Thursday! Hope yours is going well.:)
With some of you wondering: we recently ran out of seats to our StrictlyVC event next month, but you can always put your name on our waitlist, which is growing but not out of control, and we promise to do what we can. Either way, we’ll be posting interviews and pictures afterward, so those of you can’t come won’t miss out. Giant thanks again to Bolt, Ballou PR, and Rosebud Communications for supporting the event. It’s great to have you as partners(!).
Top News in the A.M.
Benchmark‘s lawsuit against former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is heading to an arbitrator, a decision that Kalanick immediately declared as win. More here.
New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi met with employees for the first time yesterday, saying something they’ve undoubtedly longed to hear: that Uber could IPO as soon as 18 months from now. More here.
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Early Uber Backer Bill Maris: “I’d Invest Again But the Sellers Have Disappeared”
While Bill Maris was the CEO of Google’s venture unit, GV, the outfit made a bet in 2013 that drew snickers: it poured $258 million into the ride-share company Uber at a roughly $3.7 billion post-money valuation.
The investment was by far GV’s biggest investment at the time. Yet while seemingly rich, the investment looks brilliant in hindsight. (It also looks complicated, of course, with Google spin-off Waymo now suing Uber for allegedly stealing its trade secrets.)
Maris has more recently launched his own venture firm, Section 32, but as the founder of GV, he maintains a meaningful interest in Uber’s future, and he suggests that after this week, he’d buy Uber again — at its current $68 billion valuation — if only he could find a seller.
We talked with Maris earlier today about his renewed enthusiasm for the company. Our chat has been edited lightly for length.
You closed on a $150 million debut fund in May. How many investments have you made since?
You’ve told me you’d consider investing in Uber at its current valuation. That would require a lot of money. Can you write any size check you like?
I have broad latitude to make investments that I think are worthwhile.
When I look at Uber now, I don’t think of it as expensive. I’m very optimistic and bullish on the company’s future. I’m excited about new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who seems very much like a values-driven, principled leader. And I feel like Uber is a buy now, not a sell.
You say “now.” Did you feel differently recently?
Earlier, I might have felt more pessimistically. Now I can say there’s a light there.
What I’ve observed in talking with other investors and folks involved is that this feeling of fear has now shifted to optimism and excitement.
You own a stake through your previous employer’s venture fund. Have you tried buying secondary shares from another seller more recently? Have you been approached?
It’s best I don’t comment on that. I will note that groups that were sellers have disappeared and I think it would be foolish [otherwise] given what has transpired. There’s a lot of risk, of course, but the company has so much potential, especially given that people who work there are fired up again. If you believe Khosrowshahi can lead the company successfully, you see it as a unique investment opportunity.
At $68 billion. Do you think that, as Benchmark has said, Uber will “comfortably” be valued at more than $100 billion in the not-too-distant future?
Bambu, a year-old, Singapore-based B2B robo-advisor platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors, including Franklin Templeton Investments, Wavemaker Partners, and private investor Robby Hilkowitz. More here.
BitPesa, a four-year-old, Kenya-based bitcoin remittance platform, has raised $2 million in additional Series A funding from Greycroft Partners, bringing total capital raised in the round to $10 million. Fortune has more here.
BrainScope, a nearly nine-year-old, Bethesda, Md.-based medical neurotechnology company focused on traumatic brain injury, has raised $16 million in funding from DBL Partners, along with earlier backers Revolution LLC, ZG Ventures and Maryland Venture Fund. Mass Device has more here.
Elium, a 9.5-year-old, Belgium-based enterprise social network for knowledge-based organizations, has raised €4 million ($4.7 million) in Series A funding led by Serena Capital, with participation from the investment firm SRIW. Tech.eu has more here.
Fengxiansheng, a three-year-old, Hangzhou City, China-based intra-city logistics company that facilitates same-day delivery of everything from food to flowers to documents, has raised “tens of millions” of dollars in Series C funding from Daosheng Capital and the online apparel company Jolly Information Technology. China Money Network has more here.
Gamer Sensei, a year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based professional e-sports coaching service, has raised $4 million in funding led by Accomplice and Advancit Capital, with participation from Origin Ventures, CRCM Ventures, Kiwi Ventures, aXiomatic, Abstract Ventures and Subversive Capital. Xconomy has more here.
