Monthly Archives: July 2017

StrictlyVC: July 19, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy Wednesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a setback to Donald Trump’s travel ban earlier today, forcing his administration to accept people with grandparents, cousins and other relatives in the U.S.

Four more smartphone makers have joined Apple‘s battle against Qualcomm, claiming it charges excessive patent licenses and violates antitrust laws.

Sponsored By . . .

Did you know that 31 percent of paid SaaS licenses go entirely unused? We’re talking about BILLIONS of dollars in annual waste, compliance failures, and security problems. Meta SaaS solves these problems with an end-to-end SaaS service management application in the cloud for companies spending at least $1 million annually. Are you a VC? Get a VC discount! Have more than one portfolio company that needs Meta SaaS? Your portfolio companies get a 15 percent discount by mentioning that you heard about Meta SaaS on StrictlyVC.

This Famous Roboticist Doesn’t Think Elon Musk Understands AI

Earlier this week, at the campus of MIT, we had the chance to sit down with famed roboticist Rodney Brooks, the founding director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, and the cofounder of both iRobot and Rethink Robotics.

Brooks had a lot to say about AI, including his overarching concern that many people — including renowned AI alarmist Elon Musk — get it very wrong, in his view.

Brooks also warned that despite investors’ fascination with robotics right now, many VCs may underestimate how long these companies will take to build —  a potential problem for founders down the road.

Our chat, edited for length, follows.

You started iRobot when there was no venture funding, back in 1990. You started Rethink in 2008, when there was funding but not a lot of interest in robotics. Now, there are both, which seemingly makes it a better time to start a robotics company. Is it?

A lot of Silicon Valley and Boston VCs sort of fall over themselves about how they’re funding robotics [now], so you [as a founder] can get heard.

Despite [investors who say there is plenty of later-stage funding for robotics] , I think it’s hard for VCs to understand how long these far-out robotics systems will really take to get to where they can get a return on their investment, and I think that’ll be crunch time for some founders.

There’s also more competition and more patents that have been awarded, and a handful of companies have most of the world’s data. Does that make them insurmountable?

Someone starting a robotics company today should be thinking that maybe at some point, in order to grow, they’re going to have to get bought by a large company that has the deep pockets to push it further. The ecosystem would still use the VC funding to prune out the good ideas from the bad ideas, but going all the way to an IPO may be hard.

Second thing: On this data, yes, machine learning is fantastic, it can do a lot, but there are a lot of things that need to be solved that are not just purely software; some of the big innovations [right now] have been new sorts of electric motors and controls systems and gear boxes.

You’re writing a book on AI, so I have to ask you: Elon Musk expressed again this past weekend that AI is an existential threat. Agree? Disagree?

There are quite a few people out there who’ve said that AI is an existential threat: Stephen Hawking, astronomer Royal Martin Rees, who has written a book about it, and they share a common thread, in that: they don’t work in AI themselves. For those who do work in AI, we know how hard it is to get anything to actually work through product level.

More here.

New Fundings

Brain Corp., an eight-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based software company licensing artificial intelligence technology to multiple OEMs to convert their manual equipment into intelligent robots, has raised $114 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund led the deal, with participation from Qualcomm Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Clara Labs, the three-year-old, San Francisco-based creator of the Clara AI assistant, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Basis Set VenturesSlack Fund also joined in the round, along with earlier investors Sequoia Capital and First Round. TechCrunch has more here.

DataRails, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that’s trying to transforming Excel into a more modern organizational tool, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Vertex Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Cyrus Angel FundOryzn Capital and Joey LowMore here.

Embark, a two-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based doggie DNA startup offering genetic kits to determine pups’ pedigrees, has raised $4.5 million in funding led by Founder Collective. Other participants in the round include Freestyle CapitalThirdKind, Bill Maris’s new Section 32 fund, 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki, and SV Angel. The company has now raised $6.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Gravity, a five-month-old, London-based startup at work on an Iron Man-like flight suit, has raised $650,000 in funding from longtime VC Tim Draper and his son Adam Draper. TechCrunch has more here.

Integrate, a seven-year-old, Phoenix, Az.-based enterprise software startup for marketers that was founded by former U.S. Olympian Jeremy Bloom, has raised $8 million in funding from Iron Gate Capital and earlier backers, including Foundry GroupComcast Ventures and Liberty Global. ExactTarget founder Scott Dorsey and DocuSign CEO Dan Springer also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $35 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Karmic, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup at work on payments infrastructure and applications to enable the faster and more secure issuance of card accounts, has raised $17.2 million in Series B funding. Investors include Alsop Louie PartnersArbor VenturesGreycroft PartnersMarketplace FundsStartup Capital Ventures and others. More here.

Leverton, a five-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based intelligent information extraction and document management platform for corporate documents at companies like Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, has raised €10 million ($11 million) in funding from DAH Beteiligungs and Anyon HoldingMore here.

LiveStories, a four-year-old, Seattle-based company that works with governments, education institutions and other public entities to structure and visualize civic data, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Ignition Partners, and included participation from True Ventures and Founders Co-Op. TechCrunch has more here.

Nauto, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based autonomous vehicle technology company, just raised $159 million in Series B funding, led by a subsidiary of SoftBank Group and Greylock Partners. Other participants include previous strategic investors BMW iVenturesGeneral Motors VenturesToyota AI Ventures, the venture unit of global financial services and insurance provider Allianz GroupPlayground Global and Draper Nexus. TechCrunch has more here.

Plenty, a three-year-old, South San Francisco-based indoor farming company that says it has figured out how to efficiently grow crops indoors, has raised $200 million in Series B funding round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, making it the largest agriculture technology investment in history. Note, this is the second humongous deal that Softbank Vision Fund announced today. (See Brain Corp, above.) Bloomberg has more here.

Rentomojo, a 2.5-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based company that invites consumers to rent appliances furniture, motorbikes and other urban living essentials, has raised $10 million in Series B funding. Bain Capital Venturesled the round, with participation from LendingClub founder Renaud Laplancheand earlier backers Accel Partners and IDG. TechCrunch has more here.

Shift, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based used car marketplace, has raised $38 million in Series C funding led by BMW iVentures, with participation from new investors DCM Ventures and G2VP, as well as continued participation from DFJHighland Capital, and Goldman Sachs Investment PartnersMore here.

StackRox, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based cybersecurity startup that secures the contents of “containers,” or stacks of software that make it more efficient to run multiple applications atop a single operating system, has raised $14 million in funding. The round was led by Sequoia Capital. Reuters has more here.

Zego, a year-old, London-based startup offering pay-as-you-go insurance to on-demand workers, has raised a little more than £1 million in seed funding from investors, including LocalGlobe. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Luxembourg-based Mangrove Capital Partners, one of Europe’s leading early-stage venture capital firms, has raised $170 million for its latest fund. Mangrove V will be used to invest across Europe and Israel. The amount matches that of its previous funds. TechCrunch has more here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

With StrictlyVC in Boston this week for TC Sessions: Robotics, we’re also coming to you courtesy of Boston HQ’d Beantown Media Ventures. When venture-backed AI startups like TellusLabs and publicly traded machine learning companies such as Mattersight look to build compelling media narratives and scale content marketing they turn to BMV.

BMV’s growth approach to PR has helped 100’s of startups with services designed to drive inbound leads and valuations. In fact, it has supported several successful exits to date, including SinglePlatform ($100M), Runkeeper ($85M) and ByteLight. Looking like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to your own startup’s digital PR & content strategy? Get in touch with BMV today here!

Exits

Church & Dwight, a household goods manufacturer that owns the Arm & Hammer brand, is acquiring the water flosser maker Water Pik for about $1 billion in cash. The private equity firm MidOcean partners had acquired Water Pik in 2013 for undisclosed terms. USA Today has more here.

Sizmek, an ad tech company owned by the private-equity firm Vector Capital, has agreed to acquire ad tech peer Rocket Fuel for $125.5 million, or $2.60 per share. When Rocket Fuel went public in 2013, its shares traded as high as $66, giving it a market valuation of roughly $2 billion. The WSJ has more here.

McCormick and Co., the spice and flavorings giant, said it’s acquiring RB Foods, maker of Frank’s RedHot Hot Sauce, French’s Mustard and other brands, in a $4.2 billion deal. The Baltimore Sun has more here.

People

Apple just named its first managing director in China.

Elon Musk tried to manage expectations earlier today about SpaceX’s new rocket designed to carry private citizens into space, saying whoever chooses to be among the first passengers will need to be “brave.”

You think Uber was mismanaged; Silicon Valley’s first founderWilliam Shockley, was much, much worse, observes Wired.

Data

Female, black and Latino student participation in Advanced Placement computer science exams has more than doubled in the past year, according to a new report. USA Today has more here.

Jobs

Invesco, a fund-of-funds with stakes in more than 400 venture capital and buyout partnerships, is looking to hire an associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Polychain Capital, a young cryptocurrency hedge fund backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, is looking to hire a cryptocurrency analyst. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Google now has a Facebook News competitor, except rather than show users what interests their friends, it shows what users themselves are interested in.

NBC has lauched a daily news show on Snapchat.

Snap is now worth less than half its peak value.

Detours

Why Americans eat so much cheese.

Retail Therapy

Hazy Train pale ale: “smooth, velvety” and with “fruit-forward mouthfeel.” (They had us at “beer.”)


StrictlyVC: July 18, 2017

Hi, happy Tuesday, all.:) We’re on a plane with good-but-not-great WiFi; if we missed anything major, we’ll catch you up tomorrow.

Top News in the A.M.

An investigation into alleged sexual misconduct at an event in 2013 has now led AngelList to place a sales employee, Lee Jacobs, on indefinite paid leave of absence, TechCrunch is reporting. A complaint lodged with AngelList alleges that Jacobs sexually assaulted a woman during an event attended by others in the tech industry in March 2013.

Hampton Creek’s entire board quietly left last month, except for CEO Josh Tetrick. Bloomberg has more here.

Also, Ethereum‘s cofounder is now saying that the crypto coin market is a ticking time bomb.

Sponsored By . . .

Did you know that 31 percent of paid SaaS licenses go entirely unused? We’re talking about BILLIONS of dollars in annual waste, compliance failures, and security problems. Meta SaaS solves these problems with an end-to-end SaaS service management application in the cloud for companies spending at least $1 million annually. Are you a VC? Get a VC discount! Have more than one portfolio company that needs Meta SaaS? Your portfolio companies get a 15 percent discount by mentioning that you heard about Meta SaaS on StrictlyVC.

Secondary Marketplace EquityZen Draws $3M in Funding

The number of public companies in United States is at a 40-year low; that’s good news for EquityZen, a four-year-old, New York-based company that operates a secondary marketplace for company-approved transactions in pre-IPO stock.

The 20-person firm says it has already closed more than 2,000 investments in more than 70 private firms, and Draper Associates is betting that number will grow substantially. To wit, the early-stage venture firm just led a $3 million Series A round in EquityZen, with participation from earlier backer WorldQuant Ventures.

EquityZen had previously raised seed funding from 500 Startups, LaunchCapital, and Projector Ventures. It has now raised $6.5 million altogether.

