Monthly Archives: February 2017

StrictlyVC: January 26, 2017

Hi, happy Thursday, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

So that’s why Hugo Barra is coming back to Cali. Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post that Barra — a former executive at Google and, more recently, the Chinese phone maker Xiaomi — has joined the company to lead its virtual reality business. More here.

Why Silicon Valley is High-Fiving Over Trump’s SEC Pick

Wall Street lawyer Walter “Jay” Clayton hasn’t been officially appointed to the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission yet. But given the finite amount of political capital that Democrats wield right now, it’s easy to imagine that he’ll be confirmed and fairly easily when it’s his turn on Capitol Hill.

That’s probably welcome news for startup founders and investors who’d seen greater interest in their affairs by the SEC over the last year and will now most likely be left to their own devices.

If haven’t read about him yet, Clayton is the “insider’s insider — a deal maker,” as Dealbook noted earlier this month, when then President-elect Trump selected him to run the agency. A Washington lawyer at the white-shoe firm Sullivan & Cromwell, Clayton has spent his career focused on public and private M&A (including advising Goldman Sachs on various acquisitions), capital markets offerings (including working on Alibaba’s 2014 IPO), and enforcement proceedings (including to help clients settle some mortgage related securities claims after the financial crisis of 2008).

What does that background mean for Silicon Valley? Two things, says political strategist and investor Bradley Tusk, who advises startups on how to navigate changing regulations. For starters, Clayton has “some tech experience, which should be appealing to the tech industry,” he says.

Tusk acknowledges that working on the Alibaba IPO isn’t akin to managing the “deal flow you’d see at Wilson Sonsini,” a law firm that has long and famously worked with startups. “But he’s not a total stranger to the sector; he understands its impact on the economy.”

Perhaps more notably, says Tusk, Clayton “isn’t a policy activist. I don’t think this is someone with an ideological view about how security regulation should be expanded.”

More here.

New Fundings

Jiobit, a 1.5-year-old, Chicago-based self-learning location tracking technology, has raised $3 million in seed funding, including from Lior Ron, the cofounder of Otto (now owned by Uber) which is developing autonomous trucks, Chicago-based MATH Venture Partners and Inflection Equity. TechCrunch has more here.

Lighthouse, a three-year-old, New York-company whose app takes data from sensors like Bluetooth beacons to deliver information about users’ surroundings based on their exact position, has raised $940,000 from Tamarisc, an early stage venture capital firm that invests in real estate technology companies. Other participants in the round include Morningside Technology Ventures and Storm Industries Investments. TechCrunch has more here.

Raisin, a 3.5-yearold, Berlin, Germany-based financial marketplace that enables savers to access deposit rates across Europe, has raised €30 million ($32 million) in Series C funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from earlier investors Ribbit Capital and Index Ventures. Tech.eu has more here.

Reflektive, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to replace the typically painful review process with a lightweight, real-time feedback system that integrates into an employee’s daily workflow, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from fellow earlier investor Andreessen Horowitz. TechCrunch has more here.

Verily Life Sciences, the medical arm of Alphabet, has raised $800 million from the Singapore-based investment company Temasek Holdings, which aims to bring the company’s futuristic healthcare approach to Asian markets. Bloomberg has the story here.

New Funds

Venrock, the 47-year-old venture firm that started as the venture arm of the Rockefeller family, has closed its eighth fund with $450 million, which longtime partner Bryan Roberts calls “not too big and not too small, but just about right” in a new blog post. More here.

Exits

The Waterloo, Ontario-based messaging company Kik has made its second major acquisition, acquiring the nine-year-old, Tel Aviv-based mobile video app maker Rounds in deal that Israeli media is reporting to be in the region of $60 million to $80 million. According to Crunchbase, Rounds had raised $17 million from investors, including Verizon Ventures and Sequoia Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Tesla is suing former employee Sterling Anderson, who acted as Director of its Autopilot Programs for just over a year, for breach of contract. The suit accuses Anderson of having tried to recruit away employees from Tesla with the intent of starting his own autonomous driving company, and of also taking Tesla proprietary confidential information to support this goal. TechCrunch has more here.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and Facebook board member, is leading the Trump administration’s search to fill the government’s two top antitrust enforcement jobs, including the head of the Federal Trade Commission and the head of the Justice Department, BuzzFeed reports.

Jobs

Accomplice, the Boston-based venture firm, plans to hire a partner and either one or two junior investment professionals in San Francisco, according to a new report in Axios. Work those connections if you want to be one of them.

Aster Capital is looking to hire an associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

The $99 billion idea: How Airbnb and Uber beat everyone.

Doctors in London say they have cured two babies of leukemia in the world’s first attempt to treat cancer with genetically engineered immune cells from a donor.

Detours

@MerriamWebster speaks up.

Why fractals are so soothing.

Ten really unexpected styling tricks for men.

Retail Therapy

The Warehouse Hotel (H/T: Uncrate).


StrictlyVC: January 25, 2017

Wednesday! Yes, we’re very late. Just know we did not forget you!

Top News in the A.M.

So much for the first big tech IPO of the year. As you’ve likely heard, Cisco has snapped up software developer AppDynamics for $3.7 billion on the eve of its IPO. That stinks for other pre-IPO companies hoping to use it as a weather gage; it’s great for early investors, given the premium they’re seeing over the $1.9 billion valuation AppDynamics was assigned in late 2015. Either way, if you’re wondering what happened, TechCrunch says investment bank Qatalyst Partners — an M&A specialist — injected itself into the process at the eleventh hour.

A Cross-Border Investor Ponders What’s Next, as U.S.-China Relations Grow Frosty

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to launch a trade war with China, threats that the country is beginning to take ever more seriously.

Over at GGV Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that’s been actively investing in China for more than 15 years, managing director Hans Tung seems to be watching the jockeying with some wonderment – and patience.

The China native suggests he’s taking his cues from his network, including in Shanghai and Beijing, where GGV has offices. “China isn’t so much concerned with [President Trump yet]; they understand that he can turn right one day and turn left the next to win support. The general thinking is: Let’s see what happens when it comes to actual negotiations. I think the [Chinese government] doesn’t want to overreact in any given moment.”

In a call yesterday, Tung also referred repeatedly to Jack Ma, the founder and CEO of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, a firm that GGV backed in its earlier days. Ma had said last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos that China should give Trump some time to settle in, adding that a “trade war would be a disaster for the world.”

Ma said he felt so passionately that, given a theoretical choice between keeping his company alive or averting a trade war he would “shut Alibaba down.” (That’s not simple theatrics, seemingly. Ma stated his concerns about a trade war in August, telling CNN, “We should keep on going along the path of globalization. Globalization is good . . . when trade stops, war comes.”)

Tung yesterday suggested that China is largely being made a scapegoat by Trump – or sees things that way, in any case. The government “looks at how much the U.S. has spent on wars with Iraq and other things instead of creating jobs and boosting its own capabilities in the Rust Belt. China [will tell you it] never tried to steal jobs. If the U.S had done a better job of reinvesting its money and gotten multinationals to repatriate their money back to the U.S., it would be in much better shape.”

