Monthly Archives: May 2016

StrictlyVC: May 27, 2016

Friday! Also, officially our kids’ first day of summer vacation. Help! Just kidding. They’re a joy. (But also, really, help.)

See you on Tuesday, everyone.:) Hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

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Top News in the A.M.

A jury has found that Google’s implementation of 37 Java APIs in Android qualified as fair use. Had the decision gone the other way, it could have cost Google $9 billion. More here.

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New Fundings

Aleva Neurotherapeutics, a nine-year-old, Lausanne, Switzerland, developer of implants for deep brain stimulation for sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor, has raised $18 million in Series C funding led by the publicly traded company Greatbatch, with participation from BioMedPartners, BB Biotech Ventures, Banexi Ventures, Initiative Capital Romandie, and a group of family offices that include Kinled Holding and Forrestal CapitalMore here.

Althea, a year-old, Korea-based company that exports and sells cosmetics and beauty products to Southeast Asia, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding from Mirae Asset Ventures, Posco Ventures, 500 Startups, Tekton Ventures and Cherubic Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Centauri Health Solutions, a two-year-old, Scottsdale, Az.-based company that makes medical coding and data analysis software, has raised $50 million in growth capital from the private equity firm Silversmith Capital Partners in exchange for a “significant” minority stake in its business. More here.

Creema, a 5.5-year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based online marketplace for handmade goods in Asia, has raised roughly $10 million in fresh funding from Globis Capital Partners and earlier backer KDDI Open Innovation Fund (the venture fund run by Japanese telecom KDDI). More here.

EyeQ, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based shopper intelligence platform, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding led by Align Capital, with participation from earlier investors. More here.

Lumiata, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based predictive analytics company serving the healthcare industry, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from earlier investors Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners, Sandbox Industries, and Khosla Ventures. The company has now raised $20 million altogether.

Meural, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that enables users to change the art of their walls on command with its framed digital canvases, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Corigin Ventures, with participation from Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners, as well as angel investors. More here.

Photomyne, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based app that lets users quickly scan entire photo albums and then share their scanned photos, has raised $2.6 million in seed funding from Israeli investors like Eddy Shalev and Yariv Gilat. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Grove Ventures, a new venture firm cofounded by serial entrepreneur Dov Moran, has held a first close of $30 million on a debut fund that’s targeting $100 million. The capital will be used to invest in Israeli startups in the fields of cloud computing, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. Haaretz has more here.

Pantera Capital, a 16-year-old investment firm that was founded by former Tiger Management veteran Dan Morehead and which is focused almost exclusively on virtual currency-related investments, says it’s closing its current fund, Pantera Venture Fund II, to investors at June’s end. The fund has already backed 14 companies, including BitPagos and BitPesa.

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Exits

Intel has acquired the 11-year-old, San Francisco-based computer vision and machine learning startup Itseez to develop better navigation for self-driving cars. The value of the deal was undisclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Quora’s long-time head of business and community Marc Bodnick is leaving to return to the investing world or found his own startup.

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton has challenged nemesis Peter Thiel to a public debate, suggesting this “alternative approach” is more reasonable than being systematically driven out of business by Thiel, who was a former target of the outlet.

Lisa Lambert, who most recently served as vice-president and managing director of Intel Capital’s Software and Services Fund and the Intel Capital Diversity Fund, has joined the Westly Group as a managing director. VentureBeat has more here.

Why investors everywhere are waiting on Janet Yellen before taking off for the long weekend.

In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs and the media are taking different sides on the ThielGawker case. (Favorite related tweet: Peter Kafka of Recode, writing yesterday, “I pray this war between press and Silicon Valley elite ends before the next funding announcement.”)

Oh, it is on between HR software startups Gusto and Zenefits.

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Essential Reads

Microsoft and Facebook are teaming up to build the highest-capacity subsea cable ever across the Atlantic that will connect Virginia Beach, Virginia, with Bilbao, Spain.

Facebook has started selling off-site ads, targeting non-users, too.

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Detours

The electric car you can charge next to your phone.

A clever new kind of intersection kicks risky left turns to the curb.

Toy dinosaurs, traveling the world.

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Retail Therapy

Well. This really raises the stakes in office Nerf warfare.




Pierre Omidyar Involved in Effort to Help Gawker in its Appeal

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.32.34 AMWell, this story keeps getting more and more interesting.

According to a newly published account in the New York Post, Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, is involved in an effort to help Gawker Media in its appeal of a $140 million judgement that was awarded to Hulk Hogan following Gawker’s release of a sex tape involving the former wrestler.

Specifically, First Look Media, an online news venture that includes the The Intercept and which is financially backed by Omidyar, is reaching out to other media organizations to file friend-of-the-court briefs to influence an appeals court’s decision in support of Gawker.

