Monthly Archives: September 2015

StrictlyVC: September 30, 2015

Hi, all, happy Wednesday! We are racing off to an aquarium with 22 six-year-olds, but we’ll see you back here (bedraggled, we’re guessing) tomorrow.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Erm. Some Mercedes, BMW and Peugeot models consume around 50 percent more fuel than official results, a new study reveals.

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AboutLife Raises $3 Million Series A from Kleiner

There’s no shortage of services trying to drive traditional financial planners into extinction. Think Wealthfront, Personal Capital, Betterment and Intuit-owned Mint.com, among them.

Today, another company personal finance tools company is publicly joining the fray: aboutLife, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based eight-person startup that quietly raised $3 million in Series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers some time ago.

Founder and CEO Rajat Kongovi — a former project leader at Boston Consulting Group who later served as COO of the social network hi5 — says he decided to create the company after having his second daughter a few years ago.

More here.

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New Fundings

Avant, a three-year-old, Chicago-based online marketplace for consumer loans, is raising $325 million in new equity funding at a valuation well north of $1 billion, reports Fortune. General Atlantic is lead the round, with participation from Balyasny Asset Management and earlier backers Tiger Global Management, August Capital, RRE Ventures and DFJ Growth. More here.

Adyen, a nine-year-old, Amsterdam-based multichannel payment company that outsources payment services to international merchants (customers include Facebook, Uber and Netflix), has raised an undisclosed amount of new funding from Iconiq Capital that values the company at $2.3 billion. TechCrunch has more here.

Base CRM a nearly six-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based sales platform, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Tenaya Capital, with participation from return backers, including Index Ventures. More here.

BeneStream, a four-year-old, New York-based company that moves qualified employees onto free government health insurance, has added $2 million to a previously closed Series A round from BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners and Sandbox Advantage Fund. The round total is now $6.26 million.

Credible, a three-year-old, San Francisco-base multi-lender marketplace for student loans, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Soul Htite, founder and CEO of Dianrong.com and cofounder of LendingClub; with participation from Prosper president Ron Suber; and investor Scott Langmack. TechCrunch has more here.

Farmigo, a six-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based online consumer marketplace that invites users to order farm-fresh groceries, then pick them up from local “food communities” like nearby schools or offices, has raised $16 million in new funding led by Formation 8, with participation from earlier backers Benchmark Capital and Sherbrooke Capital. Farmigo has now raised a total of $26 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Ibotta, a four-year-old, Denver, Co.-based mobile savings app, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by billionaire Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape. TechCrunch has more here.

InfoWorks, a year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based automated big data management company, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from Knoll VenturesMore here.

Nuzzel, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that allows users to see the news that their friends share, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from a long list of new investors, including Matter, the media-focused startup accelerator and fund backed by Knight Foundation; Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal; Arturo Duran, managing partner at IVA Ventures, and Craig Forman, partner at NextNews Ventures. Nuzzel had previously raised roughly $3.4 million from investors, shows CrunchBase data.

Origami Logic, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based marketing data analytics platform, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Next World Capital, with participation from DAG Ventures and return backers Accel PartnersIcon Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company has now raised $49.3 million in total funding altogether.

PaperG, a seven-year-old, New Haven, Cn.-based company whose dashboard matches the creative content of advertisements to various ad formats, has raised $5 million in new funding from KLP EnterpriseWavemaker PartnersWI Harper Group and AppNexus CEO Brian O’KelleyMore here.

PhageTech, a 1.5-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based maker of biosensors for the early detection of cancers, has raised $2.4 million in Series A funding co-led by Mark IV Capital and Black River InvestmentsMore here.

ShopFully, a five-year-old, Italy-based app that helps drive consumers to physical retail stores via the digital equivalent of paper fliers, has raised €10 million ($11.1 million) from Highland Capital Partners. The company has now raised €20 million ($22.3 million) altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Swarm64, a three-year-old, Berlin-based company whose technology powers cloud-based computing, like real-time analytics and games, has raised € 7.1 million ($7.9 million) in new funding from Alliance VentureTarget Partners and InvestinorMore here.

Teridion, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based cloud-based networking company that aims to delivers a super-fast internet experience, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from JVPMagma Venture Partners and Singtel Innov8. The company has now raised $20 million altogether. More here.

Therachon, a Nice, France-based biotechnology company aiming to treat achondroplasia, a genetic disease that is the leading cause of dwarfism in children, has raised $35 million in Series A funding. OrbiMed led the round, with participation from New Enterprise Associates and earlier backers Inserm Transfert Initiative and Versant Ventures. More here.

Triplebyte, an eight-month-old, San Francisco-based technical recruiting platform for Y Combinator startups, has raised $3 million in funding from Initialized Capital, Caffeinated Capital, SV Angel, Felicis Ventures and more than a dozen individual angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Tru Optik, a 2.5-year-old. Stamford, Cn.-based digital media audience intelligence company, has raised $1.7 million in funding from Progress Ventures and Alex Blum. More here.

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People

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said yesterday that Google is open to self-driving cars that can also be driven manually. “[I] think there’s always going to be pleasure in being able to hit the open road and enjoy that.” He then stressed that humans are the most unsafe part of driving and that the company’s intends to largely remove humans from the process.

Instacart, the three-year-old, grocery delivery startup – which hit “unicorn” status late last year when it raised $220 million at a reported $2 billion valuation – has hired a CFO for the first time in Ravi Gupta, long of KKR. More here.

Elon Musk says Tesla cars will reach 620 miles on a single charge “within a year or two,” and be fully autonomous in “three years.”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden joined Twitter yesterday.

The Syfy channel has pulled “Bazillion Dollar Club” from its schedule one week after it premiered, reports the Silicon Valley Business Journal. The show, starring 500 Startups’ founding partner Dave McClure and Highway1 Vice President Brady Forrest, was scheduled to run six weeks. (The show joins a surprisingly long list of shows canceled after one episode.)

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Data

The research firm Tractica is forecasting that the enterprise VR market will grow from $114 million last year to more than $4.5 billion by 2020. More here.

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Essential Reads

YouTube will soon let you buy stuff you see in anyone’s videos.

How Google changed the smart phone: a deep history of the Nexus phone.

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Detours

Cloning your dog, for a mere $100,000.

Inside Japan’s disposable housing market.

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Retail Therapy

$1,800 Gucci slippers that are reportedly “selling out like crazy.” (Oh, people.)

And, this is interesting: the Skarp Laser Razor.


StrictlyVC: September 29, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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Top News in the A.M.

Amazon is building its own Postmates. It’s called Amazon Flex. More here.

At Apple, your trust means everything, the company reminds in an informational update to its privacy policy. The Washington Post breaks down what’s behind the update here.

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Early-Stage Investors Apply the Brakes

In June, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures penned a widely read post using data from the law firm Cooley that showed, in Wilson’s words, that seed and Series A deals were “more or less healthy” while Series B deals were “getting overheated” and Series C and later deals had “gone crazy.”

Something appears to be changing, suggests new data from the market research company Pitchbook. Seed and Series A deals aren’t just healthy. They’re slowing down. A lot.

Based on Pitchbook’s numbers, investors poured $1.95 billion into early-stage startups across 115 deals in the second quarter. As of Friday, we’ve seen just $300 million invested across 66 deals in the third quarter, and there isn’t much time left. The quarter ends tomorrow.

