Monthly Archives: August 2017

StrictlyVC: August 7, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy Monday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Softbank’s Masayoshi Son sent a pretty clear warning to Uber this morning — that if its shareholders don’t sell him shares on his terms, his next stop is Lyft.

WeWork just raised another $500 million, bringing its total funding to more than more than $2 billion from investors this year alone.

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On Managing Outrage in Silicon Valley

I hate sexism; it can’t be eradicated fast enough. I’m frustrated that there’s still far too little diversity in Silicon Valley.

Yet a newer form of discrimination is starting to greatly alarm me, and that’s discrimination against anyone with a point of view that’s deemed offensive to the tech majority.

You know already what I’m talking about: people are angry about a Google engineer who wrote an overly long memo, arguing that the fact that there are fewer women engineers than men is a natural state.

I have no interest in trying to deconstruct what this person wrote.  I don’t think it made much sense, and what I did understand of it seemed very poorly argued. For what it’s worth, I’ll note that like the vast majority of people who have read this memo — and that’s now roughly one million people, including Google employees — I strongly disagree with this person’s views about gender and race.

But let’s stop for a minute and think about exactly what has happened here. The author is a junior to mid-level engineer. He is one individual in a company that employs more than 72,000 people. Why has Silicon Valley spent the weekend talking about him, railing against him, bashing Google?

Quartz wrote a smart piece earlier, saying that the real problem with this person’s viral anti-diversity memo “is bigger than Silicon Valley,” and it tied this engineer’s leanings to Trumpism, which has emboldened a subset of Trump supporters to be more public about their repulsive views.

I understand the temptation to draw a line from one to the other, but I don’t think it’s right or fair. I will admit that the tech industry’s swift response to real scandals has led to outcomes that I secretly hoped to see. It also makes a certain kind of sense to feel anger toward Google given that it has been accused by the U.S. Department of Labor of “extreme” gender pay discrimination.

But this groupthink terrifies me when it’s used to bully people for exercising their right to free speech. How will we know what people are truly thinking if we rush to silence them?

Contrary to what some people have written, this engineer was not violating anti-discrimination laws by writing his memo. (If he were a manager and put this kind of thinking into practice, he would be, and I’d have my pitchfork out, too.)

More here.

New Fundings

Banza, a three-year-old, Detroit, Mi.-based producer of wholesale chickpea pastas, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding led by Beechwood Capital, with participation from Strand Equity Partners and RSE VenturesMore here.

Fatherly, a two-year-old, New York-based media startup focused on millennial men, has raised $4 million in venture funding from BDMI (which is the investment arm of media company Bertelsman) and talent agency UTA. Fortune has more here.

Gu Sheng Tang, a seven-year-old, Guangzhou, China-based traditional Chinese medicine clinic franchise, has raised $150 million in Series D funding that comprises both equity and debt. Investors including China State-owned Capital Risk Investment FundChina Life Insurance Co.CMB International, China Orient Asset Management Co., and two unnamed government “guidance” funds. China Money Network has more here.

iflix, a 3.5-year-old, Kuala Lumpur-based Netflix-like service that covers Southeast Asia and other emerging markets, has raised $133 million in funding led by Hearst, with participation from EDBIBDS private bank clients, and earlier backers Evolution MediaSky PLCCatcha GroupLiberty GlobalJungle Ventures and PLDT. The round follows another sizable round — of $90 million — that closed in March. Dealbook has more here.

Karius, a three-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based life sciences company focused on infectious diseases, has raised $50 million in Series A funding. Data Collective and Lightspeed Venture Partners co-led the round, and were joined by Tencent, Khosla Ventures, and earlier backers Innovation Endeavors, and Spectrum 28. CNBC has more here.

LevitasBio, a two-month-old, San Francisco-based cellular analysis startup launched by former Stanford professors and focused around  a proprietary magnetic levitation technology that they hope will enable them to identify, isolate and characterize cells from a wide range of biological samples, has raised $8 million in funding, shows an SEC filingMore here.

Rothy’s, a months-old, San Francisco-based e-commerce startup that makes fashionable women’s flats from recycled plastic water bottles, has raised just more than $5 million in funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, shows a new SEC filingMore here.

Tokyo Smoke, a two-year-old, Toronto-based cannabis lifestyle and retail brand, has raised C$4 million ($3.15 million) in the first close of its Series B financing. The found was led by Aphria, a Canadian medical cannabis producer, and Green Acre Capital, a Canadian cannabis-focused private investment firm. More here.

Werk, a year-old, New York-based job board platform focused on flexible work, raised $2.9 million in seed funding led by Rethink Impact, with participation from SoGal Ventures, TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque, and earlier investors Halogen VenturesPrecursor VC, and Better VenturesMore here.

Wickr, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based secure messaging app has raised $8.7 million as part of a targeted $13 million round, shows a new SEC filing. According to Crunchbase, Wickr had previously raised roughly $73 million, including from Breyer Capital and Alsop Louie PartnersMore here.

Winky Lux, a two-year-old, New York-based cosmetics brand that sells (for now) online only, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Female Founders Fund, with participation from BBG VenturesGGV CapitalSoGal Ventures and TGZ CapitalMore here.

New Funds

March Capital Partners, cofounded by renowned investment banker Jamie Montgomery, is looking to raise up to $150 million for its second early-stage venture fund, shows an SEC filing. It is separately raising $150 million for an opportunity fund, presumably to back its breakaway companies as they mature and need more capital. We talked with the outfit last year when it closed on a $240 million debut fund.

Exits

Netflix just made its first-ever acquisition, paying an undisclosed sum for Millarworld, a comic book publishing company. Netflix wants to turn its franchises into films. TechCrunch has more here.

Publicly traded ad tech company Tremor Video is selling its “demand-side platform” to Israel-based mobile advertising firm Taptica for an enterprise value of $50 million, continuing a raft of consolidation in a sector facing stiff online competition from Google and Facebook. The WSJ has more here.

People

Uber quietly unsealed the deposition of former CEO Travis Kalanick in the Uber-Waymo case over the weekend, and one interesting tidbit it reveals is that Kalanick regrets not firing Anthony Levandowski — who has been accused of stealing from Waymo to benefit Uber —  sooner. Asked why he didn’t, Kalanick said that Levandowski denied that the files he’d downloaded while at Google were used to build Uber’s technology. As time passed, says Kalanick, “You know, I just — I felt that [Levandowski] had done something that was f’ing stupid . . . I — I didn’t feel like he had stolen anything. I knew that it hadn’t gotten over to Uber. I felt a little bullied by Google generally with how the initial complaint was and where it — where the facts actually were. You know, if I were to do it over again, I probably would have immediately. It took a little more time, but I eventually got there.” Buzzfeed has more here.

Lisa Marrone has joined August Capital as a principal. Marrone previously spent three years with Bain & Co. and enjoyed short stints at the White House (working with the National Economic Council), and as a director of strategic marketing at Lydra, a biotech company in Massachusetts.

Jobs

Eniac Ventures is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in San Francisco.

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Essential Reads

Apple is working on a new version of its smartwatch that works with cellular networks, untethering it from the iPhone for the first time.

Apparently the iPhone 8 will be capable of scanning your face, even if your phone is on a table.

Detours

Watch the spine-chilling, season three trailer for “Mr. Robot.”

Steve-O versus hot wings.

And this is why I’ve decided not to become a spear fisherman.

Retail Therapy

Just a little summer home on Corfu.


StrictlyVC: August 4, 2017

Friday! [Cartwheels into padded wall.]

We have a shorter edition of SVC for you today as we unexpectedly have to run out the door. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone. See you Monday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Elon Musk to the two companies currently vying to build the first functional hyperloop: sorry, suckas, but I’m doing this myself.

Sponsored By . . .

This weekend, it’s time to put an end to your buffering. eero was the world’s first home mesh WiFi system — and the second generation is even better. With more power, a smaller form-factor, and Thread, new eero systems can blanket homes of any shape, size, or layout with WiFi so good, you’ll never think about it again. For StrictlyVC readers: use code StrictlyVC at checkout and select overnight shipping for free!

Mamoon Hamid is Leaving Social Capital for Kleiner Perkins

Mamoon Hamid, a longtime partner at U.S. Venture Partners who went on to co-found Social Capital with Chamath Palihapitiya in 2011, is moving on to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

First reported by Axios and confirmed by Social Capital, Hamid will focus on early-stage tech investments, with a focus on enterprise software.

We’ve reached out to Hamid, whose auto-responder states he is currently on paternity leave. But Palihapitiya calls it “a great opportunity for Mamoon” and says that “we’re happy for him and Kleiner Perkins.”

He adds that Social Capital is “building a platform where people with potential can come, build a track record, do great and then try new things.”

The move is interesting for a wide variety of reasons, including, obviously, that Hamid isn’t simply a managing director with Social Capital. It isn’t every day that a venture firm co-founder breaks off to join someone else’s firm.

As Axios notes, too, this isn’t the first time that Social Capital’s world is colliding with that of Kleiner Perkins. Palihapitiya has said that in December 2014, Kleiner’s most famous investor, John Doerr, asked Palihapitiya if he might be interested in joining Kleiner to lead it. Palihapitiya told Fortune that Doerr said, “I want to talk about Kleiner 3.0.”

Palihapitiya declined the invitation. Meanwhile, Doerr stepped back from the day-to-day management of Kleiner last year, instead taking on the role of firm chairman.

Kleiner doesn’t seem to be faring much better at grooming a younger generation of VCs in the wake of that move.

More here.

New Fundings

Auris Surgical Robotics, a 10-year-old, San Carlos, Ca.-based surgical robotics company that was founded by star entrepreneur Frederic Moll, has quietly raised $280 million in Series D funding led by Coatue Management. The company had previously raised at least $184 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its other backers include Mithril Capital Management (cofounded by Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan), Lux CapitalNaviMed Capital, and Highland Capital Partners. We have more on this story for you here.

Interface Security Systems, a 22-year-old, Earth City, Mo.-based bundled managed service provider, has raised $125 million in funding, including from SunTx and Prudential Capital PartnersMore here.

