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Investor-Entrepreneur Peter Pham on Who’s in the Driver’s Seat Now
Two weeks ago, during a panel about the state of early-stage investing, a handful of VCs I interviewed largely agreed that, as a class, they’re less keen right now to write checks as quickly as earlier this year.
The next day, First Round Capital published a survey of more than 500 founders of venture-backed companies who plainly agree. In fact, 80 percent of respondents said they were able to raise their target amounts during their last round, but almost all said they anticipated harder times ahead.
The slowdown seems due, given the feverish pace of investing in recent years, and the accompanying rise in valuations. The big question is whether things will stay sluggish for long. Peter Pham — an investor and advisor to many seed-stage companies, as well as the cofounder of the L.A.-based company-building outfit Science – says we’ll know the answer in March. We talked about it late last week. Here’s more from that chat, edited for length.
You just helped serial entrepreneur Gil Elbaz raise $35 million for his company, Factual. You say it was a long road, though, which is surprising.
It wasn’t an easy round, and this is the guy who created AdSense [which Google created out of Elbaz’s earlier company, Applied Semantics, after acquiring it in 2003]. Gil is super intellectual, and more than ever, the process of raising money requires a lot of salesmanship. You have to convince people who don’t know your business or have the same clarity or information that you have to invest in it, and that’s tough.
When do you know it’s going to be a “no”?
I’ve become an expert.
CapriCoast, a year-old, Bangalore, India-based online modular furniture marketplace that operates in 20 cities across India and specializes in kitchens and wardrobes, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding from the Singapore-based firm RB Investments and earlier backer Accel Partners. NextBigWhat has more here.
Chillr, a two-year-old, Cochin, India-based based peer-to-peer payments app, has raised $7 million in Series A funding from Blume Ventures, Uniqorn Ventures, Sequoia Capital and others. Inc42 has more here.
Cloudyn, a four-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based service for monitoring and optimizing cloud usage across multiple vendors, has raised $11 million in Series B funding led by Carmel Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Titanium Investments and RDSeed. The company has now raised $16.5 million altogether. More here.
Doctena, a two-year-old, Brussels-based medical booking platform, has raised €4.5 million ($4.9 million) in funding from undisclosed private investors, business angels, and debt. TechCrunch has more here.
Greensmith, a seven-year-old, Rockville, Md.-based energy storage software and integration services company, has raised $18.3 million in Series C funding from the energy utility E.ON. More here.
LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, a nine-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based cybersecurity company, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by NewSpring Capital, with participation from earlier backers Alsop Louie Partners, Neuberger Berman Group and Vital Financial. More here.
Mazlo, a 2.5-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based digital “self-actualization” platform, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Polaris Partners, with participation from company cofounder and CEO Tim Kilgallon. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.
Orckestra, a nine-year-old, Montreal, Canada-based software-as-a-service company providing e-commerce services to mid-sized and large retailers, has raised $12 million in Series B funding from earlier backers, including Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Fondaction CSN and W Investments. More here.
Pixvana, a new, Seattle, Wa.-based virtual reality technology startup whose cloud-based platform aims to dramatically improve the video viewing experience for VR and augmented reality apps across viewing devices, has launched with $6 million in funding led by Madrona Venture Group. Other participants include Vulcan Capital and angel investors. More here.
SketchDeck, a two-year-old, on-demand design service for marketing and sales teams, has raised $1.7 million in new funding. The round comes 10 months after the startup raised $500,000 from investors. Backers include Matrix Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Foundation Capital, Blue Capital, Arnold Capital and Flight VC. We talked with the company here.
SteelHouse, a 6.5-year-old, Culver City, Ca.-based advertising software company, has raised $49 million in new funding led by Mercato Partners, with participation from Staley Capital and Silicon Valley Bank. The L.A. Business Journal has more here.
Submittable, a five-year-old, Missoula, Montana-based company whose app makes it easier for media companies, publishers, schools, and grant-giving organizations to accept and review submissions online, has raised $1.34 million in Series A funding led by Next Frontier Capital, with participation from Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, Flywheel Ventures, K5 Ventures and individuals. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.
Vidyo, a 10-year-old, Hackensack, N.J.-based high-definition videoconferencing provider, has raised $10 million in new funding led by Kaiser Permanente Ventures, with participation from Menlo Ventures, Rho Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds and QuestMark Partners. More here.
