Monthly Archives: January 2016

StrictlyVC: January 29, 2016

It’s Friday! [One-handed cartwheel. Back roll.]

We hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.

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Top News in the A.M.

Score another win for Carl Icahn. Last night, the WSJ reported the Xerox will split itself in two and give several board seats to the activist investor. More here.

A new White House proposal wants to see private companies submit salary data to the federal government in an effort to further reduce the pay gap between men and women.

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BirdEye Swoops in on $8 Million Series A

BirdEye, a software company focused on helping its clients improve their business reputations and customer experiences in real time, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Trinity Ventures. As part of the investment, Trinity’s Ajay Chopra has joined the board.

Plenty of Silicon Valley luminaries also piled into the round, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang; Square’s project engineering lead Gokul Rajaram; Kevin Weil (the former Twitter product head who just hightailed itto Instagram); BranchOut founder Rick Marini; Haystack founder Semil Shah; and angel investor Ellen Levy.

To learn more about the company, we chatted earlier this week with CEO Naveen Gupta, who was formerly chief product officer at the telephony software company Ring Central, and whose BirdEye cofounder is his brother, Neeraj, a longtime technical lead at Yahoo.

More here.

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New Fundings

BloomReach, a six-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based cloud personalization platform, has raised $56 million in Series D funding from Battery VenturesSalesforce Ventures, and earlier backers Bain Capital VenturesLightspeed Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. VentureBeat hasmore here.

College Avenue Student Loans, a two-year-old, Wilmington, De.-based student loan marketplace lender, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Comcast Ventures, with participation from DW Partners and Fenway Summer Ventures. More here.

Cronofy, a 2.5-year-old U.K.-based startup that offers a calendar API to help businesses and their customers synchronise calendars, has raised a $1.6 million seed round led by Firestartr and the Amsterdam-based venture capital firm henQ. TechCrunch has more here.

FreshMenu, a two-year-old, Bangalore, India-based online food-tech venture that delivers meals prepared at its kitchen facilities, has raised $17 million in Series B funding led by Zodius Technology Fund, with participation from earlier backer Lightspeed Venture Partners. VCCircle has more here.

nuTonomy, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based maker of advanced software for autonomous vehicles, has raised $3.6 million in seed funding from Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Fontinalis Partners and Steven LaValle, who is a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

RedMart, a four-year-old, Singapore-based online grocery company, is closing in on a $100 million Series C round, reports TechCrunch. To date, RedMart has raised over $50 million from investors that include Garena, SoftBank Ventures Korea, Visionnaire Ventures, and Facebook co­-founder Eduardo Saverin. More here.

Truebil, a year-old, Bangalore-based online marketplace for buying and selling secondhand cars, has raised Rs 35 crore ($5.1 million) in Series A funding from Kalaari Capital, Inventus Capital and Tekton Ventures, along with earlier backer Kae Capital. The Economic Times has more here.

True Potential, a nine-year-old, London-based integrated investor and wealth management technology platform, has sold a significant minority share of its business to FTV Capital, its first institutional investor. The transaction values True Potential at more than £150 million ($212.5 million). More here.

TurboAppeal, a year-old, Chicago-based startup that offers property tax appeal services, has raised $3 million in fresh funding led by KGC Capital, with participation from Hyde Park Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, and individual investors. Built in Chicago has more here.

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New Funds

Susa Ventures, a 2.5-year-old, seed-stage firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, and L.A. , is looking to raise up to $50 million for a second fund, two years after raising a $25 million debut fund. More here.

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Exits

Apple has acquired education-technology startup LearnSprout, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based software startup whose online data insights help K-12 educators track students’ performances. The company had raised $4.7 million from investors across two rounds, including Andreessen Horowitz, Formation 8, and Samsung Ventures. CrunchBase has the full investor list here. According to the outlet The Information, the deal closed last summer and returned investors’ money (just). More here.

Facebook is shutting down Parse, a toolkit and support system for mobile developers that it acquired for a reported $85 million in 2013. More here.

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People

A 300-foot yacht belonging to Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen was just accused of destroying a huge swath of protected coral reef in the Cayman Islands.

Michael Heller has joined Oak HC/FT as a venture partner. Heller is the president and a board member of FactorTrust, an alternative credit bureau.

Kevin Morris, formerly VP of Goldman Sachs’ venture capital coverage group, has joined DLA Piper as the head of its Venture Pipeline practice for the West Coast.

Longtime VC Sonja Hoel Perkins talks with Fortune about what women entrepreneurs could do better. “I think women should just get up, stand up, straight posture, and just own it.”

Politico CEO Jim VandeHei and one of its best-known journalists, Mike Allen, plan to leave the company after the 2016 election. Jim VandeHei, who founded Politico more than eight years ago, is starting a new venture with Allen and several other top executives. The New York Times has more here.

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Essential Reads

Apple is reportedly working on a phone that can be charged wirelessly.

Everything to know (for now) about Tesla‘s secret Model 3, whose big reveal comes in March.

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Detours

The practical skills your kids should learn at every age.

Spite houses.

