Happy Thursday, everyone.:)
Top News in the A.M.
An experimental cancer treatment that alters the DNA of patients has won a key approval to proceed with its first human tests using the controversial gene-altering tool known as Crispr.
Twilio’s Largest Shareholder Prepares for the Ride
Byron Deeter is likely waking up this morning and wondering what kind of day he’ll have. It was Deeter who led Bessemer Venture Partners into its seed-stage investment in Twilio, a now nine-year-old company that offers services like messaging, voice, image transfers, authentication and video as a software platform, so developers can incorporate them into their own apps.
Bessemer has since invested in each of Twilio’s private funding rounds, amassing a 28.5 percent stake in the company at a cost of nearly $70 million. And that bet — one of the firm’s largest — is being put to the test today as Twilio debuts on the public market.
So far, there’s reason for optimism. Twilio started trading about an hour after the NYSE opened at a price of $23.99 per share, which is nearly 60 percent above its IPO price of $15. Either way, if Deeter is sweating the details, he didn’t let on yesterday when we chatted about Twilio and the kind of impact its long-awaited public offering may have on the broader market.
Twilio last sold shares to private investors at $11.31 a share, at a valuation of about $1 billion, and its initial IPO pricing puts its valuation just above that billion-dollar mark. You’ve said you can’t talk about Twilio’s valuation; generally speaking, do you think it matters whether a company surpasses its private market number at the time of its IPO?
I can’t even comment generally right now; our lawyers would get very upset with me.
WhatsApp accounts for 17 percent of Twilio’s revenue, which Twilio listed as a risk factor, noting that WhatsApp has “no obligation” to give Twilio notice before taking its business elsewhere. Can you comment on whether you believe the company is overly reliant on any one customer?
Can’t comment on that, either. [Laughs.]
Bessemer has more than two times as big a stake as any other shareholder, including Twilio co-founder and CEO Jeff Lawson (who owns 11.9 percent of the company). Did you know him before he started Twilio?
BD: We knew of Jeff, but we met him in the context of his initial discussion with us about seed funding, when it was still a concept. But Jeff is a force of nature and an extremely compelling CEO and visionary. And from a market standpoint, [his] was a disruptive idea. There wasn’t proof at that point that the business-to-developer market was real.
Do you think the success or not of its IPO will be seen as a bellwether?
Circle, a nearly three-year-old Boston and Dublin, Ireland-based social payment app, has raised $60 million to scale up a new Beijing-based company called Circle China. Earlier backer IDG Capital Partners led the round, with participation from Breyer Capital and numerous China-based investors, including Baidu, CICC Alpha, China Everbright, Wanxiang and CreditEase. TechCrunch has more here.
Colu, a 1.5-year-old, Tel Aviv-based blockchain startup, has raised $9.6 million in Series A funding from Aleph, Spark Capital, Digital Currency Group and former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer. The company had previously raised $2.5 million in seed funding. Coindesk has more here.
Dapulse, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv-based maker of project management software, has raised $7.6 million in Series A funding led by Genesis Partners, with participation of earlier backer Entrée Capital. The company previously raised $1.5 million in seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.
Narvar, a four-year-old, San Bruno, Ca.-based company helping internet retailers keep their customers happy post-purchase (meaning until their packages are delivered and/or returned or exchanged), has raised $22 million in Series B funding led by Battery Ventures. Fung Capital and earlier backers Accel Partners and Freestyle Capital also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.
Security Scorecard, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that helps companies better identify, understand and manage all key risks their cloud-based information systems and those of their partners, has raised $20 million in Series B funding from GV. Two Sigma Ventures also joined the round, along with earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Evolution Equity Partners, and Boldstart Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
Sentry, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based real-time crash reporting tool for web, mobile and games, has raised $9 million in Series A funding from New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Accel Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
Sevenhugs, a two-year-old, Paris-based startup that makes smart products like a sleep tracker and a connected remote control, has raised $14.6 million in Series A funding led by Xerys. TechCrunch has more here.
U.K.-based publisher Future Publishing today announced it is in the process of acquiring Imagine Publishing for $21 million worth of shares, continuing the trend of media consolidation in the world of magazine publishing. More here.
Okta, a 7.5-year-old, San Francisco-based cloud identity management company that’s been valued by its investors at $1.2 billion, has hired Goldman Sachs to lead an IPO or sale, says Reuters. According to CrunchBase, Okta has raised roughly $230 million in venture funding, including from Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.
Matt Cutts, a 16-year Google veteran who authored the company’s SafeSearch content filter, is taking a leave from the search giant to work on the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service. More here.
Kobie Fuller, who has worked as a principal with Accel Partners since 2013, is joining L.A.-based Upfront Ventures as general partner. Previously, Fuller was CMO at Revolve, a fashion-ecommerce company in L.A. More here.
David Katzmann, a senior associate at Yale Investments Office, has left to join the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Investments. He begins next month.
President Obama just hinted to Bloomberg that he might be interested in a role as a VC. “The conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests in science and organization in a way I find really satisfying,” he told the outlet. More here.
eBay‘s corporate development team is looking to add an associate to its ranks. The job is in San Jose, Ca.
Amazon Video has now become the third-largest source of peak internet traffic in North America, behind longtime leaders Netflix and YouTube.
Cats getting brain freezes.
Overcoming the “parent block” and “wife block” in Japan.
Pompon chair. (Alternative idea: empty $6,400 into the ocean.)