Monthly Archives: July 2016

StrictlyVC: July 22, 2016

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Today’s column comes to you courtesy of Semil Shah. See you back here in a few days.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Verizon is the lead bidder to buy Yahoo, and a sale could be announced as soon as early next week, CNBC is reporting.

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A “Should I Raise a Fund” FAQ

Without fail, at least once a week, someone pings me or asks for an intro to learn about how I set up my fund Haystack. I think many people want to start a smaller seed-stage fund, which is cool. I’m happy to share whatever I can with others. But I am also no expert. I write about it openly as I go through it as a way to share what I learn and internalize those lessons for the longer journey. Here are some of the most common questions I receive:

Should I raise a fund?

Sure! You should try to do what you want to do. If you’re a bit more careful about charging ahead, the two key questions I’d ask are 1.) are you excited about the deal flow you have and 2.)  do you have access to a stable base of capital to invest? If the answer to either question is met with hesitation, realize it will take a long time.

How much capital should I raise?

It depends on what kind of investment model you want to pursue. There’s no right answer. One has to consider factors like investment pace, number of investments to make over a defined period, and how to model out a return once all the principal is returned to investors. Based on the time and paperwork and fees it takes to get up and going, my stock line is that $5 million is the minimum one should seek to set up a fund vehicle. Doing less is still a lot of work without the benefits that come from having at least $5 million.

Should I have a partner?

Again, it depends on what you want to do and build. If you know someone well and they align with your objectives and values on a long-term basis, it is probably a good idea to consider it. Having a partner can help a team see more deals and lead to better decisions, and you get a companion in the journey. Institutional LPs prefer their funds to not have sole “key man/woman risk” in the event something happens to a single GP. On the other hand, partnerships that blow up due to misalignment are painful to watch and tough to recover from.

What kind of model should we construct?

On a clean sheet of paper, list out your variables: Number of deals per partner per quarter; average check size; investment period; and reserves you’d keep to follow-on into new deals. You’ll also need a budget for fund expenses and fees, if appropriate.

How much money do I need to start?

Most LPs will want to see that you can commit 1 to 3 percent of the total fund size from the GP accounts to ensure incentives are aligned. In some larger funds, this percentage can be higher.

What if the fund doesn’t generate enough fees?

Smaller funds generate small fees, some small enough to not make it worthwhile to take fees. In that case, the investor needs to supplement income in some way.

Who should we raise from?

People that you know! It’s a trust business, so unless you have an exceptional background and/or access to a unique network, people have many other options.

How much time will it take?

If you know people with money who really trust you, it can take a few months. If you don’t, it could take years. There are well-known investors in the Valley who have confided in me that their first funds took well over 12 months to raise.

Should I just raise it on AngelList and run Syndicates?

If you have enough money for the deals you’d like to do and can encourage people you know to co-invest alongside you, AngelList offers many benefits. Without a formal fund, you can still leverage your investment, charge a carry (if you want to), not have to raise a specific vehicle, and hire service providers for back office help, and each deal turns into a special purpose vehicle (SPV).

There are benefits of having your own fund, too, of course, and there are options where you can pursue a blended strategy if you can pull it off.

Back office and service providers?

Simple advice would be to ask for referrals and bring on shops that have experience in handling small funds. There are so many details here, and most investors cannot manage it themselves.

I’ll end the FAQ by underlining a few disclaimers. One, I’m not an expert at this; I’m working hard to figure it out myself. Two, going into this without a clear lane for deal flow and without a clear capital partner to get started is really hard. I would never discourage anyone from trying, but it could take a lot longer than you might imagine. Three, experience matters. I was exposed to venture investing a bit before I started, but that’s no substitute for doing it before at an established venture fund and/or working as an operator in a dynamic technology company and making angel investments over the years.

The narrative over the past few years has been that anyone can and should invest, and that’s true. But those who hold demonstrable and relevant experience will have a huge fundraising and deal flow advantage over everyone else. That’s the hard reality to consider before going down this road. Good luck!

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New Fundings

AristaMD, a two-year-old, La Jolla, Ca.-based company whose software facilitates specialist referrals, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Avalon Ventures, with participation from Correlation Ventures. More here.

BYD Company, a 21-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based  automaker and rechargeable batteries firm, has received a $450 million investment from Samsung. The move seemingly puts the Korean smartphone giant in direct competition with the automotive efforts Google and Apple. Reuters has more here.

Eve Sleep, a year-old, U.K.-based online mattress retailer, has raised £6.9 million in fresh funding ($9 million) in fresh funding from earlier backers Octopus Ventures and DN Capital. FinSMEs has more here.

Global Fashion Group,  the two-year-old, Luxembourg-based umbrella group that manages Rocket Internet-backed online fashion businesses worldwide, has added €30 million ($33 million) to a €300 million round that it announced back in April. The money comes from Rocket Internet and Kinnevik. TechCrunch has more here.

Kazan Networks, a two-year-old, Auburn, Ca.-based data storage performance startup, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Samsung Ventures, with participation from Intel Capital and Western Digital Corp. More here.

Treebo Hotels, a 1.5-year-old, Bangalore, India-based online budget-hotel aggregator that provides standard accommodations across a network of partner hotels in India, has raised $17 million led by Bertelsmann India Investments, with participation from earlier backers SAIF Partners and Matrix Partners India. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

KK Fund, a two-year-old, Singapore-based venture firm, just raised a new fund that will target seed-stage opportunities in Southeast Asia. The size of the new pool isn’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

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Exits

Monotype, a 130-year-old, Woburn, Ma.-based publicly traded company that sells type-related products, has acquired 5.5-year-old, New York-based Olapic for approximately $130 million. Olapic helps brands collect, curate, use and analyze user-generated content in the form of images and videos. The company had raised roughly $21 million over the years, including from Fung Capital USA and Felix Capital (a young firm that marks its first exit with the deal).

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People

Coding school startup General Assembly confirmed Thursday afternoon that it was cutting 50 members of its 750-strong global staff. The layoffs amount to 6.7 percent of total staff. Inc. has more here.

Elon Musk may have struck out with his much-hyped 1,500-word manifesto, published earlier this week. Bloomberg takes a look.

Twitter’s media team is losing another executive: Kirstine Stewart, the VP of media for Twitter’s North American media partnerships. Recode has more here.

Peter Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention last night and it was . . . fine?

