Hi, happy Wednesday, everyone! We have a slightly abbreviated version of the newsletter today. Between celebrating a certain 8-year-old’s birthday and watching yet another incredible NBA Final’s game last night, we were offline much of yesterday.
On a separate note, we’ve heard from a number of you who’ve been finding your copy of StrictlyVC in spam. We’ve talked with our new email service provider about it, and the best advice it can offer is to a.) unmark the email as spam when you find it in the deepest recesses of your digital junk mail and b.) add our email address to your contact list. (We’ll be over here, cursing at Gmail, in the meantime.)
Top News in the A.M.
Chinese web giant Baidu will reportedly launch its first driverless car in the second half of this year, with the help of an unnamed car manufacturer. Worth noting: Baidu owns a stake in Uber, which also looks to be aggressively pushing into autonomous driving technologies. The BBC has the story here.
That Spotify round is official. According to the WSJ, which reported in April that the music-streaming company was assembling another huge financing, Spotify just closed on $526 million in funding that values the company at $8.5 billion — twice the valuation of its publicly traded rival Pandora. (Both companies operate at a loss). Spotify’s new investors include a wide range of investors, including British asset managers Baillie Gifford, Landsdowne Partners and Rinkelberg Capital; Canadian hedge funds Senvest Capital and Discovery Capital Management; Nordic telecom operator TeliaSonera; and U.S. investors Halcyon Asset Management, GSV Capital, D.E. Shaw & Co., TCV, Northzone, P. Schoenfeld Asset Management, and Goldman Sachs. Founded nine years ago, Spotify has now raised $1.1 billion altogether.
Arrowlytics, a year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based company whose online analytics dashboard helps healthcare organizations by pulling data from their various platforms nightly into one system, has raised $3 million in funding led by Surgical Care Affiliates. More here.
Duolingo, a 3.5-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based free language education platform, has raised $45 million in new funding led by Google Capital in a round that values the company at $470 million. Duolingo had previously raised $38.3 million across three rounds, including from Union Square Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Business Insider has more here.
Fetchr, a three-year-old, Dubai-based, Shyp-like company that picks up and delivers mail and other packages to customers in the Middle East (where not everyone has a street address), has just raised $11 million in Series A funding. New Enterprise Associates led the round, with participation from Triple Point Capital, Ben Narasin, Delta Partners, and Dhabi Holdings, among others. VentureBeat has more here.
Melinta Therapeutics, a 15-year-old, New Haven, Ct.-based company that develops and commercializes antibiotics to overcome drug-resistant infections, has raised $67 in funding led by Malin Corporation, with participation from earlier backer Vatera Healthcare Partners. The company has now raised roughly $280 million altogether, according to Crunchbase data. Previous investors include Warburg Pincus, ABS Ventures, and Oxford Bioscience Partners, among many others.
PAX Labs, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of vaporizers (the kind you inhale instead of smoking cigarettes), has raised $46.7 million in new funding from Fidelity Management & Research Company, Sivia Capital and earlier backers Tao Capital Partners and Sand Hill Angels, among others. TechCrunch has more here.
Spreemo, a five-year-old, New York-based health-care software company that focuses on workers’ compensation specialty benefits management, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Pamplona Capital Management.
SumUp, a three-year-old, Berlin-based mobile payments startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by Swiss backer Venture Incubator that brings its total funding to $45 million (€40 million), it tells TechCrunch. The company’s earlier investors include Tengelmann Ventures, Groupon, andBBVA Ventures. More here.
Tile, a 2.5-year-old San Mateo, Ca.-based maker of a location-tracking device and app that helps users find items that are lost, has raised $3 million more in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures. The company has now raised $13 million in Series A funding altogether, including from GGV Capital, AME Cloud Ventures, Slow Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, and Tandem Capital, among others. Altogether, the company has now raised $18.8 million, shows Crunchbase.
Twist Bioscience, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that helps scientists create chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other products using synthetic biology, has raised $37 million in Series C funding led by publicly tradedIllumina, with participation from Fidelity Management & Research, Foresite Capital Management and earlier backers ARCH Venture Partners, Paladin Capital Group and Tao Invest. The company has now raised $82.1 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.
Volta Industries, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that designs, installs, and maintains electrical charging stations in five cities, including San Francisco and L.A., has raised $7.5 million in funding: $4.5 million in equity financing led by Three Bridges Ventures and a $3 million financing facility from SQN Capital. More about the company here.
