Hi, everyone, hope your Thursday is off to a great start.
Our upcoming event is now sold out, but we have some good news for those of you who’d still like to make it: One of our sponsors, Ludlow Ventures, is offering to give away three tickets. To make things interesting, we’re going to give the seats to the three readers who come up with the funniest symbol of startup entitlement. (Examples that you can’t use: Kind bars or exposed brick walls. VC Chamath Palihapitiya called those at our September event.)
We have somewhere to be suddenly, so it looks like we’re running an economy version of the newsletter today. We’ll have more funding news for you tomorrow.:)
Top News in the A.M.
Apple CEO Tim Cook’s letter on Monday about iPhone security drew somesupportive tweets from Google CEO Sundar Pichai yesterday. Overall, however, the tech industry’s response has been muted, notes the New York Times.
Jana Raises $57M to Bring Unrestricted Internet Access to the World
Nathan Eagle was a Fulbright scholar from MIT, teaching at the University of Nairobi, when he had his “aha moment.”
Specifically, Eagle was teaching a mobile phone programming curriculum at the school when he and his students built an SMS system that enabled rural nurses to text information about low blood supply levels to centralized blood banks. (Earlier, the nurses depended on someone who drove from hospital to hospital, reporting back who needed what.)
The system earned Eagle praise and a photo in the local papers. Unfortunately, the nurses almost immediately stopped using the system. The reason: the onerous costs of text messaging. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was basically asking them to take a pay cut,” says Eagle.
Indeed, in many countries, including India, Brazil, and Indonesia, one of the main barriers to connectivity is the crippling cost of data. Facebook reminded the world of this problem when its India-focused Free Basics program — designed to offer free Internet access to certain sites only — was recently banned by India’s telecom regulator, which ruled that the practice of charging different prices to different customers is not acceptable.
Now, Facebook’s fumble looks well-timed for Eagle’s company, Jana, which has been quietly providing free, unrestricted Internet access in emerging markets.
How it works: through an Android app by Jana called mCent, users must first agree to immersive advertising experiences, like spending five to 10 minutes using Amazon’s app in exchange for 20 to 50 megabytes of data.
Another advertising client of Jana’s, the popular, India-based music streaming service Saavn, gives customers 10 free songs that they can listen to any time they want. The idea is to give those users a sense that their phone is much more than a two-way communication device; it’s a music player, too.
Triptease, a three-year-old, London-based startup that provides a SaaS to enable hotels to increase direct sales, has closed $7 million in Series A funding from investors, including earlier backers Notion Capital and Episode 1. TechCrunch has more here.
Vera, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based cloud service that wants to protect data regardless of where it’s stored or used, announced a $17 million Series B today led by Sutter Hill Ventures, with participation from earlier Battery Ventures, Clear Venture Partners and Amplify Partners. The company has now raised $31 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
Aaand now Campbell Soup is getting into the venture biz, launching a $125 million fund to invest in food startups.
Google today announced that it is building its first engineering team devoted to Southeast Asia and toward that end has acquired Pie, a Slack-like team communications service based in Singapore. Pie, which raised $1.2 million in funding last year led by Gree Ventures, is the first acquisition Google has made in Southeast Asia. TechCrunch has more here.
IBM announced its intent to buy Truven Health Analytics today for a whopping $2.6 billion. Truven is a four-year-old, Ann Arbor, Mi.-based provider of data to hospitals, doctors and companies, that had reportedly begun preparing for an IPO last year. Truven had raisd an undisclosed amount of funding from InvestMichigan and others. TechCrunch has much more here.
Jonathon Triest and Brett deMarrais of Detroit-based Ludlow Ventures (one of our sponsors) drive to work together every day, sometimes recording their in-car conversations with other entrepreneurs and VCs for a low-rent but often funny show they call Carpool VC. In the latest edition, they coax CEO Jeff Epstein of GetAmbassador.com into the car. (The company received Ludlow’s very first check.) You can check it out here.
General Mills wants to hire a venture capital analyst. The job is in St. Louis Park, Mn.
Intel is looking for a strategic business development manager. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.
In the fourth quarter of last year, global smartphones sales experienced their slowest growth rate since 2008, according to Gartner’s latest market report. The quarter saw sales of Apple’s iPhone decline for the first time, falling 4.4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2014. More here.
Secondary shops are being flooded with unicorn sellers. More here.
How startups learned to love debt.
The most important Apple executive you’ve never heard of.
Nine incredible selfies from before they went mainstream.