StrictlyVC: January 19, 2017

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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.


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