Top News in the A.M.
Expect to be inundated with headlines about Apple products very shortly. Here’s how to watch the live stream of the company’s iPhone keynote, which kicks off at 10 a.m. PST.
Social Finance, or SoFi, the online lender known for its unconventional marketing tactics, said late yesterday that cofounder and CEO Mike Cagney will resign by the end of the year. He’s also stepping off the company’s board. His departure follows recently filed lawsuits over claims of sexual harassment and unfair wage practices at the San Francisco-based start-up. Several former employees have said that Cagney had inappropriate relationships with SoFi employees, and that those fueled the company’s toxic workplace culture. More here.
Genetics testing company 23andMe has confirmed a giant round that TechCrunch broke the news of last week; the final tally, led by Sequoia Capital: $250 million. The financing brings the company’s funding to date to $491 million. More here.
Sponsored By . . .
StrictlyVC is brought to you this week by the Future Labs AI Summit, a two-day conference comprising trainings, talks, and discussions with leading AI technologists, investors, academics, and entrepreneurs in New York City on October 30 – 31.
From deep dives into key areas animating AI conversations from leading technical experts to introductory courses in machine learning and game theory for AI, the Future Labs AI Summit features offerings for scholars, technologists, and investors alike. Attendees will also get a first look at demos from the second cohort of startups in the AI NexusLab, the accelerator program run by Future Labs, NYU Tandon, and ff Venture Capital. Get tickets here.
Unity CEO John Riccitiello on the AR Apps We’ll See Within the Year
Presumably, it would be good for business to speak onstage at an Apple event — essentially the tech world’s equivalent of a U2 concert. But John Riccitiello, the CEO of San Francisco-based Unity Technologies, says you won’t see him presenting at tomorrow’s Apple event or that of any other platform company, for that matter.
The reason: Unity, which makes software at the heart of Pokémon GO and other interactive entertainment, sees itself becoming the de facto content creation engine for a wide number of companies and their applications. While Apple is expected tomorrow to release iOS 11, which includes support for ARKit, a tool kit for developers to easily create AR apps, and Unity supports ARKit, the 13-year-old company doesn’t want to be perceived as playing favorites. Says Riccitiello, “Our philosophy is to put powerful tools in hands of developers, but also to support every meaningful platform so they can have success” — whether that’s Apple or Google or even Amazon.
We talked with Riccitiello earlier today about the company’s approach, along with the short-term future of AR and VR, where Unity is positioned to play a starring role for some time to come. Our chat has been edited for length.
Apple is obviously well-positioned to usher in the AR age with its coming iPhone 8 and iOS 11. How important are these releases to Unity, and will you factor into the show? Are you introducing some news at its event?
We’re probably under 12 NDAs [with Apple]. But we’re by definition cross-platform, so we never build platform-specific demonstrations. We support more than 30 platforms and I can’t think of a time when we’ve produced a platform-specific demo.
I can talk about a lot of other things, though. The future of AR and VR, my family…
Okay then, let’s talk about the future of VR, which is seemingly further out than people had earlier imagined.
Commercial applications are taking off like crazy, but sure, generally speaking, the consumer side of VR is off to a slow start. The hardware is too expensive; it’s not that functional. Those problems will solve themselves by the 2018-2019 time frame, which is what I’ve been saying since 2015.
Now, if you take this new thing, using your phone for AR — [including via] ARKit and [Google’s recently introduced challenger to ARKit] ARCore, the future is coming fast. The biggest app in history was Niantic’s Pokémon GO, powered by Unity. Tens of millions of people played Pokémon GO. That was just the start.
What will we be doing with our phones a year from now?
You’ll point a camera at a friend’s shoes and be told where to get them and at what price. In a year, a friend will be able to use an app that scans your body and comes up with a millimeter accurate picture, so you’ll know what you’d look like inside that particular shirt or dress, based on the dimensions of the garment. You’ll also be able to point your phone at an acquaintance and pull up their LinkedIn profile, or point at a restaurant and a menu will pop up, along with information perhaps about which friends have been there and who the architect is of the building.
Airburg, a three-year-old, China-based company that makes air purifiers for the home, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding “worth tens of millions” of dollars led by Lightspeed China Partners, with participation from Zhen Fund. China Money Network has more here.
Aunt Fannie’s, a four-year-old, Portland, Or.-based company that makes food-based cleaning and pest products, has raised raised $2.5 million in funding, including from RCV Partners, CircleUp, and Monica Nassif. (She previously founded Caldrea, a specialty brands that catered to environmentally conscious consumers and was sold in 2008 to SC Johnson.) More here.
Basecare, a seven-year-old, China-based medical device maker that makes devices for embryonic pre-implantation genetic screening, has raised $14 million in Series B funding from unnamed investors. The company had raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding in 2015 from Oriza Seed Venture Capital and Genesis Capital. China Money Network has more here.
Camera IQ, a four-year-old, L.A.-based startup that helps companies build marketing and advertising experiences for smartphone cameras, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from Presence Capital, Greycroft Partners, Brilliant Ventures and Act One. TechCrunch has more here.
DNA Script, a three-year-old, Paris-based synthetic DNA manufacturer, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Illumina Ventures, with participation from Merck Ventures BV and earlier investors Sofinnova Partners, Kurma Partners, and Idinvest Partners. More here.
