Yearly Archives: 2016

StrictlyVC: December 15, 2016

It is Thursday! [Warm up, tumble, one hand cartwheel.] Hope you’re having a great day, everyone.

Top News in the A.M.

About ten hours after it began employing self-driving cars to pick up customers in San Francisco, Uber was yesterday ordered by state regulators to stop using the cars in California, at least until Uber secures the necessary permit issued by the state to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. More here.

What That New Fed Rate Increase Means for Venture-Backed Startups

The Federal Reserve yesterday raised its benchmark interest rate to a range of 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent, up from 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent. People in the business of venture-backed startups were paying attention, too, and not because of the new range, which is still super low by historical standards. It’s what the move augurs – even higher interest rates in 2017 – that interests them.

Why does it matter? Well, if you’ve founded, or invest in, early-stage startups, it probably doesn’t – yet. Enough investment capital has been raised in the last 12 to 24 months to insulate young companies and early-stage investors for some time to come. “If you’re investing behind two women and a cat, it makes no matter what the Fed is doing,” says Venky Ganesan, a managing director at the early-stage venture firm Menlo Ventures.

“There’s still a lot of money in the system that needs to go somewhere,” adds Bradley Tusk, a political strategist and investor who notes that investors began bulking up on capital earlier this year, partly in anticipation of rising interest rates.

Still, for later-stage investors and companies, the story could prove starkly different.

In recent years, operating in a near zero interest rate environment, investors who might have otherwise parked their assets in bonds and other fixed income securities began looking elsewhere for returns. Startups within spitting distance of a public offering became a popular place to dump some of that money. “People forget how unusual that is,” says David Golden, a managing partner at Revolution Ventures who worked earlier in his career as a JPMorgan exec. “The fact that capital has been so cheap is partly what has fueled the sea change in early-stage valuations since the financial crisis. Cheap equity means that you can raise millions of dollars without having to give up very much of your company.”

As capital becomes more expensive, those “bargains are going to start to retreat.”

Much more here.

New Fundings

Amino Apps, a five-year-old, New York-based startup aiming to reinvent online forums for the mobile world, has raised $19.2 million in Series B funding led by GV, with participation from Venrock, Union Square Ventures and Box Group, as well as new backers Time Warner Investments and Goodwater Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Databricks, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based machine learning and analytics platform that was founded out of the UC Berkeley AMPLab, has raised $60 million in Series C funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from earlier backer Andreessen Horowitz. The company has now raised $107.5 million altogether. More here.

ExplainEverything, a six-year-old, Wroclaw, Poland-based that produces a digital whiteboard that enables users to display and share drawings, texts, equations and more, has raised $3.7 million in funding from Credo Ventures, RTAventures, and New Europe Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Goldfinch Bio, an 18-month-old, Boston-based startup that aims to apply precision medicine to kidney disease by combining biology and genetics and which was incubated by Third Rock Ventures, has raised $55 million in Series A funding from Third Rock for its launch. MedCity News has more here.

Hopper, a nine-year-old, Montreal-based airfare prediction app, has raised $82 million CAD ($61.2 million) in Series C funding led by the North American pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Brightspark Ventures, Accomplice, OMERS, Investissement Québec and BDC Capital IT Venture Fund. The company has now raised around $77 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

HyperScience, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that applies artificial intelligence to data processing to make its customers’ lives easier, has raised $18 million in Series A funding from FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Third Kind Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Slow Ventures, Box Group, and Acequia Capital. More here.

Kreditech, a 4.5-year-old, Hamburg, Germany-based online lender that builds credit histories based on big data analytics, has raised $10.4 million in new funding from Rakuten, the Japan-based e-commerce giant. Reportedly, the round has yet to close. TechCrunch has more here.

OWHealth, a months-old, Wilmington, De.-based company whose Flo app helps women track and predict their menstrual cycles, ovulation, and fertility, has raised $1 million in seed round funding led by Flint Capital along with the Haxus Venture Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Qineqt, a three-year-old, New York-based company developing a financial data platform for investment managers, has raised $1.3 million in Series A funding from two unnamed private investors, it says. Founder Nadir Khan previously ran a hedge fund called Timescape Global Capital Management, which he co-founded after working as a trader and analyst at SAC Capital. More here.

Zola, a three-year-old, New York-based online wedding registry for engaged couples, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Alven Capital, a 16-year-old, Paris-based early-stage venture capital firm, has closed on €250 million ($260.3 million) in commitments for its fifth fund. FinSMEs has more here.

GoAhead Ventures, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based early-stage venture firm founded by two 23-year-old Stanford graduates, has raised $55 million for its debut fund. Cofounder Phil Brady graduated last year from Stanford with a degree in management science engineering. While a student, he worked part-time on the deal team of Andreessen Horowitz. Cofounder Clancey Stahr, another management science engineering grad, previously worked as a principal at ZenShin Capital Partners. The firm’s central theme is to fund entrepreneurs coming out of — you guessed it — Stanford. More here.

IPOs

China’s Meitu, whose photo gives its users the power to create idealized versions of their real-world selves and share them with others, has completed an IPO in Hong Kong, “long a gateway for Chinese companies seeking foreign money,” notes Dealbook. More here.

Exits

Salesforce has acquired Redwood City, Ca.-based Twin Prime, a five-year-old startup that helps mobile apps perform better and which had raised $9.5 million, according to CrunchBase. Its backers include DFJ and True Ventures. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here (sub required).

Berlin-based Delivery Hero is selling its U.K. business, which operates as hungryhouse, to rival Just Eat for around $251 million in cash, plus another $50 million in milestone payments. Just Eat is also acquiring SkipTheDishes, a delivery startup in Canada, for $83 million, to expand its position there. TechCrunch has more on the reshuffling here.

Bad News

Verizon is reportedly considering killing its deal to buy Yahoo. Bloomberg has the story here.

In related news, Yahoo disclosed yesterday that it has discovered a breach of 1 billion(!) accounts that dates back to August 2013. Here’s how that stacks up with the biggest hacks ever.

People

Magic Leap’s VP of public relations and government affairs, Andy Fouché, has left the company to join a stealth startup led by Android cofounder Andy Rubin. Last month, its VP of marketing left for the same startup. Recode has more here.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler announced his plans to leave his post this morning. Is his departure the death knell for net neutrality?

Thirteen pictures of tech CEOs at yesterday’s exclusive tech summit with Trump, three of his children, and his son-in-law.

Sapphire Ventures has just promoted four of its colleagues: Rajeev Dham, who joined the firm from Silver Lake in 2013, is now a principal; Phil Orr, who joined in 2015 from an analyst gig at Qatalyst Partners, is now a senior associate; Shruti Tournatory, who joined in 2014 following stints at SAP and Saleforce, is now VP of market development; and Laura Moir, who joined in 2015 from a clinical health company called Medrio, is now a marketing manager.

Jobs

McClatchy, the publicly traded publishing company, is looking to hire an investment associate to focus on its portfolio of investments. The job is in Washington, D.C.

Essential Reads

Good news: Facebook is now going to flag and make fake news less visible with the help of outside fact checkers.

Detours

How America’s diet has changed over the decades.

Netpicks: Everything coming to and disappearing from Netflix in January.

The worst year ever, until next year.

Retail Therapy

Washabelle, a new machine washable, dryable mattress. If you have young kids or a stinky, lovable dog, you will appreciate the utter genius of this product.




StrictlyVC: December 14, 2016

Hi, everyone, happy Wednesday! (And thanks to those of you who wished us well on Monday. We’re happy to report that we’ve recovered from our plague of earlier this week.)

Top News in the A.M.

If you live in San Francisco and call up an Uber today, it might just be self-driving. It rolled out its new program without DMV approval, too. (You can find out why at our evening event in SF in February, featuring Bradley Tusk, the regulatory strategist who has long counseled Uber on just how far it can push things. Roughly half the seats are now gone, but you still have time to nab yours.)