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Retail Therapy

Stickable iPhone paperback notes.


BirdEye Swoops in on $8 Million Series A

naveen_neerajBirdEye, a software company focused on helping its clients improve their business reputations and customer experiences in real time, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Trinity Ventures. As part of the investment, Trinity’s Ajay Chopra has joined the board.

Plenty of Silicon Valley luminaries also piled into the round, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang; Square’s project engineering lead Gokul Rajaram; Kevin Weil (the former Twitter product head who justhightailed it to Instagram); BranchOut founder Rick Marini; Haystack founder Semil Shah; and angel investor Ellen Levy.

To learn more about the company, we chatted earlier this week with CEO Naveen Gupta, who was formerly chief product officer at the telephony software company Ring Central, and whose BirdEye cofounder is his brother, Neeraj, a longtime technical lead at Yahoo.

More here.


StrictlyVC: January 28, 2016

Hi, everyone! Good morning/afternoon/evening.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Facebook held its fourth-quarter earnings call yesterday. The takeaway: It crushed estimates.

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Can Fractional Car Ownership Work?

couple of weeks ago, Ford Motor Company somewhat quietly announced that next month, it’s beginning a leasing pilot program in Austin that will enable three to six people to lease a Ford Vehicle together.

It’s not alone in thinking about fractional car ownership. Audi is similarly trying out a fractional car ownership program called Audi Unite that allows up to five people to own a car together. (It launched, and remains exclusively available, in Stockholm, Sweden.)

A nascent startup in London called Orto is entering the business of fractional car ownership.

The big question, of course, is whether the concept – which has been enormously successful when it comes to hotel time shares and private jets – can work when it comes to cars.

People clearly aren’t as wedded to owning vehicles as they once were, partly owing to congestion and related parking challenges, and partly owing to the rising cost of cars, particularly as they grow increasingly sophisticated. It’s no wonder that car-hailing services like Lyft and Uber — along with car-sharing services like ZipCar and Getaround — have taken off like gangbusters.

Even General Motors, which estimates that there are currently six million people around the world using a shared-based model of transportation, thinks that number will grow four or fivefold between now and the end of the decade.

In fact, that foregone conclusion explains why GM, along with Ford, Audi and BMW, have recently begun testing out their own car-sharing services. They haven’t gone terribly well to date, though. While GM’s service is about to launch, BMW’s pilot program, called DriveNow, was suspended in its pilot city of San Francisco last November. The company cited the city’s parking policies as too big a hindrance.

We haven’t heard a whole lot about Audi’s program, Audi On Demand, either. The nine-month-old service chose San Francisco as its testbed, and it still hasn’t expanded out of the city. (For what it’s worth, Uber expanded out of San Francisco and into New York City 10 months after it launched its operations.)

Given these earlier initiatives, carmakers’ newer ideas about fractional ownership make a certain kind of sense. You can imagine, for example, people who might not like the idea of all the germs that invariably come with popular car-sharing services. Buying a car with a small group can be a similarly priced but cleaner alternative.

Fractional ownership also puts luxury cars within the reach of many more people. You can bet people would share Tesla Model S cars if the company came up with a fractional ownership scheme.

More here.

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New Fundings

Booster Fuels, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based company that partners with large businesses and then offers on-demand fuel service on their corporate campuses, has raised $9 million in Series A funding from Madrona Venture Group, Version One Ventures and RRE Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Farmers Edge, an 11-year-old, Winnipeg-based company that makes precision agriculture and independent data management software, has raised C$58 million ($41.2 million) from earlier backers Mitsui & Co., Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Osmington Inc.

Insurify, a 2.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based startup that spun out of the M.I.T., has raised $2 million in seed funding to help motorists shop for auto insurance without having to talk to an agent of fill out online forms with personal data. Rationalwave Capital Partners led the round, which was filled out by individual investors. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

JobToday, a 1.5-year-old, Luxembourg-based startup whose mobile app helps service and blue collar workers connect with people and companies looking to hire them, has raised $10 million Series A round, led by Accel Partners, with participation from Felix Capital and existing investor Mangrove Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Mercatus, a 6.5-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based cloud-based software company that aims to help advanced energy projects reduce costs and increase profitability, has raised $11.7 million in Series B funding led by Traverse Venture Partners and TPG‘s Alternative and Renewable Technology Fund.More here.

Naritiv, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based Snapchat-focused marketing company, has raised $3 million in funding from Third Wave Digital, Walt Disney Co., and Luminari Capital. The company had previously raised $1.2 million. The L.A. Times has more here.

NewVoiceMedia, a 15-year-old, U.K.-based business that helps companies to run their customer contact centers and sales services in the cloud, has raised $30 million in funding led by BGF Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Bessemer Venture Partners, Eden Ventures, Highland Capital Partners Europe, Salesforce Ventures and Technology Crossover Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Pindrop, a four-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based company that uses audio analysis to provide anti-fraud and authentication technology to its customers, has raised $75 million in Series C funding led by Google Capital, with participation from Google Ventures, Citi Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz and Institutional Venture Partners. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Sonovate, a two-year-old, London-based fintech recruitment contract finance provider, has raised a £5 million ($7.1 million) in Series A funding led by Dawn Capital, with participation from DN Capital. Sonovate has also secured further £15 million ($21.5 million) in debt funding from Shawbrook Business Credit.