According to the The Post, by “filing the amicus briefs in support of Gawker, First Look could effectively elevate the trial into a First Amendment rights case,” one that would “pit” the media organizations supporting Gawker against a powerful foe of the organization: billionaire Peter Thiel.

As is widely known by now, Thiel revealed earlier this week that he’s been financially aiding Hogan’s case, to the tune of $10 million. The reason, Thiel said: he deems a Gawker bully whose work often has no connection with the public’s interest.

Thiel did not respond to requests for comment this week.

But Omidyar said this afternoon that any perceived animus between himself and Thiel is non-existent. In a tweet following the Post’s publication of its story, Omidyar writes that he has “never met Peter,” that he respects Thiel’s work as a venture capitalist, and that there is no “bad blood.”

Omidyar was featured periodically in Valleywag, though its coverage was relatively tame compared to some of its posts about other Silicon Valley executives.

More here.




StrictlyVC: May 26, 2016

Hey there, it’s Thursday already! Woop, woop!

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Top News in the A.M.

Intel Capital has announced that it’s restructuring its investment team and expects some departures. But the unit has decided not to sell part of its venture-capital portfolio after evaluating its holdings. The WSJ has more here.

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A Lending Case Involving Top VCs Moves Toward a Trial

Elevate, a venture-backed company that uses big data to assess loan applications from people with low credit scores, has been called out as a predatory lender, including in Fortune last year. One reason among others is that the APR on some of its loans is a stunning 349 percent.

Yet the company’s predecessor, Think Finance, which was founded in 2001 and quietly spun out Elevate into a new entity in 2014, is no hero to those with so-called non-prime credit, either, suggests a new lawsuit that is now moving toward a trial.

According to the suit, plaintiffs are seeking financial relief against a particular payday lender that partnered with Think Finance to avoid state anti-usury laws and that has “taken advantage of people who are struggling financially by charging extortionate interest rates and engaging in illegal lending practices,” it states.

Among the specific claims against Think Finance — as well as its venture backers Sequoia Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures — are that they engaged in racketeering and the collection of unlawful debt.

The payday lender is Plain Green, which calls itself a “tribal lending entity wholly owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.”

But Matthew Byrne, the Burlington, Vermont-based attorney who has filed the complaint, writes in it that “Plain Green was created after existing payday lenders approached the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation . . . and requested that the Tribe become involved in a payday lending scheme.”

In the U.S., he writes in the complaint, “stringent laws have been enacted to prescribe how loans can be made and to prevent lenders from preying on indigent people. By involving the Tribe in the payday lending scheme, the lenders hoped to circumvent these laws and take advantage of legal doctrines, such as tribal immunity, to avoid liability for their actions.”

All defendants had filed motions to either dismiss the case or compel arbitration. Late last week, a judge ruled instead that the case can proceed to trial.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe isn’t the only Indian reservation with which Think Finance has partnered.

More here.

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New Fundings

7shifts, a three-year-old, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company that makes employee scheduling software for restaurants, has raised C$1.2 million (roughly $924,000) in seed funding by Relay Ventures, with participation from Globalive Capital and earlier backers Boost VC and Tim Draper. More here.

AmpMe, a year-old, Montreal-based music-syncing app that allows users to play music across multiple devices to create a kind of portable sound system, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Relay Ventures, with participation from Investissement Québec, Slaight Music, OMERS Ventures, Townsgate Media, Anges Québec and Real Ventures. The company has now raised $10 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Buddybuild, an eight-month-old, Vancouver-based company focused on continuous integration and delivery for mobile applications, has raised $7.6 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and with participation from earlier backers Amplify Partners, Bloomberg Beta and First Round Capital. More here. BetaKit has more here.

Contentful, a five-year-old, Berlin and San Francisco-based API-driven content management developer platform, has raised $13 million in Series B funding led by Benchmark, with participation from Trinity Ventures and earlier backers Balderton Capital and Point Nine Capital. The company has now raised $16.8 million altogether. Tech.eu has more here.

Front App, a 2.5-year-old, Paris-based email platform that aims to make it easier to work with teams, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Social Capital, with participation from Slack cofounder Stewart Butterfield and numerous others. TechCrunch has more here.

Lightbend, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s backing the Scala programming language, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Intel Capital. The company has now raised $42 million to date. Fortune hasmore here.

Seismic, a five-year-old, Solana Beach, Ca.-based company that sells software that automating updates to corporate sales and marketing collateral, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by General Atlantic. The company has now raised around $64.5 million altogether. Fortune has more here.

Snapchat, the five-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based messaging company, has raised $1.8 billion in new funding according to a new SEC filing flagged by TechCrunch. According to its sources, investors in the new round include General AtlanticSequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price, Lone Pine, Glade Brook Capital,Institutional Venture Partners, Coatue Management and Fidelity, among others. More here.

