Monthly Archives: November 2015

uBiome’s Founders Launch a Microbiome Syndicate on AngelList

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 4.35.12 PMUbiome is an unusual startup. The three-year-old sequences the collected microbes in the human body and sells $89 kits to those curious to understand their own microbiome better.

Now uBiome founders and academics Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte — who’ve raised$6.5 million from investors like Andreessen Horowitz for the San Francisco company — are taking an even more unusual step. They’re launching an AngelList Syndicate to fund other microbiome startups.

It’s not an entirely novel concept. There are plenty of corporations that create funds expressly to get a look at startups whose work might be of strategic interest to them. There are also a sprinkling of founders who are running early-stage startups and forming Syndicates to make startup bets of their own, including Joshua Reeves of four-year-old Gusto, a payroll startup that was formerly called ZenPayroll.

Still, investing in young startups that could eventually compete with your own young startup isn’t something one sees every day; we talked earlier with Richman to learn more about her Microbiome Fund — and why she and Apte decided to do it.

Understanding of the role played by the microbiome in many health conditions is relatively recent and you have a very young company,  Why shift some of your focus to investing in other startups?

More here.




StrictlyVC: November 23, 2015

Hello! Happy Monday, everyone, and welcome back.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said this morning it has struck a $160 billion deal, including debt, to merge with Allergan, the maker of Botox, in one of the biggest takeovers in the health care industry. Dealbook has more here.

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A New Way to Fund Unicorns Starts to Look Less Magical

If you haven’t heard of a fairly new twist on investing called special purpose vehicles (SPVs), you probably aren’t an institutional investor or a wealthy individual with direct ties to either a venture firm or a high-flying startup like Pinterest or Postmates.

But don’t worry if you’ve missed the opportunity to invest in one. Investors may find they weren’t worth the risk if valuations of so-called unicorns — some given “haircuts” recently by their mutual fund investors — start to slip more broadly.

The vehicles – essentially pop-up venture firms that come together quickly to make an investment in a single company – began surfacing around 2011, leading up to Facebook’s IPO, and they’ve been on the rise since. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported on several low-flying SPVs that have been used to connect investors with high-profile, still-private companies like the data analytics company Palantir Technologies and the grocery -delivery outfit Instacart.

Another company that has raised money via numerous SPVs is the digital scrapbooking company Pinterest. When it set out to raise more than $500 million earlier this year, the venture firm FirstMark Capital raised a $200 million for a SPV to help fund it. In 2014, Pinterest separately raised $131.1 million through two SPVs organized as Palma Investments by SV Angel, the seed-stage fund founded by renowned investor Ron Conway.

It’s no wonder that investors are drawn to the vehicles. In the case of Facebook, early access to the company produced big dividends for investors. Investor Chris Sacca similarly amassed an outsize stake in Twitter for investors Rizvi Traverse and J.P. Morgan by creating SPVs that paid off. (How richly depends on when they began cashing out. As of late September, Rizvi Traverse had sold more than 10 percent of the 15.6 percent of Twitter it owned at the time of its November 2013 IPO. Twitter’s shares peaked in January of 2014 at $69 per share; they’re now trading at roughly $26 apiece.)

Whether investors in newer SPVs will see such rewards remains a question mark – and there a lot of investors in newer SPVs.

More here.

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New Fundings

Airbnb, the seven-year-old, San Francisco-based online marketplace for people to list and rent places to stay, has raised more than $100 million in a new round of funding that continues to value the company at $25.5 billion. The WSJ, which reported the news late Friday, did not include investor names.

Arcstone, a two-year-old, Singapore-based data analytics company that caters to manufacturing plants, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding (its first round) led by the Tokyo-based venture firm Global Brain. Other participants in the round include Wavemaker Partners, 500 Startups, and YSS Capital. Tech in Asia has more here.

BAROnova, a nine-year-old, Goleta, Ca.-based medical tech company that’s developing devices to treat obesity, has raise $36.5 million in Series D funding co-led by Delos Capital and Longitude Capital. Earlier backers Lumira Capital Partners, ONSET Ventures and Sante Ventures also joined the round. More here.

ColorChip, a 14-year-old, Caesarea, Israel-based company that makes dense, hyper-scale transceivers and advanced optical splitters, has raised $25 million in funding led by Israel Growth Partners, with participation from Vintage Investment Partners and previous backers Gemini Israeli Funds and BRM Group. TechCrunch has more here.

HealthCrowd, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based healthcare-focused mobile messaging platform, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from investors that include Startup Capital Ventures, Herlitz Capital, Healthy Ventures, Band of Angels, Berkeley Angel Network, and 37 Angels. More here.

Le Tote, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based service that allows women to rent everyday clothing and accessories, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by AITV, with participation from Azure Capital, Epic VenturesFunders Club, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Simon Venture Group. More here.

