Hi, everyone, hope your Thursday is off to a great start.
If you missed yesterday’s newsletter (we chatted with Peter Denious of FLAG Capital Management about the 56 “unicorns” in his portfolio, and why they’re starting to make him nervous), it’s here.
Top News in the A.M.
It may be that few who’ve ordered an Apple Watch will receive it by the official launch date of April 24th. At least, Apple quietly removed the date from its site last night, reports 9to5mac.
This morning, Yahoo and Microsoft announced an amended search relationship that keeps the basic framework of their original, 10-year deal in place while giving both companies — and primarily Yahoo — more autonomy, reports Search Engine Land.
Heads Up: Navdy Raises $20 Million Series A Round
Navdy, a 20-person, San Francisco-based company, has spent the last two years working on a head-up display that can be installed on the dashboard of any car and aims to make driving safer by getting people to look ahead at the road, rather than down at their phones.
Its vision is about to be fulfilled, too. After taking more than 17,000 pre-orders for the product on its site, amounting to more than $6 million in sales, the company says it’s ready to start shipping the first version of the Navdy to customers in the second half of this year. (Pre-orders cost $299; the device will retail for $499.) In fact, investors are so excited about the company’s future that they’ve just given the company $20 million in Series A funding.
Earlier this week, we spoke with Navdy founder and CEO Doug Simpson to learn more. Our chat has been edited for length.
You’ve sold a lot of a product that hasn’t shipped yet. Did we miss your Kickstarter campaign, or did Navdy do this exclusively through its site?
It was all done on our own site. We wanted to have more control over the user experience, and we have a [fun, product demonstration] video that’s done well, with more than 1.4 million views – that’s a big success factor. It’s a problem that people can identify with, and it’s an experience that feels magical, and I think that came across in the video and people got excited about it.
How will big will the product run be, and did you always intend to begin shipping in the second half of this year?
It was not always the plan. We were targeting the first half the year, but the preorder campaign was way more successful than we thought it would be, which made things more difficult, including [regarding] the supply chain. We’ve also continued to [integrate feedback] from a lot of usability testing and made iterations that have taken longer than we expected, but the result is that we’ve made some great improvements in the product. It was a difficult decision to disappoint people with a delay, but it would be worst to disappoint them with the product itself.
As for production capacity, it will take less than a month to get through the orders we have now; after that, we’ll be producing between 20,000 to 30,000 units per month.
And where will they sell?
From a channel perspective, we’ll be able to take orders online this year, and next year, we’ll roll out to other channels, including traditional consumer retailers like Best Buy. We don’t have anything to announce, but the number of retailers and distributors who’ve [reached out out to us] is over 2,000.
You’ve probably gotten a lot of feedback regarding which apps people want Navdy to include and those they don’t. Have you made any big changes based on that feedback?
Not really. Our original plan was to focus on three use case: navigation; communication – meaning call control and text messages; and music control, and the feedback we’ve had is that those are the categories that are important to customers. Music control is a lower priority than the first two, so that’s helped us prioritize our development efforts.
The obvious concern with Navdy is that it will be rendered obsolete by newer cars that have this kind of technology baked in.
One of the surprises of the pre-order campaign is that lots of OEMS have already started contacting us about partnering. That’s always been our strategy, though we thought it would take time to get their interest. It will be a long process, but either way, we always plan to offer a direct-to-consumer product, too.
What proof you have that your product will make driving safer?
As part of user testing, we’ve taken a look at cognitive upload, the distraction of interacting with our product versus the phone. We’re also working with insurance companies and car companies on some of those aspects as well. There’s a lot of evidence to support that head-up display technology itself — developed by the military and used now by all commercial airlines – is safer.
What’s next? Is there a product line in the pipeline?
Yes, we really want to focus on making the in-car experience great, and we think we can expand beyond just this initial product, but right now, we’re very focused on [the first version] and the second version will build on that. I can’t really share more than that right now, though.