The big question specifically for Tung, who logs hundreds of thousands of miles each year traveling between the two countries, is how suddenly icy relations between the Trump administration and China could impact his own work.

He seems genuinely unconcerned for now.

More here.

New Fundings

Button, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based marketplace for app integrations, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Redpoint Ventures, DCM, and Greycroft Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Cleo, a 15-month-old, London-based startup behind an AI-powered chatbot to help users manage their finances, has raised $700,000 in seed funding from a powerful list of angel investors, including Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Zoopla co-founder Alex Chesterman, and Wonga co-founder Errol Damelin. TechCrunch has more here.

Doctolib, a 3.5-year-old, Paris-baed online and mobile booking platform that helps users find specialist doctors nearby and book appointments, has raised $28 million in new funding led by Bpifrance, with participation from Ludwig Klitzsch and earlier backers Accel Partners, Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet and Nicolas Brusson. TechCrunch has more here.

KenSci, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based healthcare data platform, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding led by Ignition Partners, with participation from Osage University Partners and Mindset Ventures. The Seattle Times has more here.

Ring, a four-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based video doorbell and connected security device startup whose newest product is a video motion floodlight, has raised $109 million in Series D funding led by DFJ Growth, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Qualcomm Ventures. Other participants in the round include Sir Richard Branson, American Family Insurance, Shea Ventures, and True Ventures. The financing also includes “a small amount” of debt funding from Silicon Valley Bank, says the company. TechCrunch has more here.

SentinelOne, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based endpoint security company, has raised $70 million in Series C funding led by earlier investor Redpoint Ventures , with participation from Sound Ventures and earlier backers Third Point Ventures, Data Collective, Granite Hill Capital Partners, Westly Group, and SineWave Ventures. SentinelOne has now raised $110 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

Vestiaire Collective, an eight-year-old, Paris-based e-commerce marketplace for clothing and fashion accessories, has raised $62 million in fresh funding led by Vitruvian Partners, with participation from earlier investors Eurazeo and Idinvest. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Greg Duffy, the cofounder and CEO of Dropcam, who came to both privately and publicly loathe Nest co-founder Tony Fadell after Nest acquired his company, has joined Apple in a role that neither Duffy or Apple are prepared to discuss. The Information has the scoop here.

Elon Musk seems to be serious about digging a tunnel from SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Ca., headquarters to destinations unknown for now.

Musk, now part of a group of business leaders who will be meeting at the White House quarterly to discuss manufacturing in the U.S., also believes longtime ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson would be an “excellent” U.S. Secretary of State.

Apparently, lawmakers in New Zealand are just as surprised as the rest of us that Peter Thiel quietly acquired citizenship in the country back in 2011.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has no plans to run for president, he told BuzzFeed News yesterday.

Jobs

Samsung is looking to hire an investment manager to help with its $100 million Catalyst Fund (which looks to back startups focused on components and subsystems). The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.

Essential Reads

Computer scientists at Stanford set out to create an artificially intelligent diagnosis algorithm for skin cancer. It can now perform as well as dermatologists in identifying skin cancer. (The ubiquitous Sebastian Thrun was involved in this effort.)

Detours

The secret code of modern snobs.

The heroism of incremental care.

RIP, Mary Tyler Moore.

Retail Therapy

Keen to join Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach resort owned by the Trump Organization? Better save up; it just doubled its initiation fee to $200,000.


StrictlyVC: January 24, 2017

Hi, happy Tuesday, everyone!

We’re still running a fever over here, so if we aren’t responding to your emails, this is why. We fully hope/plan to be back in top shape for our upcoming StrictlyVC event on February 8. We ran out of seats about 10 days ago, but we’ll be posting plenty of content for those of you who can’t make it. Giant thanks again to sponsors Rosebud Communications, Crunchbase and Bolt, without whose help the night would not be possible.

Earlier that same week, we hope to see some of you at TechCrunch’s annual Crunchies awards ceremony, happening in San Francisco. It’s always a fun night. (We’re especially excited to be giving away the award for best VC of 2016 with renowned brainiac Sebastian Thrun.) You can buy tickets for that show right here.

Top News in the A.M.

Publishers are receiving far less money than you might guess from placing their content on the third-party distribution platforms owned by companies including FacebookGoogle, and Snapchat, according to a new report by Digital Content Next. Business Insider has more here.

Cowboy Ventures Adds Longtime Attorney Ted Wang as a Partner

Ted Wang has spent his career helping startups make important decisions, from Facebook, to Twitter, to Dropbox, to Jet. He’s done it as a partner with the law firm Fenwick & West over the last decade. Now he’s betting his skills can translate as an investor. Indeed, today, Wang joins the seed-stage venture firm Cowboy Ventures as a full-time investment partner.

Firm cofounder Aileen Lee, who remains Cowboy’s only general partner, sounded highly enthusiastic about Wang when we chatted about his new appointment yesterday. Lee and Wang met a dozen years ago at an election night party, and they became fast enough friends that they’ve taken family vacations together, including in Buenos Aires, where Wang and his family were based for some time.

Beyond their friendship, Lee says, Wang has alerted her to companies he has found particularly interesting in the past (including a young Twitter). She has also steered numerous portfolio companies to him owing to his strong track record with startups. (As Wang himself is quick to note, founders are careful in picking both investors as well as lawyers. “In both cases, the founder is looking for who can help the most and with whom they have have the best chemistry.”)

Wang also authored Series Seed Documents, a set of open-sourced financing documents posted on Github.

Asked yesterday if Wang thought he was prepared to dive right into investing, or whether there’s a learning curve to manage first, he laughed. “I always advise people going in to the industry to take their time. We’ll see if I can follow my own advice.”

More here.

New Fundings

EquipmentShare, a 2.5-year-old, Columbia, Ms.-based startup that helps contractors rent out their under-utilized equipment, has raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from Romulus Capital and Y Combinator. The round included $6 million in shares that converted from an earlier Series A round, and $20 million in new capital. More here.

LiquiGlide, a four-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company whose patented coatings ensure a permanently wet, slippery surface, has raised $16 million in new funding from Structure Capital, Valia Investments, Struck Capital, Pilot Grove and others who the company isn’t naming. LiquiGlide has raised $25 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

Prattle, an eight-month-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based startup that sells sentiment data analysis to research analysts, traders and other finance professionals, has raised $3.3 million in seed funding led by GCM Grosvenor. New Enterprise Associates, Correlation Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures and numerous unnamed angels also joined the round. More here.

Redox, a three-year-old, Madison, Wi.-based integration platform for digital healthcare applications, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by RRE Ventures, with participation from earlier backers .406 Ventures, HealthX Ventures, and Flybridge Capital Partners. More here.

Secret Double Octopus, a 1.5-year-old, Israel-based network security company, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Jerusalem Venture Partners, Liberty Media’s Israel Venture Fund, Iris Capital, Benhamou Global Ventures and angel investor Yaniv Tal. TechCrunch has more here.