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Jobs

Apple is looking to add an analyst to its corporate development group. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

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Essential Reads

According to a new Buzzfeed report, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund privately values Palantir Technologies — the data analysis company where Thiel is chairman — at a 40 percent discount.

Liberty Media reportedly floated an offer to buy Pandora for $15 a share, but the offer was rejected by the streaming music company’s board. The WSJ has the story here.

Everybody is doing it, including Amazon, which yesterday announced a partnership with Wells Fargo to supply some Amazon customers with “discounted” student loans.

In San Francisco, flyers are starting to name and shame Airbnb hosts.

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Detours

Why Italians, Maori, and children of divorce have the least childhood amnesia.

The world according to “BoJack Horseman.”

Famous artist emojis.

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Retail Therapy

Balloon lamp!




A “Should I Raise a Fund” FAQ

Semil ShahBy Semil Shah

Without fail, at least once a week, someone pings me or asks for an intro to learn about how I set up my fund Haystack. I think many people want to start a smaller seed-stage fund, which is cool. I’m happy to share whatever I can with others. But I am also no expert. I write about it openly as I go through it as a way to share what I learn and internalize those lessons for the longer journey. Here are some of the most common questions I receive:

Should I raise a fund?

Sure! You should try to do what you want to do. If you’re a bit more careful about charging ahead, the two key questions I’d ask are 1.) are you excited about the deal flow you have and 2.)  do you have access to a stable base of capital to invest? If the answer to either question is met with hesitation, realize it will take a long time.

How much capital should I raise?

It depends on what kind of investment model you want to pursue. There’s no right answer. One has to consider factors like investment pace, number of investments to make over a defined period, and how to model out a return once all the principal is returned to investors. Based on the time and paperwork and fees it takes to get up and going, my stock line is that $5 million is the minimum one should seek to set up a fund vehicle. Doing less is still a lot of work without the benefits that come from having at least $5 million.

Should I have a partner?

Again, it depends on what you want to do and build. If you know someone well and they align with your objectives and values on a long-term basis, it is probably a good idea to consider it. Having a partner can help a team see more deals and lead to better decisions, and you get a companion in the journey. Institutional LPs prefer their funds to not have sole “key man/woman risk” in the event something happens to a single GP. On the other hand, partnerships that blow up due to misalignment are painful to watch and tough to recover from.

What kind of model should we construct?

On a clean sheet of paper, list out your variables: Number of deals per partner per quarter; average check size; investment period; and reserves you’d keep to follow-on into new deals. You’ll also need a budget for fund expenses and fees, if appropriate.

How much money do I need to start?

Most LPs will want to see that you can commit 1 to 3 percent of the total fund size from the GP accounts to ensure incentives are aligned. In some larger funds, this percentage can be higher.

What if the fund doesn’t generate enough fees?

Smaller funds generate small fees, some small enough to not make it worthwhile to take fees. In that case, the investor needs to supplement income in some way.

Who should we raise from?

People that you know! It’s a trust business, so unless you have an exceptional background and/or access to a unique network, people have many other options.

How much time will it take?

If you know people with money who really trust you, it can take a few months. If you don’t, it could take years. There are well-known investors in the Valley who have confided in me that their first funds took well over 12 months to raise.

Should I just raise it on AngelList and run Syndicates?

If you have enough money for the deals you’d like to do and can encourage people you know to co-invest alongside you, AngelList offers many benefits. Without a formal fund, you can still leverage your investment, charge a carry (if you want to), not have to raise a specific vehicle, and hire service providers for back office help, and each deal turns into a special purpose vehicle (SPV).

There are benefits of having your own fund, too, of course, and there are options where you can pursue a blended strategy if you can pull it off.

Back office and service providers?

Simple advice would be to ask for referrals and bring on shops that have experience in handling small funds. There are so many details here, and most investors cannot manage it themselves.

I’ll end the FAQ by underlining a few disclaimers. One, I’m not an expert at this; I’m working hard to figure it out myself. Two, going into this without a clear lane for deal flow and without a clear capital partner to get started is really hard. I would never discourage anyone from trying, but it could take a lot longer than you might imagine. Three, experience matters. I was exposed to venture investing a bit before I started, but that’s no substitute for doing it before at an established venture fund and/or working as an operator in a dynamic technology company and making angel investments over the years.

The narrative over the past few years has been that anyone can and should invest, and that’s true. But those who hold demonstrable and relevant experience will have a huge fundraising and deal flow advantage over everyone else. That’s the hard reality to consider before going down this road. Good luck!




StrictlyVC: July 21, 2016

Happy Thursday! Our good friend Semil Shah brings you today’s interview as Connie spends some time offline. (This afternoon’s project has to do with sea glass. We try not to ask too many questions.)

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Top News in the A.M.

The Department of Justice just shut down the biggest torrent site in the U.S.

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Ludlow Ventures’s Jonathon Triest on the Importance of Being Nice

By now, you may well have heard of Ludlow Ventures, a young, early-stage venture firm in Detroit that seems to punch above its weight. Indeed, the firm’s first fund closed with just $15.5 million in late 2014, yet its investing team — partners Jonathon Triest and Brett Brett deMarrais — have managed to make an array of interesting bets, in Detroit, New York, L.A., and elsewhere. Among them: the organic meal delivery service Sprig, the product discovery service Product Hunt, the wireless power startup uBeam, and the heads-up display maker Navdy.

We caught up with Triest recently to talk about Ludlow’s approach.

You’re based in Detroit. What’s the advantage of living outside of the Bay Area? What’s the disadvantage, and how do you address it?

My job depends on getting to know the most talented entrepreneurs; first. Most of the founders we work with live thousands of miles from Detroit, which makes my job interesting. It forces me to be creative, find unique ways to get founders’ attention, and stay on top of who’s building what/where. In our early days at Ludlow, offense was our only access to deal flow. While we’re now fortunate to have substantial inbound deals, though we’re [still] at our best when on the hunt.

You and your team have built a reputation for finding interesting founders and deals in the consumer space well before investors who are physically closer to those young teams. Without revealing state secrets . . . actually, please reveal them!

Super simple. Be a really good friend to the people you invest in. I’m shocked at how many VCs cannot, for the life of them, personally connect with the founders they invest in. C’mon VC dudes and dudettes; get your S%^$ together. The best deals are referrals from people you’re working with or have worked with in the past.