Tapdaq, a 2.5-year-old, London-based company that provides indie and mid-sized app developers with selective cross-promotional opportunities to highlight other devs’ apps, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding from BGF Ventures, Balderton Capital, Spring Partners and Open Ocean Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Wercker, a three-year-old, Amsterdam-based company that helps developers test and deploy code, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Inkef Capital, with participation from earlier backer Notion Capital. The company has now raised $7.5 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Blockchain Capital, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm that invests exclusively in bitcoin-related startups, has closed its second fund with $13 million, reports VentureWire. The outfit has has backed 37 companies to date, including BitFury, Circle Internet Financial, Coinbase, Ripple Labs and Xapo.

More here.

Good news for Illinois-based venture outfits, past and future. The state’s treasurer, Michael Frerichs, said earlier this week that Illinois will  will invest more than $220 million in venture funds focused on emerging local technology companies. The Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund will invest the capital in 15 to 20 funds over the next three years, with no more than 15 percent of the money placed in any one fund. The Chicago Tribune has more here.

Steamboat Ventures, the 15-year-old, Burbank, Ca.-based venture firm, is looking to raise up to $100 million for its sixth fund, shows an SEC filing that states the first sale has yet to occur.

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Exits

Alibaba is reportedly selling its stake in Meituan-Dianping, a group deals and online booking site that recently raised $3.3 billion in funding, reports the WSJ. Alibaba begun negotiating the transaction when Meituan-Dianping was raising the in order to focus on Koubei, its rival online-to-offline (O2O) platform.

ScribbleLive, an eight-year-old, Toronto-based brand engagement platform, has acquired the four-year-old, San Francisco-based content creation platform Visually for an undisclosed price. Visually had raised about $15 million in funding from Crosslink Capital, SoftTech VC and 500 Startups. ScribbleLive, meanwhile, has raised nearly $60 million, including from Rogers Venture Partners, Summerhill Venture Partners, and Georgian Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Siraj Khaliq, an ex-Googler and co-founder of The Climate Corporation (sold to Monsanto for around $1.1 billion in 2013), has joined Atomico in Zurich as an investment partner. More here.

Highland Capital Partners just promoted Manish Patel to lead the firm’s Silicon Valley consumer internet practice. Patel joined the firm in 2010 after nearly seven years at Google.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just became the sixth richest person on earth.

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Jobs

VMWare (which, yes, just laid off 800 people), is looking to hire a corporate development associate. The job is in Palo Alto, Ca.

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Essential Reads

Alibaba profit doubled(!) in the last quarter.

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Detours

New clues to how the brain maps time.

A French street artist who’s making boring buildings beautiful.

The Present.”

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Retail Therapy

A duffle bag filled with $500,000 of prop money. (You’ll figure out what to do with it.)


Can Fractional Car Ownership Work?

Car PartsA couple of weeks ago, Ford Motor Company somewhat quietly announced that next month, it’s beginning a leasing pilot program in Austin that will enable three to six people to lease a Ford Vehicle together.

It’s not alone in thinking about fractional car ownership. Audi is similarly trying out a fractional car ownership program called Audi Unite that allows up to five people to own a car together. (It launched, and remains exclusively available, in Stockholm, Sweden.)

A nascent startup in London called Orto is entering the business of fractional car ownership.

The big question, of course, is whether the concept – which has been enormously successful when it comes to hotel time shares and private jets – can work when it comes to cars.

People clearly aren’t as wedded to owning vehicles as they once were, partly owing to congestion and related parking challenges, and partly owing to the rising cost of cars, particularly as they grow increasingly sophisticated. It’s no wonder that car-hailing services like Lyft and Uber — along with car-sharing services like ZipCar and Getaround — have taken off like gangbusters.

Even General Motors, which estimates that there are currently six million people around the world using a shared-based model of transportation, thinks that number will grow four or fivefold between now and the end of the decade.

In fact, that foregone conclusion explains why GM, along with Ford, Audi and BMW, have recently begun testing out their own car-sharing services. They haven’t gone terribly well to date, though. While GM’s service is about to launch, BMW’s pilot program, called DriveNow, was suspended in its pilot city of San Francisco last November. The company cited the city’s parking policies as too big a hindrance.

We haven’t heard a whole lot about Audi’s program, Audi On Demand, either. The nine-month-old service chose San Francisco as its testbed, and it still hasn’t expanded out of the city. (For what it’s worth, Uber expanded out of San Francisco and into New York City 10 months after it launched its operations.)

Given these earlier initiatives, carmakers’ newer ideas about fractional ownership make a certain kind of sense. You can imagine, for example, people who might not like the idea of all the germs that invariably come with popular car-sharing services. Buying a car with a small group can be a similarly priced but cleaner alternative.

