Monthly Archives: September 2016

StrictlyVC: September 15, 2016

Happy Thursday, everyone! We greatly enjoy TechCrunch Disrupt events but we also love wrapping them up.:) It’s been a fun but exhausting few days, capped off with an interview with ambitious founder-investor Shervin Pishevar, whose latest company, Hyperloop One, aims to move people and freight at the speed of sound. We talked on stage about the moonshot idea and some of the various challenges it’s facing.

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Top News in the A.M.

Apple Music just shut down rumors about a Tidal deal.

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Luma Tacks on $7 Million in Funding from AH and GV

Luma, an Atlanta-based company that makes a sleek router with a wide variety of bells and whistles, has tacked on $7 million in funding to its coffers from Andreessen Horowitz and GV. The funding comes fast on the heels of a $12.5 million Series A round that was co-led in April by Accel Partners and Amazon and included participation from Felicis Ventures.

Seemingly, investors are trying to get a stake in the company before the router wars begin to heat up further. “Unlike a smart thermostat, a wireless router isn’t option; it’s something that everyone needs,” notes Luma cofounder Paul Judge.

Customers want something that’s more sophisticated than the routers of yesteryear, too, given how much more advanced tech has grown in other aspects of their lives. “The consumer network and IT at home has just been broken, and there isn’t a device or product that people are excited about to be the backbone of the connected home,” Judge says.

Established companies like Asus, D-Link, and Netgear definitely get it. In recent years, they’ve begun layering in features like parental controls and the ability to prioritize traffic based on network and device. But they face fresh entrants that are going after a piece of the market with their own next-generation features. And no wonder: Roughly 170 million wireless routers are purchased each year.

More here.

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New Fundings

BitSight, a five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that has built a security rating platform that analyzes external data and helps organizations manage third party risk, just raised $40 million in Series C funding by GGV Capital, with participation from Comcast Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures, Singtel Innov8 and previous investors Flybridge Capital Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, Menlo Ventures, and Shaun McConnon. More here.

Canva, a four-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based company that tries to make graphic design easily accessible and simple for everyone, has raised an additional $15 million for its online design platform from earlier backers Blackbird Ventures and Felicis Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Carbon 3D, a three-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company known for its rapid, 3D printing technologies, has added $81 million in funding to its Series C round from strategic investors including BMW Group, GE, Nikon and JSR Corp., and earlier venture backers including GV and Sequoia Capital, among others. TechCrunch has more here.

Ellevest, a year-old, New York-based digital investment platform for women, has raised $9 million in fresh funding from Khosla Ventures, Aspect Ventures, tennis superstar Venus Williams; Ariel Investments president Mellody Hobson; and investor Sonja Perkins, among others. Fortune has more here.

FastPay, a seven-year-old, L.A.-based company that makes lending and financial workflow software, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from Citi Ventures. More here.

Klara, a three-year-old, New York-based healthcare messaging company, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by New York’s Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Project A Ventures from Berlin, with participation from earlier backers Atlantic Labs and Groupe Arnault. More here.

Lucid Software, a seven-year-old, Draper, Ut.-based company whose web-based tool enables people to create diagrams of complex procedures and designs (like company workflows), has raised $36 million in funding led by the growth firm Spectrum Equity. Earlier backers Kickstart Seed Fund and Grayhawk Capital also joined the round. Bloomberg has more here.

Optimove, a seven-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based maker of retention automation software, has raised $20 million in growth funding from Israel Growth Partners, a private equity investment firm. The round marks Optimove’s first outside investment. More here.

Ripple, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based provider of blockchain-based cross-border payments technology for banks, has raised $55 million in fresh funding from new investors including Standard Chartered, Accenture, SCB Digital Ventures, the venture arm of Siam Commercial Bank, and SBI Holdings. The company has now raised $93 million altogether. Reuters has more here.

Tipalti, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose tech streamlines and automates the way companies make payments to their suppliers, partners, and others, has raised $14 million in new funding led by the Israeli venture firm SGVC. More here.

ViSenze, a four-year-old, Singapore-based developer of AI-based visual technology for ecommerce and other digital businesses, has raised $10.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Rakuten Ventures and eSpire Capital, with participation from SPH Media Fund, FengHe Fund Management, Raffles Venture Partners, Phillip Private Equity and UOB Venture ManagementMore here.

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New Funds

Sapphire Ventures, a Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture firm funded solely by the German software giant SAP, has secured a whopping $1 billion to invest across two new funds: a $700 million growth fund, and a $300 million early-stage tech fund. TechCrunch has more here.

China-based Sinovation Ventures, co-founded by former Google and Microsoft exec Kai-Fu Lee, has raised 4.5 billion yuan ($674 million) in commitments across two funds: a dollar-denominated fund of $300 million—in which Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group is the anchor investor—and a yuan-denominated fund totaling the equivalent of $374 million. Sinovation plans to invest the funds raised in startup companies involved in artificial intelligence, building enterprise software, and creating entertainment content. The WSJ has more here.

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Exits

GE will pay $495 million for Meridium, a 23-year-old, Roanoke, Va.-based company that sells technology for tracking the performance of heavy-duty machinery. The Roanoke Times has more here.

PayU, an online payments company with a focus on developing markets that’s owned by South Africa’s Naspers, has acquired India’s Citrus Pay for $130 million in cash, in what the companies say is the largest cash exit for a payments company in India to date. TechCrunch has more here.

