reporter Nick Bilton is at work on a book about the black-market bazaar Silk Road, and 20th Century Fox has already acquired the rights to a film based on it. Bilton’s last book, the best-seller “Hatching Twitter,” was published in 2013.

Osuke Honda, who joined DCM Ventures in 2007, has been promoted to general partner at the firm. Honda was among the earlier investors in the mobile social network Gree. StrictlyVC talked with Honda last fall about the evolving startup scene in Japan.

—–

Job Listings

Venture-backed Coinbase, which opened the first licensed bitcoin exchange in the U.S. yesterday, is looking to hire a VP of finance. The job is in San Francisco.

—–

Essential Reads

Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, will cut its massive workforce, as the Apple supplier faces declining revenue growth and rising wages in China.

—–

Detours

The fight to save Japan’s young shut-ins.

Scenes from New York’s empty, snowy streets.

The newest chapter of Deflategate has the NFL interviewing a locker room attendant who allegedly took footballs “to another area on the way to the field” before the start of the game.

—–

Retail Therapy

Rent (or rent out) an unused suite at your favorite NBA, NFL, or NHL stadium.

Power up your phone, with your wallet.


Pushbullet, Beloved by Users, Shoots for Fresh Funding

Ryan OldenburgPushbullet, a San Francisco-based, six-person software startup whose free app makes it easy for users move notifications, links, and files between devices, is announcing $1.5 million in seed funding from General Catalyst Partners, SV Angel, Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Paul Buchheit, and other angel investors.

It’s in the market again, too. As is often the case with today’s startups, Pushbullet is announcing a round that came together some time ago – 10 months ago in this case – as a way to kind of raise its flag. Says founder Ryan Oldenburg, a former Android developer at Hipmunk who formed Pushbullet with several former Hipmunk colleagues: “We don’t need a giant round to power a sales force – just a standard Series A. Everyone here has two jobs and I’d like to start making that not be the case anymore.”

VCs could certainly do worse. Since launching in 2013, Pushbullet says it has distributed “tens of millions” of notifications and transferred hundreds of thousands of links, files, and text snippets across users’ various devices, garnering rave reviews from CNet, Wired, and LifeHacker in the process. Just this morning, GigaOm described it as “one of those rare apps where, once you start using it, you’ll likely begin wondering how you lived without it for so long.”

Now, it’s a matter of raising user awareness, preferably before Apple and Google find other ways to better tie together their operating systems across devices. (With Pushbullet ranked far below the most downloaded productivity apps, according to both App Annie and Android Rank, the race is on.)

We talked with Oldenburg about the company last week.

What compelled you to start Pushbullet?

It started about a year-and-a-half ago. I had a smart phone, but as a programmer, I spent a lot of time working on computers, which traditionally didn’t work with smart phones, nor did anyone think they should. As a result, people were doing odd things, like emailing themselves to get their files on their phone. A world where people have both smart phones and tablets is great, but nobody had been acknowledging the opportunity to make it much better.

How did you know you’d struck on something?

It was just a side project, but it had an unexpectedly awesome reception. The first 15,000 [users] signed up within a couple of weeks without any PR. I just submitted it to Reddit and it struck a nerve.

You then headed to Y Combinator. What did the program do for you?

Y Combinator has a way of making you feel not good enough and like you have to work 10 times harder – which isn’t a bad thing. If you’re the right person [to lead a startup], it makes you want to do what it takes to grow beyond tens of thousands of users to tens of millions. It got us to think much bigger.

How much bigger? Will we see an enterprise version of Pushbullet?

At this point, we’re focused on building it for consumers. But as we get later stage, this [technology] is definitely something that will fit into enterprises and [where we’ll probably get the most financial support]. Dropbox [straddles] both worlds, too, and that model works for us.


StrictlyVC: January 26, 2015

Good morning, everyone, hope you had a great weekend. (Web visitors, click here for an easier-to-read version of what you see below.)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Bitcoin services provider Coinbase is set to launch a U.S. exchange this morning – one reportedly already approved by regulators in 25 states. More here.