Appirio, an 8.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that helps companies migrate to Salesforce, Workday and other cloud services companies, has raised $35 million in a still-open round led by Fidelity Management & Research Co. To date, the company has raised $111 million altogether, including from General Atlantic, GGV Capital, Sequoia Capital and Salesforce. Venture Capital Dispatch has the story here.
Billtrust, a 14-year-old, Trenton, N.J.-based payment cycle management company, has raised $25 million in a new funding led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital, with participation from the company’s earlier backer Bain Capital Ventures.
CurrencyFair, a six-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based peer-to-peer currency transfer service, has raised $10.7 million in fresh funding led by Octopus Investments, with participation from earlier backer Frontline Ventures. The company has now raised at least $15.4 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.
Frenzoo, a 7.5-year-old, Hong Kong-based 3D mobile game company, has raised $1 million in seed funding led by existing investors Fresco Capital, K5 Ventures and Anshe Chung. The company has now raised roughly $3 million altogether. The outlet e27 has more here.
GreenLancer, a four-year-old, Detroit, Mi.-based solar design and permitting company, has raised $5 million in Series B funding from unnamed new and existing investors. The company had previously raised $500,000 from Bizdom, Start Garden, Blue Water Angels, and Northern Michigan Angels, shows Crunchbase.
Jawbone, the 16-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of audio and wearable technologies, has reportedly raised $300 million from investment giant BlackRock at about a $3 billion valuation. The round closes as the company unveils two new fitness tracking bands and prepares to ship a third next week. (More about those here.)
Kujiale, a 1.5-year-old, Hangzhou, China-based home decoration and furnishing online information and design platform, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners, IDG Capital Partners, Yunqi Partners, and others. China Money Network has a bit more here.
LocalOye, a two-year-old, Mumbai, India-based mobile marketplace for hiring local service professionals, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Tiger Global Management and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company had previously raised seed funding from local angel investors, including Sachin Bhatia, the cofounder of MakeMyTrip.
Number26, a two-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based startup that lets users create a banking account in minutes from their smartphone, and provides them with a range of services like push notifications (as well as a traditional credit card), has raised $10.6 million in Series A fund led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with participation from Swiss investor Daniel Aegerter and earlier backers Earlybird Venture Capital and Redalpine Venture Partners. The deal represents Valar Ventures’ second investment in a European fintech startup, notes VentureBeat.
Maaxi, a nearly two-year-old, London-based iPhone and Android app that lets users order a black cab ride that’s then shared with others traveling on a similar route, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from banking heir Nat Rothschild. More here.
NSS Labs, a 24-year-old, Carlsbad, Ca.-based security research and testing organization, has raised $7 million in new funding from Chevron Technology Ventures and earlier investor LiveOak Venture Partners. LiveOak provided the company with $4 million in Series A funding in late 2013, shows Crunchbase.
Ola, a four-year-old, Mumbai, India-based cab-hailing service, has officially announced that it has raised $400 million in Series E funding led by DST Global, with participation from GIC, Falcon Edge Capital, and earlier backers SoftBank, Tiger Global Management, Steadview Capital and Accel Partners. The company is now valued at $2.5 billion. (If this all sounds familiar, it’s because reports of the deal, which we’ve included in past newsletters, began leaking in early March.)
Ortho Kinematics, a nine-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based diagnostic technology company focused on spine imaging informatics, has raised $9.6 million in Series C funding from Medtronic, TEXO Ventures, MB Venture Partners and other previous and new investors.
Peak, a three-year-old, London-based maker of brain-training games and apps, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Creandum, with participation from earlier backers DN Capital, London Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures. The company has now raised $10 million altogether.
Pepperdata, a three-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company whose software runs on existing Hadoop clusters to give operators predictability, capacity, and visibility for their Hadoop jobs, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Wing Venture Partners, with participation Citi Ventures, Silicon Valley Data Capital, and earlier backers Signia Ventures and Webb Investment Network. The company has now raised roughly $20 million altogether.