Ranku, a three-year-old, Seattle, Wa-based startup that helps universities scale online degree enrollment, has been acquired by the publicly traded education conglomerate John Wiley & Sons for around $25 million, says TechCrunch. The company had raised just $650,000 in funding, including from billionaire Mark Cuban, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Microsoft AcceleratorArchangel, and investor Deborah Quazzo. More here.

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People

Armaan Ali has joined the late-stage venture firm IVP as an associate. He worked previously at Qatalyst Partners, the tech-focused investment bank.

Former GV CEO Bill Maris has “preliminary plans” to raise between $350 million and $500 million for his very own venture fund, says CNBC.

Donald Trump would nominate Peter Thiel to the Supreme Court. No, wait, not true. One of your more ridiculous stories of the day here.

Zhou Yahui, a Chinese billionaire who owns a controlling stake in the gay dating app Grindr, will have to transfer nearly 300 million shares of his company — valued at $1.14 billion — to his wife, Li Qiong, as the two move toward a divorce (according to Chinese outlets). The equity transfer would make the settlement one of the most expense in China to date, says Dealbook.

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Jobs

Shippo, a three-year-old, S.F.-based startup that makes shipping easier for businesses and just raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Union Square Ventures, is looking for a VP of business development.

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Essential Reads

The Economist on why the rise of the corporate colossus threatens both competition and the legitimacy of business.

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Detours

How to become an investment banking summer analyst at Goldman Sachs.

The National Book Awards long list for fiction.

A look at the top 10 museums in the world (plus the best tours to book at each one).

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Retail Therapy

Trumped Up Cards, a multiplayer card game created by founder-investor Reid Hoffman. He’s calling the product the “world’s biggest deck” (wink, wink).




Luma Tacks on $7 Million from Andreessen Horowitz and GV

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-8-51-56-pmLuma, an Atlanta-based company that makes a sleek router with a wide variety of bells and whistles, has tacked on $7 million in funding to its coffers from Andreessen Horowitz and GV. The funding comes fast on the heels of a $12.5 million Series A round that was co-led in April by Accel Partners and Amazon and included participation from Felicis Ventures.

Seemingly, investors are trying to get a stake in the company before the router wars begin to heat up further. “Unlike a smart thermostat, a wireless router isn’t option; it’s something that everyone needs,” notes Luma cofounder Paul Judge.

Customers want something that’s more sophisticated than the routers of yesteryear, too, given how much more advanced tech has grown in other aspects of their lives. “The consumer network and IT at home has just been broken, and there isn’t a device or product that people are excited about to be the backbone of the connected home,” Judge says.

Established companies like Asus, D-Link, and Netgear definitely get it. In recent years, they’ve begun layering in features like parental controls and the ability to prioritize traffic based on network and device. But they face fresh entrants that are going after a piece of the market with their own next-generation features. And no wonder: Roughly 170 million wireless routers are purchased each year.

More here.




StrictlyVC: September 13, 2016

Hi, all, happy Tuesday! We have been a’swamped today, so this is going to be short (in addition to very, very late!). We will say that here at TechCrunch Disrupt, there has been be a string of amazing speakers throughout the day. This morning, we watched Sebastian Thrun reveal that his online education startup will build its own self-driving car as part of the program, as well as watched Marc Benioff announce Salesforce’s first-ever chief equality officer. (Benioff also asked — not for the first time — for more San Francisco-based CEOs to adopt their neighborhood public schools and invest their time and resources in them.)

In fact, we just hopped off the stage not long ago with David Sacks of Zenefits, who sat through our questions about the past eight months and argued (fairly persuasively) that the company is now well-positioned for the future.

If you happen to open today’s SVC *right now* (5:40ish PST), you can catch NBA player Steph Curry on stage, too.

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Top News in the A.M.

Warren Buffett saw $1.4 billion wiped from his fortune today after Wells Fargo fell 3.3 percent as fallout continues from revelations that bank employees opened more than 2 million accounts without clients’ approval.

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New Fundings

Claroty, a months-old, New York-based network protection startup, has raised $32 million in funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Innovation Endeavors, Marker LLC, ICV, Red Dot Capital Partners and Mitsui & CoMore here.

Digg, an early and popular mover in social media-based, online content aggregation, is raising a round totaling “single digit millions” of dollars from strategic investor Gannett, the longtime local news publisher and owner of USA Today. TechCrunch has more here.

Industrious, a three-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based WeWork competitor that offers workspace to entrepreneurs, has raised $37 million in Series B funding led by Riverwood Capital, with participation from Outlook Ventures andMaplewood. The Real Deal has more here.

Point, a year-old, Palo Alto-based startup that buys home equity, has raised $8.4 million led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Bloomberg Beta and Ribbit Capital. The company has raised $15.4 million altogether, including venture debt financing. Forbes explains how the operation works here.

Sourcery Technologies, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose software helps restaurateurs and corporate kitchens order from vendors, keep track of their inventory, and figure out the appropriate prices for different ingredients, has raised $5 million in funding led by Marker LLC, with participation from Steadfast Venture Capital and the company’s earlier backers, including Palantir and others. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Razer, an 18-year-old, San Diego-based maker of high-end gaming products, has announced zVentures, a new, $30 million fund that the company plans to invest across a wide range of startups in areas like IoT, big data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, robotics and Android games TechCrunch has more here.