MindTickle, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based sales productivity platform, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding from New Enterprise Associatesand earlier backer Accel Partners. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Movago, a months-old, Berlin-based moving services startup, has raised $7.4 million in Series A funding led by DN Capital, with participation from Holtzbrinck Ventures and Piton Capital. More here.

PatientPop, a year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based digital health startup whose office management platform helps physician practices understand how they’re reaching patients, has raised $10 million from Toba Capital. MedCity News hasmore here.

Quizlet, a nearly nine-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose site offers shared learning tools from students worldwide, has raised $12 million in Series A funding from Union Square Ventures, Costanoa Venture CapitalAltos Ventures and Owl Ventures. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Ruby Ribbon, a four-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based fashion e-commerce company that makes and markets apparel, has raised $7.5 million in Series C funding co-led by DBL Partners and Direct Selling Capital, with participation from earlier backers Trinity Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. More here.

SportPursuit, a four-year-old, London-based flash sales site for outdoor and sports gear, has raised £9.5 million ($10 million) in Series C funding fromScottish Equity Partners, Grafton Capital, and earlier backer Draper Esprit. TechCrunch has more here.

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IPOs

Early Friday, we sat down with GGV Capital’s Glenn Solomon about his firm’s investment in Square, the hoopla surrounding its IPO, and why more tech companies are likely to go public soon — whether they want to or not. (Video.)

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Exits

LexisNexis has just acquired Lex Machina, a six-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company that provides intellectual property litigation data and predictive analytics to companies, law firms, consultants and other users. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Lex Machina had raised around $10 million from investors, including Costanoa Venture Capital, XSeed Capital, and entrepreneur-investor Joe Lonsdale.

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People

Amazon Studios has tapped film music vet Bob Bowen as its head of music. Bowen most recently served as head of music for Relativity Media.

DCInno profiles Clara Sieg, Revolution Ventures’s youngest partners and one of just two firm representatives in San Francisco.

Dave Tabors, who joined Battery Ventures 20 years ago, says he’s taking a break from venture capital and will not be investing from the firm’s eleventh fund.

On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Facebook that he’s taking two months of paternity leave once his daughter is born.

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Jobs

Applied Ventures, the venture arm of Applied Materials, is looking to hire an investment associate. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

—–

Essential Reads

Why today’s tech companies have accepted lobbying as an essential part of doing business.

A longer look at Flipagram, Instagram’s “rising rival.”

Uber will see you now.

—–

Detours

Why sarcasm is good for you —  and the most senior doctors are not.

The toddler who threw a tantrum in front of the president.

A provocative teaser for the sixth season of “Game of Thrones.”

The Thanksgiving miracle.

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Retail Therapy

A sleeping bag that looks like a bear. That is all.




A New Way to Fund Unicorns Starts to Look Less Magical

unicornIf you haven’t heard of a fairly new twist on investing called special purpose vehicles (SPVs), you probably aren’t an institutional investor or a wealthy individual with direct ties to either a venture firm or a high-flying startup like Pinterest or Postmates.

But don’t worry if you’ve missed the opportunity to invest in one. Investors may find they weren’t worth the risk if valuations of so-called unicorns — some given “haircuts” recently by their mutual fund investors — start to slip more broadly.

The vehicles – essentially pop-up venture firms that come together quickly to make an investment in a single company – began surfacing around 2011, leading up to Facebook’s IPO, and they’ve been on the rise since. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported on several low-flying SPVs that have been used to connect investors with high-profile, still-private companies like the data analytics company Palantir Technologies and the grocery -delivery outfit Instacart.

Another company that has raised money via numerous SPVs is the digital scrapbooking company Pinterest. When it set out to raise more than $500 million earlier this year, the venture firm FirstMark Capital raised a $200 million for a SPV to help fund it. In 2014, Pinterest separately raised $131.1 million through two SPVs organized as Palma Investments by SV Angel, the seed-stage fund founded by renowned investor Ron Conway.

It’s no wonder that investors are drawn to the vehicles. In the case of Facebook, early access to the company produced big dividends for investors. Investor Chris Sacca similarly amassed an outsize stake in Twitter for investors Rizvi Traverse and J.P. Morgan by creating SPVs that paid off. (How richly depends on when they began cashing out. As of late September, Rizvi Traverse had sold more than 10 percent of the 15.6 percent of Twitter it owned at the time of its November 2013 IPO. Twitter’s shares peaked in January of 2014 at $69 per share; they’re now trading at roughly $26 apiece.)

Whether investors in newer SPVs will see such rewards remains a question mark – and there a lot of investors in newer SPVs.

More here.




StrictlyVC: November 20, 2015

Happy Friday, everyone! We are running out the door but we will see you back here on Monday. Hope you have a terrific weekend!

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Top News in the A.M.

More bad news for daily fantasy sports startups. The Massachusetts’ attorney general wants to ban anyone younger than 21 from playing daily and to impose a host of regulations on the industry.