WikiLeaks is reportedly demanding answers after learning that Google handed off information about three of its staff members to the U.S. government several years ago. Google says it was prevented by gag order from disclosing sooner that it had provided emails and other digital data about the staffers.

Storied venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers tried, and failed, to acquire The Social+Capital Partnership, the young venture firm founded by former Facebook exec Chamath Palihapitiya, reports Fortune. The talks ended within the past few weeks. Much more here.

—–

AltSchool Looks to Next Round, as Parent Demand Balloons

If you don’t live in the Bay Area, you might not be familiar with two-year-old AltSchool, a budding network of schools founded by Max Ventilla. But the former Googler — who worked at the company both before and after it paid $50 million his startup, Aardvark — has huge ambitions to change the way we educate children. VCs like his vision, too. Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund led a $33 million investment in the school last year, and they’ll likely commit more, says Ventilla. (AltSchool, which is also operating on $11 million in debt from Silicon Valley Bank, will raise another round in coming months that’s likely to come “more or entirely” from insiders, Ventilla says.)

No doubt investors are drawn to AltSchool’s “full-stack approach,” as Ventilla characterizes it. Among other ways the company is trying to reconstruct education via its tech-heavy, personalized-learning approach: students follow tailored curriculum based on their individual skills and needs. Children are spread across numerous, smaller locations than many schools. Not last, at AltSchool – which has three schools in San Francisco and four more in the works, including in Brooklyn — kids are grouped by age brackets rather than grade levels.

The results of AltSchool’s grand experiment will take some time. An outstanding question in the meantime is how the school provides investors with a venture-like return. While demand for AltSchool is high and growing — it received 1,000 applications for just 150 slots this past year — there aren’t many acquirers for a business like AltSchool. Meanwhile, Wall Street has a love-hate relationship with ed tech companies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ventilla says he’s already thinking about alternatives to going public. We talked last week. Here’s part of that conversation, edited for length:

Why start a new school system from scratch?

I’d had some amazing work experiences at Google, most recently [as the head of personalization] at Google, running a high-caliber team of about 100 engineers. I’m a startup guy, though, and so the team and I started to talk about what kind of thing we’d want to do next. I felt like I had one more startup in me – likely the last one – so we were looking for things that would be big and important and meaningful in terms of impact and relevance to our skills and experiences. And few industries are as large and in need of improvement as education.

How did you settle on AltSchool’s very specific and different approach?

We were fortunate as a founding team to include four educators — two with longstanding experience. We’re also operating in a wonderful space in terms of how transparent people are willing to be. I can go into any ed tech company and say, “What’s working? What’s not?” It’s a very different atmosphere in terms of openness and collaboration than anything I’ve experienced before.

You start with first principals in an environment that you can control. We operate the schools from the real estate to the IT to the lunches that get delivered. Based on that proximity to students and parents and teachers, from whom we’re getting monthly satisfaction data on a granular level, we iterate. We’re a constant work in progress. But we think that as we scale, we’ll accelerate our rate of improvement.

Your vision includes an expanding network of classrooms and schools, so students can move from one location to another seamlessly. Why is that important to you?

Because how long people tend to live in one place is plummeting. Our kids will likely live in 20 different places when they’re grown.

And AltSchool is interested in smaller spaces — so you can establish far more schools?

Yes, onerous and justified building code restrictions are one reason. But there’s also a much more efficient real estate market for 8,000-square-foot spaces versus 100,000 square feet [the size of traditional schools], where 95 percent of the space includes shared halls, an underused gym [and so forth]. On average, we offer children 95 square feet of facility space and 70 to 75 percent of square feet of classroom. Traditional schools offer 175 square feet of facility space and just 45 square feet of classroom.

You have several locations that right now charge families roughly $20,000 per student, a cost you plan to lower over time. But you also expect to license what you’re developing. Which will be the bigger business ultimately?