Certainly, the company has been picking up momentum over the last year. According to CEO Atish Davda, EquityZen now serves 20,000 accredited investors, and roughly a quarter of those individuals have joined in 2017; he also says his company has, in the first six months of this year, already surpassed the transaction volume it saw in 2015 and 2016 — combined.

No doubt part of that pick-up can be tied to EquityZen reducing the check size required to invest, from what used to be $20 million to $20,000. (And it wants to get that minimum down further, Davda says.)

Among those companies whose pre-IPO shares EquityZen has helped to trade are Nutanix, Veracode, Cloudera, and AppDynamics. EquityZen has also helped facilitate the trade of shares of the real estate brokerage Redfin, which is currently in the midst of a pre-IPO roadshow.

More here.

New Fundings

Artsy, an eight-year-old, New York-based art discovery marketplace, has raised $50 million in Series D funding at a reported $275 million post-money valuation led by Avenir Growth Capital. The round also included earlier backers L CattertonShumway Capital and Thrive Capital, along with some high-profile individual investors, like Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia and Larry Gagosian of Gagosian Gallery. TechCrunch has more here.

Awake Security, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based cybersecurity analytics startup, has raised more than $30 million in new funding from Greylock Partners and Bain Capital VenturesMore here.

Corelight, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based cybersecurity startup focused on helping enterprises fight ransomeware, has raised $9.2 million in Series A funding. Accel Partners led the round, with participation from Osage University Partners and Riverbed Technology co-founder Steve McCanne. TechCrunch has more here.

Embark, a year-old, San Mateo-based self-driving trucking startup started by a 21-year-old robotics enthusiast, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Data Collective, with participation from YC ContinuityMaven Venturesand SV Angel. Techcrunch has more here.
Enterin, a year-old, Philadelphia-based developer of drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease, has raised $12.7 million in Series A funding led by New Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.

Freshbooks, a 14-year-old, Toronto-based cloud accounting service, has raised $43 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Georgian Partners, with participation from other earlier investors Accomplice and Oak Investment Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Ironhack, a four-year-old, Madrid-based coding bootcamp with campuses in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and Miami, has raised $3 million in financing led by Madrid-based JME Venture Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

NewStore, a two-year-old, Boston-based enterprise platform for mobile commerce, has raised $50 million in Series B funding from Activant CapitalGeneral Catalyst Partners and founder Stephen Schambach (who previously founded Demandware). The company raised $40 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

PegBio, a 10-year-old, Suzhou, China-based drug developer focused on diabetes and obesity, has raised $20 million in Series E funding led by Shanghai-listed Tasley Pharma. China Money Network has more here.

Privitar, a three-year-old, London-based startup building tools to help organization keep their data private, has raised $16 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Partech Ventures, with strategic participation from CME Ventures (the investing arm of derivatives marketplace CME) and Salesforce Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

ScaleFT, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based security company, has raised $2 million in seed funding from Fathom CapitalSpectrum 28Fuel Capital and Rackspace founder Graham WestonMore here.

Syte.ai, a two-year-old, Israel-based visual search startup focused on fashion products, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by NHN Ventures (the investment arm of Korean internet services giant NHN). Other participants in the round include Naver Corp., messaging app Line Corp.Magma VCRemagine VCKDC Ventures, and NBM Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Wellframe, a six-year-old, Boston-based startup behind a mobile patient engagement and care management platform, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by F-Prime Capital, with participation from earlier backer DFJ. MobiHealthNews has more here.

Workato, a four-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based maker of workflow automation software, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Storm Ventures, with participation from strategic investors Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures. The company has now raised $16 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Insight Venture Partners, the 22-year-old, New York-based venture capital and private equity firm, has so far raised $3.6 billion from 66 investors for its tenth main fund, shows an SEC filing. (The filing also shows a tidy $12 million in sales commissions to Goldman Sachs, Magenta Capital Services, and Sparring Partners Capital, among others.) Insight had last closed on two funds (a main fund and a co-investment fund) totaling $4.75 billion in 2015.

Also Sponsored By . . .

With StrictlyVC in Boston this week for TC Sessions: Robotics, we’re also coming to you courtesy of Boston HQ’d Beantown Media Ventures. When venture-backed AI startups like TellusLabs and publicly traded machine learning companies such as Mattersight look to build compelling media narratives and scale content marketing they turn to BMV.

BMV’s growth approach to PR has helped 100’s of startups with services designed to drive inbound leads and valuations. In fact, it has supported several successful exits to date, including SinglePlatform ($100M), Runkeeper ($85M) and ByteLight. Looking like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to your own startup’s digital PR & content strategy? Get in touch with BMV today here!

Exits

Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart has sweetened its takeover offer of up to $950 million for Snapdeal, improving the chances of a deal between the two rivals, though some sticking points are still being hashed out, reports Reuters. More here.

People

We mentioned yesterday that software company BetterWorks and its CEO, Kris Duggan, are being sued by a former employee for assault, harassment, and discrimination. Now, Penguin Random House has pulled plans to publish a book co-written by Duggan and VC John Doerr. Bloomberg has the story here.

Come. On. Private equity investor Michael Loeb — who owns the sprawling waterfront mansion featured in the series “Billions” — was arrested for allegedly breaking a teen’s nose. The 18-year-old, who is friends with Loeb’s son, says Loeb punched him after another of the boys’ friends drunkenly threw up in Loeb’s garage during a charity event on Saturday. The New York Post has more here.

Tesla has added two new independent directors to its board, a move CEO Elon Musk said he’d been working on since the electric vehicle manufacturer merged with his solar panel company SolarCity. Joining the now nine-member board are media executives, Linda Johnson Rice, who is CEO of Johnson Publishing Company and Ebony Media Operations; and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch. Recode has more here.

Two USC seniors walked into Sequoia Capital with a prototype made out of a fishbowl and landed $1.5 million. Business Insider has more here.

Rachel Whetstone, who recently left her job as top public relations and policy exec at Uber, is joining the communications team at Facebook in a newly created role as VP of comms of its WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger products. Recode has more here.

Essential Reads

Google Glass‘s second act is here.

Snap‘s lock-up period ends July 29. Here’s what could happen.

Google is taking aim at the recruiting software market.

Everlane, founded in 2011 as a direct-to-consumer brand that sells clothing made in factories with humanitarian conditions at wholesale prices, is opening its first brick-and-mortar store, the latest in a growing string of e-commerce companies to make the same move.

Detours

Twelve “Game of Thrones” cameos you might have missed.

Instagram has ruined wedding season.

Farewell for now, Kermit thee Frog.

Retail Therapy

Brush your teeth in 10 seconds with this baby. (We can’t guarantee your dental hygienist will approve.)


StrictlyVC: July 17, 2017

Hi, happy Monday, everyone! We’re on the beautiful campus of MIT today, in between a few on-stage interviews. We’ll be traveling for much of tomorrow, so you might be receiving the low-calorie version of StrictlyVC, but we’ll be back in full swing by Wednesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

It’s time for bitcoin traders to batten down the hatches.

Sponsored By . . .

Did you know that 31percent of paid SaaS licenses go entirely unused? We’re talking about BILLIONS of dollars in annual waste, compliance failures, and security problems. Meta SaaS solves these problems with an end-to-end SaaS service management application in the cloud for companies spending at least $1 million annually. Are you a VC? Get a VC discount! Have more than one portfolio company that needs Meta SaaS? Your portfolio companies get a 15 percent discount by mentioning that you heard about Meta SaaS on StrictlyVC.

This 32-Year-Old Senator is Trying to Get Patent Trolls Out of Massachusetts

When the internet security company Cloudflare decided to engage in all-out warwith what it views as a “dangerous new breed of patent troll,” it found a receptive audience with Eric Lesser, who became the youngest state senator in Massachusetts when elected to office in 2014.

Senator Lesser, now a 32-year-old in his second two-year-term, was in the same Harvard fraternity as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but says he didn’t really think much about tech until after working on President Obama’s first presidential election campaign in 2007. “I was traveling around with him and carrying suitcases and handling logistics for his traveling team,” he explains.

When the campaign was over, he joined then-senior advisor David Axelrod at the White House as a special assistant; he also became involved with the Council of Economic Advisors and more specifically with the agency’s chairman at the time, economist Austan Goolsbee. “That’s really when I started to get exposure to a lot of tech policy and some of the issues,” he says.

Fast-forward and today, among the issues Senator Lesser has become most focused on — because he sees it as among the bigger threats to Massachusetts’s economy — is patent trolling. Indeed, while he’s not sure how much he can do to help Cloudflare, which has a Boston office, a bill that Senator Lesser helped craft will be heard in committee tomorrow, and it would put a serious crimp in what he calls “shakedown operations” more broadly.

More from a conversation we had Friday morning, edited for length:

You’re on the young side to be a state senator.

I’d gone to Harvard, then Harvard Law School, and in my third year, I decided to jump into a race in the community where I grew up, and I won. It was a five-way primary, and very close. I think I won by 192 votes out of around 17,000. [Laughs.]

When did you zero in on this patent problem?

In Massachusetts, you serve two-year terms, and after I was reelected to my second term, a friend who I was friendly with in college was at HBS and he sort of said, “There’s this thing that’s starting to create real issues,” and it was patent trolling. I’d had a very atmospheric knowledge of it from law school and IP classes, but I began realizing this was a very big deal.

More here.

New Fundings

AdQuick, a year-old, L.A.-based startup that’s looking to make billboard advertising easier and more transparent, has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Initialized CapitalVTF Capital (founded by Tony Hsieh of Zappos), and Haystack. TechCrunch has more here.

Bright.md, a three-year-old, Roseville, Ca.-based company whose software acts as a virtual physician’s assistant, has raised $8 million in Series B led by B Capital Group, with early-stage investor Seven Peaks Ventures joining the round. More here.

Butternut Box, a year-old, London-based startup that delivers fresh meals specially tailored for its customers’ dogs, has raised $1.3 million in dseed funding from Passion CapitalMore here.

Desktop Metal, a 1.5-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based metal 3D printing company, has raised $115 million in Series D funding, including from New Enterprise AssociatesGVGE VenturesFuture FundTechtronic IndustriesLowe’sLux CapitalVertex VenturesMoonrise Venture PartnersDCVC OpportunityTycheKleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersShenzhen Capital Group and Saudi Aramco. The company has now raised $212 million altogether. More here.

Learnerbly, a year-old, London-based startup whose software tries to help companies better develop their employees, has raised $2 million in seed financing led by Frontline Ventures, with participation from Playfair Capital, the Mayor of London’s London Co-Investment FundFuture Planet Capital and regional tech angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Leap Motion, a nearly seven-year-old, San Francisco-based software and hardware company developing 3D motion-control technology for virtual reality and additional platforms, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management, with participation from Andreessen HorowitzFounders FundHighland Capital Partners and SOSventuresMore here.

Rapid Medical, an eight-year-old, Yokneam, Israel-based company that makes stroke prevention and treatment products, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by BRM Group and Shanghai-Israel Investment Fund, with the participation of Winnovation and Gefen Capital. Globes has more here.