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Cognoa, Which Promises Parents Faster Answers. Looks to Series B

There’s a lot of talk these days about computational medicine, which uses massive amounts of data to train a machine to understand even more than experts or, at least, to identify health-related problems more quickly.

Cognoa, a consumer-focused healthcare outfit, is among the developing field’s biggest proponents. The two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company claims it can dramatically speed up the time that it takes parents to identity whether their child has developmental issues, and it can do so by assessing far fewer data points than have been traditionally employed toward the same end.

The company’s story centers on the work of Dennis Wall, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Stanford who began looking into the complexity of diagnosing Autism while an associate professor of pathology at Harvard several years ago. Specifically, he learned that the process of better understanding whether a child’s development is on track typically means hours of behavioral examinations by certified practitioners who’ve been trained to perform interview-based analyses with parents or with children directly.

As you might imagine, appointments are hard to get as a result. In fact, the process is so slow, says Wall, that the average age of a child being seen by one of these practitioners is 4.5 years old. That’s not good. By that age, a kid has missed a window of brain plasticity when an intervention can have the biggest impact.

Work by researchers at The New England Center for Children — which studied 83 toddlers diagnosed with autism in the school’s Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention program —underscores the problem. According to their findings, there’s an alarming gulf between the impact that 20 to 30 hours of weekly one-on-one therapy can have on a child who’s under age 2 and one who is 2.5 years old or older. While fully 90 percent of the toddlers in their study aged 2 or younger made “significant gains” in social and communication skills, just 30 percent of children who entered therapy at age 2.5 or older made “significant gains.”

Cognoa says it can get children in front of doctors faster with its deceptively simple app, one that asks parents to answer 15 questions that address a minimum viable set of behaviors that indicate whether their child is at risk of Autism.

How can it boil down the process so drastically? The company says much of its power is rooted in the information that Wall has culled over the years, including from research repositories like the Autism Genetic Research Exchange, Cure Autism Now (later subsumed into Autism Speaks), the Autism Consortium, and the National Database for Autism Research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Collectively, the repositories feature observations about 10,000 children. It’s always been possible to request access to that information, says Wall, but he claims no one before had tried to combine, synthesize, and analyze the data using machine learning.

More here.

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New Fundings

Avenida, a two-year-old, Buenos Aires, Argentina-based e-commerce giant, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by earlier investor Naspers, with participation from another earlier backer, Tiger Global Management. TechCrunch has more here.

Hover, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based app that lets residents and contractors easily create 3-D models of houses from a handful of photos, has raised $6 million in funding led by Alsop Louie Partners. Earlier backers Almaz Capital and Maverick Investments also joined the round. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Nuzzel, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based social, real-time platform that allows users to see the news that their friends share, has raised its third round of $1.7 million in funding (a coincidence, apparently), from investors that include Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and SoftBank Vice President Nikesh Arora. TechCrunch has more here.

OpenHouse, a five-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based real-estate agent recommendation service, has raised $13.5 million in Series A funding led by Triangle Peak Partners and March Capital Partners, with participation from other, undisclosed investors. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Travo, a year-old,  L.A.-based travel reservations platform tailored for professionals who book their own business trips, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding from investors that include Great Oaks Ventures, Baroda VenturesValence Ventures, TYLT Lab and individual angels.

Tubi TV, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company offering a free alternative to paid subscription video services like Netflix, has raised $6 million in Series B funding led by Cota Capital, with participation from Hollywood studios MGM and Lionsgate. Earlier backer Foundation Capital also joined the round. The company has now raised $10 million altogether. TechCrunch hasmore here.

WaHome, a six-month-old, Seoul-based on-demand home cleaning service, has raised $1 million in seed funding from Sparklabs Global Ventures, Mashup Angels, Fast Track Asia, and several individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Lerer Hippeau Ventures in New York has raised a new $113 million fund. That’s almost twice the size of the firm’s fourth fund, closed in early 2014 with $62 million.

Razer, the high-end gaming hardware firm that entered the billion dollar unicorn club last year courtesy of an undisclosed investment from Intel, is planning to create a corporate venture capital fund that is slated to launch next year. TechCrunch has the story here.

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IPOs

Square, the payments technology company, saw its share rise 45 percent in their first first day of trading (though the stock was priced at $9, below its expected range).

Shares of Match Group, which owns dating site Match.com and mobile app Tinder, jumped 23 percent in their market debut.

—–

Exits

Cisco announced today it plans to buy the U.K.-based video conferencing firm Acano. The widely reported price: $700 million. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

People

Watch out, Amazon? Veteran entrepreneur and technologist Diane Greene has been appointed to head up Google’s cloud business that caters to companies.

Jawbone yesterday laid off around 60 employees, or 15 percent of staff in a global round of layoffs that affects all areas of the business. It’s the second round of layoffs at Jawbone since this summer. TechCrunch has the skinny here.