In the long term [licensees] is what we’re charting toward. It’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t have an order of magnitude more impact [through licensing aspects of the business]. That said, I think it’s extraordinarily important to have an expanding number of schools; it’s how we iterate and refine what we’re doing and how we’ll stay closest to the school experience.

(To continue reading, click here.)

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New Fundings

51auto, an 11-year-old, Shanghai, China-based used car trading platform owned by the holding company Shenyou Advertising, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Softbank China Venture Capital, with participation from SIG Asia Investment, F&G Venture, and DT Capital Partners.

Crossover Health, a five-year-old, Aliso Viejo, Ca.-based on-site primary care provider to big employers (including Facebook), has raised $15 million in growth funding from Norwest Venture Partners, according to LBO Wire.The company had previously raised at least $6.5 million, shows an SEC filing.

Everspin Technologies, a 12-year-old, Chandler, Az.-based memory chip maker, has added another $7 million to its Series B funding, bringing the round’s total to $29 million. The newest investors in the company include Globalfoundries and Western Digital Capital. Earlier backers in the round include Lux Capital, DFJ, EPIC Ventures, New Venture Partners, and Sigma Partners. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised $55.8 million altogether.

FilterEasy, a 2.5-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based company whose subscription business centers on delivering air filters to users’ doors, has raised $1.2 million in convertible debt from Azure Capital Partners, RTP Capital, and a handful of angel investors.

Innovent Biologics, a 3.5-year-old, Suzhou, China-based bio-pharmaceutical firm that’s developing monoclonal antibodies, has raised $100 million in Series C funding led by Legend Capital, with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and earlier backers Fidelity Biosciences, Fidelity Growth Partners Asia, Lilly Asia Ventures, and Frontline Bioventures participating.

Iora Health, a 3.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based health care service that provides patients with personal physicians and personal health coaches who remain in contact during and between office visits, has raised $28 million in Series C funding from new investors Foundation Medical Partners, Rice Management Company, GE Ventures, and Khosla Ventures, with participation from earlier backers .406 VenturesFidelity Biosciences and Polaris Partners.

Money Dashboard, a six-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based personal finance app company, has raised $3.7 million in funding led by Calculus Capital, with participation from Ariadne Capital, Par Equity, and The Scottish Investment Bank. The company has raised $7.8 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Ripple Labs, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company behind a bitcoin-like technology that enables institutions to transfer money internationally, is about to close a $30 million round at a $100 million valuation, reports Venture Capital Dispatch. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, IDG Capital Partners and previous backers, which include Bitcoin Opportunity Fund, Camp One Ventures, Core Innovation Capital, FF Angel, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Vast Ventures and Venture51. To date, the company has raised $9 million across three rounds, shows Crunchbase.

TransferWise, a four-year-old, London-based company that uses peer-to-peer technology to allows individuals around the world to swap currencies without incurring bank transfer fees, has raised $58 million in new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. The company’s backers also include Valar Ventures and billionaire Richard Branson. Dealbook has more here.

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New Funds

Banyan Capital, a young, China-focused venture capital firm, has reportedly closed on $362 million for its second fund, according to China Money Network. The fundraising process took little more than one month(!), according to the report. Banyan focuses on seed-stage and growth-stage investments in China’s technology, media and telecom sector. Last week, it backed Beibei, a nine-month-old, Hangzhou City, China-based mother and baby-focused e-commerce company that raised $100 million in Series C funding. Just one year ago, Banyan closed on $206 for its first venture capital fund. The firm’s founders were previously with IDG Capital Partners in China.

Horsley Bridge Partners, the 32-year-old, San Francisco-based investment firm, is raising a new venture fund of funds, according to an SEC filing that shows a $1 billion target.

iRobot, the 25-year-old, Bedford, Ma.-based company behind the Roomba vacuum cleaner (and bomb disposal robots, and other tech), is launching a venture capital firm and looking for a West Coast investor to head up the effort. TechCrunch has more here.

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IPOs

Box had quite a Friday. After raising $175 million in its IPO, its shares rose 66 percent to close at $23.23 after being priced at $14, giving it a valuation of $2.7 billion — slightly more than the $2.4 billion valuation it was assigned during its last private funding round last July.