It also doesn’t hurt to scour Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook, etc., for people expressing unhappiness at their current job [and shoot them a note]. “You’re awesome. Here’s my phone number when you decide to start your own company!”

What’s a particular space within consumer tech or networks that excites you?

I scour the Steam store every day to see what new VR games/software were released. I download nearly all of them and take them for a ride. As a consumer, I’m having a blast losing myself in poorly rendered environments. We have a small office, so I’ve nearly broken my arm dozens of times while trying to bash zombies’ heads in.

As an investor, I’m scared out of my mind at how slow I believe the consumer uptake will be.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a popularly held point of view?

Two things, actually. That social intuition and empathy are the strongest qualities of early-stage founders. And that a founder’s ability to hire his/her first employees is the best predictor of success. If you have enough smarts and passion for what you’re building, you’ll likely be able to attract and retain others. If you can’t effectively communicate why you’re doing what you’re doing, others won’t be able to either. You might as well go spend your time f’ing up zombies in VR.

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New Fundings

Brandcast, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that enables marketers and designers to build mobile-friendly sites without having to write code, has raised $13.9 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Correlation Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Deposit Solutions, a five-year-old, Hamburg, Germany-based fintech startup that’s focused on the European retail deposit market, has raised €15 million ($16.5 million) in new funding, including from Valar Ventures, FinLab and Greycroft Partners. Business Insider has more here.

Doppler Labs, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based wearable tech company that makes a wireless listening system, has raised $24 million in fresh funding led by The Chernin Group. VentureBeat has more here.

Indigo, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based ag-tech startup that leverages genomic sequencing and computational bioinformatics to identify microbes vital to a plant’s health, increase nutrient intake, and improve water use efficiency, has raised $100 million in new funding led by the Alaska Permanent Fund, with participation from Flagship Ventures and other numerous other, unnamed investors. Fortune has more here.

Inkbox, a year-old, Toronto-based company whose tattoos last two weeks, has raised $1 million in seed funding from a list of angel investors that includes actress Alison Sweeney and reality TV show host Jeff Probst. TechCrunch has more here.

MyWish Marketplaces, a seven-year-old, New Delhi, India-based online financial product marketplace, has raised $15 million in fresh funding from Franklin Templeton. TechCrunch has more here.

N-of-One, an eight-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based precision medicine oncology decision support company, has raised $7 million in Series B funding from Providence Ventures and Excel Venture Management. TechCrunch has more here.

Omise, a three-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based payment enabler much like Stripe, has raised $17.5 million in Series B funding led by SBI Investment of Japan, with participation from Sinar Mas Digital Ventures in Indonesia, Thailand’s Ascend Money, and earlier backer Golden Gate Ventures. Omise has now raised more than $25 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Redis Labs, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based open-source data structure store, has raised $14 million in Series C funding co-led by Bain Capital Ventures and Carmel Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Silicon Valley Bank and Tamar Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

ReviewTrackers, a four-year-old Chicago-based customer feedback platform, has raised $4 million in fresh funding led by American Family Ventures. The company also secured a $2.1 million debt facility from Square 1 Bank. FinSMEs has more here.

Stardog, an 11-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based enterprise data unification platform, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding led by Core Capital and Boulder Ventures. More here.

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IPOs

Seattle-based technology company Impinj priced its IPO of stock last night at $14 per share, the high end of its expected range. The company, which provides radio frequency identification technology, sold 4.8 million shares, raising $67 million before expenses. The stock began trading today on Nasdaq under the ticker “PI”. Those shares are currently trading above $16 apiece.

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Exits

Online travel agency Expedia has acquired Trover, a six-year-old, Seattle-based app and site where people share their travel photos. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to CrunchBase, Trover had raised $2.5 million in seed funding, including from Benchmark, Concur Technologies andGeneral Catalyst Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

MasterCard is acquiring roughly 92 percent of VocaLink, the tech giant behind the UK’s ATM, direct debit, and major mobile payments networks, for $1.14 billion in an all-cash deal. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Airbnb has brought aboard former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to help curb discrimination on the platform.

Elon Musk plans to steer Tesla towards fully autonomous driving, car sharing, and cargo transport, according to a company post about its “master plan.”

Snapchat cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel is now engaged to Australian model Miranda Kerr.

Reminder: renowned investor Peter Thiel is addressing the Republican convention tonight. Here is why reporter Kara Swisher predicts his speech will be about himself, not Silicon Valley.

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Jobs

Goldman Sachs Investment Partners is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in New York.

—–

Essential Reads

America wants to believe China can’t innovate. Tech tells a different story.

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Detours

The best fast foods, picked by the world’s top chefs.

How tennis balls are made. (Video.)

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Retail Therapy

Quench your thirst and meet your local SWAT team at the same time(?).

 




Ludlow Ventures’s Jonathon Triest on the Importance of Being Nice

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.54.12 PMBy Semil Shah

By now, you may well have heard of Ludlow Ventures, a young, early-stage venture firm in Detroit that seems to punch above its weight. Indeed, the firm’s first fund closed with just $15.5 million in late 2014, yet its investing team — partners Jonathon Triest and Brett Brett deMarrais — have managed to make an array of interesting bets, in Detroit, New York, L.A., and elsewhere. Among them: the organic meal delivery service Sprig, the product discovery service Product Hunt, the wireless power startup uBeam, and the heads-up display maker Navdy.

We caught up with Triest recently to talk about Ludlow’s approach.

You’re based in Detroit. What’s the advantage of living outside of the Bay Area? What’s the disadvantage, and how do you address it?

My job depends on getting to know the most talented entrepreneurs; first. Most of the founders we work with live thousands of miles from Detroit, which makes my job interesting. It forces me to be creative, find unique ways to get founders’ attention, and stay on top of who’s building what/where. In our early days at Ludlow, offense was our only access to deal flow. While we’re now fortunate to have substantial inbound deals, though we’re [still] at our best when on the hunt.

You and your team have built a reputation for finding interesting founders and deals in the consumer space well before investors who are physically closer to those young teams. Without revealing state secrets . . . actually, please reveal them!

Super simple. Be a really good friend to the people you invest in. I’m shocked at how many VCs cannot, for the life of them, personally connect with the founders they invest in. C’mon VC dudes and dudettes; get your S%^$ together. The best deals are referrals from people you’re working with or have worked with in the past.