Sensome, a three-year-old, Paris-based company developing a micro-sensor technology for smart medical devices, has raised $5.4 million in seed funding led by Kurma Diagnostics, with participation from Paris-Saclay Seed Fund and ID Invest, as well as a group of business angels. More here.

Tsunami VR, a three-year-old, L.A.-based company that develops immersive software applications using augmented reality and virtual reality for enterprise customers, has raised $7.5 million in second round funding, shows an SEC filing.

Venus Concept, an eight-year-old, Toronto-based maker of non-invasive devices devices for the medical aesthetics market, has raised $38 million in funding led by EW Healthcare Partners, with participation from HealthQuest Capital and Madryn Asset ManagementMore here.

WaveOptics, a three-year-old, UK startup that builds waveguide-based optics — technology based on hologram physics and photonic crystals — for augmented reality hardware, has raised $16 million in Series B round of funding from previous investors Octopus VenturesTouchstone Innovations and Robert Bosch Venture Capital, along with new investor Gobi Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Yimidida, a two-year-old, Shanghai-based logistics services platform for small cities in China (it focuses on last-mile delivery services), has raised $44 million in Series B funding led by CDH Investments, with participation from Global Logistic PropertiesSource Code CapitalK2VC and Tuofeng Investment. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

Evolution Equity Partners, a New York-based investment firm, has raised $125 million for a new cybersecurity-focused fund. The Prague-based outfit was founded by a group of former executives and investors from antivirus software maker AVG Technologies. Dealbook has more here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

With StrictlyVC in Boston this week for TC Sessions: Robotics, we’re also coming to you courtesy of Boston HQ’d Beantown Media Ventures. When venture-backed AI startups like TellusLabs and publicly traded machine learning companies such as Mattersight look to build compelling media narratives and scale content marketing they turn to BMV.

BMV’s growth approach to PR has helped 100’s of startups with services designed to drive inbound leads and valuations. In fact, it has supported several successful exits to date, including SinglePlatform ($100M), Runkeeper ($85M) and ByteLight. Looking like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to your own startup’s digital PR & content strategy? Get in touch with BMV today here!

IPOs

Blue Apron‘s shares dropped as much as 12 percent again today after Amazon filed a trademark application for prepared food kits. More here.

Sienna Biopharmaceuticals, a Westlake Village, Ca.-based biopharmaceutical company at work on topical products for medical dermatology and aesthetics, has sets terms for its IPO, revealing plans this morning to raise up to $69.3 million. More here.

Exits

Uber has acqui-hired Swipe Labs, a three-year-old,San Francisco-based social product studio. Swipe Labs had raised $8.2 million in funding from Binary CapitalFirst Round CapitalGreylock PartnersKhosla VenturesLowercase CapitalSherpa Ventures, and SV Angels. TechCrunch has more here.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that Wells Fargo will be spinning off a number of its products “worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to CFO John Shrewsberry, though he didn’t specify what products those would be. More here.

People

Performance management software company BetterWorks and its CEO, Kris Duggan, regional VP Matt Hart and VP of People Operations, Tamara Cooksey, have been sued by a former employee for assault, harassment, and discrimination.

Longtime VC Fred Destin is facing challenges in raising his new fund, owing to allegations by a female founder who says he behaved inappropriately after she pitched him on her startup at a technology conference. Bloomberg has more here.

Two of the best-known pioneers in private equity, Henry Kravis and George Roberts, named their potential successors earlier this morning, naming Joseph Bae and Scott  Nuttall, as its co-presidents and co-chief operating officers.

SoundCloud’s CEO Alex Ljung has said the company is “here to stay” in a post intended to quash rumors of a shutdown.

Yasmin Razavi has joined Spark Capital’s growth team. She was most recently a product manager at Snapchat and worked previously with Index Ventures.

Essential, the new smartphone startup headed up by Android founder Andy Rubin, has lost its top marketer before the phone has even launched. Vice president of marketing Brian Wallace left to become CMO of Will.i.am’s i.am+ lifestyle brand.

Jobs

Siemens is hiring a venture capital associate. The job is in Boston.

Data

Companies with at least one female founder grew from 9 percent in 2009 to 17 percent since 2012 — a stat that has not changed for five years.

Ad spending on mobile video will reach $18 billion next year, surpassing desktop for the first time.

Essential Reads

There are signs that we could see Amazon enter the messaging fray, alongside more established services from Facebook, Snapchat, WeChat and more. TechCrunch has more here.

Benchmark has reportedly had discussions to sell part of its stake in Uber to Softbank or other potential investors.

Snapchat is shopping for ad tech companies to help bolster its appeal to marketers.

Here’s what Atari’s upcoming Ataribox console will look like.

Detours

Employees who stay in companies longer than two years get paid 50 percent less over their lifetimes.

An overdose, a young companion, drug-fueled parties: The secret life of a USC med school dean.

A study says that yes, artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain. (Dammit!)

Retail Therapy

Vertical House.


StrictlyVC: July 14, 2017

Friday! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

We’ll be writing you on Monday from Boston, where, among other things, we’re excited to be interviewing several top robotics investors, including Helen Zelman of Lemnos, Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital, and SRI Ventures President Manish Kothari. We’ll report back to you what they say in case it’s useful for your own work.

We also wanted to offer a quick bit of advice to the one Binary Capital portfolio CEO who has expressed his enthusiasm to us regarding keeping Jonathan Teo at the helm, and who we have been very responsive to(!), yet who keeps writing usMarc Kasowitz style.

You’d think a CEO might know better, but it’s not a good idea to talk to a reporter like this, or anyone for that matter.

Dear impassioned CEO, we understand that you are very important, with a very important startup to run. We looked it up; we wish you luck. And now, goodbye . . . forever. [Smoke machine envelops speaker. End scene.]

No column today.:)

Top News in the A.M.

AlphaBay, an online marketplace that sold illegal goods on the so-called Dark Web, was shut last week following action by international authorities, reports the WSJ, which says that unlike Silk Road, whose primary focus was on drug sales, AlphaBay was more diverse, selling guns, stolen credit card numbers and more.

Uber’s biggest rival in Southeast Asia , GrabTaxi, is poised to raise as much as $2 billion from Softbank and China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, in a deal that would value the company at more than $5 billion. The deal would make the company the region’s most valuable startup. The WSJ has the story here.

DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest daily fantasy sports platforms that originally announced their intention to merge last year, have called it quits. TechCrunch has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC has been brought to you this week by First Democracy VC, a registered equity crowdfunding portal formed through a partnership between Indiegogo and MicroVentures. It’s worth checking out. Due to recent changes in U.S. law, startups can now raise money from anyone, not only accredited investors (i.e. wealthy individuals). Moreover, startups can use an equity crowdfunding raise to carve out a piece of a current raise with VCs and/or other institutional investors for their community of customers and fans.  Interested in raising money for your startup?  Apply now. Interested in investing? You can see a list of current investment opportunities here.

New Fundings

Actinobac Biomed, an eight-year-old, New Brunswick, N.J.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing therapeutics for multiple indications, including blood cancers, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and HIV, is raising up to $4.4 million from Kairos VenturesMore here.

Assent Compliance, a 12-year-old, Ottawa-based company that helps enterprises collect the data needed to keep their global supply chains in compliance with local and international regulations, has raised roughly $31.4 million. Greenspring Associates led the round; other participants include earlier investors Volition CapitalOpen Text Enterprise Application FundBusiness Development Bank of CanadaNational Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, and Royal Bank of Canada. TechCrunch has more here.

Bespin Global, a two-year-old, Seoul- and Beijing-based cloud IT solutions company, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Legend Capital, with participation from Premier PartnersAltos VenturesHyosung ITX, and other investors. More here.

Bevi, a four-year-old, Boston-based “smart” water cooler that makes custom beverages, has raised $16.5 million in Series B funding led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from Horizons Ventures and Tamarisc. The company has now raised $27.5 million altogether. Xconomy has more here.

Collectly, a year-old, Walnut Creek, Ca.-based app that aims to provide people who owe money with repayment solutions that enable lenders to recoup some of their losses, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding. GoAhead Ventures led the round, with participation from Lightspeed Venture PartnersIndex VenturesWTIIT-FarmCabra.vcGranatus Ventures, and OnWave Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Imsight Medical, a months-old, Beijing-based start-up developing artificial intelligence-assisted medical imaging analysis tools, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Lenovo Group’s venture capital arm. China Money Network has more here.

Insticator, a five-year-old, New York-based startup that allows online publishers to add quizzes, polls, and other interactive elements that can include advertising, has raised $5.2 million in Series A funding led by Associated Venture Management. Other participants include Mintz & Co. and The Beatson Companies. Insticator has now raised more than $8 million total. TechCrunch has more here.

Plum, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup whose appliance preserves, chills and serves wine by the glass, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Khosla VenturesLas Olas Venture Capital and angel investors across the tech, wine and hospitality industries also joined the round. More here.

Synthio, a six-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based software company that automates the data cleansing process for B2B marketing contacts, has raised $8.5 million in growth funding from Fulcrum Equity PartnersMore here.

Vroom, a four-year-old, New York-, Dallas and Houston-based online auto retailer that delivers reconditioned vehicles to customers’ door, just raised $76 million in Series F funding. Backers include certain funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price AssociatesL CattertonGeneral Catalyst Partners and PICO Venture Partners. The company has now raised $295 million altogether. More here.

New Funds

Flagged by Axios: Longtime VC Warren Weiss is raising $35 million for a new venture fund called WestWave Capital. Weiss has spent the past 17 years with Foundation Capital. You can find the SEC filing here.

IPOs

Roku, maker of a streaming media player, is reportedly planning an IPO by year end and seeking a valuation of roughly $1 billion.

Since its IPO, Snap did exactly what it said it would, so why is its stock struggling?

People

Another member of Congress is urging fellow lawmakers to take a closer look at Amazon and its $14 billion bid to buy Whole Foods. (The first was U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California.)

A Goldman Sachs co-president and a leading contender to become the investment bank’s CEO has a surprising hobby.

Here’s who reportedly doesn’t want the Uber job.

Jobs

Index Ventures is looking to hire two pre- or post-MBA associates. One role is in San Francisco, the other in London.

Data

Investments in China-based companies more than tripled in the second quarter, hitting $10.7 billion up from the $3.5 billion recorded in the first three months of the year. The huge difference reflects in part two massive deals, notes China Money Network: Didi Chuxing’s $5.5 billion funding round from SoftBank and others, and Toutiao’s $1 billion founding round from Sequoia Capital and CCB International. More here.

Essential Reads

Amazon‘s next Echo will be more like Apple’s HomePod.

Tesla is offering a secret special deal to some owners.

If you care about sexual harassment and female founders, you may want to watch this Sunday night. (It’s worse than we’d realized.)

Detours

What Disney’s “Star Wars Land” will look like.

How to protect your kid from identity theft.

Fake news articles may just be the tip of the iceberg. New research shows it’s possible to create fake news videos, too.

Retail Therapy

Cool! The NES Power Glove. Apparently it doesn’t work very well, but who cares?


