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It’s official. Charter Communications has agreed to acquire Time Warner Cable in a deal valued at $78.7 billion.
This is getting interesting: last Thursday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity decided that former Uber driver Darrin McGillis was an employee of the company, not a contractor as the company contends, and is thus eligible for unemployment insurance. Buzzfeed has the story here.
Jeremy Liew on Snapchat, Anonymous Apps, and the Fallibility of Intuition
Last week, we published several interviews from our most recent event in San Francisco. Today we’re running the last of those interviews, with venture capitalist Jeremy Liew, because it’s also worth sharing.
Liew joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2006 from AOL, where he’d worked in corporate development, and as many readers will know, his star has risen quickly in the last nine years, thanks to investments like Snapchat, Bonobos, and The Honest Company. (Snapchat is reportedly valued at upwards of $20 billion and Liew wrote its first check, for $500,000. Meanwhile, both Bonobos and The Honest Company are expected to go public in the not-too-distant future.)
Liew — who primarily focuses on social media, commerce, gaming and financial services — doesn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. Parts of our chat, edited for length, follow.
What’s your day like? Are there certain things you pore over every morning like App Annie?
Probably three-ish years ago, taking more of a quantitative approach and looking at data sources was a more of an advantage; you could spot things before other people did. I still think that it’s good to see what everybody’s seeing, and we want to do that, but oftentimes, there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff that’s not as well-known, and you have to go looking for that. Bitcoin is a good example. Now there’s a lot of coverage about it, but two or three years ago, that wasn’t the case, and you could meet every interesting Bitcoin company in the world, which then was 15 or 20 companies.
So you develop a thematic approach, then dig in?
First, just being able to observe the present without judgment [is important]. It’s easy to rush to judgment based on your intuition, but you have to recognize that your intuition can be pretty fallible before you write something off.
You also have to have a point of view that’s differentiated. Some people did around [virtual reality]; we didn’t. we missed that whole thing. But when you pick a sector early, you really can be as well-versed in that sector as anybody else.
You think you’ve already missed the virtual-reality wave?
There are some sectors where you really have to spend time to develop a point of view. I haven’t [when it comes to VR] not because I don’t think it’s interesting but because I’ve been focused on other stuff. And I think VC is becoming more of a specialist business. If you don’t know enough about a category, entrepreneurs probably figure that out pretty quickly.
You’ve said that you think L.A. is more in touch with what the rest of the country wants than Silicon Valley. How much time do you spend there?
I have one board seat in the Bay Area, five in L.A and five in New York. It’s not that I don’t want to invest in Bay Area, but [I no longer believe there’s a] path that starts [here] with the digerati and that spreads to everyone else as they slowly grow to understand what we’ve always known. Instead, it’s actually young women who are the carriers of cultural viruses; it’s young women who are early adopters who will evangelize technologies and help spread them. And you ask yourself: who understands what young women in middle America will be doing, people in Silicon Valley or people in L.A. and New York?
One of your biggest L.A.-based bets is on Snapchat. For those who don’t know, how did that deal come together?
It was in 2012. It’s a lucky thing. One of my partners has a daughter who, at the time, was in high school. He’s an engaged dad and he noticed she was using this new app all the time, and [asked about it]. She said everybody in school has three apps: Instagram, Angry Birds, and Snapchat. (Remember, it was 2012, so people were still playing Angry Birds.)
He mentioned it to me since I focus on consumer stuff, so I downloaded the app, and I really didn’t understand what the big deal was [but figured if a] subset of people are using something intensively, it’s worth understanding why. So I saw [an email address] on Snapchat’s site and I emailed it and never heard back. I [turned to] LinkedIn and no one was listed as an employee at Snapchat. [Eventually] I turned to a WhoIs [domain] lookup [and it listed] Evan Spiegel, who was a sophomore at Stanford, so I emailed him through LinkedIn and never heard back. Then I started randomly emailing [different possible gmail addresses for him] and didn’t hear back. I was about to give up but tried one last thing. Since Evan was a Stanford student and I was a Stanford grad from business school, we were in the same Facebook [group], so I direct messaged him. And I heard back from him one second later, and he said, “Oh, I’d love to talk with you.” [Laughs.]