TPG Growth is planning to raise a new social impact fund called Rise Fund that it hopes will eventually use to invest more than $1 billion in companies. The New York Times has more here.
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Exits

Avocarrot, a four-year-old, Bay Area-based native mobile ad startup, has been acquired for $20 million by the adtech company Glispa Global Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Concur, the corporate travel giant, is acquiring the six-year-old, consumer flight- and hotel-metasearch site Hipmunk. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Hipmunk had raised roughly $55 million from investors, including Oak Investment Partners, IVP, and Ignition Partners. Skift has the story here.

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People

GGV Capital, the nearly 20-year-old cross-border venture firm, has brought aboard Jason Costa as an entrepreneur-in-residence, and Denise Peng, as a venture partner. Costa spent the last three years as a product manager at Pinterest and the two previous years working on Twitter’s platform. Peng spent nearly a dozen years with the Chinese online travel company Qunar, including as its COO. More here.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden makes his case to the Guardian why President Obama should pardon him.

In the year since rap mogul Jay Z took control of Tidal, the music-streaming service has more than doubled its losses, burning cash at a rapid rate and testing the depth of its owner’s pockets, says the WSJ.

YC just named new leadership as it reinvents itself again.

How Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might attack the affordable housing crisis.
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Data

Two years after graduation, men generally earn more than women who have been in the workforce for six years, shows new analysis from the think tank Center for American Progress. Fortune has more here.

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Essential Reads

Airbnb has been working on a new program that will let building owners sign up to work with Airbnb and tenants on allowing home-sharing on their properties per whatever rules make them comfortable. Fortune has more here.

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Detours

If you’ve been ending your texts with periods, everyone you know probably thinks you’re a jerk.

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Retail Therapy

By year end, your car could be driving itself, too.




StrictlyVC: September 12, 2016

Hi, all, happy Monday! We’re here at TechCrunch Disrupt, watching a panel with U.S. CTO Megan Smith and U.S. Deputy Chief CTO Alexander Macgillivray. There’s lots of great content coming out of the show; you can catch the live stream here.

(No column today; we aren’t so great with the multitasking.)

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Top News in the A.M.

Facebook‘s head of Messenger, David Marcus, said this morning that out of Messenger’s billion users, 300 million are active users of its audio and video calling features. He also suggested the bots are overhyped and underpowered.

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New Fundings

AcuFocus, a 15-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based company that makes corneal inlays to improve the visiion of presbyopic patients, has raised $66 million in new financing led by KKR. The Orange County Business Journal has more here.

Business Talent Group, an 11-year-old, New York-based platform for independent consultants and executives doing project-based work, has raised $8 million in Series B funding led by NextEquity Partners, with participation from the Bradley Family Trust; Ted Meisel, the former CEO of Overture and co-founder of AVIA Health Innovation; and numerous earlier investors. More here.

Datorama, a four-year-old, New York-based marketing analytics software-as-as-service company, has raised $32 million in Series C funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Marker LLC and Innovation Endeavors. The company has now raised $50 million altogether. Geektime has more here.

Fusebill, an Ottawa, Ontario-based software platform that automates manual accounting processes for small businesses, has raised $4.6 million funding from ScaleUp Ventures and Langdell Investments. Betakit has more here.

GenieBelt, a four-year-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based project management platform for the construction industry, has raised €2 million ($2.2 million) in funding from the European services company Danish Solar A/S and company cofounder and chairman Klaus Nyengaard.

Inflazome, a months-old, Dublin, Ireland-based developer of orally available drugs, has raised $17 million in Series A funding co-led by Novartis Venture Funds and Fountain Healthcare Partners. FierceBiotech has more here.

Nuxeo, a 15-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based enterprise content management platform, has raised $20 million in new funding from Goldman Sachs. Reuters has more here.

Phononic, an eight-year-old, Durham, N.C.-based company whose patented solid-state cooling and refrigeration technology aims to replace older refrigeration systems, has raised $30 million in new funding from GGV CapitalLookout Capital, Eastwood Capital Corp., Venrock, Oak Investment Partners, Tsing Capital, Huaneng Invesco WLRoss, the Wellcome Trust and Rex Healthcare Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Portfolium, a two-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company that showcases digital work samples of millions of students, helping match their skills to the requirements of employers, has raised $6.6 million in funding led by SJF Ventures, with participation from University Ventures and USA Funds, a large guarantor of student loans. TechCrunch has more here.

Project44, a two-year-old, Chicago-based enterprise SaaS integration platform, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Emergence Capital, with participation from Chicago Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. ChicagoInno has more here.

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New Funds

AirTree Ventures, a two-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based venture firm, has closed its newest fund with $250 million, which it’s calling the largest fund in Australia’s history to date. (Until now, Blackbird Ventures, which raised a $200 million fund in September 2015, held that honor.) AirTree is run by two of the country’s best-known tech investors: former Microsoft exec Daniel Petre and Craig Blair, formerly of Expedia. This is AirTree’s second vehicle, following a debut $60 million fund that it closed in July 2014. The Australian Financial Review has more here.

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IPOs

Cambridge, Ma.-based CRISPR Therapeutics filed with the SEC on Friday, indicating that it plans a $90 million IPO. As yet, the date of the IPO hasn’t been announced. Biospace has more here.

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Exits

Ford has agreed to acquire Chariot, a two-year-old San Francisco-based private bus service. Chariot had raised roughly $3 million in seed funding, including from SoftTech VC, Haystack, Winklevoss Capital and Maven Ventures. Read more.

HP said this morning that it has agreed to acquire Samsung Electronics’s printer business in a deal valued at $1.05 billion. Dealbook has more here.