Voodoo Manufacturing, a 1.5-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based startup that’s building a virtualized manufacturing service atop a networked cluster of low-end 3D printers, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from Y Combinator and KPCB Edge. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Merus Capital, a nine-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based early-stage venture firm focused on enterprise opportunities, has raised $85 million for its third fund — roughly twice what its raised for its last fund. Fortune has more here.

Origin Ventures, a 17-year-old, Chicago venture capital firm, has raised $65.9 million toward a $100 million target for its fourth fund, shows a newly amended SEC filing. More here.

Exits

Airbnb is nearing a deal to buy Venmo-competitor Tilt for its expertise in payments, reports the Information. Tilt has raised at least $62 million from investors. The Information’s sources peg the price at between $10 million and $20 million; meanwhile, TechCrunch is reporting the price is north of $50 million (so apparently, a few things are still being negotiated!).

Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic organization made its first acquisition, buying Meta, a website that makes it easier for scientists to find the latest academic research. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative intends to improve Meta’s product, which reads all scientific research and uses an algorithm to provide it to clients based on relevance. Terms aren’t being disclosed. Meta has raised $7.5 million, according to Crunchbase. Bloomberg has more here.

People

John Lee who joined the venture firm Osage University Partners in 2012 as a senior associate, has been promoted to principal. Osage, based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.,  invests in university startups.

Kevin Scott, the senior vice president of infrastructure for LinkedIn, is now Microsoft’s CTO, reporting directly to CEO Satya Nadella. ZDNet has more here.

Another senior executive hightails it out of Juicero. This time it’s Kristina Simmons, the company’s former head of marketing and business development. TechCrunch has more here.

Ford has hired Apple marketing exec Musa Tariq as a VP and its chief brand officer. MacRumors has more here.

Jobs

Revolution Growth is looking to add an analyst to its team in Washington, D.C. To apply, reach out to VP Chris Hughes, at chris.hughes@revolution.com.

Essential Reads

Investors have slashed the price they’re willing to pay for Magic Leap shares in the secondary market by about 20 percent in recent weeks, say stockbrokers, a turnabout for one of last year’s most coveted private tech stocks. The Information has more here.

Detours

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says he churns through and swallows 35 pieces of Orbital cinnamon-flavored gum before noon every day.

No, really?

Oscar Nominations 2017: See the full list.

Retail Therapy

This takes the coffee-as-jet-fuel meme a little far, but fun concept.


StrictlyVC: January 23, 2017

Hi, everyone, what a weekend! We weren’t able to march on Saturday, but we’re still amazed and moved by the siblings, cousins, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, (grandchildren!), friends and readers who joined marches all over the U.S. and the world. Here are pictures from every continent.

No column today. (We officially have the flu at this point.)

Top News in the A.M.

President Trump formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership earlier today, pulling away from Asia and scrapping President Obama’s most significant trade deal on his first full weekday in office. Dealbook has more here.

In news that probably won’t endear Silicon Valley to the rest of the country, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman estimates that half of tech billionaires have a secret home to which they can escape if American political stability falls to shambles.

New Fundings

Adaptemy, a three-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based adaptive learning startup, has raised more than €3 million ($3.2 million) in funding. Backers included Folens Publishers and Enterprise Ireland. More here.

Atlas Genetics, a 12-year-old, Bath, England-based company that develops ultra-rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, has raised $35 million in Series D funding from earlier backers Novartis Venture Funds, Consort Medical, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LSP, BB Biotech Ventures, RMI Partners and Technology Venture Partners. Wondfo Biotech, a Chinese in-vitro diagnostic company, also joined the round as a first-time investor. FierceBiotech has more here.

Cuemath, a five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based education company that pairs students with Cuemath teachers across what it hopes will someday be a network of 5,000 centers, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by CapitalG and earlier backer Sequoia IndiaMore here.

EasyMile, a 2.5-year-old, Toulouse, France-based start-up that’s developing an electric driverless shuttle (and, notably, is a joint venture between vehicle manufacturer Ligier Group and the services robotics company Robosoft), has raised €$14 million ($15 million) from Alstom, an integrated railways systems company. More here.

Habito, a London-based digital mortgage broker, has raised £5.5 million ($6.9 million) in Series A funding led by Ribbit Capital, with participation from existing investor Mosaic Ventures. Tech City News has more here.

Lobster, a three-year-old, London-based content marketplace where ad agency customers can buy or license social media created by individuals, has raised £1 million in Series A funding, including from KL10CH, a tech hub co-working space in Moscow, and Nikolay Katorzhnov, the former CEO of Otkritie Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Lumus, a 16-year-old, Israel-based augmented reality lens maker, has raised $6 million from Alibaba. GeekTime has more here.

The Noodle Companies, a 6.5-year-old, New York-based family of education technology companies, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from SWaN & Legend Venture Partners. The company was founded by John Katzman, who helped build the Princeton Review, among other companies. EdSurge has more here.

Pitchero, a 10-year-old, Leeds, England-based startup that makes it easy for amateur and grassroots sports clubs to build a web presence and move their communities online, has raised £3.1 million ($3.9 million) in Series A funding led by ICM, a global fund manager with other sports interests. TechCrunch has more here.

Raze, a young, Beverly Hills, Ca.-based digital media company that plans to produce “Latin-centered” content across multiple platforms, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from UTA, Greycroft Partners and Raine Ventures. Raze was cofounded by actress Sofia Vergara, her longtime business partner Luis Balaguer, and Emiliano Calemzuk, a former president of Fox Television Studios. Variety has more here.

Talentoday, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based human resources tech startup, has raised $3.49 million in Series A funding led by The Adecco Group, a maker of workforce software. More here.

Tricentis, a 10-year-old, Vienna, Austria-based startup that helps enterprise development teams automate software testing, has received $165 million in funding from Insight Venture Partners. More here.

TrustPilot, a 10-year-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based multi-language online merchant review community, has raised $6.9 million (£5.5 million) in fresh funding from earlier backer Draper Esprit. The company had previously raised at least $116 million in funding, shows Crunchbase. More here.

Whistle Sports, a three-year-old, London-based digital entertainment media company, has raised $27.5 million in Series C funding from Beringea, TEGNA, NBC Sports Ventures, Sky and Emil Capital. More here.

New Funds

Atomic Management, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup studio that comes up with ideas and then builds and funds its startups from scratch, has raised $20 million for its first fund, including from investors Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel. Already, says the WSJ, the firm has created six startups that employ 300 people and which have collectively raised $100 million in follow-on funding, including the Wi-Fi marketing startup Zenreach. More here.

China has set up a $14.6 billion fund to support investment in the internet sector, said official news agency Xinhua on Sunday. The fund, backed by China’s cabinet, is designed to help turn China into a major player in internet technology. Reuters has more here.

