Monthly Archives: January 2017

StrictlyVC: January 13, 2017

Aaaagh. We’re this close to finishing a column this a.m. but we have to get to a doctor’s appointment, so we’ll save it for next week. Happy Friday the 13th, everyone, and we’ll see you back here Tuesday, following MLK Day.

Quick mention: our StrictlyVC event coming up February 8 in San Francisco is nearly sold out at this point. We have just 20 seats left, so if you were planning to come, make haste. (For those of who can’t make it, we promise we’ll have lots of coverage for you afterward.)

Much thanks again to our partners in the evening, Bolt, Crunchbase, and Rosebud Communications. We greatly appreciate your support!

Top News in the A.M.

LeEco, the cash-starved business run by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, has received 16.8 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in funding and investments from real estate developer Sunac China Holdings and other investors after selling its stakes in its video streaming and movie studio businesses. South China Morning Post has the story here.

New Fundings

Gridtential, a six-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based developer of a battery architecture that it says improves energy density, cycling performance, and battery life, has raised $6 million in funding from East Penn Manufacturing, Crown Battery Manufacturing, Leoch International, and Power-Sonic. More here.

HouseCanary, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based real estate analytics company that forecasts markets and property prices, has raised $33 million in Series A funding from Hillspire (which is Eric Schmidt’s family office), Alpha Edison, ECA Ventures, Raven Ventures, Egon Durban and Nikesh Arora. The company had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding last year from Basepoint Ventures and Bryant Stibel Investments, the investment outfit formed last August by Kobe Bryant and Jeff Stibel. TechCrunch has more here.

LingoLive, a four-year-old, New York-based company that teaches English communication skills to employees at multinational companies, has raised $5.2 million in funding led by Owl Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Entrepreneurs Expansion Fund, Alpine Meridian Ventures, and Fresco Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Linkem, a 16-year-old, Rome, Italy-based fixed wireless broadband services company, has raised $100 million in funding from funds managed by BlackRock, along with earlier backers Leucadia National Corporation and Cowen Group. The company has now raised more than €500 million to expand its LTE ultrabroadband fixed wireless network across Italy. More here.

MobileMD System, a three-year-old, Zhenjiang, China-based SaaS company whose products include a clinical research data collection system, a drug management system, and a patient reporting system, has raised $14 million in Series C funding led by Genesis Capital, with participation from earlier backers Matrix Partners China, Northern Light Venture Capital and Shenzhen Cowin Venture Capital Investments. China Money Network has more here.

Starship Technologies, a 2.5-year-old, London-based startup that’s commercializing ground drones that can carry packages right to a customer’s door, has raised $17.2 million in fresh funding led by automaker Daimler AG. Other participants include Shasta Ventures, Matrix Partners, ZX Ventures, Morpheus Ventures, Grishin Robotics, Playfair Capital, and HOF Capital. The WSJ has more here.

Yoshi, a nearly year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based gas delivery service that also offers customers services like replacing windshield wiper blades and car washing, has raised $2.1 million led by Zhen Fund, with participation from Liquid 2 Ventures and angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Venture capital firm Balderton Capital is in the process of raising a sixth fund, reports Bloomberg, citing documents filed in Luxembourg in November. The firm isn’t commenting on the fund size or when the new vehicle might be done fundraising. Balderton’s last fund closed with $305 million in April 2014.

Former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, who left the world’s largest burger chain in early 2015, has launched Cleveland Avenue, a Chicago-based venture-capital firm focused on building and growing food, beverage and restaurant ventures. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the new firm recently took over a three-story, 33,000-square-foot building in Chicago’s West Loop, “an amount of space that perhaps signals big intentions.” More here.

Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com, has begun gathering commitments for a new London-based tech fund for European startups called Firstminute Capital, and its first investor is Atomico, says Bloomberg. Hoberman isn’t commenting on the target just yet.

Kuang-Chi Group, a Shenzhen, China-based tech conglomerate, has launched a new, $250 million fund called Global Community of Innovation Fund II that it plans to invest in smart city/smart home, internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and artificial reality and robotics companies. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, based in Milwaukee, said yesterday that it’s forming a $50 million venture unit to fund fintech startups. The company said check sizes will range from $500,000 to $3 million. Milwaukee Business News has more here.

Exits

Clutch, a four-year-old, Philadelphia-based customer management and marketing analytics company, has acquired Persio, a four-year-old, Chicago-based online multi-channel platform for retail marketers. Persio had raised $5.5 million in funding from investors, including Origin Ventures, OCA Ventures, and Illinois Ventures. Clutch has raised just less than $20 million from investors, including Safeguard Scientifics. ChicagoInno has more here.

People

Pandora, the publicly traded music streaming service, is laying off around seven percent of its U.S. workforce, excluding Ticketfly, by the end of the first quarter this year, the company said yesterday. More here.

Jobs

Adobe is looking to add a senior manager to its corporate development team. The job is in San Jose, Ca.

Bad News

Arizona’s attorney general quietly announced his intention to sue Theranos for consumer fraud. This news came out in a solicitation for outside counsel posted on the state’s website. MedCity News has more here.

Data

Megadeals in China helped bring a record $31 billion in venture capital investment into the country last year, despite a sluggish global economy and a sharp drop in the number of new deals. According to KPMG‘s quarterly report on global VC trends, venture investment in China rose 19 pecent last year, representing roughly one quarter of the $127 billion that flowed into startups worldwide. More here. More here.

Essential Reads

Lily Robotics is shutting down. But things could get even worse than that for the failed camera company.

Palantir just partnered with Germany’s Merck in what could become a very lucrative tie-up for the data analytics company.

Detours

A virtual reality tour of the entire White House, courtesy of Oculus.

How a secretive Manhattan heiress wound up on Trump’s transition team.

Heading out tonight? Eat food first, have water in between drinks, and take a pain reliever before you hit the sheets.

Retail Therapy

Want to live somewhere between the Obamas and the Kushners in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood? Now it can be so (for $5.75 million).




StrictlyVC: January 12, 2017

Hi, and good morning/afternoon, all, happy Thursday. We’re racing out the door; please excuse any and all typos, as you do.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Apple is reportedly planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies, a move that could make it a bigger player in Hollywood and offset slowing sales of iPhones and iPads. The WSJ has the story here.

Bitcoin Booster Pantera Capital Stays the Course, Targeting a $25M New Fund

The digital currency bitcoin began 2017 with a bang, soaring to its highest level in more than three years to reach $1,150 – a record high.

Since then, its price has more fallen more the 30 percent as nervous Chinese authorities put local bitcoin exchanges on notice that more regulations may be coming.

To Dan Morehead — a former head of macro trading at Tiger Global who today runs his own San Francisco-based investment firm — such zigs and zags are hardly a surprise. His shop, Pantera Capital, has been exclusively focused on bitcoin and other digital currencies since 2011, and he argues that its price is “actually very predictable.” We talked with him late last week to learn more.

Bitcoin has been going bananas lately. Why?

With the exception of a bubble in 2013, the price is actually very predictable and has been rising along with the actual use of bitcoin. It was [trending up] slowly for a while because Ethereum [an open source public blockchain-based distributed computing platform] was supposed to be taking over – bitcoin was facing questions over its governance structure – but then Ethereum faded and bitcoin surged back.

That it reached another digit – into a thousand dollars – has gotten people excited, but its price has been grinding up for two years.

How many bitcoins are currently in circulation?

There are 16.09 million bitcoins now, with a roughly $14.4 billion market cap. In a hundred years, there will be 21 million bitcoins. So more than two-thirds of bitcoins have already been issued.

Early on, 50 bitcoins were issued every 10 minutes, then it was 25 bitcoins every 10 minutes, now it’s 12.5 and in another four years it’ll go to 6.25. So as their value is appreciating, the number of bitcoins that are being issued is being cut in half. The total value is going up fast as a result.

Where do those 16 million bitcoins mostly reside?

There’s no solid data on this, but anecdotally, it’s extremely popular in China because a lot of the transaction processors – or bitcoin miners — are there as chip manufacturing is there and electricity is inexpensive because of big hydro plans. Also, with Chinese currency devaluing and speculation that the country’s banking system is suspect or bankrupt, it’s a great way for citizens to store their wealth; some see it as a safer depository institution than their bank.

Why would anyone ever use the currency, versus merely hold it?

It’s definitely enticing for an investor to hold bitcoin, because they can buy more assets in the future. We have a fund where we’re investing in digital currency startups, but we have another where we invest in the currency and just hold it because we think it’ll be more valuable in the future.

How much bitcoin has that second fund of yours amassed?

More here.

New Fundings

Campanda, a 3.5-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based online booking site for recreational vehicles like camper vans and motor homes, has raised €10 million ($10.6 million) in Series B funding. Investors include Michelin Travel Partner, Accel Partners, Idinvest Partners, Ecomobility Ventures, Groupe Arnault, Ringier Digital Ventures, b-to-v Partners, and Atlantic Labs.The company has now raised €17 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Clearwater Clinical, a 12-year-old, Ottawa, Canada-based company whose mobile medical devices and cloud-based data management software are designed for the hearing health industry, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Whitecap Venture Partners, with participation from BDC Capital Healthcare Venture Fund. More here.

