Monthly Archives: June 2015

StrictlyVC: June 30, 2015

Hello, dear readers, and happy Tuesday!

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Uber is telling prospective investors that it generates $470 million in operating losses on $415 million in revenue, according to a document obtained yesterday by Bloomberg. That Uber is spending so much on growth isn’t a complete shock. More concerning, perhaps, is that rival apps in other parts of the world, like Ola Cabs and GrabTaxi, are “in some cases beating Uber by a ratio of four to one, in terms of app installs,” reports the Information. (Subscribers only.)

Yikes. A two-tier internet will be created in Europe as the result of a late-night “compromise” between the European Commission, European Parliament and the EU Council. More here.

—–

VC David Cowan in Betting on Space (and Counting on Space Travel)

This morning, Spire, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of small, software-packed satellites, announced $40 million in fresh funding from investors, including Promus Ventures, which led the round, and Bessemer Venture Partners. (We wrote a piece for TechCrunch about the news here.)

Late last week, we talked with Bessemer partner David Cowan about the deal, and why he’s intrigued by space startups more broadly. That conversation follows, edited for length and clarity.

How did you settle on your investment in Spire?

As an early investor in Skybox [a satellite imagery companyacquired by Google last year], we were approached by pretty much every early-stage space startup out there. Back when Spire was called NanoSatisfi, [founder] Peter [Platzer] reached out to us, but the company looked as flaky as the rest of them, meaning, here was a smart guy with an ambitious idea that he was going to put up a big constellation. But after one-and-a-half years, he actually did all the things he said he was going to do. In fact, when we looked to find who might be taking advantage of Moore’s Law in space, Spire stood out as the company most likely to lead the trend. It’s pretty clear that by this time next year, Spire will have the largest constellation known to man [based on the number of satellites it has in space].

Right now, that honor belongs to Iridium, which has around 75 satellites up there. Give readers a sense of how different the two companies’ satellites are. 

Iridium’s satellites are on the order of a metric ton, whereas satellites now being developed are basically 10-centimeter cubes, so maybe the size of a Kleenex tissue box. Spire’s satellites amount to three of those cubes [each].

How dramatically do they compare in terms of power?

It’s a different class. Iridium satellites are high-capacity and high-powered, but they cost a lot of money and time to build and launch. This new generation of satellites is so small and cheap that you can basically make them out of cell phone parts, with the camera and radios and GPS that goes into them. They aren’t space-hardened. Solar flares and other stuff in space [take a toll much faster]. But you aren’t looking to get 12 years out of them. You’re looking to get two or three. It’s a different attitude. You sprinkle them out there. You’re constantly changing them and tweaking them. It’s like comparing a network of mobile devices with a mainframe.

Who are Spire’s biggest customers?

The first two major applications that we’re addressing are marine craft tracking via the AIS beacons that ships have when they’re out in the open sea; the second is weather. Starting a year from now, it’s expected that the U.S. will be blind to the weather — that the [three] satellites [the government has been relying on] will no longer be functioning. As you can imagine, it’s imperative that we have weather data. It’s critical to agriculture, critical to national security, critical to understanding climate change.

To date, the government has had its own satellites to produce this data, but there’s generally a movement to outsource more and more in the industry. It’s why SpaceX has received a mandate to carry astronauts [encouraged by NASA]. Congress is saying the same about other formerly proprietary NASA activities, too, including authorizing the government to buy weather data.

It sounds like Spire has other ambitions, too.

We’re not satisfied to just do the weather. It’s a big market but there’s no reason that, once the satellites are out there, we can’t put more antennae on them and [wring more information] out them. There’s been a lot of awareness in the last couple of years that we have aircraft disappearing off the grid, for example. There are currently satellites in space that talk with airplanes when they’re underneath those satellites, but there aren’t satellites tracking flights going over the North Pole; a system with lots of little satellites that blanket the planet [could solve that problem].

Basically, there are no application-specific satellites any more. It’s like the internet, where the same pipes that are carrying this call also carry email and Netflix and so much more.

What other space companies has Bessemer backed?We have two other related investments, though only one is disclosed: Rocket Lab, which is building rockets to deliver this whole new class of nano satellites. Think of it as a low-end SpaceX.

What do you make a space tourism?

It interests me as a customer but not as an investor. I think it would be great. Ten years from now, I won’t have school-age children and it will be way safer, so I’m hoping I’ll be a customer.

—–

New Fundings

Adaptive Insights,  a 12-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that sells cloud-based services to management teams to model a company’s performance and other business intelligence, has raised $75 million in funding from new investor JMI Equity, along with earlier backers Norwest Venture Partners,ONSET Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Cardinal Venture Capital,Monitor Ventures, and Information Venture Partners. The company has now raised roughly $176 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

The Chope Group, a four-year-old, Singapore-based online restaurant reservations platform, has raised $8 million in new funding from F&H Fund Management, NSI Ventures, DSG Consumers Partners, Frontier Ventures, and Singapore Press Holdings. The company says it has now raised $11.5 million altogether.

Classy, a nine-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based online fundraising platform that helps nonprofits and social enterprises mobilize and empower communities, has raised $18 million in new funding led by Mithril Capital Management. Other participants in the round included Salesforce Ventures, Bullpen Capital,Venture51, Galileo Partners and Rethink Impact, with $2 million of the $18 million round reserved for certain strategic investors. Classy had previously raised three undisclosed amounts of funding, shows Crunchbase.

Distil Networks, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes bot detection and mitigation software, has raised $21 million in Series B financing. New investor Bessemer Venture Partners led the round, with participation from current investors Foundry Group, TechStars, ff Venture Capital, Idea Fund and Correlation Ventures. The company has now raised $38 million to date.

Flatchat, a nine-month-old, Bangalore, India-based app that helps users find roommates in India, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from CommonFloor, one of India’s biggest real-estate listing sites. CommonFloor had acquired Flat.io, the previous company of Flatchat’s founders, last year. TechCrunch has more on the new round here.

HomeHero, a two-year-old, in-home senior care marketplace that helps families find qualified caregivers and track their activity, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Graham Holdings, with participation from Tencent Holdings and earlier backers Social+Capital Partnership and The Launch Fund. The company has now raised $23 million altogether.

Klear, a three-year-old, Israel-based social media analytics company, has raised $1.5 million in new funding from Altair, GIG, and TMT Investments. It is also rebranding from its earlier name, Twtrland, as it now looks at data from a variety of social media platforms other than Twitter, including Facebook and Instagram. The company has raised $2 milion altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

MakeTime, a year-old, Lexington, Ky.-based company that enables durable goods companies to trade machine capacity using its online marketplace, has raised $2.65 million in Series A funding led by Almaz Capital, with participation from Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation. The company has raised a total of $3.87 million to date. More here.

One Month, a two-year-old, New York-based online platform that teaches individuals to code, create web applications, and more, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding co-led by earlier backer Idea Bulb Ventures and new investor Arena Ventures. Cornerstone On-Demand also joined the round. The company has now raised $2.6 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

PowerToFly, a 10-month-old, New York-based platform that matches companies with women in tech, design, sales, marketing, editorial, and other fields that can be done from anywhere, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Crosslink Capital, with participation from Hearst Ventures and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. The company has now raised $7.5 million altogether. (Cofounder Katherine Zaleski had written a widely read piece earlier this year about why she founded the company. You can find it here, in Fortune.)

Proterra, an 11-year-old, Greenville, S.C.-based company that makes all-electric buses that it sells to mostly municipal transit authorities, has raised $55 million in equity and debt, reports the WSJ. Of the $30 millionin equity, $19 million came from a growth fund in the Bay Area that Proterra isn’t naming. Other participants included a sovereign wealth fund and a family office (also unnamed). The company also drew on $25 million in debt from an unnamed source or sources. More here.

Rithmio, a two-year-old, Chicago-based gesture recognition platform for wearables, has raised $3 million in seed funding co-led by KGC Capital and Intel Capital. Other participants in the round included MAS Capital, OCA Ventures, Hyde Park Ventures Partners, Hyde Park Angels, Foley Ventures, MKRC Ventures, Serra Ventures, and New Coast Ventures. The company had earlier raised $650,000 in seed funding, shows Crunchbase.

SimplyInsured, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based  health insurance marketplace and administration platform for small businesses, has raised $5.9 million in Series A funding from Polaris Partners, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Altair.VC, Corazon Capital, and other individual investors. The company had raised $1.75 million in seed funding just two months ago. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

New Funds

Benhamou Global Ventures, an 11-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based early-stage venture capital firm, has closed its second fund with $72 million, up from a target of $60 million, it says. The firm, founded by former 3Com CEO Eric Benhamou, focuses primarily on enterprise IT sectors like cyber security, cloud-based services and applications, web scale infrastructure, business analytics, and the Internet of Things. It invests in the U.S., Israel, and Europe.