StrictlyVC: July 13, 2017

Happy Thursday, everyone.:)

Binary Capital: Everyone is weary of hearing about it, we know, but we did want to correct an earlier report that we’d gotten wrong. We’d told you that LPs of the venture firm Binary Capital had accepted co-founder Jonathan Teo’s resignation in late June. That’s inaccurate, and we regret the error.

As you may know, last weekend, Jonathan Teo wrote two emails to Binary’s portfolio companies and to its LPs. In one of those notes, he said that LPs have not yet accepted his resignation. According to our original sources, who we pressed on this, Binary’s LPs had told them they were still planning to move forward with plans to find a new general partner to manage out the firm’s investments, but these sources had been told the process could take longer than expected, up to 90 days from 30, as originally explained to them.

Another source even closer to the fund planning now says the LPs have not made a final decision and that, in the meantime, they want to keep Teo in place for the sake of Binary’s employees and portfolio companies that are relying on the firm to continue functioning. Further, one CEO of a Binary-backed company has reached out to us to let us know he is fighting to keep Teo on as the firm’s managing director.

Obviously, there are clearly a lot of confusing elements and players involved in this story; again, we’re sorry for our part in advancing that confusion.

Top News in the A.M.

Uber is handing over the keys to its business in Russia, with the San Francisco-based company and Yandex merging their ride-hailing businesses. Specifically, Uber will invest $225 million and take a 36.6 percent stake in a new, yet-to-be named venture that will be valued at $3.73 billion, the companies said in a statement earlier. Bloomberg has more here.

Snap shares received a much-needed Wall Street upgrade today, after falling to a post-IPO low. Investment bank Stifel upgraded the shares to buy from hold, with analyst Scott Devitt saying in a note that some of the worries surrounding Snap could be overblown.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC comes to you this week courtesy of First Democracy VC, a registered equity crowdfunding portal that’s powered by Indiegogo and MicroVentures. Equity crowdfunding lets anyone invest in innovative startups and growing companies. Interested in raising money for your startup?  Apply now. Interested in investing? Check out current investment opportunities here.

Saucey Raises $5.4M More from Investors to Delivery Booze On Demand

Saucey, an L.A.-based alcohol delivery company, has raised $5.4 million in Series A funding led by Bullpen Capital, with participation from earlier and new investors, including Blumberg Capital, Structure Capital and HashtagOne.

Saucey, which has now raised $10.2 million altogether, is competing against a dizzying number of alcohol-delivery companies. In addition to direct rivals like DrizlyThirstie, and Swill, delivery companies like Postmates and Instacart are increasingly focusing on new categories, including alcohol delivery. Amazon is also beginning to offer beer and wine delivery in a growing number of cities.

Some CEOs might find the landscape daunting. In a chat with us yesterday, Saucey CEO Chris Vaughn didn’t seem deterred by his company’s many challengers, partly because the market opportunity these companies are chasing is humongous, and partly because he thinks Saucey can become the favorite of regulators in the states where it operates.

We chatted with Vaughn yesterday about the company. Our conversation has been edited for length.

You were working for a series of startups in L.A.; what motivated you to leave and start Saucey?

I guess I caught the tech bug in college, so after school, I wound up going to work for a couple of startups, including a company called textPlus, where I met and became super good friends with my Saucey cofounders.

As for the idea, my girlfriend at the time — now my wife — is an operating room nurse, and she’d come home and want something to drink. We’d be halfway through dinner and she ask, “Can you get some wine?” I found I was always running out to get this stuff, and that maybe 80 percent of the time, it was last minute, on impulse. I talked about that with Dan [Leeb, now Saucey’s chief product officer] and Andrew [Zeck, its CTO], and they were like, yes, let’s do it.

Were liquor stores easy to convince?

It was fall of 2013 when we got started, and we met with at least 40 to 50 liquor retailers who said no. Finally, a guy in his early 30s who’d inherited his dad’s West Hollywood store said within a minute, “Yeah, that’s awesome.” So we [started working with him]. He was doing about $300,000 a year in sales, and in that first year, we brought him an additional $600,000 in sales.

We were working night and weekends and eventually made the move and left textPlus. We were doing all the deliveries ourselves. Sometimes, there would be a spike in demand and we’d only realize afterward that, oh, “The Bachelor” season had started.

How many employees do you have today?

We have 25 full-time employees and work with 2,300 couriers.

Are these Uber and Lyft drivers and people who drive for other services?

Most have a professional courier background or drive for Postmates or Instacart and are used to interacting with customers and navigating around cities. We spend a lot of time optimizing our courier routes, so the average courier [delivers] substantially more orders than with these other services. When they’re going to the [liquor] store, the chances are they aren’t picking up one order but three or four, so they can be efficient with their time.

How are drivers paid?

On a per order basis; it’s a flat fee per order, plus a percentage based on how big the cart is. If they’re delivering a big order, they’ll get 50 cents for every additional item in the cart.

If we open a new territory or new zone, couriers are still paid per order, but we’ll guarantee an hourly minimum to ensure we have coverage no matter what.

Do you insure them? 

They bring their own insurance. We also do background checks on everybody.

What about your customers? How do you make certain they’re of legal drinking age?

We require an ID to be checked and scanned on every single order. It doesn’t matter if you’re a super loyal customer of ours or you’re 100 years old.

More here.

(More) New Fundings

Applitools, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.- and Tel Aviv-based provider of cloud-based automated visual testing of web and mobile applications, raised $8 million in funding. Sierra Ventures led the round, with participation from Bessemer Venture PartnersMagma Venture PartnersiAngels and La MaisonMore here.

BloomAPI, a two-year-old, Seattle-based startup that says it’s connecting patients, providers, and payers to data in thousands of previously disconnected systems, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding. The capital comes from Y CombinatorSlow VenturesFounders’ Co-OpSection 32 (Bill Maris’s new fund), Liquid 2 VenturesFifty Years FundTWB Investment PartnershipWei Fund, Zenefits cofounder Parker Conrad and other angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Cover, a five-year-old, New York-based app that recommends homeowner’s insurance to users based on what’s photographed in their home, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Social Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Entrupy, a five-year-old, New York-based company whose machine-learning-driven software as a service enables businesses to quickly authenticate high value goods, has raised $2.6 million in Series A funding led by Digital Garageand Daiwa Securities GroupMore here.

Framebridge, a three-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based custom framing startup, has raised $16.7 million in Series B funding, with Crate & Barrel cofounder Gordon Segal joining in as an investor. The company has now raised $37 million altogether, including from New Enterprise AssociatesRevolution Ventures, and SwaN & Legend Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Geek+, a two-year-old, Beijing-based developer of logistics robots, has raised $60 million in Series B funding led by Warburg Pincus, with participation from earlier backers, including Volcanics Venture. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Makeblock, a four-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based robotics construction platform for makers and STEM learners, is reportedly raising $60 million in Series C funding with SoftBank in talks to invest. The company’s current backers include Sequoia Capital and the startup accelerator Hax. Bloomberg has more here.

Mendel.ai, a year-old, San Francisco-based artificial intelligence engine provider for the medical industry, has raised $2 million in seed funding co-led by DCM Ventures and Bootstrap Labs. Other investors in the round include Launch CapitalDeNa Strategic Investments, and Mark GoldsteinMore here.

Open Listings, a three-year-old, L.A.-based startup that lets buyers purchase homes and receive a 50 percent refund on whatever fee their real estate agent would normally make, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. Matrix Partners led the round, with participation from Initialized Capital and Arena Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

OwnBackup, a five-year-old, Fort Lee, N.J.-based startup that makes backup and restore software as a service, has raised $7.5 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers, includingInnovation EndeavorsOryzn Capital and Salesforce Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Pendo, a four-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based platform that aims to help businesses better understand their customers by tracking key customer metrics, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Meritech Capital Partners. The company had closed on $20 million in Series B funding just seven months ago. TechCrunch has more here.

Quill, a six-year-old, London-based digital content production company, has raised an undisclosed amount in funding, bringing the total funding raised to date to £10 million ($13 million). Its investors include Smedvig Capital and Panoramic Growth EquityMore here.

Rover.com, a six-year-old, Seattle-based network of pet sitters and dog walkers, has raised $65 million in new funding led by Spark Capital. Other participants in the round include Bespoke StrategiesStepStone Group and earlier backers Madrona Venture GroupMenlo VenturesFoundry GroupOMERS Ventures and Technology Crossover Ventures. Earlier this year, as readers might recall, Rover.com acquired direct rival DogVacay. TechCrunch has more here.

Stash, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based micro-investing app, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Coatue Management, with participation from earlier investors Breyer CapitalGoodwater Capital and Valar Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

HarbourVest Partners has closed its fourth co-investment fund with $1.75 billion in capital commitments. The firm was targeting $1 billion initially. Pensions & Investments has more here.

Samsung’s venture capital arm said yesterday it is expanding into Europe to invest in the continent’s start-up scene. Samsung NEXT will use a $150 million global fund raised in January to target early stage start-ups in Europe for investment or acquisition, focusing on tech companies working on artificial intelligence, the internet of things, augmented reality and virtual reality, says CNBC. More here.

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23andMe’s Golden23 Sweepstakes ends on Aug 3rd. No purchase necessary. Visit this page for rules.

IPOs

London’s latest ploy to attract the world’s largest IPO.

Exits

Cisco is acquiring Observable Networks, a six-year-old, St. Louis-based network security company. No financial terms are being disclosed. According to Crunchbase, the startup had raised less than $5 million from investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Dev Bootcamp, the original “coding bootcamp,” is shutting down, the company said yesterday. Its last cohort of students, who begin the program next week, will graduate in December and receive job search help before the school permanently shuts down. The company was acquired by education services company Kaplan in 2014. Axios has more here.

Luxury phonemaker Vertu has collapsed. The company made $50,000, jewel-encrusted handsets, so it was pretty much a matter of time. The BBC has more here.

People

WeWork has promoted its chief legal officer and chief cultural officer Jen Berrent into the role of COO in what could be a pre-IPO maneuver. We talked with Berrent and WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey yesterday.

Serial entrepreneur Jason Golberg, cofounder of famed flameout Fab and now founder of a newer chat app called Pepo, is planning to stage an ICO for the business in the last quarter of the year.

Pinterest has scooped up two Google execs as it looks to build out its advertising team. AdWeek has more here.

Revolution Growth added Todd Klein as a partner, promoted Steve Murray to a managing partner, named Evan Morgan as a special partner, and hired Luisa Sucre as an analyst.

Jobs

Lockheed Martin Ventures, the venture capital arm of Lockheed Martin Corp, is looking to hire an investment analyst. The job is in Bethesda, Md.

The healthcare investment firm Versant Ventures is looking to hire a principal. The job is in Basel, Switzerland. Write to executive headhunter Christine Mathews if interested, at cmathews at versantventures.com

Data

The top 10 tech startups cooking in Cleveland.

Essential Reads

A wireless Oculus VR headset is coming.

Despite the scandals to rock Uber this year, competition for the CEO position is robust.

A source tells Fast Company that Apple is working hard to add a rear-facing 3D laser system to the back of one of the new iPhones to be announced this fall. The new sensor system would enable better depth detection for augmented reality apps.

Detours

Emmy nominations 2017.

Harvard is considering doing away with its social clubs.