Fractional ownership also puts luxury cars within the reach of many more people. You can bet people would share Tesla Model S cars if the company came up with a fractional ownership scheme.

More here.


StrictlyVC: January 27, 2016

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

If you’ve reached out to us about volunteering at our next event, thank you! We haven’t forgotten you; it’s been a busy few days but we’ll get back to you shortly. (If you haven’t written us, note that we already have more interest than we can field.)

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Top News in the A.M.

We now know what percentage of Apple customers have opted to stick with smaller iPhones (60 percent). More here.

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The Surprisingly Not-Terrible Impact of All Those Late-Stage Rounds on IPOs

You’ve seen the headlines; you know that over the last couple of years, a growing number of startups has gone public at valuations below where they were valued as privately held companies (or sunk past them quickly).

You’ve also come to understand that a lot of late, and often lofty, private company valuations are getting set by investors who receive preferred shares in exchange for their checks. What that means: those investors receive downside protection in the form of rights to get paid ahead of other investors — or to get paid back more than other investors — in case the companies’ value declines.

There’s a silver lining, though. According to new research out of the law firm Fenwick & West, which has been actively tracking financing terms, of the 41 U.S.-based technology companies that went public either last year or 2014 and that had raised venture funding in the prior three years (life sciences companies were not included), just 20 percent — that’s eight companies — saw these so-called ratchets triggered.

More here.

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New Fundings

Adicet Bio, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based developer of cell immunotherapies, has raised $51 million in Series A funding led by OrbiMed Advisors, with participation from Novartis Venture Fund and Pontifax.

Branch Metrics, a nearly two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based “deep linking” company, has raised $35 million in Series B funding led by Founders Fund, with participation from Madrona Venture Group and earlier backers New Enterprise Associates, Pejman Mar Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Zach Coelius, and Ben Narasin. TechCrunch has more here.

Cadre, a nearly two-year-old, New York-based real-estate investing marketplace, has raised $50 million in Series B funding from Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Founders Fund, Thrive Capital, Ford FoundationKhosla Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, and SL Green Realty Corp., along with individual investors, family funds and college endowments. The New York Post has more here.

Civic, a new, Bay Area-based company whose technology uses the blockchain to secure consumer data, has raised $2.75 million in seed funding, reports VentureSource. The company was founded by Vinny Lingham, co-founder of mobile gift care platform Gyft, which sold to First Data in 2014 for $50 million. He’s taking the wraps off the service this spring.

HighQ, a 15-year-old, London-based maker of SaaS collaboration and content management solutions, has raised $50 million in growth equity funding from One Peak Partners, Morgan Stanley Merchant Banking and Goldman Sachs Private Capital. More here.

Lever, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based web app for hiring, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Scale Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Matrix Partners and Index Ventures. Forbes has more here.

Moz, an 11-year-old, Seattle-based marketing software maker, has raised $10 million in Series C funding from earlier investor Foundry Group. The company has now raised $29.1 million altogether. More from its CEO, Sarah Bird, here.

PanOpen, a nearly three-year-old, New York-based open educational resource platform, has raised $4.5 million in funding fled by Zen Group. More here.

PitchBook Data, a nearly nine-year-old, Seattle-based data platform for private equity, venture capital, and M&A pros, has raised $10 million at a $160 million post-money valuation from earlier backer Morningstar, which now owns roughly 20 percent of the company. GeekWire has more here.

Savari, an eight-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based startup whose wireless sensor technology and software equips cars and roads with 360-degree situational awareness, even when objects are around corners, has raised $8 million in Series A funding from Delta Electronics Capital Corp, SAIC Capital, and an unnamed strategic investor. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

StatMuse, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that lets you search for basketball facts and statistics through ordinary “natural” language requests, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from the Walt Disney CompanyTechStars, Allen & Co., Greycroft Partners, Promus Ventures, Haas Portman, Deep Fork Capital, and Bee Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Tarveda Therapeutics, a three-year-old, Watertown, Ma.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing a new class of targeted anti-cancer medicines to treat patients with solid tumor cancers, has raised $38 million in Series C funding co-led by Novo A/S and return backer New Enterprise Associates. Other investors include Flagship VenturesNanoDimension and Eminent Venture Capital. The company was known until now as Blend Therapeutics.

Vestorly, a four-year-old, New York-based content marketing platform for financial services, has raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led “significantly” by Sigma Prime Ventures. More here.

Wevorce, a three-year-old, Bothell, Wa.-based online platform that pairs spouses with trained divorce attorneys, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Techstars. More here.

The Zebra, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based platform that lets users compare auto insurance quotes in real time, has raised $17 million in Series A funding led by Ballast Point Ventures, with participation from Daher CapitalMark Cuban, Mike Maples Jr., Simon Nixon, and Silverton Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Rakuten Ventures, the investment arm of one of Japan’s largest Internet companies, has launched a 10 billion yen ($84 million) fund dedicated to the country’s startups. The Japan Fund will focus on promising early- and growth-stage tech companies that can potentially work with businesses in Rakuten‘s ecosystem, which include its e-commerce platform, an online bank, and messaging app Viber. More here.