MojiLaLa, a year-old, San Francisco-based developer of an emoji and sticker database, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, including from Great Oaks VCBetaworks, and venture capitalist Dennis Phelps of IVP. More here.

Primary Data, a four-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based data storage service company, has raised $20 million in funding from Pelion Venture PartnersAccel Partners, and Battery VenturesMore here.

Quanterix, a 10-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based developer of an ultra-sensitive diagnostic platform, has raised $8.5 million in funding led by T. Rowe Price AssociatesMore here.

Sugarfina, a five-year-old, Beverly Hills, Ca.-based boutique featuring featuring gourmet sweets from artisan candy-makers around the world, has raised $35 million in funding from Great Hill Partners.  Fortune has more here.

Universal Standard, a two-year-old, New York City-based direct-to-consumer size-inclusive brand for women sizes 10 to 28, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Red Sea Ventures. Fast Company has more here.

New Funds

Science, the L.A.-based venture firm and startup studio cofounded by Mike Jones and Peter Pham, say it’s using an ICO to raise up to $100 million to invest in blockchain startups. The WSJ has more here.

Exits

Yelp is selling the food delivery service Eat24 to GrubHub for $287.5 million. Yelp had acquired the company for $134 million in 2015. The move seemingly signals Yelp’s interest in returning to its core expertise as a content company. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has hired high-profile CEO advisory firm Teneo to help him repair his tarnished public image.

Jobs

LiveOak Venture Partners is looking to hire a principal. The job is in Austin, Tex.

Essential Reads

Uber managers in Singapore bought more than 1,000 Hondas that they knew were defective and had been recalled, then rented them to drivers without the needed repairs.

Coinbase, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, has reversed its stance on Bitcoin Cash and said it will introduce support for the fork next year.

Detours

Post-millennials are safer than adolescents have ever been, because of their smart phones. They’re also on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

A dinosaur so well preserved, it looks like a statue.

Why newborn babies smell so delicious.

Retail Therapy

Now this, this is a BBQ.


StrictlyVC: August 3, 2017

Hi, happy Thursday!

Good news for those of you who were (understandably) wondering: we finally have a website for our upcoming event, on September 27th in San Francisco. You can check out the full agenda here. The majority of the seats are gone but we still have room for you so don’t wait too long.

Also, as we mentioned Monday, we’re in the midst of a working vacation. To help out with the newsletter, our friend, investor Semil Shah, has been talking with VCs and founders about how they raised their first meaningful capital. (With founders, this means how they raised their Series A rounds. With VCs, he’s learning how they raised their debut funds.) Today, we’re running one of those interviews below. Hope you enjoy it.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Oof. Another investor is out the door. According to The Information, Greylock Partners COO Tom Frangione stepped down at the firm’s request last month, after Greylock “learned of some behavior which would represent a significant lapse of judgment,” a Greylock spokeswoman said. According to The Information’s source, Frangione had an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

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How I Did It: VC Charles Hudson on Raising His First Fund

By Semil Shah

Charles Hudson is the managing partner and founder of Precursor Ventures, a seed-stage firm based in San Francisco. Hudson, who likes to write the first check into B2B software applications, B2C software and services, and connected hardware startups, previously worked as a partner with SoftTech VC, where he remains a venture partner. We talked with him recently about what it took to close his debut fund earlier this year.

You closed on $15.3 million in capital commitments earlier this year. How long did it take to get there?

It took about 20 months from my first pitch to my final close. I expected it to take a year, I planned for 18 months, and in terms of personal finances and mental runway, I budgeted for 24 months.

How many LPs meetings did the process involve?

Nearly 300. Some were with LPs who I knew were unlikely to come in on Fund I, but where I wanted to get to know them or get their advice in the fundraising process. I knew that we’d need to talk to a lot of LPs in order to find a fit with their interest in what we’re building at Precursor and learn their perspective on investing in new managers.

Were you targeting $15 million?

My initial target was $20 million, but I felt that by the time I got to $15 million, I had reasonably covered the universe of known LPs who would invest. I’d also been warehousing investments along the way and some of those investments were beginning to raise follow-on rounds at higher valuations; there came a point where it just didn’t feel right to bring in new LPs at cost when my early investors had supported me prior to evidence. So I closed the fund at that point with 56 LPs.

Does that include traditional LPs, such as endowments, foundations, and funds of funds?

There’s only one that I would consider a traditional institutional LP. Most of the more traditional LPs I pitched had a lot of concerns about pre-seed and our strategy. Back in 2015 when I began fundraising, I don’t think the argument for pre-seed was nearly as strong, and I met a lot of LPs who’d never been pitched on a pre-seed strategy before.

For those StrictlyVC readers who are new to fund fundraising, it’s worth noting that many traditional LPs can afford to wait until a subsequent fund to invest, even if they like you and your strategy. The best ones have been doing this long enough and know that you’ll either increase your fund size and have room for a new investor in your next fund, or you’ll have some LP attrition, creating space for them to jump in, or a bit of both.

Looking back now, what did you do right and wrong in your fundraising process? What are some other lessons you can share?

Get the easy “yes” commitments as quickly as you can so you have some momentum. I had a pool of folks who I thought were likely going to support me, but I didn’t prioritize pitching them early and getting their commitments to show that I was not stuck on zero. It’s very difficult to go into meetings with institutional LPs and get them over the hump when their check will literally be the one that puts you in business. Having the equivalent of friends-and-family type backers who want to see you succeed gives you some early momentum.

I also learned that structural novelty in your fund can be a bug when you think it’s a feature. When I started Precursor, I had a pretty high level of conviction that it needed to be a solo GP fund, with a diverse portfolio in terms of sector and geography, and that we would use AngelList SPVs to syndicate our pro rata in our follow-on rounds. When I put together the fund, I thought that some of the things we were doing were fairly innovative and differentiated relative to a typical reserves-heavy fund that charges typical management fees. What I quickly realized when pitching was that the things I thought of as novel and unique about my fund were giving LPs pause [in part] because those are things that need to be explained and defended when your sponsor takes your fund to committee.

Last, the LPs I met with did a lot more diligence with other GPs than they did with founders I had backed. Had I known that would be the case, I would have invested much more time upfront, educating my network on the model and strategy for Precursor and making sure I knew how folks felt about the model we were pursuing.

Any other last pieces of advice?

I tell people all the time that most GPs I know who fail to raise their funds quit not because they get discouraged but because they run out of LP leads to pitch. You have to be really focused on making sure the top of your LP lead funnel stays full. I always tried to hold myself to a rule of trying to find or connect with two new LPs every day that I was in market. I didn’t achieve that goal every day, but I used it as a reminder to continue to find new people to approach even as I got close to being done.

New Fundings

Betterez, a six-year-old, Toronto-based reservations and ticketing platform for bus and motorcoach service providers, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors, including JetBlue Technology VenturesMore here.

Bread, a three-year-old, New York-based lender hoping to convince customers to finance big purchases using its technology, has raised $126 million in Series B funding. Menlo Ventures led the equity portion of the investment, with participation from Bessemer Venture PartnersRRE Ventures and others. A debt facility was also provided by Victory Park Capital. Forbes has more here.

Botmetric, a three-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based AI-powered cloud management platform, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Blume VenturesMore here.

Dianrong, a nearly five-year-old, Shanghai, China-based peer-to-peer lending platform, has raised $220 million in funding led by GIC Pte, with participation from CMIG Leasing, which is a unit of China’s biggest private investment conglomerates, and South Korean fund manager Simone Investment Managers. Reuters has more here.

Drive Motors, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that makes software for car dealerships so they can offer the entire buying process directly online, has raised $5.2 million in seed funding led by Bullpen Capital. Other investors in the round include Y CombinatorKhosla Ventures, Perkins Coie, and Emagen Entertainment GroupMore here.

ETC Global Group, an eight-year-old, L.A.- and Toronto-based brokerage and clearing group, has raised up to $68 million in funding from investors, including Cerberus Capital Management and Quantlab InvestmentsMore here.

Gobee Bike, a seven-month-old, Hong Kong-based bike share startup, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Grishin Robotics, with participation from Alibaba’s Hong Kong entrepreneurship fund. Gobee had previously raised a pre-launch seed round led by Swiss Founders Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

GuardiCore, a four-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that makes distributed breach detection and automated attack mitigation software, has tacked on $15 million to a previously closed Series B financing. TPG Growth and Greenfield Partners led the additional funding. The company has now raised $48 million altogether. More here.

Homology Medicines, a two-year-old, Bedford, Ma.-based genetic medicines company developing treatments for patients with rare diseases, has raised $83.5 million in Series B funding led by Deerfield Management. Other participants in the round include Fidelity Management & Research CompanyHBM Healthcare InvestmentsMaverick VenturesNovartisRock Springs CapitalVida VenturesVivo CapitalAlexandria Venture Investments5AM VenturesARCH Venture Partners and TemasekMore here.

Kabbage, an eight-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based fintech and data company that lends money directly to small businesses and consumers, as well as licenses its technology, has raised a stunning $250 million from Softbank Group (and not from the Softbank Vision Fund). The company has now raised $500 million from investors altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Meican, a six-year-old, China-based online food ordering and delivery platform for corporate customers, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series D funding led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners. Earlier backers also participated in the round, including include KPCB ChinaNokia Growth Partners and Trustbridge Partners. China Money Network has more here.

Milestone Pharmaceuticals, a 12-year-pld, Canada-based clinical-stage cardiovascular company, has raised $55 million in Series C funding. Novo Holdings A/S led the round, and was joined by Forbion Capital PartnersTekla Capital ManagementDomain AssociatesFonds de solidarité FTQ,BDC CapitalPappas Capital and GO Capital. FierceBiotech has more here.

Neurable, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based startup whose brain-computer interface allows people to control software and devices using only their brain activity, has raised funding of an undisclosed amount from the Zell Lurie Founders Fund at the University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Global University Venturing has more here.