This is not a good development for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

—–

Essential Reads

Facebook debuts new digital break-up tools.

You can now use bitcoin anywhere that Visa is accepted.

The Finnish mobile devices and OS maker Jolla is reportedly in big trouble.

Thirteen tech IPOs compared: How much a $10,000 investment would be worth today.

—–

Detours

Sturdy legs could mean healthy brains.

Tesla Model S owners in Hong Kong have suddenly found their autopilot features disabled.

The Singularity.”

—–

Retail Therapy

The real-life villain’s lair from “Spectre”. Price: $4 million.




Cognoa, Which Promises Parents Faster Answers, Looks to Series B

There’s a lot of talk these days about computational medicine, which uses massive amounts of data to train a machine to understand even more than experts or, at least, to identify health-related problems more quickly.

Cognoa, a consumer-focused healthcare outfit, is among the developing field’s biggest proponents. The two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company claims it can dramatically speed up the time that it takes parents to identity whether their child has developmental issues, and it can do so by assessing far fewer data points than have been traditionally employed toward the same end.

The company’s story centers on the work of Dennis Wall, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Stanford who began looking into the complexity of diagnosing Autism while an associate professor of pathology at Harvard several years ago. Specifically, he learned that the process of better understanding whether a child’s development is on track typically means hours of behavioral examinations by certified practitioners who’ve been trained to perform interview-based analyses with parents or with children directly.

As you might imagine, appointments are hard to get as a result. In fact, the process is so slow, says Wall, that the average age of a child being seen by one of these practitioners is 4.5 years old. That’s not good. By that age, a kid has missed a window of brain plasticity when an intervention can have the biggest impact.

Work by researchers at The New England Center for Children — which studied 83 toddlers diagnosed with autism in the school’s Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention program — underscores the problem. According to their findings, there’s an alarming gulf between the impact that 20 to 30 hours of weekly one-on-one therapy can have on a child who’s under age 2 and one who is 2.5 years old or older. While fully 90 percent of the toddlers in their study aged 2 or younger made “significant gains” in social and communication skills, just 30 percent of children who entered therapy at age 2.5 or older made “significant gains.”

Cognoa says it can get children in front of doctors faster with its deceptively simple app, one that asks parents to answer 15 questions that address a minimum viable set of behaviors that indicate whether their child is at risk of Autism.

How can it boil down the process so drastically? The company says much of its power is rooted in the information that Wall has culled over the years, including from research repositories like the Autism Genetic Research Exchange, Cure Autism Now (later subsumed into Autism Speaks), the Autism Consortium, and the National Database for Autism Research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Collectively, the repositories feature observations about 10,000 children. It’s always been possible to request access to that information, says Wall, but he claims no one before had tried to combine, synthesize, and analyze the data using machine learning.

More here.




StrictlyVC: November 19, 2015

Happy Thursday, everyone! We’re off to moderate a panel at the Draper Venture Network CEO Summit in San Jose this morning. See some of you there.:)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

The EU is reportedly clamping down on bitcoin to curb terrorism funding. Reuters has the story here.

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VCs Aren’t the Only Ones Watching Those Mutual Fund Markdowns

VCs have been watching with great interest as mutual funds mark down the value of some of their privately held, illiquid investments, including shares of Dropbox, Zenefits, and Snapchat. Turns out the SEC is watching, too. A new Wall Street Journal report says the agency “has been asking more questions of large fund firms about how they value startups and whether their process ensures an accurate estimate of a company’s worth.”

According to the WSJ, examiners from the agency’s enforcement division are not yet involved in the inquiries. And asked yesterday if the SEC is investigating mutual funds’ pricing of private companies, a spokeswoman responded to us this morning, saying the agency isn’t commenting on its plans.

But some think it’s only a matter of time before a full-fledged investigation is launched into possible violations of federal securities laws, given the difference in prices that some funds have assigned their holdings, how they’ve timed their markdowns, and the opaqueness around both. The whole matter may give pause to other investors who’ve been looking to access the private markets, too.

More here.

——

New Fundings

Card.com, a three-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based online financial services company whose prepaid MasterCards  can be customized with a user’s favorite brands and characters, has raised $9 million in growth capital from Columbia Pacific Advisors and Fenway Summer Ventures. SoCalTech has more here.

ClearCare, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose software enables the elderly to receive care and support in their homes instead of a nursing home or doctor’s office, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from McKesson Ventures. More here.

Deep Genomics, a year-old, Toronto-based company whose computational system is learning to predict and interpret how genetic variations affect cells in order to help pharmaceutical and diagnostic researchers, has raised $3.7 million in seed funding, says Dow Jones VentureWire. True Ventures led the round, with participation from Bloomberg Beta and individual investors. More here.

Eve, a 16-month-old London-based e-commerce mattress startup, has raised £2.5 million ($2.7) in Series A funding from DN Capital and Octopus Ventures. More here.

