StrictlyVC: October 6, 2017

Friday! [Jumping jacks.] Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Former Yammer and Zenefits CEO David Sacks appears to be raising a venture capital fund, according to an SEC filing flagged by Axios.

AOL is shutting down Instant Messenger on December 15.

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Roivant Looks to Turn the Page, and Quickly

A new hormonal therapy designed to treat uterine fibroids called relugolix has finished a Phase 3 study in Japan, and the results are positive.

That’s welcome news for a SoftBank-based company based in Basel, Switzerland called Roivant Sciences that’s separately dealing with much lousier news.

But let’s back up a bit first.

The Phase 3 trial was one of several Phase 3 trials of relugolix that are ongoing, including in the U.S. and Europe, where the drug is also being tested as a means to treat endometriosis-associated pain and to help men with advanced prostate cancer by suppressing their testosterone levels. The result out of Japan isn’t enough to win it FDA approval, but Myovant, the biopharmaceutical company behind it, is expected to use the result from Japan to support its approval here in the U.S.

Why does it matter? Well, for one thing, a win would be meaningful for Myovant, which staged the biggest biotech IPO of last year, shortly after recruiting Lynn Seely as its CEO. (Seely was formerly the chief medical officer of Medivation, which sold to Pfizer last year for $14 billion). In other words, expectations are high.

Myovant is also a subsidiary of Roivant, a young holding company whose 32-year-old founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, believes will become a giant holding company for dozens of independent biopharmaceutical companies.

Ramaswamy sold SoftBank on that vision over the summer, in fact, with SoftBank leading a $1.1 billion investment in the company (and getting a steep discount on its privately held shares in the process, we’re told).

Then, disaster. More specifically, early last week, Axovant — another of Roivant’s holding companies that was taken public and itself wound up becoming the biggest biotech IPO of 2015 — received news that its much-hyped, experimental Alzheimer’s drug, interperdine, doesn’t work. (We wrote about that here.)

Now, to regain his place as a wunderkind of the biotech world, Ramaswamy — a Harvard-educated biology major with a law degree from Yale — needs some positive momentum.

More here.

New Fundings

Bioarray Genetics, an eight-year-old, Farmington, Cn.-based personalized medicine startup, has raised $4 million in Series B funding from Quark Venture, GF Securities, and Connecticut InnovationsMore here.

Butterfly, a nearly three-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based online platform that provides real-time leadership coaching, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding from DaphniTectonic VenturesPrecursor Ventures and numerous angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Gobble, a seven-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based 15-minute meal kit delivery service, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Khosla Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

The Honest Company, a five-year-old, L.A.-based consumer product goods company that sells all-natural body and home care products, is reportedly raising a down round, and losing its “unicorn” status in the process. More here.

NearGroup, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based chatbot that connects people based on their proximity, personality and creative content, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding led by OpenOcean, with participation from Neotribe and BoostVC. TechCrunch has more here.

Netcapital, a two-year-old, Boston-based funding portal that connects private companies with retail investors, has raised an undisclosed amount of money from TechStars, along with a long list of individual investors, including DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, longtime tech operator George Bell, and former Intuit and Personal Capital founder and former CEO Bill HarrisMore here.

QuanticMind, a six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based maker of predictive advertising management software, just raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Foundation Capital, with participation from other investors, including Safeguard Scientifics and Cervin VenturesMore here.

Shyftplan, a five-year-old, Berlin-based company that makes workforce management software for industrial enterprises and smart factories, has raised €3 million ($3.5 million) in Series A funding from Unternehmertum Venture Capital PartnersSenovocoparion and Kizoo Technology CapitalMore here.

Stellar Labs, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based marketplace for private chartered flights, has raised $26.3 million in Series A funding from Global Jet Capital, Columbia Equity Partners, and ExpaMore here.

Vestagen Protective Technologies, an eight-year-old, Orlando, Fla.-based maker of advanced performance textile products, raised $9.5 million in fundind, including from Advent Life SciencesHealthQuest CapitalGreenline Ventures, Northwell Ventures and Mercy Health of CincinnatiMore here.

UrbanSitter, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based online childcare marketplace, just raised $17 million in Series C funding led by Advance Venture Partners, with participation from Canaan PartnersAspect VenturesDBL InvestorsFirst Round CapitalMenlo Ventures and Rustic Canyon Partners.

Visterra, a 10-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based biotech company focused on identifying and treating unique disease targets, has raised $46.7 million in Series C funding. Investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationMRL Ventures FundVertex Venture HoldingsPolaris PartnersFlagship PioneeringOmega FundsCycad Group and Alexandria Venture Investments. FierceBiotech has more here.


HelloFresh, the meal-kit startup owned by Rocket Internet, aims to announce an IPO in the second half of October, as the German company tries to distance itself from the post-IPO flop of Blue Apron, says Bloomberg.

MongoDB, a 10-year-old, New York-based cloud company, plans to raise about $152 million in an IPO of eight million shares that are priced between $18 to $20, the company revealed in a new filing. The company’s biggest backers include Sequoia CapitalFlybridge CapitalUnion Square Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates.

On Wednesday, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, a nine-year-old, Boston-based biotech company that’s developing obesity treatments, raised $120 million in an offering of 7 million shares priced at $17, above its previously stated range of between $14 to $16 a piece. Rhythm’s biggest outside shareholders include New Enterprise AssociatesThird Rock VenturesMPM BioVentures , OrbiMed Private Investments, and Pfizer. As of this writing, the shares are now trading at roughly $25 apiece. Xconomy has more here.

Switch, a 17-year-old, Las Vegas, Nev.-based data center company, raised $531 million in an offering of 31.3 million shares at $17, above its previously stated range of  $14 to $16 apiece. It began trading on the NYSE this morning and things are trending well right now.

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Boeing said yesterday that it plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, a  550-person, Virginia-based maker of aerial drones and pilotless flying systems in a move that Boeing said could pave the way for fleets of small flying taxis. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Fox Business News has more here.


Elon Musk finally gets the melancholy theme song he deserves.

Google News creator has called its coverage of the Las Vegas massacre “shameful and irresponsible.”


Sovereign wealth funds are hoping early investments in small healthcare and biotech firms will yield big returns down the line. So suggests new data from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute that shows such funds’ direct investments in privately held pharmaceutical and healthcare companies totaled $5.58 billion this year as of mid-September, up from $2.15 billin in the first three quarters of last year. Reuters has more here.

Essential Reads

Amazon is in the final stages of figuring out its strategy to get into the multibillion dollar prescription drug market. CNBC has more here.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau yesterday imposed tough new restrictions on so-called payday lending, dealing a potentially crushing blow to an industry that churns out billions of dollars a year in high-interest loans.

Here’s how a tender offer like Uber‘s would unfold.


Ancient viruses are buried in your DNA.

Ten bars to see before you die.

Retail Therapy

Apartment things to buy in your 20s. (We can attest that enamel mugs are forever.)

“So, I’ll just be downstairs, fixing something.”

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