Happy Wednesday, everyone!
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.
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.
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 Ventures, FirstMark 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.
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.
AT&T reportedly wants Yahoo’s internet business.
Google is opening a self-driving car tech center outside of Detroit. More here.
This embarrassing map shows the question each state Googles the most.
The computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets.
Guys, you are welcome. (Don’t say we never did anything for you.)