Funding Circle, the 6.5-year-old, London-based peer-to-peer lending platform that lets small businesses connect with investors willing to lend them money, has raised another $100 million in Series F funding, led by Accel Partners. Previous investors also joined the round, including Baillie Gifford, DST Global, Index Ventures, Ribbit Capital, Rocket Internet, Sands Capital Ventures, Temasek and Union Square Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Iguama, a 2.5-year-old, Miami, Fl.-based cross-border e-commerce platform that provides consumers in Latin America access to U.S. retail brands that aren’t typically available for purchase in local malls, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Kibo Ventures and PeopleFund. More here.

Kasisto, a 3.5-year-old startup that helps companies engages and transact with their customers via smart bots and virtual assistants, has raised $9.2 million in Series A funding led by Propel Venture Partners, with participation from Mastercard, Commerce Ventures and earlier investors Two Sigma Ventures, DBS Bank, Partnership Fund for New York City, New York Angels and Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of New York. More here.

Kayrros, a year-old, Paris-based predictive analytics company for the energy markets, has raised €9 million ($9.6 million) in Series A funding led by Index Ventures. More here.

OncoImmune, a Rockville, Md.-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by 3E Bioventures Capital. More here.

Roambee, a two-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based asset monitoring business (it tracks shipments and their condition in real time), has raised $3.1 million in funding from Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments. TechCrunch has more here.
Stadium Goods, a nearly two-year-old, New York-based brand that sells “authenticated” sneakers both offline and (increasingly) online, has raised $4.6 million in Series A funding led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from The Chernin Group, Mark Cuban, and other, unnamed investors. TechCrunch has more here.
Staffjoy, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based scheduling tool for workers and managers, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Caffeinated Capital, with participation from Brainchild Holdings and Haystack Fund. VentureBeat has more here.

New Funds

Singapore-based East Ventures, one of Southeast Asia’s first seed-stage investment firms, has closed its fifth fund with $27.5 million. TechCrunch has more here.
A new accelerator program and venture fund called Engage is launching today with $15 million in capital. The fund was established with the help of Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed; the Georgia Institute of Technology; and 10 of Atlanta’s biggest companies, each of which is kicking in $1.5 million in funding. The hope is that 48 startups will graduate from the program in the next three years. More here.

Eclipse Ventures, a Palo Alto, Ca-based early-stage venture firm, has raised $183.8 million for its second fund, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. 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; others on the team include longtime Sequoia Capital partner Pierre Lamond, who’d been an F8 advisor earlier, and Greg Reichow, who eft his post as Tesla’s vice president of production last May and joined Eclipse in July.

Exits

Lily, the 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of autonomous camera drones that sold a whopping $34 million in preorders, is shutting down and refunding its customers. According to Crunchbase, the company had raised at least $15 million from investors, including Spark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Amazon said that it will hire 100,000 more full-time employees over the next 18 months to grow its workforce to 280,000. ZDNet has more here. (Donald Trump is taking partial credit for this.)

Dag Kittlaus, the 49-year-old speech recognition expert who is best known for selling Siri to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, says he dodged death recently when a voluntary executive exam showed he had the same pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer that Jobs had developed. Recode talks with Kittlaus about it here.

Madrona Venture Group in Seattle is announcing a couple of new appointments this morning. Hope Cochran has joined as a venture partner. She was previously the CFO of King Digital, maker of the game “Candy Crush,” and CFO of the telecom company Clearwire. Meanwhile, Soma Somasegar has been promoted to managing director. Somasegar had joined Madrona in November 2015 as a venture partner after a 25-year-long career at Microsoft, where he led he company’s developer division. TechCrunch has more here.

Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire and more newly consigliere to Donald Trump, comes off as charming and disarming in an expansive interview with Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, even if his arguments in defense of Trump are surprisingly thin. He says, for example, that “I don’t think these things [like gay rights] will particularly change. It’s like, even if you appointed a whole series of conservative Supreme Court justices, I’m not sure that Roe v. Wade would get overturned, ever. I don’t know if people even care about the Supreme Court.” (People care a lot about the Supreme Court, of course, and we’re certain if you appointed a whole series of conservative judges, much would change.)

VSCO, a five-year-old company behind a popular photo editing app and various other publishing tools, has closed up shop in New York and laid off all its staff there. VSCO, which has raised $70 million from investors, including Accel Partners and Glynn Capital Management, said it’s centralizing staff in Oakland, Ca., where it is headquartered. TechCrunch has more here.

Jobs

Fontinalis Partners, a venture firm focused on transportation-related technologies, is looking to add a senior analyst to its team. The job is in Detroit.

Essential Reads

According to the Financial Times, Jawbone‘s archrival actually tried to buy it last year. Fitbit offered to acquire Jawbone’s assets and settle any legal battles, but the deal reportedly fell through because the price was too low for Jawbone and its backers. More here.

Xiaomi has decided against revealing how many smartphones it sold in 2016. The annual strategy yielded many headlines for the company in past years, but today its CEO admitted that Xiaomi has been in transition after growing “too fast”. More here.

Detours

Funny new Intel ad, starring Tom Brady.

Fourteen incredible underwater sculptures.

Retail Therapy

Muratto wall tiles.




StrictlyVC: January 11, 2017

Hi, happy Wednesday, everyone! Know we’re a little late — we’re still trying to recover from that press conference this morning.

Top News in the A.M.

More ads are coming on Instagram.

Precursor Ventures Raises $15.3 Million for Seed Investing, with a Twist

Charles Hudson has lived in the Bay Area for the last 20 years, working as product manager, as an entrepreneur, and an investor. As such, he’s had a front row seat to a number of changes in the way that startup are funding, including the evolution of numerous angel investors into so-called micro VCs into fund managers who are now responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Take investor Jeff Clavier, who began sprinkling tiny amounts of money across what appeared to be a new crop of capital-efficient startups back in 2004 and soon after launched a firm, SoftTechVC, where Hudson would become a partner in 2013. By 2014, SoftTech had closed a fourth fund with $85 million. Last June, it closed on a record $150 million across two funds.

Hudson was cheering on the firm — from down the street in San Francisco. Since last year, he has been creating his own brand, Precursor Ventures, to seize on the funding vacuum creating by firms like SoftTech that can no longer write small checks. Hudson, one of few African American VCs in the Bay Area, also sees another underserved opportunity in funding women and other minorities.

We talked with Hudson last week about how he’s approaching both missions and whether they were a difficult, or easy, sell for Precursor’s investors, who’ve given the company $15.3 million for its first fund.

Why strike out on your own with a new fund?

The big observation for me was that all the micro VC funds are really big now and they’ve stopped doing classic seed-stage funding. The goal for Precursor is to write checks in the range of $150,000 to $250,000 to teams that have maybe two founders and a prototype and probably not much in the way of a launched product or traction, with about 20 percent of the capital set aside to participate in [slightly more mature] companies that are maybe raising $2 million on a $6 million [pre-money] valuation.

How many companies do you think you can support with this new fund?

The idea is to write 18 to 20 checks per year, so I’ve made 50 investments over the last two years, including [as I was raising this fund].

And investors didn’t think that was too much, that you were spreading your investments too thin? Why not go in the exact opposite direction and make lesser, more concentrated bets?

For one thing, because there is so little institutional capital at the pre-seed stage, I felt like I could be more aggressive. Also, because of the rising cost of doing business in San Francisco, and because a lot of the founders I back don’t need to be here, I’ve encouraged many of them to stay where they are — in Tampa and Raleigh and Charleston and Baltimore. And it’s pretty cool to see how much more capital efficient they can be in these regions with $150,000 to $250,0000 in backing.

Are you leading most of these rounds?

I didn’t think we’d lead, but we do lead a lot, because without us, these rounds don’t come together. It’s sort of like, everyone is in for $25,000, but no one wants to issue terms. Believing in people early and being able to issue terms helps rounds come together.

More here.

New Fundings

CompareEuropeGroup, a 1.5-year-old, London-based company that uses machine learning and other algorithms to sort through and search for the best deals for a particular service in real-time, has raised €20 million ($21 million) in Series A funding. ACE & Company led the round, with participation from Pacific Century Group, Nova Founders Capital, SBI Holdings, Zynga cofounder Mark Pincus, investor Peter Thiel and others. TechCrunch has the story here.

EasyStack, a two-year-old, Beijing, China-based open-source enterprise cloud platform and services company, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Cash Capital, with participation from several RMB funds. China Money Network has more here.
ezCater, a 10-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based nationwide marketplace for business catering, raised $35 million in funding led by Iconiq Capital, with participation from earlier backer Insight Venture Partners. The company has now raised $70 million altogether. More here.
FarmLogs, a four-year-old, Ann Arbor, Mi.-based company whose technology helps farmers monitor and measure their crops, predict profits, manage risks from weather and pests, has raised $22 million in Series C funding led by Naspers Ventures, with participation from Drive Capital, Huron River Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners, SV Angel and individual investors, including Y Combinator president Sam Altman. TechCrunch has more here.

HOOQ, a two-year-old, Singapore-based Netflix challenger in Southeast Asia, has raised $25 million in new funding from earlier backers Singtel, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers. It has now raised roughly $95 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

iZettle, a 6.5-year-old, Stockholm, Swedish-based mobile payments company whose card reader works with your smartphone or tablet, has raised €60 million ($63 million) in new funding, including €45 million in the form of debt from Victory Park Capital, and €15 million from earlier backers, including Intel, Index Ventures, MasterCard and American Express. TechCrunch has more here.