Personio, a two-year-old, Munich, Germany-based SaaS HR management and recruiting platform, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Northzone, with participation from earlier backers, including Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital and Picus Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

SmartAssist.io, a new Seattle-based GE spinout that’s focused on helping enterprises manage customer service requests through AI, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Madrona Venture Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Yiguo, a 12-year-old, Shanghai-based e-commerce platform for fresh produce, has raised $300 million from Tmall, Alibaba’s business-to-consumer platform. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

Rewired, a new, Lausanne, Switzerland-based startup studio that will focus on helping roboticists create new companies (then fund them), is announcing a $100 million debut fund. The capital comes entirely from a multi-family office called Cascade Global. One of the outfit’s venture partners is Santori Tenorio-Garcés, who was previously the head of business development at an unnamed family office and, before that, was a director of global partnerships and innovation at American Express’ corporate payments division. Axios has more here.

Tracker, a new seed fund led by Greycroft venture partner Jon Goldman, has raised $15.6 million in capital commitments to fund opportunities in artificial reality, virtual reality, and gaming. He tells VentureBeat he’ll be writing checks of between $50,000 and $500,000. Greycroft is one of Tracker’s investors. More here.

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People

Yinglan Tan, a longtime Sequoia venture partner based out of Singapore, has left the firm following a five-year stint and is launching his own fund.

Data

Apple sold 56 percent more Apple Watches in the second quarter than it did in the second quarter of last year, but it’s still trailing both Fitbit and Xiaomi when it comes to selling wearables, says a new report. More here.

Essential Reads

Starting today, Facebook will begin drowning out fake news with more information. The move mirrors Google’s approach, which is to retool its search engine to prevent sites from peddling fake news, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories from appearing in its top results. The WSJ has more here.

Multiple agencies tell CNBC that advertiser interest in Snapchat is flat to dwindling, as many opt to move toward Instagram. More here.

Airbnb is being sued by a guest who says a “superhost” on the platform sexually assaulted her.

Detours

Why we can’t have the male pill.

I cut down my grocery bill by eating my roommate’s food and gaslighting her.

When is this going to be over? [Thought bubble appears with image of Justin Trudeau.]

Retail Therapy

Looks like the market for iconic triplex penthouses in New York may be cooling off.


StrictlyVC: August 2, 2017

Happy Wednesday, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

A new version of bitcoin hit the market yesterday and, on its second day of trading, it has already tripled in price and its market cap is now third biggest of all digital currencies.

Sponsored By . . .

eero changed the world of home WiFi with a powerful idea: that a system of wireless access points placed throughout the home could deliver WiFi so good, you’d never think about it again. Now, the 2nd generation of eero is available — providing hyper-fast, super-stable WiFi in all corners of all types of homes. For StrictlyVC readers: use code StrictlyVC at checkout and select overnight shipping for free!

This Outfit Wants Startups to Trade Equity for Patents from Big Tech Cos.

Aqua Licensing is a four-year-old patent advisory and transaction firm that typically works behind the scenes, helping companies sell their patents for a variety of reasons. But it has a new proposal for venture-backed startups that are in fundraising mode: it wants them to give big tech companies like AT&T and Lenovo some of their equity in exchange for patents that the companies no longer use but could prove useful for the startups.

Put another way, it wants to create a two-sided marketplace that helps big corporations find stakes in more startups, while also pushing startups to think from an early age about their patent strategy.

The initiative makes some degree of sense. As companies mature, they often need to think more about patents as a way to protect their business. (If a company has a patent on a product or service or idea, that’s one less patent an outsider can acquire to assert against it.)

Of course, it’s also easy to imagine the many obstacles to it working, starting with startups’ priorities. “This relies on startups thinking proactively in the early stages about a need for patents,” notes Greg Gretsch, a longtime venture capitalist and a co-founder of Jackson Square Ventures in San Francisco. “In my experience, that’s generally not top of mind for founders, and if you told them it would cost them equity, they’d probably be even less interested in engaging.”

Late last week, we talked with Aqua founder Mark McMillan to learn more about how he sees this working, and why he thinks Aqua can overcome some of these challenges. Our chat has been edited for length.

You’re trying to match startups with patents or defensive patents, saying it will help them protect their innovations, as well as help them scale. What was the impetus for the idea?

We were working with a major client last year and a discussion came up around the challenges of selling IP assets into startups. The startups don’t have a lot of cash to buy them, and VCs don’t necessarily want them doing strategic transactions that are ancillary. Meanwhile, the patent market is growing and people — companies — find themselves with assets that may be depreciating in value and costing them maintenance fees.

What are some of the big companies that you’ve signed up to this exchange program?

We’re announcing Lenovo, Rambus and AT&T today, but we have a large collection of participants that are prepared to sell to the right startup at the right price.

How does this process work?

Startups will submit their investment plan to us, just like they would to VCs. We have analytics capabilities that will help them find appropriate assets.

Given these are young companies, how can you really know what patents make the most sense for them?

We start by assuming a company has started working on its own unique patents, and get a read on the competitors it’ll be disrupting. If we can find patents that likely read on these competitors, the startup’s business plan then goes to the participating member (with the relevant patents). If that member is interested in the startup and would like to sell its patent in exchange for equity, the member then values its patents and lists a price that the startup can accept or reject.

A final closing condition has to be the closure of a qualified venture funding round and [the big tech company’s] commitment to invest the proceeds of [that patent sale] into that round.

More here.

New Fundings

Azuqua, a four-year-old Seattle startup building software that allows businesses to integrate their various cloud applications to serve specific needs, has raised $10.8 million in Series B funding. Insight Venture Partners led the round, with DFJ and Ignition Partners also investing. Xconomy has more here.

Booster, a three-year-old, Seattle-based company that offers on-demand fuel service on large corporate campuses, has raised $20 million in Series B, led by Conversion Capital. Earlier investors MaveronMadrona Venture Group, and RRE Ventures were among the other investors participating in the round. The startup has raised $32 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

Branch Messenger, a two-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based collaboration platform for shift workers to message their coworkers, has raised $6.8 million in Series A funding led by March Capital Partners. Other participants in the round include CrossCut VenturesTechstars Ventures and Matchstick VenturesMore here.

EazyScripts, a three-year-old, Chicago-based startup that enables healthcare providers to submit electronic prescriptions from their mobile devices, has raised $2 million in Series A funding from Bluff Point AssociatesMore here.

ExecOnline, a five-year-old, New York-based e-learning professional development platform, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. NewSpring Growth Capital led the round, with participation from Osage Venture PartnersNew Atlantic VenturesKaplan and Thomas Lehrman (who cofounded Gerson Lehrman Group). More here.

Flutterwave, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that’s building an underlying unified payments infrastructure for African businesses to accept cards, mobile money, and bank account payments, has raised $10 million in Series B funding. Greycroft PartnersGreen Visor CapitalY Combinator, and Glynn Capital Management all participated. Techpoint.ng has more here.

Gimlet Media, a three-year-old, New York-based podcast network, has raised $15 million in a round led by Stripes Group. Other participants in the round include Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective and earlier backers Graham HoldingsBetaworks, and Cross Culture Investors. Recode has more here.

Hustle, 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based text-distribution tool that allows organizers to quickly start individual, personalized conversations with huge numbers of supporters, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Social Capitalled the round, with participation from Omidyar NetworkTwilio.org, earlier backer Canvas Ventures, along with nine other unnamed investment firms. TechCrunch has more here.

Impossible Foods, the six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company known for its juicy meatless burgers, quietly announced $75 million in funding late last week, led by Temasek, with participation from Open Philanthropy, as well as earlier investors Bill GatesKhosla Ventures and Horizon Ventures. The company says it isn’t providing further financial details but the round brings Impossible’s funding to nearly $300 million, including earlier rounds that have included GVViking Global Investors and UBS. TechCrunch has more here.

M17 Entertainment, a Taiwan based Asian streaming company that recently merged with the Singapore-based dating startup Paktor, has raised $40 million in Series A funding. Earlier backer Infinity Venture Partners led the round, with participation from Golden Summit CapitalKTB Ventures, and other earlier backers that include Vertex AsiaYahoo Japan, and MajuvenMore here.

Personal Capital, an eight-year-old, San Carlos, Ca.-based digital wealth management firm, has raised $40 million in new funding as an extension of an earlier, $75 million Series E round. IGM Financial led the round, with participation from other (unnamed) existing investors. According to Crunchbase, the company has now raised roughly $215 million in equity and debt funding. More here.

ProoV, a two-year-old, Israel-based SaaS platform that aims to streamline the proof-of-concept process (so that CIOs and CTOs can understand more quickly whether a startup’s technology works), has raised $14 million in Series B funding. Helios Capital and Mangrove Capital Partners co-led the round, with participation from OurCrowd and Cerca Partners. The company has now raised $21.1 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Ritual Vitamins, a two-year-old, West Hollywood, Ca.-based vitamin subscription service, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Founders Fund, with participation from earlier backers Forerunner VenturesNorwest Venture Partners and Upfront Ventures. The company has now raised $15.3 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Smash.gg, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that helps local esports fans create their own tournaments, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from Accel PartnersHorizon VenturesCaffeinated Capital and Lowercase Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

TrackR, an eight-year-old, Santa Barbara, Ca.-based company that makes small wireless tracking devices to help users locate lost keys and other everyday items, has raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Revolution Growth. Other participants in the round include Foundry GroupAmazon Alexa FundDoCoMo CapitalThe Glenmede Trust and Bespoke Strategies. TechCrunch has more here.

Vetted, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based startup that provides on-demand veterinary services for a flat $99 fee per house call, has raised $3.3 million in seed funding from Foundation Capital, with participation from Amplify LASterling.VCand Reimagined Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Viome, a 1.5-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based startup that does RNA analysis of all living organisms in the gut and was founded by serial entrepreneur Naveen Jain, has raised $15 million in funding. Khosla Ventures led the round, with participation from Bold Capital Partners. VentureBeat has more here.