It also doesn’t hurt to scour Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook, etc., for people expressing unhappiness at their current job [and shoot them a note]. “You’re awesome. Here’s my phone number when you decide to start your own company!”

What’s a particular space within consumer tech or networks that excites you?

I scour the Steam store every day to see what new VR games/software were released. I download nearly all of them and take them for a ride. As a consumer, I’m having a blast losing myself in poorly rendered environments. We have a small office, so I’ve nearly broken my arm dozens of times while trying to bash zombies’ heads in.

As an investor, I’m scared out of my mind at how slow I believe the consumer uptake will be.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a popularly held point of view?

Two things, actually. That social intuition and empathy are the strongest qualities of early-stage founders. And that a founder’s ability to hire his/her first employees is the best predictor of success. If you have enough smarts and passion for what you’re building, you’ll likely be able to attract and retain others. If you can’t effectively communicate why you’re doing what you’re doing, others won’t be able to either. You might as well go spend your time f’ing up zombies in VR.




StrictlyVC: July 20, 2016

Happy Wednesday! Semil Shah, investor, writer, generous soul, brings you today’s interview as Connie spends some time offline. (Her stilts project was a bust, reportedly. Now it’s on to competitive dog grooming.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Dollar Shave Club, the five-year-old, L.A.-based personal grooming products e-tailer, is being acquired by Unilever for a reported $1 billion. According to CrunchBase, Dollar Shave Club had raised $163.5 million from investors across five rounds. Some of its backers include TCVVenrockForerunner Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersMore here.

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Jeremy Liew on What He Will, and Won’t, Invest in Right Now

Jeremy Liew joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2006 from AOL, where he’d worked in corporate development, and his star has been on the rise since, including thanks to an early check to messaging giant Snapchat. We caught up with him last week to chat about where he’s shopping next, among other things. Our exchange has been edited lightly for length.

Lightspeed just raised $1.2 billion in fresh funding and built out the consumer team. How long did that take you to form the team? What was the most challenging element?

Our search took us almost two years in total. We took our time because partnerships are a delicate balance, and we needed to find someone who we thought was going to be a well calibrated investor, who could win competitive deals, and who would fit in well with the rest of the partnership. We initially went out looking for one new partner, but in the end we found two people that really clicked with us as a group. Aaron Batalion joined us in November and Alex Taussig in January. Aaron was CTO of LivingSocial, one of our portfolio companies, and he was someone we’ve known for a long time. Alex was a partner at Highland [Capital Partners], where he had been for seven years. I’m so happy both are here.

As your consumer team grows, do you anticipate extending consumer investing to outside the U.S.? If so, where might you look and why?

Great insights can come from anywhere, and we’re open to investing in companies that target the U.S. market that are based offshore. We work closely with our sister funds, Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed India Partners, which both focus on geographies that represent huge and idiosyncratic markets that are quite distinct from the Western consumer market. We’ll sometimes coinvest with them, as we did with Oyo Rooms, but we often defer to their on-the-ground expertise in those markets. And our team in Israel has been making investments outside the U.S. for many years. Increasingly, we are seeing companies based outside the Bay Area and even outside the U.S. that are targeting US markets. Musical.ly is a great example of that, although not one in our portfolio. And we are invested in Blockchain, the biggest bitcoin wallet in the world, headquartered in London.

With FB, Amazon, Apple, Google, Uber, and more scaling to huge market caps and executing so well, is there room for venture capital to bet early on new spaces? Are consumer bets now riskier?

In the early ’90s, everyone worried about Microsoft. In the late ’90s they worried about Yahoo, Excite and AOL. There will always be huge companies that theoretically “could” enter many markets. But the reality is that even for a big company, it is hard to do more than three things at a time. After that, you’re staffing your B, or C or even D team on lower priorities for that company. If a startup whose sole reason for existence is a single new idea can’t beat the C team, even if it is Facebook’s C team, then they don’t deserve to win.

Now, I do think that it is hard for a startup to beat [these companies’] A teams. So I wouldn’t back a team trying to tackle the behemoths in their core markets or core areas of focus, and that would include a lot of AI areas today.

What’s the most contrarian space in consumer investing today? What do you think it will take for this space to potentially emerge?

I believe in media companies. Many think that big companies can’t be built in this area, but I think that some of the growth in video is changing that dynamic. Video is clearly a megatrend, and every genre of content that has been big in TV will have an analogue in the new video world, including mobile native video, tvOS, and web video. Twitch is the ESPN analogue. We invested in Cheddar, Jon Steinberg’s new company, which we believe is the CNBC analogue. Tasty and TasteMade are competing to be the Food Network analogue. And genres like late-night talk shows, morning shows, sports highlight shows, blooper shows, reality TV, judge shows, game shows, they will all have analogues.

What do you look for more broadly in early stage consumer companies?

What young women do and say today, we’ll all do and say in five to 10 years. Watching what becomes popular with young women and being incredibly data driven about this has been a good way to get in front of big consumer trends. For many of us VCs who live in a very different world than the average American teenage girl, our intuition about what is going to be popular is incredibly bad. But if you can ignore your intuition and trust the data for what is driving growth, engagement and retention, then double click to understand why, then you could get ahead of some very big consumer trends.

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New Fundings

CargoX, a 10-month-old, Sao Paulo, Brazil-based startup that has been described as “Uber for trucks,” has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from earlier backers, including Valor Capital Group, former DHL Express U.S. CEO Hans Hickler and Uber’s founding CTO Oscar Salazar. TechCrunch has more here.

Fast Japan, a young, Tokyo-based online chat concierge technology that provides consultation services on any number of Japan-related topics through Facebook Messenger, Line and its own chat function via its website, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from TLM and KLab Venture Partners. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Fuller, a five-year-old, Chiba, Japan-based mobile app analytics service startup, has raised $4.2 million in Series C funding SEGA Games Co., Voyage Ventures, Global Catalyst Partners Japan, the Asahi Shimbun Company, and two other funds supported by the Japanese government. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Pantheon, a nearly six-year-old, San Francisco-based website management platform, has raised $29 million in Series C funding from Foundry Group,Industry Ventures, OpenView Investment Partners, and Scale Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Sift Science, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that offers large-scale machine-learning services to help e-commerce businesses detect and fight fraud, has raised $30 million in fresh funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. The company has now raised $54 million altogether. More here.