First Aid Shot Therapy, a five-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based consumer healthcare company focused on over-the-counter medicine in liquid shot form, has raised $24 million in Series C funding led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, with participation from Lumira Capital and earlier backersS ofinnova Ventures, Redmile Group and HealthQuest Capital, among others. More here.

Ola, the nearly five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based on-demand transportion app company, has raised $500 million in fresh funding led by Baillie GiffordFalcon Edge Capital, Tiger Global Management, SoftBank Group, DST Global and China’s biggest taxi aggregator, Didi Kuaidi. Ola has now closed more than $1.3 billion altogether, nearly all of which has been raised over the past year. The Economic Times has more here.

PlanGrid, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose cloud-based app allows users to store blueprints and construction documents on iPads and iPhones, has raised $40 million in new funding led by Tenaya Capital, with participation from Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, YC Continuity Fund and Northgate. The company has now raised more than $58 million. TechCrunch has more here.

PresenceLearning, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based company that provides live online speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavior and mental health services for K-12 students, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Catalyst Investors, with participation from Birchmere Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Catamount Ventures, and New Markets Venture Partners. More here.

test IO, a four-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based self-service crowdtesting platform for app and web developers, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Turn/River Capital, a San Francisco-based firm. TechCrunch has more here.

Townsquared, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based online social platform for local business owners to connect and share resources, has raised $5.26 million from Floodgate and August Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

TutorGroup, an 11-year-old, Shanghai, China-based online education platform, has raised $200 million in Series C funding at a reported $1 billion valuation. Backers include GIC, Singapore’s sovereign fund; the Russia-China Investment Fund; Goldman Sachs; and Silverlink Capital. Reuters hasmore here.

UrbanClap, a year-old, Bangalore, India-based mobile marketplace for services ranging from in-home manicures to wedding photographers, has raised about Rs 165 crore ($25 million) led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investors Accel Partners and SAIF. The company has now raised a total of about $37 million to date. The Economic Times has more here.

VoltServer, a four-year-old East Greenwich, R.I.-based developer of electrical energy distribution technology, has raised $5 million in Series A2 round of funding. The round, which brings the rounds total funding to $10.5 million, was led by Marker Hill Capital, with participation from NRCM and Clean Energy Venture Group. More here.

Zipdrug, a nearly year-old, New York -based on-demand prescription medication delivery company, has raised $2.6 million seed funding led by Collaborative Fund, with participation from Lux Capital, Montage VenturesMesa Ventures, Metamorphic Ventures, and serial entrepreneur Brian Lee. The New York Business Journal has more here.

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New Funds

FXiaoKe, a four-year-old, Beijing-based mobile sales management tool company, has teamed up with IDG Capital Partners, Northern Light Venture Capital, and China Soft Capital to launch a $20 million investment fund to invest in China-based software-as-a service companies. China Money Network has more here.

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IPOs

Last night, Match priced its IPO at $12 per share, raising $400 million. The company began trading on the Nasdaq this morning, under the ticker symbol MTCH. More here.

Square yesterday priced its IPO at $9, giving the company a valuation of $2.66 billion, but it has jumped 50 percent already this morning. During its last fundraise as a private company, it was valued at $6 billion.

—–

People

Shuddle founder Nick Allen has stepped down as CEO of the company. Shuddle is an on-demand car service aimed mainly at children. TechCrunch has the story here.

Jim Coulter, a billionaire investor in Uber, criticized Amsterdam yesterday for not making the ride-sharing service more widely available in the Dutch city, saying it reflected an unwelcoming attitude to technology innovation.

Since leaving an investing role at DFJ in 2013, firm cofounder Tim Draper has kicked his own seed investing into overdrive; he’s also taken charge of the former DFJ Global Network, renaming it Draper Network and instituting a bunch of other new initiatives that may soon include a new fund-of-funds.

President Barack Obama took time off at an Asia-Pacific summit yesterday for an unusual task: He interviewed Chinese internet billionaire Jack Ma. More here.

You may have heard: Tinder CEO Sean Rad had a tough Wednesday.

Entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki shares her improvement plans for downtown Los Altos, Ca., where she owns lots of property with ex-husband Sergey Brin. The area’s number one issue, she says, is parking, though she calls it a “short term” problem because, self-driving cars.

YouTube is getting a new product boss from Google, which is getting a new display advertising boss. Ad Age has the story here.

—–

Jobs

Apple is looking to hire a corporate development analyst. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

VMware is hiring a corporate development manager. The job is in Palo Alto, Ca.

—–

Essential Reads

Looks like Facebook may have built a Kickstarter competitor.

—–

Detours

Buying multi-million dollar homes in the U.S. through WeChat.

Should you drink milk?

—-

Retail Therapy

You’ve seen billionaire bunkers. This is not one.