Newer VC Firms Trounce Their Predecessors on Diversity Front

Over the last three months, the venture firm Social Capital has worked with the media outlet The Information to put together a look at the most diverse venture firms for the second year in a row. The teams say they gathered more than 6,000 data points about 580 senior investment professionals at the 72 most active U.S. venture firms to draw their conclusions

What they found, broadly speaking, was a tiny bit of change in the right direction. The number of women working as investors within venture firms increased 2.5 percent over last year. That sounds grim, but it turns out that women represented slightly more than 23 percent of all new investors at the venture firms studied.

As for the number of non-white senior investment professionals, that stat — which is 2.4 percent higher than it was a year ago — sounds grim and looks even worse on close inspection. Just one percent of senior VCs involved in investment decisions are black. And only 1.3 percent are Hispanic. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the percentage didn’t slip backwards from last year

Those numbers didn’t surprise us. Nor did the study’s findings that 89 percent of investment decision-makers at the top 72 firms are (still) male and 75 percent are (still) white, even while those numbers are slightly improved from last year, when the numbers were 92 percent and 78 percent, respectively

What we found more striking is that among the top ten most diverse venture firms, nine have been founded in the last decade or so. That’s pretty significant to our mind

One could argue that younger venture firms are almost by definition smaller venture firms, meaning diversity can come a bit more easily.

Lowercase Capital, for example, receives top billing as the most diverse venture firm in this study. But Lowercase has just three partners: Chris Sacca, who’s a white man, Matt Mazzeo, another white man, and Sacca’s wife, Crystal English Sacca, who’s both a woman and Asian. Because the Saccas are eight years older than Mazzeo — they are both 41 and he is 33 — Lowercase also scores much higher in terms of age diversity than many of the firms in the list, most of which have more than three partners.

One could further argue that to date, diversity hasn’t been necessary in producing strong returns. Union Square Ventures, which is managed by five middle-aged white guys, ranks dead last on this new list, and most investors would kill for its track record.

But as the saying goes, past performance does not guarantee future results.

More here.

New Fundings

Alinto, a 16-year-old, Paris-based email software company, has raised €2.3 million ($2.4 million) from Cic Lyonnaise De Banque and has merged with the Swiss anti-spam filtering company Cleanmail. Tech.eu has more here.

Amcure, a five-year-old, Leopoldshafen, Germany-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing cancer therapeutics, has raised €6 million ($6.4 million) in Series B funding led by LBBW Venture Capital. Other participants include KfW, MBG Mittelstaendische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Baden-Wuerttemberg, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. More here.

BlueVine, a three-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based online provider of financing to small businesses, has raised $49 million in Series D funding from earlier backers Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, 83North, Citi Ventures, Rakuten FinTech Fund, and Silicon Valley Bank. Pymnts.com has more here.

Boom, a year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based startup behind a 3D live-streaming platform for watching e-sports on any device, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding from First Round Capital, Tandem Capital, Crosscut Ventures, Betaworks, Boost VC, BITKRAFT eSports Ventures, and angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Chappy, a new, New York-based gay dating app, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from Bumble, itself a dating app that aims to empower women. Terms of the investment aren’t being disclosed, but Bumble is the sole investor in the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Conversica, a nine-year-old, Foster City, Ca.-based sales platform that employs AI-driven email conversations to convert inbound leads, has raised $34 million in Series B funding led by Providence Strategic Growth Capital Partners, with participation from Toba Capital, Wellington Financial, Recruit Holdings, Kennet Partners, and company founder Ben Brigham. VentureBeat has more here.

EcoVadis, a nine-year-old, Paris-based outfit that ranks companies for environmental responsibility, ethical treatment of workers and other practices, has raised €30 million ($31.9 million) in funding from Partech Ventures. The WSJ has more here.

EyeCam, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of wearable computing devices and apps, has raised $1.5 million in financing via equity crowdfunding site Crowdfunder. More here.

Knowmail, a two-year-old, Boston-based startup that’s using AI to help employees manage email, has raised $3.5 million in funding led by CE Ventures, with participation from AfterDox, Plus Ventures, 2B Angels, INE Ventures, and unnamed private investors. TechCrunch has more here.

LogicWorks, a 23-year-old, New York-based managed hosting and cloud computing services company, has raised $135 million in funding led by Pamplona Capital. Up to this point, the company had raised just $4.6 million in outside equity. TechCrunch has more here.

Managed by Q, a three-year-old, New York City-based platform for office cleaning and maintenance services, raised $30.5 million in funding shows an SEC filing that lists a $40 million target. (H/T: Fortune.) Earlier investors in the company include GV, Homebrew, RRE Ventures, Kapor Capital, Haystack and actress Jessica Alba.

ncgCARE, a 23-year-old, Richmond, Va.-based provider of mental health services, raised $5 million in funding from NewSpring Capital, a private equity firm focused on the mid-Atlantic region. More here.

Splash, a five-year-old, New York City developer of event marketing automation software, has raised $7 million in Series B funding. Ascent Venture Partners led the round, with participation from Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, ScaleUP Ventures, Tumblr founder David Karp, and Vine cofounder Rus Yusupov. TechCrunch has more here.

STRIVR Labs, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based startup that makes virtual reality training software for athletes, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Signia Venture Partners, with participation from Shari Redstone’s AdvancIt Capital, BMW i Ventures, Presence Capital and private investors. The WSJ has more here.

Suiteness, a two-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based online booking service for exclusive, high-end hotel suites, has raised $5 million in Series A funding co-led by Bullpen Capital and Global Founders Capital, with participation from HVF, YC’s Continuity Fund, Kima Ventures, Altair Capital, and other investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Symphony, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based secure communications platform used by the largest financial institutions on Wall Street, is raising up to $200 million at a pre-money valuation of more than $1 billion. TechCrunch has the scoop here.

Tripping.com, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based metasearch engine for vacation homes and short-term rentals, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Princeville Global. Past investors in the company include former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford and Qunar.com co-founder Fritz Demopoulos. Bloomberg has more here.

Truecaller, a seven-year-old, Stockholm-based mobile app that let’s you see who’s calling and block unwanted calls, has raised 100 million Swedish Krona ($10.9 million) from Zenith Venture Capital. The company has now raised more than €70 million to date, including from Atomico, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital and Open Ocean Capital. Tech.eu has more here.

Bad News

Scanadu, a five-year-old, Mountain View-based company whose tricorder device promised to help customers better diagnose their ailments, informed customers yesterday it will no longer support that device starting in May. The reason? Though Scanadu has been working with the FDA to get full approval for the tricorder and devices, it seems it didn’t make the cut. Scanadu has raised roughly $50 million from investors, including Tencent Holdings, Fosun Group, and Relay Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Adultery website AshleyMadison.com’s owner just agreed to pay a steeply discounted $1.65 million settlement to resolve state and federal probes into a hack last year that exposed personal data of 37 million users of the site. Bloomberg has the story here.

People

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick are joining Donald Trump’s new economic advisory board. More here.

Jobs

CVS Pharmacy, the drug store giant, is looking to hire a senior director of corporate development to help with its M&A strategy. The job is in Woonsocket, Rhode Island (pop. 41,000).

Essential Reads

That meeting between Silicon Valley leaders and Donald Trump is happening as we type in Manhattan. Here’s what to expect.

The Federal Reserve is wrapping up a policy meeting today, and virtually all of Wall Street is forecasting that it will raise short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point. More here.

In a major step for drone delivery, Amazon made its first commercial “drop” at a customer’s door in England.

The great AI awakening (a long read in New York Times Magazine).

Detours

“I would say we’re not seeing the death of certainty. But certainty has taken a holiday right now.”

On taking a social media break.

Retail Therapy

Com.Four DJ Console. We don’t know how well it works but we like the way it looks.




StrictlyVC: December 13, 2016

Hi, all, happy Tuesday!

Top News in the A.M.

Bitcoin doesn’t care what Silicon Valley thinks—it’s trading at a 34-month high, notes Quartz.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey interviewed CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden this morning. You can watch that conversation here.

