StrictlyVC: June 5, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy Monday! Hope you enjoyed last week’s various interviews with institutional investors. Thanks very much again to Semil Shah for holding down the fort while we stepped away from the computer for a week.:)

StrictlyVC is being brought to you this week by Rosebud CommunicationsSilicon Valley’s premier PR firm specializing in venture-backed startups. Their areas of expertise include enterprise SaaS solutions, martech, edtech, and fintech. Email them at

Top News in the A.M.

Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference today in San Jose; you can check out TechCrunch’s live blog here for constant updates. Among other announcements coming out of the event: Amazon and Apple have finally come to an agreement to bring Amazon’s video app to the Apple TV streaming box. Apple also just introduced its newest mobile operating system.

Apple and Amazon are joining forces with Foxconn in its takeover bid for Toshiba’s semiconductor business. Reuters has more here.

WeWork’s Adam Neumann is Graduating from College Today — 15 Years After Enrolling

In recent years, there’s been plenty of debate about the merits of college and whether, given the escalating price of a higher education — and the time required — it’s worth it. Certainly, dropping out of college proved an auspicious decision for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell. The same could be said of Mark Zuckerberg, Ev Williams and Travis Kalanick.

WeWork co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann feels rather differently about the value of a college diploma. In fact, today, 15 years after enrolling in Baruch College in New York, Neumann — whose company is currently valued by its investors at roughly $17 billion — is both delivering the commencement address at the school and graduating, having recently completed the independent study he needed to finally receive his bachelor’s degree.

We were in touch with him late yesterday to ask why he made the effort.

Did you know from the outset that you wanted to study business?

When I moved to New York City from Israel, I came here with the idea to get a great job, have tons of fun and make a lot of money. Growing up in Israel, I watched a lot of American TV and I thought it’s what the “cool” people did, and I wanted the same thing. I thought this was the American dream — a fast-paced pursuit, a joyride — and it drove my desire to pursue a career in business. After I met [my wife] Rebekah, I realized that this was wrong. She told me that if I brought passion and intention together, it would lead me in the right direction and I would become genuinely happy. And then, the money would follow.

Were you a good student? How would you describe your teenage self? 

When I started at Baruch in January 2002, I was almost 23 years old. I’d previously spent five years as an officer the Israeli Navy. I did what I thought you were supposed to do at that age — a little studying and a lot of trying to have fun.

I think I’ve heard you say that you had the idea for WeWork while a college student, but a professor dissuaded you. If so, have you been in touch with that professor in subsequent years?

In college, I entered an entrepreneurship competition and I submitted a concept like our current product WeLive that was called “concept living.” There were five rounds. The first round was a written proposal and in the second round you got to present, and I didn’t even get to present. The professor didn’t think I’d be able to raise enough money to change the way people live.

I think there’s an important lesson in that, when you’re a teacher, when you’re in a position of power, when you’re a leader, be very careful what you tell people they can’t do. Because they might just listen to you. And you may just be crushing a dream that might be very, very meaningful — not just to that person but to the world.

However, what he said to me influenced me to start WeWork first, and I would not have been able to launch WeLive without the success of WeWork.

More here.

New Fundings

AI-Drive, a two-year-old, Beijing, China-based company that develops central decision-making systems for autonomous vehicles and drones, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Shunwei Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Arcadia Power, a three-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based renewable energy company, has $6 million in Series A funding led by Energy Impact Partners, with participation from earlier investors BoxGroup and Wonder Ventures. More here.

BrainCheck, a three-year-old, Houston, Tex.-based mobile brain health tracking platform, has raised $1.5 million in funding, including from True Wealth Ventures. Austin Business Journal has more here (sub required).

Carmera, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based 3D mapping startup, has raised $6.4 million in new funding led by Matrix Partners, with participation from Resolute Ventures, Notation Capital, Joe Montana, Bre Pettis, Semil Shah and others. More here.