There could be numerous factors leading investors to taper off their deal-making. The Federal Reserve will probably raise interest rates before year end, which could spur newer startup investors to look for more certain returns in fixed income or dividend-paying stocks and turn them off to riskier private-market investing.

China’s rocky market — which unexpectedly if briefly dragged U.S. markets down, too, in late August — could be playing a role, too.

As VC Brian O’Malley of Accel Partners told us in the immediate aftermath of that frightening nosedive, the current market has grown “scary. We have a lot of investments in companies that are going to need to raise money, and I think there are starting to be enough signals from the global markets that, at some point, it has to impact the private side.”

More here, including Pitchbook’s new spreadsheet.

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New Fundings

Acquia, an eight-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company whose software helps customers build and operate websites based on Drupal, an open-source software program  created by Acquia’s CTO, Dries Buytaert, has raised $55 million from undisclosed investors. The company has now raised $189 million altogether. BetaBoston has more here.

Apitope, a 13-year-old, Cardiff, England-based drug discovery and development company focused on treating the underlying cause of autoimmune diseases, has raised €12 million ($13.5 million) in Series B funding led by new investor Wales Life Sciences Fund. Earlier backers Vesalius BiocapitalLRM, PMV and Wyvern also participated in the round. More here.

Civitas Learning, a 4.5-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company that makes analytic software and services for universities to help them better engage with students and graduate more students, has raised $60 million in Series D funding led by Warburg Pincus. Other investors in the round include Austin Ventures, Gera Venture Capital, Emergence Capital Partners, Rethink Education and SJF Ventures. Silicon Hills has more here.

Corvus Pharmaceuticals, a 1.5-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based immuno-oncology startup, has raised $75 million in Series B funding, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Silicon Valley Business Journal. Prior to this round, the company had raised $33.5 million in Series A funding led by OrbiMed Advisors, with participation from Adams Street Partners and Novo Ventures. More here.

Exabeam, a two-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that specializes in user behavior analytics for security, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Icon Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Aspect Ventures, investor Shlomo Kramer, and Norwest Venture Partners. The company has now raised $35 million altogether. More here.

Madison Reed, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that delivers hair care products and helps users maintain their color without going to the salon, has raised $16.1 million in Series C funding from Comcast Ventures and Shea Ventures, along earlier backers Norwest Venture Partners and True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Medium, the four-year-old, San Francisco-based publishing platform started by Twitter cofounders Ev Williams and Biz Stone, has raised $57 million in new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Google Ventures, Greylock Partners, Obvious Ventures, The Chernin Group, and numerous angel investors. Recode has more here.

Paytm, a five-year-old, Noida, India-based mobile payments and e-commerce business, has reportedly sold a 20 percent stake in its business to Alibaba and Ant Financial, the Chinese firm’s financial services affiliate, for $680 million. The stake adds to an existing position in the company held by Ant Financial, which reportedly purchased 25 percent of the company for $575 million back in February. The Economic Times has more here.

PepperTap, a nine-month-old, Gurgaon, India-based grocery delivery service in India, has raised $36 million in new funding led by Snapdeal, the India-based Amazon rival that is backed by Alibaba. Other participants in the round include Sequoia India, SAIF Partners, Ru-net, JAFCO, and BeeNext. According to TechCrunch, PepperTap, which has now raised roughly $47 million over three rounds altogether, is looking to expand this new financing by an additional $20 million. More here.

Simppler, a 10-month-old, Bay Area-based social intranet for employee communications that’s built entirely on the Salesforce platform, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Greylock Partners, Correlation Ventures and zParks Capital. Vator has the story here.

Tanium, an eight-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based cyber security startup that can detect and fix enterprise threats in seconds, has raised another $30 million in funding from Franklin Templeton and Geodesic Partners. The company, which was funded exclusively by Andreessen Horowitz for a while, has now raised a total of $301.5 million. Fortune has the scoop here.

Thumbtack, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based company that handles marketing and job listings for professionals like yoga instructors and electricians, has raised $125 million in new funding led by the Scottish money management firm Baillie Gifford. Earlier backers Tiger Global ManagementGoogle Capital and Sequoia Capital also participated in the round, which reportedly valued company at about $1.3 billion. The New York Times has the story here. (If you missed it, Thumbtack founder and CEO Marcos Zappacosta spoke at a StrictlyVC event back in May and had some interesting things to say about his market.)

UBeam, the four-year-old, L.A.-based wireless power startup whose technology employs ultrasound transmitters to transfer electric charges to multiple devices over a distance of up to around 15 feet, has raised $10 million in funding via an uncapped convertible note from current and new strategic investors, reports TechCrunch. Investors include L.A. lawyer and dealmaker Ken Hertz, Twitter VP of global media Katie Jacobs Stanton, former lead partner of General Atlantic Pat Hedley, and Ari Emanuel’s WME Ventures. Much more here.

Urgent.ly, a two-year-old, Sterling, Va.-based on-demand roadside assistance app, has raised $7 million in funding from Allianz Digital Corporate Ventures, Verizon Ventures and Forte Ventures. More here.

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IPOs

MyoKardia, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that uses genetic targeting to treat rare forms of heart failure known as heritable cardiomyopathies, has filed an S-1. The company has raised roughly $100 million from investors; its biggest shareholders include Third Rock Ventures, which owns 52.7 percent of the company; Fidelity, which owns 13.2 percent; and Aventis, which owns 11.2 percent.

China might have closed its equity market to IPOs, but the shutdown has helped sustain dealmaking between Chinese companies, observes the Financial Times. So far this year, China has accounted for more than half of all M&A in the Asia-Pacific region — a record $496 billion worth of deals out of Asia-Pacific’s $905 billion total.

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Exits

German media giant Axel Springer is acquiring the online business news publication Business Insider, spending some $343 million for 88 per cent of BI’s shares. Axel Springer already had a stake of around 9 percent in the business, notes TechCrunch. BI had raised roughly $55 million from investors. CrunchBase breaks down who bought in and when here.

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People

Momentum is reportedly growing for Jack Dorsey to become Twitter‘s permanent CEO. Yesterday, Justin Dini, a spokesman for Rizvi Traverse Management (once Twitter’s largest single shareholder), said Rizvi is “highly confident in Jack’s ability to serve as C.E.O. of both” Twitter and Square, the payments company that Dorsey cofounded and is also leading. The New York Times has the story here.

Pierre Omidyar, who co-founded online giant eBay, has just given 10 percent of his stock in the online auction company, worth an estimated $269 million, to undisclosed charities, according to an S.E.C. filing. Pacific Business News has more here.

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Essential Reads

Airbnb is expected to double its nightly bookings this year, investors familiar with the company’s performance tell Reuters, with 80 million nights booked this year, up from about 40 million in 2014.

Google is trying to make its cars drive more like humans. (Of course, it’d have to install a middle finger if it really wants the cars to drive humanistically.)

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Detours

When schools overlook introverts.

It pays to be a programmer, especially in these six U.S. cities.

Inside the Tesla factory.

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Retail Therapy

The Sonos Play:5 and Trueplay, shipping later this year.

Emory Motorsports Porsches. Rawrr.


StrictlyVC: September 28, 2015

Hi, and welcome back, lovely and talented readers; hope you had a wonderful weekend.

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Top News in the A.M.

Five things to expect at Google‘s big event tomorrow.