Plae, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based online children’s shoes retailer, has raised $7 million in Series A financing led by Partech Ventures, with participation from Cherubic Ventures, Finn Capital, Floodgate, Western Technology Investment and numerous angel investors.
Sprig, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile application that helps users find and order healthy meals and have them delivered quickly, has raised $45 million in Series B funding led by Social+Capital Partnership, with participation from earlier investor Greylock Partners. According to Crunchbase, the company has now raised $56.7 million altogether, including from Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, MHS Capital, and Great Oaks Venture Capital.
StemBioSys, a five-year-old, San Antonio, Tex.-based company that’s developing proprietary stem cell technologies for the regenerative medicine market, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Targeted Technology Fund, with the rest of the capital coming from more than 50 angel investors.
Tray.io, a three-year-old, London-based company whose platform promises to makes it easy for anyone to build and share SaaS integrations, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding led by True Ventures, with participation from Redpoint Ventures and Angelpad. The company has now raised just less than $3 million altogether, reports TechCrunch.
Virtual Reality Co., an L.A. firm that’s been working on several immersive entertainment offerings that involve a stereoscopic headset display, is currently raising nearly $23 million in early funding, reports the WSJ.
Vlocity, a year-old, San Francisco-based cloud startup, has raised $42 million led by Salesforce Ventures, with participation from Accenture. ZDNet has much more here.
AshleyMadison, a dating website for terrible spouses, wants to pursue an IPO in London this year, after its parent company failed with a previous IPO attempt in Canada. “Europe is the only region where we have a real chance of doing an IPO” because of its more liberal attitudes toward infidelity, Christoph Kraemer, its head of international relations, tells Bloomberg.
Etsy, the Brooklyn-based online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, went public this morning, and its shares opened at $31 — nearly double their pricing last night at $16. More here.
Virtu Financial, the high-speed trading firm, also went public this morning. After pricing its shares at $19 last night — the high end of their projected range — they’re right now trading at $22.
Volo, a German startup that lets users order take-out from restaurants that don’t traditionally offer it, has been acquired for undisclosed terms byRocket Internet, which just days ago announced its participation in the Series A funding of a Volo competitor called Take Eat Easy. TechCrunch has more here.
Longtime Yahoo executive and former Hightail CEO Brad Garlinghouse has joined Ripple Labs as its COO. More here.
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s 67-year-old director of engineering, intends to live a very long time, reportedly eating a focused breakfast of berries (85 calories), smoked salmon and mackerel (100 calories), dark chocolate infused with espresso (170 calories), vanilla soy milk (100 calories) and porridge (150-350 calories). He also apparently spends $1,000 on a daily diet of 100 supplemental pills that target specific functions of the body. More here
Business Insider looks at why Snapchat‘s stealthy real estate moves are worrying small business owners in Venice, Ca.
One week after GetSatisfaction cofounder Lane Becker publicly revealed that he’d long ago lost the company to venture capitalists, another CEO has opened up about his “tactical mistake” in accepting venture funding.
Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s top lawyer before stepping down in 2013, has joined venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as its first partner to focus on policy and regulatory affairs. Fortune has the story here.
Our friend Semil Shah is cohosting what looks like a strong conference about the on-demand economy on May 19 in San Francisco. Guest speakers include Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu, and investor Sherwin Pishevar of Sherpa Ventures, among others. You can learn much more about it here.
Google said yesterday that it’s readying a challenge to the EU’s antitrust case against it. But Recode sources who are familiar with earlier EU antitrust cases say Google’s best bet is to settle and soon.
Clever. Snapchat has been using its own app with locale-specific features to recruit from a handful of companies, including Uber.
The man who makes the funniest people even funnier.
The best — and the 10 worst — jobs of 2015.
If it’s any consolation, this German shepherd can’t get her kid to take a nap, either.
Sporty “smart” glasses you might actually want.