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IPOs

Blue Coat Systems, the Internet security-software company backed by Bain Capital, will seek to raise as much as $500 million in an IPO this year, says Bloomberg. More here.

Tactile Systems Technology, an at-home compression wrap company, just became the inaugural med tech IPO filing of 2016. FierceMedicalDevices has more here on the company, which has so far raised $29.5 million in equity from shareholders, including Galen Partners and Radius Ventures.

Quick reminder: There have been zero, zilcho, no IPOs on U.S. exchanges this month. That hasn’t happened since December 2008.

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Exits

AppDirect, the well-funded marketplace for selling cloud services, has acquired Radialpoint, a 19-year-old, Montreal-based tech support company. AppDirect isn’t disclosing the financial terms of the deal. Radialpoint had raised $123 million from investors, shows CrunchBase. TechCrunch has more here.

Publicly traded Juniper Networks is aquiring BTI Systems, a 16-year-old, Ottawa-based provider of cloud and metro networking systems and software to content and service providers. No financial terms were disclosed. BTI Systems has raised $121 million from investors, shows CrunchBase.

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People

Michael Pao, who spent more than four years at the ride-hailing giant Uber, most recently as Head of Product on the company’s growth team, has joined the venture firm Greylock Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence. We talked with him yesterday.

Kevin Weil, a longtime Twitter executive whose resignation was among others announced over the weekend, will soon join the photo-sharing service Instagram, a company that many consider one of Twitter’s main competitors. The New York Times has more here.

Slack has hired former Foursquare SVP of product management Noah Weiss to lead its new Search, Learning, and Intelligence group. He’s opening the company’s first New York office, too. Fortune has more here.

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Jobs

Applied Materials is looking to hire an investment associate. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

Slack is hiring a fund manager for its $80 million, venture-backed app investment fund. The job is in San Francisco.

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Data

Dow Jones has just released its fourth-quarter venture capital report. You can get the full download right here.

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Essential Reads

Inside Facebook‘s decision to blow up the “Like” button.

Chapter 14 of “France Hates Uber.”

Lyft said today that it agreed to pay $12.25 million to settle a pending worker classification lawsuit in California, but it will continue to classify its drivers as independent contractors, not employees. More here.

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Detours

Why understanding space is so hard.

The weird psychology of returning stuff to the store.

Your beard may actually be good for you, according to “science.”

—–

Retail Therapy

Andy Spade (husband of Kate Spade) is selling some stuff.


The Surprisingly Not-Terrible Impact of All Those Late-Stage Rounds on IPOs

Double-alaskan-rainbowYou’ve seen the headlines; you know that over the last couple of years, a growing number of startups has gone public at valuations below where they were valued as privately held companies (or sunk past them quickly).

You’ve also come to understand that a lot of late, and often lofty, private company valuations are getting set by investors who receive preferred shares in exchange for their checks. What that means: those investors receive downside protection in the form of rights to get paid ahead of other investors — or to get paid back more than other investors — in case the companies’ value declines.

There’s a silver lining, though. According to new research out of the law firmFenwick & West, which has been actively tracking financing terms, of the 41 U.S.-based technology companies that went public either last year or 2014 and that had raised venture funding in the prior three years (life sciences companies were not included), just 20 percent — that’s eight companies — saw these so-called ratchets triggered.

More here.


StrictlyVC: January 26, 2016

Hi, happy Tuesday, everyone!

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Top News in the A.M.

Uber says it’s launching a pilot program that will use its drivers’ smartphone gyrometer data to determine if they are checking their phones too frequently, or driving too fast.

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Zach Sims of Codecademy on (Still) Not Charging Users

Though the four-year-old online platform Codecademy now teaches employable tech skills to 25 million users around the globe, it still doesn’t charge for its services, some early testing notwithstanding. The company is choosing instead to remain focused on growth before introducing what CEO Zach Sims describes as a “prosumer” business.

In today’s market, that’s an unusual stance to maintain. It’s even more unusual because Codecademy has raised just $12.5 million over the years, a small sum by the standards of most online learning platforms. The six-year-old, San Francisco-based online learning and teaching marketplace Udemy, for example, has raised $113 million to date.

In a sit-down in Davos, we asked Sims about Codecademy’s strategy; whether he’s feeling nervous about waiting so long to charge (or else raise more capital); and if Codecademy might eventually branch into the seemingly lucrative business of coding boot camps.

More here.

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New Fundings

5miles, a 1.5-year-old, Dallas and Beijing-based location-centric mobile marketplace app that competes with Craigslist, VarageSale and others, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Blue Lake Capital. IDGMorningside, SIG-China and individuals who have worked with or invested in Alibaba, also joined the round. The Dallas Morning News has more here.

Authorea, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based science collaboration and publishing platform, has raised $1.5 million in funding led by Lux Capital, with participation from the Knight Foundation and earlier backers ff Venture Capital and New York Angels.