Facebook introduced a slate of new advertising products yesterday, most of which are aimed at luring TV advertisers onto the social network.

Apple just announced that it has sold 13 million iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus devices over its first weekend. It’s a new record for the company, which sold 10 million units last year and 9 million units in 2013.

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Steve Jurvetson on DFJ, Elon Musk, and the Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor

Steve Jurvetson is widely recognized as among the smartest people in Silicon Valley, which is saying something. He graduated from Stanford at the top of his class in two-and-a-half years. He hangs out with people like Google cofounder Larry Page (and keeps up with them). As a venture capitalist, he may also have more billion-dollar bets to his name than anyone else, including Hotmail, Kana Communications, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX.

Put another way, when Jurvetson has something to say, it’s typically worth listening. And Jurvetson had plenty to say at StrictlyVC’s most recent San Francisco event, held the week before last. Some of what we discussed with him there follows, edited for length.

On whether he’s still “rolling up his sleeves” 20 years into an already highly lucrative career:

“I love what I do. I love to learn,” he offered. Juverston went on to say that he’s as busy as he’s ever been and sits on 10 boards, though he “pulled back” for a month or two this past summer to “get my head around the sheer number of things I’m involved with.”

On whether Jurvetson might strike out on his own after all these years, a la Jim Breyer of Accel and others:

“To what end? One reason to do that would be that you’re frustrated with your partners and you can’t stand going to work. That’d be a good reason to leave. The other would be if you think you can do better on your own than with a group. That’s where I think the most profound personal growth and learning for me has occurred.  Through much of my career, I just thought of [anyone with a different thinking style] as deviant. Just not good for the world. It was like, Why are you here? And it didn’t occur to me that that was an unusual point of view. And if I fast-forward today and . . . I’ve actually come to respect the most irritatingly challenging people I’ve worked with as really valuable in improving group decision-making and what to do and what to invest in. Bottom line is: I wouldn’t want to leave and do my own thing, because I wouldn’t attract those kinds of people as easily, and what’s the point? If I’m going to just recreate the diverse team I have already, why would I do that?”

On what Elon Musk – who Jurvetson has known for more than 15 years — is like (and whether he listens to his investors):

“I also worked for Steve Jobs [at his computer company, NeXT] and I see some similarities. Yes, he listens. Unlike Jobs, he’s more engineering-centric than marketing centric, though both are very detailed product architects who have this visceral agitation with imperfection. They just need a product to be perfect.

Elon has a reputation for having strong opinions and sometimes insisting on things . . . and yet, he really respects and needs a team that can execute. So he doesn’t suffer fools. So there are number of folks who are no longer with these companies and face this cognitive dissonance [of] ‘ If I [was with] this A-plus organization and I’m no longer there, there must be something wrong with me.’ And so there are some detractors. There’s a perception that he’s hard. But in board meetings and such, he listens, he’s fascinating, he has incredible insights . . . and he will change his point of view in the face of evidence. He also loves to and just seems to get almost visceral enjoyment  in veering off topic and brainstorming about things like: do we live in a simulation.

Much more (and it’s an interesting conversation) here.

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New Fundings

Collibra, a seven-year-old, Brussels-based automated data management company, has raised $23 million in funding from Index Ventures and earlier backer Dawn Capital. SiliconAngle has more here.

DoveConviene, a five-year-old, Milan, Italy-based platform for digital catalogues and leaflets, has raised  €10 million ($11.2 million) in Series C funding. The round was led by Highland Capital Partners Europe, with participation from earlier backers Principia SGR, 360 Capital Partners and Merifin Capital. More here.

Kreditech, a 3.5-year-old, Hamburg, Germany-based company that’s building a suite of credit and banking products for consumers who have little or no credit history, has raised €82.5 million ($92 million) in Series C funding led by the private equity firm J.C. Flowers, with participation from Peter ThielAmadeus Capital Partners and earlier backers Värde Partners, HPE Growth Capital and Blumberg Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Netsertive, a 6.5-year-old, Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based digital marketing intelligence platform, has raised $2.7 million in equity funding, according to an SEC filing. Earlier investors include RRE Ventures, Harbert Venture Partners and Greycroft Partners. More here.

Ometria, a two-year-old, London-based customer insight and marketing platform developed specifically for retailers, has raised $2.5 million in funding led by Inventure Partners, with participation from Force Over Mass Capital and earlier backer SaatchInvest, along with numerous angel investors. The company has now raised $5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Paintzen, a two-year-old, New York-based company whose on-demand app allows users to book next-day interior or exterior painting for a home, office or store, has raised $7.2 million in Series A funding led by Bullpen Capital. The company, a graduate of the Angelpad accelerator, had previously raised $1.8 million in seed funding. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Tessemae’s All Natural, a six-year-old, Baltimore-based condiment company, has raised $5 million in funding led by Sagamore Ventures, with participation from Plank Industries (the private investment outfit of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank); and Baltimore-based War Horse, a real estate development firm started by Plank’s big brother, Scott Plank.

UE LifeSciences, a six-year-old Philadelphia, Pa.-based health technology developer, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Aarin Capital, with participation from Unitus Seed Fund.

Walker & Company Brands, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose flagship product, Bevel, is a shaving system aimed to reduce razor bumps and irritation in men with coarse hair, has raised $24 million in Series B funding led by Institutional Venture Partners. Others of the many participants in the round, include Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront VenturesDaher Capital, Collaborative Fund, Google Ventures, Felicis VenturesMelo7 Tech Partners and individual investors Earvin “Magic” JohnsonJohn Legend, Andre Iguodala, and John Maeda. The company also announced today that it has signed a deal with Target to sell Bevel at select Target stores and on Target.com.

Wheels Up, a two-year-old, New York-based membership-only luxury airline, has raised $115 million in funding led by T. Rowe Price at a $540 million post-money valuation. Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter previously founded Marquis Jet, a private aviation company acquired in 2010 by NetJets, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. The WSJ has the story here.
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IPOs

Can Jack Dorsey lead two publicly traded companies? A new Fortune report suggests we might find out soon. According to its sources, Square will file its S-1 this week or next.

Business-software tools maker Atlassian, valued most recently at more than $3 billion, has filed for an IPO and expects to debut on the U.S. markets before the end of the year, according to the WSJ.

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Exits

Rentrak, a publicly traded, Portland, Ore.-based company whose platform measures movies and TV viewing, has acquired SponsorHub, a New York-based big data platform for the sports and entertainment industry. The amount of the deal was not disclosed. SponsorHub had raised two rounds of seed funding, shows CrunchBase. Its investors included Quotidian Ventures,Esther Dyson, and Barry Silbert.

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People

Activist investor Carl Icahn says he’s releasing a video at midnight tonight (presumably EST) to wake up people to the “critical matters” that “we need to be far more aware of.” (CNBC interprets this as economic catastrophe.)

Buzzfeed reports on the “journey of Adam Goldenberg and his longtime partner, Don Ressler, from the murky fringes of internet marketing to the pinnacle of paper wealth in Silicon Valley.” Goldenberg and Ressler cofounded the online fashion company JustFab, and Buzzfeed asserts that the “ugly hallmarks” of their previous businesses live on in their now five-year-old company, which has raised more than $250 million from investors, including Technology Crossover Ventures and Matrix Partners.

