StrictlyVC: August 24, 2017

Hi, all, happy Thursday. Hope you’re enjoying these last weeks of August.:)

A quick note to our reporter friends out there, especially those of you in the Bay Area. If you are interested in attending our upcoming SVC event the evening of September 27, let us know; we’re happy to send you a press pass. (Full-time journalists only, please.)

We also wanted to mention that over at TechCrunch, on Tuesday, September 19, the second day of TC’s upcoming Disrupt show, we’re organizing a breakfast discussion around fundraising tips from successful female founders. It’s going to be a lively chat, including with Jini Kim of Nuna (whose company has raised $90 million to date) and Elizabeth Iorns of Science Exchange (which closed its Series C earlier this year). This is a closed-door session, so won’t be live-streamed. If you’re a reporter who’s attending the event and you’d like to come, just let us know and we’ll make sure to get you a pass.

Top News in the A.M.

Holy b’doly. WeWork just announced a $4.4 billion investment from the SoftBank Group and its Vision Fund. More here.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is brought to you this week by Rosebud Communications. We’re small, scrappy, and get the job done. Our retainer is $6,250 per month, and we love going up against the bigger guys who charge $12K or more. Reach us at info@rosebudpr.io; operators are standing by.

A Battery Company with Bold Claims Just Closed a $30M Seed Round

There’s no shortage of battery companies battling with Tesla for market share. Outfits around the world are building out battery capacity to fill the needs of automakers and energy storage developers alike — so much so that overcapacity has led to lower battery prices.

Still, a year-old, L.A.-based battery company called Romeo Power thinks its future looks very bright, thanks to a combination of talent, materials, and techniques that it claims enables the company to achieve at least 25 percent more energy density — and sometimes upwards of 200 percent more — than existing lithium-ion battery packs. In fact, its very tagline is: “The world’s most energy dense battery packs.”

It’s a bold claim, and one that skeptics will surely dismiss as little more. But Romeo has a number of things working in its favor. For starters, cofounder and CEO Mike Patterson has previously founded — and sold — three companies, including InAuth, a mobile authentication and fraud detection company that American Express bought last year for undisclosed terms.

The 190-person company features a number of veterans of SpaceX, Samsung, Tesla, and Amazon, so there’s institutional know-how about manufacturing, procurement, design, and about battery packs specifically. Indeed, cofounder and CTO Porter Harris spent a year at Faraday Future as its chief battery architect; before that, he spent four years at SpaceX as an energy storage engineer. In fact, Porter has been working on batteries for the last decade, dating back to an earlier engineering gig at The Aerospace Corporation, in Southern California.

Romeo is also fueled by capital. Specifically, it just closed on $30 million in seed funding —  all of it from its management team, unnamed family offices, and past shareholders who’ve invested in Patterson’s startups and “were willing to throw into the next one,” he says. (Asked if he has something against venture capitalists — or vice versa — Patterson says that’s not the case. “I’m not saying we won’t raise venture in the future, but not now.”)

More here.

(Other) New Fundings

51zhaoyou.com, a two-year-old, China-based business-to-business  e-commerce platform that trades in diesel, gasoline, and kerosene, has raised $31.8 million in Series B funding led by DCM Ventures. Others to join the round include the venture capital firm SIGGGV CapitalYunqi Partners, the Uber-like truck logistics start-up HuochebangSky9 Capital and Chuangban Investment. China Money Network has more here.

AbleTo, a nine-year-old, New York-based telehealth company that matches people with therapists and behavioral coaches, has raised $36.6 million in funding led by Bain Capital Ventures, with participation from Aetna and earlier backers .406 VenturesSandbox IndustriesHLM Venture Partners, and Horizon Healthcare ServicesMore here.

Blend, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based technology company focused on consumer lending, just raised $100 million in Series D funding. The round was led by Greylock Partners, with participation from Emergence Capital8VCLightspeed Venture Partners, and Nyca Partners. The company has now raised $166 million altogether. More here.

Clearink Displays, a five-year-old, Fremont, Ca.-based developer of reflective display technology for various industry applications, has raised $5 million in Series C funding. The round, which is half subscribed, was led by Vestech International, which is an investment fund backed by a number of Asian display manufacturers. More here.