Whoop, a four-year-old, Boston-based company that provides performance data to professional athletes and sports teams, has raised $3 million in strategic funding from Infosys, the India-headquartered consulting and IT firm. Whoop was spun out of the Harvard Innovation Lab; it had raised $12 million back in September. TechCrunch has more here.
X4 Pharmaceuticals, a year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based startup that’s developing an oral medicine that could combine with existing drugs to treat a common type of kidney cancers, has raised $37.5 million in Series A funding led by Cormorant Asset Management. FierceBiotech has more here.
Yello Mobile, a 3.5-year-old, South Korea-based mobile apps platform company with numerous areas of operations, including e-commerce, digital entertainment, online marketing, and data analytics, has raised $47.2 million in fresh funding led by earlier backer Formation 8. The funding comes as convertible debt at a $4 billion valuation. TechCrunch has more here.
British Columbia is getting a new, $100 million venture capital fund, courtesy of the local government. NorthEast News has more here.
Charles Carmel, a longtime corporate development executive at Cisco and, in more recent years, a partner and managing director at Warburg Pincus, appears to be raising a venture capital fund. According to an SEC filing, the fund is called Gold Sky Capital; it does not list a target.
Foundation Capital, a 20-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture firm, has raised $325 million for its eighth fund, six months after kicking off its official fundraising effort. The capital pool, which is being managed by four general partners, is slightly larger than its $282 million predecessor, closed in April 2013 but far smaller than the $750 million that Foundation closed in 2008 for its sixth fund. Longtime GP Paul Holland wrote us last night about the firm’s newest effort.
Former football great Joe Montana is rasing a new, $25 million fund for his venture capital firm, Liquid 2 Ventures, shows an SEC filing.
The top executive at a global chemical manufacturer and a social media marketing expert have teamed up to launch a $50 million early-stage fund that will invest in technology-focused Indian startups. The firm’s name: Rainmaker Ventures. The Economic Times has more here.
Alibaba confirmed on Friday that it has agreed to acquire the South China Morning Post following weeks of rumors. The Hong Kong-based newspaper and SCMP Group’s other assets, which includes local editions of Esquire and Elle, will cost Alibaba a little over HK$2 billion — around $262 million — according to a regulatory filing. TechCrunch has more here.
Experian, one of the world’s biggest credit ratings agencies, is selling off its two well-known analytics divisions in a $51.5 million deal. Hitwise, the traffic measurement company, is being sold to Connexity; and Simmons, which publishes the National Consumer Study (a huge marketing information and consumer usage database), is being sold to Symphony Technology Group, the private equity company that owns Connexity. TechCrunch has more here.
Love Home Swap, a U.K.-based marketplace for people to exchange homes for short stays, has acquired Holland’s HomeForExchange in an all-cash deal whose price isn’t being disclosed. TechCrunch, which expects more consolidation in the space, has more here.
This morning, Eric Jackson, the manager of hedge fund SpringOwl, sent a brutal 99-page presentation to Yahoo’s board, outlining his case for why Yahoo should drop Marissa Mayer as CEO and find new management. More here.
In a brief announcement via Twitter on Friday, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk revealed a brand new initiative; OpenAI, a non-profit artificial intelligence research company that says its mission is “to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” Musk is co-chairing the initiative with Y Combinator President Sam Altman. More here.
Data compiled by the research firm PitchBook unsurprisingly reveals investor protections and other deal terms at 33 of the highest-profile private tech firms. With a few exceptions, reports The Information, the most highly valued companies appear to have granted only limited protections to investors. (Subscribers only.)
VCs are rushing into virtual reality startups; the New York Times takes a look at what’s happening.
The streaming music service Pandora just launched a hyper-personalized station for each listener. More here.
Why you should have bought into that Apple’s IPO 35 years ago. (You’re forgiven if you were not yet alive or possessed of a checking account.)
“Old-timers, guys that are 60-plus, have no problem with a gang shower and whatever,” says sports club designer Bryan Dunkelberger. “The Gen X-ers are a little bit more sensitive to what they’re spending and what they’re expecting.”
Thirteen vintage watch icons on auction at Christie’s.
Lego McNuggets vending machine. Process that.