Sprinklr, a seven-year-old, New York-based marketing software startup, has raised $105 million in Series F funding led by the Singapore-based investment firm Temasek, with participation from Wellington Management and EDBI, the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. The company has now raised $239 million altogether, and CEO Ragy Thomas says it is valued at $1.8 billion. Fortune has more here.

Trim, a nearly year-old, San Francisco-based software-driven assistant that helps users manage subscriptions, set up spending alerts, and check their bank balance, has raised $2.2 million in funding led by Eniac Ventures, with participation from Sound Ventures, Version One Ventures, and Core Innovation Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

ZipBooks, a year-old, Lehi, Ut.-based startup that makes free accounting software for small businesses, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Peak Ventures, with participation from Pelion Venture Partners, Liquid 2 Ventures and earlier angel investors. More here.

—–

People

Facebook’s head of ad tech, Dave Jakubowski, threw some shade at Snapchat yesterday, saying that by refusing to use retargeting an other tracking methods, the company is “going to hit some challenges and marketers are gonna start to ask questions when they get out of the experimental budget phase.” TechCrunch has more here.

Twitter has permanently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos, an assh editor at the conservative news outlet Breitbart and one of its most notorious trolls. The move comes one day after he urged on a hateful mob that harassed “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones to the point that she quit Twitter. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Jobs

Newly public Twilio is looking for a senior manager for its corporate development unit. This hire will also help to run the company’s $50 million TwilioFund program. The job is in San Francisco.

—–

Essential Reads

Companies that have already raised a lot of capital continue to attract more, shows a new report from CB Insights. More here.

In the latest chapter of the Hyperloop One drama, the company charges that cofounder Brogan BamBrogan and three others (the same three that filed a lawsuit against the company last week) made up a “Gang of Four” intending to “manufactur[e] a rebellion and incit[e] conflict in a transparent attempt to seize control of the company.” Fortune has more here.

Last December, Slack raised an $80 million app investment fund, with the help of some of the biggest venture firms in Silicon Valley. Here’s a look at the 11 startups it has funded since.

Theranos, already steeped in lawsuits, is suddenly battling yet another. In a suit filed yesterday, a former customer is alleging that the company’s faulty blood tests caused him to have a heart attack. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Detours

The case against having a backup plan.

A crow dies, and an investigation begins.

What happened to the ice bucket challenge?

—–

Retail Therapy

Knockoff marble.




Jeremy Liew on What He Will, And Won’t, Invest in Right Now

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.47.44 AMBy Semil Shah

Jeremy Liew joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2006 from AOL, where he’d worked in corporate development, and his star has been on the rise since, including thanks to an early check to messaging giant Snapchat. We caught up with him last week to chat about where he’s shopping next, among other things. Our exchange has been edited lightly for length.

Lightspeed just raised $1.2 billion in fresh funding and built out the consumer team. How long did that take you to form the team? What was the most challenging element?

Our search took us almost two years in total. We took our time because partnerships are a delicate balance, and we needed to find someone who we thought was going to be a well calibrated investor, who could win competitive deals, and who would fit in well with the rest of the partnership. We initially went out looking for one new partner, but in the end we found two people that really clicked with us as a group. Aaron Batalion joined us in November and Alex Taussig in January. Aaron was CTO of LivingSocial, one of our portfolio companies, and he was someone we’ve known for a long time. Alex was a partner at Highland [Capital Partners], where he had been for seven years. I’m so happy both are here.

As your consumer team grows, do you anticipate extending consumer investing to outside the U.S.? If so, where might you look and why?

Great insights can come from anywhere, and we’re open to investing in companies that target the U.S. market that are based offshore. We work closely with our sister funds, Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed India Partners, which both focus on geographies that represent huge and idiosyncratic markets that are quite distinct from the Western consumer market. We’ll sometimes coinvest with them, as we did with Oyo Rooms, but we often defer to their on-the-ground expertise in those markets. And our team in Israel has been making investments outside the U.S. for many years. Increasingly, we are seeing companies based outside the Bay Area and even outside the U.S. that are targeting US markets. Musical.ly is a great example of that, although not one in our portfolio. And we are invested in Blockchain, the biggest bitcoin wallet in the world, headquartered in London.

With FB, Amazon, Apple, Google, Uber, and more scaling to huge market caps and executing so well, is there room for venture capital to bet early on new spaces? Are consumer bets now riskier?

In the early ’90s, everyone worried about Microsoft. In the late ’90s they worried about Yahoo, Excite and AOL. There will always be huge companies that theoretically “could” enter many markets. But the reality is that even for a big company, it is hard to do more than three things at a time. After that, you’re staffing your B, or C or even D team on lower priorities for that company. If a startup whose sole reason for existence is a single new idea can’t beat the C team, even if it is Facebook’s C team, then they don’t deserve to win.

Now, I do think that it is hard for a startup to beat [these companies’] A teams. So I wouldn’t back a team trying to tackle the behemoths in their core markets or core areas of focus, and that would include a lot of AI areas today.

What’s the most contrarian space in consumer investing today? What do you think it will take for this space to potentially emerge?

I believe in media companies. Many think that big companies can’t be built in this area, but I think that some of the growth in video is changing that dynamic. Video is clearly a megatrend, and every genre of content that has been big in TV will have an analogue in the new video world, including mobile native video, tvOS, and web video. Twitch is the ESPN analogue. We invested in Cheddar, Jon Steinberg’s new company, which we believe is the CNBC analogue. Tasty andTasteMade are competing to be the Food Network analogue. And genres like late-night talk shows, morning shows, sports highlight shows, blooper shows, reality TV, judge shows, game shows, they will all have analogues.

What do you look for more broadly in early stage consumer companies?

What young women do and say today, we’ll all do and say in five to 10 years. Watching what becomes popular with young women and being incredibly data driven about this has been a good way to get in front of big consumer trends. For many of us VCs who live in a very different world than the average American teenage girl, our intuition about what is going to be popular is incredibly bad. But if you can ignore your intuition and trust the data for what is driving growth, engagement and retention, then double click to understand why, then you could get ahead of some very big consumer trends.




StrictlyVC: July 19, 2016

Happy Tuesday!

Quick reminder: On Thursday, September 29, on the top floor of SurveyMonkey’s Palo Alto offices, StrictlyVC is hosting our fifth and newest INSIDER event, featuring VC Marc Andreessen, SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie, and a surprise guest (to be announced!). There are only about 20 seats left at this point and we can’t accommodate you once they’re gone. (We’ve already been told that SurveyMonkey’s security guard will kindly point you back out the door owing to space constraints.)