Retail Therapy

Now you can decorate your place like a Gucci ad (assuming you haven’t already).


StrictlyVC: July 12, 2017

Aha! You didn’t realize that we hadn’t published yet today! Gotcha.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Shares of PayPal hit an all-time high today of $56.99, thanks to a new company partnership with Apple.

Another VC bites the dust. Frank Artale, who, over the last decade, worked as a VP of biz dev at Citrix Systems, then joined Ignition Partners in 2011 as a managing director, has resigned from the firm. In a tweeted statement yesterday, Ignition said it had learned of a complaint of misconduct about Artale from a third party. His resignation this past Sunday night was “effective immediately,” says the firm.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC comes to you this week courtesy of First Democracy VC, a registered equity crowdfunding portal that’s powered by Indiegogo and MicroVentures. Equity crowdfunding lets anyone invest in innovative startups and growing companies. Interested in raising money for your startup?  Apply now. Interested in investing? Check out current investment opportunities here.

AutoTech Ventures Just Landed $120 Million from Transportation Companies for Its Debut Fund

Transportation is a huge category. Just some of the players include automakers and motorcycle manufacturers and trucking firms and logistics companies and dealership groups and repair shop chains and truck rental companies and car leasing companies and telematics companies and energy companies with big networks of gasoline stations around the world.

Given the dramatic changes underway in the way that people travel, you can imagine these industries are acutely interested in knowing what technologies are on the horizon so they can adapt and adjust their strategies.

Enter Autotech Ventures, a three-year-old, Bay Area-based venture fund that’s focused on ground transportation startups and which is promising its limited partners — most of them transportation companies — introductions to the latest and greatest startups.

It’s also offering to make key connections for the startups that make room for it at the table.

The firm’s vertical approach is reminiscent of Fifth Wall Ventures, a real-estate focused fund that recently raised its debut fund from a long line of heavyweights in the real-estate world who also want access to the tech that might impact their industry.

Autotech’s strategy is seemingly working already, too. The firm, which is today announcing the close of its debut fund with $120 million in capital commitments, has already funded six companies, including the growing ride-share giant Lyft.

More here.

New Fundings

Aptrinsic, a year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company whose software aims to help companies acquire customers by providing them with real-time product usage data, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding co-led by Storm Ventures and Opus CapitalMore here.

Astronomer, a two-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based collaborative data platform developer, has raised $3.5 million in funding led by Wireframe Ventures. Other participants in the round include Frontline VenturesGrand VenturesDrummond RoadCore NetworkM25 Group, and Silicon Valley Bank. TechCrunch has more here.

CAILabs, a four-year-old, Rennes, France-based company that develops and manufactures a range of light shaping components, has raised around $5.7 million in funding, including from Safran Corporate VenturesMore here.

Care/of, a year-old, New York-based company that makes subscription-only vitamin supplements that it says are tailored specifically to user’s needs, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Goodwater Capital led the round, with participation from Tusk VenturesRRE Ventures, the co-founders of the prototyping tools company InVision, and earlier investor Juxtapose. TechCrunch has more here.

Bitly, a nine-year-old, New York-based link management and analytics platform, has taken $63 million in funding from Spectrum Equity in a deal that sees the growth equity firm take a majority stake in the business. TechCrunch has more here.

Clear Ballot, an eight-year-old, Boston-based company that makes voting machines and accompanying software, has raised $18 million in new funding from Bessemer Venture PartnersVentureforgoodDN Capital, and individual investors. Boston Business Journal has more here.

Deep Instinct, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $32 million in Series B funding led by CNTP, with participation from NVIDIA and Coatue ManagementMore here.

E-Scape Bio, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases, has raised additional Series A funding that brings the round’s total to $63 million. OrbiMedled the funding; it was joined by Novo Holding A/SJohnson & Johnson InnovationNovartis Venture FundOsage University PartnersLilly Asia Ventures and Sutter Hill VenturesMore here.

Evelo Biosciences, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based biotech company focused on monoclonal microbials, has raised $50 million in Series B funding, including from Flagship PioneeringGVCelgeneMayo Clinic, and Alexandria Venture Investments. FierceBiotech has more here.

Flashpoint, a seven-year-old, New York-based business risk intelligence company, has raised $28 million in Series C funding led by Georgian Partners. Earlier backers Greycroft PartnersTechOperatorsLeaders FundJump CapitalBloomberg Beta, and Cisco Investments also joined the round. More here.

Gong.io, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based AI-based language tool to help sales and customer service reps, has raised $20 million in Series A1 funding. Norwest Venture Partners and Shlomo Kramer led the round; they were joined by Wing Venture Capital and NextWorld Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Hutch Interiors, a nearly -year-old, Los Angeles-based interior design tech startup, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Zillow Group. TechCrunch has more here.

iCapital Network, a four-year-old, New York-based platform offering access to curated private equity funds, hedge funds and more to registered investment advisors and others, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from UBS Financial ServicesMore here.

Lianshang, a two-year-old, Beijing-based online fabric trading platform where customers can purchase fabric and fabric manufacturers can bid on orders, has raised $30 million in what it’s calling pre-Series C funding. China Renaissance Private Equity Fund and Fengshang Capital co-led the round, with participation from IDG Capital and China Growth Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Lightbend, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose platform enables developers to create message-driven applications that scale on multicore and cloud computing architectures, has raised $15 million in funding from Bain Capital VenturesBlue Cloud VenturesIBMIntel CapitalJuniper Ventures and Shasta VenturesMore here.

Nok Nok Labs, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based online security and authentication company, has raised $8 million in Series D funding led by Motorola Solutions Venture Capital. Earlier backers DCM VenturesDDSDOCOMO InnovationsKorea Information Certificate AuthorityLenovo Group, and ONSET Ventures also joined the round. More here.

Petainer, an eight-year-old, U.K.-based maker of high performance and sustainable packaging, has raised €10 million ($11.4 million) from Next Wave PartnersMore here.

Qloo, a five-year-old, New York-based cultural artificial intelligence data science platform, has raised $6.5 million in funding, including from AXA Strategic Ventures and Sir Elton John. TechCrunch has more here.

RecordGram, a Miami-based music collaboration app developer that won TechCrunch’s “Battlefield” competition in New York in May, has raised $1 million in seed funding from New World Angels and other, undisclosed investors. The Miami Herald has more here.

Revere, a year-old, New York-based startup that makes a line of ready-to-mix pre and post workout powder formulas, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures, with help from SterlingVC and Brand Foundry VenturesMore here.

Revolut, a three-year-old, London-based “banking alternative,” has raised $66 million in funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Balderton Capital and Ribbit Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

RiskLens, a six-year-old, Spokane, Wa.-based company that helps businesses understand how much cyberattacks could cost them, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Osage Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Paladin Capital GroupDell Technologies Capital and Kick-Start. GeekWire has more here.

Sendence, a three-year-old, New York City-based platform for building and running real-time applications, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Boldstart VenturesGreycroft PartnersContour Venture PartnersNotation Capital, and Resolute Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

SenseTime, a three-year-old, Hong Kong-based artificial intelligence startup focused on face, language, and vehicle recognition, along with other object recognition and image processing, has raised a whopping $410 million in Series B funding. The round includes two portions: a Series B1 round, led by the Chinese private equity firm CDH Investments, and a B2 round led by Chinese investment firm Sailing Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Shanghai Slamtec, an eight-year-old, Shanghai, China-based maker of laser sensors for robot localization and navigation, has raised $22 million in new funding led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with participation from ChinaEquity Group and Shenzhen Guozhong Venture Capital Management. China Money Network has more here.

Sonoma Creamery, an 86-year-old, Sonoma, Ca.-based maker of deeelicious cheeses and cheese snacks, has raised $10 million in funding from Svoboda Capital Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. The Sonoma Index-Tribune has more here.

Transfix, a four-year-old, New York-based transportation startup that matches customers needing interstate freight shipping with truck drivers needing to make deliveries, has raised $42 million in Series C funding. Previous backer New Enterprise Associates led the round, with participation from unnamed strategic investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Zently, a year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based app for renters that helps them pay rent on time, flag maintenance issues to their landlords, and split shared expenses with roommates, has raised $1.6 million led by Montage Ventures, with participation from unnamed angel investors in the real estate industry. TechCrunch has more here.

ZeroFOX, a four-year-old, Baltimore, Md.-based cybersecurity company focused on the particular risks associated with social media and digital channels, has raised $40 million in funding co-led by Redline Capital Management and Silver Lake Waterman. Earlier backers New Enterprise AssociatesHighland Capital Partners, and Core Capital, also joined the round. More here.

Zhenkunhang, a 21-year-old, Shanghai City, China-based e-commerce platform for industrial products, has raised $52 million in Series B funding. Eastern Bell Venture Capital led the round, and was joined by Shenzhen Cowin Venture Capital Investments. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

Fifth Wall Ventures, a new real-estate-focused venture firm that we’d written about in May, has launched an accelerator program. More here.

FlyBridge Capital Partners has raised $3 million for XFactor Ventures, a new venture fund that will invest $100,000 into 30 companies that are raising pre-seed or seed stage rounds. The companies must have at least one female founder. More here.

Toyota is the latest Fortune 500 company to launch an AI focused venture capital fund. The initial early-stage fund will deploy $100 million and operate as a subsidiary of the Toyota Research Institute. More here.

IPOs

Albertsons, the national grocery-chain, has put its IPO plans on hold again, according to Bloomberg, which says Amazon looked at the company before agreeing to acquire Whole Foods.

Razer, the U.S.-based gaming firm, is looking to stage an IPO that would value it at up to $5 billion, says Bloomberg. More here.

Exits

Logitech is one of the best-known brands of keyboards, mice, headphones and webcams. Now, it wants to expand its product line into the game console market and to do it, it’s acquiring headset maker Astro Gaming in an all-cash deal. According to Crunchbase, Astro Gaming had raised at least $3.5 million from Triangle Peak Partners. Cnet has more here.

Security software giant Symantec is continuing its recent spate of acquisitions with the news that it plans to buy the five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based cybersecurity company Skycure, which specializes in predicting, detecting, and preventing a range of attacks, including malware, network, and vulnerability exploits. Skycure had raised around $28 million in funding prior to this acquisition, including from Pitango Venture CapitalFoundation Capital, and Shasta Ventures. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. VentureBeat has more here.

People

YC President Sam Altman wants to find and support a slate of candidates for the 2018 California elections.

AG Gangadhar, the head of the engineering department where former Uber employee Susan Fowler worked, has left the car-hailing startup. The circumstances of his departure are unclear, says Recode.

Andrew Hedin has been promoted to vice president at Bessemer Venture Partners, which he joined in 2015. Before joining Bessemer, Hedin worked in venture capital with F-Prime Capital Partners.

Former Kleiner Perkins spokeperson Christina Lee has joined Amazon as VP of worldwide consumer PR, according to Dan Primack of Axios.

Michael Ronen will join Softbank’s Vision Fund as a partner. Previously, Ronen was the co-chief operating officer of Goldman’s global technology, media and telecom group. Softbank says he’s moving from New York to San Francisco for the role.