Of the past 100 IPOs, nearly 60 percent have posted net losses during the last months.

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b

Revolution Analytics, an eight-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-base open-source analytics company, has been acquired by Microsoft for undisclosed terms. According to Crunchbase, the company had raised $37.8 million from investors, including Intel Capital and North Bridge Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Strata Decision Technology, a 19-year-old, Chicago-based company that makes a cloud-based platform that’s used by more than 175 healthcare systems and 1,000 hospitals, has been acquired by publicly traded Roper Industries. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The company had been acquired by the PE firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson back in 2011.

—–

People

AOL staffers are anticipating some layoffs as the company’s ad business becomes more reliant on programmatic (machine-driven) advertising, reports Recode. AOL is restructuring all over the place, in fact. TechCrunch reported last week that it’s also “preparing to lay off staff and close or fold up underperforming titles as part of a bigger restructuring aimed at simplifying [AOL] around ad tech, stronger content operations and video.”

Billionaire VC Vinod Khosla is still refusing to provide public access to a popular California surf spot that runs alongside his 89-acre, $32.5 million beach property, despite threats from California’s State Lands Commission that it may use powers never employed in its 77-year history to seize the land. Khosla has argued in court that the beach is privately owned, that there is no easement for the public to use the area and that development permits required by coastal regulations don’t apply to him. BusinessWeek has much more here.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, facing gender-bias claims by ex-partner Ellen Pao, may not access performance reviews, complaints about Pao, and other personnel records it sought from her other employers, reports Bloomberg. In a tentative ruling last week, Judge Charles Geerhart said the firm’s subpoenas were too wide in scope or not relevant. Pao’s lawsuit is scheduled for trial on Feb 17.

Michael Mullany, the former CEO of software company Sencha, has joined Jafco Ventures as a venture partner. Jafco, an investor in Sencha, has also changed its name to Icon Ventures.

—–

Job Listings

Glassdoor is looking to hire a general counsel with public company experience. The job is in Mill Valley, Ca.

Soylent, which just scored $20 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, is looking for a VP of finance. The job is in L.A.

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Essential Reads

Fortune takes a long look at the trials and tribulations of Jawbone, a company that, as an analyst told this reporter back in 2012, is “executing really well, but doesn’t have an exit strategy … The company is kind of in a pickle in terms of where do they go from here.”

The challenge for incumbents: that new expectations spread.

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Detours

The new thing: selling fully furnished homes to the affluent that look like they’ve been lived in for ages.

Twenty unbelievable photos of pollution in China.

How to get a copy of every tweet you’ve ever posted.

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Retail Therapy

Where the chefs eat.


AltSchool Looks to Next Round, as Demand from Parents Balloons

maxresdefaultIf you don’t live in the Bay Area, you might not be familiar with two-year-old AltSchool, a budding network of schools founded by Max Ventilla. But the former Googler — who worked at the company both before and after it paid $50 million his startup, Aardvark — has huge ambitions to change the way we educate children. VCs like his vision, too. Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund led a $33 million investment in the school last year, and they’ll likely commit more, says Ventilla. (AltSchool, which is also operating on $11 million in debt from Silicon Valley Bank, will raise another round in coming months that’s likely to come “more or entirely” from insiders, Ventilla says.)

No doubt investors are drawn to AltSchool’s “full-stack approach,” as Ventilla characterizes it. Among other ways the company is trying to reconstruct education via its tech-heavy, personalized-learning approach: students follow tailored curriculum based on their individual skills and needs. Children are spread across numerous, smaller locations than many schools, and with higher teacher-to-student ratios. Not last, AltSchool – which has three schools in San Francisco and four more in the works, including in Brooklyn — groups kids by age brackets, rather than grade levels.