He wandered over the next day, cracked open his Mixpanel [mobile analytics] account and I was shocked by the engagement, retention and growth . . . It was growing so fast that he said, “We can’t pay our server bills,” and we said, “We can help you with that!”
Reports say Snapchat is now worth $10 billion to $20 billion. What do you think it’s worth right now?
I agree that’s what reports say. [Laughs.]
Have you taken some of your money off the table?
For more of our interview with Liew, continue reading here.
Bluebee, a four-year-old, Delft, the Netherlands-based DNA analytics startup, has raised €1.75m ($1.9 million) from the Belgian investment firm Buysse & Partners and Delft University of Technology, from which the company spun off. More here.
Boost Academy, a three-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based developer of an interactive math tutoring platform for the iPad, raised $600,000 in seed funding from individual investors, including serial entrepreneur Tom Ladt. More here.
Clutch, a three-year-old, Ambler, Pa.-based platform that helps consumer-focused marketers identify, understand and engage their customers, has raised $5 million in Series B funding led by Safeguard Scientifics. The company has now raised $14.4 million altogether. More here.
FruitDay, a nine-year-old, Shanghai, China-based company that sells fresh produce across China, has raised $70 million in Series C funding led by e-commerce giant JD.com, with participation from earlier investors Susquehanna International Group and ClearVue. TechCrunch has more here.
Funding Options, a nearly four-year-old, Manchester, U.K.-based online broker that matches small businesses with finance providers, has £2m ($3 million) in funding led by GLI Finance. More here.
GoFactory, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that specializes in helping industrial-scale businesses connect to the Internet of Things, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Visionnaire Ventures, with participation from executives in the industrial and manufacturing sectors including Reuben Brothers, David Clark, Jonathan McQueen, Swordfish Investments and Thomas Kunz.
Granify, a four-year-old, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based revenue optimization platform that applies machine learning to predict in real time which shoppers aren’t going to make a purchase at an online site and provide them with additional contextual stimuli to overcome their objections, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with participation from earlier backers iNovia Capital, Social Starts and angel investors. More here.
HelloTech, an eight-month-old, L.A.-based on-demand in-home tech support and technology sales service, has raised $2 million in seed funding from investors, including Collaborative Fund, Baroda Ventures, Greycroft Partners, and Silicon Valley Bank. The company has now raised $4.5 million altogether, including from Accel Partners, Upfront Ventures, Crosscut Ventures, and Amplify.LA. StrictlyVC talked with cofounder and CEO Richard Wolpert about HelloTech, a play on “tech support for your parents,” earlier this year.
Hotels.ng, a three-year-old, Lagos, Nigeria-based company that claims to be the country’s largest hotel booking site in Nigeria, has raised $1.2 million to expand across Africa. Investors include EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network. TechCrunch has more here.
Iprice group, a year-old, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based online shopping community company featuring local and international brands, has raised $550,000 in funding from Asia Venture Group. More here.
Iyzico, a three-year-old Istanbul, Turkey- based secure payment processing and management system for online businesses and enterprises, has raised $6.2 million in Series B funding led by International Finance Corporation (the World Bank’s investing arm), the Istanbul-based venture capital firm 212, New York-based investor Endeavor Catalyst, and Speedinvest from Austria. The company has now raised $9.4 million altogether.
Kobojo, a seven-year-old, Paris, France-based company that makes online role-playing games that are designed for touch devices, has raised $7 million in funding led by Oxford Capital, with participation from the Scottish Investment Bank and Endeavour Vision. The company has raised at least $14.7 million to date, shows Crunchbase.
Magnetic, a seven-year-old, New York City-based digital advertising technology company, has raised $25 million in funding led by Edison Partners, with participation from CRV, ORIX Ventures, the Honeywell pension, Jonathan Kraft, Roger Ehrenberg, and others. In related news, the company has merged with MyBuys, a San Mateo, Ca.-based multi-channel marketing and personalization platform. MediaPost has more here.