New Fundings

Boatsetter, a three-year-old, Miami, Fla.-based online boat rental marketplace, has raised $13 million in Series A funding from Great Oaks Venture Capital, Stanford University DAPER Fund, ZG Ventures and Peninsula Ventures, as well as numerous angel investors. More here.

BreezoMeter, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based air quality analytics provider, has raised $3 million in Series A fundraising led by Phi Square Holdings and Entrée Capital, with participation from Launchpad Digital Health and SeediL. Globes has more here.

Clear Labs, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based food analytics platform that helps its customers determine the objective quality and safety of their products, has raised $13 million in Series B funding led by Wing VC, with participation from Google Ventures, Tencent, Khosla Ventures, and Felicis Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Codementor, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based on-demand marketplace for software developers, has raised $1.6 million in funding led by WI Harper. More here.

CommLoan, a two-year-old, Scottsdale, Az.-based commercial mortgage lending tech startup, has raised $2.25 million in seed funding, including from Social Leverage and ViaWest Group. More here.

Inkling, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile communications platform for deskless workers, has raised $25 million in Series E funding led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from earlier investors Sequoia Capital and Tenaya Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

Indifi Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based enabler of financing for micro, small and mid-size enterprises in India, has raised $10 million in Series funding led by Omidyar Network, with the participation of earlier backers Accel Partners and Elevar Equity. Business Line has more here.

Iterable, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based growth marketing and user engagement platform, has raised $23 million in new funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from CRV and other past investors. VentureBeat has more here.

Kenna Security, a five-year-old, Chicago-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by PeakSpan Capital. Other participants in the round include OurCrowd, USVP, Costanoa Venture Capital and Hyde Park Angels. Built in Chicago has more here.

Lola, a two-year-old, New York-based organic tampon startup, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from actress-writer Lena Dunham and earlier backers Lerer Hippeau, Brand Foundry, BBG Ventures, and BoxGroup. Forbes has more here.

Lygos, a six-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based biotech company that’s employing microbugs to convert sugar into specialty chemicals used in manufacturing, has raised $13 million in Series A funding. OS Fund and IA Ventures led the round with participation from First Round Capital, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, Fifty Years, Vast Ventures and various angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Nasuni, a 7.5-year-old, Natick, Ma.-based storage services company, has raised $25 million in new funding, including $17.5 million in Series E funding led by Sigma Prime Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Flybridge Capital Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, Sigma Partners, and an unnamed strategic investor. The company also closed on $7.5 million in venture debt financing from Eastward Capital. Xconomy has more here.

Numerai, a 14-month-old, San Francisco-based hedge fund that makes its investments based on models submitted by data scientists who can remain anonymous and are paid in Bitcoin, has raised $6 million in new funding. Union Square Ventures participated in the deal, as did Peter Diamandis, a founder of Singularity University, and Howard Morgan, a founder of the hedge fund firm Renaissance Technologies. The New York Times has more here.

ObservePoint, a nine-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based maker data quality assurance software for digital marketing platforms, has raised $19 million in Series B funding led by Mercato Partners and Pelion Venture Partners. More here.

OfBusiness, a year-old, Gurgaon, India-based B2B marketplace that aims to solve the problem of price discovery when it comes to manufacturing and construction materials, has raised $11.1 million in Series B funding led by Zodius Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners and angel investors. More here.

Privacy, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based software company that generates a new virtual card for every credit card transaction a shopper makes, to protect them from credit card fraud, data breaches, and identity theft, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from Rocketship.vc and angel investors. More here.

Signal Media, a three-year-old, London-based AI platform that helps companies sift, monitor, and gain insight from the news, has raised £5.8 million ($7.3 million) in Series A funding by Hearst Ventures, MMC Ventures, and Frontline Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Socure, a four-year-old, New York-based digital identity verification technology company, has raised $13 million in funding led by Flint Capital, with participation from ff Venture Capital, Santander InnoVentures and Two Sigma Ventures, among others. More here.

SupportPay, a 5.5-year-old, Sacramento, Ca.-based child support payment startup, has raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Fenway Summer Ventures, with participation from Moneta Ventures, Continental Advisors, and earlier backers. More here.

Survios, a three-year-old, Culver City, Ca.-based VR game maker, has raised $50 million over a pair of funding rounds, including from MGM and Lux Capital, with participation from Shasta Ventures, Danhua Capital, Shanda Holdings, Felicis Ventures and Dentsu Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Swap.com, a four-year-old, Bolinbrook, Il.-based online consignment shop, has raised $20 million in new funding led by eEquity, a Swedish private equity group. The WSJ has more here.

Traxo, an 8.5-year-old, Dallas, Tex.-based traveler data aggregation platform, has raised $5.2 million in Series B funding led by TripAdvisor, with participation from Aristos Ventures and earlier backers Thayer Ventures, Advantage Capital Partners, and Silver Creek Ventures. More here.

XSEED Education, a Singapore- and Gurgaon, India-based K-12 startup focused on enhancing school learning, has raised “significantly more” than $10 million in new funding from Verlinvest, a Belgium-based venture firm. LiveMint has more here.

New Funds

Jeff Carter, who co-founded Hyde Park Angels, has raised $3 million toward a planned $30 million venture fund called West Loop Ventures that will back financial technology startups.The idea is to write initial checks of $500,000 into seed-stage companies. Crain’s Chicago Business has more here.

Pitango Venture Capital, one of the most active venture firms on the Israeli startup scene, has closed its seventh early-stage venture firm with $175 million in commitments. The announcement comes almost exactly a year after Pitango closed its first growth fund, a $250 million vehicle that focuses on later-stage companies. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Donald Trump officially asked Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to become his top economic policy adviser yesterday. Dealbook has more here.

Oscar Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has become a special advisor to a Boston-based venture firm called Data Point Capital. The outfit was founded by Scott Savitz, who earlier founded and sold Shoebuy.com. BostInno has more here.

Brendan Iribe, the cofounder of VR company Oculus, is no longer the CEO. He’s stepping down in a move that will result in Oculus splitting its mobile-based and PC-based VR divisions. More here.

Wang Jianlin, the billionaire owner of China’s property-to-entertainment conglomerate Wanda Group, has warned Donald Trump that more than 20,000 US jobs will be put at risk if Trump “mishandles” Chinese investment in the U.S. The Economic Times has more here.

Jacob Mullins, who in recent years founded and served as CEO of the software-powered M&A marketplace Exitround, has joined Shasta Ventures as a principal. It’s a bit of a homecoming for Mullins, who worked at Shasta as an associate for nearly two years before launching his startup. Shasta was also an investor in his company. More here.

Jobs

The venture arm of New York Life Insurance Company, the mutual life insurance giant, is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in New York.

Data

Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans on the future of mobile: All the slides, plus highlights.

Essential Reads

Google‘s self-driving unit was just spun out as an independent business under the Alphabet umbrella. Its name: Waymo. The new company is reportedly more focused on technology than on building new cars, which helps explain this new partnership with Fiat Chrysler.

A group of nearly 60 engineers and employees from major tech companies — including Google, IBM, Slack, and Stripe — have pledged never to build a registry of people based on their religious beliefs. More here.

Slack calls: now with “100 percent more video.”

Detours

It takes more than 42,000 tires to get through a Formula One season (and other, related stats that might interest you).

The celebrity breakups we took the hardest in 2016.

How to gracefully let your friends know it’s time to head home.

Retail Therapy

So when we told you to scratch those AirPods off your holiday shopping list? Bad info. You can order them here and they’ll be delivered in about 10 days.




StrictlyVC: December 12, 2016

Hi, happy Monday, everyone! Sorry today’s edition is coming to you a bit later in the day. We’re at home sick with a sick kid and, well, you get the idea.:)

In better news, we now have a site up and running for our February event! Thanks to those of you who reached out late last week and this morning about sponsorships, as well as volunteer opportunities. We promise we’ll get back to you today or tomorrow.