Foundry Group, the nine-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based early-stage venture fund, is in the process of raising its newest fund, shows an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. Its target: $225 million. Foundry, which could presumably raise much, much more — particularly on the heels of Fitbit’s IPO ( Foundry owned 28.9 percent of the company as it headed into its recent offering) —  is known for keeping to its knitting. In the fall of 2013, Foundry raised a $225 million to invest in its existing portfolio companies — a first for the firm. But its other early-stage funds, including in 2007, 2010, and 2013, were also exactly $225 million.

—–

Exits

Cisco is buying the 10-year-old, San Francisco-based cloud security company OpenDNS for $635 million in cash. OpenDNS had raised $51.3 million from investors, according to Crunchbase (though some of its shares traded handsalong the way). Either way, investors are presumably seeing a nice return, as is (hopefully) OpenDNS’s well-liked founder and CEO David Ulevitch. TechCrunch has more here.

Uber will acquire a portion of Microsoft’s maps technology and extend employment offers to around 100 engineers on Microsoft’s mapping team, it said yesterday. More here.

—–

People

Uber Senior VP David Plouffe talks with LinkedIn about a recent California ruling that classified an Uber driver as an employee, saying the company’s driver’s “concern almost universally was that they did not want us to set their hours. The employees don’t have a regular schedule. It’s very erratic. They may drive 20 hours one week and five the next. They may drive a Friday night one week and a Tuesday morning the next. There is nothing like it on our economy where you can [turn off and on your job].”

—–

Jobs

Facebook just listed a new corporate development associate opening. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.

—–

Essential Reads

Microsoft is handing over responsibility for sales of display, mobile and video ads on Microsoft properties in the U.S. and eight other markets to AOL, which is extending job offers to roughly 1,200 Microsoft employees who work in ad sales, reports the WSJ. Over the past decade, Microsoft has “invested in almost every corner of digital advertising – from ad-serving to automated marketplaces – in an effort to compete with Google and other big players,” notes the WSJ report. “But many of those efforts failed to bear fruit and Microsoft has steadily retrenched.”

—–

Detours

“Game of Thrones” death toll. (We’re still haunted by this past season.)

Search the people you follow on Twitter by their location, interests and more.

The easiest languages for native English speakers to learn.

Lip art.

—–

Retail Therapy

The Cubrick cabinet.




VC David Cowan is Betting on Space (and Counting on Space Travel)

David CowanThis morning, Spire, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of small, software-packed satellites, announced $40 million in fresh funding from investors, including Promus Ventures, which led the round, and Bessemer Venture Partners. (We wrote a piece for TechCrunch about the news here.)Late last week, we talked with Bessemer partner David Cowan about the deal, and why he’s intrigued by space startups more broadly. That conversation follows, edited for length and clarity.

How did you settle on your investment in Spire?

As an early investor in Skybox [a satellite imagery company acquired by Google last year], we were approached by pretty much every early-stage space startup out there. Back when Spire was called NanoSatisfi, [founder] Peter [Platzer] reached out to us, but the company looked as flaky as the rest of them, meaning, here was a smart guy with an ambitious idea that he was going to put up a big constellation. But after one-and-a-half years, he actually did all the things he said he was going to do. In fact, when we looked to find who might be taking advantage of Moore’s Law in space, Spire stood out as the company most likely to lead the trend. It’s pretty clear that by this time next year, Spire will have the largest constellation known to man [based on the number of satellites it has in space].

Right now, that honor belongs to Iridium, which has around 75 satellites up there. Give readers a sense of how different the two companies’ satellites are. 

Iridium’s satellites are on the order of a metric ton, whereas satellites now being developed are basically 10-centimeter cubes, so maybe the size of a Kleenex tissue box. Spire’s satellites amount to three of those cubes [each].

How dramatically do they compare in terms of power?

It’s a different class. Iridium satellites are high-capacity and high-powered, but they cost a lot of money and time to build and launch. This new generation of satellites is so small and cheap that you can basically make them out of cell phone parts, with the camera and radios and GPS that goes into them. They aren’t space-hardened. Solar flares and other stuff in space [take a toll much faster]. But you aren’t looking to get 12 years out of them. You’re looking to get two or three. It’s a different attitude. You sprinkle them out there. You’re constantly changing them and tweaking them. It’s like comparing a network of mobile devices with a mainframe.

Who are Spire’s biggest customers?

The first two major applications that we’re addressing are marine craft tracking via the AIS beacons that ships have when they’re out in the open sea; the second is weather. Starting a year from now, it’s expected that the U.S. will be blind to the weather — that the [three] satellites [the government has been relying on] will no longer be functioning. As you can imagine, it’s imperative that we have weather data. It’s critical to agriculture, critical to national security, critical to understanding climate change.

To date, the government has had its own satellites to produce this data, but there’s generally a movement to outsource more and more in the industry. It’s why SpaceX has received a mandate to carry astronauts [encouraged by NASA]. Congress is saying the same about other formerly proprietary NASA activities, too, including authorizing the government to buy weather data.

It sounds like Spire has other ambitions, too.

We’re not satisfied to just do the weather. It’s a big market but there’s no reason that, once the satellites are out there, we can’t put more antennae on them and [wring more information] out them. There’s been a lot of awareness in the last couple of years that we have aircraft disappearing off the grid, for example. There are currently satellites in space that talk with airplanes when they’re underneath those satellites, but there aren’t satellites tracking flights going over the North Pole; a system with lots of little satellites that blanket the planet [could solve that problem].

Basically, there are no application-specific satellites any more. It’s like the internet, where the same pipes that are carrying this call also carry email and Netflix and so much more.

What other space companies has Bessemer backed?We have two other related investments, though only one is disclosed: Rocket Lab, which is building rockets to deliver this whole new class of nano satellites. Think of it as a low-end SpaceX.

What do you make a space tourism?

It interests me as a customer but not as an investor. I think it would be great. Ten years from now, I won’t have school-age children and it will be way safer, so I’m hoping I’ll be a customer.




StrictlyVC: June 29, 2015

Hi, everyone, welcome back and happy Monday!

A quick note for readers who may missed the news last week: We are super excited to be hosting our next event in San Francisco on Wednesday evening, September 16, at the Autodesk Gallery on Market Street, thanks to some finagling by our friends at Bolt. We’re just as excited about who will be speaking, including DFJ cofounder Steve Jurvetson; Social+Capital Partnership founder Chamath Palihapitiya; True Ventures partner and About.me CEO Tony Conrad; Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic; Bolt managing director Ben Einstein; and Haystack founder Semil Shah. You can find more information about the event right here. Tickets, which are going fast, are here.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

The French police aren’t messing around. Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal and Uber Europe GM Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty were both taken into custody today in Paris and charged with running an illegal taxi company. More here from TechCrunch.

This morning, the Supreme Court opted not to review a 2014 ruling on copyright law that held Google‘s Android operating system infringed copyrights relating to Oracle‘s Java platform. This is a disaster for the software industry, argues Vox. Here’s why.

Owing to investor demand, it now looks like the China-based ride-sharing company Didi Kuaidi is targeting around $2 billion (up from $1.5 billion) for its newest fundraise. The WSJ has more here.

—–

Piazza, Backed by Sequoia and Others, Looks to Next Round

You might not be familiar with the 25-person, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup Piazza, but plenty of engineering and other STEM students are aware of it.

The online platform where students and instructors come together to learn and teach was first conceived by founder and CEO Pooja Sankar, who as a first-year student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, felt isolated at times in her learning experience. It reminded her of her undergraduate experience at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the engineering school in India, where there were 400 boys and 20 girls in the computer science department.

Says Sankar, “I felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t have a support group to master concepts, classes, career, or how you choose a company or a startup.”

Sankar felt alone in having so many unanswered questions, but it turns out she was far from it. Today, says Sankar, roughly 1 million students around the world are posting questions to their particular course pages on Piazza, to which their peers and instructors are responding. In fact, she says, 50 percent of computer science and STEM majors at the top 20 U.S. schools — as well as at elite schools in Iran; Pakistan; Israel; Ontario, Canada and elsewhere — spend between two and three hours on the platform each day. (Altogether, says Sanker, students and educators at 1,000 universities in 60 countries are now using the platform, including at such prestigious schools as Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and the Imperial College of London.)

Now Piazza is cultivating a new fan base – company recruiters. Explains Sankar: Up until now, executives have been setting their recruiting strategies in the dark,” says Sankar. “It’s, ‘We’re going to fly our guy to [Carnegie Mellon],’ and they literally send their VP of engineering around” with the hope of connecting with the right people.