Giant thanks to our partners in the event, who make these nights possible: Ballou PR, which helps startups and VCs establish themselves in Europe; Mattermark, which collects and analyzes data on private market funding and more; and Bolt, an early-stage venture firm focused on hardware startups.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Surprise? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer provided no updates on the sale process yesterday during Yahoo’s quarterly earnings report.

Meanwhile, Netflix revealed that subscriber growth has stalled.

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Line, the Messaging App, Has Quietly Funded at Least Nine Startups

Line, the popular Japanese messaging service that went public last week on both the NYSE and in Japan, partnered on a fund a couple of years ago with the New York-based venture firm Collaborative Fund in order to gain more of a foothold in the U.S.

According to a Dealbook story that announced the pairing, the fund planned to invest less than $10 million and to focus on very early-stage startups. If all went as planned, it would also hopefully help Line find a way to compete with the likes of popular U.S. messaging services like Snapchat.

Fast forward to today, and that fund, called simply Collab+Line, has so far invested in nine companies, all of which can “benefit from working with a mobile messenger and/or have aspirations to expand to Asia,” says Craig Shapiro, Collaborative Fund’s CEO.

Its areas of focus include media, IoT, commerce, communications, and community.

Collaborative Fund is the sole manager of the fund, but it works closely with Line to “ensure there is an alignment of interests,” says Shapiro. In fact, Shapiro had told Dealbook for its story that by investing in start-ups through Collab+Line, Line could get close to U.S. startups and potentially even acquire them.

Asked if that’s still the idea, Shapiro tells us he “can’t comment.” Still, given Line’s new resources — its market cap is currently around $7 billion — some of its portfolio companies may be wondering.

Some of Collab+Line’s bets to date include the live social video network YouNow (five years old, based in New York, has raised $26 million); Particle, a prototype-to-production platform for developing IoT products (nearly five years old, based in San Francisco, has raised $4.2 million ); Slash, an iPhone keyboard that makes it easy to share things without switching apps (a year old, New York based, has raised $1.4 million); and Zendrive, a startup that uses smartphone sensors to measure drivers’ behavior (three years old, San Francisco based, has raised $15 million).

More here.

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New Fundings

Blue Cedar Networks, a months-old, San Francisco-based maker of app security software, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Accelerate IT Ventures, Benhamou Global Ventures, Grayhawk Capital, andGeneration Ventures. More here.

Cadenza Innovation, a 3.5-year-old, Oxford, Ct.-based battery technology company, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Golden Seeds, with participation from Connecticut Innovations, Scale Investors, and numerous individual investors, including Summit Power Group co-chair Eric Redman.More here.

Cambridge Medical Robotics, a two-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based startup developing a robotic system to perform minimally invasive surgery, has raised $20.3 million in new funding from investors, including ABB Technology Ventures, LGT Global Invest and Cambridge Innovation Capital. MedCity News has more here.

CommonBond, a five-year-old, New York-based platform that specializes in loans and refinancing for students, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Neuberger Berman Private Equity, with participation from August Capital, Tribeca Venture Partners, Social Capital, and Nyca Partners. The company has also secured $300 million in debt to loan out to prospective borrowers, including from Victory Park Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Guideline, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to make it much easier for employees to set up and make changes to the 401(k) plans, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Propel Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers New Enterprise Associates and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. The company, founded by Task Rabbit cofounder Kevin Busque, has now raised $10 million altogether. More here.

Jolt, a year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace that connects companies with professionals for live learning sessions, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Hillsven and UpWest Labs. GeekTime has more here.

Kiip, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based rewards network and mobile app that offers rewards from brands and companies for virtual achievements, has raised $12 million in Series C funding led by North Atlantic Capital, with participation from US Cellular and North Atlantic. That brings its total amount of funding up to $32 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Zenreach, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based enterprise software startup that provides WiFi hardware to restaurants and coffee shops on a monthly subscription basis, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Founders Fund, with participation from Bain Capital, SV Angel, Felicis Ventures, and SoftTech VC. The company has now raised $50 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Bloomberg Beta, a three-old, San Francisco-based outfit that helps expand Bloomberg L.P.’s horizons by investing in nascent startups within Bloomberg’s broad areas of interest, has raised a second, $75 million fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Rise Capital, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm focused on expansion-stage tech companies in emerging markets, is looking to raise up to $50 million for its second fund, shows a new SEC filing. StrictlyVC sat down with founder Nazar Yasim a couple of years ago to learn more about its ambitions.

—–

Exits

A $1.2 billion takeover of Opera Software by a group of Chinese internet firms fell through yesterday after failing to get regulatory approval in time. It sent the Norwegian browser firm’s shares to a seven-month low. Reuters has more here.

Lookup, an India-based chat service that connects consumers to local business and is backed by Khosla Ventures, has been acquired by business discovery service NowFloats, which is also based in India. The deal priced is undisclosed, and Lookup said it will continue to operate independently. More here.

—–

Jobs

B Capital Group, the new venture firm cofounded by Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin, is looking to hire a VP of capital formation. The job is in L.A.

—–

Essential Reads

Should Silicon Valley startups and their investors be accepting money from Saudi Arabia?

Flipkart’s Amazon’s problem.

Germany wants to add black boxes to autonomous vehicles. Will other countries follow suit?

—–

Detours

Melania Trump’s determined ascent.

A trick to make first dates less painful.

—–

Retail Therapy

Astronaut tape dispenser. (This one’s for you, Steve Jurvetson.)




StrictlyVC: July 18, 2016

Hi, good Monday morning!

Quick reminder that Semil Shah is at bat for the next couple of weeks while Connie is offline, taking a woodworking course. (Today’s project, we’re told, is stilts.) To reach Semil, you can find him here.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Arm Holdings, a Cambridge, U.K. -based company known for its chip designs for mobile handsets, as well as for processors to power hardware in Internet of Things networks, is being acquired by Softbank Group for £24.3 billion ($32 billion) in cash. That’s a 40 percent premium over the company’s closing price on Friday and the biggest-ever deal involving a European tech company. It’s the IoT piece that interests Softbank the most, Softbank said. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Quick Chat with USV’s Andy Weissman

Roughly five years ago, Andy Weissman was recruited from the startup studio that he’d cofounded — Betaworks — to join the influential, New York-based venture firm Union Square Ventures as a partner. Just last month, Weissman was officially named one of its key men, too.