WanderJaunt, a 10-month-old, Bay Area-based startup property manager for short term rentals that’s also trying to establish its own verification badge as a meaningful marketing tool, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Khosla Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Wia, a two-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based startup that offers a cloud platform to enable developers to turn various sensor-based hardware into Internet of Things devices, has raised €750,000 in seed funding led by Suir Valley Ventures, with participation from Enterprise Ireland. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Blue Lake Capital, a Shanghai-based venture capital firm led by former Sequoia Capital and GGV Capital execs, is raising $200 million for its second early-stage fund, according to a stock exchange filing spied by DealStreetAsia. Fundraising reportedly kicked off in March. More here.

Brightstone Venture Capital, a four-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based early-stage tech and life sciences venture firm, has closed on $25 million in capital commitments for its second fund. The outfit is targeting $100 million altogether. More here.

Elevation Innovation Partners, a new early- to mid-stage venture firm that’s based in New York, says it has held a first close on $15 million in capital commitments. It’s hoping to raise $25 million by year end. More here.

Exits

Snap is in talks with China-based drone maker Zero Zero Robotics over an acquisition, as first reported by The Information. According to TechCrunch’s sources, the deal is in the range of $150 million to $200 million. More here.

People

500 Startups’ Christine Tsai has responded to sexual harassment allegations for the first time since founder Dave McClure’s ouster. She called the firm’s mission “much bigger than just one person. And it’s way too important to be taken down by one person’s mistakes.”

Data

Instagram, owned by Facebook, says its users under age 25 spend “more than 32 minutes a day on Instagram” and that users ages 25 and over “spend more than 24 minutes a day” on the app. Both numbers are bigger than what Snapshared in its S-1 back in February, notes Recode.

Researchers at Brunel University London and the University of Birmingham recently conducted an eight-week study to explore whether fitness wearables might encourage young teenagers to exercise more. Their findings? The devices had the opposite effect.

Essential Reads

You can now use PayPal through Skype‘s mobile app.

A look at how Facebook is silencing important conversations.

Detours

In a business trip the Bay Area last year, this Japanese chef “decided the tech elite needed a high-end place to eat.” (We’re still laughing so unable to finish the rest of this article.)

Here’s the algorithm that’s making preschoolers obsessed with YouTube.

Retail Therapy

“The King and I” at the Kennedy Center. Amazing. Really. It plays through August 20th.


StrictlyVC: August 1, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy August!:)

Before we jump into things, we’re excited to announce one more guest speaker who is joining us for our last event of the year, on Wednesday, September 27, in downtown San Francisco. Marco Santori, a New York-based attorney who now leads Cooley’s fintech practice, has generously agreed to join L.A.-based cryptocurrency banker Stan Miroshnik for our fireside chat about ICOs.

Both are fully immersed in the business of structuring new products; together, they’ll tell you all the ins and outs of ICOS (and how best to invest in them). Catch them while they’re in town. Seats for the evening are available here.

Top News in the A.M.

Blood testing startup Theranos just reached a settlement agreement with former customer Walgreens. As part of the confidential deal, Walgreens will dismiss its lawsuit against Theranos “with no finding of implication of liability.” Walgreens filed a lawsuit against the company last November, seeking up to $140 million in damages. More here.

SoftBank Vision Fund is now in talks to invest directly in India’s Flipkart, says Bloomberg, after talks to fold SoftBank-backed Snapdeal into Flipkart fell apart. More here.

Sponsored By . . .

eero changed the world of home WiFi with a powerful idea: that a system of wireless access points placed throughout the home could deliver WiFi so good, you’d never think about it again. Now, the 2nd generation of eero is available — providing hyper-fast, super-stable WiFi in all corners of all types of homes. For StrictlyVC readers: use code StrictlyVC at checkout and select overnight shipping for free!

This Startup Wants Every Camp, Swim School, and After-School Program Using Its Software

Sawyer, a two-year-old, Brooklyn-based startup that aims to become the OpenTable of children’s activities, has raised $6 million in new funding led by Advance Venture Partners. Others who contributed to the round include Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, 3311 Ventures, Female Founders Fund, and earlier backer Collaborative Fund,  as well as unnamed investors from the company’s $1.5 million seed round, which closed in April of last year.

Sawyer sees itself as capitalizing on the more customized ways that parents are trying to educate their children, in an age where they also expect the online tools they use to be simple. It has a two-pronged approach toward that end, too.

First and foremost, it’s been at work on a subscription-based software suite called Sawyer Tools that it says “hundreds” of outfits across the U.S. — from camps to after-school programs to early-development classes — are now using to schedule classes, communicate with parents, and process payments.

Sawyer CEO and cofounder Marissa Evans Alden suggests it’s a big opportunity that’s just waiting to be exploited. “None of these vendors run on any type of [sophisticated] software,” she says. She likens what Sawyer is building to the cloud-based business management software made by publicly traded MindBody, which caters to the wellness industry and went public in 2015. “Where MindBody was able to power yoga facilities, there isn’t this layer in that space,” says Alden.

More here.

New Fundings

Bitrise, a two-year-old, Hungary-based startup that helps app developers automate their daily development tasks, from building through testing to deployment, has raised $3.2 million in funding. OpenOcean led the round, with participation from Y Combinator (whose program Bitrise passed through recently), Fiedler Capital, and other angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Carspring, a two-year-old, London- and Berlin-based used car buying platform that was founded by Rocket Internet, has raised £5 million ($6.6 million) in Series B funding from Rocket Internet itself, Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund (which trades TV advertising for equity) and other, unnamed investors. TechCrunch has more here.

CommonSense Robotics, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that’s trying to create micro-fulfillment centers that can be built inside existing retail spaces, has raised $6 million in seed funding. Aleph VC and Innovation Endeavors co-led the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Helpling, a three-year-old, Berlin-based platform for on-demand home services that was incubated by Rocket Internet, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Unilever Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Juvo, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup looking to provide micro-loans to underbanked mobile users in emerging markets, has raised $40 million in funding led by New Enterprise Associates and Wing Venture Capital. Juvo had previously raised $14 million from investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Kin, a year-old, Chicago-based home insurance startup that promises to save users time and aggravation, has raised $4 million from investors, including Commerce VenturesOmidyar Network500 StartupsChicago Venturesand Portag3 Ventures, as well as numerous unnamed angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Taxify, a four-year-old, Estonia-based, Uber-like service that operates in Europe and Africa and plans to launch in London later this year, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Didi Chuxing. As you likely recall, Didi had forced Uber out of China; now it’s finding ways to expand its geographic footprint. TechCrunch has more here.

UnifyID, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based authentication platform that relies on factors that are unique to individuals but don’t require any user action (like users’ locations, their habits, and various signals from the devices they carry), has raised $20 million in Series A funding. New Enterprise Associatesled the round, with participation from earlier backers Andreessen HorowitzStanford-StartX and Accomplice Ventures. (We liked this company when we saw it live. It was the runner-up at TechCrunch’s Disrupt show in San Francisco last year.) More here.

Volocopter, a five-year-old, Germany-based flying air taxi developer, has raised $30 million in funding from DaimlerMore here.

Wonderbly, a five-year-old, London-based platform for creating and publishing personalized story books (it was formerly called Lost My Name), has raised $8.5 million in Series B funding. Ravensburger, a leading European publisher, led the round, with participation from earlier backers GVProject A VenturesGreycroft PartnersThe Chernin GroupAllen & Co., and Silicon Valley Bank (which provided an undisclosed amount of debt funding). More here.

Exits

Following sexual harassment allegations that led to the resignation of 500 Startups co-founder Dave McClure, the troubled venture firm has reportedly abandoned its Canada fund. The outfit had reportedly already received $15 million in commitments and was targeting $30 million, but concerned LPs have asked it to stop making new or follow-on investments. According to reports, 500 Startups had already invested in 38 Canadian startups. More here.

Facebook has acquired the conversational AI startup Ozlo, a 3.5-year-old outfit founded by Charles Jolley, who was formerly head of platform for Android at Facebook. The companies aren’t disclosing terms of the deal, but Jolly isn’t heading back to the mothership, reports TechCrunch. Ozlo had raised $14 million from investors, including AME Cloud Ventures and Greylock PartnersMore here.

LogMeIn, a 14-year-old, Boston-based company that sells authentication and other connectivity software and services to companies whose users connect remotely, is paying up to $50 million for an Israeli company called Nanorepthat developed chatbots and other AI-based tools that help people navigate self-service apps. Nanorep had raised just less than $7 million from investors, including TitaniumOryzn Capital and OurCrowd. TechCrunch has more here.

Wyndham Worldwide, the giant hotel chain, has acquired Love Home Swap, a six-year-old, London-based startup that enables users to book time to stay in other people’s homes while renting out their own homes. According to Crunchbase, Love Home Swap had raised roughly $16 million in funding, including from MMC Ventures. Wyndam is buying it for just north of $50 million, says TechCrunch. More here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

Casper is an internet sensation, with thousands of five-star reviews and countless awards. The Casper mattress is obsessively engineered and sleeps cool. Plus, it ships for free, straight to your door, in a “how did they do that?” sized box. Try it risk-free for 100 nights. You can receive $50 off right now, too, by mentioning the promo code STRICTLYVC.

People

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is a smaller firm today. Yesterday, general partner Mike Abott announced that he’s leaving the firm to jump back into the world of startups. Separately, the firm is shutting down its early-stage “Edge” initiative — it was a way for the firm to market its seed-stage investments — with three young investors who’d joined to be lead that effort now parting ways with the firm, reports TechCrunch. (As we mentioned last week, Arielle Zuckerberg also left recently, apparently to travel in a camper van.)

Roughly 100 current or former Snap employees have profited on paper from their stock gains, according to new analysis in The Information. Shares for remaining employees are currently under water.

Essential Reads

Facebook is reportedly working on a video chat device for the home — the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab.

Uber is less valuable without Travis Kalanick as CEO than it was with him at the helm, according to some of the ride-hailing company’s biggest investors.

Less than a week after the SEC said that it may regulate certain crypto token sales, better known as ICOs, Singapore has followed suit, saying it will also regulate offerings that are deemed to be securities. As TechCrunch notes, Singapore has developed into a destination of sorts for ICOs.