Twitter is bringing aboard a new CFO: Ned Segal, a longtime Goldman Sachs banker who was most recently SVP of finance at Intuit. He’s receiving around $15 million in stock the process.

BlackRock’s global chief investment strategist, Richard Turnill, thinks Bitcoin and Ethereum prices are officially in bubble territory. “I look at the charts, and to me that looks pretty scary and reminiscent of what we’ve seen before.”

Lyon Wong has resigned as a general partner of Spectrum 28, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm he co-founded in 2015 and that closed its debut fund with roughly $170 million. Axios, which has the scoop, was told the official reason is “urgent personal and family matters.” Because Wong’s resignation has triggered a key-man provision, the fund has temporarily shifted into limited operations as cofounder Kent Ho works to take over as sole general partner.

Mark Zuckerberg is trying to understand America, so he’s embarked on a journey to meet people who don’t typically cross his path. But there are rules to abide by if you’re about to meet him . . .

Jobs

Serial entrepreneur Max Levchin says his San Francisco-based startup studio is launching a new company and looking for a founding CTO. Write to info@hvflabs.com if you’re interested.

Essential Reads

VCs are still debating whether or not to dive into ICOs.

SoundCloud is sinking.

Le uh-oh. Last summer LeEco announced it intended to purchase the U.S.-based TV maker Vizio for $2 billion. The deal fell through in March amid myriad problems surrounding LeEco, including a major cash crunch. Allegedly the deal included a $100 million buyer-termination fee and now Vizio has filed suit in a California court to collect payment. TechCrunch has more here.

Detours

Climate change; it’s much worse than you think.

United wants to sell your seat to someone else.

Sounds like quite a party.

Retail Therapy

Buy your own island off the coast of Portland, Maine. It’s $8 million and probably won’t be around long (see climate change article above). But, your own island!


StrictlyVC: July 11, 2017

Tuesday!

Top News in the A.M.

Snapchat shares were downgraded this morning by Morgan Stanley, a rare rebuke by a firm that helped bring it public.

The Trump administration said yesterday it would delay, and probably eliminate down the line, a federal rule that would have let foreign entrepreneurs come to the United States to start companies.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is brought to you this week by First Democracy VC, a new, registered equity crowdfunding portal formed through a partnership between Indiegogo and MicroVentures, crowdfunding and investing pros. Equity crowdfunding is a great way for startups to raise money from their community of customers and fans and can augment a raise from other institutional investors.  Moreover, First Democracy VC gives anyone, yep anyone, the ability to invest in startups and growing companies. Interested in raising money for your startup?  Apply now.  Interested in investing?  Check out current investment opportunities here.

The Hunted Becomes the Hunter: How Cloudflare’s Fight with a “Patent Troll” Could Alter the Game

Matthew Prince knew what was coming. The CEO of Cloudflare, an Internet security company and content delivery network in San Francisco, was behind his desk, when the emails began to trickle in, slowly at first, then in bursts. College classmates-turned-defense attorneys, including from the University of Chicago, where Prince had nabbed his law degree years earlier, were reaching out to say hello and to ask: did Prince perhaps need help to fight a lawsuit they’d seen filed in Delaware against Cloudflare?

The paperwork would itself arrive shortly after from a registered agent in a thick white envelope. The claim: patent infringement. The firm going after Cloudflare: Blackbird Technologies, a three-year-old, Boston- and Chicago-based firm founded by two former attorneys with white-shoe law firms who’d previously litigated intellectual property cases on behalf of some of the largest tech companies in the world.

Blackbird has since amassed a portfolio of roughly 37 broad-seeming patents that it has so far used to file more than 100 lawsuits, including against Asics, New Balance, and Lululemon over a sports bra, and Amazon, Petsmart, and Walmart over a bicycle pet carrier.

Blackbird’s specific lawsuit against Cloudflare accuses it of violating US Patent No. 6,453,335, a patent filed 18 years ago by the owner of a Web hosting company in Germany that describes providing a “third party data channel” online and whose original owner, Oliver Kaufmann, doesn’t seem to have tried using it to create anything.

Kaufmann hasn’t responded to a request for comment for this story, but a patent record shows he sold the patent last October for $1 plus “other good and valuable consideration” to Blackbird, which is also using the patent to sue another startup called Fastly.

The Cloudflare suit is fairly typical. So-called non-practicing entities — or holders of a patent for a process or product that they don’t plan to develop — often use them to sue companies that would sooner settle, rather than pay what can add up to $1 million by the time a case reaches a courtroom. Prince calls Blackbird uniquely dangerous because its founders’ law backgrounds make it even easier for the outfit to sue companies like Cloudflare; they needn’t pay an attorney to represent their interests.

Even more unusual, however, and potentially more meaningful for other companies, is Cloudflare’s response to the suit. Indeed, when Prince was handed that envelope on a sunny March afternoon, he saw it as a moment he’d been waiting for since cofounding Cloudflare seven years earlier. As far as he was concerned, this was war, and he was ready for it.

More here.

New Fundings

Advanced Microgrid Solutions, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based energy services company and developer of behind-the-meter energy storage systems, has raised more than $34 million in Series B funding led by Energy Impact PartnersSouthern Company and DBL Partners. Other investors to participate included GE VenturesAGL Energy Limited, and Macquarie CapitalMore here.

Allurion Technologies, an eight-year-old, Wellesley, Ma.-based developer of an intragastric balloon for weight loss (you swallow it in pill form), has raised $27 million in Series C funding led by Romulus Capital, with participation fro mCogepa Investments and IDO Investments. TechCrunch has more here.

Brandless, a year-old, San Francisco-based consumer-packaged goods company that’s selling household items from groceries to dishes to cleaning items for flat $3 pricing, has raised $35 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates and GV. The company, which staged a public unveiling earlier today, was incubated by Sherpa Capital, received seed funding from Cowboy Ventures and Slow Ventures, and raised Series A funding led by Redpoint Ventures. It has now collected $40 million in funding altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Buoyant, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of open source software for cloud-native applications, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Benchmark, with participation from Twitter AngelsA Capital VenturesData CollectiveFuel CapitalSV Angel, and the Webb Investment Network. TechCrunch has more here.

CompareAsiaGroup, a three-year-old, Hong Kong-based online comparison shopping engine for financial, telecom and utility products in Asia, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. International Finance Corp. led the round and was joined by the Alibaba Entrepreneurs FundSBI GroupH&A Asia Pacific and return backers Nova Founders CapitalACE & Co.Route 66 Ventures and Lisa and Doug Goldman of San Francisco. China Money Network has more here.

Curve, a two-year-old, London-based platform that invites users to consolidate all their bank cards into a single Curve card, is on the verge of closing $10 million in Series A funding, says TechCrunch. The round is being led by Connect Ventures, with participation from Santander VenturesMore here.

Darktrace, a four-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based AI cybersecurity company, has raised $75 million in Series D funding round led by Insight Venture Partners with participation from earlier backers Summit PartnersKKR and TenEleven Ventures. The company was assigned a post-money valuation of $825 million. More here.

Datatron, a year-old, San Francisco-based company whose technology helps companies query real-time and historical data, has raised $2.7 million in funding from Start XCredence PartnersAuthentic VenturesEnspire PartnersPlug and Play and 500 Startups.TechCrunch has more here.

Engage3, a nine-year-old, Davis, Ca.-based competitive intelligence and consumer engagement company, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Kayne NewRoad Ventures, with participation from Pereg VenturesMoneta Ventures and Dale CarlsenMore here.

Ephesoft, an eight-year-old, Laguna Hills, Ca.-based developer of document capture and analytics software, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Mercato PartnersMore here.

Evy Tea, a three-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based maker of all-natural cold brew teas, has raised $1 million in seed funding co- Notudis Ventures and Campitor Investments. BostInno has more here.

Gencove, a two-month-old, New York-based genome sequencing technology developer, has raised $1 million in seed funding, including from Third Kind Venture Capital, Version One VenturesRefactor Capital, and SV Angel. The company’s technology was spun out from the New York Genome Center. GenomeWeb has more here.

Genoox, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based genomic analysis company, has raised $6 million in funding co-led by Inimiti Capital Partners and Glilot Capital PartnersMore here.

HyTrust, a 10-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company whose software automates security controls for software-defined computing, networking and storage workloads, has raised $36 million in funding led by Advance Venture Partners. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Sway VenturesEpic VenturesVanedge CapitalTrident CapitalCiscoFortinetInteland VMware. Part of the funding was used to acquire security startup DataGravity. TechCrunch has more here.

Intuition Robotics, the year-old Israel-based developer of the “ElliQ” robotic elder care assistant, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by the Toyota Research Institute. Other investors include OurCrowdiRobotManiv MobilityTerra Venture Partners, and Bloomberg Beta. TechCrunch has more here.

Lastline, a six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based malware protection platform developer, has raised $28.5 million in Series C funding led by Thomvest Ventures, with participation from Osage University PartnersRedpoint VenturesBarracuda NetworksNTT Finance Corporation, and WatchGuard Technologies, among others. More here.

Move Guides, a nearly seven-year-old, London-based SaaS platform that helps HR teams relocate their employees, has raised $48 million in Series C funding from Future FundNew Enterprise Associates and Notion Capital. The company has now raised $91 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Telestax, a six-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based open source platform for developing and deploying real time communications applications, has raised $4.7 million in funding led by LiveOak Venture PartnersMore here.

WeWork, a seven-year-old, New York-based co-working, co-living, and real estate company, has raised $760 million in a new Series G funding round, which according to Forbes, puts the co-working company’s valuation at $20 billion. With the latest valuation, WeWork now tops the market caps of office REITs like Boston Properties and Vornado Realty. We talked with WeWork cofounder and CEO Adam Neumann on stage in May. Forbes has more here.

New Funds

Babel Ventures, a Silicon Valley firm founded by two immigrant Latina entrepreneurs, has closed on $30 million in capital commitments to invest primarily in fintech and health-tech-related startups. The Huffington Post has more here.

Alphabet has officially launched Gradient Ventures, a new firm within Google that will invest in early-stage artificial intelligence start-ups, writing checks of roughly $1 million to $8 million in each, according to Anna Patterson, founder and managing director. The announcement is the latest sign of Alphabet’s growing interest in AI. CNBC has more here.

Loup Ventures, a months-old, Minneapolis-based early-stage venture firm that’s focused on AI and VR, is looking to raise at least $20 million for its debut fund, shows an SEC filingGene Munster, the longtime Piper Jaffray analyst, is one of the firm’s cofounders. More here.

Exits

Samsung has acquired Innoetics, a 10.5-year-old, Athens, Greece-based text-to-speech technology company. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but TechCrunch is told it’s one of the bigger exits for a tech startup in Greece. More here.

Premise Health acquired eHealthScreenings, a 10-year-old San Antonio, Tex.-based biometric screenings company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The San Antonio Business Journal has more here.

People

Elon Musk has just bought back X.com, the domain he owned in 1999. TechCrunch has more here.

Demi Obayomi joined FirstMark Capital as an associate. Obayomi was previously an analyst with Goldman Sachs.

A free-speech group today sued Donald Trump for blocking Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump account. Reuters has more here.