Top News in the A.M.

Whoops. Five former Uber employees say access to the company’s “God View” — an overview of all Ubers in a city, as well as waiting Uber users — was broad, even after news of the stalker-like tech broke in 2014 and Uber paid a fine in a related settlement. More here.

At Founders Den, a Private Club Relying on the Powers of Persuasion

If you live in San Francisco and know much about tech startups, you’ve likely heard of Founders Den, a shared office space and private club for startups and investors that leases 85,000 square feet on a nondescript block in San Francisco.

Founders Den accommodates between 12 and 15 startups at a time, each of them with six or fewer employees. The startups must be invited into the fold, and they must agree to stay no longer than six months. They’re also asked to pay market rates for the space they occupy.

“It’s a terrible business,” jokes Jason Johnson, an entrepreneur who decided six years ago to establish Founders Den with three friends: Jonathan Abrams, Zack Bogue, and Michael Levit. The four work to break even each month, owing to additional office perks that they provide, like a full-time office manager. “If we wanted to make money on [the space], we’d lease it out to many more companies and charge a premium,” Johnson says. “But that isn’t of interest to any of the four of us.”

What is of interest is forming a “curated” community of founders who help one another and provide each other with investment opportunities, and on that front, Founders Den is proving very successful, especially for its creators.

Johnson says he has invested in several startups to get their start inside of Founders Den, including Docker, the six-year-old company behind the Docker open source platform space (it has gone on to raise $180 million from investors), and the mobile app company SocialCam, acquired by Autodesk for $60 million in 2012.

A founder doesn’t have to make room for anyone at Founders Den on his or her cap table.

More here.

New Fundings

ApplePie Capital, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based online lender that’s solely dedicated to the franchise industry, has raised $16.5 million in Series B funding co-led by QED Investors and Fifth Third Capital. The company also entered into a $180 million loan purchase agreement with TowerBrook Capital Partners to purchase franchise loans originated by ApplePie over a two-year period. StrictlyVC talked with ApplePie CEO Denise Thomas a couple of years ago; it’s a pretty interesting startup.

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, a year-old, Bozeman, Mt.-based startup that’s building Lidar systems that can help vehicles see more details about what’s in front of them, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding led by Next Frontier Capital, with participation from Millennium Technology Value Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Dynamic Signal, a six-year-old, San Bruno, Ca.-based maker of workplace communication tools, has raised $25 million in new funding from Akkadian Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, Focus Ventures, Trinity Ventures, Venrock, Rembrandt Venture Partners, and Time Warner. TechCrunch has more here.

Element AI, a months-old, Montreal-based artificial intelligence incubator, announced today an investment by Microsoft Ventures. More here.

Houseparty, a five-year-old, San Francisco and Tel Aviv-based maker of a group video chat app, has raised $50 million in new funding led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from earlier backers Aleph, Comcast Ventures and Greylock Partners. The WSJ has more here.

Investoo, a newly formed, London-based online education company that offers forex, binary options and CFD courses, has raised $2 million in funding from Optimizer Invest, Kinetic Investments and Right Casino’s Sam Miranda. More here.

JetSmarter, a four-year-old, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based marketplace for private jet services, has raised $105 million in Series C funding at a $1.5 billion pre-money valuation from an Abu Dhabi-based equity fund; JetEdge, a global private aviation company; KZ Capital in London; an unnamed Qatar-based private equity fund; and other, unnamed strategic backers. Earlier backers Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and members of the Saudi royal family also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Mojio, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based open platform providing aftermarket connected car services to enterprise customers, has raised $7 million in Series B funding from earlier backers BC Tech Fund. Others of the companies earlier investors include Deutsche Telekom, Relay Ventures, and AOL co-founder Steve Case. TechCrunch has more here.

Pendo, a three-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based platform that helps companies improve their software by providing feedback on about what features customers are using and ignoring, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from earlier investors Battery Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Core Capital Partners, IDEA Fund Partners and Salesforce Ventures.

Tact, a four-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based startup whose software aims to manage customer relationships by syncing email, calendar, tasks, contacts, LinkedIn connections, and CRM, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Upfront Ventures. Microsoft Ventures and earlier backers Accel Partners and Redpoint Ventures also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Wallarm, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based web security startup that means to protect businesses from application level hacker attacks, has raised $2.3 million in funding from Y Combinator (whose program it has passed through), along with Partech Ventures and Gagarin Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Zepl, a five-year-old, Seoul-based data analytics company formerly known as NFLabs, has raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Vertex Ventures, with participation from Translink Capital, Specialized Types, and Big Basin Capital. More here.

New Funds

Bill Gates is leading a more than $1 billion fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation. The Microsoft co-founder and an all-star line-up of fellow investors that includes Alibaba founder Jack Ma, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, and SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner, plan to invest their new Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund over a 20-year period in the commercialization of new tech that reduces greenhouse-gas emissions. Quartz has more here.

LAUNCHub Ventures, a four-year-old, seed-stage venture firm based in Sofia, Bulgaria, has closed its second fund with €18 million in commitments ($19.1 million). The outfit aims to support startups in Bulgaria and the wider Southeastern Europe region. TechCrunch has more here.

Microsoft Ventures announced plans today to pursue investments in AI startups through a special fund dedicated to AI startups that focus on “inclusive growth and positive impact on society.” TechCrunch has more here.

Wing Venture Capital, a Menlo Park, Ca.-based firm focused on early-stage startups, has raised $250 million for its second fund. Current Wing portfolio companies include Cohesity, Moogsoft, and Shape Security, while Palerrawas recently acquired by Oracle. Wing was founded several years ago by longtime VCs Gaurav Garg and Peter Wagner. Wagner writes about the new fund here.

Exits

Berlin-based online food takeaway service Delivery Hero, one of Europe’s biggest start-ups, will acquire competitor Foodpanda, a sign of further consolidation to fend of new competition in Europe’s sought after food-delivery business. Reuters has more here.

People

Tim Cook, Larry Page, Sheryl Sandberg — and maybe even Jeff Bezos — are going to Trump’s tech summit this week. Recode has the story here.

Pete Flint, the cofounder of longtime CEO of the real estate site Trulia, which sold last year to Zillow for $2.5 billion, has become a venture capitalist. His new gig is with NFX Guild. More here.

One-time HP CEO Carly Fiorina is reportedly meeting with Trump today to discuss the job of director of national intelligence. More here.

Remember that health care fund that GV founder Bill Maris was going to launch? He says he has ditched that idea after all to pursue “some other ideas that may be more fun and impactful.” More here.

Jobs

TripAdvisor is looking to hire a VP of Corporate Development. The job is in Needham, Ma.

Chartboost is hiring a director of corporate development. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Apple has reportedly held talks about investing in a $100 billion fund being raised by SoftBank Group, a move that would put Silicon Valley cash—and cachet—into what looks poised to become the world’s largest tech fund. The WSJ has more here.

Instagram is bringing live video broadcasts to all U.S. users, says TechCrunch.

Step away from the Netgear router (if you still have one).

Detours

A look at Suzanne Belperron, the most influential yet least known Parisian jewelry designer of the 20th century.

Why Lamborghini’s intensive driving school is worth the $12,000 you’ll need to shell out for it.

Retail Therapy

When only appliquéd metallic textured-leather roller skates will do. (H/T: LHS)




StrictlyVC: December 9, 2016

Hi, happy Friday, everyone, and thanks to those of you who grabbed a ticket yesterday to our upcoming event on Wednesday, February 8! We still have a bunch of seats left, but they’ll start to go fast, just fyi.

Hope you have a terrific weekend — enjoy those holiday parties — and we’ll see you Monday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The highly hyped demonstration videos of Magic Leap, the secretive augmented reality company, were actually created by a special effects studio, according to a new piece from The Information that spells out what a lot of industry insiders have long speculated: that the promises of the well-funded startup are far from being realized. Magic Leap’s company’s founder and CEO, Rony Abovitz, has since tweeted that “what’s coming next” from Magic Leap is “the best part.” (Natch.)

