Hi, everyone — hope your Wednesday is off to a stellar start. (Web visitors, you might want to check out this version of this morning’s newsletter for easier reading.)
Top News in the A.M.
Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe have agreed to a new settlement that would resolve a class action lawsuit by tech workers who accused them of agreeing not to poach one another’s employees.
There’s Something About Abie Katz
Abie Katz, 24, is halfway through his second week as an associate at the tony Sand Hill Road firm August Capital. Why is that notable? Well, for one thing, the 20-year-old venture firm doesn’t really hire associates. Also, despite his age, this isn’t Katz’s big break into the venture world. He has already spent more than two years at the associate level, having joined the seed-stage firm CrunchFund in 2012.
Katz has also managed to attract profiles in Wired, which likened him to Mark Zuckerberg in 2008 just two months after he’d cofounded a company, and TheNextWeb, which later reported on his decision to leave college to become a venture intern. (That’s a feat. No offense to interns, but who write about interns?)
What is it about Katz? We talked with him last week to find out. Our chat has been edited for length.
How does a 17-year-old student with a fledgling company get compared to Mark Zuckerberg in Wired?
That was the greatest fluke of my life. The business that [reporter Brian Chen] wrote about never ended up launching. We just hit it off and he decided to interview me and gave [the story] an inflammatory headline that was very positive — though undeserved. I thought the press might be helpful. It was so many years ago now, it’s more of an artifact.
Nothing relating to you is an artifact yet. But what is it about you that so enchants reporters? Why did TheNextWeb care that you were leaving college? Why am I interviewing you right now?
[Polite laughter.] I met [TheNextWeb] reporter at [TechCrunch] Disrupt. I asked for directions and we ended up getting dinner in a group and she thought that I had an interesting story.
For the most part, I like to be more behind the scenes in venture capital. I’m still new to my career and realize I have a lot to learn. I also think entrepreneurs should really be the center point for mass media. But I’m glad that things like StrictlyVC are out there because I think it’s a really interesting industry.
How did you break into VC as a college drop-out?
I went to college for a one-and-a-half years at Claremont McKenna College, then took some time off to intern at a [San Diego startup]. I’d find small business initiatives that weren’t in anyone’s purview and [try making something happen]. I [later] reached out [Merus Capital cofounder] Sean Dempsey, a Claremont alum, and offered to do free diligence work up in San Francisco. He had me look at three companies, I worked as hard as I could and tapped into whatever network I had at the time, and Merus decided to bring me on as an intern.
Did you think about finishing up your degree?
After about six months, Merus encouraged me to go back to school but the next semester, I heard that CrunchFund was looking to hire an intern. I’d met [CrunchFund cofounder] Pat Gallagher while at Merus; he and [partner] Mike Arrington are also Claremont alums, so I came back to San Francisco for the summer to work for them. I thought I’d be with the firm through the end of 2012 as an intern . . . Thankfully, they thought it was a good idea to bring me on full-time.
How does one start drumming up deal flow from scratch?
It really helped [to have] the network and reputation of CrunchFund. I was able to tap into the partners’ networks and, over time, build my own. I also relied on a combination of AngelList and working with accelerators and going to demo days. The rest was a hodgepodge of more thesis-driven research, where I’d do a deep dive into an industry to learn about specific white spaces and just read a lot.
You say you sourced 21 investments for CrunchFund over two-plus years, including the startup Kinnek. Now you’ve been recruited into August, a very different firm.
Yes, and I’m taking in as much information as possible and trying to get familiarized it. There are definitely differences between the firms in terms of the style of investments they make and their size. CrunchFund has a model similar to SV Angel: a small team making about 40 investments a year through checks that are typically between $100,000 and $250,000 and occasionally as much as $1 million. August is more traditional, with a long history of leading rounds and being very hands on. It’s a different style.
It’s a very different career arc.
In the venture business, especially coming from a nontraditional background, you need to find that unorthodox foot in the door. From there, things can kind of snowball.
Apama Medical, a 5.5-year-old, Campbell, Ca.-based medical-device company focused on atrial fibrillation technologies, has raised $11 million of a planned $17.5 million Series B round. Ascension Ventures led the round, with participation from Medvance Incubator Partners, Onset Ventures and Incept. Apama had previously raised $4.3 million from investors.
CoLucid Pharmaceuticals, a 10-year-old, Durham, N.C.-based company that makes oral and intravenous treatments for migraine and other headache pain, has raised $37.1 million in Series C funding led by TVM Capital Life Science. Other participants in the round include Novo Ventures, Auriga Partners and return backers Pappas Ventures, Domain Associates, Care Capital, Triathlon Medical Ventures and Pearl Street Ventures. The company has now raised $55.8 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.
Lynda.com, the 20-year-old, Carpinteria, Ca.-based online learning startup, has raised $186 million in Series B funding led by the private equity firm TPG — money reportedly raised to fuel an acquisition spree. Lynda had previously raised its first outside funding in 2013, collecting $103 million from Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity, and Meritech Capital Partners.
MediSafe, a 2.5-year-old, Israel-based company behind a cloud-synced mobile medication management system, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Pitango Venture Capital, with participation from 7wire Ventures and earlier backers Lool Ventures, TriVentures and Eyal Gura. The company, which has now raised $7 million altogether, is using some of its new funds to relocate to Boston.