Teads, an 11-year-old, New York-based video ad company that last month raised $47 million in debt financing to fuel an acquisition spree of other adtech startups, has acquired six-year-old, U.K.-based Brainient, an interactive video ad startup. Terms of the deal aren’t being shared. Brainient had raised roughly $4 million in total funding, including a $1.8 million Series A round in 2012 led by Prague-based Credo Ventures.

Verizon is paying an undisclosed amount to acquire Sensity Systems, a six-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based startup whose software helps businesses and others convert older lighting systems to connected LED systems, making them controllable remotely. Sensity had raised roughly $74 million from investors, shows CrunchBase. As TechCrunch reports, the move enhances Verizon’s wider Internet of Things “smart city” business, ThingSpace. More here.

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People

In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees, according to the New York Times. More here.

There’s too much money in the startup ecosystem, and “there will be consequences of that,” says venture capitalist Bill Gurley.

Veteran media exec George Kliavkoff is leaving Hearst to run Jaunt, a virtual reality startup. Recode has more here.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer stands to collect a $44 million severance package if she leaves after Verizon completes its purchase of the once-mighty internet company.

CNet cofounder Halsey Minor is back with yet another new company, a VR startup called Live Planet. More here.

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Data

The law firm Perkins Coie and Upload just surveyed 653 people — including AR/VR startup founders, executives with established tech companies and investors —  to learn more about their growth expectations and their concerns. You can check it out here.

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Essential Reads

Tesla‘s Autopilot 8.0 uses radar instead of cameras to prevent accidents like the fatal Model S crash.

How Pittsburgh became Uber‘s testing ground.

The rise of the Dark Net—where weapons, drugs, and information are bought, sold, and hacked.

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Detours

How the sugar industry derailed the discussion about sugar’s dangers for decades.

Gucci’s Renaissance man.

How awkward are you, really? Take this quiz and find out!

Here’s how far you can drive your car on empty, in one chart.

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Retail Therapy

Lock Laces. (The seven-year-olds in your life will love these.)




StrictlyVC: September 9, 2016

Friday! (Time to bust out some Super Disco Breakin‘.) Hope you have a most excellent weekend, everyone. We’ll be writing you on Monday from Disrupt; hope to see some of you there.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Why this bubble has legs.

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New Fundings

Away, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based company that’s trying to sell high-quality luggage an at an affordable price point, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding led by Global Founders Capital, with participation from Comcast Ventures, Accel Partners, and and Forerunner Ventures. More here.

Beeswax, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that offers what it calls a bidder-as-a-service — a set of customizable technologies that allows customers to participate in real-time bidding for ad inventory — has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Foundry Group and RRE Ventures. TechCrunch hasmore here.

BYJU’S, a nearly five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based edtech company that calls itself the largest in India (its learning app caters to children in grades 6 through 12), has raised $50 million in new funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, along with Sequoia Capital, Sofina, Lightspeed Ventures, and Times Internet. The Business Standard has more here.

Celeno, an 11-year-old, Ra’anana, Israel-based company that’s making chips for high-speed WiFi, has raised $38 million in Series F funding led by Temasek-backed Red Dot Capital Partners. Other participants include Poalim Capital Markets, OurCrowd, and earlier backers Liberty Global, Cisco, Pitango83North, Miven and Vintage. The company has now raised $106.2 million altogether. GeekTime has more here.

Chrono Therapeutics, a 12-year-old, Hayward, Ca.-based company behind a digital smoking-cessation system, has raised $47.6 million in Series B funding led by Kaiser Permanente Ventures. Other new backers who participated in the round include Asahi Kasei, Cota Capital, Emergent Medical PartnersEndeavour Vision, Hikma Ventures, Mission Bay Capital and Xeraya Capital Labuan. Earlier backers 5AM Ventures, Canaan Partners, Fountain Healthcare Partners, GE Ventures and Mayo Clinic also participated. Chrono has raised about $80 million altogether. The WSJ has more here.

Didi Chuxing, the four-year-old, Beijing, China-based ride-hailing giant, has raised roughly $120 million in new funding from Taiwan’s Foxconn. Reuters has more here.

Fountown, a 17-month-old, Shanghai, China-based WeWork copycat, has raised $30 million in Series A funding led by CDH Investments, with participation from Gopher Asset Management and Huazhu Hotels Group. China Money Network has more here.

Salido, a four-year-old, New York-based startup that describes itself as “the restaurant operating system,” has raised $2 million in fresh funding from unnamed strategic investors. TechCrunch has more here.

SessionM, a five-year-old, Boston-based consumer loyalty and engagement platform, has raised $35 million in growth funding led by General Atlantic, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and earlier backers Causeway Media Partners, CRV, Highland Capital Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. More here.

Shippo, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to make shipping easy and affordable for ecommerce stores, with a developer-friendly API, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Union Square Ventures, with participation from SoftTech VC and Version One Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Signifyd, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based startup that provides e-commerce businesses with fraud protection services, has raised $19 million in funding from Menlo Ventures, TriplePoint Capital and American Express Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

SmartAsset, a four-year-old, New York-based financial technology company that sells analytics and advice to its customers, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by IA Capital Group, with participation from TTV Capital,Contour Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners, New York Life,Transamerica Ventures and Fitz Gate Ventures. New York Business Journal has more here.