VCs Aren’t the Only Ones Watching Those Mutual Fund Markdowns

sec-sealVCs have been watching with great interest as mutual funds mark down the value of some of their privately held, illiquid investments, including shares of Dropbox, Zenefits, and Snapchat. Turns out the SEC is watching, too. A new Wall Street Journal report says the agency “has been asking more questions of large fund firms about how they value startups and whether their process ensures an accurate estimate of a company’s worth.”

According to the WSJ, examiners from the agency’s enforcement division are not yet involved in the inquiries. And asked yesterday if the SEC is investigating mutual funds’ pricing of private companies, a spokeswoman responded to us this morning, saying the agency isn’t commenting on its plans.

But some think it’s only a matter of time before a full-fledged investigation is launched into possible violations of federal securities laws, given the difference in prices that some funds have assigned their holdings, how they’ve timed their markdowns, and the opaqueness around both. The whole matter may give pause to other investors who’ve been looking to access the private markets, too.

More here.




StrictlyVC: November 18, 2015

Hi, everyone! We’re sending out SVC a little earlier than usual to get some news to you as it’s breaking. Hope you have a wonderful day and we’ll see you tomorrow.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

It’s baaaaack. Google Plus, that is. More on why Google is injecting new life into the platform here.

Taxi owners and lenders filed a lawsuit this morning against New York City and its Taxi and Limousine Commission, saying Uber was destroying their businesses and threatening their livelihoods.

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Andreessen Horowitz Lands a New GP —  And A New Fund

Andreessen Horowitz is making a big move into biotech, and it’s using a $200 million new fund called the AH Bio Fund – and new general partner, Vijay Pande — to plant its stake in the ground.

The fund will be used to invest in mostly early-stage startups at the intersection of computer science and life sciences. It’s the first sector-focused fund for Andreessen Horowitz, which is halfway through its main fund, a $1.5 billion vehicle that it announced in March of last year.

Pande seems a good choice to lead it. He has the know-how and the connections, having spent the last 16 years teaching chemistry, structural biology and computer science at Stanford University, where he says he’ll continue “spending a very small percentage of my time” with his research group there.

Pande also knows startups, having been involved in a number of them already. Last year, he cofounded Globavir, a seed-funded infectious disease company. Pande also foundedFolding@home, a now 16-year-old distributed computing project for disease research that remains his highest-profile work to date.

Asked if it will be hard to say no to some of the many Stanford-related startups now working on health care-focused, machine-learning startups, Pande calls it a “kid in a candy store” issue, adding that he expects to “see a lot [of startups] from Stanford, Berkeley, and M.I.T.,” among other places. (Conveniently, he notes, he has spent time at all three. He was once a Miller Fellow at U.C. Berkeley and nabbed his PhD in physics from M.I.T.)

Andreessen Horowitz is quick to note that Pande won’t be making decisions about what to fund on his own.

More here.

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New Fundings

Aiwujiwu, a 1.5-year-old, Shanghai-based rental and second-home listings portal, has reportedly raised $150 million in Series E funding led by Temasek Holdings and Hillhouse Capital, with participation from earlier backers Morningside Venture Capital, Banyan Capital, Shunwei Capital Partnersand GGV Capital. The young company has now raised $350 million to date. DealStreetAsia has more here.

APX Labs, the five-year-old, Herndon, Va.-based company behind the Skylight smart glasses development platform, has raised $13 million in venture funding led by New Enterprise Associates. Other participants in the round includeCNF Investments, GE Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and SineWave Ventures. The company has now raised $29 million altogether. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Athos, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based wearable technology company centered around workout clothing, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Social+Capital Partnership, with participation from apparel giant MAS Holdings, Lightspeed Ventures, Felix Capital and earlier backers True Ventures, DCM and Golden State Warriors managing partner Joe Lacob. TechCrunch has more on the company, which has now raised roughly $51 million, right here.

Goodbox, a nearly three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based marketplace app that helps small retailers set up mobile storefronts, has raised $2.5 million in Series A from Nexus Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Hoodline, a San Francisco-based news startup centered on local communities (it was founded by former TechCrunch co-editor Eric Eldon), has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from SoftTech VC and along list of individual investors, including Keith Rabois, Shervin Pishevar, and Cyan and Scott Banister. TechCrunch has more here.

Joyable, a year-old, San Francisco-based digital therapeutics company (its app aims to treat people diagnosed with mental health issues like social anxiety and depression), has raised $8 million in Series A funding from Thrive Capital and Harrison Metal. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Jugnoo, a 1.5-year-old, Chandigarh, India-based hyper-local online marketplace that facilitates autorickshaw rides and food and grocery deliveries through autorickshaws, has raised $3 million in Series B funding from Paytm, with participation from individual investors. The round brings the company’s total funding to $9 million altogether. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Numecent, a 19-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based “cloudpaging” technology company  that transmits pre-virtualized native software instructions in a transient manner, has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Deutsche Telekom. Other participants included unnamed family offices and private equity firms. The company has now raised $38 million altogether.