MGG Investment Group, a seven-month-old, New York-based small-business lender, has raised $200 million from Frank McCourt, the real estate developer who formerly owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. The company plans to lend to companies with $10 million to $40 million of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Dealbook has more here.
Moderna Therapeutics, a 4.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based whose drugs stimulate the body’s ability to produce proteins and could eventually treat cancer, heart conditions and other illnesses, has raised $50 million through a new license and collaboration agreement with Merck & Co. The funding comes just a week after Moderna closed the largest biotechnology venture capital financing on record: $450 million from RA Capital Management, Viking Global Investors and Wellington Management, along with earlier backers.
Moovit, a four-year-old, Israel-based company whose mobile app lets riders plan trips and anticipate slow-downs on local public transit systems around the world, has raised $50 million in Series C funding from Nokia Growth Partners, BMW i Ventures, and the French public transit operator Keolis, which plans to partner with Moovit. Other investors in the round include Bernard Arnault Group, Vaizra Investments, and earlier backers BRM Group, Gemini Partners, and Sequoia Capital.
Personalis, a nearly four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based genomics-based clinical diagnostics lab, has raised $33 million in Series C funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Abingworth and Mohr Davidow Ventures. Personalis had raised $22 million in Series B funding just three months ago; it has raised $75 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.
Purple WiFi, a 5.5-year-old, London-based company that provides WiFi hotspot software in public venues and employs social media to do it (users can use their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to log-in), has raised $5 million in funding led by former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy. Numerous other angel investors also participated.
Qstream, a 6.5-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based maker of sales acceleration software, has raised $4 million in Series A funding from Excel Venture Management, Frontline Ventures and Launchpad Venture Group. The company has raised $6.85 million to date. Boston Business Journal has more here.
Rounds, a 5.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based mobile application for group video chats, has raised $12 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital. Other participants include Samsung Ventures, along with earlier backers Verizon Ventures and Rhodium. The company has now raised $22 million altogether.
Sokrati, a 5.5-year-old, Pune, India-based ad technology and analytics company, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding from IvyCap Ventures, with participation from return backer Inventus Capital. VCCircle has more here.
True Fit, a 4.5-year-old, Woburn, Ma.-based startup whose technology aims to help online shoppers buy clothes that fit, has raised $15 million in growth equity led by Jump Capital, Promus Ventures and Signal Peak Ventures. Earlier backers Breakaway Ventures, Guggenheim Partners and Novel TMT also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $36.5 million.
Vidyard, a 4.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company whose software helps companies use online video to boost sales, has raised $18 million in Series B funding at a valuation of close to $100 million. Bessemer Venture Partners led the round. Earlier backers Salesforce Ventures, Omers Ventures, iNovia Capital and SoftTech VC also participated. The company has now raised $25 million. Venture Capital Dispatch has a nice piece on how the funding (very slowly) came together.
New Enterprise Associates, the 37-year-old venture investing powerhouse, is in the market right now, raising $2.5 billion for its 15th fund, according to numerous reports. The firm closed its last fund with $2.5 billion in 2012.
Bellerophon Therapeutics, a 1.5-year-old, Hampton, N.J.-based clinical-stage therapeutics company focused on cardiopulmonary and cardiac diseases, has filed to go public. The company’s net loss was $46.9 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2014, and $62 million for all of 2013. Its biggest outside shareholders include New Mountain Capital, which owns 48 percent of the company; Linde, which owns 16 percent;Arch Venture Partners, which owns 9.5 percent; and Venrock, which also owns 9.5 percent.
Etsy, the 10-year-old, Brooklyn N.Y.-based site where people sell handmade crafts and vintage goods, is working on an IPO that could take place as soon as this quarter, sources tell Bloomberg. It may be the biggest technology IPO to come out of New York since 1999, says the report.
Cooley, the tech and life sciences law firm, has launched in London with a 55-lawyer group that includes 20 partners. The office is the firm’s first in Europe and is being headed up by Justin Stock, the former head of Morrison & Foerster’s London corporate practice.
Rick Zullo has joined the Chicago-based venture firm Lightbank as a vice president. Zullo had previous interned at Foundation Capital and worked as an associate at Red Oak Growth Partners and Bowery Capital, among other jobs.
New Enterprise Associates has promoted three members of its investing team: Frank Torti and Rick Yang have been named partners at the firm, while Aaron Jacobson has been promoted to principal. Torti, an MD with an MBA, joined NEA in 2007 as a principal, and has focused on investments across the healthcare spectrum. Yang, formerly an analyst at Credit Suisse, joined NEA in 2007 and is focused on information and financial technology investments. He also co-manages NEA’s seed practice. Jacobson joined NEA in 2011 and is focused on information and energy technology.
AppNexus, the New York-based ad tech firm, is looking for a VP of corporate development.
Samsung Electronics is looking to hire a corporate development manager in the Bay Area.
Israeli venture capital funds attracted $914 million in 2014, up 68 percent over the previous year, the Israel Venture Capital Research Center said this morning. Carmel Ventures raised the largest amount, raising $194 million for its fourth fund. Jerusalem Venture Partners had a first closing of $160 million out of a targeted $180 million for its seventh fund. More here.
Apple was granted a patent for a remote-control camera system yesterday, and GoPro investors are freaked out about it.
When his wife was misdiagnosed, Michael Balzer turned to 3D printing for answers.
What to do with a dying neighborhood.
Who carries around wads of $100s: A pickpocket’s guide.