Cedexis, a six-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based company that helps large enterprises monitor and optimize how their traffic flows from their servers, CDNs and cloud providers to their customers, has raised $22 million in Series B funding. Ginko Ventures led the round, with participation from FoxconnNokia Growth Partners, Citrix Systems Ventures and earlier backers Madrona Ventures and Advanced Technology Ventures. The company has now raised $40.2 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Codiak Biosciences, a year-old, San Francisco-based developing exosomes as both a therapeutic modality and an advanced diagnostic system, has raised $61 million in Series B funding led by ARCH Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures, with participation from the Alaska Permanent Fund, Alexandria Venture Investments and Fidelity. The company has now raised $92 million altogether. MedCity News has more here.

CosmosID, a nine-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based metagenomics startup that has a curated library of roughly 65,000 viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites that it says can identify in a prepared sample  in minutes, has raised $6 million in Series B funding from undisclosed investors. MedCity News has more here.

Eyeota, a three-year-old, Singapore-based ad-targeting and consumer data startup, has raised $7 million in  Series A funding, including from Global Brain Corporation, Infinity Venture Partners, and Project A Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

FaceIt, a three-year-old, London-based platform for competitive e-sports (it enables videogame fans to watch game play online), has raised $15 million in funding co-led by Index Ventures and Anthos Capital, with participation from United Ventures. Variety has more here.

Fireglass, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based enterprise network security company, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Singtel Innov8, co-founder of Imperva and Trusteer Mickey Boodaei, and co-founder of Trusteer, Rakesh Loonkar. TechCrunch has more here.

Grovo, a 5.5-year-old, New York-based online platform focused on enabling users to learn new business skills, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by earlier backer Accel Partners, with participation from Costanoa Venture Capital, SoftTech VC, Vayner Capital, and investor-operator Greg Waldorf. The company has now raised $65 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

HopSkipDrive, a year-old, L.A.-based ride service for kids, has raised $10.2 million in Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital, with participation from new investors Greycroft PartnersPritzker Group Venture Capital, and earlier backers Upfront Ventures, BBG Ventures and 1776. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Jan Medical, a 13-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based medical device company that makes a non-invasive, portable brain sensing system designed as a rapid aid to help diagnose abnormal neurological conditions like concussion and stroke, has raised $7.5 million in Series C funding from Brainlab, itself a privately held, Munich-based medical technology company. MedCity News hasmore here.

Jitterbit, a 10-year-old, Alameda, Ca.-based enterprise software company whose cloud-based app integration platform is used by some 35,000 customers, has raised $20 million in funding led by KKR. TechCrunch has more here.

ParkWhiz, a nine-year-old, Chicago-based parking startup, has raised $24 million in Series C funding led by Baird Capital, with participation from Beringea and Jump Capital. The company, which has now raised $36 million altogether, has also just acquired a New-York based competitor, BestParking, for undisclosed terms. TechCrunch has more here.

Powerhive, a four-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based company that enables the development, financing, and management of renewable solar micrograms in emerging markets, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Prelude Ventures, with participation from First Solar, Total Energy Ventures, Tao Capital Partners and Caterpillar Venture Capital, the corporate venture arm of the publicly traded construction giant Caterpillar.

Seebo, a 3.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that offers an Internet of Things (IoT) end-to-end platform to help companies launch smart products faster, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Carmel Ventures, with participation from earlier backers, including TPY Capital. The company has now raised $14 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

SnapMD, a 2.5-year-old, Glendale, Ca.-based telemedicine startup telemedicine platform that helps physicians conduct scheduled virtual consultations with patients who are receiving ongoing treatment, has raised $5.3 million in fresh funding from Shea Ventures, TYLT Labs, and Whittier Ventures. MedCity News has more here.

Vidyard, a 4.5-year-old, Kitchener, Ontario-based startup whose software helps companies use online video to boost sales, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Battery Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Bessemer Venture Partners, Salesforce Ventures, OMERS VenturesiNovia Capital and SoftTech VC. (In fact, the company has released a “Star Wars”-themed video to announce the funding.)

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New Funds

Qiming Venture Partners, a 10-year-old, Shanghai, China-based venture firm that was an early investor in smartphone maker Xiaomi, has raised $650 million for its fifth fund, including from Princeton University, reports DealStreetAsia. Qiming closed its fourth fund with $500 million in 2014 and closed its third fund with $450 million in 2011. Last year, the early-stage firm, which backs everything from healthcare to IT to cleantech, also raised a separate, $75 million fund to pack more funding into its breakaway portfolio companies.

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Exits

Sony is acquiring 10-year-old, Israel-based Altair Semiconductor for $212 million. Altair makes chips that connect devices to LTE, and its technology will help develop Sony’s Internet of Things business. According to CrunchBase, Altair had raised $124 million from investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners and Jerusulem Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey today announced a new CMO for the company —Leslie Berland, who joins from American Express, where she spent the last decade, most recently as EVP, Global Advertising, Marketing and Digital Partnerships . More here.

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Jobs

Huawei Technologies is looking to hire a corporate development investment director. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

Spotify is looking for a corporate development lead. The job is in New York.