The results of this grand experiment will take some time. An outstanding question in the meantime is how the school provides investors with a venture-like return. While demand for AltSchool is high and growing — it received 1,000 applications for just 150 slots this past year — there aren’t many acquirers for a business like AltSchool. Meanwhile, Wall Street has a love-hate relationship with ed tech companies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ventilla says he’s already thinking about alternatives to going public. We talked last week. Here’s part of that conversation, edited for length:

Why start a new school system from scratch?

I’d had some amazing work experiences at Google, most recently [as the head of personalization] at Google, running a high-caliber team of about 100 engineers. I’m a startup guy, though, and so the team and I started to talk about what kind of thing we’d want to do next. I felt like I had one more startup in me – likely the last one – so we were looking for things that would be big and important and meaningful in terms of impact and relevance to our skills and experiences. And few industries are as large and in need of improvement as education.

How did you settle on AltSchool’s very specific and different approach?

We were fortunate as a founding team to include four educators — two with longstanding experience. We’re also operating in a wonderful space in terms of how transparent people are willing to be. I can go into any ed tech company and say, “What’s working? What’s not?” It’s a very different atmosphere in terms of openness and collaboration than anything I’ve experienced before.

You start with first principals in an environment that you can control. We operate the schools from the real estate to the IT to the lunches that get delivered. Based on that proximity to students and parents and teachers, from whom we’re getting monthly satisfaction data on a granular level, we iterate. We’re a constant work in progress. But we think that as we scale, we’ll accelerate our rate of improvement.

Your vision includes an expanding network of classrooms and schools, so students can move from one location to another seamlessly. Why is that important to you?

Because how long people tend to live in one place is plummeting. Our kids will likely live in 20 different places when they’re grown.

And AltSchool is interested in smaller spaces — so you can establish far more schools?

Yes, onerous and justified building code restrictions are one reason. But there’s also a much more efficient real estate market for 8,000-square-foot spaces versus 100,000 square feet [the size of traditional schools], where 95 percent of the space includes shared halls, an underused gym [and so forth]. On average, we offer children 95 square feet of facility space and 70 to 75 percent of square feet of classroom. Traditional schools offer 175 square feet of facility space and just 45 square feet of classroom.

You have several locations that right now charge families roughly $20,000 per student, a cost you plan to lower over time. But you also expect to license what you’re developing. Which will be the bigger business ultimately?

In the long term [licensees] is what we’re charting toward. It’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t have an order of magnitude more impact [through licensing aspects of the business]. That said, I think it’s extraordinarily important to have an expanding number of schools; it’s how we iterate and refine what we’re doing and how we’ll stay closest to the school experience.

AltSchool has 75 employees currently, including 25 teachers, most from traditional backgrounds. Does their compensation differ much at AltSchool?

We take their base salary and give them a meaningful but small percentage raise. They also receive a performance-based bonus and their benefits are significantly better than the schools from which they’re coming. Everyone has equity in company, too, which represents a small fraction of their compensation but is expected to become significant as they stay with the company and level up in terms of their responsibility. It could represent a life-changing financial outcome . . . which is a big a deal in these professions where nothing great could happen to you financially, [where you] pretty much have to reconcile yourself with multi-decade grind.

That’s out of sync with the kind of 21st century entrepreneurial ideal, and there’s something odd [in thinking] that kids will learn 21st century skills from educators who aren’t given a 21st century work environment.

What is the exit for AltSchool? Do you plan to take it public eventually?

I’d hope that the scale and impact [we anticipate having] would justify going public, but there are alternatives to going public that the mission and business would benefit from and that would satisfy [investors’] desire for liquidity.

Such as?

Entirely new markets are opening up that are predicated on different mechanics and incentives. I have friends working on things that, if they were successful, would represent appealing alternatives. Also, you have this funny situation where if you go public, your investors are predictably mutual funds, pension funds, and large family offices, and you see companies just going directly to those investors. With Uber’s newest round, it’s essentially public; it raised capital from all those same people.