Formation 8 Founder Jim Kim Has a New Fund in Builders

Jim Kim, who most recently cofounded the venture firm Formation 8, is launching a brand-new venture firm called Builders that looks to be raising a $200 million fund, judging by a recent SEC filing. His cofounder is Paul Lee, who left the Chicago venture firm Lightbank in 2014 and last year launched a startup studio called Roniin that we wrote about last year.

It isn’t a surprise to see Kim starting something new. After a tumultuous 2015, Formation 8 had decided against raising a third fund.

We wondered whether Builders meant that Lee was similarly moving on from Roniin, however, so we recently caught up with both men to ask that question, as well as ask how they came together, and what Builders — which already has an office in both San Francisco and Chicago — plans to do differently than the hundreds of other venture firms up and running. (We also asked about the pair’s fundraising progress, but they declined to comment, citing SEC regulations.)

More from that conversation follows.

How well do you two know each other? When did you meet?

PL: We go back 15 years. We both started our careers at GE Capital. Jim was building up its IT practice; I was building up its media practice. But we spent time talking about deals, we’d get drinks. We’ve probably talked monthly ever since then.

We did go off and build our own platforms. Jim built Formation 8. I ran Lightbank. But he was my first call in helping shape Roniin and he was the first investor in the platform and in five of the companies that have come out of the platform since.

Roniin’s big idea was to take the ideas of overly busy entrepreneurs, find first-time founders to bring them to life, then give both a big chunk of the new company — along with a little seed capital from Roniin. What happens to it now that you’re starting a new fund?

PL: It’s being rebranded as Builder Studios, and it will be working with the startups that we fund. [The $3 million seed round it raised] was used to prove out the concept and it worked; we learned how to run that P&L and run that infrastructure without a massive amount of burn. Now, we want to use that team of experts we’ve assembled [including engineers, sales personnel, marketers, and back office operations employees] to support our portfolio companies.

So you’re creating more of a platform for your new fund. And will the people at the studio get equity in these startups? How does compensation work across the fund and the studio?

JK: We aren’t commenting publicly on that right now. But when you look at the data, one out of every three seed-funded companies was able to raise a Series A round a few years ago; now, that percentage is much smaller. So there’s this opportunity to help an entrepreneur who has a good technical team to find product-market fit and help give them multiple shots on the goal. We aren’t talking about PR or HR. We think instead startups can benefit greatly from working alongside this studio and accessing this group of operators [to improve everything] from their UI/UX to product development.

How much money will you be plugging into your portfolio companies?

More here.

New Fundings

AutoGraph, a five-year-old, Seattle-based startup that provides user generated profiles as a service to help marketers better understand customers, has raised $4.7 million in Series B funding led by Rally Capital, with participation from Voyager Capital. More here.

strong>Crossover Health, a six-year-old, Aliso Viejo, Ca.-based company that designs and delivers membership-based primary health and secondary care services to self-insured employers, has raised $92 million from a single healthcare fund, Gurnet Point Capital. More here.

Elysium Health, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company behind what it describes as an anti-aging pill, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst Partners, with participation from Robert Nelson of ARCH Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Eutilex, a South Korea-based biopharmaceutical company that’s focused on treating cancers and autoimmune diseases, raised $18.9 million in Series A funding from DS Asset Management, Kolon Investment, G.N. Tech Venture, and SNU Bio Angel. FierceBiotech has more here.

Eversound, a two-year-old, Boston-based wireless headphone technology company that’s helping older adults tackle hearing loss, has raised $3 million in seed financing from Shelter Group, Red Bear Angels and 10X Ventures. More here.

Nantero, a 16-year-old, Woburn, Ma.-based nanotechnology company that’s using carbon nanotubes to develop semiconductor devices, including memory and logic devices, has raised $21 million in new funding led by Globespan Capital Partners, along with other unnamed investors. VentureBeat has more here.

Nubank, a three-year-old, Sao Paulo, Brazil-based company that offers a “no-fee” credit card managed via mobile app, has raised $80 million in Series D funding led by DST Global, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global Management, Founders Fund, and QED. Dealbook has more here.

Podotree, a six-year-old, Seoul-based affiliate of the mobile and web giant Kakao, has raised around $107 million in funding led by Anchor Equity Partners, with participation from the Singapore investment fund GIC and numerous other undisclosed investors. Podotree manages two of Kakoa’s fast-growing services: its social network and Daum Webtoons, a digital comics service (which are broadly becoming more popular in Korea, notes TechCrunch). More here.

Sixa, a year-old, San Francisco-based full computer that operates right from the cloud via a client app, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Tandem Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Vapogenix, a decade-old, Houston, Tex.-based company that makes non-opioid medicine for localized pain, has raised $8.2 million in new funding from Pamoja Capital, among other investors. More here.

Vesper, a seven-year-old, Boston-based electronics startup that’s aiming to make durable, low-power microphones, has raised $15 million in Series A round of funding led by Accomplice, with participation from Amazon’s Alexa Fund, AAC Technologies, Hyperplane, Miraenano Tech and other undisclosed investors. TechCrunch has more here.

(Other) New Funds

GAN, a six-year-old, Denver-based company that publishes industry data about accelerators their best practices, looks to be raising its own venture fund, judging by an SEC filing that lists a $10 million target. More here.

Warburg Pincus is raising a China-focused private equity fund, shows a new SEC filing that doesn’t list a target. The WSJ had reported back in March that the firm was looking to $2 billion for such a fund in order to more quickly “cut deals” in the country.

Time Inc., the New York City-based media company, has hired Morgan Stanley and Bank of America to field takeover or partnership interest, reports the WSJ. More here.

People

Big changes at the Honest Company, which is laying off 80 employees, as well as parting ways with CFO and COO David Parker and cofounder Sean Kane. The L.A. Times (via WWD) has more here.

Sean Rad is stepping away again from his role as CEO of the online dating company Tinder, to head up a new M&A arm of the company called Swipe Ventures. Meanwhile, Match Group CEO Greg Blatt is taking over Tinder. Recode has more here.

Peter Thiel has apparently proposed that Jim O’Neill, a managing director at Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management (who we’ve worked with on stories and who we like on a personal level but we don’t think is so much an active investor as an advisor), run the FDA(!). Bloomberg has more here.

Yik Yak, not so long ago a hot social media app known for allowing users to post messages anonymously to each other based on their location, has laid off 60 percent of its employees amid slowed momentum. The company has raised $73.5 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital. The Verge has the story here.

Jobs

Microsoft is looking to hire a senior business development manager. The job is in San Francisco.

Bloomberg drills into Alphabet in a highly readable piece. Says one former top Google executive to the outlet: “No one wants to face the reality that this is an advertising company with a bunch of hobbies.”

Not so unsurprisingly, Michigan just became the first state to pass comprehensive self-driving regulations. Recode has more here.

How is Twitter going to deal with Trump

Detours

The touching new Christmas ad that’s been making the entire internet cry this week. (Yes, us, too.)

Disney is creating animatronic figures that can follow you (so hurry up and get to Disney before it turns into Westworld).

Better scratch those Apple AirPods off your holiday wish list.

Retail Therapy

The hammock gets an update.




StrictlyVC: December 8, 2016

Dear people, now that we are back, and with another fun Disrupt in the books, we’re very excited to announce that our next StrictlyVC INSIDER event is coming together and that you can start nabbing seats today. (Sponsors, we’d also love to hear from you if you want to get involved.)

Thanks very much to Bolt, the early-stage hardware firm that is again one our partners in crime in this upcoming event. We so appreciate your ongoing support!

Top News in the A.M.

Turns out Facebook applied for a patent on a tool last year that could help it automate the removal of fake news. The Verge has more here.