Cubic Telecom, an 11-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based supplier of data connections for cars and other IoT devices, has closed a new $46.5 million funding round from investors, including chipmaker Qualcomm and Audi‘s venture arm. TechCrunch has more here.

Descartes Labs, a three-year-old, Santa Fe, N.M.-based data company that’s applying machine learning to satellite imagery, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by March Capital, with participation from seed investors Crosslink Capital and the company’s Series A lead, Cultivian SandboxMore here.

Eko Communications, a five-year-old, New York and Thailand-based company that operates a messaging app targeted at businesses, has closed a strategic investment of $2 million to grow in Japan and expand into Europe and the U.S.. The funding was led by Japanese corporate Itochu, which provided $1 million and will partner to help expand sales. Earlier backers, including Gobi Ventures, also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

G2 Esports, a four-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based esports team, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding, including from FC Barcelona midfielder André Gomes, Eric Mindich’s Everblue Management, and MACRO VentureMore here.

Gabi, a year-old, San Francisco-based company that monitors insurance rates from various carriers, then advises users on their optimal coverage, has raised $2.6 million in seed funding from SV Angel, A.Capital Ventures, and Germany’s Project A Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

GaiaWorks, an eight-year-old, China-based workforce management software company, has raised $19 million in additional Series B funding led by Warburg Pincus, with participation from Matrix Partners China and Genesis Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Maihaoche, a three-year-old, China-based new car e-commerce platform, has raised $29 million in Series B funding led by Welight Venture Capital(founded by a former EVP at Tencent Holdings), with participation from Northern Light Venture Capital and the South Korean venture capital firm LB Investment. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

Magma Ventures, an 18-year-old, Israel-based venture capital firm, has raised $24 million for its first growth equity fund, shows an SEC filing. Magma appears to have closed its fourth and most recent early-stage fund with $150 million in 2014. More here.

Scopus Ventures, a year-old, Los Angeles-based venture capital firm, is looking to raise upwards of $25 million for its debut venture fund, shows an SEC filing. One of its managing partners, Robert Mai, was formerly a wealth advisor and family office consultant in New York. Another, Eran Gilad, was formerly the CEO of Tracx, a social media management company. More here.

SparkLabs Group started in 2012 with a Seoul-based accelerator dedicated to boosting South Korea’s then-nascent startup ecosystem. Now it’s going back to its roots with the launch of a $50 million fund for early-stage Korean startups that want to expand globally. TechCrunch has more here.

IPOs

Nothing too notable today, though you might want to check out the sixteen things CEOs should do before an IPO, according to former OpenTable CEO (and now Andreessen Horowitz partner) Jeff Jordan.

Exits

The online food ordering-and-delivery market, once very hot, appears to be cooling down a little in China, says TechCrunch. Baidu, the country’s search giant confirmed that it has just sold its Xiaodu food delivery subsidiary to Rajax, which operates Ele.me, China’s leading food delivery business. More here.

People

Former Twitter COO Adam Bain has joined the board of a new $500 million special purpose vehicle launched by Social Capital that plans to help startups go public without enduring the dreaded IPO process.

Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose blog post about the company’s troubling internal workings eventually led to Travis Kalanick’s ouster, has a new message for the Supreme Court: get rid of arbitration agreements.

Also Sponsored By . . .

Eddie Lim had a problem. He had sold his company to Visa and was prepping to start another, when he tried to refi his home in Palo Alto. Interest rates? Super low. His home value? High. The answer? No dice; he was unemployed. Which made him wonder: Why is home wealth so illiquid in the first place? And so he started Point, a company selected by the Financial Solutions Lab, today’s sponsor. Here’s the rest of his story.

Essential Reads

Apple plans to offer a premium version of its iPhone for $999.

Roku isn’t only maintaining its lead as the top streaming media player device in the U.S.; it’s increasing it.

Detours

Salaries of top TV talent revealed.

Aging parents have lots of stuff, and their children don’t want it.

Now you can rent a dad in Japan.

Retail Therapy

Miniature Eames chair and ottomon, perhaps to go with the real deal.

Honestly, we’re not so sure about this trend (if you were to ask our opinion).



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