Detours

You may now toke with the bride (evidently).

Do you love with your phone? We mean, romantically.

Retail Therapy

David Rockefeller’s 14.5-acre estate on Mount Desert Island in Maine is on the market. Price tag: $19 million.


StrictlyVC: July 31, 2017

Happy Monday, everyone! We’re in beautiful, balmy Washington, D.C. at the moment, at the start of a workation with the family. Our friend Semil Shah of the seed-stage firm Haystack nicely offered to help us out for a few weeks, so we can spend more time away from our laptop, and he can delve deeper into the psyche of some of his fellow investors and the many founders who interest him.

Toward that end, over the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of “how I started” type interviews that Semil is conducting, chats we hope are instructive for those of you who could use an inside look at how things come together in startup world.

We also have great news to announce about our upcoming event on September 27, Wednesday night, at the Autodesk Gallery in downtown San Francisco. Our latest addition to the agenda: 21-year-old founder Alex Rogrigues, whose recently-out-of-stealth self-driving truck company, Embark, is not only taking on Uber and Alphabet as they duke it out with each other, but just two weeks ago it signed a deal with Peterbilt to develop a new group of test trucks. To hear more about how Rodrigues plans to compete with some of the richest companies in the world, grab a seat (before we run out).

With much thanks to our partners BoltBallou PR, and Rosebud Communications, for their support in the evening. More soon . . .

Top News in the A.M.

Discovery Communications is acquiring Scripps Networks Interactive for $14.6 billion in cash and stock. The deal represents a 34 percent premium over the price where Scripps’s shares were trading on Friday. The deal combines two of cable TV’s bigger brands in an era where cord cutting has hit impacted all the major players across the board. TechCrunch has more here.

Charter Communications is saying it has “no interest” in merging with Sprint, following a Friday WSJ report that Sprint had proposed a deal. That’s apparently not stopping SoftBank, which currently controls a majority stake in Sprint. According to Bloomberg, its billionaire chairman, Masayoshi Son, is now mustering an offer from SoftBank to buy Charter outright. More here.

That was fast. Just days after Flipkart’s much-rumored acquisition of Snapdeal appeared to be complete, the deal has officially died, says TechCrunch.

Sponsored By . . .

eero changed the world of home WiFi with a powerful idea: that a system of wireless access points placed throughout the home could deliver WiFi so good, you’d never think about it again. Now, the 2nd generation of eero is available — providing hyper-fast, super-stable WiFi in all corners of all types of homes. For StrictlyVC readers: use code StrictlyVC at checkout and select overnight shipping for free!

Pillow CEO Sean Conway: How I Raised My Series A

By Semil Shah

Sean Conway is co-founder and CEO of Pillow, a startup that provides a suite of management services to both residents and building owners who are looking to earn extra income through the short-term rental economy. Before co-founding Pillow, Conway launched Notehall, a study materials marketplace acquired by Chegg in 2011.

As a founder, how do you define what a Series A means?

For me personally, Series A is an incredible milestone because it’s validation that your vision for should exist, and it gives you confidence by having the means to get there.

From a business standpoint, Series A provides the capital to find and surround yourself with a team that can focus on critical pieces of the business model – to execute and excellerate the vision at hand.  Prior, each team member pulled the weight of two to four jobs, which spread us thin.

Additionally, Series A provides social capital. Your VC becomes a partner for public and industry validation if you choose to publicize your raise. Your new board member is unlike any advisor you’ve likely had because they have skin in the game to accelerate you forward.

What are your thoughts on when to announce a Series A, once you’ve closed it?

I highly recommend founders delay their funding announcement three to six months until they put the capital to work to build the team and product. The positives include more invitations to speak at conferences, with press and introductions that you don’t want to pass on.

How many months did it take to raise the round?

It took six months in total. In those first couple of months, we collected data, created a deck, and created a list of prospective investors who we’d like to work with.  Over months three and four, we pitched six to 12 VCs each week. We lined these meetings up back to back and we had a term sheet by the end of the four month. We were ecstatic for about 48 hours, then [the realization hits that your] bank account balance is giving you anxiety because it’s lower than ever and you need to get funds wired — pronto. We went through due diligence in months five and six, which involved a lot of speaking with emailing lawyers. At the end of the sixth month, the round was closed. It was a europhic moment for us, and overall, it’s an incredible process that I would advise other founders to cherish, because a very limited number of entrepreneurs have the opportunity to experience it.

How many VC meetings did it take to get the round raised?

We pitched 25 different firms; that led to five partner meetings.  The most pitch meetings I scheduled in one day was six, and that was two too many.  I’d recommend beginning with two pitches a day in the first week and increasing to three or four meetings maximum in the second and third weeks.

What was the round size? What was your initial target?

We modeled out various amount of capital but targeted $8 million initially and wound up with $13 million. I recommend modeling out three different capital raises with three different scenarios; below target, at target, and above target.  From here you can better understand all scenarios and which milestones you’ll hit depending on performance.

Looking back now, what were the biggest mistakes you made in raising Series A and why? 

I think there was a large opportunity to include strategics in our Series A, and we only pitched VCs.  I also

wish I would have called entrepreneurs that had taken funding from investors, especially the main partner, and asked them how their partner meetings functioned.  I assumed our meeting would be six to eight partners around the table but it turned out to be the entire firm (24 to 28 people) in a room – both sitting and standing – and it was intimidating.   Although I knew my company and pitch forward and backwards, the setting was unexpected and threw me off course during the pitch.

How was raising Series A different than raising seed and notes? Any advice to other founders going through the process?

Metrics, metrics, metrics. You have a good understanding of your unit economics, CAC and LTV, financial forecast, assumptions, and expansion costs. Series A is also much different because you’ll find this new investor is one you’ll work with more closely than most investors in the past.  Rather than searching around on AngelList and setting up coffee meetings, getting the right meetings with VCs requires credible introductions from current investors, other entrepreneurs, and even your legal team. Be sure to provide VCs a blurb and shortened deck that provokes curiosity but leaves them asking questions and wanting more.

Any closing advice?

Prepare. Pitch three to five of your current investors before running your process. Preserve your seed funds until you understand 70 percent of your unit economics. Last, this better be more than a hobby because sh*t is about to get real. It’s also a lot of fun.

New Fundings

The Big Willow, a four-year-old, Wilton, Cn.-based startup that makes business-to-business software for marketers, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Connecticut Innovations and Stonehenge Growth CapitalMore here.

Carwow, a seven-year-old, London-based platform that connects car buyers with car dealers, has closed $39 million in Series C funding led by new investor Vitruvian Partners, with participation from earlier backers Accel Partnersand Balderton Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

DotC United Group, a two-year-old, Shanghai-based mobile application developer, has raised $350 million in Series B funding led by Zeus Entertainment. More here.

FanAI, a year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based AI-driven audience monetization platform that’s focused on e-sports, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by Courtside Ventures, with participation from Greycroft Partners, BDS CapitalCRCM VenturesSterling.VCLoot VenturesExpansion VCQB1 VenturesRosecliff Ventures and DraftKings founderJason RobinsMore here.

Reddit, the 12-year-old, San Francisco-based online discussion platform that has long billed itself as the “front page of the internet,” has raised $200 million in new venture funding at a post-money valuation of $1.8 billion, it says. The round — the company’s biggest — includes Andreessen HorowitzSequoia Capital, Y Combinator President Sam Altman and SV Angel’s Ron Conway. It also includes money from the hedge fund Coatue, the investment firm Vy Capital and the mutual fund giant Fidelity. Recode has more here.

Shopex, a 15-year-old, Shanghai-based e-commerce software and services company, has raised $105 million in Series D funding led by Joy Capital, with participation from K2VCNew Alliance CapitalTianxing CapitalGopher Asset Management and CBC Capital. China Money Network has more here.

SimplyCook, a four-year-old, London-based subscription-based service that sells home recipe kits, has raised £2 million ($2.6 million) in fresh funding. Investors in the round are Maxfield CapitalEpisode 1 Ventures500 Startups, and a handful of unnamed U.K.-based angels. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

SAIF Partners, one of India’s most active tech investment firms, has closed its sixth fund with $350 million, which is the same size as its previous fund. The firm’s portfolio includes the large mobile commerce plaform Paytm and the food delivery service Swiggy. TechCrunch has more here.

Exits

Amazon has acquired GameSparks, a four-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based “backend as a service” for game developers to build various features like leaderboards into games. According to TechCrunch, GameSparks had raised just $820,000 from a small group of investors that included Enterprise Ireland, a government group. More here.

Soundcloud, the beleaguered music-streaming service, is reportedly nearing a deal to sell a majority of its business to two private equity firms.

People

Valerie Jarrett, who served as Senior Advisor to President Obama, is joining Lyft’s board.

Whisper, one of the few anonymous social sharing apps left standing, just laid off 20 percent of its staff. More here.

Jobs

Felix Capital is right now looking to hire an associate. The job is in London.

Essential Reads

Recode has a lot of detail about why Meg Whitman is no longer in the running to be Uber‘s new CEO. The New York Times also has a deep dive about backstabbing on Uber’s board, and why ousted CEO (and continuing board member) Travis Kalanick may be hoping a new Softbank investment will enable him to regain control of the company.

Elon Musk says it’s going to be “hell,” making Tesla‘s Model 3 quickly enough to satisfy to demand. According to Musk, reservations for the car now exceed 500,000. (Here’s everything you’d want to know about the car, by the way.)

Giphy, the four-year-old search engine for GIFs, is about to start testingsponsored GIFs.

Snap‘s lock-up period ended today for some insiders, and they are selling.

Detours

Men, stop eating sugar. (Women, you’re fine.)

RIP, Sam Shepard.

Retail Therapy

Death Wish cold brew coffee. If it doesn’t kill you, something else will.


StrictlyVC: July 28, 2017

Friday! Hope you have a first-rate weekend, everyone. If you need a laugh, there’s always this to read and re-read.