Nuvolo Technologies, a two-year-old, New York-based company that’s making enterprise applications for the ServiceNow cloud platform, has raised $2 million in seed funding from New Enterprise Associates and ServiceNow. More here.

Stuart, a new, Barcelona, Spain-based on-demand, same-hour delivery startup that is currently pre-launch and operating in stealth, has raised €22 million in funding led by GeoPost, the delivery subsidiary of Le Groupe La Post. TechCrunch has more here.

Tuition.io, a four-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca-based student loan management startup, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from MassMutual Ventures,Wildcat Venture Partners, and Mohr Davidow Ventures, among others. The company has now raised $8.2 million altogether. More here.

TuringSense, a months-old, Campbell, Ca.-based wearable sports technology startup, has raised $3 million in seed funding, including from Angel PlusChinaRock Capital, Ideosource, SV Tech Ventures, Zen Water Capital, and numerous individual investors.

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IPOs

Stay tuned: Square and Match.com are pricing their IPOs this afternoon.

China’s version of Lending Club is planning an IPO on the NYSE.

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People

Michael Chou, who joined Harmony Partners as a principal in its New York office in 2011, has been promoted to partner. Chou relocated to lead the venture firm’s San Francisco office earlier this year. Earlier in his career, he was a techn  investment banker at Perella Weinberg and Barclays.

S. (“Soma”) Somasegar, who spent nearly 27 years at Microsoft, including most recently as corporate VP of its developer division, has joined Madrona Venture Group as a venture partner.

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Jobs

Salesforce is looking to hire a senior director of strategic partnerships. The job is in San Francisco.

TechStars is looking for a CFO. The job is in Boulder, Co.

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Data

Startup valuations continued to rise at a torrid pace in the third quarter, though there were potential signs the venture-capital tide may have started to turn, according to new data published yesterday by the law firm Fenwick & West.

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Essential Reads

Lyft, the San Francisco-based ride-hailing startup, is reportedly looking to raise about $500 million at a valuation of approximately $4 billion. The New York Times has more here.

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Detours

Inside one billionaire’s apocalypse shelter.

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Retail Therapy

Finally, a small act of kindness toward parents from Lego’s.




Andreessen Horowitz Lands a New GP — and a New Fund

Vijay_Pande2Andreessen Horowitz is making a big move into biotech, and it’s using a $200 million new fund called the AH Bio Fund – and new general partner, Vijay Pande — to plant its stake in the ground.

The fund will be used to invest in mostly early-stage startups at the intersection of computer science and life sciences. It’s the first sector-focused fund for Andreessen Horowitz, which is halfway through its main fund, a $1.5 billion vehicle that it announced in March of last year.

Pande seems a good choice to lead it. He has the know-how and the connections, having spent the last 16 years teaching chemistry, structural biology and computer science at Stanford University, where he says he’ll continue “spending a very small percentage of my time” with his research group there.

Pande also knows startups, having been involved in a number of them already. Last year, he cofounded Globavir, a seed-funded infectious disease company. Pande also founded Folding@home, a now 16-year-old distributed computing project for disease research that remains his highest-profile work to date.

Asked if it will be hard to say no to some of the many Stanford-related startups now working on health care-focused, machine-learning startups, Pande calls it a “kid in a candy store” issue, adding that he expects to “see a lot [of startups] from Stanford, Berkeley, and M.I.T.,” among other places. (Conveniently, he notes, he has spent time at all three. He was once a Miller Fellow at U.C. Berkeley and nabbed his PhD in physics from M.I.T.)

Andreessen Horowitz is quick to note that Pande won’t be making decisions about what to fund on his own.

More here.




StrictlyVC: November 17, 2015

Hi, everyone! We ran out of time to finish today’s column, but we have some good stuff coming your way the rest of this week.

Happy Tuesday.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

The board of directors for Angie’s List rejected a proposal today from New York-based IAC/InterActiveCorp to acquire the local recommendations service, claiming the all-cash deal “dramatically undervalues” the company.More here.

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New Fundings

Align Commerce, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based bitcoin company that’s being used as a tool to provide cross-border payments for small businesses, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Codiak BioSciences, a new, Cambridge, Mass.-based company that aims to develop exosomes as a new therapeutic and diagnostic modality to treat diseases, including cancer, has raised $80 million in funding from Arch Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures. The underlying technology is being licensed from the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. More here.

Cogito, an eight-year-old, Boston-based company that makes voice recognition and behavioral analysis software that analyzes customer service reps, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding led by Romulus Capital, with participation from Salesforce Ventures. Xconomy has more here.

Craftsvilla, a four-year-old, Mumbai, India-based marketplace for ethnic goods, has raised $34 million in Series C funding led by earlier investors Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Ventures. Nexus Venture Partners and Global Founders Capital, which are also existing backers, participated alongside Apoletto Asia. TechCrunch has more here.