We caught up with him last week to ask whether and how that changes USV going forward.

Your firm, USV, recently pulled off a “changing of the guard” in terms of leadership, with you and Albert Wenger now leading. Has any part of the transition changed your point of view or style in investing and, if so, how so?

Because USV is thesis driven, the transition has resulted in only a few changes at the firm, and those are management wise, not investing-wise. [We have the] same five investing partners, the same emphasis on creating a peer network out of the people and companies in the portfolio, and, to answer your question directly, the same point of view and investing styles [as before].

When I think of contrarian concepts in VC, Bitcoin and blockchain come to mind. After the first few years of fervor die down, how does the USV team and network maintain conviction and a long-term view, particularly given the 24-hour nature of VC today?

The way we really maintain conviction is by creating and constantly working on a framework for investing. That framework has a few components. One is a focus on stage. Another is [maintaining the same-size] funds and one office location. A third is our style of making decisions, which is conversational/consensus driven. And the last is by publishing and constantly refining our thesis.

USV is known to invest regardless of location, especially in Europe. Besides Berlin and Sweden, what other emerging pockets of entrepreneurship do you see bubbling up in Europe? Will USV ever invest in Asia?

The last couple of years, we’ve invested in companies founded in Helsinki, Tallin/Estonia and Paris. We’d probably have a harder time investing in Asia given the relatively small nature of USV.

What’s more important over the next 10 years, technology or networks and why?

Come on dude, this is USV, you know the answer. All joking aside, we continue to focus on the applications layer of the internet — the layer that sits on top of the relatively open and robust infrastructure of the internet, the infrastructure that allows for permissionless connectivity. And we continue to believe there are numerous additional opportunities to create new kinds of networks.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a widely embraced point of view?

That in the context of growing your business, who you choose as an investor is a lot less important that otherwise might be popularly held.

—–

New Fundings

Azalea Health, an eight-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based company that makes revenue cycle software for healthcare practices, has raised $10.5 million in Series B funding led by Kayne Partners, with participation from earlier backer Intersouth Partners. More here.

Civil Maps, a two-year-old,  Albany, Ca.-based startup that makes 3D mapping technology for fully autonomous vehicles, has raised $6.6 million in seed funding led by Motus Ventures, with participation from Ford Motor Co.,Wicklow Capital, StartX Stanford and AME Cloud Ventures.

Lifesum, an eight-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based digital health startup, has raised $10 million in fresh funding led by Nokia Growth Partners, with participation from Draper Esprit, Bauer Media Group and SparkLabs Global Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Magnetic Insight, a two-year-old, Alameda, Calif.-based diagnostic imaging startup, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Sand Hill Angels, with participation from Stanford StartX Fund. More here.

Modo Labs, a six-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based mobile engagement platform that helps its customers create campus apps, has raised $10 million in Series B funding from Education Growth Partners, Storm Ventures, and New Magellan Ventures. More here.

ZestFinance, a six-year-old, L.A.-based startup that blends machine learning with big data analysis to pinpoint more accurate credit scores, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from the Chinese search juggernaut Baidu. Fortune has more here.

—–

New Funds

Thrive Capital, a New York-based, stage-agnostic venture fund that focuses primarily on media and internet investments, has closed its fifth fund with $700 million. The seven-year-old outfit is now managing a little less than $1.5 billion altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Exits

Immediately, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that built mobile sales tools, will be shutting down at the end of the month, while part of the team will move on to cloud-monitoring company New Relic. According to CrunchBase, Immediately had raised $2.6 million from investors, including Streamlined Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

People

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos got to live out every Trekkie’s fantasy; he plays an alien in the new Star Trek movie, says the Hollywood Reporter.

Hillary Clinton has amassed a spate of Silicon Valley stars to help with her campaign. Wired takes a look here.

—–

Essential Reads

Tesla Motors is making changes that aim to help its Autopilot technology “see” more effectively in rain, snow, and bright sunlight. Fortune has more here.

—–

Detours

Donald Trump’s ghostwriter tells all.

Over the weekend, “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert made an unexpected evening appearance at the Republican National Convention.

Is full-time work bad for our brains?

—–

Retail Therapy

Meteor illuminated benches for your summer soiree.




Quick Chat with USV’s Andy Weissman

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.43.48 PMBy Semil Shah

Roughly five years ago, Andy Weissman was recruited from the startup studio that he’d cofounded — Betaworks — to join the influential, New York-based venture firm Union Square Ventures as a partner. Just last month, Weissman was officially named one of its key men, too.

We caught up with him last week to ask whether and how that changes USV going forward.

Your firm, USV, recently pulled off a “changing of the guard” in terms of leadership, with you and Albert Wenger now leading. Has any part of the transition changed your point of view or style in investing and, if so, how so?

Because USV is thesis driven, the transition has resulted in only a few changes at the firm, and those are management wise, not investing-wise. [We have the] same five investing partners, the same emphasis on creating a peer network out of the people and companies in the portfolio, and, to answer your question directly, the same point of view and investing styles [as before].

When I think of contrarian concepts in VC, Bitcoin and blockchain come to mind. After the first few years of fervor die down, how does the USV team and network maintain conviction and a long-term view, particularly given the 24-hour nature of VC today?

The way we really maintain conviction is by creating and constantly working on a framework for investing. That framework has a few components. One is a focus on stage. Another is [maintaining the same-size] funds and one office location. A third is our style of making decisions, which is conversational/consensus driven. And the last is by publishing and constantly refining our thesis.

USV is known to invest regardless of location, especially in Europe. Besides Berlin and Sweden, what other emerging pockets of entrepreneurship do you see bubbling up in Europe? Will USV ever invest in Asia?

The last couple of years, we’ve invested in companies founded in Helsinki, Tallin/Estonia and Paris. We’d probably have a harder time investing in Asia given the relatively small nature of USV.

What’s more important over the next 10 years, technology or networks and why?

Come on dude, this is USV, you know the answer. All joking aside, we continue to focus on the applications layer of the internet — the layer that sits on top of the relatively open and robust infrastructure of the internet, the infrastructure that allows for permissionless connectivity. And we continue to believe there are numerous additional opportunities to create new kinds of networks.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a widely embraced point of view?