Zenedge, a two-year-old, Aventura, Fla.-based cyber security company, has raised $6.2 million in Series C funding led by growth equity investor Pilot Growth Equity, with participation from Zoho Corporation and earlier backers TELUS Ventures and Yehuda Neuberger. The Miami Herald has more here.

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IPOs

Coupa, a 10-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that sells expense management systems and competes with the likes of Oracle and SAP, is looking to raise up to $75 million in an IPO, shows a new SEC filing. The company’s most recent financing, an $80 million round that closed in June of last year, valued the company at north of $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Airbnb‘s public debut won’t happen anytime soon as the company is still focused on growth and overcoming regulatory challenges, says Jeff Jordan, the Andreessen Horowitz partner on the board of the company.

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People

Dell plans to eliminate between 2,000 and 3,000 redundant positions, mainly in administrative functions and across its supply chain operations. More here.

Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton just received her second largest donation of the election season, a $20 million infusion from Asana and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna. More here.

Brainiac Elon Musk is asking the Twittersphere for help in solving the “complex” riddle of SpaceX’s rocket explosion on Sept. 1. More here.

The U.S. government just appointed its first-ever cyber chief: retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Gregory Touhill. More here.

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Jobs

WestSummit Capital in Menlo Park, Ca., is looking to bring aboard a VP or principal.

Fidelity Investments, via one of its affiliates, is hiring an investment associate in Boston.

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Essential Reads

Iconic Capital, the wealth manager to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other tech entrepreneurs, is starting a unit to invest in data centers to profit from growing demand for cloud-based services.

Honest Company, the personal care product company co-founded by the actress Jessica Alba, is in talks to sell the company, several sources tell Recode, saying likely buyers are big consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble or Unilever.

Snapchat has reportedly hired Morgan Stanley to raise debt financing.

Inside iPhone 7: Why Apple killed the iPhone jack.

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Detours

Wells Fargo opened more than 2 million fake accounts (and was fined $185 million for it yesterday). Bloomberg’s Matt Levine has a smart take on the dumbness that took place.

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Retail Therapy

The world’s first folding electric bicycle, coming next year.

Satechi Bluetooth RGB LED IQ Strip. Probably not for the office (but maybe?).

All-electric go-karts!




StrictlyVC: September 8, 2016

Happy Thursday, everyone!

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Top News in the A.M.

Here’s everything you need to know about Apple‘s iPhone 7 event yesterday.

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NFX Guild Just Introduced 13 Buzzy Young Startups to Investors

The young Bay Area accelerator NFX Guildhosted its third “demo day” yesterday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, and the attendees were a veritable who’s who of venture and angel investing.

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that roughly 200 top investors were sitting elbow to elbow to see the presenting companies. NFX Guild prides itself on being different that most accelerators in numerous ways, including that there’s no publicly available application process; startups are instead referred to NFX “scouts,” who happen to mostly be VCs. The last class, which passed through the program earlier this year, saw referrals from 42 people; this class involved 68 scouts.

NFX was also founded by a trio of well-regarded entrepreneur-operators, including James Currier, Stan Chudnovsky and Gigi Levy Weiss, who provide NFX companies with $120,000, along with 30 hours of programming, mentoring and investor introductions. NFX in turn gets 7 percent of their company. (If the company has already raised more than $750,000, NFX asks for 5 percent.)

Investors also seem drawn to NFX because its startups and teachings center around a narrow idea with very broad implications: the importance of network effects, a phenomenon when a product or service becomes more valuable to its users as more people use it.

As far as NFX is concerned, any company, at any stage, can “add” network effects to multiply the value of their company. And Brian O’Malley of Accel Partners, who was in the audience yesterday, suggested afterward that he agrees. “Network effects aren’t just for social applications. We’re seeing this across our portfolio, but it was highlighted in today’s demo day that blockchain, SaaS, labor markets and more can benefit from core network effects embedded in product.”

NFX-backed companies like the home remodeling and design platform Houzz and the event planning platform Honeybook are “nailing this model,” added another attendee, Jeff Richards of GGV Capital, saying, “We as a firm are betting big on this trend as well.”

Click here to check out the companies that presented yesterday.

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New Fundings

Armune BioScience, an 11-year-old,  Kalamazoo, Mi.-based company that makes a blood test for prostate cancer, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Grand Angeles Venture Fund, among others. More here.

Dizzion, a nearly five-year-old, Denver, Co.-based provider of cloud-delivered desktops that enable users to access their data and applications from any device, has raised $6.4 million in new funding co-led by Grotech Ventures and Access Venture Partners. Other participants include Correlation Ventures and Point B Capital. The Denver Post has more here.

HashiCorp, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based datacenter management tools company, has raised $24 million in Series B funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from Redpoint Ventures, Mayfield and True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

IDbyDNA, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based precision medicine company focused on metagenomic approaches for infectious disease identification, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by ARTIS Ventures, with participation from ARUP Laboratories and other private investors. More here.

Nextail, a two-year-old, Madrid, Spain-based company whose technology helps retailers better manage inventory levels and (it says) sell at higher margins, has raised $1.6 million in funding from Nauta Capital, with participation from Realiza. TechCrunch has more here.

Octiv, a six-year-old Indianapolis, In.-based maker of sales productivity software, has raised $4.75 million in funding from GE Ventures, Greycroft Partners, High Alpha Capital and Allos Partners. More here.

