Hi, welcome back, everyone! Hope you had a wonderful weekend.
Giant thanks to our newest sponsor, the artificial intelligence company AiBrain, for partnering with StrictlyVC on our upcoming event, February 25th. We really appreciate AiBrain’s support, along with that of our other generous sponsors Autodesk, Bolt, and Ludlow Ventures. We’re getting excited about the evening.
It’s also the Crunchies awards show tonight! TechCrunch has lots of great speakers coming, including Sequoia’s Roelof Botha, with whom we get to share the stage and crack some corny jokes. Hope to see many of you there.:)
Top News in the A.M.
Google is developing its own virtual reality headset. The Financial Times has more here.
IfOnly Raises $10.25 Million for Its “Experiences” Marketplace
It used to be hard to take IfOnly very seriously. The 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company service has always serviced customers looking for unusual experiences, but they seemed out of reach for most, like the (expensive) chance to cook with famed chef Thomas Keller. That the company was inspired by the wealthy friends of founder and CEO Trevor Traina — people looking to have “incredible experiences,” as Traina told Vanity Fair in a 2013 story about San Francisco society — added to the impression that IfOnly was aimed squarely at the 1 percent.
But Traina, who has founded four companies previously and managed to sell all of them, has big ambitions to serve more than the very monied.
In fact, a long list of investors has provided IfOnly with $10.25 million in Series B funding to help it evolve beyond an “experiences marketplace” for clients like Madonna to a platform through which local experts can market and sell their services. Want to learn how to make a macchiato from the best coffee bar in your neighborhood? You might find the opportunity on IfOnly. Interested in a basketball lesson from a former NBA pro? He might be marketing his services on IfOnly, too.
Traina says in earnest that the addressable market his 60-employee company is chasing is $225 billion. He cites as proof surveys that suggest millennials in particular are more interested in experiences than past generations. (One such study in 2014, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the online ticket company Eventbrite, reported that 72 percent of respondents wanted to increase their spending on experiences in the coming year.)
“They’re never going to buy a car,” says Traina of millennials. “They don’t care about furniture. But they’re on social media channels, where it’s not fun to post about a belt but it is fun to [post a picture, saying], “Check me out backstage.” In fact, says Traina, he believes there’s an “eBay-sized business here. Everyone wants experiences and no one is really offering it to them.”
It’s not so ridiculous.
Affinivax, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based biotechnology company that’s developing a pneumococcal vaccine, has raised $2.5 million in new funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation a little less than two years after raising $4 million from foundation. More here.
Africa Internet Group, a three-year-old, Lagos, Nigeria-based outfit that owns online retailer Jumia and nine other e-ventures, is receiving $83 million from Europe’s AXA Insurance in exchange for an 8 percent equity stake in its business. TechCrunch has more here.
Hired, a nearly four-year-old, San Francisco-based career marketplace, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Lumia, with participation from Comcast Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Sierra Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank. Bloomberg has more here.
Revolut, a year-old, London-based company that makes a mobile foreign exchange app, has raised $4.8 million in seed funding from Balderton Capital, Seedcamp, Point Nine, Venrex and Index Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
Xignite, a 12-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that provides real-time and reference market data APIs to fintech companies and enterprises, has raised $20.5 million in Series C funding led by Tokyo-based QUICK Corporation, with participation from earlier backers StarVest Partners, Altos Ventures, and Startup Capital Ventures. The company has now raised $37 million altogether. More here.
AccelFoods, an accelerator for companies that make packaged food and beverages, has raised a new $20 million fund to back companies from pre-seed through Series B stages. The firm’s debut fund, a $4 million vehicle, closed in January 2014. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.
The Bangalore, India-based venture capital firm Kalaari Capital has started an accelerator program for startups called Kstart. It will have a new batch every quarter of up to five startups, each of which will receive up to $500,000 via a convertible equity instrument. The Economic TImes has more here.
Matrix Partners China has closed its fourth fund with $500 million, shows an SEC filing.
Vertex Venture Holdings’ fourth Israel fund is set to see its final close at $150 million, reports DealStreetAsia. The investment arm is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Singapore state-fund Temasek Holdings. More here.
A friendly reminder from Renaissance Capital: There have been 2 IPOs priced so far this year, a negative 89 percent change from last year.
One Medical Group, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based outfit that offers ech-enabled primary care, has acquired Rise, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based nutrition and health coaching platform for a reported $20 million. Rise had raised $4 million in seed funding from Cowboy Ventures, Floodgate, Google Ventures and Greylock Partners, among others. One Medical has raised more than $181.5 million from firms like Benchmark, J.P. Morgan, Redmile Group, Maverick Capital, Oak Investment Partners and Rise investor Google Ventures.
Zirx, the two-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand valet and parking app, is shutting down its consumer on-demand parking service to focus exclusively on enterprise customers. TechCrunch has more here.
Y Combinator cofounder Jessica Livingston on female founders, business cycles, and her favorite event of the year.
Here‘s how Twitter’s new algorithmic timeline is going to work.
All the ads that ran during the Super Bowl, in order.
A 1957 Ferrari 335S (that sold recently for almost $35 million!).