Heavy-hitting KKR Just Raised a $711 Million Tech Growth Fund

So much for non-traditional venture investors retrenching from the market.
Yesterday, KKR the global investment firm, announced a $711 million close on its KKR Next Generation Technology Growth Fund, which it plans to use to back growth-stage companies in the technology, media and telco industries in North America, Europe and Israel.

It’s a new product for the firm, though you might have seen its name crop up in a good many deals this past year; that’s because it began investing it nearly year ago.

Among the bets it has made are the big data analytics company Optimal+ ; the tour-booking platform GetYourGuide; the cloud integration software company Jitterbit; and the cyber defense company Darktrace.

Including those bets and others made outside the fund, KKR says it has invested more than $640 million in still-private, growth-stage investments since 2014. Some of those other investments include stakes in the anti-virus software company Cylance; in the fantasy sports business FanDuel; and in the augmented reality company Magic Leap.

What’s KKR’s criteria, exactly, when looking at these deals? According to new-hire David Welsh, who joined the firm in October from Adam Street Partners to head up the new fund, TMT Growth will be focused on “private companies that are beyond early-stage technology risk but are still scaling their market-expansion efforts and are experiencing high growth. They have technology and go-to-market models that are proven but have lacked the capital and backing of an established partner or sponsor who can help catapult their growth and development.”

So what you’d guess, basically.

As for the checks the fund will be writing, Welsh says these will tend to be less than $100 million and that his 12-person team will generally be targeting investments of $40 million to $50 million per company.

Perhaps worth noting: The new fund doesn’t have any strict revenue thresholds, according to Welsh. In fact, it might invest in companies that still have operating losses. But it does “want to see a clear path toward profitability and evidence of a model that improves as revenue continues to scale,” he adds.

New Fundings

Augmedix, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based physician productivity platform that’s powered by smartglasses, has raised $23 million in new funding from strategic investors McKesson Ventures and OrbiMed. Earlier backers Redmile Group, Emergence Capital and DCM Ventures. also joined the round, which brings Augmedix’s total funding than $60 million. Xconomy has more here.

Brandless, a year-old, San Francisco-based e-commerce platform that plans to sell every item on its platform (all of which will be unbranded) for one single-digit price, has raised $16 million in in funding led by Redpoint Ventures, with Cowboy Ventures, Slow Capital, and Sherpa Capital participating. Fortune has more here.

Breather, a four-year-old, Montreal-based company whose mobile app lets users find and book workspaces on-demand, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from Valar Ventures, RRE Ventures, Slow Ventures and Real Ventures. The company has now raised $73 million altogether. More here.

eFounders, a five-year-old, Brussels-based European startup studio, is raising an additional $5.3 million (€5 million) from entrepreneurs and family offices. TechCrunch has more here.

Marvel, a three-year-old, London-based maker of a free prototyping and collaboration tool, has raised £4 million ($5 million) in Series A funding led by BGF Ventures, with participation from previous backers Index Ventures, Connect Ventures, Inreach Ventures, Andy McLoughlin and Richard Fearn. More here.

Molotov, a year-old, Paris-based TV streaming service, has raised $23.3 million (€22 million) from earlier investor Idinvest; new, unknown investors and business angels; the British media company Sky; and TDF. TechCrunch has more here.

Movinga, a 1.5-year-old, Berlin-based online relocation service startup, has raised €17 million ($21.4 million) in Series C funding from earlier backers, including Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital, Earlybird Venture Capital and STS Ventures, as well as new investors, including Carlo Kölzer and Gert PurkertMore here.

Nectar, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based, still-stealth connected device startup that aims to play in the hospitality and consumer packaged goods industries, has raised $4.6 million in seed funding from investors Joe Lonsdale and Lior Susan, among others. TechCrunch has more here.

Osmo, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based toys startup that makes educational games systems, has raised $24 million in new funding from Mattel, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Collab+Sesame, the venture fund run in partnership by New York-based Collaborative Fund and Sesame Workshop. Earlier backers Accel Partners, Upfront Ventures and K9 Ventures also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Thanx, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that makes customer loyalty software, has raised $17.1 million in Series B funding led by Icon Ventures and earlier backer Sequoia Capital, with participation from Javelin Venture Partners. More here.

Vida Health, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based subscription-based app that pairs patients with health coaches, has raised $18 million in Series B funding led by Canvas Ventures, with participation from Nokia Growth and earlier backers Aspect Ventures and Khosla Ventures. More here.

Waggle, a year-old, New York-based live streaming app that enables pet owners to broadcast the lives of their animal friends to the world, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding led by Raine Ventures, with participation from Lowercase Capital, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, United Talent Agency, Broadway Video Ventures, Ore Ventures, and angel investors, including Allen Debevoise. More here.

(Other) New Funds

Alpha Venture Partners, a New York-based firm that provides late-stage capital to early-stage venture firms, is looking to raise $100 million for its second fund. Among the firm’s investments are Coupang, Vroom, Wish and LiveIntent. FinSMEs has more here.

Exits

After going through nearly $150 million in funding, peer-to-peer used-car marketplace Beepi.com is shifting gears by laying off 180 employees and merging its remaining business with Fair.com, a new venture co-founded by several car industry veterans that has yet to launch. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Facebook investors are accusing Facebook board member Marc Andreessen of conflicts of interest in a new lawsuit. Bloomberg has more here.

Prosper’s chief product officer, Parker Barrile, just joined Norwest Venture Partners as a partner. More here.

Secret founder David Byttow just returned to anonymous publishing with launch of IO. More here.

You knew this was coming when SEC chief Mary Jo White said she was stepping down, but . . . Andrew Ceresny, director of enforcement for the SEC, now says he’s also outta there by year end.

Wish founder Peter Szulczewski says Walmart CEO Doug Mcmillan wanted to meet with him at one point, but he thinks Walmart has since made its big e-commerce bet, when it acquired Jet.com earlier this year. More here.

Essential Reads

The digital music marriage that many wanted to happen isn’t happening after all. Spotify has given up on its latest effort to buy SoundCloud following months of talks between the two, according to TechCrunch. More here.

Google just opened its digital assistant to developers in its race against Amazon‘s Alexa. Bloomberg has the story here.

Detours

How to get banned from Uber.

The strange complicated history of the house cat.

Tips on talking about wine without sounding like a jerk.

Retail Therapy

What a colorful world it will be (if you invest a few hours in this giant poster).




StrictlyVC: December 7, 2016

Hi, everyone! Just a note to let you know we’re not going to be able to publish a full-fledged edition of SVC today, owing to our travel schedule. (We’re hopping on a plane back to the U.S. now, and we’ll basically be flying/asleep while a healthy percentage of you are working today.)

Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday; we’ll see you back here tomorrow!




StrictlyVC: December 6, 2016

Hi, everyone! We’re in London for one more full day for Disrupt, where we’re having a great time, despite freezing our buns (there’s not so much heat here at the venue). If you’re curious about investors’ hopes and fears for 2017, you might check out our sit-down with LP Beezer Clarkson, entrepreneur-investor Fabrice Grinda, and TCV’s John Doran here. And if you want to check out the rest of TC’s coverage (there’ve been a lot of interesting discussions happening), you can watch them out here.

Top News in the A.M.

Tim Cook says the Apple Watch just broke a sales record.

Google says it will run its entire operations on renewable energy next year.

Longtime VC Michael Goguen Slapped with an Even Stranger Lawsuit

Michael Goguen — a longtime venture capitalist whose career at Sequoia Capital ended earlier this year after he was sued in a salacious breach of contract suit that accused him of sexually mistreating a woman named Amber Baptiste and then refusing to honor a financial arrangement they made afterward — has been hit with yet another strange lawsuit. But this one has a surprise twist

Filed Friday in San Mateo County Court, Goguen is this time being accused of breaching a contract with a former acquaintance named Bryan Nash, who says in his lawsuit that Goguen agreed to pay him a whopping $19 million for public relations and asset management services, then didn’t

Sounds strange, right? Keep reading.