Ozy drops in on the San Francisco offices of First Round Capital to spend time with Rob Hayes, the “guy who sniffed out Uber first.”

Jeffrey Leventhal, a cofounder of Work Market, a five-year-old, New York-based marketplace for managing contractors and freelancers (it’s backed by Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures), has joined BOLDstart Ventures as a venture partner. BOLDstart, as many of you will know, is a four-year-old, seed-stage venture fund that largely focuses on enterprise companies in New York.

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Essential Reads

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Silicon Valley over the weekend, and extracted some promises in the process. Google plans to bring free Wi-Fi to its 10 million rail passengers a day. Qualcomm, a chip maker with thousands of employees in India, meanwhile promised $150 million to finance Indian start-ups. More here.

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Detours

Motherhood, screened off.

Stunning photos from last night’s rare super blood moon.

Mean tweets.

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Retail Therapy

Luna Moon lanterns.


StrictlyVC: September 25, 2015

Hi, everyone! Hope you have a fantastic weekend.

Some of you had asked to see that investor panel we moderated earlier this week, with Jeremy Liew, Dana Settle, Aileen Lee, and Bill McGlashan; here it is, with a wrap-up by TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler (if you’d rather not sit through the video).

It’s been a long couple of weeks, between StrictlyVC’s most recent event and Disrupt. If you’ve emailed us and we haven’t responded, please do write again. We’ll be in full form again next week, with interviews with Steve Jurvetson of DFJ and the inimitable Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC, among other goodies.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Forcing suspects to reveal phone passwords is unconstitutional, a federal court has just ruled.

This morning, BlackBerry reported a wider second-quarter loss than analysts estimated.

The iPhone 6S hit store shelves today. If you’re still debating whether to elbow your way around an Apple store and nab one, here’s a teardown of the phone.

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New Fundings

Amino, a four-year-old Boston-based company that makes mobile apps for niche communities, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Venrock, with participation from earlier backer Union Square Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Auris Surgical Robotics, an eight-year-old, San Carlos, Ca.-based robotics company that has developed a dual-arm microsurgical system for ophthalmic surgery, just raised $150 million in new equity funding, according to an SEC filing flagged by MedCity News. Fortune says it was led by public-market investor at a post-money valuation of more than $600 million. Ealier backers include Lux Capital, Mithril Capital Management, NaviMed Capital andHighland Capital Partners. More (though not much more) here.

LifeImage, a seven-year-old, Newton, Ma.-based company that has built a platform for the exchange of medical images, has raised $5 million in new funding from Zaffre Investments, the investment arm of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The funding follows a  $17.5 million round of financing lifeIMAGE received in May, led by Cambia Health Solutions. Finsmes has more here.

Replimune, a months-old, Oxford, England-based startup at work on a new approach to viral cancer therapy, has raised $30 million in Series A funding led by Atlas Venture, with participation from seed investors Forbion Capital Partners and Omega Funds. FierceBiotech has more here.

Revegy, a 10-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based company that makes visual and configurable sales software to help teams collaborate more effectively, has raised $3 million in equity, shows an SEC filing that lists two (unnamed) backers. More here.

Wayin, a five-year-old, Denver-based social marketing startup founded by Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, has raised $15.4 million in new funding led by earlier investor U.S. Venture Partners. Other investors in the round include PeopleSoft founder David Duffield (who is also the chairman of Workday); SAP founder Hasso Plattner; and McNealy himself, who is Wayin’s chairman and CEO. More here.

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Exits

Just one day after fantasy sports site DraftKings announced it would soon offer fantasy competitions around competitive video gaming, rival FanDuel announced the acquisition of AlphaDraft, a site that offers fantasy contests pegged to competitive video gaming. Terms were not disclosed. Recode says it sold for less than $25 million. According to CrunchBase, AlphaDraft had raised $5 million from a long list of investors, including Metamorphic VenturesAmplify.LA, Greycroft Partners, Upfront Ventures, and QueensBridge Venture Partners.

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People

According to Fortune’s Dan Primack, Jordan Cooper, a partner in the first four Lerer Ventures funds, will not be part its next one. He plans instead to focus on Wildcard, a New York-based startup he co-founded last year that’s focused around a news app.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned yesterday that climate change will spark a refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions if no action is taken.

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Esssential Reads

Two years after it closed an investigation into Google’s Internet search business, the FTC is spearheading an investigation of Google’s Android business.

Amazon’s app users are growing fast, according to new Morgan Stanley data.

Yale showed up Harvard yesterday, reporting that its endowment generated an 11.5 percent return for its most recent fiscal year. Harvard’s return, it announced Wednesday: 5.8 percent. More here.

Oakland to the tech community: Please don’t screw this up like last time.

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Detours

In the sport of coding, there’s one superstar and lots of contenders.

Why very different-looking aircraft may be coming.

The 11(!) sets of twins attending one Long Island kindergarten.

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Retail Therapy

You have dopp kits, sure. But do you have a tech dopp kit?

Samsung’s Gear VR 2015. Ships in November. Cost: Just $99.


StrictlyVC: September 24, 2015

Disrupt is over! And now, to a winery. Have a great Thursday, everyone.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Crikey. Yesterday, the Office of Personnel Management said the hackers who stole security dossiers from the agency also got the fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees. Fingerprints, notes the New York Times, are being used more frequently to assure identity in secure government facilities and elsewhere.

—–

Premise Raises $50 Million to Outsource the Collection of Economic Data

Three-year-old Premise, an economic data tracking platform, has raised $50 million in Series C funding from earlier backer Social + Capital Partnership and new investor Valor Equity Partners, which pitched in $35 million.<

Valor’s Antonio Gracias, who is also a director at Tesla and SpaceX, is joining the board. He joins the company’s earlier board members Chamath Palihapitiya, who founded Social + Capital; Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary; and investor Karim Farris of Google Ventures.

It’s easy to understand Premise’s appeal. The 40-person, San Francisco-based SaaS company does something that’s somewhat singular: it uses 25,000 “contributors” in 32 countries and tasks them with photographing and otherwise documenting economic data in order to provide customers like the World Bank with highly valuable information.

Just how extensive is the impact of government-driven food rationing in Venezuela? Premise has boots on the ground who will show up at grocery stores and send back information that Premise’s data analysts then parse. In Yemen, where there’s an emerging famine, how much of the food aid being dropped into the country is reaching its intended destination? Because of its recruits, Premise knows more, and faster, than the relief organizations that are becoming some of its customers. (Others of its customers include Bloomberg and Standard Chartered Bank.)

Yesterday, we talked with founder David Soloff, who previously cofounded the privately held ad tech company Metamarkets, to learn more. Our conversation has been edited for length.

More here.

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New Fundings

CliniCloud, a year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes connected medical devices for the home, has raised $5 million in seed funding, including from Tencent Holdings and Ping An Ventures. Forbes has more here.

DriverUp, a three-year-old, Dallas, Tex.-based online marketplace for automotive financing, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by SF Capital Group, with participation from earlier backers Emerald Development Managers and RRE Ventures. More here.

G-Banker, a 10-month-old Beijing, China-based gold trading platform that enables consumers to buy, store, and sell gold online, has raised $17 million in Series B funding led by Softbank China Venture Capital and the Chinese real estate firm the Evergrande Group. More here.