Skillshare, a 5.5-year-old, New York-based ed tech startup that makes short, self-paced courses for so-called creators, has raised $12 million in Series B funding co-led by Amasia and Omidyar Network, with participation fromUnion Square Ventures and Spark Capital. The company has now raised $22 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

EQT Ventures, the new venture firm launched by the large, European private equity group EQT, has closed on €566 million ($632.6 million) of investor capital for its debut fund. More here.

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IPOs

Twilio, the cloud communications platform company, just filed for a $100 million IPO. VentureBeat has more here.

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Exits

Qualtrics, a Provo, Utah, company whose online survey research platform is used by thousands of enterprise customers, has made its first acquisition, picking up four-year-old, Seattle-based Statwing. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but Statwing’s three-person team is relocating and will be absorbed into Qualtrics. Statwing had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Y Combinator and angel investors. More here.

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People

Yesterday, we speculated that billionaire Peter Thiel may have secretly financed a lawsuit against Gawker Media owing to a series of antagonistic stories about him written by Gawker’s now defunct Valleywag site nearly a decade ago. Thiel has since talked with the New York Times and confirmed that not only has he provided Hulk Hogan (legally Terry Bollea) with $10 million to battle Gawker over a sex tape it released of the former wrestling star, but Thiel long ago decided he’d do what he could to put Gawker out of business. More here.

Whoops. An Uber driver charged with attempted murder had an “extensive criminal record.”

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Essential Reads

Theranos has been hit with its first class action suit from lawyers representing patients who were subjected to treatments by Edison, the proprietary blood testing technology that’s since been exposed as faulty. The Verge has more here.

Top Apple executive Eddy Cue reportedly raised the prospect of the iPhone maker buying Time Warner at a meeting late last year, says the Financial Times. It begs the question (from Bloomberg): Does Apple have Hollywood ambitions?

Time to push against yet another unicorn: this time it’s Domo. Business Insider has more here.

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Detours

America’s most well-read cities.

A don’t ask, don’t tell guide to trading on inside information.

The 8,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom home in Washington where President Obama and his family will live after he leaves office next year.

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Retail Therapy

New (free) tools for newsletter curators from Nuzzel.

“Ophelia” polycarbonate chairs, ideal for small spaces. (They’re on sale here, by the way.)




A Lending Case Involving Top VCs Moves Toward a Trial

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.18.46 AMElevate, a venture-backed company that uses big data to assess loan applications from people with low credit scores, has been called out as a predatory lender, including in Fortune last year. One reason among others is that the APR on some of its loans is a stunning 349 percent.

Yet the company’s predecessor, Think Finance, which was founded in 2001 and quietly spun out Elevate into a new entity in 2014, is no hero to those with so-called non-prime credit, either, suggests a new lawsuit that is now moving toward a trial.

According to the suit, plaintiffs are seeking financial relief against a particular payday lender that partnered with Think Finance to avoid state anti-usury laws and that has “taken advantage of people who are struggling financially by charging extortionate interest rates and engaging in illegal lending practices,” it states.

Among the specific claims against Think Finance — as well as its venture backers Sequoia Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures — are that they engaged in racketeering and the collection of unlawful debt.

The payday lender is Plain Green, which calls itself a “tribal lending entity wholly owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.”

But Matthew Byrne, the Burlington, Vermont-based attorney who has filed the complaint, writes in it that “Plain Green was created after existing payday lenders approached the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation . . . and requested that the Tribe become involved in a payday lending scheme.”

In the U.S., he writes in the complaint, “stringent laws have been enacted to prescribe how loans can be made and to prevent lenders from preying on indigent people. By involving the Tribe in the payday lending scheme, the lenders hoped to circumvent these laws and take advantage of legal doctrines, such as tribal immunity, to avoid liability for their actions.”

All defendants had filed motions to either dismiss the case or compel arbitration. Late last week, a judge ruled instead that the case can proceed to trial.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe isn’t the only Indian reservation with which Think Finance has partnered.

More here.




StrictlyVC: May 25, 2016

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

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Top News in the A.M.

Alibaba’s accounting methods are under investigation in the U.S. The Chinese e-commerce giant, which went public in 2014 in the largest NYSE IPO in history, quietly disclosed that the SEC is looking into whether it has violated federal securities laws. More here.

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For Peter Thiel, Revenge on Gawker May Have Been a Dish Best Served Cold

According to a Forbes report published last night, billionaire investor Peter Thiel has been quietly funding the case that Hulk Hogan (whose real name is Terry Bollea) has brought against the online news organization Gawker.

Bollea has won for now. A Florida jury awarded Bollea $140 million in March over a sex tape that Gawker published in 2012. And today, Judge Pamela Campbell denied a motion by Gawker that called for a retrial, as well as denied a motion to reduce the penalties awarded by the jury.

Still, as ABC News notes, now that Gawker’s “motions to strike” have failed, the company can continue with the appeals process. (First Amendment specialists think it’s possible Gawker will win or else see Bollea’s reward reduced.)

