Hi, everyone. What a weekend. Blergh.
Top News in the A.M.
Trump out. Refugees in.” Silicon Valley companies entered the debate over Trump’s immigration policy this weekend, criticizing a new, seven-country immigration ban of people from predominantly Muslim countries and, in some cases, outlining plans to support the employees it affects.
Among the fastest to respond, Airbnb offered free housing to those who flew into the U.S. Friday night, only to discover they wouldn’t be allowed on to their destinations.
Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of Alphabet, joined protesters at San Francisco International Airport Saturday night as demonstrators assembled at airports across the country in opposition to the immigration order. Brin told The Verge that he was attending “in a personal capacity” and would not be giving comment. But Forbes’ Ryan Mac separately overheard him saying, “I’m here because I’m a refugee.”
Y Combinator Sam Altman was also at the SFO protest, telling Forbes, “I hope this will be one of the defining moments where people came together against this administration. This is an unacceptable action, and we need to make our voices heard.”
Lyft, the ride-hailing company, also reacted strongly, saying it will be donating $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years. (The ACLU filed suit against Trump’s administration for the refugee ban, and succeeded in getting a temporary stay of the order from a federal judge on Saturday.)
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, meanwhile, who is now a member of an advisory board that will be meeting quarterly at the White House to talk about manufacturing, tweeted (somewhat dispassionately), “The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.” (The Archbishop of Chicago agrees, writing yesterday that the weekend “proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history” and that the executive order runs “contrary to both Catholic and American values.”)
By yesterday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus appeared to reverse a key part of the immigration order, saying that people from the affected countries who hold green cards will not be prevented from returning to the U.S., but that border agents have “discretionary authority” to detain and question suspicious travelers from certain countries. A number of federal judges across the country also halted the implementation of the order. According to reports this morning, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees continue to detain people coming into the country.
According to a new Bloomberg report, it could get worse, too, particularly for high-tech companies. The outlet has reviewed a draft of an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programs they depend on to hire tens of thousands of employees each year. If implemented, the companies would have to try to hire American first, and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid.
With Snap’s IPO Around the Corner, L.A.’s Amplify Lands New Fund
L.A. is getting a star turn, with the most iconic of its local startups — Snap — on the cusp of going public. Locals expect much more than an endless string of headlines about its IPO performance, too. “The initial performance of the stock will be almost irrelevant,” says Paul Bricault, cofounder of the L.A.-based accelerator and seed-stage venture fund Amplify. “The IPO will shine a bigger spotlight on L.A. tech, and it will likely spin out more Snap execs as founders of new startups over time — as well as likely inject more capital into angel funding of startups in L.A.”
Bricault has reason for optimism. Five-year-old Amplify just closed its third fund with $10 million, and it could use new, promising startups to fund, as well as more capital sloshing around L.A. for follow-on funding. Investing $12.6 million across its first two funds, Amplify has already invested in 50 startups. Fourteen have raised a Series A round, five have raised a Series B round, and ten have subsequently been shut down.
Amplify has nurtured almost all of them at its campus in Venice, Ca., where companies of various, early stages stay for five months on average and are given opportunities to meet with investors for whom they would seem to be a fit. (Rather than stage demo days, Amplify invites investors to its offices four times a year for pre-arranged one-on-one meetings with its portfolio companies.)
On average, the firm, led by Bricault (who is also a venture partner with Greycroft Partners), takes a 10 percent stake in each company in exchange for mentorship, introductions, and initial checks of between $100,000 and $250,000.
Bricault says a proliferation of seed-stage funds is already helping Amplify’s companies attract funding in their “post accelerator round,” but that L.A. is still falling short when it comes to Series A, B, and later rounds.
BitFury Group, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based bitcoin blockchain security and infrastructure provider, has raised $30 million in funding from Credit China Fintech Holdings Limited. Crowdfund Insider has more here.
The Bouqs, a four-year-old, L.A.-based online flower retailer, has raised $24 million in Series C funding led by Partech Ventures, with participation from NextEquity Partners, Reimagined Ventures, Azure Capital Partners, KEC Ventures, Quest Venture Partners, and Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec. TechCrunch has more here.
Budbee, a three-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based freight-forwarding service, has raised €3 million ($3.2 million) in funding, including from H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson, Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski, and former Qliro Group CEO Paul Fischbein. Tech.eu has more here.
CafeX Communications, a three-year-old, New York-based maker of software for real-time collaboration within business applications, has raised $18 million in Series C funding led by Rakuten. SiliconAngle has more here.
Entrypoint, a year-old, New York-based startup whose self-service platform helps users “drag and drop” elements into an interactive video, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Samsung NEXT and Two Sigma Ventures led the round, with participation from Indicator Ventures, KBS Ventures, Galvanize Ventures, Social Starts, Female Founders Fund, and Virtual Reality Investments. Fortune has more here.
Land Life Company, a three-year-old, Amsterdam-based startup whose planting technology aims to allow trees to grow in arid soils, has raised €2.4 million ($2.6 million) in Series A funding, including from Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Fund, SystemiQ, and Vectr Ventures. More here.
Mindspace, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based network of workspaces for freelancers and teams, has raised $15 million in Series A funding from undisclosed private investors. Tech.eu has more here.
Reviver, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of digital license plates, has raised $6.8 million in Series A funding co-led by WRV and ACK Group. More here.
Skinjay, a 4.5-year-old, Paris, France-based startup that makes in-shower micro-nebulization devices to deliver “essential” oils to the skin and into the lungs, has raised €3.5 million ($3.7 million) in funding from Seventure Partners. More here (if you read French).
Spoke, a 3.5-year-old, London-based online menswear brand, has raised $1.8 million in funding led by Oxford Capital, with participation from Forward Partners, Seedcamp, and a numerous angel investors. Tech City News has more here.
Ebates, a San Francisco based provider of online rebate service (it’s also a subsidiary of Rakuten), has acquired Cartera Commerce, an 11-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based company that creates rewards and offers for card issuers, airline frequent flyer programs and merchants. Terms weren’t disclosed, but according to Crunchbase, Cartera had raised roughly $37 million from investors, including Flybridge Capital Partners. More here.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein left a voicemail for the firm’s 34,400 employees last night, saying Trump’s executive order of Friday is at odds with the firm’s long-held policies on workforce diversity and could disrupt Goldman Sachs’s business. “This is not a policy we support,” he said. Bloomberg has more here.
Australia’s largest venture firm, AirTree Ventures, has added James Cameron, formerly of a vice president with London-based Accel Partners, to its team. TechCrunch has more here.
Fitbit kicked off the week by announcing a six-percent reduction in global work force, following disappointing fourth quarter financials. The company will go into greater detail on an earnings call today, but a preliminary statement issued this morning details the loss of 110 jobs as part of a “reorganization of its business.” TechCrunch has more here.
Dropbox is hiring a director to add to its business strategy and operations team. The job is in San Francisco.
Sequoia Capital now makes the majority of its investments outside the United States.
Snap reportedly plans to publicly file for its much-anticipated IPO late this week.
Why you’re paying so much to exercise.
That was some tennis match yesterday!
Eeek. A top European hotel says it had to pay thousands in Bitcoin ransom to cybercriminals who managed to hack their electronic key system, locking hundreds of guests out of their rooms until the money was paid.
The Polycade. (You are welcome, startups everywhere.)