Exits

Bang With Friends, a controversial dating app that was later rebranded as Down, has been acquired by the Singapore-based dating startup Paktor for what TechCrunch says is several million dollars. Down had raised just $1 million from investors, including Tim Draper. Paktor has raised more than $50 million. More here.

IBM Security announced this morning that it has purchased Agile 3 Solutions, a San Francisco-based company that has developed a security analytics dashboard aimed at helping executives understand cyber-security risks inside an organization. Terms aren’t being disclosed. In the meantime, we’re not seeing funding information for Agile 3. (If you’re an investor, let us know.) TechCrunch has more here.

People

Amplify Partners, an enterprise-focused early-stage venture firm in Menlo Park, Ca., has promoted David Beyer to partner and brought aboard Lenny Pruss as partner. Beyer joined Amplify in 2013 as principal; Pruss was most recently a principal with Redpoint Ventures. More here.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is losing its head of international, Hugo Barra, who says he’s goin’ back to Cali. More here.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff: We’re erasing our gender pay gap—again. More here.

On Jared Kushner’s first full day as senior White House advisor to his father-in-law Donald Trump, his younger brother, venture-backed entrepreneur and investor Joshua Kushner, was attending the Women’s March on Washington. The younger Kushner said he was there “observing.” More here.

Jay Leek, former managing director and chief information security officer at Blackstone, has quietly joined ClearSky, a low-flying venture firm based in Palm Beach, Fl., where he will be managing a $300 million fund dedicated to cybersecurity. More here.

Serial enterpreneur Elon Musk is back at the White House today.

Investor Keith Rabois says he’s skeptical of the “fake news” debate. More here.

Jobs

LaunchCapital, a nine-year-old, seed and early-stage investment firm, is looking to bring aboard an investment analyst. The job is in New Haven, Ct.

Essential Reads

Can Sprint save Tidal? The telecom giant, which is itself owned by Softbank, says it’s taking a 33 percent stake in the struggling streaming music startup that’s majority acquired by Jay-Z. TechCrunch has more here.

Samsung says it isn’t giving up on the Note brand, despite that customers now associate the name with exploding phones. The company plans to bring out a successor to the phone, the Galaxy Note 8. Cnet has more here.

Snapchat is taking a harder line with publishers when it comes to misleading and explicit images.

Detours

When your loved ones voted the other way.

How traveling to a foreign country can change your sense of morality.

Letters to the White House.

Retail Therapy

Skateboard bookends. (Fun.)


StrictlyVC: January 20, 2017

That was some inauguration speech. So much for trying to unify the country.

No column today as we coughed our way through the night and are now officially zonked. Superfluous pro tip: Do not, whatever you do, let a seven-year-old with a virus breathe all over you for three days while he stays home from school.

See you back here on Monday, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Twitter just isn’t enough. President Trump just took to Snapchat, too.

New Fundings

Adarza BioSystems, a nine-year-old, St. Louis, Mo.-based company that develops biological assay platforms for measuring clinical and point-of-care samples, has raised $17 million in Series C funding led by RiverVest. MedCity News has more here.

Cristal Therapeutics, 5.5-year-old, Limberg, The Netherlands-based life sciences company developing nanomedicines to treat cancer and other, chronic inflammatory diseases, has raised €12.8 million ($13.6 million) in funding from a consortium headed by Aglaia BioMedical Ventures and Belgian DROIA Oncology Ventures. FinSMEs has more here.

Dwolla, a nine-year-old, Des Moines, Ia.-based startup that competes and partners with banks to provide payments and money transfers with reduced fees via its software, has raised $6.85 million led by previous investor Union Square Ventures and new investor Foundry Group. Other participants include Next Level Ventures, Ludlow Ventures, High Alpha, Firebrand Ventures, and Detroit Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Faradion, a six-year-old, Sheffield, U.K.-based low-cost battery material developer, has raised £3.2 million ($3.9 million) in Series B funding from Mercia Technologies and earlier investors Finance Yorkshire Seedcorn Fund and Haldor Topsoe A/D. More here.

Lmrkts, a four-year-old, New York based fintech startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by Motive Partners. More here.

Milk Mantra, an eight-year-old, Odisha, India-based dairy startup offering natural milk products to urban consumers, has raised $10 million in Series D funding led by Neev Fund. Eight Road Ventures (an investment arm of Fidelity International), and impact investor Aavishkaar also participated in the round. The Tech Portal has more here.

Miss Fresh, a 2.5-year-old, Beijing-based company that provides fresh produce from U.S., Chile and Australia to Chinese consumers and guarantees two-hour delivery, has raised $100 million in new funding led by the venture capital arm of Lenovo and Zhejiang Zheshang Venture Capital Co. Other participants in the round include Tencent Holdings, South Korean KTB Investment & Securities, Grand Flight Investment and China Growth Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Qonto, a 10-month-old, Paris, France-based next-gen bank for entrepreneurs, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding led by Alven Capital, with participation from Valar Ventures and angel investors. More here.

Wydr, a year-old, Gurugram, India-based mobile wholesale marketplace, has raised an undisclosed amount of second round funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Stellaris Venture Partners and Jungle Venture Partners. Axis Capital from Singapore has also joined the round. Forbes India has more here.

New Funds

CAVU Venture Partners, a food and beverage investment firm that launched its first, $156 million, fund in January of last year, has already raised a second fund, announcing the $209 million vehicle yesterday. Partly, its momentum owes to a late-stage bet on health drink company Bai, which sold in November for $1.7 billion to Dr Pepper Snapple Group. According to Forbes, that provided CAVU with a 3x return on its capital in just 10 months. More here.

HTC Vive, the virtual reality system developed by HTC, has launched a $10 million program to support virtual reality developers working on projects that drive awareness and understanding of global issues such as famine, poverty, gender disparity, and climate change. ZDNet has more here.

Raine Ventures, a 3.5-year-old, New York City-based private equity and venture firm focused on investments in digital media, entertainment, and sports, raised $100 million for its second fund, says  the WSJ. (Subscription required.)

Exits

Avaya, a Santa Clara, Ca-based telecommunications company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday. Silver Lake Partners and TPG Capital had taken the company private for $8.2 billion in 2007. Fortune has more here.

Rachel Lam is stepping down as head of Time Warner’s venture capital arm, a position she has held for the last 14 years. Allison Goldberg, who joined Time Warner in 2001, is taking over as senior VP of Time Warner Investments. More here.

Accel Partners in London has promoted Luciana Lixandru to partner. Lixandru had joined the firm as a principal in 2011 after shorter stints at Summit Partners and Morgan Stanley. TechCrunch has more here.

Donald Trump will tap Ajit Pai as his pick to lead the FCC in the new administration, elevating the sitting GOP commissioner to the top spot overseeing the nation’s communications industry, says Politico. Its report notes that Pai is a “fierce and vocal critic of many regulations passed by the commission’s Democratic majority, including the 2015 net neutrality rules that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.” More here.

Investor-CEO Ellen Pao to Jack Dorsey: Follow the platform’s rules and suspend Trump’s Twitter account.