Also, thanks to those of you who flagged a mistake yesterday. We called Stripe a publicly traded company, which it is not. We had Square on the brain.

See you soon.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Amazon said yesterday that quarterly profit fell fully 77 percent in the second quarter even as sales jumped — a sign of the high cost of its increasing dominance of retail.

SoftBank is reportedly in talks to lead a new $1 billion financing for Ofo, the three-year-old Chinese bike-sharing company that already has raised roughly $1.3 billion to date, including from Alibaba, DST Global, Didi Chuxing and Atomico. The deal could value the young company at close to $3 bilion.

Stitch Fix, the mail-order clothing service backed by Benchmark, Baseline Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and WTI, has filed confidentially for an initial public offering, sources tell TechCrunch.

The first 30 Tesla Model 3s are officially being delivered to their owners later today. Tesla expects to be producing 20,000 models a month by December.

Sponsored By . . .

Betts Recruiting is the top recruitment firm for high growth B2B and B2C companies specializing in revenue-generating roles, from entry level positions to VP. With more than 100 recruiters and six offices worldwide, in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Austin, New York and London, we have an expansive network of top talent. We take a consultative approach to your hiring process and provide guidance to scale your team or find your strategic hire. Are you or one of your portfolio companies looking to scale your organization? Check out our 2017 Salary Trends Report, or connect with our Global Head of Partnerships, Allison Andrade.

The Race to Repair our Hearing — With Medicine

On any bustling city street, in the middle of the afternoon, it’s probably the case that half or more people are wearing earbuds, while the rest are abiding the noise pollution all around them. No one thinks twice about it, either.

The reality is that from a very young age, our hearing is now under assault. Little wonder that one in eight people in the United States aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. By age 65, one in three people has hearing loss.

The problem will only grow as more people flock to city centers. According to recent United Nations data, roughly 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas right now, and that number is expected to hit 66 percent by 2050, meaning cities could take in another 2.5 billion people, accounting for population growth.

With any luck, in our lifetimes, potentially soon, even, some of this hearing loss will be fixable — not with hearing aids or cochlear implants, which aren’t available to everyone and don’t work for a high percentage of people anyway. Scientists think instead that the combination of human genetics and single cell expression profiling has brought us to the point where medicine can help fix hearing. In fact, there are right now a small number of outfits quietly racing to develop the first approved drug for hearing loss, and if, like us, you live with a playlist unspooling in your ears part of each day, you should be rooting for them to succeed.

Some are further along than others, as a recent Xconomy piece observed. San Diego-based Otonomy has a drug for swimmer’s ear that could be approved this year. Meanwhile, Auris Medical, a Swiss biotech whose tinnitus candidate last year failed to beat a so-called dummy therapy in a Phase 3 trial, is currently working on other hearing loss conditions.

Both Otonomy and Auris Medical are publicly traded, but they have peers (and rivals) in the still-private world. Two young startups to watch — they have strong founders and top venture backing on their side — are Frequency Therapeutics and Decibel Therapeutics, both based in Boston.

Decibel Therapeutics was incubated by the powerhouse investment firm and incubator Third Rock Ventures. Along with SROne (a venture fund that counts GlaxoSmithKline as its sole investor), Third Rock provided the company with $52 million to get started in 2015, and it more recently raised an undisclosed amount of funding from GV.

Anthony Philippakis, a venture partner at GV who led the deal, says one aspect of Decibel that excited him is its portfolio approach, with some of its focus on single cell genomics, some on human genetics, some on direct-to-patient clinical trials and some on generating phenotypic data about the hearing system. (Philippakis seems to have embraced a portfolio approach to his own work. In addition to working with GV, he’s a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the chief data officer at Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.)

More here.

New Fundings

AutocloudPro, a year-old, Shanghai-based startup that’s developing smart cloud platforms for the sales and distribution of auto parts, has raised around $17 million in funding from Qingsong FundShoutai Investment GroupLangsheng InvestmentMatrix Partners China and Fenghou Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Haimawan, a four-year-old, Shenzhen-based developer of cloud-based mobile operating systems, has raised $58 million in Series C funding, including from the Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed Elefirst Science & Technology Co. China Money Network has more here.

SpaceX, the 14-year-old, Hawthorne, Ca.-based space company, has raised $351 million in funding, as disclosed in public filings that were obtained by Equidate, a marketplace for private company stock. Equidate says SpaceX is now valued at around $21 billion. That puts it in the rare company of six other venture-backed companies currently valued at $20 billion or more. The New York Times has more here.

Traveloka, a five-year-old, Indonesia-based online travel portal that serves Southeast Asia’s six primary markets, has raised $350 million in funding from Expedia at a valuation of more than $1 billion, says TechCrunch. Earlier backers include East VenturesHillhouse Capital GroupJD.com and Sequoia CapitalMore here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

Draper University, a residential entrepreneurship bootcamp founded by Tim Draper, is accepting applications for its Fall Hero Training Class, a seven-week residential program located in downtown San Mateo that allows students to develop a product and pitch to 80+ investors. Our next class kicks off September 11th; two blockchain companies, Qtum.org and Bitclave.com, have pledged to give crypto tokens to those who apply, as well as those who attend the program.

The program looks for entrepreneurially minded founders who run pre-seed companies who are between the ages of 18 and 28. Draper University has launched 280+ startups that have raised $50M+, and a number of them have since been acquired. Apply by August 11th at draperuniversity.com/application.

IPOs

Dropbox, the San Francisco-based cloud-storage and file-sharing company, is reportedly in talks with Goldman Sachs as it prepares for a possible IPO.

Redfin, the Seattle-based real estate brokerage company, last night priced 9.23 million shares at $15 per share — slightly above its original target range of $12 to $14. The shares have since surged more than 30 percent today and are currently trading at above $21.

Purple, a two-year-old, Alpine, Utah-based direct-to-consumer mattress startup, is going public via a $1.1 billion reverse merger with Global Partner Acquisition Corp. TechCrunch has more here.

Exits

AltspaceVR, a Redwood City, Ca.-based social platform for virtual reality, said it’s shutting down after running out of cash. The company had raised more than $15 million in funding, including from GVRaine VenturesRothenberg VenturesFormation 8, and Lux Capital.

Mesh Wi-Fi router company Eero has acqu-hired the team behind two-year-old, San Francisco-based Thington, maker of a smart home management app. Thington had raised two rounds of seed funding (of undisclosed amounts), including from investors Stewart Butterfield and Saul Klein. Eero has raised $90 million from investors so far, including Shasta VenturesIndex VenturesMenlo Ventures, and HomebrewMore here.

i.am+, a Hollywood-based technology company owned by Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am, has added struggling smart home platform Wink to its roster of products. Fortune has more here.

People

Easy come, easy go. Jeff Bezos, who became the richest person in the world yesterday, lost that title with Amazon’s second-quarter whiff.

Jessica Lessin, founder of the news outlet The Information, is launching an accelerator to help budding subscription-based news startups.

Another day, another billionaire who is buying a renowned media property. This time, it’s Laurene Powell Jobs taking an majority stake in The Atlantic magazine (with full ownership possible in the coming years, says the New York Times).

Meg Whitman says Uber’s next CEO will not be Meg Whitman.

Jobs

CSC Generation, a venture firm started by founder, investor, and high-school dropout Justin Yoshimura, is looking to hire an associate. The job is in San Francisco.

And One Final Sponsor Note . . .

Personalized wine matches, delivered to your door. Bright Cellars is the monthly wine subscription that helps you discover new wines you’ll ove. Take a short quiz and their Bright Points algorithm will recommend your top four wine matches. Don’t love a bottle? They’ll send a free replacement in your next shipment. See your matches and receive 50 percent off as a StrictlyVC reader by using this link.

Essential Reads

Snap‘s lockup period ends on Monday, potentially allowing early investors in the March IPO to unload hundreds of millions of shares on an already wary market.

Amazon just launched another private label brand, The Fix. It’s aimed at women and features shoes and handbags inspired by designer trends but at discounted prices.

Don’t worry, your Roomba isn’t spying on you, says iRobot‘s CEO.

Detours

Someone just destroyed his $288,000 Ferrari one hour after buying it.

How to build resilience in midlife.

Finland’s hard pivot into the land of bizarre sporting competitions.

Retail Therapy

Ugg sneakers. Because you can’t wear sheepskin boots in summer.


StrictlyVC: July 27, 2017

Thursday!

Thanks so much to those of you who picked up tickets earlier this week to our next StrictlyVC event, coming up Wednesday evening, September 27, at the always gorgeous Autodesk Gallery in downtown San Francisco.

We have more great news about the night: Megan Quinn and Jules Maltz, general partners at Spark Capital and IVP, respectively, have joined the program to dish on what metrics a company needs to land growth-stage funding right now, as well has how their work has changed. (With a changing cast of “tourist” investors and longer paths to exit, the landscape is shifting, and so are the term sheets.)

They join cryptocurrency banker Stan Miroshnik, who’ll be talking ICOs, how they impact VCs, and whether or not they’re here to stay (in light of increased SEC interest), and LPs Michael Kim and Beezer Clarkson, both of whom write checks to some of the best-known venture firms in the world and who have plenty of thoughts about the current ecosystem.

We’re not done quite yet(!). If want to a great overview of what’s happening in the startup world, do come. Seats are available here.

Top News in the A.M.

Slack is raising about $250 million in a funding round co-led by SoftBank Group. According to TechCrunch, early investor Accel Partners and other earlier investors are also participating in the round.

WeWork is making a big move to win the co-working market in China after it announced the creation of a standalone WeWork China business, backed by $500 million from earlier backers SoftBank and Hony Capital. The capital follows two other ginormous rounds this year: a $760 million round and an earlier $300 million round. More here.

For good measure, here’s a running list of every company that has so far been the beneficiary of Softbank‘s largess, courtesy of its $93 billion Vision Fund.

Twitter just reported a lower-than-expected number of monthly active users in its second-quarter earnings release; its shares have fallen roughly 13 percent since.

Sponsored By . . .

