StrictlyVC: October 21, 2016

Friday! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and we’ll see you back here soon, as long as the Internet doesn’t completely implode between now and then. (Today’s blackout is now being investigated as a criminal act.)


Top News in the A.M.

AT&T is in the advanced stages of negotiations to acquire Time Warner, which would give the carrier a huge content creation arm. The WSJ has the story here.


Board of Hampton Creek Said to Be Investigating Buyback Allegations

The board of Hampton Creek has hired one of the Big Four accounting firms to investigate claims in a Bloomberg story that the San Francisco-based vegan food company executed on a campaign to buy back mass quantities of its eggless mayo product, Just Mayo.

A source familiar with the situation says the board was unaware of the alleged scheme until contacted by Bloomberg’s reporters this fall, and that if CEO Josh Tetrick and other managers were “buying back mayo solely for the purpose of juicing the numbers,” the board will be “livid.”

This source says the board has no evidence of wrongdoing currently but that an auditing firm is currently “looking at every f_cking receipt that the company has created.”

A spokesman for the board refused comment.

Tetrick also declined to comment for this story, though a source close to Tetrick insists that there is no board-initiated investigation ongoing or taking place imminently.

In August, Bloomberg reported that the SEC and the Justice Department had launched probes of Hampton Creek for possible securities violations and criminal fraud, following its report that Hampton Creek had hired contractors to purchase Just Mayo from grocer’s shelves.

Reporter Olivia Zaleski said in the piece that Bloomberg was “shown 250 receipts, expense reports, cash advances and e-mails” from these contractors that collectively showed buybacks at Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods.

Tetrick told Bloomberg that the buybacks were centered around quality control, but these same contractors said they were free to consume, distribute to friends, or discard the product rather than look for quality issues.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but a follow-on story in Bloomberg didn’t reflect well on Hampton Creek’s board, which was reportedly warned by the successful entrepreneur and investor Ali Partovi that the company might have a truthiness issue, to steal from comic Stephen Colbert.

More here.


New Fundings

Buzzfeed, a 10-year-old, New York-based digital content company, is reportedly raising a fresh $200 million from Comcast’s TV and movie arm NBCUniversal, at a valuation of roughly $1.7 billion. Recode has more here.

EverQuote, a six-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based online marketplace for consumers to shop for auto insurance quotes (and soon home and life insurance, too), has raised $23 million in funding led by Maryland-based Savano Capital Partners, with participation from Stratim Capital, Oceanic Partners and T Capital Partners. Insurance Journal has more here.

IbanFirst, a three-year-old, Brussels, Belgium-based specialist in international payments with real-time exchange rate access, has raised €10 million ($10.9 million) in funding led by longtime investor Xavier Niel. More here.

Joymode, a year-old, L.A.-based startup that rents gear to people so they can organize things like beach parties and backyard barbecues, has raised $3 million in venture funding led by Homebrew, with participation from Lowercase Capital, Founders Collective, Collaborative Fund, TenOneTen, Slow Ventures, Sherpa Ventures, and individual investors Scott Belsky and Emil Michael. Joymode’s CEO and co-Founder is Joe Fernandez, who previously founded Klout (acquired by Lithium Technologies). TechCrunch has more on the company here.

Ladder, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based insurtech startup, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Canaan Partners, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, NYCA and 8VC. More here.

Mio Global, a 16-year-old, Vancouver, British Columbia-based wearables company whose tech tracks heart rates, has raised $15 million in funding led by Hydra Ventures, with participation from private investors. More here.

Undo, a nearly 12-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based startup that makes debugging tools for Linux and Android developers, has raised $3.3 million in Series A funding led by Cambridge Innovation Capital, with participation from Rockspring, Martlet, Sir Peter Michael, the Cambridge Angels group, and Jaan Tallinn. More here., a two-year-old, Beijing-based wholesale alcohol business-to-business e-commerce start-up, has raised $100 million in Series C funding led by the Shanghai-based alternative investment firm Greenwoods Asset. Other participants in the deal include Source Code Capital, Lighthouse Capital, Meituan-Dianping, HG Capital, and Meituan-Dianping, which is China’s largest peer review and group buying company. China Money Network has more here.



Event ticketing startup YPlan has been acquired by travel publication Time Out in a deal worth $1.96 million, a figure that will rise to $2.94 million after a year if certain terms are met. It’s not a great outcome for investors; YPlan had raised $37.5 million, including from actor Ashton Kutcher. VentureBeat has more here.



The ride-share company Lyft just underwent an executive reshuffling. Raj Kapoor, from Mayfield Fund, has joined Lyft in the new position of chief strategy officer. Melissa Waters, formerly Pandora’s vice president of brand and product marketing, is taking over as head of marketing. More here.


Essential Reads

Google is the latest tech company to drop the longstanding wall between anonymous online ad tracking and user’s names. More here.

Slack is still growing fast, but not as fast as before. More here.

Walmart is hitting reset on its online business in China. More here.

Ride-hailing app Uber is partnering with MasterCard and Mexico’s first online bank, Bankaool, to launch its own debit cards, a move aimed at getting more people to use Uber in Mexico. More here.



Tom Cruise acts out his career.

Apparently, drinking hand sanitizer will not kill you right away.


Retail Therapy

You’re going to want a good lock for this one.


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