Amit Singhal, former SVP of search and employee number 176 at Google, has joined Uber as its SVP of engineering. TechCrunch has more here.

Former Google VP of engineering on Youtube’s ad team, Kevin Thomson, is also joining Uber. His role: VP of marketplace engineering. TechCrunch has more here.

Jobs

SeedInvest, the equity crowdfunding platform, wants to hire a director to lead its venture capital sourcing team. The job is in New York.

Essential Reads

Meitu, a kawaii anime makeover app, has been sweeping across the U.S., but security experts say it requires far more data from users’ phones than is necessary for a simple photo app and that it contains some sketchy code.

T. Rowe Price, the mutual fund giant that is one of Snap’s biggest backers, has reportedly “quietly and persistently” objected to a plan put forth by the company’s founders to only sell non-voting shares when it goes public.

Google uses its search engine to hawk its own products, finds a WSJ analysis.

Detours

The most creative infographics of 2016.

Why so many movie villains have British accents.

A visual history of the U.S. presidential inauguration.

Retail Therapy

Steve McQueen’s racing helmet is right now up for auction. (Note: the auction house warns that it’s “very expensive!”)


StrictlyVC: January 19, 2017

Hi, everyone! Is it Friday yet? No?:)

Top News in the A.M.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its full findings following the investigation into last year’s fatal crash involving a driver’s use of Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot feature, and it clears Tesla. More here.

Mithril, Led by Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan, Closes New Fund with Roughly $850M

Peter Thiel being suddenly cast into the center of U.S. politics in 2016 isn’t something that either Thiel or his longtime friend and colleague Ajay Royan could have anticipated in 2014, when they founded Mithril Capital Management. But it doesn’t change much for the low-flying, 12-person firm, which is based in San Francisco but makes outsize bets on companies that are largely outside of the Bay Area.

In fact, Royan insists that Thiel’s position on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team had no discernible impact on fundraising for its second and newest fund, which the firm just closed with $850 million, including management fees.

“It’s been interesting,” Royan says of Trump’s divisive win. “As observers, we’re fascinated by what’s going on; there seem to be a lot of issues that are conflated by social media and so forth. But on a day-to-day basis, what we think about and what we do hasn’t changed at all. Maybe if we were more Silicon Valley focused, we might feel it more. My social media feed is more activated around the [election results] than my business relationships.”

Some of those business relationships center on Mithril’s investors, mostly family offices in the U.S., Europe and Canada and limited enough in number than Royan spends a couple of hours with each every quarter, rather than host a formal annual meeting.

“Having a small base allows you to give people individual updates,” he says. “We can talk about the fullness of their business and the fullness of our business.”

They have plenty to discuss, surely. Mithril, which closed its first fund with roughly $540 million, has now invested in 22 companies, including the data analytics company Palantir, cofounded by Thiel; C2FO, a nine-year-old, Kansas City-based collaborative cash-flow optimization company that tries unlocking capital trapped in trade relationships; Adimab, a 10-year-old, Lebanon, New Hampshire-based antibody drug discovery startup; and a nine-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based surgical robotics company called Auris Surgical Robotics, whose founder Royan gleefully describes as having the “energy of 99 founders.”

(That founder, Dr. Frederic Moll, has cofounded several companies previously, including Intuitive Surgical, a 20-year-old, publicly traded company that makes robotic surgical systems and is valued at $25 billion.)

Mithil doesn’t have any exits to speak of yet, but investors sign up for a portfolio that’s fairly concentrated. Its debut fund committed $100 million to one (undisclosed) company, for example, and its median check size is $50 million. (Royan says that Adimab has now received more investment from Mithril than any other company it has funded. Wired profiled it last year.)

Investors also agree to a longer-than-usual ride with Mithril, whose funds have 12-year-long investing periods, giving Royan and Thiel the flexibility to make bets in established companies that aren’t yet ready to go public.

For example, C2FO is now clearing a billion dollars in transaction volume every day, up from a billion dollars every quarter in 2014, when Mithril invested in the company. Yet asked if an IPO is in sight for 2017, Royan says C2FO has no plans to go public yet and that he generally believes there should be a “line of sight to saturation” before an outfit starts talking with investment bankers.

“You want the public markets to have the confidence that yours in the last company in its category that they need to be thinking about,” he explains.

Royan also holds up C2FO as the kind of company that Mithril pursues in part because it’s outside of Silicon Valley. “I love that I have to be in Kanas City five times a year,” he says, speaking from Mithril’s sleek offices in the leafy Presidio, a former military base turned national park.

Kansas, he says, is among many places where individuals, including founders, can have a very different perspective and life experience than that of the “top-notch MIT grad or Stanford grad who lives in San Francisco or a place that consciously or unconsciously looks like it, including parts of Boston, large parts of New York — even Berlin, Stockholm and London, which very much have a Silicon Valley state of mind.”

I ask Royan if, as Thiel has suggested, he thinks Silicon Valley — where Mithril has funded seven companies altogether — has become too disconnected from the rest of the country.

More here.

New Fundings

Amra, a 6.5-year-old, Sweden-based digital health company that transforms MR images into precise body composition measurements, has raised $9 million in funding led by Pfizer Venture Investments and Novo Seeds. Tech.eu has more here.

Bankin’, a six-year-old, Paris, France-based personal money management app, has raised €7 million ($7.4 million) in funding led by Omnes Capital, with participation from CommerzVentures, Generation NewTech, and angel investors. More here.

Boughtbymany, a three-year-old, Lond-based insurance startup for members only, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from Munich Re/HSB Ventures and unnamed earlier backers. GeekTime has more here.

Credible, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace for student and personal loans (borrowers can receive competitive loan offers from numerous lenders), has closed on a $10 million Series B funding round.  The newest round brings total funding to $23 million to date for the young Fintech firm. The series B funding round was led by Regal Funds Management, with participation from earlier backers Ron Suber and Carthona Capital. Crowdfund Insider has more here.

DigiLens, a 13-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca-based that makes holographic projection systems, laser projectors, and transparent displays, has raised $22 million in fresh funding from Sony, Foxconn, Continental, Panasonic, Alsop Louie Partners, Bold Capital, Nautilus Venture Partners and Dolby Family Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Fabric, a year-old New York City-based digital life insurance company, has raised $2.5 million in funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Box Group, Brainchild, Maveron, Red Sea Ventures, andRGAx. More here.

Fig, a 1.5-year-year-old, San Francisco-based crowdfunding platform and publisher that sells SEC-qualified shares tied to individual game projects, has raised $7.84 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital and Greycroft, with participation from Resolute Ventures, NextView Ventures, and Draft Ventures. More here.

Flirtey, a three-year-old, Reno, Nv.-based drone delivery service, has raised $16 million in Series A funding led by the company’s seed investors, Menlo Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures, and joined by Lowercase Capital, Y Combinator and World Innovation Lab. TechCrunch has more here.

