Thursday! Hello! We’re just off some calls relating to Disrupt, TechCrunch’s big SF event kicking off next week. We’re excited to see some of you there.:)
Also! Our last StrictlyVC event of the year is suddenly coming up in less than two weeks. A few of you have reached out about volunteering (thank you, awesome people). We could use a couple more of you if you’re game.
Top News in the A.M.
According to the Financial Times, Nestlé is paying $500 million for a 68 percent in the California-based cafe and roastery chain Blue Bottle, in a deal that values the company at more than $700 million. Blue Bottle has been rumored for months to be raising fresh capital; the deal directly pits Nestle against Starbucks and other big coffee brands in the U.S.
E-commerce company Wish is raising around $250 million in new funding at a valuation north of $8 billion, says Axios, which adds that several mutual funds are expected to participate, including Wellington Management. You can learn a lot about the company by revisiting this piece about it, which we wrote after its personable but reclusive CEO, Peter Szulczewski, spoke at a StrictlyVC event last year.
Meanwhile, mysterious Magic Leap, the Dania Beach, Florida-based wearable tech company that has yet to release a product (though it keeps invitingreporters to its headquarters to dazzle them), is reportedly raising $500 million in fresh funding, at a post-money valuation of $6 billion. Bloomberg says that Temasek Holdings, an investment company owned by Singapore, may take part in the round.
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.
NFX Guild Just Showed 14 Startups to Investors at Its Demo Day
Yesterday, three-year-old, NFX Guild, a Silicon Valley-based, invite-only accelerator program that has now worked with 80 companies, hosted its newest demo day before 200 venture investors at the Computer History Museum in unfailingly sunny Mountain View, Ca.
The outfit — which is backed financially by the venture firms CRV, Shasta Ventures, Greylock Partners, and Mayfield, and that works only with startups that’ve been referred to it through a network of scouts — dialed back on the number of presenting companies. (Its previous three batches featured 16, then 13, then 21 companies, respectively. Yesterday, it featured 14.)
A more concentrated effort seemed to pay off, with a number of intriguing teams pitching their work, from a company promising to wring more revenue out of attorneys’ mobile phone use, to a new open source platform for data scientists, to a startup trying to modernize moving companies.
Altogether, says serial entrepreneur and firm cofounder James Currier, 70 percent of the companies to pass through NFX Guild have gone on to raise subsequent funding.
For those of you who didn’t make it to the event but want to know some of the ideas and teams that NFX Guild thought would interest their fellow VCs, here’s who presented what, starting with a company called Zero.
Bellgram, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.based company that aims to help businesses by collecting relevant conversation data with customers before, during, and after conversations — data that it then indexes and made searchable — has raised $800,000 in seed funding. Backers include Arzan Venture Capital, 500 Startups, and SGH Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
Birdies, a 2.5-year-old, Bay Area-based maker of luxury slippers, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Slow Ventures, Graph Ventures, and Social Capital. Digiday has more here.
Braavo Capital, a two-year-old, New York-based integrated financing platform for mobile app businesses, raised more than $70 million in debt and equity. Mark 2 Capital led the round. New York Business Journal has more here.
Call9, a two-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company whose app gives nursing homes and rehabilitation centers an alternative to calling 911 (it connects connects on-site clinical care specialists with remote emergency medicine physicians), has raised $24 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Redmile, with participation from Refactor, Western Technology Investment, and earlier backers Index Ventures and YCombinator, among others. More here.
Carrot Fertility, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that partners with companies to help employees access egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, and other fertility care, raised $3.6 million in seed funding. SoftTech Ventures led the round, and was joined by Maven Ventures, Precursor Ventures, Sound Ventures, Sherpa Ventures, Core VC, Founders Fund, and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.
CashShield, a nine-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based online fraud risk management company that works with enterprises, has raised $5.5 million in funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from private equity firm Heliconia Capital Management, entrepreneur Tony Fadell, gaming company Razer, and the venture capital firm Stream Global. More here.
Eaze, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based weed delivery startup, has raised $27 million in Series B funding led by Bailey Venture Partners, with participation from from DCM Ventures, Kaya Ventures and FJ Labs. TechCrunch has more here.
ExecThread, a two-year-old, New York-based job-sharing network for executives (and, it says, the largest aggregator of unpublished executive-level job opportunities), has raised $6.5 million in funding co-led by Canaan Partners and Javelin Venture Partners, with participation from Corazon Capital, CoVenture, NextView Ventures and other angel investors. More here.
