StrictlyVC: October 19, 2016

Happy Wednesday, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

Get out the guacamole. Tonight is the third and final presidential debate, which you can stream live here.


Why Do We Even Care About Peter Thiel’s Politics?

Peter Thiel is supporting Donald Trump, and it’s time to for Silicon Valley to take sides. Is it for Peter Thiel or against him? Relatedly, should Y Combinator president Sam Altman resign if he can’t bring himself to fire Thiel as a part-time partner?

These were actual questions posed publicly yesterday, I’m sorry to note.

It’s clear that Trump is about as popular as the Zika virus in Silicon Valley (and, seemingly, a growing number of other places). But it’s worth asking: Why does everyone care so much what Peter Thiel thinks about politics? Is he also running for office? Did somebody appoint him Silicon Valley’s official representative in Washington? Along the same vein, why spend so much time worrying about what Sam Altman says and whether Y Combinator will continue to work with Thiel?

The common wisdom seems to be that Trump poses a threat to the country, and because Thiel sits on the boards of some very powerful companies, including Facebook, we should be concerned by his support of Trump. Meanwhile, Y Combinator is an influential force in Silicon Valley, and if it continues to employ Thiel as a part-time partner, it’s sending the wrong message to the many entrepreneurs whose minds it is helping to shape and who may themselves be in positions of power at some point.

Aren’t we all smarter than this? Do we really think founders are that impressionable? Thiel is renowned, yes, but there are many successful people with varied perspectives in Silicon Valley. Those worried about a Trump presidency should be delighted that Thiel is seemingly alone in sticking his neck out here. It could be a lot worse.

I don’t know Thiel. I’ve interviewed him maybe a handful of times, and nearly a decade ago, he accepted an invitation I extended to meet a gaggle of reporters out for drinks at a dumpy pool hall, which I thought was nice, even if it was also self-serving.

But I’m a little astonished by how he tends to be depicted by the media.

More here.


New Fundings

Chorus, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco- and Tel-Aviv-based startup that adds AI to sales conversations, has raised $6.3 million in first-round funding led by Emergence Capital.

ContentSquare, a four-year-old, Paris-based company whose optimization shopping technology is used by L’Oreal and Unilever, has raised $20 million in Series B funding from Highland Europe. The Telegraph has more here.

Finwizard Technology, a 1.5-year-old Bengaluru, India-based company that makes a wealth management app called Fisdom, has raised $1.1 million from Saama Capital. The company’s founders include Subramanya SV, a former partner at Bessemer Venture Partners. The Economic Times has more here.

FR8, a three-month-old, Chennai, India-based logistics service provider that aims to provide long haul transportation, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from the venture firm Omnivore. More here.

Furlenco, a five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based online furniture rental platform, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer LightBox Ventures, with participation from the Hong Kong-based venture capital fund Axis Capital and other investors. The company has also secured $15 million in new debt funding. YourStory has more here.

HigherMe, a two-year-old, Boston-based hiring startup, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, including from Y Combinator (where the company was incubated), Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners, NatureBox founder Gautam Gupta, HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes, TEEC Angel Fund and The Unofficial Syndicate. TechCrunch has more here.

Leanplum, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile marketing startup, has raised $29 million in Series C funding led by Canaan Partners, with participation from earlier backers Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Shasta Ventures. GeekWire has more here.

Moov, a four-year-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based company whose wearables can be used to provide real-time feedback for fast-paced workouts, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Mangrove Capital, with participation from BOE Technology Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Oryx Vision, a seven-year-old,  Israel-based developer of solid state depth sensing solutions for autonomous vehicles, has raised $17 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Maniv Mobility and Trucks Venture Capital. FinSMEs has more here.