Innerchef, a months-old, Gurgaon, India-based online food delivery platform that focuses both on ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook meals, has raised $1.66 million in funding from numerous individual investors. YourStory has more here.

iQ media, a five-year-old, Conshohocken, Pa.-based media analytics company that counts the NFL and Mercedes Benz among its customers, has raised $9 million in Series B funding from Edison Partners. More here.

MasteryConnect, a six-year-old, Sandy, Ut.-based education-technology startup, has raised $5 million in Series B-1 funding from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The company had raised $15.2 million in Series B funding last year. More here.

Metabiota, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based company that uses a network of on-the-ground epidemiologists and risk analytics to track disease outbreaks, has raised $1 million from Google Ventures as an add-on to a $30 million round the company announced in May that included investors Data Collective, Capricorn Health & Special Opportunities, Industry VenturesRSTP and WP Global Partners. VentureWire has the news about the deal (which mostly sounds like a new data-sharing partnership), here.

Onshape, a three-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based cloud-based CAD software maker, has raised a whopping $80 million led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from earlier backers New Enterprise AssociatesCommonwealth Capital Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners. We talked with the company about its new round here.

Scribble Technologies, a seven-year-old, Toronto-based content marketing platform, has raised $35 million in Series D funding led by OpenText Enterprise Apps Fund, with participation from Emerillon Capital, Blue Cloud Ventures, Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund, Rogers VenturesSummerhill Venture Partners, Georgian Partners, Export Development Corp. of Canada, and Waterloo Innovation Fund. More here.

Skillz, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based eSports tournament platform, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by David Bonderman’s Wildcat Capital Management, with participation from The Kraft Group, owners of the New England Patriots; and Marc Lasry, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. More here.

StreamSets, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose infrastructure aims to accelerate time-to-analysis when it comes to big data processing in enterprises, has raised $12.5 million in funding co-led by Battery Ventures and New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, Data Collective, Ignition Partners and New Enterprise Associates. More here.

Teambition, a 2.5-year-old, Shanghai, China-based cloud-based collaboration and project management tool, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Northern Light Venture Capital, with participation from earlier backers IDG Capital Partners, Vangoo Investment Partners and Microsoft VenturesMore here.

Veran Medical Technologies, a 16-year-old, St. Louis, Mo.-based company that’s commercializing technologies to detect lung cancer at an early stage, has raised $30.6 million co-led by River Cities Capital Funds and Versant Ventures, with participation from earlier backers 3G Capital, Advantage Capital, Dynamic Investments, Rex Health Ventures, Prolog Ventures and Vectis. More here.

Yhouse, a two-year-old, Shanghai, China-based social networking and concierge app for China’s wealthy population, has raised $19 million in Series B funding led by SAIF Partners and Shenzhen Fortune Venture Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Zscaler, a seven-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based internet-security company, has added $25 million in new funding to a previously closed Series D round from Google Capital. Earlier backers in the round (now fully closed with $110 million), included TPG, EMC, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

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IPOs

Bioceres, an Argentina-based agro-industrial biotechnology business, has filed for an initial public offering of American Depositary Shares. More here.

Pure Storage has set the terms for its IPO, revealing that it’s looking to raise up to $450 million. More here.

—–

Exits

BillGuard, a five-year-old, New York-based crowdsourced security app for personal finance, has been acquired by peer-to-peer lending giant Prosper Marketplace. Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, but VentureBeat saysthe transaction amounts to around $30 million in cash, plus an undisclosed stock component. According to CrunchBase, BillGuard had raised $16.5 million from investors, including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, IA Ventures, and Founders Fund.

—–

People

Combinator President Sam Altman had a somewhat gloomy prediction for Disrupt attendees during an on-stage interview yesterday: If the state and federal government “can’t get [their] act together in time” and find solutions to shifts brought by technology, we’re in serious trouble.

Harvard’s endowment chief, Stephen Blyth, said in an annual report released Tuesday that the university is getting “particularly discriminating” about where it invests its money these days, as “[t]he debate about highly-valued assets continues to get louder . . . This environment is likely to result in lower future returns than in the recent past.” The WSJ has the story here.

Ellen Pao won’t have to pay her former employer, Kleiner Perkinsafter all.

Google CFO Ruth Porat just bought Palo Alto’s most expensive house. (Amazingly, it had sat vacant for decades.)

Mark Selcow, the longtime president of the sales performance management software company Merced Systems (acquired in 2011) and currently the interim CEO of the startup Quizlet, has joined Costanoa Venture Capital as a venture partner. More here.

—–

Essential Reads

The fake traffic schemes that are rotting the Internet.

A detailed look into Beijing’s sprawling state-controlled cyberespionage machinery.

A plot twist: E-book sales slip, and print is far from dead.

—–

Detours

Jimmy Fallon’s “Jimpire.”

A supermoon lunar eclipse is coming this weekend. Don’t miss it. You won’t have another chance to see one until 2033.

—-

Retail Therapy

Because why shouldn’t a flask look like a giant cigar.


StrictlyVC: September 23, 2015

Hi, everyone! It’s Wednesday and the last day of Disrupt. If you haven’t been checking it out, you can pore through tons of interesting coverage and conversations here.

We’re on the move and in a rush, but we’ll see you back here tomorrow . . .

—–

Top News in the A.M.

The case against Dropbox.

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Arielle Zuckerberg, Zuck’s Youngest Sister, is Joining Kleiner Perkins

Arielle Zuckerberg, the youngest sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is joining Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers next month in a bid by the venture firm to inject youth and diversity into its line-up of partners.

More here.

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New Fundings

Atigeo, a 10-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based developer of a big data analytics platform, has raised $18.4 million in growth funding from Ascension Ventures, among others. More here.

Blue Jeans Network, a nine-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that provides cloud-based video conferencing services, has raised $76.5 million in Series E funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, Glynn Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, and Quadrille Capital. Jeter Ventures, a new fund launched by MLB all-star Derek Jeter, also participated. More here.

NoviCap, a 1.5-year-old, London-based marketplace that (interestingly) invites small businesses to sell their invoices to professional investors at a discount in return for working capital, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding from Partech Ventures, Techstars Ventures and Cabiedes & Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

SevOne, a 10-year-old, Boston-based infrastructure software company, is raising as much as $60 million in new funding at a valuation approaching $1 billion, reports VentureWire. According to its report, Westfield Capital Management is now backing the company, along with current investors Bain Capital Ventures, Brookside Capital, Osage Venture Partners and HarbourVest Partners. To date, the company has raised $153.5 million, including a $150 million round announced in 2013.

——

New Funds

Ignite Farm, a Walnut Creek, Ca.-bsaed venture firm that targets consumer packaged goods and digital media opportunities, is looking to raise $50 million for its second fund, shows an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. Ignite had targeted $10 million for its debut fund last year, raising $2.3 million toward that end as of May 2014.

—–

Exits

Quirky, a 6.5-year-old, New York-based company that produced new consumer products by pairing its online global community with its product design staff, filed for bankruptcy yesterday. The company had raised $185 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, General Electric, Norwest Ventures Partners, RRE VenturesLowercase Capital, and Village Ventures. More on the story here.

—–

People

On stage at TechCrunch Disrupt yesterday, John Doerr opted not to attempt to pronounce the names of two new junior employees — Muzzammil Zaveri and Swati Mylavarapu, who were hired to invest out of the firm’s latest early-stage fund.  He said instead, “We have two new partners who are so diverse that I have a challenge pronouncing their names.” After being called out on Twitter for the gaffe (as noted one VC, “diversity is not a marketing ornament”), Doerr apologized in a tweet, saying “It was an unfortunate joke that was not funny. I have deep respect for my partners Swati and Muzzammil.”