A third option would be around social impact investing and social impact bonds. We’re far from being the size that could turn to those — they’re growth capital — but we’re in a space where you could tie the capital you raise to the social benefit that you’re engendering. We’re a B Corp and the whole idea is that you can have a great business and operate as a good corporate citizen, and I think that idea is very in line with nascent capital avenues and new exchanges. Some of what’s happening is in stealth, but there’s lots of it going on.

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


StrictlyVC: January 23, 2015

It’s Friday, our favorite day of the work week! We don’t have a column today, but we have good things coming your way next week, including a look at a productivity app that you’ll want to keep tabs on, and an interview with Max Ventilla, the founder of the venture-backed, fast-growing AltSchool.

Also, a quick shout-out to all of you who are coming to next month’s sold-out event in San Francisco. We’re super excited to see you. Much thanks, too, to our wonderful sponsors, including Next World Capital, the San Francisco-based international, expansion-stage venture firm that’s generously hosting all of us; Ballou PR, which has offices in London, Paris and Berlin and has helped many a U.S. startup get established in Europe; and Standish Management, a San Francisco-based fund administration services company that helps hundreds of private equity, VC and fund-of-funds firms with their financial reporting, partnership accounting, and lots more.

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Top News in the A.M.

The cloud storage company Box finally hit the public market today, after pricing its IPO last night at $14 a share. It’s already up 50 percent this morning, too.

Apple schmapple? GoPro says its cameras are coming to the NHL in its first official partnership with a professional sports league.

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New Fundings

Ascentis, a 31-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that makes HR and online payroll processing software, has raised $7 million in Series C funding led by earlier backer Catalyst Investors. The company has raised at least $10.3 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Antuit, an 18-month-old, Singapore-based big data startup focused on supply chain management, has raised $56 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from earlier backer Zodius Capital, an India-based firm. The company has now raised $59 million to date.

BlueVine, a year-old, Palo Alto-based small business financing startup, has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding co-led by earlier backers Lightspeed Venture Partners and 83North (f.k.a. Greylock IL, an affiliate of Greylock Partners). The company has now raised $24 million altogether, including from Correlation Ventures, Kreos Capital, and Kima Ventures.

Calysta Energy, a 3.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company that’s developing a new, biological gas-to-liquids and gas-to-chemicals technology using natural gas, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Walden Riverwood Ventures and Aqua-Spark, a Netherlands-based firm focused on sustainable aquaculture investments. Other participants included Pangaea Ventures. The company has now raised $18 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

CloudHeath, a 2.5-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based IT service management software that helps companies manage the health of their clouds, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Scale Venture Partners, with participation from .406 Ventures and Sigma Prime Ventures. The company has now raised roughly $20 million altogether.

CodeHS, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that produces programs for teaching coding to high-school students, has raised $1.75 million in funding from Chmod Ventures, Kapor Capital, Learn CapitalNewSchools Venture Fund, Seven Peaks Ventures, StartX, and individual investors. The company had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in October 2012.

Hopscotch, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based e-commerce portal for Indian moms, has raised $11 million in Series B funding from Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin and Velos Partners, with participation from Rise Capital, Jabbar Internet Group, and earlier backers, including Singapore-based Lionrock Capital and Skype cofounder Toivo Annus. Founders Rahul Anand and Lisa Kennedy are HBS alums who previously worked together at Diapers.com. Hopscotch, part of a holding company in Great Neck called Hit the Mark, has now raised $15 million to date.

The League, an eight-month-old, San Francisco-based dating app intended to be more selective than Tinder, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from IDG Ventures, Structure.vc and Sherpa Ventures, along with a long list of angel investors and one undisclosed venture fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Plum Print, a 2.5-year-old, Asheville, N.C. startup that prints up photo books of childrens’ artwork so their artwork-besieged parents can keep a record of it all, has raised $1 million in seed funding led by Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, with the participation of angel investors.

Poka, a 1.5-year-old, Quebec-based company that’s developing a social platform for manufacturing companies, has raised $2.5 million in funding led by iNovia Capital, with participation from SoftTech VC.