Productboard, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose product management system helps organize user research and prioritize development tasks, has raised $1.3 million in seed funding co-led by Index Ventures and Credo Ventures, with participation from Spread Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Ravelin, a two-year-old, London-based machine-learning fraud detection startup, has raised £3 million ($3.7 million) in Series A funding led by Playfair Capital, with participation from previous backers that include Amadeus Capital and Passion Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

ShotTracker, a 3.5-year-old, Overland Park, Ks.-based company that got its start by launching a wearable sensor to track and analyze users’ basketball shots, has raised $5 million in seed funding, including from basketball legend Magic Johnson, former NBA Commissioner David Stern, R/GA, Elysian Park Ventures, and Greycroft Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

TravelTek, a 14-year-old, Scotland-based startup that provides travel retailers, agents and wholesalers with the technology to package together a range of hotels, flights, cruises and ancillary travel services, has raised £5.3 million ($6.5 million) in funding from YFM Equity Partners. More here.

Vertical Mass, a three-year-old, L.A.-based data management platform and marketplace built specifically for the music, entertainment and sports industries, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Greycroft Partners, Formation 8, Sierra Wasatch, Canyon Creek Capital, Magnetar Capital and the San Francisco 49ers. More here.

Workspot, a four-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based company that makes enterprise mobility and remote access software, has raised $6.2 million in Series B funding led by Presidio Ventures, with participation from Follow[the]Seed, Helion, Translink, and WTI. FinSMEs has more here.


New Funds

Bowery Capital, a three-year-old, New York-based seed and early-stage venture firm, has closed its second fund with $60 million in capital commitments, says Fortune’s Dan Primack. Bowery was founded by Mike Brown, who previously co-founded and led AOL’s corporate venture program. More here.

Rethink Education, a 4.5-year-old, White Plains, N.Y.-based venture firm that looks to make growth-stage investments in education tech companies, has closed its second fund with $107.5 million, says Fortune. The outfit was targeting $125 million, show SEC filings. More here.



CRISPR Therapeutics, a three-year-old, Basel, Switzerland-based gene editing company, just raised $56 million in an IPO. The company priced 4 million shares at $14 per share. More here.

Ra Pharmaceuticals, an eight-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based clinical-stage biopharma company, plans to sell 5.8 million shares at a range of $12 to $14 apiece in its upcoming IPO. A midpoint pricing would raise $75.4 million for the company. Pitchbook has more here.



Evercar, a three-year-old, L.A.-based startup that provided cars and coaching to drivers who want to maximize their earnings via Uber and Lyft, has shuttered after raising $6.7 million in funding. TechCrunch has more here.

Fintech startup Lendingkart Group, based in Bangalore and Mumbai, has acqui-hired KountMoney, an online lending marketplace for personal loans. Financial terms aren’t being disclosed. The Economic Times has more here.

Online travel firm MakeMyTrip has agreed to buy Ibibo Group’s travel business in India in an all-stock deal, creating the country’s largest online travel firm. LiveMint has more here.

Malwarebytes, an 8.5-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based detection engine for computer threats, has acquired French adware tracker and remover AdwCleaner for an undisclosed amount. Malwarebytes has raised around $80 million in funding, shows CrunchBase. AdwCleaner doesn’t appear to have announced outside funding. TechCrunch has more here.



Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and the wife of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, spoke last night at a Fortune event about the couple’s philanthropic work, and about the moment she decided to “go to medical school to help advocate for the lives of children.” You can watch here.

When serial entrepreneur and father Mike Lanza turned his Menlo Park backyard into a place where kids can play unsupervised, not all of his neighbors were thrilled.

Pixar made Steve Jobs his first billion dollars. Now, former Pixar CFO Lawrence Levy shares some behind-the-scenes color about how that came to pass.

Zihao Xu has joined the London-based venture capital firm Octopus Ventures as an associate. Xu joins the firm from the consultancy Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, where he spent the last six years.


Essential Reads

Snapchat is bringing the TV model to mobile. It just told its ad partners it will pay them a license fee for their content — and keep the ad revenue. Recode has more here.

Facebook caught an office intruder using the controversial surveillance tool it just blocked last week. The Verge has more here.

Walmart is teaming up with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing to digitally track the movement of pork in China on a blockchain. (Interesting.) Fortune has more here.



On-demand orchestras for your living room.

Why autonomous cars will be great for jerks.

Find out if you’re underpaid.


Retail Therapy

Finally, a robot crib.

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