Kuli Kuli, a five-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based food startup that’s selling a West African crop known as moringa as both a powder supplement and a health food bar, has raised $4.25 million in Series A fudning led by Kellogg Company’s new venture arm, eighteen94 capital. Other participants include S2G Ventures and InvestEco, along with individual angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Revl, a two-year-old, London-based event-discovery marketplace that uses peer-to-peer recommendations, has raised £2.4 million ($2.9 million) in seed funding from unnamed individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

SmarterHQ, a six-year-old, Indianapolis, In.-based contextual marketing technology company that powers real-time individualized campaigns for Bloomingdales, Eddie Bauer, and Kate Spade among others, has raised $13 million in new funding led by Spring Lake Equity, with participation from earlier backers Simon Venture Group and Battery Ventures. The company has now raised $33.6 million altogether. More here.

Velocidi, a six-year-old, New York-based media and marketing intelligence platform, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Pilot Growth Equity, with participation from Neuberger Berman Private Equity Funds. SiliconAngle has more here.

New Funds

Correlation Ventures, an 11-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based venture capital firm that leverages predictive analytics to make co-investments (for example, it says it has more than 17,000 venture financings in its database of companies that have exited since 2006), just closed its second fund with $200 million. More here.

Thayer Ventures, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based venture capital capital firm that’s focused on hospitality and travel, is beginning the process of raising a third fund, and it’s targeting $100 million. Some of its portfolio companies include the travel planning site HipMunk and Traxo, an online travel service that organizes users’ personal travel information. The firm had reportedly raised roughly $15 million for its second fund. More here.

Exits

Alibaba is offering $2.6 billion to fully acquire Intime, a company in which  Alibaba bought a stake for $692 million nearly three years ago. Intime operates 29 department stores and 17 shopping malls across urban China and highlights the new focus of e-commerce giants on offline channels. TechCrunch has more here.
The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has acquired CrowdRise, a fundraising platform for charities and other non-profits, as well as fundraising events, Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. CrowdRise had raised around $25 million in funding, including from Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Spark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Publicly traded YCoupa Software, which makes cloud-based spend management software, has substantially all of the assets of London-based Spend360 International, which help companies digitize antiquated processes for data classification. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. More here.

People

Swiss designer Yves Behar is listed on a patent that was granted to Uber yesterday for a thin, light-up placard designed to be displayed on the “roof of a vehicle or suitably dimensioned mobile environment.” (Like, yes, a taxi.) TechCrunch has more here.

DoubleDutch, a five-year-old startup providing mobile apps and analytics for events and conferences, just announced another round of layoffs, affecting roughly 40 percent its workforce. Around 70 positions were eliminated. TechCrunch has more here.

Daniel Gross, the founder of the Y Combinator-backed startup Cue, a search engine for personal content that sold to Apple, is joining Y Combinator as a partner. TechCrunch has more here.

Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, has named its first non-founder CEO: former Tiger Global executive Kalyan Krishnamurthy. Quartz has more here.

The grocery deliver startup Instacart is cutting worker pay again in at least four cities. Recode has more here.

John MacFarlane resigned yesterday as chief executive of Sonos and has been replaced by one of his deputies, Patrick Spence. MacFarlane has also left the company’s board of directors. The New York Times has more here.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hired former Obama adviser David Plouffe away from Uber to work on his social advocacy organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. CNBC has more here.
Major switcheroo at Tesla Motors: Sterling Anderson, Tesla’s director of autopilot programs since November 2015, has left the company. Meanwhile, Chris Lattner, who led the creation of Apple’s Swift software programming language, is now Tesla’s vice president of autopilot software. Bloomberg has more here.

Jobs

Obvious Ventures in San Francisco is hiring for another senior associate position; this time, the new hire will be working closely with managing director Vishal Vasishth. You can learn more here.

Essential Reads

About that giant Softbank tech fund, bankers who are advising it say that more than three-quarters of it will be funneled into larger investments in private and public markets rather than into start-ups.

If a Best Buy technician is a paid FBI informant, are his computer searches legal?

Your next iPhone might be made of stainless steel.

Detours

It’s not just Altaba; Fortune looks at seven other terrible company name changes.

The preposterous success story of America’s pillow king.

Retail Therapy

We’re definitely going to be needing one of these.




StrictlyVC: January 10, 2017

Hi, happy Tuesday, everyone! Tons of news to track today, so let’s dive right in.

Top News in the A.M.

Apple and Zeiss, an old-line Germany-based company that makes optical systems, industrial  measurements, and medical devices, are working together on augmented reality optics, says blogger and tech evangelist Robert Scoble.

That Strange New Lawsuit Against Investor Michael Goguen was Just Dropped

Early last month, we told you about a bizarre new lawsuit involving longtime venture capitalist Michael Goguen, whose long career at Sequoia Capital ended early last year after he was sued in a salacious breach of contract suit that accused him of sexually mistreating a woman named Amber Baptiste, then refusing to honor an elaborate financial arrangement they’d made.

Baptiste and Goguen are set to meet in court this coming May. But the newer suit, filed the first week of December by a former acquaintance named Bryan Nash, was just dropped — and not surprisingly given the circumstances.

According to Nash’s suit, he first met Goguen in 1994 and they became “friends.” As Nash and Goguen’s “friendship developed,” they enjoyed “joint family gatherings,” took “vacations together,” went “mountain biking together,” and also exercised together, it said.

After skipping over two decades (that’s not an exaggeration), Nash’s suit proceeded to claim that last year, Goguen agreed to pay Nash $15 million — and an eventual $19 million altogether — for “unrelated professional and personal assistance to Goguen.” The issue at the crux of the suit was that “before the funds were deposited through the wire transfer,” Goguen then “withheld, or revoked” the transfer.

None of Nash’s complaint added up, as you’ve probably surmised yourself, but that didn’t stop a Mission Viejo, Ca.-based personal injury law firm from agreeing to represent Nash in his lawsuit.

At least, until yesterday.

More here.

New Fundings

Aledade, a two-year-old, Bethesda, Md.-based services and software company that offers analytics and other IT meant to support accountable health care, has raised $20 million in funding led by Biomatics Capital. More here.

The Athletic, a year-old, Chicago-based subscription sports website that was originally backed by Precursor Ventures, Y Combinator and other early-stage investors, has just raised another $2.3 million in seed funding led by Courtside Ventures, with participation from Advancit Capital, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investors, Luminari Capital, and others. FinSMEs has more here.

Choozle, a 4.5-year-old, Denver-based real-time digital marketing platform, has raised $2.4 million Series A-1 funding from Great Oaks Venture Capital, Gemini Group, and other, unnamed investors. VentureBeat has more here.

Cloud Elements, a 4.5-year-old, Denver-based cloud API integration service, has raised $13 million in Series B funding led by Harbert Partners, with participation from Rally Ventures, Access Ventures and Grotech Ventures. The company has now raised more than $21 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Ivantis, a 10-year-old Irvine, Ca.-based device company focused on eye health (it has developed a stent meant to lower eye pressure in people with glaucoma), has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by RA Capital ManagementMérieux Développement also joined the round, as did earlier investors. More here.

Kaminario, a six-year-old, Needham, Ma.-based all-flash storage company, has raised $75 million in new funding led by the private equity firm Waterwood, with participation from new and earlier investors. The company has now raised $218 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Kwipped, a five-year-old, Wilmington, N.C.-based online B2B equipment rental marketplace, has raised more than $700,000 in funding led by VentureSouth. FinSMEs has more here.

Lalamove, a three-year-old, Hong Kong-based on-demand logistics company, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Xianghe Capital, with participation from (the ill-advisedly named) Blackhole Capital and earlier investors MindWorks Ventures and Crystal Stream. TechCrunch has more here.

Logtrust, a 5.5-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based big data analytics platform, has raised $11 million in new funding from Kibo Ventures, IPW and Atlantic Bridge Capital. More here.

Mighty AI, a two-year-old, Seattle-based startup that uses humans to fine-tune artificial intelligence engines and was known until today as Spare5, has raised $14 million in Series A1 funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from GV, Accenture Ventures and earlier investors Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group and New Enterprise Associates.The Seattle Times has more here.
MobileCause, a 12-year-old, Calabasas, Ca.-based cloud-based fundraising and communication platform for nonprofits, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Level Equity. More here.

PeraHealth, a nine-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based company that makes predictive, real-time clinical surveillance software, has raised $14 million in new funding from the growth equity firm Mainsail Partners. More here.

Phantom, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based cybersecurity company, has raised $13.5 million in Series B funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from earlier investors TechOperators Venture Capital, Blackstone Group, In-Q-Tel, and Rein Capital among others. More here.

Resy, a two-year-old, New York-based restaurant booking app, has raised $13 million in funding led by Airbnb — itself of the most richly funded startups in the world, which will begin offering the service to allow travelers to make reservations beginning in April. Other participants in the round include First Data Corp., RSE Ventures, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. The WSJ has the story here.
Scandit, an eight-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based mobile barcode scanning company, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding from Atomico. VentureBeat has more here.