Investor-entrepreneur Reid Hoffman kicked off his “Blitzscaling” course at Stanford yesterday and according to one of our sources who was there, “people climbed in through the windows” to get into the classroom.

Akash Garg, Twitter’s senior director of engineering, growth, and international team, announced yesterday on Twitter that he’s heading to Uber to lead its mobile and web platform teams. More here.

—–

Essential Reads

A new technique that finds all known human viruses in your blood.

Instagram says it has hit 400 million users, just nine months after reaching 300 million users.

Uber just shook up the Bay Area real estate market with a massive deal to take over a former, 330,000-square-foot Sears in Oakland.

—–

Detours

Stephen Colbert’s lifestyle brand. Because he’s a celebrity.

Wherever you go, your personal cloud of microbes follows.

RIP, Yogi Berra.

—–

Retail Therapy

six-pack of tablets.


StrictlyVC: September 22, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone! No column today, but we hope you’ll find some useful content in what you see below.

We’re back at TechCrunch Disrupt; hope to see a bunch of you again today.:)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Apple is planning to ship its first electric car(s) in 2019, say WSJ sources.

Volkswagen’s emissions crisis deepened earlier today when the company said that as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide could be affected by software allegedly used to cheat emissions tests.

—–

New Fundings

Agora, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based communications-as-a-service startup, has raised $20 million in Series B round from Morningside VenturesSIG, GGV Capital, ShunWei Capital and IDG Capital Partners. According to China Money Network, the company has now raised $25.9 million altogether.More here.

CloudFlare, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose product and services filters and cleans all internet traffic before it reaches its customers websites, has raised $110 million in new funding by Fidelity, with participation from Google Capital, Microsoft, Baidu, and Qualcomm Ventures. Business Insider has more here.

CoverHound, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based site that lets people search for, compare, and buy auto and property insurance through its own site and Google’s insurance search, has raised $33.3 million in Series C funding led by the insurance giant ACE Group, with participation from RRE VenturesBlumberg Capital, Core Innovation Capital, Route 66 Ventures and American Family Ventures (the venture capital arm of American Family Insurance). The company has now raised just north of $53 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Cruise, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup working on technology that would enable cars to go into “highway autopilot” mode, has raised $12.5 million in a Series A round that was led by Spark Capital and Y Combinator President Sam Altman. The company has now raised $16.8 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Daraz, a three-year-old, Berlin-based creation of Rocket Internet  that began life as a fashion portal and has since evolved into an Amazon-like e-commerce portal serving Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar, has raised $56 million in funding led by the CDC Group, a development finance institution wholly-owned by the UK government. Rocket Internet’s regional investment group, the Asia Pacific Internet Group, also participated. TechCrunch has more here.

Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, a 12-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based company at work on cancer therapies that could be less susceptible to resistance than some existing treatments, has raised $75 million Series B funding led by new investor New Leaf Venture Partners. FierceBiotech has more here.

Flashgap, a 16-month-old, Paris, France-based time-delayed photo-sharing app, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from unnamed French and American investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Globality, a months-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based stealth startup that says, somewhat cryptically, that it’s building artificial intelligence technology that will enable mid-size and small businesses to play a greater role in driving the global economy, has raised $10 million from a group of high-profile angel investors, including former Vice President Al Gore, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman. TechCrunch has more here.

GrubMarket, an 18-month-old, Newark, Ca.-based online farmers’ market that supplies local fresh food to customers, has raised $10 million in Series A funding  led by Fosun Group, with participation from Y Combinator, Battery Ventures, GGV and AME Cloud Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Headspace, a five-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based digital health platform that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training, has raised $30 million from The Chernin Group, Advancit Capital, Allen & CompanyBreyer Capital, The Honest Company co-founder Jessica Alba, actor Jared Leto, TV personality Ryan Seacrest, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and others. TechCrunch has more here.

iAdvize, a five-year-old Nantes, France-based company that makes multi-channel, real-time customer service software, has just raised $16 million from Iris Capital, Bpifrance and existing investor Alven Capital. More here.

Jaunt, a two-and-a-half-year-old cinematic virtual reality startup, has raised $65 million in new funding, led by Disney, with participation from Evolution Media Partners, a growth equity and investment joint venture from TPG Growth, Evolution Media Capital and Participant Media. Recode has more here.

Modernizing Medicine, a five-year-old, Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that makes a cloud-based, specialty-specific electronic medical record system, has raised $38 million in Series E funding from Pentland Group and funds affiliated with Summit Partners and Sands Capital Ventures. The company has now raised $87 million altogether, it says. More here.

Morphick Cyber Security, an eight-month-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based cyber security managed service, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Orchard Holdings Group. More here.

Portea Medical, a four-year-old, Bangalore, India-based in-home medical care company, has raised $37.5 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners, with participation from International Finance Corporation, Qualcomm Ventures and Ventureast. More here.

—–

New Funds

Jungle Ventures, a five-year-old, Singapore-based venture firm, has announced a new $100 million fund. (Note: That’s ten times larger than its $10 million debut fund, closed in 2012.) TechCrunch has more here.

Trifecta Capital Partners — the year-old, Mumbai, India-based venture debt firm of Rahul Khanna, a longtime managing director at venture capital firm Canaan Partners — has held a first close of roughly $30 million on its debut fund. LiveMint has more here on the effort.

—–

Exits

German publishing giant Axel Springer is closing in on a deal to buy the web publisher Business Insider in a deal valued at around $560 million, reports Recode. Business Insider, founded in 2007, has raised $57 million over the years, including from Axel Springer, which bought a stake in the company in January. Others of its backers include Bezos Expeditions, RRE VenturesInstitutional Venture Partners, Allen & Company, Pilot Group, and Marc Andreessen.

—–

People

The former UK head of Google, Dan Cobley, has launched a new venture called SalaryFinance and he’s already saying it will “be talked about in some of the same sentences as unicorn businesses over the next few years.” More here.

Some significant downsizing is underway at Groupon, the daily deals and local-commerce site, reports TechCrunch. The company is today announcing that it will be cutting 1,100 jobs and taking a pre-tax charge of $35 million in the process.

—–

Data

India reached a record high in venture capital fundraising, deals, and exits in 2014, but investments this year might surpass that, says a new report from Preqin.

—–

Essential Reads

Facebook giveth and Facebook taketh away.

—–

Detours

Why the U.S. hides 700 million barrels of oil underground.

Charlie Chaplin’s scandalous life — and boundless artistry.

—–

Retail Therapy

To be clear, these are golf shoes.

The 21 Bitcoin Computer. We don’t know how we’d use this, but you might have some ideas.


StrictlyVC: September 21, 2015

Hi, everyone, welcome back! Hope you had a terrific weekend.

Quick warning: We’ll be pretty busy this week with TechCrunch Disrupt, which kicks off this morning in San Francisco. Apologies in advance if StrictlyVC is a little streamlined (read: stinks) this week.

For what it’s worth, we’ll be leading an investor panel around 11:40 a.m. PST, with investors Dana Settle, Aileen Lee, Jeremy Liew, and Bill McGlashan. Tune in if you have time, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow!