Saltside Technologies, a four-year-old, Gothenburg, Sweden-based company that creates online marketplaces in emerging markets, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Hillhouse Capital, with participation from Brummer & Partners and earlier backer AB Kinnevik. The company has now raised $65 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

SceneDoc, a 3.5-year-old, Milton, Pa.-based company whose smartphone and tablet-based software gives public safety personnel a secure means of documenting crime, accident and other incident scenes, has raised $4 million in Series A funding from iGan Partners, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, and unnamed angel investors. The company has raised $6 million to date

Tactus Technology, a 6.5-year-old, Fremont, Ca.-based maker of tactile touch-screen technology, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding led by new backer IPV Capital of China. The company says that it has now raised roughly $30 million.

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New Funds

Eniac Ventures, a six-year-old, New York-based seed-stage firm that has backed more than 60 mobile tech startups, has closed its third fund with $55 million, more than four times the size of its last fund. Hits like Airbnb, Twitter, and SoundCloud have helped, notes VentureBeat. More here.

Orange, the French carrier, is launching a new fund called Digital Ventures that will begin with a budget of €20 million ($23 million). TechCrunch has more details here.

—–

IPOs

Syndax Pharmaceuticals, a venture-backed biotechnology company, has withdrawn its registration, according to an SEC form filed yesterday. According to Dow Jones VentureSource, biotech companies have been going public at a record rate, with 58 related IPOs last year and 14 U.S. venture-backed companies in registration currently.

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Exits

Amazon is acquiring Annapurna Labs, an Israeli startup that designs networking chips to help make data centers run more efficiently, the company has confirmed. The price isn’t being disclosed, but as we noted in yesterday’s newsletter, the amount cited by Israeli media outlets is $350 million.

Harman International Industries is buying two software companies for $950 million that will help enable over-the-air computer updates in cars. It’s paying $780 million for 12-year-old Symphony Teleca Corp. of Mountain View, Ca., which provides integration services, and $170 million for 16-year-old Red Bend Software of Waltham, Ma., which specializes in software for connected devices.

—–

People

Entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield gives Fortune a candid account of why he successfully pushed for Slack, his collaborative software company, to be valued at $1 billion when it was just eight months old. It wasn’t because of spreadsheets or public comps “obviously,” he says. “It means we’re a part of that conversation about companies worth $1 billion . . . One billion is better than $800 million because it’s the psychological threshold for potential customers, employees, and the press.”

Orkut Buyukkoten, the famed Google engineer and now cofounder and CEO of the social network Hello, talks with local San Francisco magazine 7×7 with his significant other, Derek Holbrook, in a feature on “power couples.” (It’s a sweet piece, despite the set-up.) Says Holbrook, himself a former Google engineer, of their first kiss: “It was after our first date, which lasted 11 hours. I wasn’t sure if Orkut was gay or just European, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.”

Author Ben Casnocha, has published an interesting rundown of what he learned by spending 10,000 hours over the course of four years with LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, with whom he wrote The Startup of You.

Good Eggs, a three-year-old, organic food delivery startup backed by roughly $30 million from Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures, has laid off 15 percent of its workforce. TechCrunch has the story here.

With the help of engineers from top hedge funds, renowned bitcoin investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are creating the first regulated bitcoin exchange for U.S. customers, betting the currency will “rise again if it follows the same playbook as the more established financial industry,” writes Dealbook. (The brothers talked with StrictlyVC about their unwavering support of bitcoin earlier this month.)

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Jobs

Touchdown Ventures is hiring. The months-old firm, which helps corporations establish their own venture capital units by handling everything from sourcing deals to managing investments, is looking to bring on an associate in San Francisco and a part-time MBA intern in Philadelphia.

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Essential Reads

Details about the battery life of the Apple Watch revealed . . . to be not so great.

Andreessen Horowitz‘s partners explain 16 trends of interest.

—–

Detours

How to nap like you mean it.

“I paid $25 for an Invisible Boyfriend, and I think I might be in love.”

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Retail Therapy

The Strop: it allegedly extends the life of your razor by three to five times.

Cool magazine racks. (You still read magazines, right?)