DealCloud, a seven-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based maker of deal management and workflow software, has raised $4.5 million in funding co-led by Cultivation Capital FinTech and Hamilton Lane. The Charlotte Observer has more here.

Evolve Vacation Rental Network, a six-year-old, Denver-based vacation rental property management platform, has raised $11 million in fresh funding led by T. Rowe Price, with participation from Annox Capital, Allen & Co. and PAR Capital Ventures. Denver Business Journal has more here.

Knightscope, a four-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that’s building autonomous robots that are designed to monitor their surrounding environment and provide a physical and commanding presence in public places where security is needed, has raised $3 million in funding from Konica Minolta. More here., a 1.5-year-old, Boston-based mobile authentication startup, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Rough Draft Ventures, with participation from Slow Ventures, SV Angel, and Akamai Labs. TechCrunch has more here.

Lob, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based automated mail-delivery infrastructure platform, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by YC Continuity Fund, with participation from Polaris Partners, Floodgate, First Round Capital and Initialized Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

Lorem Technologies, a year-old, New York-based website development services startup, has raised $1.1 million in seed funding led by Flybridge Capital, with participation from Founder Collective, Randy Parker and Frederick Townes. More here., a four-year-old, Beijing-based platform that provides benefits from e-commerce sites to a company’s employees, has raised roughly $14 million in Series B funding led by China’s National Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Development Fund. Other investors in the round include Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business’ Chuang Fund and Focus Media Information Technology. China Money Network has more here.

Owl’s Brew, a four-year-old, New York-based tea cocktail mixer maker, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding, including from Cambridge Companies SPG and ZX Ventures, which is new incubator and venture team backed by Anheuser-Busch InBev. More here.

Shansong Express, a three-year-old, Beijing-based inner-city logistics startup, has raised $50 million in additional Series C funding. Shunwei Capital and Beijing Hualian Group co-led the round, with participation from Hearst Communications and earlier backer Prometheus Capital. The new round brings Shansong’s total fundraising this year to $100 million. In February, the company closed on $50 million in Series C funding led by SIG Asia Investment and YI Capital. China Money Network has more here.

UNTUCKit, a six-year-old, Hoboken, N.J.-based men’s apparel brand, has raised $30 million in new funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. We find this company’s product — its shirts are specifically tailored to be worn outside of your pants, sort of an hilarious concept, though apparently, it’s clicking with shoppers. According to Reuters, the company is now valued at $200 million. More here.

YEAY, a two-year-old, Berlin-based video e-commerce experience for millennials that allows them to buy and sell their stuff using Snapchat-style video stories, has raised $4.9 million in seed funding co-led by the German venture firm Grazia Equity and the Swiss firm Mountain Partners, with participation from a raft of individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Yogome, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based e-learning company that makes a tablet and mobile games, has raised $6.6 million in Series A funding led by Seaya Ventures, with participation from Variv Capital and Endeavor Catalyst. More here.

Yuanfudao, a five-year-old, Beijing, China-based online tutoring firm, has raised $120 million in fresh funding led by a Warburg Pincus affiliate, with participation from earlier backer Tencent. The round is reportedly the largest in China’s online tutoring industry, though VIPKID came awfully close last summer. More here.

Zopa, a 12-year-old, London-based lending company that’s launching a bank, has raised £32 million ($41.3 million) in new funding, including from Wadhawan Global Capital and Northzone Ventures. CNBC has more here.

New Funds

Draper Esprit, an 11-year-old, London-based private equity and venture capital firm, says it has raised roughly $206 million in fresh funding to invest across Europe, and particularly Western Europe. Business Insider has more here.

Kaszek Ventures, a six-year-old, Buenos Aires-based venture capital firm, has closed on $200 million in commitments for its third fund — which is nearly twice the size as its second fund, which closed with $135 million in 2014. Dealbook calls the accomplishment a “major vote of confidence for internet start-ups in Brazil amid the political upheaval there.” More here.

Lightstone Ventures, a five-year-old, Menlo Park. Ca.-based life sciences-focused venture firm, is looking to raise up to $200 million for its second fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm had closed its first fund with $172 million in 2014.