OfferUp, a five-year-old, Seattle-based mobile used-goods marketplace for U.S. buyers and sellers (it’s among a growing number of companies trying to kill Craigslist), has raised $119 million in Series C funding. Warburg Pincus led the round. Other participants include GGV Capital, Altimeter Capital and earlier investors Andreessen Horowitz, T. Rowe Price, Vy Capital and Coatue Management. TechCrunch has more here.

WSC Sports Technologies, an eight-year-old, Ramat Gan, Israel-based developer of a real-time, customized video creation platform for sports broadcasts, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from existing and new investors including the Wilf family (owners of the Minnesota Vikings), the ownership of the LA Dodgers, and entrepreneur and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. VentureBeat has more here.

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Exits

Glassdoor, the still-private employee review and job-search platform, has acquired Love Mondays, a startup based out of Sao Paulo that also lets workers post reviews of their workplaces. TechCrunch has more here.

Google announced today that it’s purchasing Apigee, an API management platform that went public last year. The price: $625 million or $17.40 a share. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Scott Belsky is no longer a general partner at the elite venture capital firmBenchmark, just seven months after taking the job. More here.

Eventbrite cofounder Kevin Hartz has joined Founders Fund as its newest partner. More here.

Longtime venture capitalist and First Round Capital cofounder Howard Morgan is stepping down as a partner with the firm at year end when First Round begins investing a new $175 million fund. Fortune has more here.

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Essential Reads

Airbnb just instituted new rules to fight discrimination by its hosts.

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Detours

Bank robbery suspect: I’d rather be in jail than home with my wife.

Trying to pick the fastest line? Get behind the people with the most items.

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Retail Therapy

Apple Airpods. You’ll have to buy them at some point, right?




NFX Guild Just Introduced 13 Buzzy Young Startups to Investors

nfx-guild-logo-bigThe young Bay Area accelerator NFX Guild hosted its third “demo day” yesterday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, and the attendees were a veritable who’s who of venture and angel investing.

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that roughly 200 top investors were sitting elbow to elbow to see the presenting companies. NFX Guild prides itself on being different that most accelerators in numerous ways, including that there’s no publicly available application process; startups are instead referred to NFX “scouts,” who happen to mostly be VCs. The last class, which passed through the program earlier this year, saw referrals from 42 people; this class involved 68 scouts.

NFX was also founded by a trio of well-regarded entrepreneur-operators, including James Currier, Stan Chudnovsky and Gigi Levy Weiss, who provide NFX companies with $120,000, along with 30 hours of programming, mentoring and investor introductions. NFX in turn gets 7 percent of their company. (If the company has already raised more than $750,000, NFX asks for 5 percent.)

Investors also seem drawn to NFX because its startups and teachings center around a narrow idea with very broad implications: the importance of network effects, a phenomenon when a product or service becomes more valuable to its users as more people use it.

As far as NFX is concerned, any company, at any stage, can “add” network effects to multiply the value of their company. And Brian O’Malley of Accel Partners, who was in the audience yesterday, suggested afterward that he agrees. “Network effects aren’t just for social applications. We’re seeing this across our portfolio, but it was highlighted in today’s demo day that blockchain, SaaS, labor markets and more can benefit from core network effects embedded in product.”

NFX-backed companies like the home remodeling and design platform Houzz and the event planning platform Honeybook are “nailing this model,” added another attendee, Jeff Richards of GGV Capital, saying, “We as a firm are betting big on this trend as well.”

Click here to check out the companies that presented yesterday.




September 7, 2016

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

We’re getting so excited to see a bunch of you September 29th at our next INSIDER event in Palo Alto. There are many more readers on the waitlist than we can accommodate *but* we may be able to host one more evening before year end, on Thursday, December 1 in San Francisco. (We’ll keep you posted.) In the meantime, thanks again to our fab sponsors Ballou PRMattermark, and Bolt for their generous help in making the night possible.

Also, next week is Disrupt SF, part of TechCrunch’s signature conference series. We’re going to be on hand to interview David Sacks of Zenefits and Shervin Pishevar of Hyperloop One. A lot of other big wheels and interesting startups will also be joining TC on stage, so stay tuned (or, better yet, come). On a related note: as longtime readers already know, these events are a blast but also very time consuming, so don’t be surprised if StrictlyVC is a shorter read than usual next week.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Apple Apple Apple Apple. Track what’s happening at its big event in San Francisco today right here starting at 10 a.m. PST.

Online lender Social Finance (SoFi) is trying to raise $500 million from investors as it looks to buck a recent slump in the industry. The WSJ has the story here.

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New Fundings

Callstats.io, a two-year-old, Helsinki-based startup that specializes in video call performance analytics, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Cheddar, a months-old, New York-based live news and entertainment startup founded by former BuzzFeed executive Jon Steinberg, has raised $10 million in funding led by earlier investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from new backers Comcast Ventures and Ribbit Capital. More here.

DailyPay, a 10-month-old, New York-based fintech startup that provides next day payments for employees and contractors, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by RPM Ventures, with participation from Draper Frontier and Inspiration Ventures.

DriveTribe, a nine-month-old, London-based online community for automotive fans that’s being launched by former “Top Gear” presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, has raised $6.5 million from 21st Century Fox. The move comes less than three weeks after the company announced it had raised $5.5 million Series A funding led by Breyer Capital and Atomico. TechCrunch has more here.

GoSpotCheck, a five-year-old, Denver, Co.-based web and mobile app platform that help employees gather real-time retail intelligence from the field, has raised $16.5 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners. The Denver Post has more here.