Where Piazza can help them: the troves of data it’s collecting on students, including what courses they are taking and the types of questions and answers they are contributing to the platform, all of which companies are now using to run targeted searches and to send personalized messages to students who opt in to its recruiting service.

Currently, there are nearly 250 companies using Piazza in their recruiting efforts, up from 40 when the service officially launched in February of last year.

Sankar characterizes their range as “broad – from 10-person startups to 100,000-person companies” and Piazza charges them for yearly subscriptions to the service accordingly, with prices ranging from $2,000 to “six-figures.”

Things are going so well, says Sankar, that Piazza — which has so far raised $15.5 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, SV Angel and Kapor Capital – will be in the market for more funding soon.

“We’re at a stage where we’re doing what we wanted to do with our last fundraising,” she says. (It closed 16 months ago.)

“Now we want to throw fuel onto the fire.”

For a new survey from Piazza about the companies where students most want to work, check out our related TechCrunch piece this morning.

—–

New Fundings

Airtable, a three-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based database company that makes it easier for people to collaborate via its grid-based desktop web interface, has raised $7.6 million in funding led by CRV, with participation from Caffeinated Capital, Crunchfund, Data Collective, Founder Collective and Freestyle Capital, as well as numerous individual investors. The company has now raised $10.6 million altogether. More here.

Blue Medora, an eight-year-old, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based maker of a cloud systems management platform, raised $4.6 million in Series A funding led by Michigan eLab, with participation from earlier backers Start Garden, Grand Angels and others. The company has now raised $6 million altogether. More here.

CreditMantri, a three-year-old, Chennai, India-based startup that aims to help consumers better understand their credit health, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from IDG Ventures India, Elevar Equity and Accion Venture Lab. More here.

CyMedica Orthopedics, two-year-old, Scottsdale, Az.-based company whose medical device is used to treat quadriceps muscle atrophy and that received clearance from the FDA in April to market in the U.S., has raised $11.5 million in Series A funding led by Research Corporation TechnologiesTechnology Ventures, and Aphelion Capital. Phoenix Business Journal has more here.

Drippler, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based iOS and Android app that delivers news about users’ smartphones and recommends new apps, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Titanium Investments, with participation from TMT Investments, iAngels, and a long list of individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Fullbridge, a nearly five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based accelerated business education program, has raised $15.4 million in funding led by its earlier investor GSV Capital. The company has now raised roughly $28 million altogether, including from high-net worth individuals and family offices. More here.

Inmix, a five-year-old, China-based company that sells eyeglasses at an average price of $20 a pair, emulating the low-price formula of U.S. e-retailer Warby Parker, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by venture capital firm IDG Capital Partners and Legend Capital. Internet Retailer has more here.

Onefinestay, a five year-old, London-based online platform focused on renting out private luxury homes, has raised $40 million in Series D funding from a long list of backers, including Hyatt Hotels, Intel Capital and individual investors, including from Mark Dempster, former marketing partner Sequoia Capital. The company has now raised $80 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Playbasis, a three-year-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based gamification platform that aims to help large organizations increase employee engagement, retention, and loyalty, has raised $1.8 million in Series A funding led by Thailand’sInVent, with participation from earlier backers Cherubic Ventures and 500 Startups. The outlet e27 has more here.

Snips, a three-year-old, Paris-based company that aims to embed artificial intelligence in connected devices like smartphones and smart watches to help them better anticipate their owners’ intentions, has raised $6.3 million in seed funding led by The Hive, with participation from Eniac Ventures, 500 Startups, Bpifrance and invidivual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

UrbanClap, a 10-month-old, Gurgaon, India-based mobile-based local services marketplace, has raised $10 million in funding from earlier backers SAIF Partners and Accel Partners. Times of India has more here.

Velocity, a year-old, London-based lifestyle app that enables diners to use their phones to pay and earn rewards at restaurants, bars, and clubs, has raised $12 million in Series A funding, including from former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer. More here.

Verodin, a year-old, Mclean, Va.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $2 million of a targeted $2.6 million round, according to an SEC filing that lists Palidin Capital Group partner Matt Bigge and inventor Benito Cianciaruso. DCInno has the story here.

Zinka Logistics, a year-old, Bangalore, India-based online freight-booking service formerly called Blackbuck, has raised roughly $6 million from Flipkart and Accel Partners. The Economic Times has more here.

—–

New Funds

FKA Atlas Ventures has finally announced its new name: Accomplice. Xconomy has more here.

U.K- based gambling operator William Hill will be opening startup accelerators in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, as well as in Tel Aviv, Israel. The WSJ has the story here. The idea: to offer eight companies in both places an investment of £25,000 ($39,000) and office space for the duration of a 12-week program.

—–

IPOs

Fifteen-year-old Digicel Group, the largest telecom company in the Caribbean, is planning an IPO and, according to an SEC filing, it want to raise $200 million. The Irish Examiner has more here.

—–
Exits

Lyft has acqui-hired the team behind Leo, a disappearing messaging app for one-on-one or group conversations, for an undisclosed amount. Leo had raised $1.5 million from investors, including SV Angel, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Freestyle Capital, among others. The deal marks Lyft’s fourth acquisition. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

People

Rishi Garg, Twitter‘s VP of corporate development, is leaving the company roughly one year after joining it from Square, where he was head of corporate development. He announced the news on Twitter on Friday; Business Insider adds a bit more color here. Garg closed roughly a dozen deals during his tenure, including Periscope, Twitter’s live video product. Garg tweeted that he was off to “pursue some exciting new projects.” Rumor has it that Twitter’s corporate development team will be a bit hamstrung until a permanent CEO is appointed; Garg didn’t respond to our press request on Friday.

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has acquired a 28,100-acre property “boasting trout streams, woodlands and a maple-syrup operation in New York’s Adirondacks,” reports the WSJ. Ma paid $23 million for the property, which he reportedly bought for conservation purposes, but that he also plans to use as an occasional personal retreat.

Andy Puddicombe, a 42-year-old British meditation teacher trained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, has been making waves with his iPhone app, Headspace, which teaches meditation and mindfulness techniques and claims Richard Branson among its three million users. The New Yorker looks at what the fuss is all about here.

—–

Jobs

Salesforce is looking to add a senior associate to its corporate development team.

—–

Essential Reads

The strange death of the tech IPO.

Startups are now allowed post a Twitter message about their stock or debt offering to gauge interest among potential investors.

Silicon Valley reportedly needs three World Trade Centers worth of new office space this year.

A timeline of Uber, from idea to $50 billion valuation.

—–

Detours

Test-drive that new home.

Why teenagers can be especially susceptible to addictions, including drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices.

A new, $4 million bar just opened in Twitter’s Market Street building in San Francisco.

How to go undercover.

—–

Retail Therapy

The fastest road bike ever.

CanopyStair. Your kid will never again get stuck in a tree (hopefully).




Piazza, Backed By Sequoia and Others, Looks to Next Round

Small-Pooja-Image-300x200You might not be familiar with the 25-person, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup Piazza, but plenty of engineering and other STEM students are aware of it.

The online platform where students and instructors come together to learn and teach was first conceived by founder and CEO Pooja Sankar, who as a first-year student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, felt isolated at times in her learning experience. It reminded her of her undergraduate experience at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the engineering school in India, where there were 400 boys and 20 girls in the computer science department.

Says Sankar, “I felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t have a support group to master concepts, classes, career, or how you choose a company or a startup.”

Sankar felt alone in having so many unanswered questions, but it turns out she was far from it. Today, says Sankar, roughly 1 million students around the world are posting questions to their particular course pages on Piazza, to which their peers and instructors are responding. In fact, she says, 50 percent of computer science and STEM majors at the top 20 U.S. schools — as well as at elite schools in Iran; Pakistan; Israel; Ontario, Canada and elsewhere — spend between two and three hours on the platform each day. (Altogether, says Sanker, students and educators at 1,000 universities in 60 countries are now using the platform, including at such prestigious schools as Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and the Imperial College of London.)

Now Piazza is cultivating a new fan base – company recruiters. Explains Sankar: Up until now, executives have been setting their recruiting strategies in the dark,” says Sankar. “It’s, ‘We’re going to fly our guy to [Carnegie Mellon],’ and they literally send their VP of engineering around” with the hope of connecting with the right people.

Where Piazza can help them: the troves of data it’s collecting on students, including what courses they are taking and the types of questions and answers they are contributing to the platform, all of which companies are now using to run targeted searches and to send personalized messages to students who opt in to its recruiting service.

Currently, there are nearly 250 companies using Piazza in their recruiting efforts, up from 40 when the service officially launched in February of last year.

Sankar characterizes their range as “broad – from 10-person startups to 100,000-person companies” and Piazza charges them for yearly subscriptions to the service accordingly, with prices ranging from $2,000 to “six-figures.”