FLYR, a three-year-old, San Francisco data science company that predicts flight fare changes, has raised $8 million in  Series A funding led by Peter Thiel, with participation from JetBlue Technology Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, AXA Strategic Ventures, Amadeus, Western Technology Investment, Plug and Play and Chasm Capital Management. More here.

Headset, a year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based retail analytics firm for cannabis-related businesses, has raised $2.5 million in funding from Hypur Ventures and Salveo Capital. More here.

Huangbaoche, a two-year-old, Beijing-based travel startup providing tour packages and booking services for outbound Chinese tourists, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Matrix Partners China and GF Xinde Investment ManagementConcord Investment and earlier backer SSC Fund also participated in the round. China Money Network has more here.

Iyzico, a four-year-old, Istanbul, Turkey-based payment receipt system management platform, has raised raised $13 million in Series C funding led by Vostok Emerging Finance, with participation from International Finance Corporation and 212. Tech.eu has more here.

The Players’ Tribune, a two-year-old, New York-based media platform being professional athletes and fans together, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by IVP, with participation from GV and earlier investors New Enterprise Associates, Thomas Tull, GenTrust and individual athletes. Fortune has more here.

Shenma Finance, a 1.5-year-old, Shanghai-based financial services platform focused on China’s rural population, has raised $14 million in Series B funding led by the Beijing-based Chinese private equity firm ChinaEquity Group. Earlier backers Shunwei Capital, China Growth Capital and Frees Fund also participated in the round. China Money Network has more here.

SilverCloud Health, a five-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based digital healthcare company whose online programs aims to help people experiencing a range of mental and behavioral problems, has raised €7.6 million ($9.4 million)  funding led by by Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group. Other participants in the round include ACT Venture Capital, Investec Ventures, Enterprise Ireland and NDRC. The Times has more here.

Salsify, a four-year-old, Boston-based product content management platform for retail brands, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by local venture capital firm Underscore.VC. Earlier backers Venrock, Matrix Partners and North Bridge also joined the round. More here.

Split, a year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based platform for controlled rollouts of new features, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Accel Partners, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sway Ventures. More here.

TellusLabs, a seven-month-old, Somerville, Ma.-based satellite imagery and machine learning company, has raised $3 million in new seed funding from IA Ventures, along with Hyperplane VC, Founder Collective and Project11. TechCrunch has more here.

URWork, a five-year-old, China-based co-working space start-up a la WeWork, has raised $58 million in new funding from Tianhong Asset Management Co., the Chinese property developer Junfa Group and a number of other Chinese companies. China Money Network has more here.

(Other) New Funds

Rocket Internet Capital Partners Fund, the venture arm of the German internet giant, announced today that it has raised $1 billion to invest across all stages of startups. VentureBeat has more here.

Saama Capital, a Bangalore, India-based venture capital firm whose portfolio includes so-called unicorn companies Paytm and Snapdeal, has held a final close on its third fund with $58 million. The Economic Times has more here.

People

Matt Cutts, a 17-year Google veteran who authored the company’s SafeSearch content filter, will become acting administrator of the U.S. Digital Service later this month, he announced on his blog earlier today. Cutts left Google last June to help the Department of Defense solve complicated IT issues and develop new technologies. More here.

Hootan Rashidifard has joined Canaan Partners as an associate in New York; he was formerly a manager in LinkedIn’s business operations group.

Martin Shkreli, once the most hated biotech executive in America, has reportedly sold out one of the most hated drug companies on Wall Street. More here.

Mark Zuckerberg is suing Hawaiian land owners to secure his 700-acre island getaway. More here.

Jobs

The Simon Property Group is looking to hire a venture capital analyst into its venture group. The job is in New York.

Persado, a four-year-old startup that sells its technology to digital marketers and is backed by Goldman Sachs, is looking to hire a VP of corporate development. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

What is Meitu? The kawaii anime makeover app goes viral.

Detours

How space could trigger a future economic crisis.

Retail Therapy

We would never leave the shower again.


StrictlyVC: January 18, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy Wednesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The Department of Labor just filed a lawsuit against software giant Oracle for discriminatory employment practices. More here.

Facebook Agreed to Pay More for Oculus Than We Realized; Here’s Why

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in a Dallas court yesterday as part of a lawsuit claiming that Oculus VR, the startup Facebook acquired for roughly $2 billion, was based on stolen technology. Unsurprisingly, Zuckerberg defended Oculus and in the process revealed a number of new details about the negotiations involved in purchasing the company. Among them: that Facebook agreed to pay $700 million in employee retention bonuses for “key people.”

It was news to the rest of us. When Facebook announced the deal back in 2014, it said it was paying a “total of approximately” $2 billion, including $400 million in cash and  23.1 million shares of Facebook. It said the agreement “also provides for an additional $300 million earn-out in cash and stock” based on Oculus meeting certain milestones. It said bupkis about that extra $700 million in retention bonuses.

Was its own release “fake news?” It’s commonly known that the actual price paid for a company and what the public sees in headlines is rarely the same, owing to factors like the fluctuating value of an acquirer’s stock. But a $700 million difference? Isn’t that notable?

Actually, no, said a handful of bankers and analysts with whom we spoke yesterday. Here’s why. That original press release from Facebook addressed the price paid for Oculus to its former owners (including its founders, Andreessen Horowitz, Matrix Partners, and Spark Capital, among others). That’s the $2 billion, plus that $300 million earn-out component.

Meanwhile, the $700 million that Zuckerberg referenced yesterday takes into account the ongoing costs following the close of the deal, and those costs — in the form of employee incentives — aren’t typically considered in the purchase price as they’re paid out over time, as one co-chair of a corporate securities group told us.

In short, new employees have to work for that money.

Tom Peters, cofounder of the San Francisco-based investment bank Iverness Advisors, agrees with that view. As a former managing director at Montgomery & Co., Peters worked on the sale of MySpace to News Corp. in 2005, and says that while the deal is referred to this day as costing $580 million, it was really $630 million by the time every i was dotted and t was crossed. “The devil is always in the details,” he says.

When it comes to this particular disparity, while it may seem “shockingly big,” he says the money that was set aside for compensation to certain Oculus employees for continuing to work at Facebook must have been separated out from purchase price, which is a “not uncommon” practice, he says. “It’s often viewed as in a different category, including because of accounting guidelines that tell you to account for things in different ways.” (He notes, for example, that tax treatments and tax consequences differ when it comes to purchase prices versus compensation.)

In the end, “it was a judgment call,” says a San Francisco-based investment banker who asked not to be named. “Certainly, Facebook could have mentioned the possibility of additional payments at the time of the acquisition. Then again, does it want to be known for paying big retention bonuses and earn-outs? You can see the case [for leaving out that information].”

More here.

New Fundings

Collibra, a nine-year-old, New York-based company that automates data management processes, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by ICONIQ Capital, with participation from Battery Ventures and return backers Dawn Capital, Index Ventures and Newion Investments. TechCrunch has more here.

Deputy, a nine-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based maker of workforce software that manages employees, shift changes, log-ins, and payroll, has raised $25 million in Series A financing from OpenView. GeekTime has more here.