Intensity Analytics, a six-year-old, Warrenton, Va.-based data security startup, has raised $5 million in funding from undisclosed investors. More here.

kWh Analytics, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based risk management platform for the solar industry, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Anthemis Group, with participation from Engie New Ventures. GreenTechMedia has more here.

MP Objects, a 16-year-old, Rotterdam-based company whose software is used by brands and logistics service providers to create and manage their dynamic supply chain configurations, has raised $10 million in growth equity funding from Updata Partners. More here.

PillPack, a 3.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based online pharmacy, is raising up to $40 million in new funding at a pre-money valuation of $330 million, says Fortune. More here.

Postmates, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company operating a on-demand delivery fleet in dozens of cities across the U.S., is reportedly raising at least $100 million in a new found being led by Founders Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

A stealthy startup from Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei has raised around $10 million in funding from Lerer Hippeau Ventures and NBC Universal, with participation from earlier backer Point Nine Capital. The WSJ has more here.

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IPOs

The San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the widening tech IPO window that’s expected, and what it takes to make it out right now.

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Exits

Oracle is acquiring LogFire, a nine-year-old Atlanta, Ga.-based company that provides cloud-based warehouse management applications to boost supply chain efficiency. Terms aren’t being disclosed. CrunchBase data shows just $10 million, roughly, in funding for the company, including from Edison Partners and Fulcrum Equity Partners. ZDNet has more here.

The European on-demand delivery fall out continues. This time it’s France’s Tok Tok Tok, a Postmates-style same-hour delivery company, which just alerted users that it is shutting down. According to TechCrunch, part of its tech platform is being acquired by the online takeout giant Just Eat. More here.

—–

People

Pinterest said it has hired Li Fan, the former head of image search at Google, as the company’s new head of engineering. Much of Pinterest’s most promising technology involves searching for objects within photos and then using that technology to rank and display the most relevant content to users. TechCrunch has more here.

How Arianna Huffington lost her newsroom, in Vanity Fair.

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Essential Reads

Microsoft is working on its own Slack competitor.

The ultimate guide to Facebook‘s News Feed.

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Detours

The SEC says its five-year-old, whistle-blowing program has been a “game changer.”

When will New York sink?

How much more can we learn about the universe?

—–

Retail Therapy

Ka-Bar Tactical Spork. Bear Grylls uses his bare hands out there, but let’s face it; you could use a little help.




StrictlyVC: September 6, 2016

Hi, everyone! Welcome back from what we hope was a restful Labor Day weekend.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Apple is announcing a slew of things tomorrow at its iPhone launch event in San Francisco. Here’s some of what’s expected to happen.

Twitter‘s board is meeting Thursday. On the agenda, reportedly: talk about whether it soldiers on as a standalone company.

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A Former Rothenberg Ventures Employee is Suing Over Breach of Contract and More

David Haase, a former employee of the beleaguered San Francisco-based firm Rothenberg Ventures Management Co. (RVM), is suing the firm and its founder, Mike Rothenberg, saying he was asked to run up more than $100,000 in business expenses on an American Express account at the direction of Rothenberg and never repaid.

In his lawsuit, filed last week in San Francisco, Haase says he joined Rothenberg Ventures in April of this year and tasked with “providing various services of a Chief Financial Office for RVM” while also doing work on behalf of the company’s affiliated businesses, including its four-year-old venture arm, Rothenberg Ventures, and its small but growing virtual reality production house, River Studios, founded in May 2015.

Haase says in his suit that in May, he opened the account with Rothenberg’s approval “for the purpose of acting as a credit line for the day-to-day expenses incurred by RVM.” These included business expenses charged by Rothenberg’s “numerous administrative assistants at his direct request.” Part of those expenses included payroll, according to our sources.

As of the suit’s filing, Haase’s account was overdue in the amount of $109,352.20 and, according to his suit, Rothenberg has “wrongfully and capriciously refused to pay” that debt, leaving Haase to deal with the charge, as well as the accruing interest on the amount. The suit says that Rothenberg “disavowed any responsibility on the part of RVM” despite having previously paid expenses charged to the card to the tune of $140,000.

Haase’s charges don’t end there. In a claim that may be of even greater interest to those following the case, Haase also says that Rothenberg co-mingled the accounts of Rothenberg Ventures and River Studios.

Whether this could prove problematic for Rothenberg isn’t yet clear; even LPs seem confused about how much of River Studios they own and how distinctly it was managed from Rothenberg Ventures. But Haase’s suit goes so far as to allege Rothenberg of treating “such accounts as personal accounts, to such an extent that such business entities were in fact his alter ego.”

More here.

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New Fundings

Cheyipai, a seven-year-old, Beijing-based used-car trading platform, has raised $45 million in new funding led by a unit of the Chinese state-owned car maker BAIC Group. The company, reportedly struggling, has raised money in the past from Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners and Morningside Ventures. China Money Network has more here.

Divido, a 2.5-year-old, London-based financing company that lets invites customers to spread the cost of their purchases over time while retailers get paid in full straightaway, has raised £2.5 million ($3.3 million) in seed funding led by Mangrove Capital and DN Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Garena, a seven-year-old, Singapore-based mobile entertainment giant in Southeast Asia, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from SeaTown Holdings International, an affiliate of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek; Indonesia’s GDP Venture; and Mistletoe, a Japan-based fund from Taizo Son, the younger brother of SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. TechCrunch has more here.