Things are going so well, says Sankar, that Piazza — which has so far raised $15.5 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, SV Angel and Kapor Capital – will be in the market for more funding soon.

“We’re at a stage where we’re doing what we wanted to do with our last fundraising,” she says. (It closed 16 months ago.)

“Now we want to throw fuel onto the fire.”

For a new survey from Piazza about the companies where students most want to work, check out our related TechCrunch piece this morning.




StrictlyVC: June 26, 2015

Glorious Friday, we meet again. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Historic day: Same-sex marriage is a right, the Supreme Court ruled this morning.

Airbnb, the seven-year-old, San Francisco-based online home-rental marketplace, is reportedly closing in on $1.5 billion in fresh capital that would value the company at a whopping $24 billion. According to the Financial Times, the round is being led by General Atlantic; the Beijing-based investment management firm Hillhouse Capital; and Tiger Global Management. Others involved in the round reportedly include Baillie Gifford, Wellington Management, and earlier backers Fidelity and T. Rowe Price. More here.

—–

For Potential Recruits, VC is So 1999

There’s a lot to love about being a venture capitalist. You meet with smart people every day. You make money regardless of whether or not your investments work. People assume you have smart opinions about things.

Strange as it may seem, however, a growing number of illuminati are passing up the chance to work with established firms to do their own thing. Among the newest of them: Avidan Ross, a former private investment company CTO turned angel investor, who says he met with a number of firms about tie-ups before setting out to raise his own, $31.4 million fund from mostly high-net-worth individuals. (We reported on its closing earlier this month.)

Why would anyone pass up the chance to land a plum role with a venture firm that’s managing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars? The overarching reason, of course, is that they can.

Often, such potential recruits have already made enough money to gamble on themselves. See Aydin Sekut of Felicis Ventures, Manu Kumar of K9 Ventures and dozens of other individuals who’ve turned themselves into venture capitalists over the last decade.

It’s also easier than ever for those who haven’t yet made their fortune to raise a fund, particularly given widening interest in getting into startup deals. Venture capitalist Niko Bonatsos works for General Catalyst Partners but sees many of his peers taking alternative paths. As he puts it, “If someone can [raise and] invest $30 million or $40 million themselves, why wouldn’t they do that? It’s like, ‘You’re a young guy, you know founders. Here’s $10 million. Go invest it.”

For more on our story this morning, check out it out here on TechCrunch.

—–

New Fundings

24M, a five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company whose lithium-ion cell promises to dramatically reduce manufacturing and materials costs, has raised $50 million in financing from undisclosed backers, along with a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The WSJ has more here.

Andela, a year-old, New York-based accelerator that helps educate developers and connect them with employers, has reportedly raised “well over $10 million” in Series A funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from earlier investors Omidyar Network and Learn Capital. TechCrunch has much more here.

BankerBay, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based ideal origination platform that connects institutional investors with qualified investment opportunities, has raised more than $2 million in seed funding from ScaleVC and individual investors. More here.

Brazen, an eight-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based online engagement platform that allows organizations to schedule and host chat-based online meetups and events to engage a wide variety of audiences, has raised $4.7 million in funding led by Osage Venture Partners, with participation fromRandstad Innovation Fund, Militello Capital and Kegonsa Capital Partners. The company has now raised just more than $10 million altogether.

Celect, a 2.5-year-old, Boston-based company whose machine-learning technology helps retailers select and distribute their products in ways that reflect buying patterns, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by August Capital, with participation from Activant Capital Group. VentureBeat hasmore here.

Eargo, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company whose new hearing devices are modeled on a fishing fly and are nearly invisible when placed in the ear canal, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Maveron, with participation from Dolby Family Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Birchmere Ventures and others. GeekWire has more here.

Guavus, a nine-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based big data analytics company, has $30 million in funding from earlier backers. The company has now raised roughly $130 million altogether, including from Artiman Ventures, Sofinnova Ventures, Intel Capital, SingTel Innov8, Investor Growth CapitalQuestMark Partners and Goldman Sachs. More here.

Lyra Health, a six-month-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based company aiming to help employers and health plans better manage populations of people with behavioral-health illnesses, has raised $3.1 million in strategic funding from Castlight Health. More here.

OneWeb, a three-year-old, London-based company that plans to launch a constellation of satellites to provide affordable high-speed internet, has raised $500 million in funding from Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm, The Coca-Cola Company, Virgin Group, and Mexico’s Grupo Salinas. Reuters has more here.

PayRange, a two-year-old, Portland, Or.-headquartered company whose tools enable machines to accept card and digital payments, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Matrix Partners.

Postmates, the three-year-old, San Francisco-based urban delivery platform, has raised $80 million in new funding at a more than $400 million valuation led by Tiger Global Management. Earlier backer Slow Ventures also joined the round, chipping in $5 million via a special purpose vehicle that enabled its own limited partners to invest in the company. The WSJ has the scoop here.

Redis Labs, a four-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that offers enterprise-grade services around the open-source NoSQL Redis database and memcached object caching system, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Bain Capital Ventures and Carmel Ventures, with participation from Silicon Valley Bank. The company, formerly known as Garantia, has now raised $28 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Sebacia, a five-year-old, Duluth, Ga.-based company that makes an acne treatment that must be administered by dermatologists, has raised $22 million in Series C funding comprised of $10 million in debt financing from Square 1 Bank and $12 million in equity from earlier backers Accuitive Medical Ventures, Domain Associates, Partners Innovation Fund and Versant Ventures. The company has now raised $55.6 million, shows Crunchbase.

ShopJester, a year-old, Danville, Ca.-based mobile retail app that allows shoppers to search for producs from 32 different retailers and segregates the items into “sales,” “new arrivals,” and more, has raised $600,000 in seed funding from numerous investors, including Roger Smith, former CEO of Silicon Valley Bank.

Stand, a year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based mobile app that connects users with people who might inspire their own personal philanthropy, has raised $2.25 million in funding led by Resolute Ventures, with participation from Greylock Partners, Fresco Capital and entrepreneur Jack Dorsey, along with many other individual investors. More here.

Tesora, a 4.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that’s developing and supporting OpenStack Trove, a system for managing database capacity in an on-demand way, has raised $4.5 million in funding from backers, including Rho Canada Ventures and earlier backers General Catalyst PartnersCommonAngels, and Point Judith Capital. Xconomy has more here.

WeWork, a five-year-old, New York-based company whose main business is renting office space from landlords, then building it out into an incubator-like spaces and renting to startups, has raised a fresh $400 million led by Fidelity Management & Research at a $10 billion valuation. (As the WSJ notes, WeWork leases about 3.5 million square feet of space globally, yet its valuation is now nearly half that of Boston Properties, a $19 billion company that owns 45 million square feet of real estate.) Other participants in the round include earlier backers J.P. Morgan, Harvard Corp., Benchmark, T. Rowe Price, Goldman Sachs, Wellington Management and Mort Zuckerman.

—–

New Funds

137 Ventures, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based firm that provides startup employees with loans in exchange for their equity, is looking to raise $200 million for its third fund, shows an SEC filing. The company closed its second fund with $137 million almost exactly a year ago. Its first, $50 million, fund closed in 2011.

Formation 8, the three-year-old, San Franciso-based venture-capital firm known for backing virtual-reality company Oculus VR, has filed to raise a $400 million fund for late-stage investments in Asia, reports Reuters. Called F8 Asia Growth, the average size investment the fund will make is roughly $50 million, a person tells the outlet.

Grotech Ventures, a 31-year-old, Vienna, Va.-based venture firm, is looking to raise $200 million for its newest fund, shows an SEC filing that states the fund’s first sale has yet to occur.

Russian investment firm Target Ventures has opened an office in San Francisco as it seeks to diversify its portfolio of consumer Internet startups, reports VentureWire. The firm is reportedly looking to invest in Series B, C and later rounds and can commit anywhere from $1 million to $30 million in companies.

—–

IPOs

Sunrun, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based residential solar energy company, has filed for a $100 million IPO. The company has raised roughly $680 million in debt and equity over the years, shows Crunchbase. According toits S-1, its biggest shareholders include Foundation Capital, which owns 19.7 percent of the company; Accel Partners, which owns 13.2 percent; Canyon Partners, which owns 9.1 percent; Sequoia Capital, which owns 9 percent; and Madrone Partners, which owns 7.5 percent.

Sophos, the 30-year-old, Abingdon, England-based security company that makes antivirus software, firewall hardware and other products for networks, individual users and servers, went public on the London Stock Exchange earlier today, with plans to raise $125 million on a valuation of £1.013 billion ($1.6 billion). It is the the latest tech “unicorn” to come out of the UK, notes TechCrunch.

