Hi, happy Monday, everyone! Hope you had a terrific weekend.
Connie is off searching for sea glass at the moment, but you’re in good hands with writer-investor Semil Shah, who is continuing to manage the column portion of the newsletter for the rest of this week. If you’d like to reach out to him, you can find him right here.
Top News in the A.M.
Early Friday morning, Business Insider noted that Twitter CFO Anthony Noto was the only senior exec who had bought stock in 2015. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Friday, Twitter cofounder and interim CEO Jack Dorsey decided to buy some shares, too.
Eek. The FAA says that crews on four different flights spotted a drone while on final approach into Newark, N.J., yesterday. The pilots didn’t need to take evasive maneuvers, but the agency says it’s seeing a growing number of close encounters.
Quick Chat with Anamitra Banerji of Foundation Capital
By Semil Shah
A number of early Twitter employees have landed at venture firms over the years. Think Mike Abbott, a former VP of engineering who is today a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Or Ryan Sarver, former director of platform at Twitter who is today a partner at Redpoint Ventures. Or, more recently, Jessica Verrilli, a former director or corporate development at Twitter who joined Google Ventures in late spring.
Anamitra Banerji, who spent two-and-a-half years as a product manager at Twitter, has also carved out a new career for himself as a venture capitalist after becoming a partner at the 20-year-old venture firm Foundation Capital in late 2012. (Earlier gigs include years of leading product development and marketing for Yahoo’s performance display ad product, and roles with Overture and Tata Consultancy Services.)
We recently talked with Banerji about his role at Foundation — which is currently raising up to $325 million for its eight fund, according to a months-old SEC filing — to see how things are going.
Two of your board seats are in NYC, and you’ve only been in VC a few years. How do you manage to stay engaged with them and live on the West Coast?
Great startups are being built outside of Silicon Valley all the time, especially in NYC and Boston. Some of these startups have been exceptionally successful – DoubleClick, Tumblr, and Etsy to name just a few. I am sure we will see iconic companies from the East Coast soon, too, and hopefully a few of them will be from our portfolio. But there’s no doubt that as a West Coast-based board member, the company-building effort on the East Coast is harder work with a greater board load.
A high degree of trust and communication is key to staying top of mind if you are not there in person. This means regular texts and calls with the CEOs and management. One of the things I used to do at Twitter is to send out a weekly email to everyone with three good and three bad things that happened during the week – just six brief bullets – to keep everyone posted on what’s going on. Some of our portfolio CEOs have adopted the same communication format, which increases the ambient intimacy I have with these remote companies.
Foundation seems to be hosting and organizing a lot more events throughout the week. Has that always been the case, or is this a conscious decision to be out in the community more?
We have always done function- and category-specific events aligned with areas of interest for my partners, such as design, fintech, marketing tech, and security. My focus has been consumer and product and our Product Minds Dinner series is part of that. We also brought on board Meg Sloan [who worked in business marketing at] Facebook, who is our VP of Marketing. Meg has been weaving her magic through the firm and our portfolio companies, and her focused efforts are adding fuel to the fire.
Your career has been consumer and ads, but you’ve made some SaaS investments, too. How do you prepare for these new areas as a VC?
I started my career as an engineer, and then switched to product management – at Overture, Yahoo and Twitter. When it comes to new investment opportunities, I operate from a product primitive, irrespective of the category. When it comes to the SaaS companies that I am involved with, I have found two things very compelling about them. First, the products themselves behave like consumer products, meaning they’re sticky and easy to use, and second, the focus of the go-to-market is the ground war as opposed to the air war, meaning they’re selling to the rank and file instead of selling to suits.
Twitter continues to dominate headlines. You were a very early employee. If you were to return to the company, what would be three things you’d love to see and why?
I was fortunate to be the first product manager at the company and started advertising products and the revenue team. When I was interviewing we were around 20 people; by the time I joined we were 25. I continue to be a heavy user of the product, and an advocate for the company and the phenomenon that’s Twitter. The company is [making strides]. Incremental product releases have accelerated. Experimentation has accelerated. [Yet] I think the time has come for Twitter to make bolder product moves. Incremental improvements and experimentation is not enough.
C1X, a year-old, California City, Ca.-based online ad tech company, has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding led by University of Tokyo Edge Capital, with participation from Innovative Venture Fund (the joint fund of NEC and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank), Mobile Internet Capital, the Japanese media company Mynavi, ad agencies and angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.