That in the context of growing your business, who you choose as an investor is a lot less important that otherwise might be popularly held.




StrictlyVC: July 15, 2016

Hi, everyone. We’re so heavy-hearted about the news out of Nice today. What a terrible shame.

In case you missed the news earlier this week, we did want to let you know that, starting on Monday, our friend Semil Shah will be steering the ship around here for a couple of weeks; specifically, he’ll be bringing you your daily column (and has some fun stuff lined up). If you want to chat with him about anything, you can track him down here. Thank you, Semil.:)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

It’s crunch time for Yahoo. Final bids for its services, which include Yahoo’s search, email, advertising and media operations, are due Monday, reports the New York Times.

—–

Tesla’s Former VP of Production Just Became a VC

Greg Reichow, who in May left his post as Tesla’s vice president of production (and reportedly as one of its highest-paid executives), has joined Eclipse Ventures as an investor.

If the Eclipse brand isn’t entirely familiar, it may be soon, given its growing star power. Venture geeks might recall that Eclipse was originally part of Formation 8, a firm that has since disbanded but that, before doing so, raised a $125 million fund that was designed to invest exclusively in early-stage hardware companies. (Its original name was F8 Hardware Fund. Among its limited partners is Flex, the publicly traded contract design and manufacturing company formerly known as Flextronics.)

Former F8 partner Lior Susan now manages Eclipse, with a team that includes not only Reichow but longtime Sequoia Capital partner Pierre Lamond, who’d been an F8 advisor and joined Eclipse as a full-time partner last year.

It’s been active, too. The firm has already invested in 27 companies, including making an early bet on the computational photography startup Light, which last week announced $30 million in fresh funding led by GV.

According to a new SEC filing, Eclipse is also raising a new, $125 million fund.

More here.

—–

New Fundings

Alphabet Energy, a maker of flare combusters for oil and gas companies, has raised $23.5 million in fresh funding from Osceola Capital ManagementClaremont Creek Ventures, TPG and GM Ventures. Fortune has more here.

Amplero, a months-old, Seattle-based company whose software attempts to predict the lifetime customer value of its customers’ customers, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Wildcat Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Globys/Trilogy Equity Partners, Salesforce Ventures and Seven Peaks Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

CyberGRX, a months-old, Denver, Co.-based cyber risk management platform, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Allegis Capital, with participation from The Blackstone Group, TenEleven Ventures, Rally Ventures, GV and MassMutual Ventures. Xconomy has more here.

Discors, a nearly two-year-old, Bay Area-based mobile app that presents news stories alongside columns and analysis, photos, and a timeline, all in one stream, has raised $1.2 million from angel investors, founders, and Matter Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Endotronix, a nine-year-old Woodridge, Il.-based company that makes miniaturized, wireless, implantable pressure sensors for use in interventional cardiovascular procedures, has raised $32 million in Series C funding, including from BioVentures Investors, SV Life Sciences, Lumira Capital, Aperture Venture Partners and OSF Ventures. MedCity News has more here.

Findo, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based smart search assistant, is raising a $4 million seed round led by  Flint Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

GameOn, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile engagement platform for sports fans, has raised $2 million in new seed funding from Quest Venture Partners, XG Ventures, Next News Ventures, the DeBartolo family, former NFL quarterback Joe Montana and rapper-investor Snoop Dogg. More here.

ISI Technology, a 10-year-old, Charleston, S.C.-based company that makes a fully electronic water heater for residential and commercial applications, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Wave Equity Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

PureLifi, a four-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based company that’s developing what it calls LiFi technology, an alternative to Wi-Fi that uses modulating LED light as a way of sending data from one LiFi-equipped device to another, has raised just over £7 million ($9.3 million) in Series B funding. Singapore’s state-owned investment firm Temasek led the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Scope AR, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s developing augmented reality smart instructions and live support video calling software,  has raised $2 million in seed funding, including from Susa VenturesPresence Capital Fund and New Stack Ventures. More here.

—–

Exits

Atlassian said yesterday that it has acquired StatusPage, a Y Combinator-incubated service that allows online businesses to keep their users updated about the status of their online services. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.According to CrunchBase, StatusPage had raised just $100,000. TechCrunch has more here.

FlightCar, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that invited users to list and rent each others’ cars from airports around the country, announced yesterday that, effective immediately, it is closing operations at all 12 of its airport stations around the U.S.. It has also sold its technology platform to Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, where it will become part of Mercedes’ innovation lab for mobility services. Flightcar had raised more than $40 million from investors. Forbes has more here on the company’s closure. We’d first written about Flightcar’s woes last October.

Pinterest has acquired the team behind Highlight, a location-based social app that never quite broke through. Its parent company was five-year-old, San Francisco-based Math Camp. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. The Verge has more here.

—–

People

An L.A. judge has dismissed former Hyperloop One CTO and co-founder Brogan BamBrogan’s restraining order against the company’s former head of legal, Afshin PishevarMore here.

The Tesla Model X that crashed in Pennsylvania on July 1 had Autopilot disabled at the time, Elon Musk announced yesterday Twitter. More here.

Yesterday, a group of more than 140 tech entrepreneurs and executives published a scathing online letter opposing Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency, saying he’d be truly terrible for innovation. As product manager Michael Gartenberg of Apple later tweeted, though, “Thing is, people likely to vote for Trump don’t read or care about stuff like this.”

In related news, just to be clear, “Peter Thiel is attending and speaking at the RNC in his personal capacity,” said Facebook of its famed board member in a statement yesterday. Recode has more here.

—–

Data

According to new data out of the NVCA and Thomson Reuters, VCs invested $15.3 billion in 961 deals in the second quarter. That’s a 20 percent increase in dollars over the first quarter, though total deal count was down 5 percent. More interesting (to us): this is the tenth consecutive quarter that more than $10 billion in venture capital invested was invested in a single quarter. More here.

—–

Essential Reads

T-Mobile is offering free “Pokémon Go” data for a year, but not everyone is happy about it.

—–

Detours

Ten completely over-the-top hotel butler services.

That spicy green paste is not wasabi, yo.

Mick Jagger is going to be a dad for the eighth time at age 72.

—–

Retail Therapy

Nickelblock, the first app for your phone that will play Nickelback songs when you try to contact your ex or look at their photos on the Internet. (Haha. H/T: Lora K.)