—–

Exits

Deliv, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based same-day delivery company, has acquired WeDeliver, a 2.5-year-old, Chicago-based provider of same-day delivery for local merchants. Financial terms of the deal weren’t announced. Deliv has raised $12.4 million from investors, including Westfield LabsUpfront Ventures, and Redpoint Ventures. WeDeliver had raised $800,000 in seed funding, including from Jumpstart Ventures.

—–

People

Facebook released its annual diversity numbers yesterday and they look much the same as the year earlier. In May of 2013, Facebook was 69 percent male and 57 percent white. As of June 2014, it was 68 percent male and 55 white.

Deutsche Bank has started a new group dedicated to private fundraising, reports the WSJ. The group, called Private Growth Capital, will work with the bank’s existing venture-capital coverage bankers and private-wealth management, advising both companies seeking to raise capital and investors looking to jump into deals.

Bill Gates reckons he has already dropped a cool $1 billion on investments in renewable energy technologies. Now he’s looking to double that. More here.

—–

Jobs

Saints Capital in San Francisco is looking for an analyst.

—–

Essential Reads

Google has quietly launched a GitHub competitor.

—–

Detours

What type of introvert are you?

How having an unethical boss can make you look bad, too.

Someone is renting out a Coleman tent in the backyard of his parent’s Mountain View, Ca., home for $899 a month or $49 per day (a scary sign of the times if ever there was one!).

—–

Retail Therapy

Wireless headset.

Instant photo coasters. (We love these.)




For Potential Recruits, VC is So 1999

pass_stamp-3There’s a lot to love about being a venture capitalist. You meet with smart people every day. You make money regardless of whether or not your investments work. People assume you have smart opinions about things.

Strange as it may seem, however, a growing number of illuminati are passing up the chance to work with established firms to do their own thing. Among the newest of them: Avidan Ross, a former private investment company CTO turned angel investor, who says he met with a number of firms about tie-ups before setting out to raise his own, $31.4 million fund from mostly high-net-worth individuals. (We reported on its closing earlier this month.)

Why would anyone pass up the chance to land a plum role with a venture firm that’s managing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars? The overarching reason, of course, is that they can.

Often, such potential recruits have already made enough money to gamble on themselves. See Aydin Sekut of Felicis Ventures, Manu Kumar of K9 Ventures and dozens of other individuals who’ve turned themselves into venture capitalists over the last decade.

It’s also easier than ever for those who haven’t yet made their fortune to raise a fund, particularly given widening interest in getting into startup deals. Venture capitalist Niko Bonatsos works for General Catalyst Partners but sees many of his peers taking alternative paths. As he puts it, “If someone can [raise and] invest $30 million or $40 million themselves, why wouldn’t they do that? It’s like, ‘You’re a young guy, you know founders. Here’s $10 million. Go invest it.”

For more on our story this morning, check out it out here on TechCrunch.




StrictlyVC: June 25, 2015

Hello and happy Thursday, everyone! Lots of fundings today.

—–
Top News in the A.M.

Amazon just announced three initiatives to support its cloud-based intelligent Alexa voice service and the Amazon Echo, a wireless speaker that can respond to basic voice commands. One of those initiatives involves a software development kit. The other: A $100 million fund to back engineers focused on building experiences around human speech. More here.

—–

LittleBits Raises $44.2 Million to Get Its Little Bits Into More Hands

If you work in tech and have or know young children, you’ve likely heard of LittleBits, a 3.5-year-old, venture-backed maker of electronic components that are sold via kits and snap together to create everything from toy robots to synthesizers and more.

Today, the New York company is getting serious about ensuring its modular pieces make their way into the hands of many more people. Toward that end, it’s announcing $44.2 million in Series B funding led by DFJ Growth, with participation from Morgan Stanley, Alternative Investment Partners, Grishin Robotics and Wamda Capital. (Foundry Group, True Ventures, VegasTechFund, Two Sigma Ventures, and Khosla Ventures  — earlier investors that had provided the company with $15.6 million in previous funding — also joined the round.)

Educators, who have been discovering LittleBits, are about to become one big area of focus for the 90-person, New York-based company. Already, LittleBits are being used in 2,100 schools in 70 countries, says LittleBits’s founder and CEO, Ayah Bdeir, who says that while LittleBits has a “good footprint” in California particularly, the company is looking to add to that momentum nationally and internationally by adding employees in sales and distribution.

LittleBits is also going after more corporate customers. Indeed, according to Bdeir, companies like Salesforce, Twilio, and SAP have — in the last year, entirely on their own — begun employing LittleBits in creativity workshops and in the prototyping of their various products, including those centered on the Internet of Things. (Part of the attraction: Last year, LittleBits introduced a “cloudBit” device that allows users to add a variety of things to their connected home via LittleBits hardware and a companion app. It has since introduced many other related modules that make it easier to play around with popular connected devices as well as invent new ones.)

Of course, parents and others interested in providing children with an easy way to understand electronics also remain a big target for the company, which currently sells its products through its own site and Amazon, but plans to slowly grow its number of retailing partners starting with Barnes & Noble, which will begin selling LittleBits kits later this year.

As for sales to date, the company isn’t disclosing numbers but says it has been growing “three to four times revenue” annually and that it has sold “millions of units” (meaning pieces, not kits) in more than 100 countries.

It also says a subscription model may be on the horizon. “People have been asking for it a lot,” says Bdeir. “It’s something we want to develop.”

(For more on LittleBits and its newest funding, you can check out our TechCrunch piece here.)

—–

New Fundings

Automatic, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based connected car platform, has raised $24 million in Series B funding led by the investment arm at USAA, a insurance and financial services provider for military families. CDK Global and Comcast Ventures also participated in the round, alongside earlier backers Y Combinator, RPM Ventures, Anthemis Group, Amicus Capital and numerous angel investors. Automatic has now raised $32 million in total. TechCrunch has more here.

Autonomic Technologies, an eight-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based maker of a microstimulator that treats severe headaches, has added another $5.5 million from HBM Healthcare Investments to its Series D round, which is closing with a total of $43.2 million. The round was led by Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, with participation from Forbion Capital Partners and earlier backers Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, InterWest Partners, Aberdare Ventures, Novatis Venture Funds, and the Cleveland Clinic. More here.

Bento, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand food delivery service focused around Asian food, has raised $1.5 million led by LAUNCH Fund, with participation from Slow Ventures, 500 Startups, FundersClub and numerous angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

BitSight Technologies, a four-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based security ratings company that helps enterprises monitor the risk posed by vendors in their supply chain, has raised $23 million in Series B funding from Comcast Ventures, along with earlier backers Globespan Capital Partners, Menlo Ventures, Commonwealth Capital Ventures, Shaun McConnon and Flybridge Capital Partners. The company has now raised $49 million altogether.

Bricoprivé, a 2.5-year-old, Toulouse, France-based online retailer focused on DIY, gardening and home improvement products, has raised €2.5 million ($2.8 million) from the Paris-based investement company Ardian, following the partial exit of Bricoprivé’s previous minority shareholders. More here.

Checkmarx, a nine-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based software application security company that sells application security testing and application layer attack prevention services, has raised $84 million from Insight Venture Partners. Reuters has more here.

Conga, a nine-year-old, Broomfield, Co.-based developer of a set of document generation and reporting applications for Salesforce, has raised $70 million in funding from Insight Venture Partners. Denver Business Journal has more here.

Curbside, a nearly two year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup whose mobile app allows shoppers to buy from local retailers like Target and Best Buy then pick up items at stores without exiting their car, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Sutter Hill Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Index Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and others. The company has now raised $34.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Highland Therapeutics, a seven-year-old Toronto, Canada-based pharmaceutical company that tries optimizing the delivery of previously approved drug products, has raised $50 million in funding, half of which came in the form of equity from Eastern Capital Limited, and half of which it secured through a credit facility provided by Citibank. More here.

Inspirock, a three-year-old, East Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose site creates customized travel itineraries for users, has raised $3 million in funding from earier investor MakeMyTrip, one of India’s largest travel booking sites; angel investors; and its founders, Anoop Goyal and Prakash Sikchi.

Lost My Name, a two-year-old, London-based publishing startup focused on kids’ personalized publishing and entertainment, has raised $9 million in Series A funding from Google Ventures, Greycroft Partners, The Chernin GroupAllen & Co., and former SunGard president and CEO Cris Conde. More here.

Matterport, a 4.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that makes a $4,500 camera capable of capturing an environment in 360 degrees, has raised $30 million in growth funding from Qualcomm Ventures and Singapore’s GIC. VentureBeat has more here.

Qwilt, a five-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based maker of networking equipment that helps service providers manage the demand for internet video, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by Disrupt-ive, with participation from Innovation Endeavors and Cisco Investments. The company has now raised $65 million to date. Recode has more here.