——

Top News in the A.M.

Apple‘s iOS App Store suffered its first major attack last night. So far about 40 apps with malicious code have made it into the App Store, said researchers at Palo Alto Networks who think the breach could potentially affect hundreds of millions of users.

Er, maybe this isn’t the best time to announce it, but the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus will hit Apple retail stores this coming Friday at 8 a.m. local time. Walk-in customers are “encouraged to arrive early.”

Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population is still offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said this morning.

—–

Move Over Slack? Automattic Mulls Commercializing Its Over Internal Messaging Product

Last week, at our StrictlyVC event in San Francisco, Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg answered a wide range of questions in conversation with one of the earliest investors in the company, Tony Conrad of True Ventures. (Conrad is also the cofounder and CEO of the self-expression platformAbout.me.)

One of the most interesting aspects of the talk (in our view) touched on the future of an internal messaging system that Automattic’s far-flung workforce of 400-plus employees relies on, and that Automattic is considering commercializing, according to Mullenweg.

Given Automattic’s funding (it raised $160 million last year alone), and its reach (Automattic is the parent company of WordPress.com, which claims to power 24 percent of all sites), that’s news. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine an Automattic product becoming a strong competitor to both Slack and even to Facebook, which is planning to release its own workplace communications app by year end.

More from the evening’s conversation, edited for length, right here.

—–

New Fundings

Alignable, a 3.5-year-old, Boston-based social network for local small businesses looking to network or market their businesses alone or together, has raised $8 million in Series B funding led by Mayfield, with participation from earlier backers Lead Edge Capital, NextView Ventures and Saturn Partners. The company has now raised $12 million altogether. The WSJ has more here.

Just Biotherapeutics, a 1.5-year-old Seattle-based integrated design company focused on the technology of biotherapeutics, from molecule to manufacturing plant, has raised $15 million in Series A financing from Merck, Lilly Asia Ventures, and ARCH Venture Partners. More here.

Phasiq, a three-year-old, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based healthcare company whose technology helps scientists to measure protein levels in a multiplex and cross-reaction free manner, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from backers that include The Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, in collaboration with the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan.

—–

New Funds

Innogest SGR, a nine-year-old, Milan, Italy-based venture capital firm, has reportedly closed its second fund at approx. €85 miillion ($95.6 million), from limited partners that include Fondo Italiano d’Investimento. Innogest invests in both medical devices and other, digital sectors. More here.

—–

Exits

Dialog Semiconductor in the U.K. has announced a $4.6 billion cash-and-stock deal to buy 31-year-old Atmel Corp., the latest sign that chip makers are betting on a technology trend called the Internet of Things. The WSJ has more here.

Payments giant First Data Corporation has acquired Spree Commerce, an open source storefront platform. Spree had raised $6.5 million from investors, including AOL, Thrive, True Ventures, Vegas Tech Fund and others. First Data is backed by KKR but has filed for an IPO, which some estimate could be the biggest of 2015. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

People

Snapchat has fired its chief talent officer, Simmi Singh, just seven months after she joined, a source told The Information late Friday afternoon. Snapchat confirmed to the outlet that Singh had departed but declined to comment further.

This morning, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn apologized for breaking “the trust of our customers and the public.” His statement came days after the EPA said the carmaker purposefully rigged its diesel cars to pass emissions tests. Investors promptly knocked off a quarter of the company’s market value.

Last Thursday, Y Combinator quietly announced three, new, and very high-powered part-time partners: Anne Wojcicki, cofounder and CEO of 23andMe; Ben Silbermann, the cofounder and CEO of Pinterest (and a two-time YC alumni); and Joe Gebbia, the cofounder and CPO of Airbnb, which also passed through Y Combinator, back in 2009. More here.

—–

Jobs

Stripe is looking to fill some business development positions. The jobs are in San Francisco.

—–

Essential Reads

Following Apple’s lead, Samsung is planning its own phone leasing program, cutting out carriers in the process.

A small, easy, and, likely impactful way to pull more women into tech (and tech investing).

—–

Detours

The dangers of filming “Everest” at 15,000 feet.

The secrets of living to 200 years old. (H/T: NB)

—–

Retail Therapy

The Devon Works Star Wars watch, for the superrich superdork. (You can also order limited-edition Tie Fighter cufflinks.)


StrictlyVC: September 18, 2015

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you have a terrific weekend.

Apologies for the late send; we’re are little under the weather this a.m.

We also have pictures of Wednesday night‘s event. We missed many of you who arrived after things kicked off (our photographer had to skedaddle after the last chat). We hope you enjoy them, though. Again, great seeing so many of you!

——

Top News in the A.M.

Ruh roh. Volkswagen was just told to recall nearly 500,000 cars over emissions software that was intentionally designed to circumvent environmental standards for reducing smog, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

—–

James Currier and Stan Chudnovsky Unveil Their New Incubator, NFX Guild

A new Bay Area accelerator, NFX Guild, has emerged on the scene with plans to run a three-month-long program twice a year for between 10 and 15 companies. It has a novel approach, too.

For one thing, there is no publicly available application process. Startups will be referred to NFX by “scouts,” after which a select number will receive invitations into the program. The scouts are mostly VCs, including from CRV, Shasta Ventures, and Greylock Partners, three firms that have helped fund NFX, which is managing $10 million and will invest $120,000 in each startup. Some of the venture firms will have already financed the startups and be using NFX to help whip their portfolio companies into shape. In other cases, NFX will work with startups that the firms haven’t yet funded but whose progress they want to track.

NFX will also have a very narrow focus on building and growing network effects businesses, providing 30 hours of unique curriculum toward that end. (In this regard, it’s not unlike the “blitzscaling” class that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is teaching at Stanford this fall.)

We’d guess that the startups – 16 of which just quietly graduated from its debut batch — will be getting some very strong counsel in exchange.

More here.

—–

New Fundings

ChoiceStream, a 14-year-old, Boston-based programmatic ad tech company, has raised $14 million in Series C funding led by North Atlantic Capital, with participation from earlier investors. The company has now raised roughly $100 million, shows CrunchBase. More here.

Clover Health, a year-old, San Francisco-based health insurance startup, has raised $100 million in Series A equity and debt financing that included First Round Capital and Athyrium Capital Management, though in an interview with Fortune, the company declined to break down more specifics about the funding.

GitLab, a year-old, San Francisco-based open-source code collaboration platform, has raised $4 million in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

NextEV, a 1.5-yar-old, Shanghai, China-based electric car maker aiming to take on Tesla, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Sequoia CapitalTencent Holdings, Hillhouse Capital and Joy Capital. China Money Network has more here.

OriginGPS, a nine-year-old, Lod, Israel-based maker of miniature global navigation satellite system solutions for wearables, has raised $1.75 million in funding from the technology accelerator Lab IX and undisclosed existing shareholders. More here.

Padlet, a three-year-old, Santiago, Chile-based company focused on simple and collaborative website creation platform, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Cherubic VC, with participation from numerous individual investors, including Flexport CEO Ryan Peterson. The company had previously raised roughly $450,000 from angels and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.

Portfolium, a two-year-old, San Diego-based company whose “e-portfolios” help students visually showcase their skills, projects and experiences to prospective employers, has raised $1.2 million in funding from University Ventures, Seed San Diego, and Vertical Venture Partners. More here.

