Friday! We are SO excited to see a bunch of you this coming Wednesday night at our last StrictlyVC event of the year. Giant thanks again to the early-stage hardware-focused venture firm Bolt; to Ballou PR, which has helped dozens of startups and VCs figure out media in Europe; and to Rosebud Communications, which prides itself on getting press for nascent startups, at fees that won’t break the bank.
If you weren’t able to get a ticket this time, don’t sweat it; we’ll have plenty of coverage for you afterward.
Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone!
Top News in the A.M.
Uber just lost its license to operate in London. Regulators say they were fed up with the company’s failure to report serious criminal offenses, among other things. Uber, which counts more than 40,000 drivers in London, is appealing.
Facebook is turning over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional committees investigating the Kremlin’s influence operation during the 2016 presidential campaign. The debacle underscores the unintended consequences of the tools it uses.
Benchmark is reportedly the lone holdout in a proposed deal for Softbank to buy between 17 percent and 22 percent of existing shareholders’ stake in Uber. Among Benchmark’s concerns, says the Information: that if early common shareholders sell shares, they’ll lose their 10-to-1 voting power, strengthening the voting power of ousted CEO Travis Kalanick.
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StrictlyVC is being brought to you this week by 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.
Despite Its Odds, Hyperloop One Just Raised Another $85 Million
Hyperloop One, a three-year-old, L.A.-based company working to create near-supersonic trains that can whisk both passengers and cargo in giant pneumatic tubes at speeds of many hundreds of miles per hour, has raised $85 million in fresh funding, as first reported in Recode.
The round, which comes from DP World, Caspian VC Partners, WTI and OurCrowd.com, brings the company’s total funding to $245 million.
It’s a lot of money for what still seems like a pipe dream, no pun intended. As the Verge noted in its own report on the new round, Hyperloop One still has “no commercial product, no revenue stream, no government approval, and no proof that its ultrafast transit system would even be safe for human passengers.”
Though the company has proudly touted its proof of concept — in late July, in the Nevada desert, it shot a 28-foot-long pod made of aluminum and carbon fiber down a 1,600-foot-long concrete tube at 192 miles per hour in five seconds, then immediately sent footage of the feat to numerous media outlets — its challenges are numerous and well-documented.
Among them: any route would need to be straight and level. Meanwhile land is expensive; presumably not all landowners would welcome hosting a hyperloop in their backyard. It could take tens of billions of dollars and decades to build. (You get the idea.) Hyperloop has also talked up its partnerships with governments around the world, though these are, for now, merely feasibility studies.
Apparently, such obstacles haven’t diminished the enthusiasm of the company’s newest investors, whose new round of funding reportedly values Hyperloop One at $700 million.
Still, it may grow harder for people to maintain their enthusiasm in its expensive approach, given that the idea’s earliest advocate, Elon Musk, has himself moved onto a project that he thinks will be less costly, more practical, and will require less time: tunneling underground.
Bellen, a 1.5-year-old, China-based medical contract research organization, has raised $38 million in Series B funding co-led by Legend Capital and China International Capital, with participation from investment firms Gefeiyueren and Dachen Chuanglian and games developer Dianjing Shijie. China Money Network has more here.
Flexport, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based customs brokerage and freight forwarding service, has raised $110 million in Series C funding at an $800 million pre-money valuation from “mostly existing investors, says TechCrunch, including DST Global. More here.
Gaosi Education, an eight-year-old, Beijing, China-based online K-12 education platform, has raised $83 million in fresh funding co-led by China Media Capital and AlphaX Partners, with participation from Sinovation Ventures, China International Capital, Loyal Valley Capital and Hina Group. China Money Network has more here.
Landos Biopharma, a new, Blacksburg, Va.-based biopharmaceutical company that aims to develop drugs for inflammatory bowel disease, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Perceptive Advisors. Xconomy has more here.
Securonix, a 10-year-old, Mumbai, India-based cyberthreat analytics startup, has raised $29 million in Series A funding led by the Boston-based private equity firm Volition Capital, with participation from Eight Road Ventures, the investment arm of Fidelity International. LiveMint has more here.
YH Global, a 20-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based logistics and supply chain management startup, has raised $182 million in Series A funding at a $1 billion valuation, according to local media outlets. Yonghua Capital and Co-Energy Finance co-led the round, and were joined by Stone Capital, Tangrong Capital and Shenzhen Grandland Group. China Money Network has more here.
Yi+, a three-year-old, Beijing, China-based computer vision company that’s helping to build “watching and buying” experiences for customers like Alibaba Digital Entertainment, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Haitong Securities led the round, and was joined by BRJ Group and the Bank of Beijing. China Money Network has more here.
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Baidu has announced a $1.5 billion fund that’s focused on backing autonomous driving tech companies. TechCrunch has more here.
East Ventures, a seven-year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based early-stage venture fund, has closed on a new, $30 million fund to fund startups in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country. This fund is the firm’s sixth to date in Southeast Asia — and its second this year. A $27.5 million fund announced in January is already fully deployed, thanks to ballooning outside interest in Southeast Asia. TechCrunch has more here.
MongoDB, a 10-year-old, New York-based cloud company founded by the team behind DoubleClick, has filed to raise up to $100 million in an IPO. The company’s biggest outside backers include Sequoia Capital, Flybridge Capital, Union Square Ventures, and New Enteprise Associates. TechCrunch has more here.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is planning to cut about 10 percent of its staff, or at least 5,000 workers, says Bloomberg, citing a broader effort to pare expenses as competition mounts.
Bob Kagle, co-founder and general partner at Benchmark, tells Fortune he “wouldn’t be surprised if [HPE CEO] Meg [Whitman] ended up the first female President.”
Actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow is tired of your Goop jokes. “If you want to f_ck with me, bring your A game,” she tells the Hollywood Reporter.
VC and former tech CEO Vinny Smith is selling his enormous $30 million Utah ranch. You can take a look inside here.
Primary Venture Partners is looking to hire a senior associate to focus on business-to-business opportunities. The job is in New York.
Walmart is testing a new service that will allow customers with August smart home devices, like the August doorbell and security cameras, to have their packages delivered inside their home instead of left on the doorstep.
Facebook just settled the lawsuit about its plan to create a class of non-voting shares, though terms of the settlement, including the future of Facebook’s plans to create the non-voting shares, aren’t yet known.
Inside Jeff Bezos’s $5 billion bet that Amazon can win India.
Instagram’s most beloved cookie dough confectioner is making people sick, says a new lawsuit.
Twelve fall TV shows to watch right now.
A peek into New York’s eclectic living rooms.
Body armor by McLaren. Hmm, which “prepper” is Client X, we wonder. (Or do we think it’s Musk?)