StrictlyVC: October 23, 3015

Hello, glorious Friday! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone.


Top News in the A.M.

Yesterday, Amazon reported a surprise $79 million profit during its third-quarter earnings report (52 percent of it from its cloud business, Amazon Web Services). This morning, the stock is up nearly 10 percent.

Pandora meanwhile reported a big loss yesterday, and its investors appear to be losing faith.


Watch Out, VCs, Chris Farmer Plans to Massively Disrupt the Industry

For years, Chris Farmer worked as a venture partner at General Catalyst Partners, helping develop its then-nascent seed-investing program while simultaneously working on a big idea: a database that could help screen engineering talent.

Today, that idea forms the basis of SignalFire, a San Francisco-based investment firm that Farmer, who is its sole general partner, calls the “most quantitative fund in the world.” He says to “think of us as the world’s most elite angel group, with a central institutional fund, built on top of a mini proprietary Google.”

It all sounds pretty audacious, of course, but there’s some “there” there, as we saw first-hand during a demonstration last week.

According to Farmer, SignalFire’s platform, Beacon, tracks more than half a trillion data points that it collects from two million data sources, from patents to academics publications to open source contributions to financial filings.

As a result, SignalFire is able to keep close tabs on the comings and goings of millions of engineers around the globe. And that’s just one piece of the picture. SignalFire also invests heavily in unstructured data, including raw consumer transactions that allow Beacon to see where consumers are spending their time and money — and which companies and sectors are growing or not.

Much more here.


New Fundings

Allay, a year-old, San Francisco-based, easy-to-use online HR and benefits platform for the country’s 500,000 insurance brokers, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding led by BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, with participation from Sandbox Industries, 500 Startups, Arnold Capital and individual angels. The company has passed through AngelPad’s accelerator program last winter.

Avito, a seven-year-old, Moscow, Russia-based site for online classified ads in Russia, has raised $1.2 billion from Naspers. The deal sees the South Africa conglomerate upping its stake in the site — reportedly the third largest classifieds site in the world — to 67.9 percent from its previous ownership position of 17.4 percent via the shares of previous shareholders. TechCrunch has more here.

IntelliCyt, a nine-year-old, Albuquerque, N.M.-based company whose platforms aim to accelerate drug discovery, has raised $5.4 million in new funding led by Arboretum Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Prolog Ventures, Verge Fund, and New Mexico Community Capital. The company also secured a $2 million debt facility from Oxford Finance. More here.

Magic Leap, a four-year-old, Dania Beach, Fla.-based augmented reality technology company (click here to see what it can do), is closing on $1 billion in new funding from as-yet undisclosed sources, reports the South Florida Business Journal. The transaction will reportedly value the company — which has previously raised upwards of $600 million, including from Google and Andreessen Horowitz — at more than $4.5 billion.

Off Grid Electric, a four-year-old, Arusha, Tanzania-based pay-as-you-go solar power provider, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by DBL Partners, with participation from Western Technology Investment, SolarCityOmidyar Network, Serious Change LP, Vulcan Capital, and Helios Investment Partners founder Tope Lawani.

Outlearn, a year-old, Boston-based cloud publishing platform and curated content catalog for professional developer learning, has raised $2 million in seed funding from General Catalyst Partners and Paul Sagan, an EIR at General Catalyst and the former CEO of Akamai Technologies. BetaBoston has more here.

Poynt, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based smart payment terminal manufacturer, has raised $28 million in Series B funding led by Oak HC/FT, with participation from Stanford-StartX Fund and earlier backers Matrix Partners, Webb Investment Network, and Nyca Ventures. The company never disclosed how much funding it raised for its Series A round last year. Vator has more here.

Simility, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of fraud prevention software that employs machine learning, big data analytics, and data visualization, has raised $3.45 million in seed funding led by Accel PartnersMore here.


New Funds

Sequoia Capital is raising a new U.S. growth fund and a global growth fund, show SEC filings.



Nitro, a 10-year-old, San Francisco-based document productivity company that has raised roughly $25 million from investors over the years, just acquired DoxIQ, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based “connected documents” company that raised a small amount of debt funding. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed.

Yota Devices, a Russian company that sells two-screened Android smartphones, has a new owner after shareholder Telconet Capital sold its majority 64.9 percent holding to Hong Kong-listed REX Global Entertainment for $100 million, according to a regulatory filing. TechCrunch has more here.



Hoping to counter poverty’s toll on children, Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, are launching a private comprehensive preschool and K-8 school that’s linked to health services for children and families in East Palo Alto, Ca. More here.

Domo, the fast-growing business management platform provider, has begun providing an interesting perk to its expectant employees: $2,000 in gift certificates for maternity clothes.

Jack Dorsey is giving about a third of his Twitter shares — or 1 percent of the company — back to Twitter’s employees, he said in a yesterday today. More here.

Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones to staff: Learn to write or I’ll rip up your memo.


Essential Reads

Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that last month raised the price of the decades-old drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750, now has a competitor — and it’s charging $1 per pill.



When the doorman is your main man.

The perfect password that’s also easy to remember.


Retail Therapy

Cocoon Cabin. (H/T: Uncrate)

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