Saildrone, a four-year-old, Alameda, Ca.-based maker of unmanned, autonomous sailing drones that collect ocean data, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Social Capital, with participation from Capricorn Investment Group and Lux Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

VizEat, a two-year-old, Paris-based startup that operates a “social dining platform” to enable travellers throughout Europe to dine in a local’s home, has raised €3.8 million ($4.2 million) in funding led by various, mostly unnamed, investors, as well as earlier backer Eurovestech. More here.

Zilingo, a year-old, Singapore-based fashion-focused online marketplace, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia IndiaVenturra Capital and Susquehanna International Group, with participation from Wavemaker Partners, Beenext, Beenos and Digital Garage. TechCrunch has an interesting write-up about the company here.

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New Funds

Entrepreneur First, a five-year-old, London-based startup accelerator that invests in technical talent from universities and companies before that talent has a team or an idea, has raised a new £40 million ($53.7 million) fund to co-invest in graduating companies. The fund comes roughly a year after the outfit closed its previous fund with £8.5 million (then $13.3 million). TechCrunch has more here.

Northzone, a 20-year-veteran of the European venture industry, has closed its eighth fund with €300 million ($337 million). TechCrunch has more here.

—–

IPOs

Everbridge, a 14-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company that sells mass messaging and critical communications services to enterprises, announced terms for its IPO this morning, revealing plans to raise $90 million by offering 7.5 million shares at a price range of $11 to $13. ABS Ventures is the company’s largest outside shareholder, with a 31 percent stake.

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Exits

GE is spending roughly $1.4 billion on 3D printing technology, acquiring Sweden’s Arcam and Germany’s SLM Solutions. Reuters has more here.

Intel is acquiring the computer vision startup behind Google’s Project Tango 3D-sensor tech, Movidius, for undisclosed terms. The 10-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company had raised $86.5 million from investors, says CrunchBase. Its backers include Summit Bridge Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, and Celtic House Venture Partners, among others. TechCrunch has more here.

Volkswagen is spending $256 million for a 16.6 percent stake in publicly traded Navistar International to gain a foothold in the U.S. heavy-truck market. Bloomberg has more here.

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People

In a detailed investigation, Vanity Fair looks at how Elizabeth Holmes‘s house of cards came tumbling down.

In June, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced an investment in Andela, a New York-based startup that trains software developers in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. Mark Zuckerberg visited Andela in Lagos last week, a visit captured here.

—–

Data

Goldman Sachs surveyed its interns around the world, asking everything from how they keep up with the news to how they monitor their spending habits. Here’s what they had to say.

Snapchat’s ad revenue is reportedly set to reach $1 billion in 2017.

New data shows one-third of bitcoin trading platforms have been hacked and nearly half have closed in the six years since they burst on the scene.

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Essential Reads

Palantir, the secretive firm that supplies data analytics to companies and governments, has filed a dramatic lawsuit against one of its early investors, claiming the investor stole confidential information for his own use. Fortune has more here.

Uber and Lyft are expanding their push into rides for senior citizens, says Mashable.

Money.net, run by former Bloomberg exec Morgan Downey, has struck a deal with more than 100 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. in a bid to get finance students hooked on its data software — and to try to unseat the former mayor’s hardware business. The New York Post has more here.

—–

Detours

Thanks to one of the most lavish offers in film history, the person taking over for Daniel Craig as James Bond may very well be. . . Daniel Craig.

Giant pandas are no longer endangered.

The Trump campaign tweeted out a picture of Donald Trump Jr. and his siblings this weekend, and Twitter went to town.

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Retail Therapy

Beer holster. For better or worse, the next step is one of these.




A Former Rothenberg Employee is Suing Over Breach of Contract and More

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 9.40.19 PMDavid Haase, a former employee of the beleaguered San Francisco-based firm Rothenberg Ventures Management Co. (RVM), is suing the firm and its founder, Mike Rothenberg, saying he was asked to run up more than $100,000 in business expenses on an American Express account at the direction of Rothenberg and never repaid.

In his lawsuit, filed last week in San Francisco, Haase says he joined Rothenberg Ventures in April of this year and tasked with “providing various services of a Chief Financial Office for RVM” while also doing work on behalf of the company’s affiliated businesses, including its four-year-old venture arm,Rothenberg Ventures, and its small but growing virtual reality production house,River Studios, founded in May 2015.

Haase says in his suit that in May, he opened the account with Rothenberg’s approval “for the purpose of acting as a credit line for the day-to-day expenses incurred by RVM.” These included business expenses charged by Rothenberg’s “numerous administrative assistants at his direct request.” Part of those expenses included payroll, according to our sources.

As of the suit’s filing, Haase’s account was overdue in the amount of $109,352.20 and, according to his suit, Rothenberg has “wrongfully and capriciously refused to pay” that debt, leaving Haase to deal with the charge, as well as the accruing interest on the amount. The suit says that Rothenberg “disavowed any responsibility on the part of RVM” despite having previously paid expenses charged to the card to the tune of $140,000.

Haase’s charges don’t end there. In a claim that may be of even greater interest to those following the case, Haase also says that Rothenberg co-mingled the accounts of Rothenberg Ventures and River Studios.

Whether this could prove problematic for Rothenberg isn’t yet clear; even LPs seem confused about how much of River Studios they own and how distinctly it was managed from Rothenberg Ventures. But Haase’s suit goes so far as to allege Rothenberg of treating “such accounts as personal accounts, to such an extent that such business entities were in fact his alter ego.”

More here.