Radiant Entertainment, a new PC games studio, has raised $4.5 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst Partners and London Venture Partners. Venture Capital Dispatch has much more here.

TextMaster, the four-year-old, Belgium-based startup that offers a platform for content translation, copywriting and proofreading, has raised $5 million in funding from Serena Capital, with participation from earlier backer Alven Capital. The company has now raised $8 million altogether. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Topia Technology, a 16-year-old, Tacoma, Wa.-based data security platform, has raised $5.5 million in Series B funding from private angel investors in the Pacific Northwest.

Treebo Hotels, a months-old, Bangalore, India-based company that partners with small, standalone hotels and helps them improve their service quality standards and also market themselves more effectively, has raised $6 million in its first institutional round of funding rom Matrix Partners India and SAIF Partners. More here.

Vogogo, a seven-year-old, Alberta, Canada-based compliance, risk management and payment processing specialist, has raised $12.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Salman Partners, Clarus Securities, and Beacon Securities. TechVibes has more here.

Yieldify, a two-year-old, London-based predictive marketing technology startup that helps online retailers convince people to buy products online, has just $11.5 million from Google Ventures and Softbank. Business Insider hasmore here.

Zumper, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based real estate tech startup, has raised $6.4 million in funding led by Goodwater Capital, with participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Both had invested previously in the company, which has now raised $14.6 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

—–

Exits

NantCell, a six-month-old Culver City. L.A. based company that’s part of the growing empire of billionaire entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong and which focuses on the discovery and development of disease treatments through cell-based therapies at the molecular level, has acquired VivaBioCell SpA, a Udine, Italy-based biotechnology company. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. (Fierce Biotech wrote more on Soon-Shiong and NantCell earlier this month.)

Spotify, the nine-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based streaming music company, has acquired the analytics firm Seed Scientific to create a new unit tasked with understanding and improving how artists, listeners, and brands interact with its technology. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

IPOs

IAC/InterActiveCorp is planning an IPO for The Match Group, the dating conglomerate behind popular sites such as Match.com, OkCupid, and Tinder. Fortune has the story here.

Vice Media head honcho Shane Smith has been talking with bankers about the possibility of taking his media company public. “We have met with all the big banks. We’ve had talks,” he told The Post earlier today at the Cannes Lions festival.

—–

People

Alex Stamos, a world-renowned cybersecurity expert and vocal NSA critic who spent roughly 15 months commanding Yahoo’s team of “Paranoids” to protect the company from all manner of threats, is joining Facebook as its Chief Security Officer on Monday, he announced in a Facebook post yesterday. “Careers are long, and I hope our paths will cross often in the future,” he wrote to his now-former Yahoo colleagues.

Teespring, the custom apparel startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures and others, just laid off 70 employees, as it closes up shop in Providence, R.I., where it first got off the ground. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Jobs

Lewis & Clark Ventures, a new, St. Louis-based venture firm that’s focused on startups in the Midwest, is looking to hire a venture capital associate.

—–

Essential Reads

Dropbox is struggling, and competitors are catching up.

The story of what really happened with that Sony Pictures hack —and why Sony should have seen it coming.

Why Docker has Microsoft and Google on alert. (This is a good overview if you still don’t understand all the buzz around Docker.)

—–

Detours

“Fight Club” for kids, read by author Chuck Palahniuk.

An instructional video on “how to use the internet,” by a young Ev Williams.

Silent and deadly: Fatal farts.

—–

Retail Therapy

You can now rent the “smallest house in the world” on Airbnb (though we would not recommend it).




LittleBits Raises $44.2 Million to Get Its Little Bits Into More Hands

space kit+bitsLRIf you work in tech and have or know young children, you’ve likely heard of LittleBits, a 3.5-year-old, venture-backed maker of electronic components that are sold via kits and snap together to create everything from toy robots to synthesizers and more.

Today, the New York company is getting serious about ensuring its modular pieces make their way into the hands of many more people. Toward that end, it’s announcing $44.2 million in Series B funding led by DFJ Growth, with participation from Morgan Stanley, Alternative Investment Partners, Grishin Robotics and Wamda Capital. (Foundry Group, True Ventures, VegasTechFund, Two Sigma Ventures, and Khosla Ventures  — earlier investors that had provided the company with $15.6 million in previous funding — also joined the round.)

Educators, who have been discovering LittleBits, are about to become one big area of focus for the 90-person, New York-based company. Already, LittleBits are being used in 2,100 schools in 70 countries, says LittleBits’s founder and CEO, Ayah Bdeir, who says that while LittleBits has a “good footprint” in California particularly, the company is looking to add to that momentum nationally and internationally by adding employees in sales and distribution.

LittleBits is also going after more corporate customers. Indeed, according to Bdeir, companies like Salesforce, Twilio, and SAP have — in the last year, entirely on their own — begun employing LittleBits in creativity workshops and in the prototyping of their various products, including those centered on the Internet of Things. (Part of the attraction: Last year, LittleBits introduced a “cloudBit” device that allows users to add a variety of things to their connected home via LittleBits hardware and a companion app. It has since introduced many other related modules that make it easier to play around with popular connected devices as well as invent new ones.)

Of course, parents and others interested in providing children with an easy way to understand electronics also remain a big target for the company, which currently sells its products through its own site and Amazon, but plans to slowly grow its number of retailing partners starting with Barnes & Noble, which will begin selling LittleBits kits later this year.

As for sales to date, the company isn’t disclosing numbers but says it has been growing “three to four times revenue” annually and that it has sold “millions of units” (meaning pieces, not kits) in more than 100 countries.

It also says a subscription model may be on the horizon. “People have been asking for it a lot,” says Bdeir. “It’s something we want to develop.”

(For more on LittleBits and its newest funding, you can check out our TechCrunch piece here.)




StrictlyVC: June 24, 2015

Happy Wednesday, everyone! No column today — we were busy figuring out what’s what at TechCrunch yesterday.

We did want to thank the many of you who’ve reached out to us about an internship here at StrictlyVC. You’re an impressive lot. We had a bit more interest than we were expecting (thank you); we’ll be looking at your resumes and other details and getting in touch soon.

One last note: More than a quarter of the tickets for our September 16 event sold yesterday. (In other words, you have time, but don’t wait until the last minute.) The agenda is here; tickets are available for purchase here. Also, if you are interested in partnering with us on the program as a sponsor, let’s talk!

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Uh, oh, take note, Bay Area readers: ominous new cracks have been found in the rods on San Francisco’s new Bay Bridge tower.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is addressing investors this morning at a shareholder’s meeting. You can catch the live stream here.

—–

New Fundings

Autho, a 1.5-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based “universal identity platform,” has raised $9.3 million in funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from K9 Ventures. More here.

Barkly, a two-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based endpoint security startup, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Sigma Prime Ventures. The company has now raised $17 million altogether. More here.

Belong, a year-old, Bangalore, India-based recruitment startup, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Matrix Partners and Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, the co-founders of Snapdeal, with participation from earlier backers Blume Ventures, Phanindra Sama, and Raju Reddy. More here.

Biodesix, a 10-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based molecular diagnostics company that  develops and commercializes blood-based tests for precision medicine in oncology, has raised $11 million in Series E  funding from earlier investors (whose names it has never disclosed). More here.

Calcivis, a three-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based medical devices company whose tools enable dentists to better see and address tooth erosion, has raised roughly $7 million in new equity and grant funding from Archangel Investors, the Scottish Investment Bank, and the European Commission, under its Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme.

eFounders, a five-year-old, Brussels-based startup studio, has raised $6 million from Fotolia co-founder Oleg Tscheltzoff to build its next batch of software-as-a-service startups. TechCrunch has more here.

Frame, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based service that allows users to run desktop programs like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Excel directly from their browser, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Columbus Nova Technology Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and SQN Venture Partners. The company had previously raised $2.5 million in seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.

Goodservice, a year-old, Mumbai, India-based company whose app aims to serve as a kind of virtual personal assistant to users, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from Sequoia Capital. More here.

HackerOne, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose bug bounty platform helps companies find vulnerabilities in their products, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from earlier backer Benchmark and a long list of prominent individuals, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. TechCrunch has more here.

Indix, a 4.5-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based product intelligence company that provides analytics and insights to brands and retailers, has raised $15 million in funding from Nokia Growth Partners, Nexus Venture Partners and Avalon Ventures.

MDLive, a six-year-old, Sunrise, Fla.-based telehealth company, has raised $50 million in new funding from Bedford Funding. The company has now raised at least $73.6 million altogether from investors, shows Crunchbase. Previous backers include Sentara Healthcare, Sutter Health, Heritage Group and Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors.