FanDuel, the eight-year-old, New York-based fantasy sports site, is reportedly raising between $30 million and $40 million in new funding from earlier backers in a deal that would be structured as a convertible note. The company has already raised more than $400 million from investors. Axios has the story here.
Furhat Robotics, a three-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based developer of a “social robot” and attendant platform, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Balderton Capital and LocalGlobe. NewsCenter.io has more here.
HouseCanary, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based data analytics and valuation platform for real estate professionals, announced raised $31 million in Series B funding from investors that include Penny Pritzker of PSP Capital and earlier backer Hillspire (which is Eric Schmidt’s family office). The company has now raised $64 million altogether. More here.
Iconic Protein, a six-year-old, San Clemente, Ca.-based maker of a line of grass-fed protein drinks, has raised $8 million in funding led by the private equity firm KarpReilly. BevNet has more here.
Infostellar, a year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based platform that connects satellite owners and operators with those who own and operate antennas (TechCrunch calls it an “Airbnb for satellite antennas”), raised $7.3 million in Series A funding. Airbus Ventures led the round, with participation from WERU Investment, D4V, Sony Innovation Fund and earlier backers FreakOut Holdings and 500 Startups Japan. More here.
MissionU, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based one-year college alternative that charges no tuition up front, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. FirstMark Capital led the round. Other participants include First Round Capital, University Ventures, Box Group, Rethink Education, Learn Capital, John Doerr, and Omidyar Network. TechCrunch has more here.
Prellis Biologics, a year-old, San Francisco-based company at work on creating three-dimensional printing of human tissue, with the ultimate goal of producing organs for transplant, has raised $1.8 million in seed funding, including from True Ventures, Civilization Ventures, and 415 Ventures. The WSJ has more here.
Snappr, a 1.5-year-old San Francisco-based the on-demand photography service, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Investors include Airtree Ventures (the largest venture fund in Australia, where Snappr was founded), Google Maps cofounder Lars Rasmussen, and a founding member of Zynga, Justin Waldron. TechCrunch has more here.
StoreDot, a five-year-old, Herzelya, Israel-based nanotechnology materials company that has said its batteries can charge a smartphone in one minute, has raised $60 million in funding led by Daimler, with participation from Samsung Ventures and Norma Investments. TechCrunch has more here.
Breakout Ventures, a new, San Francisco-based venture group that spun out of Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs, has closed its debut fund with $60 million in capital commitments, shows an SEC filing. The firm’s managing partner is Lindy Fishburne, who remains executive director of Breakout Labs, a philanthropic program that supports early-stage science startups and is funding by Thiel. TechCrunch has more here.
Firstminute Capital, the startup investment fund from Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman and former Goldman Sachs analyst Spencer Crawley, has added another $25 million in capital commitments to its debut fund, first announced in June with a close of $65 million. New investors include Chinese tech giant Tencent, BlaBlaCar cofounder Frederic Mazella, Sir Paul Ruddock, and other high net worth individuals. Business Insider has more here.
Smartphone giant Samsung has just set up a $300 million fund to invest in automotive startups and autonomous driving technology. TechCrunch has much more here.
Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, a Palo Alto, Ca.-based “blank check” company formed by Social Capital and the London-based venture firm Hedosophia, announced yesterday that it had raised $600 million in its IPO, up from the $500 million the company originally filed for at the beginning of September. Business Insider has more here.
Also Sponsored By . . .
“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.
The show will also feature a host of cameo appearances (including by yours truly and Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover). Tickets are on sale now, so come see our musical debut!
Canvas Ventures has promoted Sarah Catanzaro to data partner and Jennifer Kaehms to associate. More here.
New York Times reporter Mike Isaac is writing a book about Uber.
Lift Ventures, an outfit that incubates, acquires, and invests in data-driven online businesses, is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in San Francisco.
Google systematically pays women less than men doing similar work, according to a new class action-lawsuit accusing the technology company of denying promotions and career opportunities to qualified women who are “segregated” into lower-paying jobs.
Rule-breaking at an early age may point to the success of company founders like Martin Shkreli, researchers say. It may also foretell their undoing.
Facebook just launched a “Snooze” button that lets users temporarily blockcertain “friends” (the hope being people will use this rather than permanently block or unfriend people on the platform).
Bitcoin has fallen again for a fifth day, its longest losing streak in more than a year, after one of China’s largest online exchanges said it would stop handling trades by the end of the month amid a government crackdown on cryptocurrencies.
Martin Shrekli is now in jail for a most unlikely reason. Meanwhile, remember that $2 Million Wu-Tang album he was going to sell? It might not be a Wu-Tang album.