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.
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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.
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 Maveron, Madrona 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 Ventures, Techstars Ventures and Matchstick Ventures. More 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 Associates. More 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 Partners, New Atlantic Ventures, Kaplan 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 Partners, Green Visor Capital, Y 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 Holdings, Betaworks, 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 Network, Twilio.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 Gates, Khosla 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 GV, Viking 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 Capital, KTB Ventures, and other earlier backers that include Vertex Asia, Yahoo Japan, and Majuven. More 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 Ventures, Norwest 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 Partners, Horizon Ventures, Caffeinated 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 Group, Amazon Alexa Fund, DoCoMo Capital, The 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 LA, Sterling.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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
You can now use PayPal through Skype‘s mobile app.
A look at how Facebook is silencing important conversations.
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.
“The King and I” at the Kennedy Center. Amazing. Really. It plays through August 20th.