The race to out Thiel seemed to begin earlier in the day yesterday, when the New York Times quoted Gawker founder Nick Denton as saying he believed Bollea’s case was being bankrolled by someone in Silicon Valley.  Denton explained that Bollea’s lawyer had removed a claim that would have caused Gawker’s insurance company to cover Gawker’s legal costs and payout in the event of a loss; the implication was that money wasn’t the only or primary factor in Bollea’s suit.

Denton didn’t hint at Thiel in the text of the piece, but the Times seems to have confirmed Forbes’s account subsequently.

Assuming Thiel has been paying Bollea’s attorney (Thiel hasn’t responded to our request for comment), it is news that should “disturb everyone,” writes Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. “[B]eing able to give massive political contributions actually pales in comparison to the impact of being able to destroy a publication you don’t like by combining the machinery of the courts with anonymity and unlimited funds to bleed a publication dry.”

The chilling effects are obvious, though it’s not exactly news that the entire legal system is up for sale. Even Denton, speaking to the Times before Thiel’s involvement was discovered, noted that: “If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases.”

And, no matter what the moral and strategic implications of this kind of thing, it’s still legal.

Indeed, if Thiel wanted to attack Gawker, it’s hard to conjure up as clever a way to get revenge on the outlet, whose now-shuttered gossip site Valleywag regularly published posts about Thiel during its heyday nearly a decade ago.

This reporter spoke with Thiel numerous times about how he was portrayed by Valleywag’s then-editor, Owen Thomas, a sharp journalist who didn’t miss an opportunity to offer his take on Thiel’s essays, ties to other organizations, tax strategies, and sexual orientation.

More here.

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New Fundings

Affectiva, a seven-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based company that’s developing technology capable of reading people’s moods from their facial expressions captured in digital videos, has raised $14 million in Series D funding led byFenox Venture Capital. More here.

Arrivo BioVentures, a new, Morrisville, N.C.-based drug development company, has launched with $49 million in funding led by Jazz Pharmaceuticals, with participation from Solas BioVentures Fund, Rex Health Ventures, and private investors. FierceBiotech has more here.

Dashlane, a seven-year-old, New York and Paris-based online identity management platform provider, has raised $22.5 million in Series C funding led by TransUnion, with participation from earlier backers Rho VenturesFirstMark Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners. More here.

Demisto, a year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based company founded by four security industry pros, emerged from stealth today with a bot-driven security platform and $6 million in Series A funding. Accel Partners led the round, with participation individual investors, including Cylance CEO Stuart McClure. More here.

eero, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of a next-generation home WiFi system, has raised $50 million in growth funding led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from Index Ventures and previous backers First Round Capital, Shasta Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Playground Global.More here.

Entelo, a five-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based company that makes enterprise software for data-driven recruiting, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from earlier investor Battery Ventures. More here.

Stem, a seven-year-old, Millbrae, Ca.-based company that buys batteries from giants like Panasonic, installs them at companies’ buildings, then uses software to shift the energy load of the buildings over to those batteries when power grid rates are high, has raised $15 million in new Series C funding from Mithril Capital Management. The company has now raised $105 million altogether. Fortune has more here.

TransferWise, a five-year-od, London-based money transfer startup, has raised $26 million in new funding led by Baillie Gifford, with participation from existing investors. TechCrunch says the deal values the company at $1.1 billion.More here.

Viptela, a four-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based networking virtualization company, has raised $75 million in Series C funding led by Redline Capital, with participation from Northgate Capital and earlier backer Sequoia Capital. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

Votiro, a five-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based maker of secure email gateway software, has raised $4 million in new funding led by Redfield Asset Management. More here.

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People

Wavii founder and former Googler Adrian Aoun is working on a new healthcare startup called Forward. More here.

Foxconn has reportedly replaced 60,000 factory workers with robots. More here.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, a hacker who first exposed the existence of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and who found his way into accounts of several other U.S. political figures, pleaded guilty to identity theft and hacking charges today. More here.

Microsoft is laying off 1,850 employees as it streamlines its business to focus on enterprises and other niche areas. More here.

Jordan Ormont has joined Menlo Ventures as Talent Partner. In his new role, Ormont will be heading up the firm’s venture services program, which is aimed at supporting companies in developing and executing on their strategies. Ormont was previously a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where he held a similar role.

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Essential Reads

AT&T reportedly wants Yahoo’s internet business.

Google is opening a self-driving car tech center outside of Detroit. More here.

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Detours

This embarrassing map shows the question each state Googles the most.

The computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets.

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Retail Therapy

Guys, you are welcome. (Don’t say we never did anything for you.)




For Peter Thiel, Revenge on Gawker May Have Been a Dish Best Served Cold

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.05.26 AMAccording to a Forbes report published last night, billionaire investor Peter Thiel has been quietly funding the case that Hulk Hogan (whose real name is Terry Bollea) has brought against the online news organization Gawker.

