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The U.S. has now lifted entirely a controversial ban on laptops in hand luggage for passengers flying to the country from the Middle East or via certain Middle Eastern airlines. TechCrunch has more here.
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Here’s What Robotics Investors Say They Look for in Founding Teams
Robotics investing has taken off in recent years. Though it still represents a small fraction of overall VC spending, related deals are increasing in both frequency and size, with roughly $520 million invested across 40 deals in the first quarter alone, compared with roughly the same amount invested in 130 companies across all of 2014.
This week, we sat down with top robotics investors Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital, Helen Zelman Boniske of Lemnos and Manish Kothari of SRI Ventures to ask what they’re shopping for right now and what they hope to hear in startup pitches. You can see our sit-down below. In the meantime, some highlights from that conversation:
On why robotics investing has taken off:
Wolfe pointed to the “outpouring of engineers,” many of whom have been trained at “amazing places” like MIT under the tutelage of professors who themselves have started companies. He also cited the ebbs and flows of capital markets, noting that “any time the hype increases, the cost of capital gets low,” meaning more founders are able to raise money right now.
Wolfe further noted that robotics companies are making other robotics companies possible. Specifically, he pointed to the satellite company Planet, which captures photos that are then analyzed by the geospatial analytics company Orbital Insight, which then sells that research to its own customers, including retailers wanting a better idea of how many cars are in their parking lots.
Kothari meanwhile talked a bit about falling component prices and GPUs — or specialized electronic circuits — that are now a “big part of the game” and without which the uptick in robotics investing “would not be possible.”
Kothari also talked of the importance of software becoming far more sophisticated and thus easier for founders to use as a building block.
On whether there’s enough follow-on funding for the many young robotics startups that have snagged seed and Series A-stage funding:
“At the moment, cash is abundant,” said Wolfe. “There are new angels coming [into the industry]. There are new venture firms forming. There are corporate guys coming in. SoftBank is making a huge impact on this stuff [including with its huge new Vision Fund].” All of it means that the risk of raising early rounds and follow-on funding is “very low,” in his view — as long as founders make products that are also “good businesses.” (The funding picture will invariably change, said Wolfe.)
Boniske said that in terms of later-stage funding, she’s seeing venture firms in Series A and B deals and that for later-stage deals, “strategics” — i.e., corporations with deep pockets and a need for new technologies — are more commonly involved.
Like Wolfe, she, too, stressed that founders better make certain the unit economics of their robots work, given that a slowdown is inevitable.
What the VCs want to see in founding teams:
Ada Support, a 1.5-year-old, Toronto-based customer support chatbot developer, has raised $2.5 million in funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Version One Ventures. More here.
Cubyn, a three-year-old, London and Paris-based startup that offers on-demand logistics to online businesses (picking up their customers’ orders on-site, packaging them and shipping them to any destination globally for €1 per parcel), has raised $7 million in Series A funding. DN Capital led the round, with a participation from BNP Paribas Developpement and follow-on funding from original backers Partech Ventures and 360 Capital Partners. More here.
Dote, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile shopping app that acts as a virtual mall, featuring the products of a wide range of women’s brands, has raised $7.2 million in funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
Dynamic Yield, a six-year-old, New York-based company that uses machine learning to help online marketers personalize customer experiences on their site, has added $9 million to its Series C financing, bringing the round to to a total of $31 million. Its new investors are Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners and La Maison; earlier investors in the round include ClalTech, Baidu, Vertex Ventures, and Bessemer Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
Graphcore, a year-old, Bristol, England-based machine learning startup that plans to ship its first AI-focused computer chips later this year, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Atomico, with participation from numerous high-profile individuals, including Google DeepMind cofounder Demis Hassabis. The company has now raised $62 million altogether. Business Insider has more here.
Gravie, a four-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based health benefits marketplace, has raised $14.1 million in Series C funding led by GE Ventures, with participation from earlier backers FirstMark Capital, Aberdare Ventures and Split Rock Partners. More here.
Insight Engines, a two-year-old San Francisco-based company that aims to let anyone ask questions of machine data and get insights in seconds, has raised $15.8 million in Series A funding led by August Capital, with participation from Splunk, Real Ventures, Data Collective, Erik Swan and Simon Crosby. More here.
James, a five-year-old, Lisbon- and New York-based company whose artificial intelligence tool is used by credit risk teams, has raised $2.7 million from BigStart Ventures, along with a group of angels that include Gaël de Boissard, ex-CEO of Credit Suisse, and Henry Ritchotte, ex-COO of Deutsche Bank. More here.
LendKey, a 10-year-old, New York-based white-labeled lending platform for banks and credit unions, has raised $13 million in Series C funding. North Atlantic Capital led the round and was joined by DFJ, Updata Partners, Gotham Ventures, and TTV Capital. More here.
Lever, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based recruiting software company, has raised $30 million in Series C financing led by Adams Street Partners, with participation from earlier investors Matrix Partners and Scale Venture Partners. Business Insider has more here.
Molekule, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based, sleekly designed molecular air purifier manufacturer, has raised $10.1 million in Series A funding led by Crosslink Capital, with participation from SoftTech VC, Translink Capital, and Foxconn. More here.
PebblePost, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that uses online data to target consumers with printed mail, has raised $47 million in a combination of equity and debt, including from RRE Ventures, Horizon Technology Finance, and Silicon Valley Bank. TechCrunch has more here.