InsideSales, a 12.5-year-old, Provo, Ut.-based predictive analytics platform that helps salespeople focus on finding and engaging prospects at the right time, has raised $50 million in fresh funding today. The round was led by earlier backer Polaris Partners, along with newcomers QuestMark Partners and the Irish Strategic Investment Fund. Earlier backers Microsoft, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, HWVP, USVP, Epic Ventures and Zetta Venture Partners also joined the round, which brings InsideSales’s total funding to more than $250 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Iris Automation, a year-old, Vancouver, British Columbia-based startup that’s developing collision avoidance systems for industrial drones, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Bee Partners, with participation from Social Capital, GGV Capital, Liquid 2, Kevin Moore and Paul Bucheit. TechCrunch has more here.

Laugh.ly, a months-old, San Francisco-based streaming service for stand-up comedy (it features a library of comedians’ stand-up sets), has raised $2.25 million in seed funding led by New York Angels. Other participants in the round include Barbara Corcoran, the Wharton Alumni Angel Network, Social Capital, Backstage Capital, Treehouse Capital, Accelerator Ventures and Atlas Holdings. TechCrunch has more here.

Neurala, a nine-year-old, Boston-based software company behind The Neurala Brain, a deep learning neural networks platform, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Pelion Venture Partners, with participation from Sherpa Capital, Motorola Solutions Venture CapitalSK Ventures, Idinvest Partners, with earlier backers 360 Capital and Draper Associates Investments. TechCrunch has more here.

Pipedrive, a six-year-old, New York-based company that makes sales pipeline software, has raised $17 million in Series B funding led by Atomico, with participation from earlier backers Bessemer Venture Partners and Rembrandt Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Process Street, a two-year-old, New York-based platform for workflow automation, business process management and reporting, has raised $1.3 million in fresh seed funding from Blackbird Ventures and AirTree Ventures.The company had previously passed through the AngelPad accelerator program. More here.

ProtectWise, a 3.5-year-old, Denver-based security startup that records network traffic DVR-style and saves it in the cloud, has raised $25 million in new funding from Arsenal Venture Partners, Top Tier Capital Partners, Tola Capital, and unnamed strategic investors. The company has now raised more than $67 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Zeotap, a two-year-old, Berlin-based startup that helps telecom companies sell their data to advertisers, has raised €12 million (roughly $13 million) in Series B funding. The capital came from New Science Ventures and location services provider HERE, as well as previous investors Capnamic Ventures and Iris Capital. Zeotap has now raised more than $20 million. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Alchemist Accelerator, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based accelerator program that makes seed and early-stage investments, has raised $2.5 million for a new fund, including from Johnson Controls, Ericsson, and Analog Garage, the venture arm of Analog Devices. TechCrunch has more here.

Tej Kohli, an Indian entrepreneur and philanthropist with an estimated net worth of $6 billion, say he has earmarked an initial $25 million for a program called the The Kohli Impact Investment Initiative that will be invested through his investment firm, Kohli Ventures. The idea is to funnel capital to ideas and technologies with societal and environmental benefits, including via sectors that include artificial intelligence, fintech, ag tech and renewables. More here.

A new fintech-focused venture firm called Motive Partners, founded by a team of fintech entrepreneurs and investors, is launching today with offices in London and New York. The outfit isn’t revealing its fund size but earlier this month it quietly filed a Form D with the SEC noting that it was raising $150 million. TechCrunch has more here.

New Enterprise Associates, the 40-year-old venture firm, has signaled its intention to raise $3 billion for its 16th fund in a new SEC filing. More here.

Google is taking over Twitter’s mobile app developer platform Fabric, as well as its Answers mobile app analytics, and Crashlytics crash reporting system. The moves come as Twitter looks to cut its non-essential divisions. TechCrunch has more here.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is acquiring the eight-year-old, Westborough, Ma.-based data-storage startup SimpliVity for $650 million in cash, a steep discount to the startup’s most recent $1 billion valuation. SimpliVity had raised more than $275 million from investors, including Accel Partners, CRV and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The WSJ has more here.

Jason Child, CFO of Jawbone, the troubled consumer tech company, has left the company. Child had joined Jawbone in July 2015 from Groupon, where he had served as CFO for nearly five years and took the company public. The Verge has the story here.

Compass, the real estate startup that was recently assigned a $1 billion valuation, has a new COO: Maëlle Gavet. Gavet was most recently an EVP at Priceline. Earlier, she was CEO of Ozon, an Amazon-like company in Moscow. (We had lunch with her at the time to discuss the challenge of doing business in Russia.)

Daniel Springer is taking the reigns as CEO of the electronic signature company DocuSign. Springer was most recently an operating partner at the private equity firm Advent International. More here.

Jobs

Google is looking to hire a corporate development analyst to help with sourcing deals. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.

Essential Reads

Theranos is closing down its last remaining blood-testing facility after the lab reportedly failed a regulatory inspection.

These six-wheeled robots from Starship Technologies are about to start delivering food in the U.S.

Facebook is launching its first official startup incubator.

What I wish I’d known about equity before joining a unicorn.

Detours

More proof that eating hot peppers is good for you.

What a $250 million house looks like.

Pitchbot, for perfecting your startup pitch.

Retail Therapy

Apache sunglasses, for your own fictional Vietnam War film.


StrictlyVC: January 17, 2017

Hi, everyone, welcome back.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Amazon was just awarded a patent for a highway network that controls self-driving cars and trucks. Recode has the story here.

Joe Lonsdale Moves Forward with 8VC’s New Fund and More

Joe Lonsdale has had his fair share of ups and downs in recent years. Investors don’t seem to mind. Nearly a year ago, they quietly provided Lonsdale’s newest, early-stage venture firm, 8VC, with $425 million in funding for its debut fund, along with $50 million for a separate seed fund. The firm, which is run by five partners, has since invested a quarter of that capital in an array of companies, including, most recently, Synthego, a genetic engineering startup that provides scientists with genetic material used in their Crispr research.

Lonsdale declined to comment on 8VC’s fundraising last year. But last week, we spoke with him about the new fund and, to a much lesser extent, about Formation 8 Partners, which Lonsdale famously cofounded in 2011 with Stanford classmate Brian Koo and longtime venture investor Jim Kim before the three abruptly disbanded in 2015. One oft-cited reason for the firm’s demise: differing opinions about strategy.

Koo has since founded another firm: Formation Group, which hews most closely to Formation 8’s mission, which was to bridge the ecosystems between Asian countries and Silicon Valley. Kim has also cofounded a new venture firm called Builders, which we reported on last month. Its big idea: to help nascent companies gets sales and marketing staff involved early.

8VC’s mantra is simply, “The world is broken; let’s fix it.”

That approach helps explain its bet on Synthego. It also accounts for a perhaps more controversial bet on Hyperloop One, an ambitious company aiming to build faster, cleaner long-distance travel through a supersonic transit system that remains largely theoretical for now. (The well-funded company, which recently settled a lawsuit with one of its cofounders and several former employees, is currently engaged in numerous feasibility studies.)