Bollea has won for now. A Florida jury awarded Bollea $140 million in March over a sex tape that Gawker published in 2012. And today, Judge Pamela Campbell denied a motion by Gawker that called for a retrial, as well as denied a motion to reduce the penalties awarded by the jury.

Still, as ABC News notes, now that Gawker’s “motions to strike” have failed, the company can continue with the appeals process. (First Amendment specialists think it’s possible Gawker will win or else see Bollea’s reward reduced.)

The race to out Thiel seemed to begin earlier in the day yesterday, when the New York Times quoted Gawker founder Nick Denton as saying he believed Bollea’s case was being bankrolled by someone in Silicon Valley.  Denton explained that Bollea’s lawyer had removed a claim that would have caused Gawker’s insurance company to cover Gawker’s legal costs and payout in the event of a loss; the implication was that money wasn’t the only or primary factor in Bollea’s suit.

Denton didn’t hint at Thiel in the text of the piece, but the Times seems to have confirmed Forbes’s account subsequently.

Assuming Thiel has been paying Bollea’s attorney (Thiel hasn’t responded to our request for comment), it is news that should “disturb everyone,” writes Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. “[B]eing able to give massive political contributions actually pales in comparison to the impact of being able to destroy a publication you don’t like by combining the machinery of the courts with anonymity and unlimited funds to bleed a publication dry.”

The chilling effects are obvious, though it’s not exactly news that the entire legal system is up for sale. Even Denton, speaking to the Times before Thiel’s involvement was discovered, noted that: “If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases.”

And, no matter what the moral and strategic implications of this kind of thing, it’s still legal.

Indeed, if Thiel wanted to attack Gawker, it’s hard to conjure up as clever a way to get revenge on the outlet, whose now-shuttered gossip site Valleywag regularly published posts about Thiel during its heyday nearly a decade ago.

This reporter spoke with Thiel numerous times about how he was portrayed by Valleywag’s then-editor, Owen Thomas, a sharp journalist who didn’t miss an opportunity to offer his take on Thiel’s essays, ties to other organizations, tax strategies, and sexual orientation.

More here.




StrictlyVC: May 24, 2016

It is Tuesday! (It’s kind of a relief after one verrrry long Monday.) Hope yours is going very well.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Coming soon to Twitter: express even more in 140 characters.

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L.A. Gets a Later-Stage Player with March Capital Partners

L.A. has a new later-stage funding source in March Capital Partners, a firm with a newly closed $240 million fund — and a few tricks up its sleeve. For starters, though it invests in both Southern and Northern California, it considers itself a global investor and has already made bets in India (in online payments company BillDesk) and Germany (Dojo Madness, which makes a digital coaching app for gamers).

It also writes Series B and Series C checks, which can’t be said of many other L.A.-based venture firms. And March Capital, which is primarily focused on business-to-business enterprises, has ties to three other enterprises that help with its deal flow. It’s a cofounder and an investor in two Bay Area accelerators that keep it abreast of new trends: The Fabric and Hive. More, one of its founding partners is Jamie Montgomery, a renowned investment banker who in recent years has launched an annual summit that introduces privately held companies to hundreds of investors and this year featured former Cisco CEO John Chambers, Atom Factory’s CEO Troy Carter, and designer Yves Béhar among others.

Montgomery isn’t the only familiar face at March, either. Others of March’s founding partners include longtime VCs Jim Armstrong, Sumant Mandal — both formerly of Clearstone Venture Partners — and Gregory Milken, a serial entrepreneur and board member of the Milken Institute.

We talked yesterday with Montgomery and Mandal about their new firm, which they quietly formed 20 months ago. (They spent the last 18 months fundraising.)

Sumant, you and Jim spent much of your careers at Clearstone. Is it shutting down?

More here.

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New Fundings

Agari, a seven-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that makes data-driven security software to eliminate email as a channel for cyberattacks, has raised $22 million in Series D funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Greylock Partners, Alloy VenturesBattery Ventures, First Round Capital, Scale Venture Partners and angel investor Scott Banister. Fortune has more here.

Apixio, a seven-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based data science company focused on healthcare, has raised $19.3 million in Series D funding led by SSM Partners, with participation from First Analysis, Bain Capital Ventures and Apixio’s largest angel investor, Farzad Nazem. More here.

AutoGrid Systems, a five-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company whose applications help utilities, electricity retailers, renewable energy project developers and energy service providers manage their distributed energy resources, has raised $20 million in new funding co-led by by Energy Impact Partners and Envision Ventures. Other participants in theround include Envision Energy, and previous backer E.ON, one of the largest utilities and renewable energy developers in the world. More here.