Mitoo, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based sports league platform, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Slow Ventures, Lift Partners, Kima Ventures, and 500 Startups, among others. VentureBeat has more here.
Mode Media, an 11-year-old, Brisbane, Ca.-based startup previously known as Glam Media, has raised $30 million led by earlier investor Hubert Burda Media, a German media company. The company, which began life as a women-focused online ad network and is today a hub for video creators, has raised $244.6 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. Earlier backers include GLG Partners, DFJ, Accel Partners, Information Capital, and Walden Venture Capital.
Munchery, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based service that delivers quick, microwavable meals to users, has raised $85 million in new funding that values the company at $300 million. Earlier backers SherpaVentures and Menlo Ventures led the deal, with participation from NorthGate Capital, 137 Ventures, Mousse Partners, e.ventures, and Greycroft Partners. The company has now raised $117.2 million altogether, says VentureBeat.
PayItSimple, a six-year-old, New York-based company whose payment technology is used by merchants to offer consumers the ability to make purchases using interest-free installments, has raised $10 million in debt funding from Simpel Management in New York. More here.
Rubrik, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company that offers live data access for recovery and application development by fusing enterprise data management with web-scale IT, has raised $41 million in Series B funding led by Greylock Partners, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and existing angel investors. The company has now raised more than $51 million altogether it says. More here.
Spring, a two-year-old, New York-based shopping app, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the popular messaging app Snapchat, according to Recode’s sources. Spring announced a $25 million funding in April that did not include Snapchat (but did include Thrive Capital, Google Ventures, Groupe Arnault/LVMH, Yuri Milner, and BoxGroup.) As notes Recode, an SEC filing suggests that Spring parent company Jello Labs is still open to raising an additional $5.7 million for a total of $30.7 million.
Globespan Capital Partners, the 12-year-old, Boston-based venture firm, is looking to raise $75 million for its sixth fund, shows a new SEC filing. The firm closed its fifth fund with $380 million in 2007. Globespan was launched when members of the senior investment team at JAFCO Ventures, the venture of Tokyo-based JAFCO, decided to spin out on their own. Its bets include Roku, Redfin, and Credit Sesame, among others.
The Social+Capital Partnership, the four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture firm founded by former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya, has raised $600 million for its third fund, reports a Fortune profile on Palihapitiya. According to earlier SEC documents, the firm was targeting $450 million fund. The firm’s two previous funds were $275 million and $325 million in size, respectively.
Alarm.com has registered plans to raise up to $75 million in an IPO. The company is predominately owned by Technology Crossover Ventures, which hold a 42.9 percent stake, and ABS Capital Partners, which owns 41.6 percent of the company. Fortune has more here.
Travel giant Expedia has sold its majority stake in the China-focused travel agency eLong for $671 million. TechCrunch has more here.
Apple‘s Jony Ive has a new job.
Longitude Capital, an investment firm that focuses on venture growth investments in drug development and medical technology, has promoted Sandip Agarwala to managing director. Agarwala joined the firm in 2013 and focuses on structured investments in both biotechnology and medical device companies.
BlackBerry said Friday that it’s laying off an undisclosed number of employees in its device business including those focused on development of smartphone software and applications. The WSJ has more here.
Numerous tech entrepreneurs and investors have collectively donated $5 million to help house homeless veterans in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, where a 50-unit building is being built for a total expense of $48 million. The money is expected to advance construction by one year. (It has yet to begin.) Donors include Peter Thiel, Sean Parker, Andrew Mason, Drew Houston, Alfred and Rebecca Lin, Marc Benioff and Ron Conway. More here.
LinkedIn is looking to add an associate, senior associate, or manager to its corporate development team. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.
Twitter has been engaged in an ongoing series of talks to acquire Flipboard in an all-stock deal that would value the company at more than $1 billion, reports Recode, which adds that though the two have numerous ties, talks “seem to be currently stalled.”
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