8VC’s mission also underscores what Lonsdale most wants to focus on — the future.

More here.

New Fundings

Ascent360, a three-year-old, Golden, Co.-based customer data platform, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding from Access Venture Partners, Nelnet, Bialla Venture Partners 2, Service Provider Capital, and the Rockies Venture Club. More here.

AppsFlyer, a 5.5-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based marketing technology platform for apps, has raised $56 million in Series C funding led by Qumra Capital, with Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, Pitango Growth and earlier backers participating. Fortune has more here.

Fraugster, a two-year-old, Leeds, U.K.-based cybersecurity company that aims to prevent payment fraud, has raised $5 million in funding led by Earlybird, with participation from Speedinvest and Seedcamp. TechCrunch has more here.

Letgo, a year-old, New York-based online marketplace for used goods that’s looking to steal market share from eBay and Craigslist, has raised $175 million from earlier backer Naspers, along with other previous investors Accel Partners, Insight Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates and 14W. The startup has raised $375 million in total so far. Bloomberg has more here.

Measure, a 2.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based startup that flies drones as a service for businesses that want to do things like conduct inspections, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by the IT services firm Cognizant. Other participants in the round include Hudson Bay Capital and an unnamed sovereign wealth fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Neufund, a six-month-old, Berlin-based outfit that’s building a blockchain-based and investor-directed platform, has raised €2 million ($2.1 million) from Atlantic Labs, Gameforge cofounder Klaas Kersting and a group of angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

OPĀQ Networks, a Herndon, Va.-based network-security-as-a-service company, has raised $21 million in Series A funding from Columbia Capital, Harmony Partners and Zero-G. Glenn Hazard, long a managing partner of Zero-G, has also joined the company as CEO and chairman. More here.

OrderGroove, a six-year-old, New York-based company that helps retailers and brands sell online by building tools for them that are similar to those used by Amazon, has raised $20 million in Series C funding. The money comes from National Holdings Corporation, a New York-based publicly traded financial institution. (It has also backed Lyft, Palantir, and Coursera.) TechCrunch has more here.

Practo, a nine-year-old, Bangalore, Indian-based company whose platform enables patients to find healthcare providers and book appointments, has raised $55 million in Series D funding. The round was led by Tencent Holdings, with participation from ru-Net, RSI Fund (owned by Recruit Holdings), Thrive Capital and earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Capital G, Matrix Partners, Altimeter Capital and the investment holding company Sofina. TechCrunch has more here.

SecureSet Academy, a two-year-old, Denver, Co.-based startup that develops cybersecurity educational programs, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by the Colorado Impact Fund. More here.

Spaces, a year-old, L.A.-based virtual- and mixed-reality firm, raised $6.5 million in seed funding led by Songcheng Performance Development Co., with participation from Comcast Ventures and other unnamed venture firms. More here.

Starburst Labs, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based company that operates a platform where individual investors and financial professionals connect (it also operates a CRM solution for financial advisors), has raised $6.25 million in Series A funding. Bel45 Capital Partners contributed $5 million to the round; the rest came from previous seed investors. Starburst has now raised $10.25 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Upside.com, a year-old, Washington, D.C.-based website that tries to find discounts for small business travelers by suggesting alternative travel routes and accommodation and bundling flights and hotels together, has raised $50 million in funding. Participants include Red Ventures and the investment firm Leucadia National Corp. Upside was founded by Jay Walker, the founder of Priceline.com.Bloomberg has more here.

Zoom, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based cloud video conferencing service, announced a whopping $100 million Series D round this morning, entirely funded by Sequoia Capital. The company now boasts a $1 billion valuation. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Serena Capital, a nine-year-old, Paris-based venture capital firm, has raised nearly €80 million ($85.7 million) for Serena Data Ventures, a fund dedicated to investing in big data and artificial intelligence companies in Europe. More here.

Bunkr, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that hosts presentations in the cloud for professionals wanting to illustrate their work through interactive presentations, has been acquired by Synthesio, an 11-year-old, New York-based social media monitoring and analytics platform. Bunkr looks to have raised just $1.4 million in funding, including from Idinvest Partners. Synthesis has raised at least $30 million, also from Idinvest Partners. Terms aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

Microsoft has acquired Maluuba, a five-year-old, Montreal-based artificial intelligence startup, for undisclosed terms. The company had raised $11 million from Nautilus Venture Partners and Emerillon Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

People

South Korean prosecutors yesterday issued a warrant for the arrest of the Samsung group’s de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, in a bribery case related to last month’s impeachment of the country’s president. The L.A. TImes has more here.

Joyable, a small startup focused on helping people overcome social anxiety, has laid off 20 people, or half of its staff, says Fortune. The company is backed by $10 million in funding from Thrive Capital and Harrison Metal. More here.
Tom Loverro has been named principal at IVP. He joined the firm in April 2015 from RRE Ventures to focus on both later-stage consumer and enterprise companies and he currently sits on the board of NerdWallet. He also works actively with a handful of other IVP-backed companies, including Tanium.

Michael Lynton is stepping down as CEO of Sony Entertainment and joining Snap — owner of the disappearing-message app Snapchat — as board chairman. Fortune has more here.

China’s internet giant Baidu has beefed up on its AI talent by hiring former Microsoft executive Qi Lu as group president and COO. Baidu is best known for its search engine, but over the past two years it has poured more resources into developing artificial intelligence, which includes self-driving cars and more. TechCrunch has more here.

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, co-founders of Snap, are expected to hold more than 70 percent of the company’s voting power post its IPO, despite owning roughly 45 percent of the stock. The WSJ has more here.

Balaji Srinivasan—who cofounded the biotech firm Counsyl and worked briefly as a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz — is reportedly Trump’s top pick to lead the FDA. Gizmodo asks if that’s why he recently deleted all but one of his thousands of tweets.

Increasingly controversial investor Peter Thiel is reportedly talking with a small circle of advisors about running for governor of California next year. Politico has the story here.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying in court today in a lawsuit that claims Oculus VR, the startup he acquired for $2 billion, was based on stolen technology. Oculus CTO and former Zenimax employee John Carmack was the first to testify on January 10. Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will take the stand later this week. Business Insider has more here. You can also follow the Twitter account of New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, who is at the trial in Dallas and covering it live.

Jobs

iNovia, the 10-year-old, early-stage venture firm, is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in Montreal

Bad News

Eight men now control as much wealth as the world’s poorest 3.6 billion people, according to a new report from Oxfam International.

Data

The 30 U.S. tech companies where employees most love to work.

Essential Reads

Eighteen under-the-radar startups to watch this year (good list).

We’ve noted that flying cars are coming. Now Airbus Group says it will have a prototype for its own flying car developed by the end of this year.

Can Snapchat‘s culture of secrecy survive an IPO?

Detours

Sven Helbig: Abendglühen

Retail Therapy

A one-of-a-kind Donkey Kong watch. Because ’80s nostalgia.