StrictlyVC: June 15, 2017

Hi, happy Thursday, all.:)

Today in Austin, Tex., today’s sponsor —  the Financial Solutions Lab at CFSI — is announcing the startups selected from more than 350 applicants for its next FinLab class. The eight winning startups are set to receive $250,000 each, plus incredible access to resources and mentors that can help them scale. Put your hands together for Blueprint Income, Dave, EverSafe, Grove, Nova, Point, Token Transit, and Tomorrow — each of which offers a solution that can improve Americans’ financial health. Who says fintech can’t be a force for good?

Top News in the A.M.

Slack, the enteprise messaging startup, has reportedly received interest about a potential acquisition from Amazon. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the company could be valued at a jaw-dropping $9 billion in such a deal. More here.

The price of bitcoin is plunging after a record run.

The Federal Reserve said yesterday that it’s raising its benchmark interest rate to a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent in a widely expected move. More here.

Now Trucker Path is Getting into the Lending Business, Too

Trucker Path, a  three-year-old, Mountain View-based platform that helps connect drivers, brokers, shippers, and carriers, has just lined up $30 million in debt funding so it can start loaning some of those truckers money right after they deliver their freight.

It’s seemingly a win-win. It means truckers needn’t wait 30 to 60 days to get paid by the vendors who hire them. In the meantime, the loans are a new revenue opportunity for Trucker Path, which is charging its customers slightly more in interest than it’s paying its debt provider: Flexible Funding, a lower-flying, 25-year-old lending institution in San Francisco.

It’s the latest twist in the war to win over the hearts of the 1.6 million long-haul truckers in the U.S., 550,000 of whom are already using Trucker Path’s app, according to cofounder and CEO Ivan Tsybaev.

Why do they use it? Well, partly to communicate to their peers where parking is, and isn’t, available. In fact, it’s one of the stickiest features of the app, which began as a navigational tool but now features everything from crowdsourcing to the ability to track shipments from dispatch to delivery.

While people outside the industry might not grasp what a pain in the butt it is to park a truck, a survey by the Department of Transportation has shown that 75 percent of drivers say they regularly have trouble finding a safe place to park when they need to rest. Meanwhile, using Trucker Path, drivers save 11 hours, or $600, each month, insists Tsybaev. And you can imagine the savings for enterprise customers like Pepsi and FedEx that send out thousands of trucks every day.

Trucker Path is not the only shiny new option in the industry, of course. You’ve probably read about the growing spate of startups looking to elbow aside traditional trucking companies, including Turvo, which we wrote about here, and Uber Freight — a freight broker that’s eventually expected, like Trucker Path, to offer a single platform where brokers, shippers, and carriers can work together in real time.

Tsybaev says his company already has the kind of network effect that can mean the difference between barely surviving and thriving, though, and investors apparently buy his argument. The 60-person company — which has already raised $21.5 million from Renren and Wicklow Capital of Chicago, among others — says it’s right now talking with investors about a Series B round. (It says it’s already fielding sheets, actually.)

More here.

New Fundings

BeauCare Clinics, a four-year-old, Beijing-headquartered plastic surgery clinic franchise, has raised $29 million in Series B funding led by GP Capital, a Shanghai-based investment firm backed by state-owned Shanghai International Group. China Money Network has more here.

Bowery Farming, a two-year-old, New York-based indoor farming company, has raised $20 million from investors, including General Catalyst Partners and GV. The round brings the company’s total funding to $27.5 million. Forbes has more here.

Careem, a five-year-old, Dubai-based ride-hailing company that’s currently operating in 80 cities across the Middle East, has added $150 million in financing to a previously announced Series D funding, bringing to the round to $500 million. The lastest capital infusion was led by Dubai’s Kingdom Holding, which also owns a stake in Lyft ; German automaker Daimler (which itself has acquired Hailo in the UK, Taxibeat in Greece and MyTaxi in Germany); and venture firms DCM Ventures and Coatue Management. TechCrunch has more here.

Conviva, an 11-year-old, Foster City, Ca.-based company that delivers metrics to brands like HBO, Sky and ESPN so they can create better in-screen viewing experiences for their customers, has raised $40 million in fresh funding. Investors include Australia’s sovereign wealth fund Future Fund, New Enterprise Associates, Foundation Capital, and Time Warner Investments. Altogether, the company has raised $121 million so far. TechCrunch has more here.

Cybrexa Therapeutics, a months-old, New Haven, Ct.-based cancer therapeutics startup, has raised $6 million in funding from Connecticut Innovations; an investment vehicle affiliated with HighCape Partners; and a group of unnamed angel investors. More here.

Guazi.com, a two-year-old, China-based online used car trading platform, has raised $400 million in Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital China. A number of other participants also joined the round, including H Capital, CMB International, Jingxin Venture Capital, a fund management company established by Chinese steel maker Shougang Group, and Dragoneer Investment Group, along with earlier backers Matrix Partners China and BlueRun Ventures. China Money Network has more here.