Voonik, a two-year-old, Bangalore, India-based e-commerce platform that features the clothing and jewelry merchandise of numerous stores, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from earlier backer Seedfund. The company has now raised $5.5 million to date.
WalkMe, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose cloud-based service aims to help professionals guide and engage prospects and customers and complete online tasks, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from earlier backers Gemini Israel Ventures, Giza Venture Capital and Scale Venture Partners. The company has now raised $42.5 million altogether, shows Crunchbase data.
High Alpha, a new, Indianapolis, Ind.-based venture studio focused on conceiving, launching, and scaling new enterprise cloud companies, has raised $35 million from investors, including Emergence Capital, Greenspring Associates, Hyde Park Venture Partners and numerous angel investors. The company’s partners include Scott Dorsey, cofounder and former CEO of ExactTarget (which sold to Salesforce for $2.5 billion in 2013); Mike Fitzgerald, ExactTarget’s former EVP of corporate development and cofounder of Gravity Ventures; Eric Tobias, founder and CEO of iGoDigital (which sold to ExactTarget); and Kristian Andersen, founder of Studio Science and cofounder of Gravity Ventures.
Intel Capital yesterday took the wraps off a new fund that’s investing in tech startups run by women and underrepresented minorities. The Intel Capital Diversity Fund will commit $125 million to startups across a broad spectrum of industries, and it’s being led by Intel Capital managing director Lisa Lambert. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here. The fund has already made four investments, including Brit + Co, a San Francisco-based media and e-commerce platform. (We talked briefly with founder Brit Morin earlier this week about that new round.)
OurCrowd, a early three-year-old, Jerusalem-based global equity crowdfunding platform, has launched a specialized $10 million early-stage fund focusing exclusively on seed-stage startups. The minimum investment is fixed at $50,000 for accredited investors while the fund will provide up to $500,000 for a select group of companies.
AOL has acquired a predictive analytics startup called Velos for an undisclosed amount, shutting down the startup’s service in the process. VentureBeat has more here.
Online measurement and advertising company Quantcast has hired a new CFO: Stephen Collins, former CEO at Bazaarvoice, reports TechCrunch. He replaces Peter Kuipers, who joined Quantcast at the end of last year from The Weather Company. Quantcast says Kuipers “has left the company to pursue other opportunities.”
Indian e-commerce company Snapdeal has hired former Yahoo exec Anand Chandrasekaran as its chief product officer. According to the WSJ, Chandrasekaran will be working with Snapdeal’s roughly 1,000 software engineers, a group that’s expected to double in the next year as it increasingly focuses on improving Snapdeal’s mobile application, which now accounts for 75 percent of its sales.
Being a billionaire isn’t as easy as it looks, Jack Ma suggested in a talk at the Economic Club of New York this week. The Alibaba founder and executive chairman, whose stake in the company is currently valued at roughly $37 billion, told attendees: “If you have less than $1 million, you know how to spend the money.” Once you become a billionaire, you’re expected to spend your wealth to benefit “society.” The New York Post has more here.
Orix, the financial services giant, is looking to hire a managing director into its venture group. The job is in San Francisco.
A simmering battle between the “unicorn” HR benefits company Zenefits and payroll giant ADP became public yesterday when Zenefits took to its site to tell those of its customers who are paid through ADP that ADP has been systematically deactivating Zenefits accounts that those small businesses had expressly set up. In a statement, ADP attributed its move to Zenefits “pulling sensitive information, including unmasked Social Security numbers and employee banking information, in a manner that did not comply with ADP’s standards for data security.” TechCrunch has more here.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has asked the federal government for permission to begin testing a project that would see a constellation of 4,000 small, cheap satellites beam high-speed Internet signals to all parts of the world. It “would be like rebuilding the Internet in space,” Musk has said. The Washington Post has more here.
The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut have been quietly investigating Apple‘s negotiations with music companies in search of potential antitrust violations. (So has the European Commission.) The New York Times has the story here.
The Apple Watch: a break-up story.
Sixteen ways you’re using LinkedIn wrong.
Jerry Seinfeld is tired of political correctness.
“This Friday, June 12, will be my last day at Yelp. I don’t intend to look for another tech job.”
Unusual homes around the world.
The D’Hauteville Concrete Chair. Cool. Also conducive for short meetings.