SnapMD, a three-year-old, L.A.-based company that makes telemedicine software that allows for virtual care management, has added $3.25 million to a previously closed Series A round. The new infusion brings the round to $9.15 million. Investors include the original syndicate, including Shea Ventures and TYLT VenturesMore here.

New Funds

According to reporter Dan Primack, who launched his Pro Rata newsletter today (sign-up is here), the three-year-old, San Francisco-based hardware incubator Highway1 is raising its first official venture capital fund from outside investors — and with a $100 million target. Highway1 was launched by the custom manufacturing company PCH International.

The Knight Foundation, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and other investors have formed a new, $27 million fund. The big idea behind it: to promote research into artificial intelligence in the public interest. TechCrunch has more here.

Exits

British online fashion retailer boohoo.com is a step closer to acquiring the brand and customer database of 11-year-old, L.A.-based fashion retailer Nasty Gal, which filed for bankruptcy protection back in November. Boohoo is bidding $20 million. TechCrunch has more here.
Alphabet is reportedly in talks to sell Skybox Imaging — the satellite business it acquired for $500 million less than three years ago — to Planet, the satellite imagine startup formerly known as Planet Labs. Bloomberg calls it another sign the technology giant is ratcheting back grand ambitions to blanket the globe with internet service. More here.

Fitbit, the wearable fitness device company, has acquired a young “affordable luxury” smart watch brand called Vector for its software platform and design team. Vector had raised $2 million from Gecad Group. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Atomico, the European venture firm launched by Skype cofounder Niklas Zennstrom, has promoted principals Carolina Brochado and Teddie Wardi to partner. TechCrunch has more here.

Robin Bienfait has joined the Atlanta-based venture firm Valor Ventures as a partner. She was previously the CIO and chief innovation officer at Samsung.
Yumin Choi has joined Bain Capital Ventures as a managing director, leading the firm’s healthcare investments. Choi will be based in Boston and joins from healthcare specialist HLM Venture Partners, where he’d led and managed early- and growth-stage investments.

Crosslink Ventures has two new partners: Omar El-Ayat, who has has been promoted to partner and Matt Bigge, who just joined the firm. El-Ayat had joined Crosslink in 2011 and was made a vice president in 2014. Bigge was previously a partner at Paladin Capital, where he focused on enterprise and industrial infrastructure with a particular emphasis on security.

Mike Dempsey has joined the New York-based early-stage venture firm Compound (formerly Metamorphic Ventures) as a principal. Dempsey most recently worked at Rothenberg Ventures and was previously an analyst with the private research and database company CB Insights.

Jocelyn Goldfein has joined the three-year-old, early-stage venture firm Zetta Venture Partners as a partner. Goldfein was most recently an engineering director at Facebook for four years and, before that, a VP of engineering at VMware. According to Fortune, she’s looking to back AI companies specifically (for now, at least).

Elise Hebb has joined Maveron as partner and COO. For the last nine-plus years, Hebb was with Madrona Venture Group, where she managed investor relations and business development. Earlier in her career, Hebb was also an LP at the University of Washington. GeekWire has more here.

Ellen Pao — the former interim Reddit CEO, former partner at Kleiner Perkins and the co-founder of the diversity and inclusion organization Project Include — has joined the Kapor Center for Social Impact. More specifically, Pao will serve as Kapor Capital’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, as well as a venture partner. TechCrunch has more here.

Essential Reads

If the Verizon deal goes through, Yahoo is renaming itself Altaba, and half its current board members, including Marissa Mayer, will step down. The new brand is a play on the single biggest asset that would remain of Yahoo if its deal with Verizon closes: a 15 percent stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Altaba would also own a 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan. More here.

It’s a new game for Uber drivers if New York passes this law.

Detours

U2 is setting out on a 25-date stadium tour where it will perform its “Joshua Tree” album in its entirety each night. [Happy sigh.]

Late-night hosts had a field day yesterday, after the Donald complained that Meryl Streep is “overrated.”

The most dangerous U.S. cities for pedestrians. (TLDR: Don’t walk in Florida.)

Retail Therapy

The Leave Me Alone Sweater. (Hey, it takes strong messaging sometimes.)




StrictlyVC: January 9, 2017

Hi, everyone, hope you’re having a great Monday. Sorry we’re publishing so late — busy morning.

Before we get into the newsletter, we have a lot of great news! First, Amy Chang, long the global head of product at Google and now founder and CEO of Accompany — considered among the most promising startups to publicly launch last year — is now coming to speak at our upcoming StrictlyVC event; she’ll be talking with the Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures. (You might have read most recently about Chang’s appointment in November as Cisco’s youngest board member.)

Also(!) coming to speak at our upcoming event: Vivek Ramaswamy, a millennial who has been shaking up the biotech world since creating his New York-based company, Roivant, to acquire drug candidates that have been forgotten or abandoned. Investors love him for it; they’ve given him more than $1 billion in funding to date. In exchange, Ramaswamy has delivered them the biggest biotech IPOs in 2015 and 2016 through two spin-off companies created by Roivant. Come learn more about what he’s trying to pull off.

And there is more! Emily Weiss, founder of the super hot cosmetics company Glossier, is also coming in from New York and you will not want to miss her (especially if, like us, you have become addicted to her beauty products). She’ll be sitting down with general partner Eric Liaw of IVP to talk about how Glossier has managed to build a cult following — and what happens next.

We have a limited number of seats left with 30 days to go. If you don’t yet have a ticket, please do not wait. In addition to our newest guests, Brad Feld of Foundry Group and political strategist and investor Bradley Tusk will be speaking at the event. It’s going to be amazing evening, people. We’re so excited!

Top News in the A.M.

Trello, a five-year-old, New York-based maker of visual project management software, has been snapped up by publicly traded Atlassian for $425 million, including $360 in cash. The company had raised just $10.3 million from its investors, including Index VenturesSpark Capital and BoxGroup. TechCrunch has more here.

A Startup that Makes Every Day a Payday Just Raised a $22M Series A

What if you didn’t have to wait every two weeks to receive a paycheck?

What if you could be wired the money you earned almost immediately after a shift?

What if, unlike with payday lenders, you didn’t have to pay interest on those payments? Instead, you were merely encouraged to donate a kind of tip to the company providing you with this service?

That’s the proposition of Activehours, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based financial services startup that aims to turn the payroll process on its head — and which just raised $22 million in Series A funding toward that end, led by Matrix Partners.

The company basically serves as kind of ATM, letting consumers who’ve accrued earnings pay for transactions like an unexpected car repair or an overdue bill without being charged onerous overdraft fees from their bank or else a high-interest payday lender. Activehours doesn’t charge interest, either, but rather invites people to provide it with a non-obligatory tip that they think is fair for the service.

Activehours doesn’t take into consideration a person’s credit history. It doesn’t ask for a social security number. Anyone who has a checking account and a job can use the service, regardless of their employer, though Activehours has struck partnerships with companies, including Sears Holdings (which owns Sears and Kmart), to make it easier for its employees to access their accrued pay before their paychecks arrive. The company also also teamed up with Uber, whose drivers need only connect their bank information and Uber account information with Activehours in order to cash out after a shift.

In another interesting twist, anyone on the platform can also “tip” on behalf of someone else on the platform, an act that’s done entirely anonymously. Think of it like paying a toll booth operator for your own car, as well as for the car that’s behind you.)

“This is a service for the barista, or the person working in bookstore, or a teller at a bank,” says Matrix general partner Dana Stalder who led the deal for his firm. “It is the 50 percent of [the U.S. population] that has revolving debt on their credit cards — plus another big cross section of those who don’t.”

But no fees? No interest? How can this possibly work as a business, especially as the company scales?

More here.

New Fundings

Blue Pillar, an 11-year-old, Indianapolis, In..-based maker of distributed energy asset management software, has raised $10 million in funding from GXP Investments, Elevate Ventures, EnerTech Capital, Allos Ventures, Arsenal Venture Partners, and Claremont Creek Ventures. More here.

Cavion, a 13-year-old, Charlottesville, Va.-based clinical stage pharmaceutical company that’s developing cancer-treatment drugs, has raised $26.1 million funding co-led by Lilly Ventures and Novartis Venture Fund, with participation from Enso Ventures and earlier investors. More here.

CiVi Biopharma, a year-old, San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing treatments for cardiometabolic diseases, has raised $40 million in Series A funding from Tavistock Group’s Boxer Capital. More here.

Eleven James, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that rents out high-end watches for an annual membership fee, has raised $9 million in fresh fund, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. The company’s earlier investors include BoxGroup, WGI Group, and numerous individual investors.

MatriSys Bioscience, a two-year-old, La Jolla, Ca.-based company that’s developing microbiome skin care treatments, has raised $1.5 million in funding led by Tech Coast Angels. More here.

Microbion, a 35-year-old, Bozeman, Mo.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections, has raised $25 million in funding from the Vancouver-based healthcare investor Quark Venture and Hong Kong bank GF Securities. More here.

MyTomorrows, a four-year-old, Amsterdam-based online platform that helps patients and physicians track treatments, has raised €10 million ($10.5 million) in funding co-led by EQT Ventures and Octopus Ventures, with participation from Balderton Capital and Sofinnova Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Satsuma Pharmaceuticals, a new, San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company that’s focused on treating acute migraines, has raised $12 million in Series A funding co-led by RA Capital Management and TPG Biotech. The company was just spun out of Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories. More here.