Rubicon Global, a seven-year-old, Atlanta-based on-demand trash removal and recycling company, has raised $50 million in new funding led by Nima Capital, with participation from Goldman Sachs, Wellington Management,Henry Kravis, Paul Tudor Jones and Leonardo DiCaprio. The WSJ has more here.

Sun Basket, a year-old, San Francisco-based meal delivery service that emphasizes its organic ingredients, has raised $4.5 million in new funding co-led by PivotNorth Capital and Baseline Ventures, with participation from Vulcan Capital, Roth Capital, The Florence Group, Rembrandt VenturesCorrelation Ventures, Relevance Capital and Lucas Venture Group. Inc has more here.

——

IPOs

Penumbra, an 11-year-old, Alameda, Ca.-based company that makes medical devices for those who have experienced strokes and other neurovascular diseases, began trading publicly this morning and for now, its shares are soaring. More here.

—–

People

According to Fortune’s Dan Primack, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has added a pair of junior partners to its early-stage venture capital practice: Swati Mylavarapu, who previously worked in product marketing at Square, and Muzzammil Zaveri, formerly part of the Silicon Valley investment team for Chinese Internet giant Tencent.

—-

Essential Reads

Apple has met with California officials to discuss self-driving car, reports the Guardian, which concludes the company may be close to unveiling an autonomous vehicle. (Our well-sourced colleagues at TechCrunch would disagree with that “close” assessment, for what it’s worth.)

Wired on the rise of voice interfaces.

—–

Detours

Children can make jokes a lot earlier than you might guess.

Pluto, up close.

—–

Retail Therapy

Zeb Pilot House. (H/T: Uncrate)


StrictlyVC: September 17, 2015

Hi, happy Thursday, everyone. Thank you, thank you to those of you who came to our newest StrictlyVC event last night! We had a great time. It was also highly gratifying to see so many of you who’ve attended our previous events. We’re glad you are enjoying them.:)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

ZenPayroll is rebranding as Gusto. And watch out, Zenefits; it’s now offering health benefits (and workers comp). More here.

Google is working on a new wearable technology effort known as Project Aura. More here.

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Chamath Palihapitiya on Insane Burn Rates, IPOs, and Raising a New Real Estate Fund

Last night, at a StrictlyVC event in San Francisco, well-regarded startup investor Chamath Palihapitiya had some harsh words for what’s become the standard startup set-up in San Francisco. Think nice office, well-stocked kitchen, and (inserting our own personal observation here), the increasingly ubiquitous bookcase door, leading to a secret room.

All that window dressing costs money, noted Palihapitiya, sounding very much like he’s had it with supporting such excess —  and suggesting that other investors should be just as indignant.

“It’s fine to fail,” Palihapitiya told attendees. “But if you fail because you didn’t have the courage to move to Oakland, and instead you burned 30 percent of your cash on Kind bars and exposed brick walls in the office, you’re a f_cking moron.”

Much more here.

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New Fundings

Aspiration, a two-year-old, Marina Del Ray, Ca.-based “socially-conscious” online investment platform, has raised $15.5 million in Series A funding led by Renren, with participation from GSV Capital, Capricorn Investment GroupIGSB and high-profile individual investors, including David Bonderman, Steve Rattner, and Joe Lonsdale. More about the company here.

Ativa Medical, a seven-year-old, St. Paul, Mn.-based developer of a diagnostic micro lab for physicians, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Ping An Ventures, Hermed Capital, LabCorp, Dian Diagnostics and GIMDx.

Breather, a three-year-old, Montreal-based on-demand private room service, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with participation from Real Ventures, RRE Ventures, Slow Ventures and SOS Ventures. The company has now raised $27 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

DWNLD, a year-old, New York-based publishing platform that takes any website and seamlessly turns it into an app, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Greylock Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Envoy, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that provides early elderly care with a concierge service for tasks like delivering groceries, has raised $3 million in funding led by Softech VC, with participation fromLowercase Capital, Vayner/RSE and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Fundera, a two-year-old, New York-based online credit marketplace that helps small business secure loans, has raised $11.5 million in Series B funding led by Susquehanna Growth Equity, with participation from earlier backers QED Investors, Khosla Ventures, and First Round Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

GitLab, a year-old, San Francisco-based open source Git-based collaboration platform for developers, has raised $4 million in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

HelloFresh, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that send users recipes and the ingredients needed to prepare them, has raised $84.7 million in growth funding from the Scottish investment firm Baillie Gifford. The company had previously raised $193.5 million. TechCrunch has more here.

HelloTech, a 10-month-old, L.A.-based startup providing on-demand tech help to consumers’ homes, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from earlier backers Upfront Ventures, Crosscut Ventures and Accel Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Intel, the 47-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based integrated digital technology giant, revealed yesterday that it has invested $67 million into eight companies in China. TechCrunch has the list here.

Kyruus, a five-year-old, Boston-based maker of physician network optimization software, has raised $25 million in funding led by New Leaf Venture Partners, with participation from Providence Health & Services, Leerink Capital Partners, McKesson Ventures and earlier investors VenrockHighland Capital Partners, Lux Capital, and Fidelity Biosciences.

Lumity, a two-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based startup that aims to simplify complex health plan decisions through its easy-to-use enrollment dashboard, has raised $14 million in funding led by Social+Capital, with participation fromTrue Ventures and Rock Health. TechCrunch has more here.

Percentil, a three-year-old, Madrid-based pre-owned clothing startup, has raised €3.2 million ($3.6 million) in Series A funding from Seaya Ventures, with participation from existing shareholder Active Venture Partners, and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Tascent, a year-old, Los Gatos, Ca.-based biometrics company that focuses on iris recognition systems and whose customers include Dubai International Airport and London Gatwick Airport, has raised $18.5 million in Series A funding led by Tano Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Traveling Spoon, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that enables travelers to experience local cuisines at people’s homes around the world, has raised $870,000, incuding from former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford, First Round Capital, the Chennai Angels and Emily and Anjan Mitra, who own the DOSA restaurants in San Francisco. TechCrunch has more here.

Typeform, a three-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based application that helps users create and respond to surveys and other types of forms on any device, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Point Nine Capital, Connect Ventures and RTA Ventures, as well as super angels, including Anthony Casalena, CEO of Squarespace; Javier Olivan, CEO of King; and Facebook’s Jay Parikh. TechCrunch has more here.

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Exits

Apple has acquired two-year-old Mapsense, a San Francisco startup that builds tools for analyzing and visualizing location data. According to Recode’s sources, Apple paid somewhere between $25 million and $30 million for the 12-person team, which will now join Apple. Mapsense had raised $2.5 million in funding, including from General Catalyst Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Formation 8 and Amplify.LA. Back in May, StrictlyVC interviewed Mapsense founder Erez Cohen, a former engineer at the Palantir Technologies.

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People

Microsoft is being sued by a former female employee for alleged gender bias that resulted in lower salaries and lack of promotions for women at the company. Fortune has more here.

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Data

CrunchBase unveiled a new “unicorn leaderboard” yesterday. We were able to play with it last week in advance of that release and it’s really good. (It has all kinds of ways to slice and dice information.) Learn more here.

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Essential Reads

Facebook says its workplace communications app should be out by year end.

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Detours

A seal, surfing on a humpback whale.

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Retail Therapy

Audi’s all-electric SUV, slated for release in 2018.