Palantir Technologies, the 11-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company specializing in software used in counterterrorism and the financial industry, is raising up to $500 million in new capital at a valuation of $20 billion, according to BuzzFeed News. The company raised money late last year at a $15 billion valuation; at a $20 billion valuation, Palantir would be the third-most-valuable startup in the U.S. behind Uber and Airbnb, notes BuzzFeed.

PromisePay, a two-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based secure payment gateway company, has raised $2 million in funding from Cultivation CapitalReinventure, and numerous individual investors. The company had previously raised several hundred thousand dollars in seed funding. More here.

Squadrone System, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company behind an autonomous flying camera, has raised $3 million from Living Water Investment Corp. The company has now raised $5 million altogether. More here.

Soundtrack Your Brand, a two-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based service that allows retailers to manage in-store Spotify streams, has raised $10.9 million in Series B funding led by Telia Sonera, with participation from Creandum, Northzone Ventures, Play Networks, Wellington Partners and Spotify.

SQZ Biotech, a two-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based developer of a platform that enables the intracellular delivery of macromolecules, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Polaris Partners, with participation from 20/20 Healthcare Partners and others. More here.

Stockspot, a two-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based automated investment advisor and fund manager, has raised an undisclosed amount of capital from Rocket Internet and H2 Ventures, a new fintech venture capital fund. Australia’s Financial Review has more here.

TissueTech, a 14-year-old, Miami, Fla.-based regenerative tissue engineering company, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from River Cities Capital Funds and Ballast Point Ventures.

VenueNext, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose tools aim to help guests and venue operators easily manage live events (from ticketing to parking and directions to loyalty programs), has raised $9 million in Series A funding from investors, including Causeway Media Partners, Live Nation and Twitter Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

ViraTherapeutics, a two-year-old, Innsbruck, Austria-based biopharmaceutical company developing cancer immunotherapies based on cancer-destroying viruses, has raised raised €3.6m (roughly $4 million) in the first closing of its Series A round. Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and EMBL Ventures co-led the financing, with participation from Austria Wirtschaftsservice.

—–

New Funds

Blockchain Capital, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based micro venture firm, has held a first closing on its second fund with $7 million. The firm invests exclusively in blockchain-enabled technology companies. More here.

DBL Partners, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based firm founded by former J.P. Morgan exec Nancy Pfund, has announced a new, $400 million fund, as well as a new managing director in Ira Ehrenpreis, who spent the previous 19 years as a general partner at the firm Technology Partners. The firm aims to back startups that have a positive social or environmental impact, reports Venture Capital Dispatch.

—–

Exits

Circa, the news app, is shutting down. The company just made the announcement.

The founders of GoFundMe, a five-year-old crowdfunding site, are selling a majority stake in their business to a syndicate of investors and stepping down from day-to-day operations. The investor group is led by Accel Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures, and Rob Solomon, a former Groupon COO and Yahoo exec who joined Accel as a venture partner in 2013, will head up its new leadership team. The WSJ has more details about the company — valued in the deal at $600 million — here.

—–

People

Space X‘s roughly 700 annual interns are reportedly compensated well, but the company wrings plenty of work out of them in return. According to a Bloomberg report, it’s standard for them to work 80 hours a week. More here.

It’s official. Google cofounder Sergey Brin and 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki have gotten divorced after eight years of marriage. They married in 2007 and have two children together. Business Insider has more here.

The “Silicon Valley 100,” which is Business Insider’s take on the “most amazing and inspiring people in tech right now.”

—–

Jobs

Hubspot is looking for a director of strategic partnerships. Candidates can be based in San Francisco, with quarterly travel to Cambridge, Ma., or vice versa.

—–

Essential Reads

The real reason banks are happy to help startups stay private.

Box just announced a huge partnership deal with IBM. More here.

WPP, Snapchat and the Daily Mail have announced a new marketing agency that will create online brand-sponsored video and print content. The name: Truffle Pig. Bloomberg has more here.

After just one year, Alibaba Group is selling it U.S. website 11 Main to rival online marketplace OpenSky, with merchants saying they grew disenchanted with the company’s first experiment in American e-commerce. More here.

Startups are finding the best employees are actually employed.

How Uber takes over a city.

—–

Detours

The man who created the plastic pink flamingo has died.

All treble, no base.” Why some men sound gay and others don’t.

A city accidentally tickets a truck sculpted in its honor. (Meter maids.)

A patient was just awarded $500,000 by a jury after his phone’s voice recorder, accidentally left on during a procedure, captured mocking comments his doctors made about him while he was under anesthesia(!).

—–

Retail Therapy

The largest private tract of land in the world is on sale. Price: $375 million.




StrictlyVC: June 23, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone. We have news! We’re hosting our next StrictlyVC event in San Francisco in late summer, and we’re thrilled to announce our terrific speaker line-up, which includes the straight-shooting Chamath Palihapitiya, founder of  Social+Capital Partnership; legendary investor and DFJ cofounder Steve Jurvetson; serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Tony Conrad of both About.me and True Ventures; and Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of WordPress.com parent Automattic, valued at more than $1 billion during its last financing in 2014.

And there’s more!

It all happens Wednesday evening, September 16, at the sleek Autodesk Gallery at 1 Market Street. (Special thanks to the wonderful team at Bolt for helping us secure such a cool venue.) As always, we’ll also have yummy food and drinks for you. The full speaker list and agenda is here. To buy tickets, click here. Space is limited.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Facebook knocked Wal-Mart out of the top 10 most highly valued companies in the world yesterday.

—–

L.A.’s Crosscut Ventures Rounds Up $75 Million

L.A.’s startup ecosystem has more money today, thanks to Crosscut Ventures, a local, seven-year-old outfit that just closed its third fund with $75 million – considerably more than the $50 million was looking to raise when it hit the fundraising trail at the beginning of 2014.

Crosscut’s newest pool — whose investors include The James Irvine Foundation, Top Tier Capital, and numerous family offices — is also roughly five times the size of the firm’s second fund, which closed with $16 million in 2012. (The outfit collected just $5.1 million for its first, proof-of-concept, fund in 2008.)

Is it Crosscut, or L.A., or a combination of the two? We recently asked cofounder Brian Garrett, who cofounded Crosscut with fellow managing directors Rick Smith and Brett Brewer — all of whom are joined in the newest fund by managing director Clinton Foy, previously a venture partner. Our conversation has been been edited here for length.

You’ve just raised a lot of money, considering where you started seven years ago. How do you explain it?

A lot of it has to do with the general momentum of L.A. ecosystem. When [local VC] Mark Suster announced [his firm, Upfront Ventures’s]$280 million fund last year and hosted its [invite-only] Upfront Summit [in February], I think everyone became more aware of what’s happening here. I don’t think they’d thought it was a long-term or a sustainable [shift] until then.

There’s also a lack of competition relative to the opportunity here, and, more specific to us, there aren’t a lot of micro venture firms that have four managing directors – two of whom have 15 years of venture experience. [Editor’s note: Garrett and Smith were previously partners at Palomar Ventures.]

What are your biggest hits to date?

We’ve had seven exits out of 18 investments in our first fund, four of which produced 9x returns, including [the e-commerce site] ShoeDazzle. We sold our stake when late-stage investors were buying. We had local market knowledge about how competitive that market was getting. We also sold [the digital ad company] Pulpo Media to the public company Entravision for a 9x return; we sold [the e-document repository] Docstoc to Intuit for a 9x – we were the first money in. We also made another secondary sale that hasn’t yet been announced.

We’ve had two liquidity events in our second fund, too, with the sale of Lettuce to Intuit for a 4x, and the sale of Gradient X to Amobee [a mobile ad company acquired by SingTel in 2012] for 2x our investment.

You mention ShoeDazzle, which you’d funded when it was valued at less than $10 million. Sounds like you were smart to get out when you did, though did you the miss out on the chance to invest in founder Brian Lee’s next startup, The Honest Company?

We did. We were at the tail end of fund one and didn’t have a lot of money left, and some sharp-elbowed Silicon Valley VCs took the whole round. We definitely should have gotten money into Honest Company.

How do you view secondary sales generally? 

We look at them on a deal-by-by deal basis to evaluate whether to hold or sell. We have a stake now in a company whose valuation is similar to where ShoeDazzle’s was when we decided to sell, but we’re holding because we think it will be a multibillion-dollar company.

We look at the market landscape and who the buying audience will be and whether the next plateau of value creation is worth the risk it will take to achieve.

Where do you think it’s not worth the risk?

In ad tech, for example, we think you’re either first in a new category and you get a big exit via an acquisition from Google or Yahoo, or you’re in the walking dead zone, along with tons of other good, profitable ad tech businesses that no one wants to buy because it’s become so hard to defend any particular intellectual property or sustain a differentiation.