SiteOne, a six-year-old, Bozeman, Mo.-based developer of a pain medication alternative to opioids, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Amgen, with participation from Next Frontier Capital, 2M Companies, Mission Bay Capital, Sears Capital Management, Biobrit, and Z Investments. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle has more here.

Team8, a 2.5-year-old, Israel-based cybersecurity startup studio based, has an undisclosed amount of funding from Microsoft and Qualcomm. Fortune has more here.

New Funds

Cendana Capital, the San Francisco-based fund of funds that invests in a wide number of “micro VC” funds, including Forerunner Ventures, Bowery Capital, and Engineering Capital, has raised $10 million for a new fund called (for now) Cendana Kendall. The SEC filing is here.

PivotNorth Capital, a Menlo Park, Ca.-based seed-stage venture firm, has closed its third fund with $35 million, according to a report in peHUB. The firm had closed its second fund with $35 million, as well. More on the new fund here.

(Other) Exits

Amazon Web Services has quietly acquired a two-year-old, San Diego-based cyber security firm called harvest.ai that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze user behavior around a company’s key IP tostop targeted attacks before valuable customer data can be swiped. The price, reports TechCrunch: $19 million. The company had raised just $2.3 million from investors. More here.
Jet.com, now a subsidiary of Walmart Stores, last week acquired ShoeBuy, a Boston-based ecommerce site selling shoes, apparel and accessories for a reported $70 million. ShoeBuy was previously owned by IAC. The idea is to help Jet.com challenge Amazon in online apparel sales. GeekWire has more here.

People

Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma met with Donald Trump today to discuss Ma’s plans to create 1 million U.S. jobs by growing trade between U.S. small businesses and Chinese consumers. USA Today has more here.

Essential Reads

Uber has taken the wraps off a new website that will offer access to its data around traffic flow in cities where it operates, intended for use by city planners and researchers looking into ways to improve urban mobility. TechCrunch has more here.

Facebook is going to start showing ads in the middle of its videos and sharing the money with publishers

Detours

How to stay at Four Seasons resorts for less than $350(ish) a night.

Here’s where Goldman Sachs is telling clients to invest in equities.

What a hard hit can do to a player’s brain.

The cost of raising a kid? On average, it’s 233,610, says new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Retail Therapy

Leopard-print reflective stickers for your bike. Lurve.




StrictlyVC: January 6, 2017

Friday! Thank God. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Apple revealed in a regulatory filing earlier that it missed its revenue and profit goals in 2016; it’s the first time that has happened since Tim Cook took over as CEO.

The FTC just sued the Taiwanese networking equipment company D-Link over its routers and internet cameras, saying their flaws have potentially compromised sensitive consumer information.

The Billion Dollar Pharma Startup That Silicon Valley Totally Missed

When it comes to millennials and health care companies, recent history gives plenty of reason for pause. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos, has watched her star fall precipitously over the last year, amid a continuing drumbeat of allegations that her blood testing company never worked as advertised. Meanwhile, Martin Shkreli, a young hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical executive, was for a while the country’s most reviled businessperson, after his relatively small company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought a drug that treats toxoplasmosis, and promptly raised its price from less than $20 per tablet to $750.

If these black marks on the industry are slowing down 31-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy in any way, you wouldn’t know it. He thinks his company, Roivant, will one day be a giant holding company for dozens of independent biopharmaceutical companies – both by developing drugs as well as focusing squarely on reducing the time and cost of the drug development process.

It all sounds rather lofty. Then again, it’s hard to argue why Ramaswamy shouldn’t be the one to reshape how drugs are brought to market.

A Cincinnati native who studied biology at Harvard then earned a law degree from Yale, it was when Ramaswamy began working as an analyst in 2007 at the hedge fund QVT Financial in New York that he first observed the problem that defines his work today. What he noticed: that many big and small pharmaceutical firms abandon promising drugs for various reasons having nothing to do with their efficacy. Sometimes, it’s a strategic decision to focus elsewhere; sometimes, it owes to a lack of resources. Seeing an opportunity to complete the development of some of these abandoned late-stage drug candidates and get them to market quickly, Ramaswamy struck out on his own in 2014.

Having earned the trust of QVT was key. The firm, along with Dexcel Pharma, an Israeli firm that reviewed Ramaswamy’s work at QVT, provided Ramaswamy’s new holding company with just less than $100 million in capital – a feat, given that he was just 28 years old at the time.

Yet what Ramaswamy has done with Roivant in the years since is pretty remarkable, too.

While Silicon Valley has obsessed over Theranos, Ramaswamy has acquired a dozen drugs, including an Alzheimer’s pill that’s named, for now, RVT-101. He also formed a company around that drug, Axovant Science, and took it public in 2015 – despite that the drug’s Phase 3 results won’t be out until this year.

It became the biggest biotech IPO ever in the U.S., raising $360 million. It has largely held up, too. Axovant’s shares, which opened at $15, currently trade around $13.25.

Roivant has also launched Enzyvant Sciences, a company focused on rare genetic pediatric conditions that Ramaswamy calls “ignored and underserved, ” including a metabolic disorder called Farber disease and DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disease that results in poor development of several body systems.

Roivant has also teamed up with one of Japan’s oldest companies, Takeda Pharmaceuticals to start Myovant Sciences, a standalone company that’s focused on women’s health issues. The drug candidate around which the company is centered is called Relugolix, which aims to treat endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Takeda is currently conducting two Phase 3 studies in women with uterine fibroids in Japan.

More here.

New Fundings

AOBiome, a 3.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company developing skin products that restore the body’s ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, has raised $30 million in funding from iCarbonX. More here.

Bardy Diagnostics, a three-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based company that makes cardiac arrhythmia monitoring devices, has raised an undisclosed but “significant” amount in funding from SV Life Sciences Advisers, Health Enterprise Partners, Ascension Ventures, and Square 1 Bank. Mass Device has more here.

BlackThorn Therapeutics, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that’s developing targeted treatments for neurobehavioral disorders, has raised an additional $14 million in Series A funding from GV and Biomatics Capital. The new capital brings the company’s Series A round to $54 million. More here.

Bitglass, a 3.5-year-old, Campbell, Ca.-based cloud security access broker, has raised $45 million in funding led by the Australian sovereign wealth fund Future Fund, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Norwest Venture Partners, Innov8, and others. Fortune has more here.

CloudCraze, a seven-year-old, Chicago, Il.-based enterprise commerce platform built natively on Salesforce, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from Salesforce Ventures. Built in Chicago has more here.

Grail, a year-old, San Francisco-based early cancer screening company that was spun out of the DNA-sequencing giant Illumina, is reportedly looking to raise $1.7 billion in a fresh round of funding. The company had raised $100 million in a Series A round in January of last year. Fast Company has (a little) more here.

Mediafly, a 10-year-old, Chicago-based maker of software for salespeople, has raised $10 million in funding from Boathouse Capital. Crain’s Chicago Business has more here.

Payfone, an eight-year-old, New York-based company that makes mobile identity authentication software for digital channels, has raised $23.5 million in Series E funding co-led by BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners and former Chicago executive turned investor Andrew Prozes. Other participants include Strauss Zelnick, Maclab Development Group,Transaction Network Services, RRE Ventures, Opus Capital, Relay Ventures, Early Warning Services, American Express Ventures, Verizon Ventures, and Rogers Venture Partners. More here.

Weedingtech, a five-year-old, London-based company that makes an herbicide-free weed killer, has raised £3 million ($3.7 million) in funding from Calculus Capital. Angel News has more here.

New Funds

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co. is now reportedly considering committing $10 billion to $15 billion to partner with SoftBank Group and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in that $100 billion new vehicle to invest in global technology, according to Bloomberg. The fund, which is also receiving capital from Apple and Qualcomm, aims to close this month. More here.

IPOs

Not so tech related but maybe worth mentioning: Neiman Marcus Group, the luxury department retailer, withdrew its plans for an IPO earlier today. It originally filed in August 2015 with an estimated deal size of $1 billion. More here.

Volvo Cars just raised 5 billion Swedish crowns ($532 million) from a group of Swedish institutional investors, taking it a step towards what many believe will be an IPO seven years after being bought by Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holdings. More here.

Exits

Bitcasa, a five-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that specialized in helping customers securely store their data on a variety of cloud services, has shut down and not been acquired by Intel, despite some reports to the contrary. Bitcasa had raised roughly $21 million in funding from Horizons Ventures, and Pelion Venture Partners, among others. TechCrunch has more here.
Castlight Health, a company known for making price transparency in healthcare easier to manage for self-insured employers, has acquired Jiff, a health IT company that developed an employee benefits marketplace with the idea of making these benefits easier to manage. As part of the deal, Castlight will give 27 million shares and options to former Jiff equity holders when the deal closes in the first half of this year. MedCity News has more here.

People

Campbell Brown, the former NBC News correspondent and CNN prime-time host, has joined Facebook to lead its news partnerships team, starting immediately.

Elon Musk was back at Trump Tower today and reportedly meeting with Steve Bannon, the incoming chief strategist at the White House.