BigID, a seven-month-old, New York-based early-stage security company focused on helping organizations protect the privacy of their customer data, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from Genacast Ventures, BOLDstart Ventures, and Deep Fork Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Bloomz, a two-year-old, Redmond, Wa.-based education tech startup whose app securely connects teachers and parents, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from 8VC, ff Venture Capital, Founder’s Co-op, CorrelationVCWisemont Capital, Acequia Capital and individual angels. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Gett, a six-year-old, New York-based cab-hailing startup with operations across some 60 cities, is getting a $300 million investment from the German car giant Volkswagen. The round brings its total funding to $520 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Menu Next Door, a year-old, Brussels-based Airbnb-like platform that invites users to either cook for people nearby or to pick up food from a local home cook who’s featured on the platform, has raised $2 million (€1.75 million) from Index Ventures, Local Globe, Kima Ventures and TheFamily. TechCrunch has more here.

Nucleix, a nine-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based developer of urine tests for the monitoring of bladder cancer, has raised $3 million in new funding led by Aurum Ventures. More here.

nuTonomy, a three-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based developer of software for self-driving cars, has raised $16 million Series A funding led by Highland Capital, with participation from Samsung Ventures, EDBI (the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board) and earlier investors Fontinalis Partners and Signal Ventures. The WSJ has more here.

Pattern, a year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based online “workspace” platform designed to make life easier for salespeople, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from First Round Capital, SoftTech VC, and Felicis Ventures. We wrote about the company here.

Sensifree, a four-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based company that makes contactless sensors for wearables, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by TransLink Capital, with participation from UMC Capital and an undisclosed strategic investor. More here.

SigFig, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of tech-enabled financial advisory services products like reports, has raised $40 million from the venture investment arms of a slew of big banks in the form of $33 million in equity and $7 million in debt. Participants in the round include Santander Innoventures,UBS, Eaton Vance and New York Life. Previous investors Union Square Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, DCM, and NYCA Partners also joined the round, as did Comerica Bank, which provided SigFig with $7 million in debt. TechCrunch has more here.

Snapchat, the five-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based mobile app that began as an ephemeral messaging service, is raising new funding at a $20 billion valuation, says TechCrunch. The capital will follow a $175 million Series F round led by Fidelity earlier this year. More here.

TourRadar, a six-year-old, Vienna, Austria-based online marketplace for multi-day travel tours, has raised $6 million in funding co-led by Cherry Ventures and Hoxton Ventures, with participation from AWS Founders Fund and Speedinvest. TechCrunch has more here.

vArmour, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based startup that offers security solutions specifically aimed at enterprises that run services and apps across multiple clouds, has raised $41 million in Series D funding led by Telstra, the large multinational carrier based out of Australia. Other investors include Redline Capital and numerous (unnamed) strategic investors. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

According to Fortune, Andreessen Horowitz is nearing a close on a new, $1.5 billion fund, one that’s expected to close in a month or less. (We’d reported this was in the works in March.)

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Exits

eBay has acquired Ticketbis, a seven-year-old, Bilbao, Spain-based ticket marketpace that will be rolled into eBay’s StubHub platform for $165 million. According to CrunchBase, Ticketbis had raised roughly $26 million in funding, including from Active Venture Partners and investor-entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda. TechCrunch has more here.

Goldman Sachs has acquired Honest Dollar, a 1.5-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based online retirement savings platform company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. According to CrunchBase, Honest Dollar had raised $3 million in funding from Expansive Ventures, Formation 8, Core Innovation Capital, and Mint founder Aaron Patzer.

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People

Harvard Management Co. has a new, temporary leader while Stephen Blyth is on medical leave, and it’s Robert Ettl, a Pimco alum. Bloomberg has more here.

According to Fortune, Marc Michel is quietly moving on from Metamorphic Ventures, the New York-based venture firm firm he co-founded in 2006. His plan is to launch a new firm focused on providing seed extension rounds called Runway Venture Partners.

Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt admits he’s an iPhone user, but he insists Samsung is better.

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Jobs

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is looking to hire a financial analyst. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.

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Essential Reads

Startup employees are beginning to invoke an obscure law to compel companies that are incorporated in Delaware to open up their books to shareholders. It comes from section 220 of Delaware’s corporate law, and to take advantage of it, stockholders must prove that they own at least one share, then send the company an affidavit that states which documents they want and why, along with the magic words, “For the purpose of valuing my shares.” The WSJ has the story.

Facebook says an internal investigation found no evidence of systemic political bias in a section of its app called Trending Topics. Even so, the company is making some changes to Trending Topics, including no longer referring to a list of national news sources, including Fox News and The New York Times, to “boost” topics that appear. The New York Times has more here.

Facebook Live may soon let you skip to the good part (which could have a huge impact on how we view onine video).

How technology hijacks people’s minds (straight from a former design ethics and product philosopher at Google).

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Detours

Delicate underwater portraits.

The worst things artificial intelligence could do, as imagined by top researchers.