Protenus, a three-year-old, Baltimore, Md.-based cloud-based analytics platform that helps healthcare organizations monitor and protect patient privacy, has tacked on $3 million to a previously closed Series A financing, money that brings the round to $7 million. Kaiser Permanente Ventures and F-Prime Capital Partners led the round. More here.
Receipt Bank, a seven-year-old, London-based bookkeeping software startup that caters to small businesses, has raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners. Business Insider has more here.
SkySafe, a 1.5-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company whose technology can disable drones that are flying where they shouldn’t, has raised a $11.5 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz. AH had previously provided the company with $3 million in seed funding. More here.
Slidebean, a three-year-old, New York-based app that wants to take on Prezi and PowerPoint, has raised $850,000 in seed funding from 500 Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
Tomorrow, a year-old, Seattle-based financial and legal planning app for families, has raised $2.6 million in seed funding, including from Maveron, CFSI, Echelon Capital, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Allianz Life, Plug And Play, Flying Fish Partners, and Curious Capital. More here.
Trevi Therapeutics, a six-year-old, New Haven, Cn.-based late-stage clinical development company focused on treating uremic pruritus, has raised $50.5 million in Series C funding. New Enterprise Associates led the round and was joined by Lundbeckfonden Ventures, Omega Funds, Aperture Venture Partners, and TPG Biotech. More here.
Vets First Choice, a seven-year-old, Portland, Me.-based company that provides e-commerce services to veterinary practices, has raised $223 million in funding to grow its business. Investors include Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Hillhouse Capital Group, Viking Global Investors, Wellington Management Company, Rock Springs Capital, and Sequoia Heritage. The Portland Press Herald has more here.
Summit Partners, the Boston-based private equity and venture capital firm, has raised roughly $806 million in commitments for its second Europe Growth Equity fund. The 33-year-old firm says it will look to invest between €20 million and €60 million in “category-leading companies.”
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Kala Pharmaceuticals, an eight-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based biotech whose lead drug aims to address inflammation and pain following ocular surgery, as well as temporarily relieve the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease, has raised $90 million in an IPO, after pricing shares at $15. The company had attracted roughly $115 million from private investors, including via a $68 million Series C round early last year from Longitude Capital, OrbiMed, Vivo Capital, CAM Capital, RA Capital Management, Wellington Management, Polaris Partners, and Lux Capital. Its shares, which began trading this morning, are up 18 percent as of this writing.
YogaWorks, a 30-year-old, Culver City, Calif-based yoga studio chain that was purchased by the private equity firm Great Hill Partners (which had bought it from venture firm Highland Capital Partners for about $45 million in 2014), has postponed its IPO. The WSJ cites an apparent lack of investor interest.
According to the L.A. Times, Amazon quietly shelled at “at least tens of millions of dollars” to acquire Graphiq, an eight-year-old, Santa Barbara, Ca-based data analysis and search engine start-up. The outlet says the deal closed in May. According to Crunchbase, Graphiq had raised at least $32 million from investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Pritzker Group Venture Capital. More here.
After raising $55 million last year to build its business beyond its existing help desk services, Freshworks (the parent company of Freshdesk) has made an acquisition to help it fill out that strategy, acquiring Joe Hukum, a startup out of India that offers a platform for businesses to build their own chatbots. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Joe Hukum, formerly called Speedy, had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.
Ten-year-old Lucid Motors, an electric car company that’s been trying to compete with the likes of Tesla and is reportedly low on cash, has talked with Ford about a sale, along with two other, unnamed companies. Recode has more here.
Messaging app Viber earlier this year made its first foray into shopping services with Instant Shopping, a feature that lets users search for sale items via a special keyboard. Now, it has acquired Chatter Commerce, whose tech powers that feature. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but Chatter had raised $1.25 million led by Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant that also owns Viber. TechCrunch has more here.
Zeta Global, a New York-based SaaS marketing automation platform (and “unicorn”), has acquired Boomtrain, a San Francisco-based marketing platform that leverages machine learning, for reportedly $35 million to $40 million. According to Crunchbase, Boomtrain had raised just less than $15 million, including from Sierra Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Crosslink Capital and TechSquare Labs. TechCrunch has the story here.
Intel laid off about 80 percent of the team that made the Basis smartwatch in November; now it has eliminated its wearables division entirely, says CNBC.
Ken Gonzalez is joining the two-year-old firm Trident Capital Cybersecurity as its fourth managing director. Previously, he was a senior corporate development exec at both FireEye and McAfee.
IAC-owned streaming video site Vimeo promoted Anjali Sud to CEO. She previously led the company’s creator business.
The world’s 500 largest companies generated $27.7 trillion in revenues and $1.5 trillion in profits in 2016. They also employ 67 million people worldwide and are represented by 34 countries. Here they are, ranked by revenue (and topped by Walmart).
And here is the latest funding snapchat for Canada, courtesy of PWC and CB Insights.
LinkedIn is looking to hire a corporate development manager. The job is in San Francisco.
Superpreneur Elon Musk tweeted this morning that has received “verbal” government approval to dig an East Coast hyperloop tunnel that will get commuters from New York to Washington in just 29 minutes.
Now AlphaBay and Hansa Market are gone, dealing a major blow to the online drug trade.
Uber is raising salaries for all employees following complaints that its system for calculating compensation was unfair.
Half of all plastic in the world was made in the last 13 years, reports a new study. (Yikes.)
Washington’s most expensive homes sold in 2017.
How to talk to your teen about colluding with Russia.
A tie for your favorite math geek.