According to Nash’s suit, he first met Goguen in 1994 and they became “friends.” As Nash and Goguen’s “friendship developed,” they enjoyed “joint family gatherings,” took “vacations together,” went “mountain biking together,” and also exercised together.

Fast forward to April of this year (and the suit basically does precisely that), and Nash “stated to [Goguen] that he was going to consult with an attorney to see what legal rights he had that would addressing the wrongs he felt had been done to him by Goguen.” (The suit does not outline these alleged wrongs.) It goes on to read that “Goguen stated that he did not think that was necessary, but rather they could just come to an agreement to address these wrongs, and other issues, and suggested that they work together

What the two settled on, says Nash, were “services” that Nash would provide for Goguen, including “unrelated professional and personal assistance to Goguen for the payment of $19 million

Goguen, according to the suit, then agreed to wire an initial payment of $15 million.” Yet “before the funds were deposited through the wire transfer, Goguen withheld, or revoked it,” it states

Now, Nash is suiting for “damages due to this breach” to the tune of $15 million.

If this lawsuit doesn’t seem to add up, it’s for good reason, say multiple sources.

More here.

New Fundings

Abyrx, a three-year-old, Irvington, N.Y.-based specialty bio-surgical products company, has raised $10 million in funding from members of its executive team, along with Canaan Partners, MedEdge, and BB Biotech Ventures. More here.

Accompany, a three-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based platform that integrates users’ email, contacts, and social feeds to keep them better informed about their professional connections, has raised $20 million in Series B funding. Ignition Partners led the round, with participation from earlier backer CRV. TechCrunch has more here.

Hubba, a four-year-old, Toronto-based whose software allows retailers to access marketing and product information, has raised an undisclosed amount in a new round of new venture-capital financing led by Goldman Sachs Group. The WSJ says the round is expected to be close to $45 million. More here.

Metabolon, a 16-year-old, Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based precision medicine company, has raised $15 million in new funding from Essex Woodlands, a healthcare growth equity firm. The funding follows an initial $15 million investment from Essex that closed in August. More here.

MoneyLion, a three-year-old, New York-based mobile personal finance platform, has raised $22.5 million in Series A funding led by Edison Partners, with participation from earlier backers FinTech Collective, Citizen.VC, Clocktower Ventures, Broadhaven Capital Partners, Montage Ventures, and other unnamed investors. More here.

R3, a four-year-old, New York-based blockchain startup, says it plans to close on $150 million in funding in the first quarter of next year. Investors include at least 42 banks that are part of a 70-plus member consortium of financial institutions that are helping R3 developing its products. More here.

StrongDM, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that helps is customers detect and prevent internal data leaks, has raised $3 million in funding from True Ventures, with participation from existing investors Bloomberg Beta, Laconia Capital Group, Social Starts, and Jerry Neumann, among others. More here.

Visbit, a 1.5-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based virtual reality and 360-degree video streaming company, has raised $3.2 million in seed funding, with participation from Presence Capital, ZhenFund, Colopl Next, Amino Capital, and Eversunny Ltd. More here.

New Funds

China’s Huiyin Group, a multibillion-dollar investment company, has announced it is setting aside $100 million for a blockchain-focused fund called Huiyin Blockchain Venture. According to one report, the outfit plans to commit at least $20 million over the next 6 to 12 months. More here.

More details on the new fund of Bill Maris, the founder and longtime CEO of GV (formerly Google Ventures). According to Recode, Maris has named his new outfit Section 32 (a “Star Trek” reference, apparently) and is raising around $230 million to focus largely on health care invesments. Recode says Section 32’s operations will be based largely in San Diego rather than San Francisco. More here.

French venture capital firm Partech Ventures, the French venture capital firm, has closed a new seed fund with €100 million in commitments ($107 million) from 90 individual investors. The fund aims to back about 80 startups, averaging three new investments per month, with two-thirds of the companies it backs based in Europe. More here.

Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest makers and marketers of meat products, has formed a $150 million venture capital fund to back food and agriculture startups. A Tyson EVP tells TechCrunch that the fund will seek to invest in startups solving problems around food production, distribution, nutrition, food waste and safety. More here.

IPOs

German hotel booking site Trivago updated its plans for a U.S. IPO in a filing yesterday. The company expects to price its shares between $13 to $15, or a $428 million offering at the top end of the range. TechCrunch has more here.

Exits

The e-commerce company Shopify has acquired the digital product studio Tiny Hearts, a seven-year-old, Toronto-based maker of numerous mobile apps, games and bots. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but Tiny Hearts’s six-person production team will join Shopify. Tiny Hearts appears to have been bootstrapped. More here.

WP Curve, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based, self-funded WordPress services startup, has been acquired by GoDaddy for undisclosed terms. More here.

People

Doug Landis has joined Emergence Capital as a growth partner. Landis has been at Box since 2012, most recently with the title of “Chief Storyteller.” Before that, he was Box’s VP of sales productivity, and for nearly five years prior to that he held a similar role at Salesforce. Fortune has more here.

Michael Lynch, who co-founded and later sold the company, Autonomy, said yesterday that its acquirer, Hewlett-Packard, which is suing Lynch for allegedly misrepresenting the health of Autonomy, has been employing “a lot of spin” and called its lawsuit “bullshit.” Lynch today runs an investment firm called Invoke Capital. More here.

Jobs

Pritzker Group Venture Capital is hiring a senior associate for its Chicago team. This role is a post-MBA position. To apply, email associate Eric Duboe, at eduboe@pritzergroup.com.

Essential Reads

The Supreme Court just ruled for Samsung in its smartphone fight with Apple. Reuters has more here.

Amazon‘s new grocery store will let you walk in, pick up items, and leave without having to pay to cashier or scan anything. Star tech reporter Amir Efrati thinks the tech involved — machine learning, deep-learning algorithms and sensor fusion, “much like you’d find in self-driving cars,” says an Amazon — confirms that Amazon is also working on self-driving cars.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are partnering to help curb the spread of terrorist content on their platforms. The WSJ has more here.

Detours

Lapo Elkann, Fiat heir, goes from playboy to bad boy again.

Virtual reality just helped get this GS alum’s house sold for $57 million.

How “quidditch” became a thing.

Retail Therapy

A (very) cool hotel in Sweden that melts away each spring.




StrictlyVC: December 5, 2016

Hi, everyone! Happy Monday. No time for a column today, alas, but you can check out our Disrupt chat with famed entrepreneur-investor Niklas Zennstrom to learn about whether Europe really needs more capital, as well as about the flying car company that his venture firm, Atomico, just funded. (Yes, Virginia, they are coming.) In another hour or so, we’re headed back on stage to talk with some American investors about how the shifting political landscapes both in the U.S. and in Europe are impacting their work. More on that tomorrow!

Top News in the A.M.

Uber has acquired an AI startup, Geometric Intelligence, and it’s appointing the startup’s founders as co-directors of a new in-house research arm on artificial intelligence that aims to make self-driving cars more efficient. Terms of the deal aren’t being closed. The New York Times has more here.

New Fundings

Datrium, a four-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based server-powered storage system, has raised $55 million in Series C funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, as well as a third, unnamed outside investor. The company has now raised $110 million altogether. More here.

Lemonade, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based insurance carrier that offers homeowners and renters insurance powered by AI and behavioral economics, has raised $33 million in funding, according to an SEC filing. Business Insider has more here.

Lilium Aviation, a nearly two-year-old, Munich, Germany-based startup that’s developing a short-haul private plane that takes off vertically and aims to travel roughly 185 miles on a single charge, has raised $10.7 million in Series A funding led by Atomico. The company had earlier raised a seed round of funding led by e42. TechCrunch has more here.

Mariana, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.- and Bengaluru, India-based marketing automation startup, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Exfinity Venture Partners. More here.

MedNet Solutions, a 15-year-old, Minnetonka, Mn.-based company whose software supports clinical studies and more, has raised $16.5 million in its second round of funding led by Arrowroot Capital. Cohesive Capital Partners also joined the round, along with earlier backers. More here.