“They were nice guys, they were d_cks.” Going behind the scenes with the ’90s band The Replacements.

An updated look at the U.S. airlines that the most (and the least) likely to lose your luggage.

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Retail Therapy

Ha. Pop Tart phone case.




L.A. Gets a Later-Stage Player with March Capital Partners

IMG_1326_Group HorizontalL.A. has a new later-stage funding source in March Capital Partners, a firm with a newly closed $240 million fund — and a few tricks up its sleeve. For starters, though it invests in both Southern and Northern California, it considers itself a global investor and has already made bets in India (in online payments company BillDesk) and Germany (Dojo Madness, which makes a digital coaching app for gamers).

It also writes Series B and Series C checks, which can’t be said of many other L.A.-based venture firms. And March Capital, which is primarily focused on business-to-business enterprises, has ties to three other enterprises that help with its deal flow. It’s a cofounder and an investor in two Bay Area accelerators that keep it abreast of new trends: The Fabric and Hive. More, one of its founding partners is Jamie Montgomery, a renowned investment banker who in recent years has launched an annual summit that introduces privately held companies to hundreds of investors and this year featured former Cisco CEO John Chambers, Atom Factory’s CEO Troy Carter, and designer Yves Béhar among others.

Montgomery isn’t the only familiar face at March, either. Others of March’s founding partners include longtime VCs Jim Armstrong, Sumant Mandal — both formerly of Clearstone Venture Partners — and Gregory Milken, a serial entrepreneur and board member of the Milken Institute.

We talked yesterday with Montgomery and Mandal about their new firm, which they quietly formed 20 months ago. (They spent the last 18 months fundraising.)

Sumant, you and Jim spent much of your careers at Clearstone. Is it shutting down?

More here.




StrictlyVC: May 23, 2016

Hi, all, welcome back!

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Top News in the A.M.

The clearest look yet at the iPhone 7.

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Checking the Market’s Temperature with Bain’s Ajay Agarwal

Ajay Agarwal leads the West Coast team for Bain Capital Ventures, which he joined 13 years ago. Because he he has seen some market zigs and zags, we met him for coffee last week to talk about what he’s seeing in the market right now. Our chat has been edited for length.

Bain Capital Ventures opened its first office in the Bay Area five years ago. Now you have an office in Palo Alto, and you’re moving into a bigger office soon in San Francisco. How many of your partners are here now, and how many of your startups are in SF versus south of the city? 

It used to be that 90 percent of our team was on the East Coast, in Boston and New York, and 10 percent was here, but it’s about 50/50 at this point. And I’d say 40 percent of our [Bay Area] startups are south. There are a lot of machine learning companies in Sunnyvale and Mountain View and Los Altos, and that’s a big area of interest for us right now.

What’s one new, related investment that might interest readers?

Trooly, whose team comes from LinkedIn. If you think about it, we have all these peer-to-peer marketplaces bringing together strangers, whether they are drivers or babysitters. But the state of the art — background checks — is a flawed process. A lot of information has been digitized, but there are still plenty of counties where, if you’ve committed a crime, they’ll have a physical record alone. So you’d have to send a courier to all of the places where someone has lived to get the information you need, which is expensive.

Meanwhile, Trooly can figure out much more about someone and do it quickly using data science and machine learning. It can figure out any content that has been written by you or about you and whether it’s in any way objectionable. It can verify if the information you send someone is accurate and distinguish between a typo and whether you’re trying to fool someone [on an application]. For every person who fails a background check, we find a person who passed a background check and should not have.

More here.

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New Fundings

CloudMinds, a Beijing and Shenzhen, China-based maker of so-called intelligent cloud robots, has raised $30 million in venture funding fromSoftBank Group, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Walden International, and Kaixuan Capital. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Metadata, a year-old, San Francisco-based ad-targeting startup, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Hillsven Capital, with participation from Greycroft Partners, 500 Startups, Right Side Capital Partners and various angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Rock Pamper Scissors, a year-old, London-based online marketplace that lets users browse and book appointments with local hairdressers, has raised £1.2 million ($1.7 million) from 500 Startups and the European pre-seed and seed investor Seedcamp, along with various angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Saguna Networks, a 7.5-year-old, Yokneam, Israel-based mobile edge computing platform, has raised $5 million in funding led by CE Ventures, with participation from existing shareholders. More here.

SeamlessDocs, a five-year-old, New York startup that helps governments move all their forms online, has raised $7 million in Series B funding led by Motorola Solutions. Other participants in the round include the New York State Innovation Fund, 1776 and previous investor Govtech Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Sun Basket, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based healthy cooking service, has raised $11.6 million in Series A funding led by Paul Allen’s Vulcan CapitalPivotNorth, Robertson Stephens Partners, Baseline Ventures, The Tyler Florence Group, Rembrandt Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Relevance Capital, Roth Capital, Filter14, and other(!) unnamed venture capital firms and angel investors. More here.