HowStuffWorks, a 20-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based digital media brand that has changed owners more the once in the past few years, is being spun out as an independent company with the help of $15 million in Series A funding. The Raine Group led the round. TechCrunch has more here.
Islands, a year-old, Tuscaloosa, Al.-based currently-in-beta college-focused digital communication platform, has raised $1.85 million in seed funding from investors, including Greylock Partners, Vaizra Investments, Scott Belskyand Howard Lindzon. Mashable has more on the app here.
Qadium, the four-year-old, San Francisco-based internet monitoring platform that alerts large organizations to risks outside their firewalls, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Institutional Venture Partners. Others in the round include TPG Growth and earlier backers New Enterprise Associates, Founders Fund, and Susa Ventures. We’ve written much more about the company here.SafeTrek, a four-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based personal safety mobile app, raised $3.2 million in seed funding led by Cultivation Capital, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Maveron, and Aspect Ventures. More here.
SPORTLOGiQ, a three-year-old, Montreal-based sports statistics company that uses feeds from broadcast cameras, then applies advanced computer vision to analyze players’ movements and provide context to the game, has raised C$5 million ($4 million) in Series A funding. Rho Canada Ventures and Anges Quebec Capital led the round; other participants include Mark Cuban and TandemLaunch. BetaKit has more here.
SuperAwesome, a four-year-old, London-based company whose ad campaign platform works with companies to help them comply with strict rules on marketing to children, has raised $21 million in Series B funding from Mayfair Equity Partners. More here.
Travelbank, a year-old, San Francisco-based expense app for businesses that analyzes flight expenses and more, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by DCM Ventures, with participation from NEA and Accel Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
Upper Hand, a four-year-old, Indianapolis, In.-based startup that sells sports organizations online tools to help them more effectively manage their businesses, has raised funding from earlier backer Elevate Ventures in a deal that brings the company’s total funding to $2.4 million. More here.
Europe’s next major tech IPO is on the horizon. José Neves, CEO of luxury fashion website Farfetch, tells The Telegraph that a float is “the next logical stage” for his company. A Sky News report in June suggested Farfetch was close to choosing which bankers to underwrite a $5 billion IPO in New York. More here.
Rocket Internet-backed HelloFresh could be planning an IPO for as early as next month, per reports. In an interview with German publication Manager Magazin, CEO Dominik Richter said the startup is “keeping all options open” amid reports that the company could go public this fall. More here.
RYB Education, a China-based company that provides early childhood education services, has filed for a $100 million IPO, with plans to trade on the NYSE. More here.
Publicly traded BroadSoft, a Gaithersburg, Md.-based company that provides software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer unified communications over their internet protocol networks, is contemplating a sale and working with the bank Jefferies toward that possible end, reports Reuters. More here.
Siemens is buying Tass International, a four-year-old, Netherlands-based self-driving software specialist, for undisclosed terms. We weren’t able to dig up much on Tass’s funding situation. Reuters has more here.
Brab, Uber’s Southeast Asia-based rival, which in the process of raising a huge $2.5 billion investment round, just lost its head of engineering. More here.
Yesterday, Expedia named its new CEO and it is . . . Expedia CFO Mark Okerstrom, who’d joined the company as an SVP back in 2006. More here.
The on-demand delivery startup Postmates has let go of all of its city managers as it centralizes some of its operations at its San Francisco headquarters. More here.
According to Bloomberg, a group of 17 former Apple engineers have joined the self-driving car startup Zoox since Apple backed off plans to build its own vehicle. (We’ll be on stage next month with Steve Jurvetson of DFJ, who led his firm’s investment in Zoox — and Tesla, and Space X. We’ll have to poke around on this one in that chat.)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to hire a principal to help invest its strategic investment fund. The job is in Seattle.
The first ICO unicorns are here. Gulp.
How much it costs to watch the NFL this season without cable.
Why the menswear world is (evidently) obsessed with Shia LaBeouf.
Yahoo’s first CEO, Tim Koogle, is selling his house in swanky Los Altos. The price: $19.4 million.