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Essential Reads

A Credit Suisse analyst and his team expect Instagram to contribute $3.2 billion in revenue to Facebook this year.

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Detours

Haha. A New Yorker built an igloo in his garden during The Great Storm and has it listed on Airbnb for $200 a night.

Tour the Guggenheim Museum in New York, courtesy of Google Street View.

The best restaurant in every state.

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Retail Therapy

The eight new Apple products to watch out for this year.


Zach Sims of Codecademy on (Still) Not Charging Users

Zach SimsThough the four-year-old online platform Codecademy now teaches employable tech skills to 25 million users around the globe, it still doesn’t charge for its services, some early testing notwithstanding. The company is choosing instead to remain focused on growth before introducing what CEO Zach Sims describes as a “prosumer” business.

In today’s market, that’s an unusual stance to maintain. It’s even more unusual because Codecademy has raised just $12.5 million over the years, a small sum by the standards of most online learning platforms. The six-year-old, San Francisco-based online learning and teaching marketplace Udemy, for example, has raised $113 million to date.

In a sit-down in Davos, we asked Sims about Codecademy’s strategy; whether he’s feeling nervous about waiting so long to charge (or else raise more capital); and if Codecademy might eventually branch into the seemingly lucrative business of coding boot camps.

More here.


StrictlyVC: January 25, 2016

Hi, everyone, we are back from our very fun travels. Hope you had a terrific weekend.

Quick reminder: StrictlyVC’s next evening event takes place Thursday, February 25th in San Francisco at the beautiful Autodesk Gallery, featuring Bill Maris of Google Ventures; Heidi Roizen of DFJ and Stanford; Autodesk CEO Carl Bass; Hans Tung of GGV Capital; Ben Einstein of Bolt; and CEO Peter Szulczewski of Wish, one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley right now. Remaining tickets are available here.

If you are interested in helping to sponsor the event, we’d love to talk. If you are interested in volunteering at it, we’d also love to hear from you.

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Top News in the A.M.

Four senior Twitter executives are leaving the media company, the biggest leadership changes since Jack Dorsey returned as CEO. Confirming earlier reports, including by Recode, Dorsey wrote last night that longtime media head Katie Jacobs Stanton, product head Kevin Weil, engineering division head Alex Roetter, and HR head Brian “Skip” Schipper, will all leave the company. There’ve been grumblings in media circles that not all the departures are voluntary, but Dorsey praised the four and said he was “forever grateful” to them.

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Dataminr’s CEO on Whether He Regrets Working with Fidelity

On Friday, we talked with CEO Ted Bailey of Dataminr, asking him for a little more detail about how his real-time information discovery platform works; whether he worries about Twitter, on which Dataminr is heavily reliant; and if he at all regrets letting Fidelity Management lead a $130 million investment in his company last March. (In November, at the same time that it slashed the value of a number of its investments, Fidelity marked down the company’s value by 35 percent.)

You can see the entire interview here, or you can just read the lightly edited highlights here:

Your business looks at social media to create a kind of sentiment analysis. Is that correct?

We do look at social media, but we differentiate ourselves by being real time, so we identify early information when people tweet and other sources before the news wires. We’ve pioneered real-time information discovery, meaning discovering information before it’s a trend.

What are you looking for?

It runs the gamut. Our customers run from investment professionals, [including] hedge funds and investment banks, to 250 news organizations, to public safety professionals, like major cities, fire departments, offices of emergency management . . .

What Dataminr tries to do is enable our customers to know about things sooner. Last year for example, there was a big gas explosion in New York City, and when that happened, people around it — acting as a real-time sensor for what was going on — took photos and tweeted pictures, and there was a signal we found in that. And we sent an alert to the [NYFD], and they said, “Oh, wow, there’s a huge fire; we’re going to send out the fire trucks.” After that, they received the first 911 call.

More here.

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New Fundings

Aircall, a 1.5-year-old, French SaaS startup focused on quick deployment of enterprise phone systems, has raised $2.75 million in new funding led by Balderton Capital, with participation from FundersClub. TechCrunch has more here.

DataXu, a 6.5-year-old, Boston-based company that makes programmatic marketing software for brands and agencies, has raised $10 million in new funding led by the U.K.-based, paid-TV giant Sky. The company has now raised roughly $65 million altogether, including from Accomplice, Menlo VenturesThomvest Ventures and Flybridge Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

HomePolish, a three-year-old, New York-based online platform for booking interior designers, has raised nearly $17 million of a new funding round that could total $21.5 million, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. New backers include Elephant VC.

iROKO, a four-year-old, Nigeria-based online entertainment platform, has raised $12 million in new equity funding from the French cable company Canal+ and earlier backer Kinnevik. TechCrunch has more here.

mPrest, a 13-year-old, Israel-based developer of monitoring and control software for the Internet of Things, has raised $20 million in Series A funding co-led by GE Ventures and OurCrowd. More here.

Omni-ID, a nearly nine-year-old. Rochester, N.Y.-based maker of UHF RFID tags that work in harsh environments, has raised $21 million in fresh funding from GE Ventures, Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners, and YFY Group of Taiwan, along with earlier backer Trillium International. More here.