Zero Latency, a three-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based virtual reality startup, has raised roughly $5.2 million in U.S. dollars from Thorney Investment Group, Contango Asset Management and Regal Funds Management. The Australian has more here.

New Funds

New York-based ff Venture Capital is raising $150 million for a new fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm had raised $53.8 million for its fourth seed-stage venture fund earlier this year.
The University of Chicago is designating $25 million from its endowment to invest alongside established venture funds in startups led by faculty, students, staff and alumni. More here.

IPOs

There are rumors swirling that British cybersecurity firm Darktrace is weighing up an IPO, but its European CEO, Poppy Gustafsson insists there are no “immediate plans.” While speaking at Disrupt earlier today, Gustafsson said flatly “no” when asked whether the company planned to hold an IPO in 2017. Business Insider has more here.

Exits

The 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based meal-kit maker Din quietly closed in October after being unable to land follow-on funding. According to CrunchBase, the company had raised $3 million in seed funding, including from Accel Partners, Slow Ventures, and Harrison Metal. The WSJ has more here.

Madison Logic, a seven-year-old, New York-based maker of marketing software, has been acquired by the private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners for undisclosed terms. Madison Logic appears to have been bootstrapped. More here.

People

Blackbird Ventures co-founder Bill Bartee is leaving the firm to head a new $200 million innovation fund sponsored by the Australian government in Canberra. Business Insider has more here.

The fifth annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony was held last night, and it delivered awards to 14 superstar scientists. Here’s who won what.

David Sacks is stepping down as the CEO of Zenefits, a role he took back in February when the company forced its founder and original CEO, Parker Conrad to resign over numerous improprieties. Sacks told employees on Friday that he’s taking over as chairman; in the meantime, the WSJ is reporting that he’s expected to assist an old pal from their PayPal days together — Peter Thiel — with the transition team of incoming U.S. president Donald Trump. (A Zenefits spokeswoman denied this in speaking with the WSJ, but we wouldn’t be completely be shocked. Though Sacks wrote a check to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, campaign records show that his wife donated to Trump’s campaign.)

Speaking of Peter Thiel: At a lavish costume party on Long Island on Saturday night that was hosted by hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, Thiel reportedly sported one of the evening’s most talked-about costumes; he arrived dressed as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media was secretly (then later famously) financed by Thiel. Bloomberg has more here.

We told you last month that Brian Wallace, the former chief marketing officer for Magic Leap, had quietly left the secretive VR company in November. Now Recode is reporting that he’s heading over to a new project led by Android cofounder Andy Rubin. More here.

Jobs

Obvious Ventures is looking to hire a senior associate who will work closely with firm cofounder Andrew Beebe. The job is in San Francisco. To apply, write to talent@obvious.com.

Essential Reads

A new letter submitted by Apple to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the clearest indication yet of Apple’s ongoing interest in and knowledge of autonomous vehicles. VentureBeat has more here.

Volkswagen Group is making a significant bet on future mobility services with Moia, a new separate company that will exist under the VW umbrella of brands focused specifically on providing mobility solutions, including fleet-based commuter shuttles and, eventually, autonomous on-demand transportation. TechCrunch has the story here.

Gett, the New York-based on-demand transportation company, just rolled out a carpooling service. More here.

Zenefits lost $200 million last year. More here.

Detours

Inside Russia’s creepy, innovative internet.

Looking Back, It Was a Mistake Granting Sentience to the Country Bears.

Retail Therapy

Frien’ Zoo stools and chairs.




StrictlyVC: December 2, 2016

Hello from beautiful, chilly London, where we arrived a bit ago. Apologies for the abbreviated newsletter, but we’re just in the hotel thawing out for a minute before running out the door again for a networking event.

We hope you have a wonderful weekend, and we’ll see you back here Monday, right after a couple of on-stage interviews at Disrupt, including with Skype and Atomico founder Niklas Zennstrom and, a little bit later on, with Fabrice Grinda of FJ Labs, Beezer Clarkson of Sappire Ventures, and John Doran of TCV. (Hopefully, we’ll have lots of useful stuff to report back to you.) More soon!

Top News in the A.M.

Researchers have found a bug that can be used to bypass Apple‘s iPhone and iPad Activation Lock and gain access to their home screens.

New Fundings

AttackIQ, a three-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based cybersecurity company, raised $8.8 million in Series A funding from Index Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, and Telstra Ventures. The San Diego Business Journal has more here.

ConnectedYard, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company behind a smart pool monitoring system called pHin, has raised $7 million in Series A funding, including from Lonza, a supplier to the pharmaceutical, biotech and specialty ingredients markets, as well as returning investors Playground Global and Tandem Capital. More here.

Core Diagnostics, a four-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based clinical laboratory that provides specialized diagnostics services, has raised $12 million in new funding from Eight Roads Ventures, F-Prime Capital Partners, and earlier backer Artiman Ventures. VCCircle has more here.

Exotec Solutions, a year-old, Paris, France-based startup that builds a collaborative mobile robot, has raised €3.3 million ($3.5 million) from 360 Capital Partners, Breega Capital and undisclosed previous investors. Tech.eu has more here.

Fidzup, a five-year-old, Paris, France-based maker of digital marketing software for retailers, has raised $3.7 million in funding from Cap Horn and Turenne Capital, among others. More here.

Get Smart Content, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based marketing company whose software helps marketers to provide site content and messaging based on a visitor’s profile and web-based interactions, has raised $1.75 million in funding led by Origin Ventures. More here.

Nova Lumos, a 4.5-year-old, Amsterdam-based maker of pay-as-you-go solar power systems in Nigeria, has raised $90 million from a mix of private equity investors and development banks. Bloomberg has more here.

SendGrid, a seven-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based company that sells email and other marketing software services to businesses, has raised $33 million in Series D funding from earlier backers. Bain Capital Ventures led the round; Foundry Group, Bessemer Venture Partners, and SoftTech VCparticipated.

VictorOps, a four-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based maker of real-time monitoring software for IT teams, has raised $12.2 million in Series B funding led by Shea Ventures, with participation from earlier investors Foundry Group and Costanoa Venture Capital. BizWest has more here.

New Funds

Bullpen Capital, a six-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture firm that specializes in post-seed stage deals, has closed its third fund at $75 million. The firm invests in companies that previously closed a seed round of investment but have been dubbed too early for traditional VCs. Its previous fund closed with $35 million in 2012. TechCrunch has more here.

IPOs

China’s Meitu, built on the selfie, could be worth $5.23 billion in an IPO. Dealbook has more here.

Exits

AppFormix, a three-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based cloud operations management and optimization startup, is being acquired by the publicly traded networking company Juniper Networks. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but according to TechCrunch, AppFormix had raised $7 million in a round led by August Capital. More here.

Yes, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose apps aimed to connect people “in real life and from afar,” has been acquired by Twitter, and its CEO, Keith Coleman, a former director of product management at Google, is becoming Twitter’s VP of Product. Meanwhile, Yes is shutting down its apps. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Yoky Matsuoka, who joined Apple in May as an executive to help run health technology initiatives, has left the iPhone maker, says Bloomberg. More here.

President Barack Obama has been discussing a post-presidential career in digital media and is considering launching his own media company, according to Policy Mic. More here.

Harry Stebbings, a 20-year-old whose podcast, “The Twenty Minute VC,” has become a favorite with the investors it covers, has joined the early-stage venture firm Atomico. Wired has more here.

Essential Reads

Facebook finds inspiration again in Snapchat; now it’s working on a feature that’s similar to Snapchat Discover.

Product Hunt, acquired this week by AngelList, sold for $20 million, Recode is reporting. (In case you were wondering.)

Detours

How fake news tricks people.

The fallacy that keeps people in unhappy relationships.

The economic benefit of a tree in New York.

Retail Therapy

Lamborghini Exhaust Speaker. (As if its mere existence weren’t ridiculous enough, it costs $26,000. Still, you kind of have to see it.)