Theranos just slashed another 41 percent of its workforce.

Jobs

TechCrunch‘s longtime Battlefield Editor, Sam O’Keefe, was just recruited into Google to work under cloud chief Diane Greene (sniffle). The silver lining: TC is looking for a sharp replacement — someone who can recruit top-notch startups, choose others from a huge pool of applicants, and whip them into shape for their stage appearances. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Great look by Recode into the weekly meetings Mark Zuckerberg continues to hold with Facebook‘s now 16,000 employees  catch-ups where secrets are shared yet astonishingly little is leaked.

Detours

The “James Bond of philanthropy” gives away the last of his fortune.

The 30 Most Disappointing Under 30.

Retail Therapy

Nothing like receiving a potato that reads, “Stacey, I still love you.”




StrictlyVC: January 5, 2017

Hi, all, happy Thursday! No column today (we’ve been on serial calls), but we have some good stuff coming up.

Also! Don’t forget to nab your ticket to StrictlyVC’s upcoming event on Wednesday, February 8 if you haven’t already. We’ve had one scheduling change — Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix can no longer make it, alas —  but we’ll be announcing a new fireside soon. (It’ll be great.) A big fat thank you again to CrunchBase, Rosebud Communications, and Bolt for partnering with us on this event at the beautiful Autodesk Gallery in downtown SF. We couldn’t put together these evenings filled with great food for thought — and great food — without your support.:)

Top News in the A.M.

A former Snapchat employee says the company is misleading investors to drive up its IPO and that he was fired for being a whistleblower, according to a heavily redacted complaint filed yesterday in L.A. County Superior Court. The Hollywood Reporter has more here.
TechCrunch has tons of live CES coverage; if you’re missing out on the zaniness happening right now in Vegas, you can watch some of it here.

New Fundings

Avizia, a 3.5-year-old, Reston, Va.-based telehealth platform, has added $1 million to a previously closed Series A financing, bringing the total round to $18 million. Investors include Northwell Ventures, HealthQuest Capital, and the major health system NewYork-Presbyterian. More here.

Blockstack, a three-year-old, New York-based decentralized Internet and developer platform for secure, serverless apps, has raised $5.3 million in new funding led by earlier investor Union Square Ventures, shows a new SEC filing that was processed yesterday.  The company was formerly known as Onename. TechCrunch has more here.
Cerêve, an eight-year-old, Pittsburgh Pa.-based company that’s preparing to launch its FDA-cleared insomnia device, has raised $38 million in Series B funding led by KKR, with participation from Versant Ventures, Arboretum Ventures, and Partner Ventures. More here.

Chushou TV, a six-year-old, China-based mobile video live streaming platform specialized in mobile games, has raised $58 million in new funding led by GGV Capital and Shunwei Capital, with participation from Qiming Venture Partners and Feidian Capital. China Money Network has more here.

ClearScholar, a year-old, Indianapolis, In.-based mobile student engagement platform, has raised $1.25 million in seed funding from High Alpha Capital, Elevate Ventures, Butler University, Cindy and Paul Skjodt through Bulle Investments, and Stephen Simon, co-founder of Simon Equity Partners. More here.

Exact Imaging, a 13-year-old, Markham, Canada-based maker of micro-ultrasound systems that are used for prostate biopsies, has raised C$21.5 million ($16 million) in Series C funding co-led by Lumira Capital and Vesalius Biocapital, with participation from Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen and earlier backers iGan Partners and Rowanwood Ventures.

Fugue, a four-year-old, Frederick, Md.-based operating system for managing cloud-based workloads, has raised $41 million in Series D funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Maryland Venture Fund and Future Fund. SiliconAngle has more here.

Klipfolio, a 15-year-old, Ottawa, Canada-based maker of cloud-based business intelligence dashboards, has raised C$12 million ($9 million) in Series B funding led by OMERS Ventures. Other participants in the round include BDC Capital, Mistral Venture Partners, Fundfire, Boldstart Ventures, Acadia Woods, and Converge Venture Partners. BetaKit has more here.

Molecular Stethoscope, a year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based biotechnology company that’s developing blood-based early detection and disease monitoring tests, has raised $8.2 million in seed financing from DCVC, Pfizer, Index Ventures, and unnamed “top five” U.S.-based research university and unnamed individual investors. More here.

Namely, a four-year-old, New York-based SaaS HR firm that focuses on mid-sized companies and offers both payroll and benefits services, has raised $50 million in additional Series D funding that brings the round to $80 million. This newest financing was led by Altimeter Capital and Scale Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners, and True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Neon Therapeutics, a year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based immuno-oncology company that’s developing therapeutic vaccines and therapies to treat cancer, has raised $70 million in Series B funding led by the hedge fund Partner Fund Management, with participation from Third Rock Ventures, Access Industries, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Wellington Management Company, Inbio Ventures, and Nextech Invest. Xconomy has more here.
OmniActive Health Technologies, an 11-year-old, Mumbai, India-based supplier of naturally sourced ingredients for eye health, weight management, and heart health, has raised $35 million in funding from the Everstone Group. FinSMEs has more here.

Reputation.com, a 10-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company that sells online reputation management services, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Ascension Ventures. Other participants in the round include earlier backers August Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Icon Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Focus Ventures. According to CrunchBase, the company has previously raised at least $67 million from investors. More here.

Rethink Robotics, an eight-year-old, Boston-based company that develops robots for production and research environments, has raised $18 million as part of a Series E round. Investors include the private equity investment firm Adveq, as well as earlier backers Bezos Expeditions, CRV, Highland Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, DFJ, Two Sigma Ventures, GE Ventures and Goldman Sachs. Robotics & Automation News has more here.

New Funds

Better Ventures, an Oakland-based seed-stage venture firm that focuses on triple-bottom-line startups, has raised $21 million for its second fund, according to TechCrunch. More here.

IPOs

If Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc. goes public this year as expected, some employees will find themselves holding stock worth millions of dollars. But much of their newfound wealth will quickly vanish, reports The Information. Here’s why.

Exits

Last year DJI took a minority stake in Hasselblad, the iconic Swedish camera company. Now, numerous outlets are reporing that DJI has decided to acquire a majority stake in the company. More here.

People

Interesting: Ralph Diaz, long the global director retail operations for Oakley, has joined Snap Inc. in the new role of Head of Retail Store Operations. (H/T: Biz Carson.)
Kimbal Musk — brother of serial entrepreneur Elon Musk — just opened a shipping container farm compound in New York City. Business Insider has more here.

According to a surprise news release issued yesterday, Craig Venter, founder and CEO of the genomics-driven healthcare company Human Longevity, will be stepping down from his post this coming Monday, to be replaced by former GE Healthcare executive Cindy Collins. According to MedCity News, Venter revealed last month that he’d undergone surgery for prostrate cancer; the company says his health didn’t play a role in the announcement.

According to a blog post authored yesterday by Medium CEO Ev Williams, his well-funded startup is laying off 50 employees in non-engineering roles and shuttering its offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Bloomberg has more here.

Jobs

Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America is looking for a strategy and innovation analyst to help it develop an incubator. The job is in the Bay Area.

Essential Reads

At CES, it’s become clear that Amazon is trying to get Alexa, its voice-powered assistant, into everything.

Amazon is also taking this apparel thing seriously, with Reuters reporting this morning that the e-commere juggernaut is in the running to acquire bankrupt American Apparel.

But wait, there’s more! Amazon is also opening a 4,000-square foot bookstore at Columbus Circle, at the edge of Central Park. (Strange times.)

Meanwhile, in other company news: Didi is backing another Uber rival; this time it’s Brazi’s ride-hailing service 99. As Recode reports, Didi is leading a $100 million round in the company and joining its board.
The U.S. Department of Labor is suing Google to obtain compensation data from the company, a federal contractor that’s required to let the government review documents to show it’s in compliance with equal employment laws but hasn’t complied to date. TechCrunch has more here.

Detours

This 105-year-old is in better shape than we are. (He credits fruits, vegetables, and a good night’s sleep.)

China isn’t so crazy about the Donald’s pick for chief trade negotiator, with state media warning this morning that there are “big sticks” awaiting Americans.

Poor Brownies. New research shows that one in three(!) pass attempts ends with their quarterback on the ground.

Retail Therapy

Consol Solar Jars. (Bright idea.)




StrictlyVC: January 4, 2017

Hi, everyone! Happy Wednesday.:) Hope yours is going well.

Top News in the A.M.

The price of bitcoin is soaring to new heights today.

Donald Trump said today that he plans to nominate Jay Clayton, a partner with the prominent New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, to lead the SEC. As an advisor to Goldman Sachs, Clayton is the latest appointment with strong ties to Wall Street, notes Dealbook. More here.

Rockets of Awesome, a New Kids’ Clothing Brand, Just Raised $12.5M

Stitch Fix, Trunk Club, and other subscription e-commerce businesses have made it easier for adults to discover clothing they like without having to trundle through department stores. Users sign up for the services, which survey them about their likes, dislikes, preferred brands and price points, then they begin receiving pre-scheduled or on-demand deliveries of clothes that they can either keep or return.

