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.:)
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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.
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 Capital, VTF 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 Capital. More 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 Associates, GV, GE Ventures, Future Fund, Techtronic Industries, Lowe’s, Lux Capital, Vertex Ventures, Moonrise Venture Partners, DCVC Opportunity, Tyche, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Shenzhen 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 Fund, Future 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 Horowitz, Founders Fund, Highland Capital Partners and SOSventures. More 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 Management. More 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 Ventures, Touchstone 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 Properties, Source Code Capital, K2VC and Tuofeng Investment. China Money Network has more here.
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.
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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.
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 Capital, First Round Capital, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Sherpa 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.
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.
Siemens is hiring a venture capital associate. The job is in Boston.
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.
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.
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!)