Hi, happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re on our fourth cup of coffee already. That’s probably okay, right? (We’re very tired. We blame our lovable mascot, Brodie the Terrier-orist.)
Great to see some of you last night at the swank offices of Jackson Square Ventures, where we had the pleasure of interviewing author Frans Johnanson on how organizations can better ensure their teams are diverse. For those who missed it, we’ll have more on that for you soon.
Apple is betting on Steven Spielberg for its first major foray into creating original video content, striking a deal with Spielberg’s Amblin Television and NBCUniversal to make new episodes of “Amazing Stories,” a science fiction series that ran in the ’80s. The WSJ has the story here.
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A Movie About Former Uber Engineer Susan Fowler is Being Shopped Around
In all likelihood, when former Uber engineer Susan Fowler authored a now-famous post about her “very strange year” at Uber and the culture of sexism she witnessed first-hand at the company, she had no clue it would have such colossal ripple effects.
Yet, here with are, nine months later, and not only has Uber’s cofounder Travis Kalanick lost what once seemed like an iron grip on the role of CEO; not only has one of the company’s earliest investors and staunchest supporters filed suit against Kalanick, ostensibly for hiding problems at the company; not only has Kalanick seen his super-voting shares annulled; but now, according to a new report in Deadline Hollywood, Fowler’s story is being made into a film that’s being pitched to studios as you read this.
For Kalanick, that has to sting. For Fowler — who, reached for comment, pointed us to her agent — it must seem a sweetly surreal victory.
So what do we know so far about what’s cooking? According to Deadline, Fowler has “pledged her life rights” to a movie pitch that will be written by Oscar-nominated “Hidden Figures” screenwriter Allison Schroeder and produced by former Disney executive Kristin Burr in “what is being described as a potential ‘Erin Brockovich’ meets ‘The Social Network,’” says Deadline.
It isn’t clear how many studios the seven-year-old, L.A.-based talent agency representing her, called Verve, has approached. Fowler’s agent has not yet responded to our further questions about the project. But it’s certainly timely, particularly given that Hollywood is currently reeling from the fall of one of its own power brokers, film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has reportedly sexually harassed women in his orbit for decades, included the actors Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.
Comparing Weinstein to Kalanick is comparing apples to bananas. Kalanick was accused of enabling a culture of sexism to thrive under his leadership; Weinstein’s crimes are far more serious.
Still, it was largely thanks to Kalanick’s forced resignation — the realization that speaking up about wrongdoings can actually help correct them — that other cases of harassment have come to light in Silicon Valley.
Andela, a three-year-old, New York-based company connecting Africa’s top developers with global companies in need of tech talent, has raised $40 million in Series C funding. CRE Venture Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including DBL Partners,Amplo, Salesforce Ventures, TLcom Capital, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, and Spark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
Bigscreen, a three-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based startup creating an immersive virtual reality telepresence platform, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by True Ventures, with participation from earlier backer Andreessen Horowitz. The WSJ has more here.
Bill.com, an 11-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based business payments network, has raised $100 million in funding co-led by JPMorgan Chase and Temasek. Reuters has more here.
HIPPEAS, a two-year-old, L.A.-based company that makes a range of organic chickpea “puffs,” has raised $10 million in funding fromCAVU Venture Partners. More here.
Huishoubao, a Shenzhen, China-based smartphone recycling company, has raised $45 million in Series B funding led by Strait Capital, with participation from Source Code Capital, SMC Capital China, CITIC and Chengwei Capital. China Money Network hasmore here.
ImaginAb, a 10-year-old, Inglewood, Ca.-based immuno-oncology imaging company, has raised $8 million in funding led by Adage Capital. Other backers include the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, NVF, Cycad Group, Nextech Invest and Jim Pallotta. L.A. Business Journal has more here.
Mapbox, a 7.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that provides developers and businesses with maps, location search, and direction services that are specific to mobile, AR/VR, and web applications, has raised $164 million in Series C funding round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, with participation from earlier backers, including Foundry Group, DFJ, DBL Partners, and Thrive Capital. The New York Times has more here.
PanOptica, an eight-year-old, Bernardsville, N.J.-based developer of ophthalmology therapies, has raised $11 million in Series B funding, including from Third Rock Ventures and SV Health Investors. FierceBiotech has more here.
Petuum, a 1.5-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company that’s building software to facilitate two components of machine learning development, has raised a whopping $93 million in Series B funding from Advantech Capital and Softbank (proper, not its Vision Fund). TechCrunch has more here.
Shockwave Medical, an eight-year-old, Fremont, Ca.-based company whose technology was designed to treat calcified cardiovascular disease, has raised $35 million in funding, including from Fidelity Management & Research Company and T. Rowe Price Associates. FierceBiotech has more here.
Standard Cognition, a months-old, San Francisco-based developer of automated retail checkout software, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by CRV, with participation from Initialized Capital andY Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.
Tongdun Technology, a four-year-old, Hangzhou, China-based fintech startup specializing in risk control, has raised $72.8 million in new funding from Temasek, Tiantu Capital and Xindahanshi Capital. China Money Network has more here.
Tujia, a six-year-old China-based short-term vacation home rental platform that competes with Airbnb, has raised $300 million in Series E funding, at a valuation of more than $1.5 billion, says China Money Network. Earlier backers All-Stars Investment and Ctrip led the round, with participation from China Renaissance’s New Economy Fund, Glade Brook Capital, and G Street Capital. More here.
Verve, a 3.5-year-old, London-based startup that offers a sales platform to enable brands to easily run advocacy programs, has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding. Draper Esprit led the round, with participation from previous investors Kindred,Frontline Ventures, and Backed. TechCrunch has more here.
Visor, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based online tax filing and advisory startup, has raised $6.5 million in seed funding led byObvious Ventures. Other participants in the round include Social Capital, Maveron, Lux Capital, Fika Ventures, Box Group and individual investors, including Niklas Zennström. More here.
A former investor with New Enterprise Associates, Sheel Tyle, is planning to raise up to $100 million for his own fund, Amplo, reports Forbes. More here.
Singapore-based Vickers Venture Partners says it has closed on $230 million for its fifth fund, which includes a yuan-denominated vehicle of $40 million, making it the largest private fund in Southeast Asia. The new vehicle is more than three times larger than its predecessor, which closed with $81.1 million in 2012. DealStreetAsia has more here.
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HandUp, a San Francisco-based four-year-old online platform where anyone can donate directly to homeless people and others in need, is selling itself to the Detroit-based South Oakland Shelter for an undisclosed amount in a deal that HandUp’s CEO describes as a “primarily philanthropic acquisition.” TechCrunch has more here.
After a twenty-something-year hiatus, Menlo Ventures has decided to dive back into the health care sector. The Sand Hill Road firm is adding Greg Yap as a partner to lead investments in health, medical, and life sciences technologies. The firm plans to invest 15 percent of Menlo XIV — a $450 million fund that the firm closed earlier this year — in early-stage companies at the intersection of biology and technology. VentureBeat has the story here.
How the Russians operated under our radar.
It’s hard to build something secret in LA or SF without anyone finding out. So Snap is building a new R&D office in the remote location of Lehi, Utah, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Amazon is exploring ways to deliver items to your car trunk and the inside of your home. (You may recall that Walmart is also testing out a service that would allow delivery people to enter your home. So is Jet.com.)
Wildfires are still burning up thousands of homes and businesses in Northern California.