Orkila Capital, a four-year-old, New York-based venture capital firm, has raised $118 million for its second growth equity fund. The New York-based firm was founded by former executives of Providence Equity Partners. More here.

Rucker Park, a new, early-stage venture firm led by longtime investor Marissa Campise (formerly of SoftBank, Greycroft Partners and Venrock) is looking to raise $50 million for its debut fund, according to Fortune. More here.

Rooks Nest Ventures, a new London-based venture capital firm with a focus on media, entertainment and technology, has raised £28 million ($36 million), according to TechCrunch. More here.

Sequoia Capital has raised more than $4 billion across four funds, including $2 billion for its growth fund. TechCrunch has more here.

World Innovation Lab, a nearly four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based multi-stage venture firm that aims to play the part of power broker between investors and startups in Japan and Silicon Valley, has so far raised $236 million for its second fund, which is targeting $600 million, shows a new SEC filing. The outfit’s first fund closed with roughly $400 million in late 2014.


From Renaissance Capital: Two micro-cap IPOs are on the IPO calendar for this week — ShotSpotter, which provides law enforcement with a sensor-based service for detecting gunshots, and a Boston-based REIT called Plymouth Industrial — both of which are planning to raise less than $100 million. Despite what’s shaping up to be a slow June, the low-cost airline Frontier Group and cable company Altice could soon launch $500-plus million IPOs. More here.


Accenture is acquiring LabAnswer, a Sugar Land, Tex.-based R&D informatics technology consulting firm. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. ZDNet has more here.

Grail, the Illumina spinout aiming to develop a blood test that can detect cancer at its earliest stages, has merged with China’s Cirina, a privately held company co-founded by a pioneer in the field of blood-based diagnostics, Dennis Lo. Grail, which recently raised a stunning $900 million round from investors and drugmakers, is making Lo a scientific co-founder of the combined company. Xconomy has more here.

GroupBy, a three-year-old, Toronto-based e-commerce technology company focused on retail search, has acquired Edgecase, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based product data management company. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. According to Crunchbase, Edgecase — formerly known as Compare Metrics — had raised $15.5 million from investors, including Austin Ventures. has more here.


John Fan has joined Blumberg Capital as an associate. Previously, Fan was a summer associate at Foundation Capital and, before that, spent 1.5 years as an engineer at Google.

Oculus VR founder and increasingly public Trump supporter Palmer Luckey has a new startup working on new border control technology, says the New York Times.

Bozoma Saint John, the Apple executive who garnered significant attention for her demo at last year’s worldwide developer conference, plans to leave the company, Axios reported on Friday. More here.

Nancy Wang has joined the Pasadena, Ca.-based venture fund California Technology Ventures as a director. Wang, who is based in the Bay Area, was previously a product manager at Google.

Also Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is also being brought to you this week courtesy of Dreamit UrbanTech. Its message to readers (and founders of breakthrough startups, particularly): The Dreamit UrbanTech Accelerator Program is officially accepting applications for their Fall 2017 cycle through June 23rd. Participating startups will benefit from unprecedented access to Dreamit’s national customer and investor network, including a chance to interface with the $3 billion Tampa Bay Urban Redevelopment Initiative being led by Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investments. The Dreamit UrbanTech accelerator seeks startups that use digital solutions to make urban areas more livable, sustainable, connected and efficient. We’re looking for startups working in real estate tech, construction tech, IoT, smart cities, clean energy, agriculture, transportation, and AI to join our 14-week growth-focused program. Apply before June 23!

Essential Reads

Some of Amazon’s own brands are becoming super popular online.

Crispr’s next big debate: how messy is too messy?


Why American teenagers don’t work anymore.

The strange love-hate relationship between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Retail Therapy

Sofia Coppola’s beach house in Belize. You can book it for $2,000 a night if you’re into having a private pool, a private butler, an oceanfront media room — that sort of thing.

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