Oscar, the 2.5-year-old, New York-based healthcare insurance startup, has reportedly authorized the sale of up to $400 million in new shares that are valued at $6.75 each, which — as Fortune’s Dan Primack notes — would give the company a fully-diluted valuation of roughly $2.97 billion. The company has already raised $327 million, including from Google Capital, Khosla Ventures, and Founders Fund, shows Crunchbase; Fidelity Investments is reportedly leading the new round.

Prevalent Networks, an 11-year-old, Warren, N.J.-based maker of vendor risk management and cyber threat intelligence analytics software, has raised $8 million in Series B funding from Fulcrum Equity Partners and Spring Mountain Capital. More here.

RetraceHealth, a two-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based primary care clinic that relies on video visits to reach patients, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthEast Care System, and McKesson Ventures. More here.

Wingz, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based scheduled airport ride startup, has raised $11 million in Series B funding, including from Expedia, Altimeter Capital, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. VentureBeat has more here.

WOO Sports, a 2.5-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based company whose tracking devices enable kiteboarders to measure their performance, share results, and compete against their peers, has raised $4.3 million in Series A funding, shows an SEC filing.

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New Fundings

Assemble.VC, a new, Boston-based venture firm, is targeting $75 million for its debut fund, and its founders — longtime VCs Michael Skok and C.A. Webb — tell BostInno how they’re trying to differentate themselves from their peers.

CAVU Ventures, a year-old, New York-based venture firm focused on food and other consumer packaged goods, has closed its debut fund with $156 million, shows an SEC filing first flagged by VentureWire.

Origin Ventures, a 16-year-old, Chicago-based early-stage firm, is targeting $100 million for its fourth fund, shows an SEC filing that states the first sale has yet ot occur.

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Exits

AOL has acquired AlephD, a Paris-based startup that helps publishers automatically identify the best price for each ad impression. Financial terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. The company had raised $2 million in funding from A Plus Finance, CapDecisif Management and Partech Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has, at age 83, developed a mobile gaming app called “Churchill Solitaire.” More here.

Why biotech entrepreneur Martin Shkreli will talk on social media but not to Congress.

Attorney Matthew Sonsini, who back in 2008 left Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (cofounded by his father, Larry) to work under his father-in-law, John Sobrato of the family-owned real estate empire The Sobrato Organization, is back. WSGR announced this morning that he’ll be part of the firm’s corporate securities practice.

In addition to its other, high-profile departures, Vine head Jason Toff is also leaving Twitter; he’s joining Google’s new virtual reality unit. More here.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he’s back to work today, following a two-month paternity leave.

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Jobs

The equity crowdfunding platform SeedInvest is looking to hire a venture associate. The job is in New York.

—–

Data

The IVC Research Center, which monitors Israel’s high-tech scene, has released its fourth-quarter fundraising survey. Turns out $1.2 billion was raised in the fourth quarter and that, for the year, fundraising hit $4.43 billion, 30 percent more than 2014’s previous record. Much more here.

Of the 204 Bay Area startups that received series A funding last year, just 8 percent – or 16 companies – are led by women, a number that declined a stunning 30 percent from the previous year, according to new data by Female Founders Fund. More here.

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Essential Reads

It’s official. San Francisco’s Yellow Cab Cooperative has filed for Chapter 11.

U.S. health inspectors have reportedly found serious deficiencies at Theranos‘s Northern California blood-testing lab.

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Detours

The Iowa caucus system, explained in two minutes.

—–

Retail Therapy

Shepard Fairey’s L.A. home is for sale, should you be interested. (H/T: Uncrate.)


Dataminr’s CEO On Whether He Regrets That Giant Fidelity-Led Round

Ted BaileyOn Friday, we talked with CEO Ted Bailey of Dataminr, asking him for a little more detail about how his real-time information discovery platform works; whether he worries about Twitter, on which Dataminr is heavily reliant; and if he at all regrets letting Fidelity Management lead a $130 million investment in his company last March. (In November, at the same time that it slashed the value of numerous other investments, Fidelity marked down the company’s value by 35 percent.)

You can see the entire interview here, or you can just read the lightly edited highlights here:

Your business looks at social media to create a kind of sentiment analysis. Is that correct?

We do look at social media, but we differentiate ourselves by being real time, so we identify early information when people tweet and other sources before the news wires. We’ve pioneered real-time information discovery, meaning discovering information before it’s a trend.

What are you looking for?

It runs the gamut. Our customers run from investment professionals, [including] hedge funds and investment banks, to 250 news organizations, to public safety professionals, like major cities, fire departments, offices of emergency management . . .

What Dataminr tries to do is enable our customers to know about things sooner. Last year for example, there was a big gas explosion in New York City, and when that happened, people around it — acting as a real-time sensor for what was going on — took photos and tweeted pictures, and there was a signal we found in that. And we sent an alert to the [NYFD], and they said, “Oh, wow, there’s a huge fire; we’re going to send out the fire trucks.” After that, they received the first 911 call.

More here.