Highspot, a 5.5-year-old, Seattle-based startup whose sales software analyzes various communications with prospective clients, then provides data about their effectiveness, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and earlier backer Madrona Venture Group. TechCrunch has more here.

MobiKwik, an eight-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based mobile payments company that’s number two to Paytm in India, is reportedly in talks to raise $100 million to $150 million from investors in a round that would value the company at more than $1 billion. TechCrunch has more here.

Ocugen, a four-year-old, Malvern, Pa.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing treatments for sight-threatening diseases, has raised $7.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Abdi Ibrahim, a Turkish pharmaceutical company, and the JSC Lancaster Group, which is a diversified holding company based in Kazakhstan. Individual investors also joined the round. More here.

Ola, the 6.5-year-old, Bangalore, India-based mobile app for cab booking in India (and Uber’s biggest rival there), has reportedly raised about $50 million in fresh funding from hedge fund Tekne Capital Management, as an extension of an ongoing round. The capital brings Ola’s total funding to date to about $2.4 billion, says the outlet Inc 42.

Optoscribe, a seven-year-old, Livingston, U.K.-based maker of glass-based integrated photonics components, has raised £1.8 million ($2.3 million) led by the Scottish business angel investment syndicate Archangels, with participation from Par Equity, Scottish Investment Bank, unnamed individual angels and the Optoscribe management team. More here.

Ridibooks, an eight-year-old, Seoul-based e-book provider that claims to be Korea’s biggest, has raised a $20 million Series C funding, including from Praxis Capital Partners, ShinHan Finance Investment, and Company K Partners. The company has now raised $35 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Twist Bioscience, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup specializing in synthetic DNA, has raised $27 million, completing a $60 million round it began raising in March. The company’s newest investors include Biomatics Capital, Reinet Fund, NFT Investment Limited, Kangmei Group, Bay City Capital GF Xinde Life Science Investment Fund, 3W Partners Capital, and Ditch Plains Capital Management. The company has now raised $181 million altogether. More here.

Unikey, a seven-year-old, Orlando, Fl.-based smart lock startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of  funding from ff Venture Capital, Asset Management Ventures and Samsung NEXT. More here.

New Funds

500 Startups has closed its first Japan-focused fund with $35 million, thanks to help from a government fund, Cool Japan Fund, along with other investors that include camera-maker Nikon, Meizhou Bank, Mitsubishi Estate and the Japanese social network Mixi. TechCrunch has more here.

Foresite Capital, a six-year-old, venture and growth equity firm with offices in San Francisco and New York, is looking to raise up to $650 million for its fourth fund, shows an SEC filing first flagged by Axios.

Glynn Capital, a 47-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture and private equity firm, has raised $153 million for its fifth fund, according to an SEC filing that lists a $200 million target.

Hardware Club, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm focused on supporting hardware startups, has closed its debut fund with $28 million. Venture Pulse has more here.

MedMen, a year-old, Culver City, Ca.-based startup focused on legal cannabis businesses, has raised $60 million for its debut fund, shows an updated SEC filing. More here.

Palo Alto Networks is partnering with Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital to set up a $20 million venture fund that provides early-stage capital investments for security applications to run on its security platform. The fund will be aimed at seed-, early- and growth-stage security companies with a cloud-based application approach. Computer Weekly has more here.

Technion in Haifa, Israel says it’s establishing a $200 million venture capital fund that will invest in science and technology companies, mainly related to the university and its alumni. Globes has more here.

Ventureast, a 20-year-old, Chennai, India-based early-stage venture firm, has scaled down the target for its sixth fund from $150 million to $100 million, reports the Times of India. The outfit held a first close on the fund last September. More here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is also being brought to you this week by Rosebud Communications:  You bring the steak, we’ll bring the sizzle. Our retainer fees are $5,500 per month versus $10,000+ for the other guys, and while we can’t make the news, we can ensure that yours gets heard. Reach us at info@rosebudpr.io.

People

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks with Bloomberg about Donald Trump, the HomePod, and the legacy of Steve Jobs.

Dave Famolari, formerly a director at Verizon Ventures, has left to joine Hearst Ventures as a managing director.

Kauffman Fellows just announced its newest class.

Turns out Peter Thiel does not want to suck teenagers’ blood.

Jobs

Nvidia, a publicly traded company whose chips are increasingly being used in engineering visualization and high-performance computing (they also helped the company design its new headquarters), is looking for a director of corporate development. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

Essential Reads

Hallelujah. The next iPhone will have wireless charging, says an Apple supplier.

Uber is facing a fresh probe from U.S. regulators over its privacy practices, says Recode.

Detours

You could be reading 200 books a year (yes, you!).

How your mind makes accidents inevitable.

Holy cow, Wells Fargo.

Retail Therapy

The “offensively wide” 4K widescreen TV that claims to be world’s largest.


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