The services ostensibly grow smarter the longer the consumer uses the service. They also appeal to parents, who want the same easy shopping experience when it comes to outfitting their kids. So suggests $12.5 million in new funding for Rockets of Awesome, a year-old, New York-based subscription service that sends 12 pieces of clothing per child to its customers at the start of each season and that charges parents only for what they keep. (Returns are free and the company says it learns from them to improve its customers’ experience.)

The new round was led by August Capital, with participation from earlier backers General Catalyst Partners and Forerunner Ventures, which had previously provided the company with $7 million in seed funding, along with Female Founders Fund and Launch Incubator.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently wrote a check to another newish retail brand backed by General Catalyst called Outdoor Voices, also joined the round.

Rockets of Awesome isn’t an exact replica of its adult-centric predecessors. Most significantly, it isn’t acting as a personal shopper. Instead of sending brands to parents that they (or their kids) like, the company makes it own apparel.

More here.

New Fundings

Ascletis, a five-year-old, Chapel Hill, N.C.-based specialty therapeutics company that’s developing treatments for cancer and infectious diseases, has raised $100 million in Series B funding led by C-Bridge Capital, with participation from QianHai Equity Investment, Focus Media Jiangnanchun Foundation, WTT Investment, Goldman Sachs, and Tasly, a China-based pharmaceutical company. FierceBiotech has more here.

Audio Analytic, an eight-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based company whose sound recognition software is used by security and home automation companies so their devices can detect sounds like smoke alarms and glass breaking, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding led by Cambridge Innovation Capital. Other participants in the round include IQ Capital, Rockspring, Cambridge Angels and Martlet.

Mobibike, a 1.5-year-old, Shanghai, China-based bike share service, has raised a whopping $215 million in Series D funding led by internet giant Tencent (which is an earlier investor in the company) and Warburg Pincus. Other participants in the round include the online travel giant CtripHuazhu Hotels Group, and earlier backers Sequoia China and Hillhouse Capital. The company did not disclose its valuation. TechCrunch has more here.

Ripio, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based bitcoin and digital payments startup formerly known as BitPagos, has raised $1.9 million in Series A funding led by Huiyin Blockchain Venture, with participation from Digital Currency Group, Boost VC and Draper VC. TechCrunch has more here.

Sarcos Robotics, a two-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.- based company that makes dexterous industrial robots for use in unstructured environments, has raised $15.6 million in Series A  funding led by Schlumberger, with participation from Microsoft, GE Ventures, and Caterpillar. More here.

Satchel, a London-based company whose onlin platform, Show My Homework, allows teachers to set, grade and monitor homework while keeping parents informed of their child’s progress, has raised £2.4 million (roughly $3 million) in seed funding led by LocalGlobe. More here.

scPharmaceuticals, a two-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing drugs for subcutaneous delivery, has raised $45.6 million in Series B funding co-led by OrbiMed and a Sun Pharma subsidiary, with participation from return backers 5AM Ventures and Lundbeckfond Ventures. More here.

Synthego, a four-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based genetic engineering startup whose products currently focus on helping scientists in their Crispr research by providing important genetic material used in the process, has raised $41 million in Series B funding. The firm 8VC led the round, with participation from top biochemist Jennifer Doudna, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, and previous investors Founders Fund and Menlo Ventures. Dealbook has more here.

New Funds

Digitalis, a year-old, New York-based seed- and early-stage venture fund aiming to fund startups that focus on human health, is looking to raise $100 million for its debut fund. Digitalis was founded by longtime VC Geoffrey Smith, who previously spent 14 years as a general partner with Ascent Biomedical Ventures and more recently worked as a managing director at Mars Ventures. More here.

SoftBank Group has lined up San Diego-based chip maker Qualcomm as an investor in its new technology fund, helping the portfolio reach its $100 billion goal. Meanwhile, Apple has today confirmed that it plans to invest $1 billion in the same fund. More here and here.

SOSV Investments, a Cork, Ireland-based accelerator and venture capital firm, has raised $150 million for its third fund — and SOSV’s first fund open to be open to outside investors. Its LPs include International Finance Corp., the Lemelson Foundation, the Russell Family Foundation, and Harmonix co-founder Alex RigopolousMore here.

Versant Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm focusing on healthcare investments, has raised $400 million for its sixth fund. According to the firm, it plans to invest in up to 25 companies from the fund; 20 percent of them are expected to be medical device companies, with the rest going into biotech ventures. More here.

IPOs

China’s third-biggest search engine — Sougou — expects to hold a U.S. IPO at a valuation of as much as $5 billion as it races to catch leader Baidu in the mobile market. Its CEO tells Bloomberg that it plans to sell about 10 percent of its shares in an offering that will probably happen this year.

Exits

Floored, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based commercial real estate software company, is being acquired by the real estate services firm CBRE Group for undisclosed terms. CBRE says Floored’s 39 employees will join its ranks as part of the agreement. Floored had raised roughly $7.4 million from investors, shows CrunchBase. Its backers include RRE Ventures, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Accel Partners, Greycroft Partners, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Two Sigma Ventures. More here.

PureWow, a six-year-old, New York-based digital media company focused on “upper” millennial and Gen-X women, has been acquired by The Gallery, a new company that will house PureWow and seek to build out or acquire other media properties to target readers in different demographic groups. PureWow is technically being acquired by investor Gary Vaynerchuk, along with RSE Ventures, a venture firm led by real estate developer and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Vanyer/RSE, a fund founded by Vaynerchuk and Ross, were also among PureWow’s investors. The WSJ has more here.

Freskdesk, a six-year-old, San Bruno, Ca.-baesd venture-backed cloud customer service platform, has acquired the two-year-old, Banglaore-based startup Pipemonk for an undisclosed amount. Pipemonk helps companies move data between cloud platforms. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Novartis’s former pharmaceuticals head, David Epstein, has joined a biotech-focused venture-capital firm, in what is becoming a well-trodden path for drug-industry bosses. More here.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given more weight to the idea that he could move into politics with the announcement of his personal challenge for 2017. This year he wants to have visited and met people in every state in the U.S. He wouldn’t be limited to just two years working in the government while still controlling Facebook, as has been widely reported, either. A closer examination of SEC by TechCrunch documents reveals he need only own enough Facebook stock or have the (fairly small, insular) board’s approval to be allowed to serve in government indefinitely.

Where are they now: a look at where the first class of Thiel Fellows has landed, five years after dropping out of school to join the program.

Jobs

Blumberg Capital, an early-stage venture firm, is looking to bring aboard an associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Cota Capital, an early-stage venture firm, is looking to hire an associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Fenox Venture Capital, an early-stage venture firm, is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in San Jose, Ca.

Essential Reads

What Silicon Valley sees in Enterprise Rent-a Car.

Amazon now plans to sell its own line of workout clothes.

Five years in, Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project isn’t much closer to becoming a real city.

Detours

Americans eat 554 million Jack in the Box tacos a year, and no one knows why.

A two-year experiment in Sweden that involved cutting working hours while maintaining pay levels is coming to an end; here’s what happened.

Stuck in Vegas for CES? Here are the five restaurant reservations you apparently be making right now.

Retail Therapy

The Frauscher 1414; it’s a lil’ devil.




StrictlyVC: January 3, 2017

Happy New Year, best readers in the world! No column today. Like a lot you, we’d guess, we’re playing catch-up this morning.

Note: we’re looking for fresh story ideas after a couple of weeks of family time; if you’re tracking a trend that we should be covering or sitting on something juicy, we’re all ears.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vega$ this week. Here are five trends to expect this year.

New Fundings

Byte Foods, a year-old, San Rafael, Ca.-based startup that makes smart vending machines and runs a delivery service stocking them with healthy food from local vendors, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding led by Spring Creek Investment Management, a family fund based in Philadelphia. Other investors in the round include Bolt and Bessemer Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
Flytrex, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that’s building personal delivery drones capable of transporting small packages, has raised $3 million in funding led by the Swiss-based venture firm Armada VC, angel investors Daniel Gutenberg and Joey Low, and several unnamed individuals. TechCrunch has more here.
Intarcia Therapeutics, a 20-year-old, Boston-based biopharmaceutical company, has raised $206 million in a second close of the Series EE equity financing. FinSMEs has more here.

Integrated Diagnostics, a seven-year-old, Seattle-based company whose diagnostic test identifies which patients are most likely to need an invasive lung biopsy, has raised $6.1 million in Series C funding from Baird Capital and InterWest Partners. Puget Sound Business Journal has more here.

NA-KD, a 1.-5-year-old, Gothenburg, Sweden-based fashion ecommerce company, raised €14 million ($14.5 million) in a funding led by Northzone, with participation from eEquity. Tech.eu has more here.

Minerva Surgical, an eight-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company that’s developing technologies to treat abnormal uterine bleeding, has raised $16.7 million in new funding and wants to raise $10 million more. Mass Device has more here.

Monese, a three-year-old London-based fintech startup whose mobile banking app aims to make it easier for immigrants and expats to open a bank account, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Backers include Anthemis Exponential Ventures, STE Capital, and Korea Investment Partners, along with earlier backers Smartcap and Seedcamp. The company has now raised $15.8 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Proterra, a 12-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based maker of zero-emission electric buses, has raised $140 million in new funding led by an undisclosed investor who contributed $40 million. Other participants in the round include Tao Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GM Ventures, Constellation Technology Ventures, 88 Green Ventures, and Edison Energy. Fortune has more here.