Betts Recruiting is the top recruitment firm for high growth B2B and B2C companies specializing in revenue-generating roles, from entry level positions to VP. With more than 100 recruiters and six offices worldwide, in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Austin, New York and London, we have an expansive network of top talent. We take a consultative approach to your hiring process and provide guidance to scale your team or find your strategic hire. Are you or one of your portfolio companies looking to scale your organization? Check out our 2017 Salary Trends Report, or connect with our Global Head of Partnerships, Allison Andrade.

In the Murky World of ICOs, This Young Founder Aims to Lead the Way

When it comes to initial coin offerings, or ICOs, there’s plainly a lot that investors still don’t understand. Though start-ups and founders have raised more than $1 billion so far 2017 by selling customized virtual currencies to anyone willing to buy them, it’s been unclear whether and which tokens might eventually be categorized as securities; how ICOs impact startups’ valuations; and who, if anyone, might regulate such offerings.

Yesterday, the SEC finally spoke up, saying it has concluded that at least some virtual currencies should be considered securities and made subject to federal securities laws. It suggested that not every token should or will be defined as a security but rather that determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on “facts and circumstances . . .”

Still, the world of ICOs could use a bit more structure, according to Juan Benet, the founder of Protocol Labs, a venture-backed company that’s building a decentralized storage marketplace called Filecoin and that also worked with AngelList this year to create CoinList, a platform that’s promising a more structured way for founders to raise money for their token-based networks. The (sizable) catch: the investors buying into the projects on CoinList must be accredited.

Benet has reason to think that bar won’t slow down ICO sales too drastically. To wit, Filecoin will become the first project launched on CoinList, and demand is such that Benet has already pushed the date of the ICO back twice to ensure that all goes smoothly. (Unlike with many ICOs, Filecoin, whose offering goes live on August 7, is also capping the sale, though it isn’t letting investors know where that cap is until after the sale is completed.)

We talked with Benet earlier today to better understand what he’s up to, and why he thinks Filecoin’s ICO could serve as a model for future founders. Our chat has been edited for length.

The SEC basically put everyone on watch this week. Do you see that as good or bad news?

I think more clarity is great, and we did expect it. I think a lot of people misunderstood what [the agency] said to mean that all tokens will be regulated, when what it said is that some tokens could be securities. Every token has different properties, and whether they’re securities depend on those properties. If a token acts like equity, for example, it’s probably something like a security. Other tokens, like Ethereum and Bitcoin, are more like commodities, so the SEC hasn’t gone after those.

More here.

New Fundings

ActionStreamer, a two-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based startup whose wearable “hatcams” and “helmetcams” generate video footage for sale to leagues and media companies, has raised $1.88 million in seed funding led by CincyTech, with participation from Vine Street VenturesMore here.

Big Switch Networks, a seven-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based data center networking technologies company, has raised $30.7 million in new funding. Investors include Dell Technologies CapitalSilverlake WatermanIndex VenturesMorgenthaler VenturesMSD CapitalRedpoint VenturesKhosla Ventures, and Intel Capital. CRN has more here.

BrandTotal, a year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based platform that helps its clients reverse-engineer their competitors’ so-called dark marketing  efforts, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Gilot Capital Partners, with participation from KDC Media FundMore here.

Brolly, a year-old, U.K.-based AI-driven insurance advisory application, has raised £1 million ($1.3 million) in seed funding co-led by Valar Ventures and Pi Labs, with participation from Entrepreneur First. TechCrunch has more here.

Callsign, a six-year-old, London-based AI-based authentication platform that powers adaptive access control for enterprises (verifying that people are who they say based on a touchscreen swipe), has raised $35 million in Series A funding co-led by Accel Partners and PTB Ventures. Other participants in the round include Allegis Capital and NightDragon Security. TechCrunch has more here.

Cleo, a two-year-old, London-based digital assistant that helps manage finances, has raised £2 million ($2.6 million) in funding. LocalGlobe led the round, with participation from Niklas ZennströmEntrepreneur First, and Jason Goodman, the founder of advertising agency Albion. TechCrunch has more here.

Complexa, a nine-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based clinical stage biopharmaceutical company at work on treatments for inflammatory and fibrosis related diseases, has raised $62 million in Series C funding. New Enterprise Associates and Pfizer Venture Investments led the round; other participants include Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners and HBM Healthcare Investments.

Cool Cousin, a two-year-old, London-based social networking-driven travel app, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by the Elevator Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Cyrus Biotechnology, a three-year-old, Seattle-based company that sells easy-to-use computational protein engineering software, raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from OrbiMed AdvisorsSpringRock Ventures, and W Fund. GeekWire has more here.

FabHotels.com, a three-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based aggregator for hotel rooms, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from Accel Partners. The Economic Times has more here.

FilterEasy, a five-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based startup that delivers air filters to homes on a subscription basis, has raised $6.9 million in Series B funding led by Arsenal Venture Partners. Other investors in the round include the NC State Endowment FundBonaventure CapitalCofounders CapitalIDEA Fund PartnersJohn Replogle, and Triangle Angel PartnersMore here.

GearLaunch, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based ecommerce platform that promises to help its retailer customers with everything they need to sell products, from manufacturing to customer service, has raised $4.8 million in Series A funding led by Hunt Technology VenturesMore here.

Inceptus Medical, a six-year-old, Aliso Viejo, Ca.-based medical device incubator, has raised $4.5 million in Series B funding for one of its spin-outs, Okami Medical, a developer of heart disease devices. Investors include Inceptus’s board of directors and U.S. Venture Partners. The Orange County Register has more here.

Kezar Life Sciences, a two-year-old, South San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing small molecule therapeutics, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. Cormorant Asset Management and Morningside Venture led the round, with participation from Cowen Healthcare InvestmentsPappas VenturesQiming Venture PartnersBay City CapitalEcoR1 CapitalOmega Funds and Aju IB Investment. FierceBiotech has more here.

Liulishuo, a five-year-old, Shanghai, China-based language learning company, has raised roughly $100 million in Series C funding co-led by China Media Capital and Wu Capital. Other participants in the round include Trustbridge PartnersIDG Capital, GGV CapitalCherubic Ventures, and Hearst Ventures. China Money Network has more here.

Loftsmart, a two-year-old, New York-based marketplace for student rental properties, has raised $2.75 million in funding led by Tribeca Venture Partners. The company has now raised $5 million altogether. Bloomberg has more here.

Marqeta, a seven-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based debit and credit card processing startup, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by Visa, with participation from CreditEase and previous investors Commerce Ventures83 NorthGranite VenturesIA Capital, and CommerzVentures. TechCrunch has more here.

Megacool, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile game tech startup, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Alliance VentureMore here.

Peer5, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that helps publishers stream video to large audiences, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding. The Y Combinator alum raised the funding from FundersClubOriza VenturesTank Hill VenturesLeorsa Group, and several individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

PreciThera, a year-old, Montreal-based precision medicine company that’s designing biological therapeutics for the treatment of orphan bone diseases, has raised $29 million in Series A financing. Investors in the round include Sanderling VenturesArix BioscienceFonds de solidarité FTQCTI Life Sciences and Emerillon CapitalMore here.

Rodeo Therapeutics, a Seattle-based developer of small-molecule therapies to promote regeneration and repair of multiple tissue types, has raised $5.9 million in Series A funding from a long list of investors. They include AbbVie VenturesAlexandria Venture InvestmentsARCH Venture PartnersEli Lilly and CompanyJohnson & Johnson InnovationWatson FundWRF Capital and WuXi AppTec. GeekWire has more here.

Sebacia, a seven-year-old, Duluth, Ga.-based dermatology and aesthetics company whose acne treatment is already available in Europe and is currently in trials in the U.S., has raised $20 million in Series D funding. Versant VenturesDomain AssociatesAccuitive Medical Ventures and Partners Healthcare Innovation Fund led the round, with participation from Salem Partners. The company also secured $16 million in debt from Hercules Capital. FierceBiotech has more here.

Toast, a four-year-old, Boston-based restaurant technology platform whose software enables restaurants to take meal orders and payments electronically, has raised a stunning $101 million in funding led by Lead Edge Capital and Generation Investment Management (a firm chaired by Al Gore). Earlier investors also joined the round, including Bessemer Venture Partners. Xconomy has more here.

Within, a three-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based virtual reality film company founded by renowned music video director Chris Milk, has raised $40 million in Series B funding co-led by Temasek and Emerson Collective, with participation from WPPMACRO VenturesAndreessen Horowitz21st Century Fox and Raine Ventures. Variety has more here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

Draper University, a residential entrepreneurship bootcamp founded by Tim Draper, is accepting applications for its Fall Hero Training Class, a seven-week residential program located in downtown San Mateo that allows students to develop a product and pitch to 80+ investors. Our next class kicks off September 11th; two blockchain companies, Qtum.org and Bitclave.com, have pledged to give crypto tokens to those who apply, as well as those who attend the program.

The program looks for entrepreneurially minded founders who run pre-seed companies who are between the ages of 18 and 28. Draper University has launched 280+ startups that have raised $50M+, and a number of them have since been acquired. Apply by August 11th at draperuniversity.com/application.

New Funds

Gigafund, a new fund created by Founders Fund cofounder Luke Nosek and venture partner Stephen Oskoui, is looking to raise up to $100 million for debut fund, reports Axios. More here.

LiveOak Venture Partners, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based venture capital firm, is looking to raise up to $110 million for its second fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm closed its debut fund with $109 million in 2014.

Northern Light Venture Capital, a 12-year-old venture firm with numerous offices through China, is looking to raise $390 million for its fifth fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm focuses on tech and consumer service companies.

TenOneTen Ventures, a six-year-old, L.A.-based seed-stage venture firm, is raising up to $50 million for its second fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm had closed its debut fund with $18 million in 2015.

IPOs

Redfin, the Seattle-based real estate brokerage company, has finalized the terms for its IPO, revealing plans to sell 9.2 million share at between $12 and $14 a share. More here.