Jobs

Core Innovation Capital, a seven-year-old, L.A.-based venture firm focused on underbanked consumers, is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in San Francisco.

Data

According to a new Pew Research Center survey,  41 percent of adults saying they have experienced harassment online, and 66 percent of people saying they’ve seen it happen to others. The most common form of online harassment is offensive name-calling, according to the study, with men slightly more likely than women to be harassed. Much more here.

Essential Reads

Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying stipends of $5,000 to $400,000, reports the WSJ.

Amazon has filed a patent for underwater warehouses. (Better safe than sorry?)

Detours

We shouldn’t laugh at this but we’re laughing at this.

This Pulitzer-winning photographer captured city life using only Volvo’s onboard safety cameras.

Retail Therapy

The second season of “Stranger Things” will be available on Netflix October 27. [Squeal.]

The ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns to HBO October 10. [Double squeal.]


StrictlyVC: July 10, 2017

Hi, hope you had a wonderful weekend, everyone!

No column today (it’s not ready quite yet), but quick mention: one week from today, we’ll be in Boston for TechCrunch interviewing the “father of robotics,” Rodney Brooks. If you’re a robotics investor or work for a robotics startup or just happen to have some questions you’d like us to ask him, shoot them our way; we’re happy to get you answers if we can.

Top News in the A.M.

New SEC rules went into effect today to permit any company, no matter how large, to file paperwork for an initial public offering without immediately disclosing the fact to the public. Fortune has more here.

Recode reported this morning that Amazon is quietly rolling out its own Geek Squad to set up gadgets in your home. Best Buy has since lost $1 billion in value.

Other interesting news on the regulatory front: The nation’s consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is adopting a rule today that will allow class-action lawsuits against financial firms, rather than forcing customers into arbitration and blocking them from banding together. Lawmakers have 60 legislative days to overturn the rule, which would take effect next year.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is brought to you this week by First Democracy VC, a new, registered equity crowdfunding portal formed through a partnership between Indiegogo and MicroVentures, crowdfunding and investing pros. Equity crowdfunding is a great way for startups to raise money from their community of customers and fans and can augment a raise from other institutional investors. Moreover, First Democracy VC gives anyone, yep anyone, the ability to invest in startups and growing companies. Interested in raising money for your startup?  Apply now.  Interested in investing?  Check out current investment opportunities here.

New Fundings

AutoLotto, a 2.5-year-old. San Francisco-based mobile Powerball app that allows users to buy tickets from their smart phone, has raised $17 million in Series A funding from a long roster of investors, including angel backer Jason Port, venture capitalists Bruce Gibney and Ben Narasin, Causecast CEO Ryan Scott, and Aurum Partners. CNBC has more here.

Cargo Systems, a year-old, New York-based monthly subscription service for ride-share drivers wanting to offer additional products to their passengers like candy and Kind bars, has raised $1.75 million in funding from Techstars VenturesRosecliff VenturesFontinalis Partners, and Detroit Venture PartnersMore here.

CellTrak Technologies, an 11-year-old, Schaumburg, Ill.-based company that makes care delivery management software for home and community-based health organizations, has raised more than $11 million in new funding from Boathouse Capital and return backer MK CapitalMore here.

CerebrEX, a five-year-old, Osaka, Japan-based maker of IP blocks and display controllers for flat panel displays, has raised roughly $7 million in funding from Innovation Network Corporation of Japan and Fortune Venture CapitalMore here.

Chengjia Apartment, a two-year-old, China-based apartment rental platform, has raised $50 million in funding from earlier backers IDG Capital and Huazhu Hotels Group. China Money Network has more here.

Choice Pet, a Stamford, Conn.-based pet retailer with 17 stores, has raised $2.7 million in funding from Petros PartnersMore here.

Matcherino, a two-year-old, Seattle-based eSports crowdfunding platform, has raised $1.5 million in funding, including from Madrona Venture GroupVulcan Capital, and Seven Peaks VenturesMore here.

Movile, a 19-year-old, São Paulo, Brazil-based mobile marketplaces company that claims more than 100 million monthly active users, has raised $53 million in funding led by earlier backer Naspers, with participation from Innova CapitalMore here.

NewLeaf Symbiotics, a five-year-old, St. Louis-based agricultural biologicals startup, has raised $24 million in Series C funding. Monsanto Growth Ventures and Otter Capital co-led the round, and were joined by Lewis & Clark VenturesRockport CapitalPangaea Ventures and Open Prairie Ventures. The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch has more here.

SignUpGenius, a nine-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based online sign up site for event and volunteer management, has raised a strategic majority investment of an undisclosed amount by Providence Strategic Growth, the growth equity affiliate of Providence Equity Partners. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal represents the first round of funding for the company. More here.

Sunrate, a year-old, China-based company offering both cross-border payments and exchange rate risk management, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by China Growth Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Yamibuy, a four-year-old, City of Industry, Ca.-based e-commerce site for Americans wanting to purchase popular Asian snacks, beauty products, health supplements and home appliances, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from New Oriental Education & Technology Group and K2VCMore here.

New Funds

CRV, a 46-year-old, venture firm formerly known as Charles River Ventures, looking to raise up to $450 million for its 17th early-stage venture firm and $400 million for an opportunity fund that would back its breakout companies, shows two SEC filings, here and here.

Partech Ventures, the 35-year-old, Paris-based venture firm (with partners also in San Francisco and Berlin) has  closed on $450 million in capital commitments for its Partech International Ventures VII fund. The capital will be used to fund mostly Series A- and B-stage companies. Limited partners include NokiaL’Oréal, and Cisco. TechCrunch has more here.

UBS has raised $325 million from its clients for The Rise Fund a private equity impact investment fund co-founded by Bono and led by TPG Growth. (We’d written about it here last year.) Reuters has more on the news here.

IPOs

Kala Pharmaceuticals, a Waltham, Ma.-based developer of ophthalmic products based on muscle-penetrating particle technology, announced its IPO terms this morning. More here.

YogaWorks, a Culver City, Ca.-based yoga studio operator owned by Great Hill Partners, has set its IPO terms today, too. More here.

Exits

mySugr, a five-year-old, Vienna, popular digital diabetes management platform, has been acquired by health giant Roche. It now becomes the heart of Roche Diabetes Care’s new patient-centered digital health services. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. More here.

People

A U.S. magistrate judge has ruled that Uber lawyers can depose Alphabet CEO Larry Page, and perhaps Alphabet Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, in connection to Waymo’s lawsuit that alleges theft of trade secrets.

Brian Pham has stepped down as a principal with Sherpa Capital, reports Axios. Pham has joined the firm soon after it was founded in 2013.

Fund of funds firm Fairview Capital has promoted Cynthia Tseng to partner from principal. Prior to joining Fairview, Tseng was an investment banking associate at JPMorgan.

Jobs

First Round Capital is looking to fill two roles that it describes as “part associate/part community builder.” Both jobs are in New York.

Data

We’re halfway through 2017 and already seven startups that together raised $1.48 billion have shut down.

Detroit has 50 percent more venture-backed startups than it did three years ago. So says the Michigan Venture Capital Association, which says there are now 35 active venture-backed startups in Detroit. More here.

Essential Reads

Big news for Stripe, which just partnered with digital payment providers Alipay and WeChat Pay to enable merchants using its platform globally to accept payments from hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.

The first Model 3 rolled off the production line on Friday (and straight into the posession of Tesla CEO Elon Musk). The next several thousand cars are reserved for other Tesla employees.

Crikey. An unknown cryptocurrency trader known only by a number just made over $200 million in one month.

Detours

Volkwagen’s “The Button.”

Epic wipeouts.

Retail Therapy

Oculus Rift VR. On Sale. Second time in four months. Six weeks only.

Take that, dirty laundry, and that!


StrictlyVC: July 7, 2017

Friday! [Moonwalks.]

No column today, but before we go, a shout out on behalf of our colleagues over at TechCrunch: If you are a startup founder, or an investor who knows startup founders, know that TC is right now reviewing applicants for its newest Battlefield competition, being staged at TechCrunch Disrupt SF on September 18th through September 20th. What TC is looking for specifically: companies that are early stage, willing to launch something significant on stage, and have had limited to no press exposure. Any and all verticals will be considered. Startups needn’t be based in the U.S. Winners — and these have included Dropbox, Yammer, and Zenefits — receive $50,000 and a whole lot of attention from investors and corporates. (Finalists don’t do too shabbily on that front, either.) Apply here.

Hope you have a stellar weekend, everyone. See you in a few days.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Whoa: Waymo just dropped most of its patent claims in its fight with Uber. Bloomberg has more here.

Snack bar company Kind, whose products have become ubiquitous at tech startups — VC Chamath Palihapitiya’s related joke at a StrictlyVC event was so resonant, it went viral — is reportedly looking to sell a stake in its business at a $3 billion valuation. Reuters has more here.

New Fundings

Dashu Finance, a three-year-old, Shenzhen China-based online lender of unsecured loans to small and micro enterprises, has raised $17 million in Series C funding led by the Asian alternative investment management firm PAG and the China-focused private equity firm Primavera Capital Group. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Hudl, an 11-year-old, Lincoln, Ne.-based software platform that provides video analysis and coaching tools to sports teams, has raised $30 million in funding from earlier backers, including Accel PartnersJeff and Tricia Raikes, and Nelnet. VentureBeat has more here.

Jiguang, a six-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based startup that analyzes user activity for mobile app developers and marketers, has raised “tens of millions of dollars” of Series D funding led by Fidelity International, reports DealStreet Asia. More here.

Josh.ai, a two-year-old, L.A.-based company at work on a voice-controlled system for smart homes that includes hardware, has raised $11 million from undisclosed investors. TechCrunch has much more here.

Kangarootime, a two-year-old, Long Beach, Ca.-based maker of cloud-based software for early learning centers, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Skyview VenturesMucker Capital, and Tech Coast AngelsMore here.

Light Polymers, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based nanochemistry startup with domain knowledge of lyotropic liquid crystals (used in LCD and OLED flat panel displays), has raised $5 million in funding round led by Tsingda International Venture Capital and TEL Venture CapitalMore here.

MobileODT, a five-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based developer of connected medical devices, has raised $6.8 million in Series B funding led by OrbiMed Advisors, with participaton from TristelMore here.

PointPredictive, a four-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company that helps lenders and online retailers stop fraud and reduce payment default losses, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by Mosaik Partners, an expansion-stage venture capital fund. More here.

Side, a two-year-old, Paris-based marketplace that helps companies scale their workforces for product launches, peak seasons and more, has raised $5.7 million led by investor Xavier Niel. TechCrunch has more here.

Sol Voltaics, a 10-year-old, Lund, Sweden-based nanotechnology company focused on solar cell nanowire materials, has raised $21.3 million in fresh funding from Norway-based Watrium, alongside previous investors Kagra Gruppen, Nordic VC firm IndustrifondenFAM, Nano Future Invest, Blue Marlin and TeknoinvestMore here.

Squirro, a five-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based advanced context intelligence and insights software platform, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Orange Growth Capital, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and (unnamed) earlier backers. More here.