Rent the Runway, a seven-year-old, New York-based startup that enables women to rent high-end apparel and accessories, has raised $60 million in Series C funding led by Fidelity Investments. Technology Crossover Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Highland Capital Partners and Advance Publications also participated in the round. Recode has more here.

Tattoodo, a three-year-old Copenhagen, Denmark-based online forum for artists and tattoo lovers looking to share custom designs and personal stories, has raised $8.5 million in fresh funding from mostly earlier backers, including AOL executive Jimmy Maymann. Nordic 9 has more here.

New Funds

Data Collective, a Palo Alto and San Francisco-based seed and early-stage venture firm that bets on big data and IT infrastructure-focused startups, has tacked on $35 million to its fourth fund, which held a close of $177 million back in May. Here’s the SEC filing. FinSMEs has more here.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has cofounded a new venture firm calledLoup Ventures and is targeting $20 million for its debut fund. He talks here with TechCrunch about where he’ll be based, and what he’s looking to invest in.

Trifecta Capital, a 2.5-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based venture debt firm — the first in India, says the firm — is looking to close its debut fund with $73.5 million by the end of the first quarter. Cofounder Rahul Khanna was previously a managing director with Canaan Partners India. DealStreetAsia has more about the outfit and the opportunity it’s chasing here.

IPOs

Last week, AppDynamics, a company that sells software for application performance management, submitted its S-1 regulatory filing, kicking off the process to go public. The company is looking to raise $100 million in the deal. VentureBeat has more here.

Exits

After opening to much fanfare three years ago, Coca-Cola is shutting down its incubator, The Founders program. TechCrunch has more here.

Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei has made its second acquisition of an Israeli company in three weeks, buying Israeli database security and compliance startup Hexatier for $42 million, according to the Calcalist. Hexatier had raised $14.4 million, shows CrunchBase. Its backers include Jerusalem Venture Partners and Magma Venture Partners. Geektime has more here.

Oculus has paid an undisclosed amount to acquire The Eye Tribe, a Danish startup that had developed eye-tracking software which enables eye movements to control consumer devices.The Eye Tribe had raised around $3 million from investors including Startup Bootcamp, and it received a $2.3 million grant from The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. TechCrunch has more here.

PayByPhone, a 15-year-old, Vancouver-based startup whose app lets users pay for parking and parking tickets with a smartphone, has been acquired for undisclosed terms by Volkswagen Financial Services.  TechCrunch has more here.

Snapchat sewed up its first acquisition in Israel over the holidays, buying four-year-old Cimagine, whose augmented reality platform lets consumers instantly visualize products they want to buy in their intended location. The price was reportedly between $30 million and $40 million. CrunchBase shows that Cimagine had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding, including from iVentures Asia, OurCrowd, and PLUS Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and tennis superstar Serena Williams are engaged. Williams announced the engagement last week on none other than Reddit. More here.

Jason Shellen, who has served as Slack’s head of product for its platform efforts since February, has left the company, Recode reports. Shellen previously spent less than a year working on product at Pinterest. Earlier in his career, beginning in early 2003, he spent 4.5 years with Google. More here.
When Snapchat goes on the road next year to market its IPO, cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel is expected to figure prominently in conversations with investors during the roadshow, according to the WSJ. More here.
Forty female founders who had a very good 2016.

Forbes just published its annual “30 Under 30” list, though it actually features 20 categories with 30 nominees, so find a comfortable seat before you scroll through this one.

Jobs

Madison Square Garden Company, the live sports and entertainment giant (its portfolio of sports teams includes the New York Knicks), has a new venture arm called MSG Ventures and it’s looking to hire a principal. The job is in New York.

Data

Nontech companies spent nearly $10 billion buying venture-backed U.S. startups in 2016, nearly double the amount in 2015 and the highest total in at least five years, according to PitchBook. The WSJ has more here.

Essential Reads

This San Francisco startup is putting everything you need for a two-acre farm in a shipping container, with hopes to deploy farm kits to governments, NGOs, schools and individuals.

Thirty-one companies poised to go public this year.

The eight most valuable startups in the U.S. right now.

Detours

Early proponents of the 401(k) meant for them to supplement pensions, not replace them. Now, they say they regret how their creation turned out.

Universal basic income is here. Well, not here, but in Finland, which just launched a radical experiment to give 2,000 people a guaranteed income for at least the next two years.

Retail Therapy

Shower Beer for introverts. “Never show surprise. Never lose your cool.” (Better yet, maybe never drink beer in the shower before you head out!)




StrictlyVC: December 23, 2016

And we are outta here (for the next week). Thank you so much for reading, everyone. We wish you very happily holidays and a joy-filled new year.

Good riddance, 2016, you lousy, yella’, good for nothin’, filthy animal.

Top News in the A.M.

Google is coming out with two smartwatches of its own.

New Fundings

CrowdCow, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based startup that invites users to “buy a cow with friends,” has raised $2 million in seed funding, shows an SEC filing. The startup was founded by Ethan Lowry and Joe Heitzeberg. Lowry co-created the Urbanspoon mobile app; Heitzeberg worked at SnapVine, MediaPiston and Whitepages previously. More here.

Koubei, 12-year-old, Hangzhou, China-based on-demand services company that’s owned by Alibaba (it deals in local services, including food delivery), is reportedly close to securing $1.2 billion in fundingfrom first-time investors Silver Lake Management and China’s sovereign wealth fund. Bloomberg has more here.

Nutmeg, a six-year-old, London-based online investment service, has raised $14.6 million in additional funding for its Series D round. The new infusion comes from Taipei Fubon Bank, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s second largest financial services firm. Earlier backers in the now $51 million round include Convoy, which is Hong Kong’s largest listed independent financial advice firm, and previous investors Balderton Capital, Pentech, Armada Investment Group and Nigel Wray. Nutmeg has now raised roughly $86 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Plutora, a four-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based enterprise release, test environment, and software quality management platform, has raised $13.4 million in funding from Macquarie Capital. FinSMEs has more here.

Polychain Capital, a six-month-old, San Francisco-based cryptocurrency hedge fund, has raised $10 million from Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. Business Insider has more here.
Shaper, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based robotics company that integrates computers with handheld power tools to make it easier to create stuff, has raised $13.3 million in new funding, shows a new SEC filing. According to CrunchBase, the company had raised $3 million in seed funding as of August, including from Root Ventures, SOSV, and Eniac Ventures. More about the company here.

New Funds

Algebra Ventures, an eight-year-old, Cairo, Egypt-based venture capital firm that invests in regional startups, has held a first held a first close on its latest fund with $40 million in commitments. Its LPs include International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund; and Cisco. The fund, which aims to close with $50 million, reportedly writes checks that range from $500,000 to $4 million. Wamda has more here.

Felicitous Investors, a four-year-old, L.A.-based wealth management firm cofounded by Bonar Chhay (formerly an investment manager with J. Paul Getty Trust), is aiming to raise up to $75 million for a secondaries fund and is roughly $14 million toward its goal, shows an SEC filing. More here.
Lightbox India Advisors, a Mumbai, India-based venture capital firm, has tacked on $54 million to it second fund, which had closed with $100 million in 2014. DealStreetAsia has more here.
SignalFire, a San Francisco-based seed-stage venture capital firm, has raised at least $101.5 million so far for its second fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm was reportedly seeking to raise up to three times that amount. (Its debut fund had closed with $53 million.) We profiled founder Chris Farmer last year.

IPOs

Blue Apron has put its IPO plans on hold; it needs to focus on improving its financials first, sources tell Bloomberg.

Stripe, the world’s most valuable privately held financial tech company, also as “no plans” for an IPO in the foreseeable future, it tells Business Insider. Here’s why.

Exits

ClusterHQ, an early player in the container DevOps ecosystem, is shutting down operations immediately. The company had raised $12 million in a Series A round led by Accel Partners London last year. TechCrunch has more here.

People

An Uber employee has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of misleading employees about their equity compensation. Uber “devised a fraudulent scheme to recruit highly sought software engineers,” according to the case. TechCrunch has much more here.

Lisa Suennen, a VC focused on digital health, has been snapped up by GE Ventures. Her title is managing director, focused on healthcare. Suennen had previously spent sixteen years with Psilos Group. Healthcare IT News has more here.

Jobs

Google‘s corporate development team is hiring an analyst. The job is in Mountain View. Ca.

Data

The U.S. wearables marketing is doing meh, show a new report from eMarketer that says the market was expected to grow more than 60 percent year-over-year from 2015 to 2016 but probably grew closer to 25 percent. More here.

Essential Reads

Just one day after California’s DMV revoked the registrations of Uber‘s 16 autonomous cars following reports of continual traffic violations in San Francisco, the cars are headed to . . . the streets of Phoenix.

The Apple Watch may get slimmed down, judging by a new patent application.
As a result of legal actions relating to the Freedom of Information Act, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has released thousands of pages of email correspondence from a private account, and the documents are providing an unusual glimpse at how influential Silicon Valley figures get work done.

Detours

The thief who steals only silver.

Who’s wasting the most vacation days?

Almost 40 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 were living with parents, siblings, or other relatives as of last year — the largest percentage since 1940.

Retail Therapy

A stocking stuffer for your favorite VC.