Sienna Biopharmaceuticals, a Westlake Village, Ca.-based clinical-stage biotech company that’s developing medical dermatology products, raised $65 million by offering 4.3 million units at $15 a share last night. The company’s shares began trading on Nasdaq today are are currently priced around $20.

Exits

Snapdeal, the India-based shopping site giant, has accepted Flipkart‘s revised takeover offer of up to $950 million. More here.

Nasdaq is acquiring Sybenetix, a six-year-old, London-based company that makes market surveillance and compliance monitoring software. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. More here.

Publicly traded telecommunications company Mitel is acquiring publicly traded rival ShoreTel for $430 million. Combining the two companies catapults Mitel to number two in the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) market, according to the company. Mitel’s shares are already up slightly on the news. TechCrunch has more here.

RealtyShares, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based online marketplace for real estate investing, has acquired rival Acquire Real Estate, a three-year-old, Boston-based company that had raised $6 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Terms were not disclosed. RealtyShares has raised at least $35 million from investors, including Union Square VenturesGeneral Catalyst Partners, and Menlo Ventures. CrowdFund Insider has more here.

Stripe has acquired Payable, a San Francisco-based tax and contractor payments service provider. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. According to TechCrunch, Payable had raised $2.1 million from investors, including General Catalyst PartnersLerer Hippeau VenturesSherpa CapitalHaystack, and Freestyle Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world.

On the eve of its IPO, Redfin says its co-founder, David Eraker, is threatening litigation against the company over one of its pending patent applications.

Per Axios, VC Ben Nasarin has left Canvas Ventures less than two years after joining as a general partner. Nasarin was an active seed investor before joining the firm and Canvas says he left to “pursue a platform where seed is a more significant part of the investment mix.”

Michael Sippey, who’d spent two years as vice president of product at Twitter, then launched a now defunct texting app, has joined Medium as its head of product.

Yancey Strickler, cofounder and CEO of Kickstarter, says he’s stepping downfrom the crowdfunding giant later this year and that a search for his replacement is in motion.

Jobs

Oath is looking to add a senior analyst to its corporate development team. The job is in New York. Email Jonathan Lee: joslee@oath.com.

Essential Reads

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon. Technology Review has the story here.

Detours

How to read your alumni magazine.

Simple grilling recipes from top chefs.

Retail Therapy

Battle Ball Arena. (Battle balls sold separately.)


StrictlyVC: July 26, 2017

Hello and happy Wednesday! No column today — we just wrapped up an interesting interview but don’t want to publish too ridiculously late in the day so look for it tomorrow. More soon.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The SEC finally weighed in on ICOs publicly yesterday, determining that a specific token sale in May of last year constituted the sale of unregistered securities. The decision highlights that the SEC is paying attention to what’s happening in the market; still, every token has different properties and the development doesn’t mean that all tokens will be considered securities going forward. Reuters has more here.

Twitter heads into its quarterly earnings report tomorrow with a stock that has risen more than 40 percent since April, when much of Wall Street was ready to write off the tech company. Reuters has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

Betts Recruiting is the top recruitment firm for high growth B2B and B2C companies specializing in revenue-generating roles, from entry level positions to VP. With more than 100 recruiters and six offices worldwide, in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Austin, New York and London, we have an expansive network of top talent. We take a consultative approach to your hiring process and provide guidance to scale your team or find your strategic hire. Are you or one of your portfolio companies looking to scale your organization? Check out our 2017 Salary Trends Report, or connect with our Global Head of Partnerships, Allison Andrade.

New Fundings

6 River Systems, a two-year-old, Boston-based company whose mobile robot and cloud-based enterprise software aim to improve warehouse staff productivity and simplify training, has raised $15 million in fresh funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Eclipse Ventures, among others. More here.

Aiqudo, a months-old, San Jose, Ca.-based startup that uses voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to control smartphone apps with pre-made or customizable voice commands, has raised $5.2 million in funding from Atlantic Bridge Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

August Home, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based smart home product company whose flagship product was its smart lock home access system, has raised $25 million in Series C funding. Earlier backers Bessemer Venture PartnersComcast VenturesMaveron, and Qualcomm Ventures teamed up with new investors, including Liberty Mutual, private equity firm SPDG, and Australian utility company AGL, to provide the funding. TechCrunch has more here.

Circulation, a year-old, Boston-based on-demand non-emergency healthcare transportation startup, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding. The capital comes from Flare Capital PartnersThe Providence Service Corporation,Boston Children’s HospitalEcho Health VenturesIntermountain Healthcare Innovation FundHumanaNextGen Venture Partners and an unnamed healthcare diagnostics company. More here.

IonQ, an 11-month-old, College Park, Md.-based company wanting to bring general-purpose quantum computers to market by late next year, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates and GV, with participation from new strategic investors. More here.

LifeFuels, a three-year-old, Reston, Va.-based startup at work on creating personalized functional beverages (with different dietary supplements that users can mix together), has raised $5 million in seed funding in a round led by healthcare entrepreneur Trenor Williams. BevNET has more here.

Momenta, a 10-month-old, Beijing-based startup that’s developing high-resolution digital maps and machine vision technology for autonomous driving, has raised $46 million in Series B funding led by NIO CapitalSequoia Capital China and Hillhouse Capital. Other participants in the round include Shunwei CapitalSinovation VenturesUnity Ventures and Daimler. TechCrunch has more here.

Rebagg, a three-year-old, New York-based luxury goods reseller, has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst Partners and Novator. Other participants in the round include FJ LabsCrosslink CapitalBig Sur Ventures-NecotiumKloof Capital and U-Start. The company has now raised $28 million altogether. More here.

Shelf, a two-year-old, Stamford, Ct.-based startup whose software centralizes a company’s content onto one platform, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding from SeedInvestCT Innovations, and NY Angels. VentureBeat has more here.

Signal Vine, a four-year-old, Alexandria, Va.-based enterprise text messaging platform used by higher education institutions to improve student retention, has raised $2 million in Series A funding led by New Markets Venture PartnersMore here.

Vicarious, a 6.5-year-old, Union City, Ca.-based artificial intelligence startup that competes with Google’s DeepMind, has raised $50 million in a round led by Khosla Ventures. The capital brings the company’s total funding to date to $120 million. VentureBeat has more here.

WalkMe, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose cloud-based platform for businesses make their web and mobile interfaces easier to navigate with on-screen guidance and prompts, has raised $75 million led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from other, undisclosed investors. The company has now raised nearly $168 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.<

Also Sponsored By . . .

Draper University, a residential entrepreneurship bootcamp founded by Tim Draper, is accepting applications for its Fall Hero Training Class, a seven-week residential program located in downtown San Mateo that allows students to develop a product and pitch to 80+ investors. Our next class kicks off September 11th; two blockchain companies, Qtum.org and Bitclave.com, have pledged to give crypto tokens to those who apply, as well as those who attend the program.

The program looks for entrepreneurially minded founders who run pre-seed companies who are between the ages of 18 and 28. Draper University has launched 280-plus startups that have raised more than $50 million, and a number of them have since been acquired. Apply by August 11th (just two weeks away) at draperuniversity.com/application.

New Funds

Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures are backing yet another hedge fund focused on cryptocurrencies (in addition to Polychain Capital). According to Fortune, AH, USV, and others have backed MetaStable Capital, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based hedge fund that invests only in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. (We think Polychain invests in a broader array of digital assets.) Fortune has much more here.

A new investment vehicle aimed specifically at mobility startups just closed its debut fund with $42 million in commitments, including from the crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, the automotive supplies giant Valeo, and inMotion Ventures, an investing unit created last year by Jaguar Land Rover. The fund, called Maniv Mobility, aims to back seed-stage and Series A stage companies in Israel and the U.S. The fund announcement comes hot on the heels of another, transportation-focused fund — Autotech Ventures — that announced its debut fund last week. We’d written about Autotech Ventures here. You can learn more about Maniv Mobility here.

Exits

Consumer robot maker iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, is acquiring its largest European distributor, Robopolis, in a cash deal worth $141 million. TechCrunch has more here.

OpenText, a content management company based in Waterloo, Ontario, announced today that it’s buying Guidance Software, a publicly traded forensic security and eDiscovery vendor. The deal is for $222 million in cash. TechCrunch has more here.

The British enterprise software company Sage Group has agreed to purchase Intacct, a 19-year-old accounting software company, for $850 million, in a cash-and-stock deal meant to help build out Sage’s cloud financial management offerings. According to Crunchbase, Intacct had raised at least $130 million from investors over the years, including Battery VenturesBessemer Venture PartnersEmergence Capital Partners, and Split Rock Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

People

In the latest hearing to define the scope of the upcoming trial between self-driving technology rivals Waymo and Uber, District Judge William Alsup said Anthony Levandowski, the star engineer at the center of the affair, could be called to testify in court. TechCrunch has more here.

In related news, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has hired former San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and one of her colleagues at Orrick to represent him when he heads to trial in Waymo’s trade-secrets lawsuit over driverless technology. Bloomberg has more here.

Blue Apron announced several changes at the executive level yesterday, including co-founder Matthew Wadiak stepping down from the COO role to become a senior advisor. The move follows Blue Apron’s widely reported IPO and subsequent performance, which has been kind of abysmal. TechCrunch has more here.

According to Recode, HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is on the short list for Uber’s open CEO role. She also just stepped off HP’s board today, which certainly seems like interesting timing. According to Bloomberg, Uber’s head of human resources, Liane Hornsey, has told employees she believes the company could hire a new CEO within six weeks.

In a set of tweets this morning, Donald Trump announced that he is banning transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S., reverse an Obama-era ruling. Tech leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, quickly chimed in, noting that people who are willing and able to serve their country should be allowed to do so.

Essential Reads

LedgerX just became the first regulated bitcoin options exchange.

Apple could be building factories in the U.S.— or maybe not.

Facebook‘s first TV episodes are reportedly coming next month.

Detours

How tattoos might affect your workout.

Why being a woman puts you at greater risk of having anxiety.

dating app for journalists (basically).

Retail Therapy

Now your deck, too, can look like scenery from “The Bachelor.”