Datto, the company that acts as a backup and disaster recovery service for small to mid-sized businesses, has raised $75 million in Series B funding led by Technology Crossover Ventures. The company has now raised just more than $100 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Descartes Labs, a 1.5-year-old, Los Alamos, N.N.-based artificial intelligence technology company that’s right now focused on analyzing satellite imagery, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures. Venture Capital Dispatch has much more here.

Door to Door Organics, a 10-year-old, Lafayette, Co.-based natural and organic online grocer, has raised $25.5 million in Series B funding led by Arlon Group, with participation from Greenmont Capital Partners. Tech Bulletin has more here.

Earnest, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based online consumer lender, has raised  $75 million in Series B funding led by Battery Ventures, with participation from Adams Street Partners and earlier backer Maveron. Earnest also secured $200 million in commitments from New York Life and others in a warehouse financing facility that will be used to finance loansonline consumer lender, reports Venture Capital Dispatch.

Gogoro, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based electric scooter maker, has raised $130 million in Series B funding led by Taiwanese billionaire Samuel Yin, who is chairman of the Taiwan-based retail firm Ruentex Group. Yin is an earlier investor and major shareholder of Gogoro. Other participants in the round include Panasonic Corporation and the National Development Fund of Taiwan. The company — which says it has sold nearly 2,000 scooters to date — has now raised more than $180 million in total funding. More here.

Noitom, a four-year-old, Beijing, China-based motion capture software firm, has raised $20 million in Series B funding from Legend Capital, Haitong Kaiyuan Investment, Alpha Animation and Culture, and other undisclosed investors, according to a company announcement posted on Wechat. China Money Network has more here.

ProtectWise, a 2.5-year-old, Denver-based, cloud-based network security services company, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Tola Capital, with participation from earlier backers Crosslink Capital, Trinity Ventures, Paladin Capital Group and Arsenal Venture Partners. The Denver Post has more here.

Salesfusion, an eight-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based maker of marketing automation software for small and mid-size businesses, has raised $13.5 million in Series B funding from a long list of investors who’d provided most of the round to the company late last year. Those backers include Noro-Moseley Partners, BLH Venture Partners, Alerion Ventures, Tech Square Ventures, Ellis Capital, Dave Williams, and Hallett Capital, which was Salesfusion’s sole Series A investor. Noro-Moseley led the Series B. More here.

Taskbucks, a 1.5-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based Android-only mobile-focused task marketplace that lets users “do interesting tasks on your smartphone and earn bucks,” has raised $15 million in funding from India’s Times Internet.TechCrunch has more here.

TinyRx, a seven-month-old, San Francisco-based prescription delivery startup, has raised $5 million in new funding, including from Joe Lonsdale’s new fund, 8 Partners, as well as from early employees of Google and Airbnb. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Ameba Capital, a four-year-old, China-focused venture capital firm, has closed its second fund with RMB1 billion (US$157 million) in capital commitments, it says. Ameba Capital focuses on early-stage investment in the tech, media, and telecom sectors. China Money Network has more here.

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Exits

Pandora, the publicly traded streaming music company, has acquired “key assets” from Rdio for $75 million in cash, it announced yesterday. Rdio had raised at least $125 million in funding from investors that included Atomico,Mangrove (which eventually sold its stake), and serial entrepreneur Janus Friis, who cofounded Rdio with longtime business partners Niklas Zennstrom and Carter Adamson. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Seven top executives have resigned from the fashion tech company Rent the Runway in the past 10 months—four in the past two months alone. Fortune looks at what’s going on here.

Tech executives may have attained a cult-like status in Silicon Valley. But their popularity doesn’t extend to the rest of America, suggest audience numbers from Stephen Colbert’s new “Late Show,” which has so far featured Tim CookBrian Chesky, Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick, Reed Hastings and Evan Spiegel. The Information takes a look here. (Subscribers only.)

Solar City’s Lyndon Rive talks with Inc. about entrepreneurship, sustainable energy, and what movie makes him think about his cousin Elon.

UBS Group has hired four bankers from Jefferies Group, as Switzerland’s biggest bank looks to build its global technology business. Bloomberg has more here.

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Essential Reads

Uber’s transition plan for self-driving cars.

SpaceX may win its first U.S. military satellite launch after the only other certified bidder, a Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture, decided not to compete.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, has contracted for a second consecutive quarter, marking a technical recession.

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Detours

A charmingly hapless dad pointed his GoPro in the wrong direction for his entire Las Vegas vacation.

Figures from classic paintings placed in contemporary settings.

“Ms.Wang confirmed that, as in the past, she and Mr. Liu would be using their American Express card to pay for the [$170 million] Modigliani. That way, with the cardholder’s points they accrue, their whole family — the couple, their four children and two grandchildren — can continue flying for free.”

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Retail Therapy

subterranean garage that evokes James Bond but was built for a “royal.”