Eevo, a three-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based app that offers virtual reality experiences tied to publishers’ and other creators’ content (including the BBC show “Planet Earth II”), has raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Eagle Advisors, FundersClub, and 37 Angels, among others. TechCrunch has more here.
Genvid Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based company that provides an SDK for game developers to integrate into their games and make broadcasts across multiple streaming platforms, has raised $2.5 million in funding led by March Capital Partners, with participation from OCA Ventures. More here.
Lenda, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that enables homeowners to refinance or originate mortgages completely online, has raised $5.25 million in Series A funding led by SF Capital Group, with participation from CreditEase Fintech Investment Fund and earlier investor Rubicon Venture Capital. More here.
Lesara, a four-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based online fashion and lifestyle retailer, has raised $40 million in funding from previous investors in a round that brings its total funding to $60 million. Earlier backers in the company include Mangrove Capital Partners, Northzone, and Partech Ventures, among others. More here.
ManoMano, a four-year-old, Paris-based online marketplace for DIY and gardening products, has raised €60 million ($72 million) in Series C funding led by General Atlantic. Other investors in the round include Piton Capital, Partech Ventures, and Bpifrance. More here.
Petal, a two-year-old, New York-based company that’s applying machine learning to make credit accessible to people with little or no credit history, has raised $3.6 million in seed funding from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Afore Capital, Rosecliff Ventures, Guild Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Story Ventures and Silicon Badia. CityBizList has more here.
Red Dot Payment, a six-year-old, Singapore-based company that enables merchants and financial institutions to provide end-to-end payment options for their customers worldwide, has raised $5.2 million in Series B funding from DORR Group, along with earlier backers GMO Venture Partnersfrom Japan, Wavemaker Partners, Skype co-founder Toivo Annus and MDI Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
SendInBlue, a seven-year-old, Seattle- and Paris-based maker of cloud-based digital marketing tools, has raised $36 million in Series A funding from Partech Ventures. More here.
Tonbo Imaging, a five-year-old, Bangalore- and Palo Alto-based developer of advanced imaging and sensor systems, raised $17 million in Series B funding led by WRV Capital, with participation from Artiman Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, and Edelweiss Private Equity. Livemint has more here.
Wellem, a three-year-old, Shanghai, China-based pediatric clinic chain, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by the private equity firm GTJA Investment Group. China Money Network has more here.
Zilingo, a two-year-old, Singapore-based fashion marketplace that works with independent sellers and boutiques to expand their businesses online, has raised $18 million in Series B funding. Sequoia Capital India and Burma Principal Investments led the round, with participation from earlier backers Venturra Capital, SIG, Beenext, Wavemaker, renowned investor Tim Draper, and the former head of IDG Ventures India, Manik Arora. More here.
Point Judith Capital, a 16-year-old, Boston-based, early-stage venture capital firm, is raising $100 for its fourth fund, according to an SEC filing that shows the firm has already closed on at least $61 million in capital commitments. More here.
Switch, a Las Vegas, Nev.-based data center provider, filed for an IPO to raise up to $100 million Friday. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed. More here.
Blackstone is mapping out an IPO or sale of smart-home technology company Vivint, reports Fox Business, which says Blackstone recently invited banks to pitch a dual-track process. The outlet further reports that any deal could value Vivint at more than $3 billion. Vivint sells smart locks, security cameras, burglary-detection systems and other such items and services. Blackstone paid $2 billion for the company in 2012. More here.
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“South of Market, The Musical” is back for v2! The annual tech parody is running Oct 12-22nd in San Francisco and features an entirely new script, cast and score! This year’s show follows an aspiring tech journalist as she attempts to get the scoop on the too-good-to-be-true hottest startup of the year – ai.ai. With songs likes “Self Driving,” “Boulder Moves, Bolder You,” and “Tech Issues,” this year’s show highlights the perks and perils of startup scene hype machine.
Tickets go on sale tomorrow, but StrictlyVC readers can access a limited pre-sale here. Use “strictlyvc” as both the access code and the promo code for a 10 percent discount.
Britain’s markets watchdog has become the latest regulator to crack down on the booming “initial coin offering” sector, warning investors today that “ICOs are very high-risk, speculative investments” and that they should be “prepared to lose your entire stake.”
YouTube star PewDewPie tells viewers of the racist remark he uttered during a livestream on Sunday, “It’s not that I think I can say or do what I want and get away with it. That’s not it at all. I’m just an idiot.”
Tim Sullivan is stepping down as the longtime CEO of geneology site Ancestry.com, which is gearing up to go public.
NBCUNiversal Media is looking to hire a VP of Drama Development to help develop new broadcast, cable and streaming series for the studio. The job is in L.A.
This is maybe not the best day to mention this, but SoFi is looking for a VP of biz dev and strategic partnerships. The job is in San Francisco.
Fintech trends worth watching in the EU.
WeWork, the co-work company valued at $20 billion, has filed a complaint with New York’s Southern District Court, alleging that China-based UrWork is guilty of trademark infringement. It’s arguing UrWork is far too similar to WeWork given that both companies operate in the co-working industry. TechCrunch has more here.
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Lawsuits against Equifax are fast piling up.
New gene-therapy treatments are coming . . . along with whopping price tags.
Move it, people, because sitting too long can kill you, even if you exercise.
What Americans will, and won’t, pay for avocados.
Watching hurricanes from 22,000 miles above earth.
Castle Bed. $18,000 up front, plus a lifetime of paying for it.