Edaixi, a two-year-old, Beijing, China-based on-demand laundry service, has reportedly raised $100 million in new funding led by Baidu, with participation from earlier investors Matrix Partners and SIG China, which had led a $20 million Series A funding late last year. China Money Network has more here.
Kensho, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based financial startup that’s combining natural language search queries, graphical user interfaces, and secure cloud computing to create analytics tools for investment professionals, has quietly raised $47.8 million in fresh funding, shows a new SEC filing. The company had previously raised $25 million across two rounds, from investors that include Goldman Sachs, Accel Partners, Breyer Capital, General Catalyst Partners, Google Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. More here.
Rebagg, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based online resell marketplace for designer handbags, has raised $4 million in seed funding from General Catalyst Partners, Metamorphic Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Founder Collective, Big Sur Ventures-Necotium and FJ Labs. TechCrunch has more here.
Suning Appliance, a 25-year-old, Nanjing, China-based brick-and-mortar retailing giant that sells electronics, has struck a deal with online retail giant Alibaba that will see the latter invest around $4.63 billion in Suning’s business for a 19.9 percent stake. Meanwhile, Suning will invest $2.28 billion to take a 1.1 percent stake in Alibaba. The two companies have agreed to more closely tie together their logistics services, too. TechCrunch has more here.
Snobswap, a two-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based luxury online marketplace focused around consignment boutiques, has reportedly raised more than $1 million in seed funding from investors including Dingman Angels, NextLevel Management, and Simplepitch Ventures. The company had previously raised $700,000 in seed funding. More here.
Super Evil Megacorp, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based maker of competitive video games, including the online battle arena video game “Vainglory,” has raised $26 million in funding led by Index Ventures. Yuri Milner, Jim Breyer, and Korea Investment Partners, also participated in the funding. Dealbook has more here.
The publicly traded laser tools company Coherent in Santa Clara, Ca., has acquired the assets of two companies for $9.3 million, according to a local outlet. One of those companies is Richmond, Ca.-based Tinsley Optics, a maker of specialty optics and subsystems that was part of L-3 Communications. The other is Petaluma, Ca.-based Raydiance, an 11-year-old company that makes fast-pulse lasers that are used in the production of automotive and medical devices. Raydiance had raised more than $67 million from investors, shows Crunchbase, including DFJ Growth and Samsung Ventures.
Ifty Ahmed, the Connecticut venture capitalist accused of insider trading and defrauding his former firm, Oak Investment Partners, spent all of June and much of July in an India prison, according to new court documents uncovered by Fortune. According to its report, Ahmed appears to have fled the country in May, and was arrested and detained by India’s immigration service on May 22; he was held in prison until being released on bond on July 23. Details around why aren’t yet known.
Webvan founder Louis Borders is back with plans to develop a $99-a-year shopping club that aims to deliver groceries and other merchandise from partnering retailers on the same day they are ordered. He tells Recode about it here.
Chris Evans, a former security analyst for Oracle who joined Google a decade ago and rose through the ranks to head up security for its Google Chrome browser, is leaving the search giant to become Tesla’s head of security, he announced last week. (H/T: Fortune.)
Eric Greenberg: Once (and future?) internet billionaire. (You’ll remember him if you lived through the last bubble.)
The venture firm Social+Capital Partnership plans to invest more than $1 billion in India by 2025. More here.
Zynga has ended litigation that accused it of defrauding shareholders about its business prospects before and after going public in 2011. The company said it’s paying out a $23 million settlement that its insurers are funding.The lawsuit was led by a shareholder who accused the gaming company of hiding declining user activity, and of downplaying the impact of changes in Facebook’s platform on its games. More here.
AOL is looking for a senior corporate development manager. The job is in New York.
eBay is looking for a corporate development director. The job is in San Jose, Ca.
Glassdoor is looking for a senior communications person. The job is in Mill Valley, Ca.
For good or bad, the percentage of up rounds reached more than 93 percent during the second quarter, according to an analysis by the law firm Cooley of its 134 disclosable deals during the period. The industry hasn’t seen so many up rounds in more than six years, it says. You can find its full second-quarter report here.
What states are doing to woo the autonomous-care industry.
Android manufacturers are in a price war against one another. Here’s how bad it’s getting.
Facebook risks alienating two groups it needs to establish itself as a next-generation video platform. More on what’s going on here.
Tesla loses more than $4,000 on every car it sells.
Science can tell if you’re a jerk by the shape of your face.
Predicting “Game of Thrones” season six story lines using shoot locations.
Gazebox. Hah. Let’s see what your neighbors think about this one.