ThinkHR, a 12-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based cloud-based HR platform that offers a unique combination of online compliance and employee training solutions, has secured a $5 million credit faciity from SaaS Capital, a lending outfit to SaaS businesses. It’s the second credit line SaaS Capital has provided to the company. More here.

Vidcode, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based startup that’s focused on teaching teens how to code and passed through the Y Combinator program last summer, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding. Backers include ZhenFundRethink EducationNYU VenturesCoVentureEvan Korth SyndicateStephano KimCherry Ventures, and BrainPOP. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

ICONIQ Capital, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based venture capital firm that somewhat famously manages the money of family offices that do (or did) include Mark Zuckerberg’s, has closed on $570.4 million for its third fund, shows an SEC filing.

Oakhouse Partners, a 10-month-old, San Francisco-based venture firm, is aiming to raise a $50 million debut fund, suggests an SEC filing. The firm was founded by Jason Portnoy, who’d previously cofounded four-year-old Subtraction Capital. Earlier in his career, Portnoy also served as the CFO of Clarium Capital, Palantir Technologies, and Practice Fusion. More here.

IPOs

Biotech’s IPO uptick is nothing to fear, says Bloomberg.

Exits

DataGravity, a five-year-old, Nashua, N.H.-based data security and remediation services software company, has been acquired, though it hasn’t yet disclosed by whom or for what terms. According to Crunchbase, the company had raised $92 million from investors, including Accel PartnersAndreessen HorowitzCRV and General Catalyst Partners. The Register has more here.

Jawbone, the consumer electronics firm, is kaput, reports The Information. (We’d kind of seen this coming five years ago; we’re genuinely amazed-impressed that the company managed to slug it out for so long.)

People

Japanese mobile company Gree is ending its operations in the West, shutting down three studios, and cutting 125 jobs.

A government watchdog group yesterday filed a complaint with the Office of Government Ethics over White House adviser Jared Kushner‘s ownership interest in the real estate investment company Cadre.

Jobs

Target Global, a venture firm focused on fintech opportunities, is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in Moscow.

Viacom is looking to hire an SVP of digital business development. The job is in New York.

Essential Reads

Amazon reportedly threatened to kill its Whole Foods deal if the grocer started a bidding war. More in Recode.

The largest online black market for drugs, AlphaBay, has been down for nearly two days, raising questions about whether it was seized by law enforcement authorities or taken down in a swindle. Dealbook has the story here.

Detours

This deadly spider assassin is a-mazing.

Kafka’s joke book. (Still funny.)

How to fit two weeks’ worth of clothes in a carry-on, and other travel tips.

Retail Therapy

Off-road campers for when money is no object.

Comma.ai also has some new stuff worth checking out.


StrictlyVC: July 6, 2017

Hi, all, hope you’re having a terrific Thursday.

Thanks to the many of you who picked up tickets for our September event yesterday; we’ll have more info about the event for you soon.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Starting today, Uber’s new in-app tipping option is being rolled out in 100 cities in the US and Canada, including major markets like New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

It was a good run, but three months in, Tesla has lost its spot as America’s most valuable automaker.

The ‘Uber of Garbage’ Picks up Steam, and $11.7 Million in Series A Funding

Sometimes, it seems like every possible on-demand service that could be created has already come along — and, in some casesgone away. But Recycle Track Systems (RTS), a two-year-old, New York-based waste and recycling management technology company, serves to remind that there remain plenty of opportunities for startups looking to turn our smartphones into lucrative businesses.

Indeed, while companies have sprung up around everything from on-demand family care to shipping, the waste industry — valued at anywhere from $45 billion to $65 billion when accounting for collection services, treatment and disposal — has largely been left untouched by tech founders.

That’s changing. Already, one company, nine-year-old Rubicon Global in Atlanta, has raised more than $145 million from investors — including private equity king Henry Kravis — to steal away market share from incumbents like Waste Management and Republic Services. Now, RTS is aiming to do the same by making it simple for customers to schedule on-demand pick-ups through its phone app.

A high-tech garbage service may sound ridiculous to the uninitiated. But it’s no joke to customers like WeWork, Whole Foods and SoulCycle that have signed multi-year contracts in exchange for RTS’s flexible pricing options, along with notifications about when a truck has arrived and reports about exactly where their waste is being sent.

Investors are taking the company seriously, too. For starters, RTS is an asset-light business. Instead of purchasing its own trucks, RTS is partnering with a growing number of mid-size, independent haulers that it provides with feature-rich tablets to make their work more efficient — even when they aren’t being used in service to RTS.

Another apparent part of RTS’s appeal is that it’s profitable, though that might change, now that the 17-person company has raised $11.7 million in Series A funding from the Boston-based growth equity firm Volition Capital —  money it plans to use to hit the gas. (Notably, Volition was the first outside money into Chewy, a pet supplies company that sold to PetSmart earlier this year in the biggest e-commerce sale to date, ever.)

To learn more, we talked yesterday with RTS co-founder and CEO Gregory Lettieri about the company and the opportunity it’s chasing. Our chat has been edited for length.

More here.

New Fundings

AxiomSL, a 26-year-old, New York-based maker of risk data management and regulatory reporting software for the financial services industry, has received an undisclosed amount of growth equity funding from TCV. The investment represents the company’s first institutional funding; it already has a dozen offices around the globe. More here.

Clark, a year-old, New York-based startup whose app makes it easier for educators to start and manage a tutoring business, has closed a second seed funding round with $2.5 million led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company has now raised $3.5 million altogether. More here.

Go-Jek, a seven-year-old, Indonesia-based ride-hailing company, has raised between $100 million and $150 million in funding from Tencent, says Reuters. More here.

Jumbotail, a 1.5-year-old, Bangalore-based online marketplace for food and groceries, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding from Kalaari Capital and Nexus Venture Partners. YourStory has more here.

Miso Robotics, a year-old, Pasadena, Ca.-based robotics and artificial intelligence company whose first product is a robotic kitchen assistant called Flippy, just raised $3.1 million in funding from Acacia Research CorporationMatch Robotics VC, and undisclosed strategic investors. More here.

Moglix, a two-year-old, Noida, India-based company that once sold construction supplies online and now sells enterprise software to help manufacturers become complaint with the country’s new tax codes, has raised $12 million in Series B funding. International Finance Corporation and Rocketship.vc co-led the round. Ratan Tata, the former chairman of Tata Sons, also joined the round, alongside earlier backers Accel PartnersJungle VenturesShailesh Rao, and Venture Highway. The company has now raised $18 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Nightstar, a four-year-old, London-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing therapies for retinal dystrophies, has raised $45 million in Series C funding from SynconaNew Enterprise AssociatesWellington Management Company, and Redmile GroupMore here.

OnboardIQ, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to help companies quickly screen and hire independent workforces, just raised $9.1 million in fresh funding led by Origin Ventures, with participation by SoftTech VCCrosslink Capital and Y Combinator. The company has now raised $10.75 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

PayFit, a two-year-old, Paris-based startup whose software helps SMEs manage the pay and leave of their employees, has raised $15.9 million in Series B funding. Accel Partners led the round, with Xavier Niel and Otium Venturealso participating. TechCrunch has more here.

Spotinst, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based cloud cost management company, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from Vertex Venture Capital. Globes has more here.

Theranica Bio-Electronics, a year-old, Netanya, Israel-based biomedical technology company developing advanced electroceuticals to treat migraines, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include LionBird and Corundum Open InnovationMore here.

THEVA, a 21-year-old, Bayern, Germany-based superconductor manufacturer, has raised €7 million ($7.9 million) in funding, including from Target Partnersand EnBW New VenturesMore here.

Tonsser, a four-year-old, Copenhagen-based vertical social network aimed at youth soccer players, has raised €2.5 million ($2.85 million) in new funding from earlier investors. These include Wellington PartnersSEED Capital, Booking.com cofounder Arthur Kosten, and unnamed professional soccer players. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Atlas Venture, the 37-year-old venture firm, has closed on $350 million for its eleventh fund. The capital will be devoted exclusively to biotechnology startups. FierceBiotech has more here.

Felix Capital, a two-year-old, London-based early-stage venture firm, has closed its second fund with $150 million in commitments. (Its debut fund closed with $120 million). Founded by longtime VC Frederic Court, Felix invests largely in fashion and lifestyle businesses that are based on digital platforms. Among its bets: Goop, the online media and e-commerce business of Gwyneth Paltrow, and the fashion news site Business of Fashion. TechCrunch has more here.

GrowthX, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm and accelerator, has closed its second fund with $15 million, shows an SEC filingMore here.

IDG Capital, a Beijing-based private equity and venture capital firm, is closing on $589 million for its fifth Chinese venture capital fund, IDG China Venture Capital Fund V, judging by this SEC filing.

LEAP Global Partners, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based early-stage venture firm, has held a first close on a debut fund that’s targeting $15 million in capital to invest primarily in U.S- based Latino and Mexico-based founders. The firm’s current limited partners include several prominent family-owned enterprises in Mexico, as well as unnamed U.S. investors. It has already backed two financial companies: Listo and Paystand. More here.

IPOs

Canadian sushi company Bento has scrapped plans for an IPO after failing to attract enough interest from institutional investors, according to Bloomberg.

Blue Apron is getting crushed a week after its IPO.

Exits

QVC and the Home Shopping Network agreed tidat to merge in an all-stock transaction valued at about $2.1 billion, as they look to combat the rise of online shopping. QVC, which is controlled by Liberty Interactive Corp., already owns 38 percent of HSN. The WSJ has more here.

Terrafugia, the Boston-area company that has been working on flying cars since 2006, is being acquired by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, an automotive manufacturer in Hangzhou, China. Geely owns numerous other brands, including Volvo. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Xconomy has more here.

People

Biotech investor Darren Blanton, who prosecutors claim was defrauded by Martin Shkreli, refused to disclose his estimated net worth under cross-examination at the Shkreli’s federal securities fraud trial. The refusal came even though Blanton has bragged previously about owning frozen bodily fluids worth $20 million alone from just one of his horses, notes CNBC. More here.

SoundCloud is cutting 40 percent of its staff (173 jobs of 420) and closing its offices in San Francisco and London. The company’s operations will be consolidated to its headquarters in Berlin and another office in New York. Bloomberg has the story here.

Some of the tech industry’s most prominent critics of President Donald Trump, including Elon Musk and Eric Schmidt, are opening their checkbooks and donating to Republican lawmakers as Silicon Valley sets its sights on the 2018 midterm election. Recode has more here.

Jobs

Frontline Ventures, a five-year-old, seed-stage firm, is looking to hire a new Head of Platform. The job is in London or Dublin.

Essential Reads

Holy, Ofo, one of China’s two bike-sharing “unicorns,” has raised $700 million in Series E funding led by e-commerce giant Alibaba, with participation from Hony Capital and CITIC Private Equity. The three-year-old company has now raised a stunning $1.3 billion altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Detours

Real-life locations that belong in Wes Anderson movies.

Envy-inducing payouts for celebrity Instagram posts.

The motorcycle industry is dying. (Alas, scooters aren’t safer, despite widespread belief otherwise.)

Retail Therapy

Live like Pablo Escobar for a few days.