Take the Interview, a four-old, New York-based online interviewing platform, has raised $5 million in Series B funding led by 3TS Capital Partners, with participation from earlier backers StarVest Partners and Rittenhouse Ventures. More here.

Weidai, a five-year-old, Hangzhou, China-based peer-to-peer lending platform, has raised $153 million in Series C funding led by Vision Knight Capital. China Money Network has more here.

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New Funds

Harmony Partners, a five-year-old, New York and San Francisco-based expansion stage venture firm, has closed a third fund with $105 million. The company has made 32 investments to date, including the molecular diagnostics company Natera, which went public last year, and the device management startup Divide, acquired by Google in 2014. Its current portfolio includes the cloud-software maker Anaplan, the delivery company Postmates, and the streaming media company Spotify. More here.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm that last year defended itself against an explosive sexual discrimination lawsuit, is raising two funds totaling close to $1.3 billion, according to CNBC sources. More here.

OrbiMed, the 27-year-old, global investment firm focused on the healthcare sector, has closed its second Israel-focused venture capital fund with approximately $307 million. Orbimed opened its Israel office in 2010. More here.

Runa Capital, a nearly six-year-old, Moscow and San Francisco-based venture capital firm, has closed its second fund with $135 million. The focuses on Series A and B round investments in both the U.S. and in Europe. The firm now has roughly $270 million under management. More here.

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Exits

Facebook has acquired Two Big Ears, a three-year-old, Scottland-based spatial audio technology company, for an undisclosed sum. VentureBeat has more here.

TinyOwl, a India-based restaurant delivery service that has raised more than $27 million from investors including Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners, has reportedly stopped service in all cities except for Mumbai. TechCrunch has more here. (We’d written here about some craziness at the company late last year.)

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People

Investor Chris Sacca reportedly had a temper tantrum after he was denied entry into the Broadway musical “Hamilton” as part of his planned birthday celebration. (He’d apparently purchased counterfeit tickets on StubHub.)

Here’s the commencement address Peter Thiel just gave to graduating seniors at Hamilton College.

Four houses surrounding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s home in Palo Alto will be demolished and replaced by smaller ones, according to an application filed with city planners last week. Zuckerberg bought the homes after he learned of a developer’s plan to build a house next door tall enough to have a view into his master bedroom. The San Jose Mercury News has the story here.

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Data

Deloitte has published a new report on the state of the M&A market. You can check it out here.

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Essential Reads

Chinese’s Tencent Holdings, owner of the popular messaging service WeChat, is in talks with SoftBank Group to buy its majority stake in Supercell Oy, the Finland-based maker of some of the world’s most popular mobile games. The WSJ has more here.

Uh oh. Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker and second highest-valued startup in the world at $45 billion, barely grew sales at all last year. Fortune has more here.

Brad Feld’s Foundry Group is now also a registered investment advisory. More about why is coming, says Feld.

—–

Detours

A controversial theory that may explain the real reason we have allergies.

Sounds like there’s nothing magical about breakfast after all.

An “artist” who turned his dead cat into drone is now building a helicopter out of a cow.

—–

Retail Therapy

How to own a piece of “Mad Men.”




Checking the Market’s Temperature with Bain’s Ajay Agarwal

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 8.38.43 AMAjay Agarwal leads the West Coast team for Bain Capital Ventures, which he joined 13 years ago. Because he he has seen some market zigs and zags, we met him for coffee last week to talk about what he’s seeing in the market right now. Our chat has been edited for length.

Bain Capital Ventures opened its first office in the Bay Area five years ago. Now you have an office in Palo Alto, and you’re moving into a bigger office soon in San Francisco. How many of your partners are here now, and how many of your startups are in SF versus south of the city? 

It used to be that 90 percent of our team was on the East Coast, in Boston and New York, and 10 percent was here, but it’s about 50/50 at this point. And I’d say 40 percent of our [Bay Area] startups are south. There are a lot of machine learning companies in Sunnyvale and Mountain View and Los Altos, and that’s a big area of interest for us right now.

What’s one new, related investment that might interest readers?

Trooly, whose team comes from LinkedIn. If you think about it, we have all these peer-to-peer marketplaces bringing together strangers, whether they are drivers or babysitters. But the state of the art — background checks — is a flawed process. A lot of information has been digitized, but there are still plenty of counties where, if you’ve committed a crime, they’ll have a physical record alone. So you’d have to send a courier to all of the places where someone has lived to get the information you need, which is expensive.

Meanwhile, Trooly can figure out much more about someone and do it quickly using data science and machine learning. It can figure out any content that has been written by you or about you and whether it’s in any way objectionable. It can verify if the information you send someone is accurate and distinguish between a typo and whether you’re trying to fool someone [on an application]. For every person who fails a background check, we find a person who passed a background check and should not have.

More here.