You were long juggling Crosscut with a startup you’d cofounded, a fashion and media platform called StyleSaint. Meanwhile, Brett was a senior VP of corporate development at the company Adknowledge. Are you both still doing double-time?

Brett and I are now full-time with the fund. Brett [quit Adknowledge] six months ago; I’ve been full time since August of last year, when I set out to raise the fund. I quickly realized I couldn’t wear both hats.

—–

New Fundings

>Alert Media, a two-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based emergency communication platform for interactive mass notification, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led by Silverton Partners, with participation from ATX Ventures and Capital Factory.

Appuri, a three-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based customer data platform, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Divergent Ventures, with participation from Baseline Ventures and Vulcan Capital. More here.

AtScale, a 1.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company whose software connects widely used business intelligence tools, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by UMC Capital, with participation from AME Cloud Ventures, and earlier backers Storm Ventures and XSeed Capital. The company has now raised $9 million altogether. More here.

BlaBlaCar, a nine-year-old, Paris-based carpooling platform, is looking to raise fresh funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion, reports Bloomberg. The company has so far raised $110 million investors, including Lead Edge CapitalAccel Partners, and Index Ventures.

Casper, the 1.5-year-old, New York-based online mattress retailer, has  raised $55 million in Series B venture funding, at a pre-money valuation of $555 million, according to Venture Capital Dispatch. Institutional Venture Partners led the round, joined by Scooter Braun, the Pritzker Family and celebrity investors. Earlier backers also participated, including Lerer Hippeau Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Norwest Venture Partners, Slow Ventures, SV Angel, Vaizra Investments and Queensbridge Venture.

Coravin, a four-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company whose device allows users to access and pour bottles of wine without pulling the cork (so as not to disturb the wine’s aging process), has raised $13.6 million in Series C-1 funding led by Windham Venture Partners, with participation from Quadrille Capital. The company has now raised $41.8 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Credit Karma, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that provides credit scores to users and serves as a portal for visitors to search and apply for various financial services, has raised $175 million at a $3.5 billion valuation from Tiger Global Management, Valinor Management and Viking Global Investors, reports TechCrunch. The company had previously raised $193 million over five rounds, shows Crunchbase. More here.

Currency Cloud, a three-year-old, London-based cross-border money transfer service, has raised $18 million in Series C funding led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from Rakuten and earlier backers Anthemis GroupAtlas Venture, Notion Capital, and XAnge Private Equity. More here.

DigitalGenius, a two-year-old, New York-based automated customer-service platform, has raised $3 million in funding led by Metamorphic Ventures, with participation from Lerer-Hippeau Ventures, Lowercase Capital, RRE Ventures and Lumia Capital.

Dollar Shave Club, the three-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based online seller of razors and other men’s grooming products, has raised $75 million in fresh funding less than a year after announcing its last, $50 million, round. Investors include Dragoneer, a growth-stage investment firm, as well as earlier backers Venrock, Technology Crossover Ventures, and Forerunner Ventures.

Dropoff, a year-old, Austin, Tex.-based on-demand, same-day delivery platform for businesses, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Greycroft Partners, with participation from Correlation Ventures, Texas Atlantic Capital, and Wild Basin Investments. More here.

Enigma, a four-year-old, New York-based data discovery and analytics company, has raised $28.2 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Two Sigma Ventures, New York City Investment Fund, and earlier backers American Express VenturesComcast Ventures and The New York Times Company.

Envoy, a San Francisco, Ca.-based maker of sign-in software for office visitors to register and check-in via an iPad-based system, has raised $15 million in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The company had previously raised $1.5 million in seed funding from angel investors, including Marc Benioff, Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan and Semil Shah (a StrictlyVC advisory board member). More here.

eWings, a two-year-old, Berlin-based maker of flight-booking software, has raised $1.2 million in funding led by High-Tech Grunderfonds, with participation from FSF Beteiligungs and Kima Ventures. More here.

Grand Rounds, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose service gives employees access to healthcare advice and treatment from professionals in the U.S. regardless of where they live, is being valued at roughly $750 million as part of a new financing round, according to TechCrunch. The company has so far raised $51 million, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Harrison MetalVenrock, and Greylock Partners.

Heal, a six-month-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based startup providing on-demand primary healthcare services (it was cofounded by serial entrepreneur Nick Desai), has raised $5 million in seed funding from Slow Ventures, March Capital, and Pritzker Group.

Jelli, a seven-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based platform for the audio advertising market, has raised $21 million in Series B funding from iHeartMediaUniversal Music Group, and earlier backers Relay Ventures, Intel Capital, and First Round Capital.

Koubei, an 11-year-old Hangzhou, China-based “dormant brand” under Alibaba Group Holding, is being revived by Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Financial, which are investing nearly $1 billion in a 50/50 joint venture under the Koubei name that they hope can tap China’s fast-growing local services market. (Instead of on-demand, they call the industry online-to-offline, or O2O.) The WSJ has much more here.

Olapic, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based startup that helps brands leverage user-generated images, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Felix Capital, with participation from Unilever Ventures, Fung Capital,Longworth Venture Partners, and serial entrepreneur Michael Lazerow.

OneSource Virtual, a 25-year-old, Irving, Tex.-based company that offers business process cloud-sourcing services, has raised $150 million in new equity funding led by Technology Crossover Ventures, with participation from earlier backer Halyard Capital. More here.

Portworx, a seven-month-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company that’s creating software-defined infrastructure for “containerized” applications, has raised $8.5 million in funding led by Mayfield Fund.

Senet, a six-year-old, Hudson, N.H.-based network services provider for low-cost, long-range Internet of Things applications, has raised $18 million in Series A funding from investors, including Fisk Ventures, Milestone Venture Partners, City Light Capital, and Harbor Light Capital Partners. More here.

Snowflake, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based data warehousing services company, has raised $45 million in Series C funding led by Altimeter Group, with participation from return backers Redpoint Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Wing Ventures.

Transphorm, an eight-year-old, Goleta, Ca.-based semiconductor company focused on power conversion technology, has raised $70 million in new funding led by KKR, with participation from earlier backers Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, Google Ventures, Soros Quantum Strategic Partners, INCJ and Fujitsu.

Uber, the six-year-old, San Francisco-based ride-hailing company, is raising money from Chinese fund manager Hillhouse Capital Group, and the deal nvolves purchasing bonds that will convert into shares at a discount to Uber’s IPO price. The WSJ has the story here.

Yotpo, a four-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that allows companies to generate social reviews for their e-commerce websites or products, has raised $15 million in funding led by Marker, with participation from Innovation Endeavors, Vintage Investment Partners, Blumberg Capital and Access Industries. The company has now raised around $28 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

—–

New Funds

New Leaf Venture Partners, a 10-year-old, New York-based, early-stage firm focused on life sciences, has raised a $200 million growth equity fund, says VentureWire.

Whitecap Venture Partners, a Toronto-based firm that began as the venture arm of a family office, has held a final close on its third fund, having received $100 million in commitments from its first outside LPs, including Kensington Venture Fund, Bank of Montreal, and several high net-worth families. Whitecap focuses on three verticals: information technology, med tech, and food tech.

—–
People

Slack founder Stewart Butterfield lashed out at the Wall Street Journal Sunday night, after an editorial in the paper said last week’s killing of nine people at a famous church in Charleston, South Carolina, was caused by a “problem that defies explanation.” Noting that the “problem” is systemic racism, Butterfield wrote in a series of angry tweets that “[a]cknowledging that we still have a very, very long way to go is literally the least anyone could do.”More here.

According to Twitter, there’s no way cofounder Jack Dorsey becomes its permanent CEO unless he quits his other company, Square.

Less than three months into the job as interim chief executive of Jay Z’s Swedish music streaming service, Tidal, Peter Tonstad has been fired. The company, privately owned by Jay Z and a consortium of artists, will be run by executives in New York and Oslo until a new CEO is in place, a company spokesperson tells the WSJ.

Where in the world Uber is hiring, and for what jobs (from our friends at Silk).

—–

Jobs

Breakout Labs, a Thiel Foundation venture fund, is looking to hire a portfolio manager. A background in science, health care or engineering is a plus. The job is in San Francisco.

—–

Essential Reads

Six massive shifts coming soon to power markets near you.

Same-day delivery company Instacart announced Monday that it had started to reclassify some of its giant workforce as part-time employees. More here.

According to recent market research, Facebook is on track to deliver two thirds as many video views in 2015 as YouTube does — two trillion versus YouTube’s three trillion. VentureBeat has more here.

North Dakota looks poised for a transformation thanks to the burgeoning drone industry.

—–

Detours

The difference between a supercar and hypercar (should it come up).

Nine ways to spot a liar.

The town that banned Wi-Fi.

—–

Retail Therapy

The You and Me Ping Pong Table. (You’d probably win some points for using this as a conference table.)