StrictlyVC: October 20, 2017

Hi, happy Friday, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Chariot, the commuter shuttle bus network that Ford Smart Mobility acquired in 2016, has halted its increasingly ubiquitous services in San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission has suspended its operating permit after it failed three consecutive California Highway Patrol inspections., an all-digital car marketplace that was co-founded by car industry vets and has been operating under the radar, is roaring into the open today, revealing it has raised upwards of $1 billion — and not from Softbank, for a change. Investors instead include BMW’s iVenturesPenske Automotive Group, and others. More here.

Nearly two dozen major companies in tech and other industries are planning to launch a coalition to demand legislation that would allow young, illegal immigrants a path to permanent residency. Reuters has more here.

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Madison Reed Raises $25M to Open “Color Bars” Across the U.S.

You get to a certain age, and if you’re remotely vain (and let’s face it, you are), you need to have your hair colored fairly frequently. You’re hardly alone. Roughly 75 percent of women in the United States color their hair, which today adds up to an $18 billion opportunity for brands like L’Oréal and Clairol.

It used to look that way, anyway. Eating into a growing percentage of these giants’ market share is Madison Reed, a four-year-old, 85-person, San Francisco-based maker of affordable “prestige” hair products. These include 45 shades of permanent hair color, 8 shades of hair “gloss,” 6 shades of liquid-based root touch-up (for in between coloring sessions), and 6 shades of powder for root touch-ups. The company also more recently began making shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair.

Now Madison Reed is working on what could become its biggest product of all: a chain of real-world “color bars” that it expects will accelerate its business further. Toward that end, the company just raised $25 million in new funding led by Comcast Ventures, an earlier investor, with participation from other previous backers, including Norwest Venture Partners, True Ventures and Calibrate Ventures.

Yesterday, we phoned CEO and founder Amy Errett in Hawaii, where she’s attending the high-wattage, low-flying Lobby conference. We asked her about the company’s newest round of funding, its color bars, and much more. If you care about consumer packaged goods more generally, keep reading.

You’ve quietly closed on $25 million that brings your funding to $70 million. Why go with Comcast, which is already an investor?<

Comcast was a very small shareholder previously and they just kind of watched our progress. Also, for us, Comcast adds enormous value; our investors there have been super helpful with TV and connections into other media.

How much are you spending on TV? And how else are you marketing Madison Reed?

We spend money on marketing four ways. First, Facebook and Instagram continues to be great for us and we work hard at [cultivating our image on both]. Radio is the fastest-growing channel, including satellite, local, and more recently national. We measure ROI by asking people how they’ve heard of us and through promo codes. The third is TV, which has been super effective. Fourth are referrals, which is an important part of our business. We put referral cards in boxes, and a lot of people give them out to friends who then get their first box for free. We’ve been doing it long enough to measure that it’s not just that first box (that they use).

What percentage of your business is recurring, and are people buying one-offs or subscriptions?

More here.

New Fundings

Amenity Analytics, a two-year-old, New York-based text analytics platform startup, raised $7.6 million in Series A funding. Investors include Intel Capital and State of Mind VenturesMore here., a three-year-old, San Francisco-based SaaS company providing search services to sites to help them learn from their users and boost conversion rates, has raised $5 million in Series A funding. Zetta Venture Partners led the round, with participation from Signia Venture PartnersMore here.<

Contrast Security, a three-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based company whose security technology enables software applications to protect themselves against cyberattacks, has raised $30 million in Series C funding. Battery Ventures led the round; earlier backers Acero Capital and General Catalyst also participated. Baltimore has more here.

Horizon Robotics, a two-year-old, Beijing, China-based maker of robotics chips, is raising up to $100 million in new funding, including from Intel CapitalHarvest InvestmentsHillhouse CapitalWu CapitalLinear Ventures and Morningside Venture Capital. DealStreetAsia has more here.

SafeTraces, a two-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based company that makes edible, invisible, odorless, tasteless, FDA-approved barcodes in order to trace the travels of fresh or processed foods, pharmaceuticals, and other commodities, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. Omidyar Network led the round and was joined by UL VenturesS2G VenturesMaumee VenturesCity Light Capital and Tuscan ManagementMore here.

Spoke, a San Francisco-based internal request management platform, has raised $28 million in funding from Accel Partners and Greylock Partners. CNBC has more here.


Stitch Fix, the mail-order clothing service, has filed to go public. The numbers look good. The IPO will be the first test of investor reception to the newest breed of online shopping companies.

WatchGuard Video, a 15-year-old, Allen, Tex.-based manufacturer of law enforcement video systems (it says it supplies in-car and body worn cameras, along with evidence management software, to nearly one-third of all law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada) has filed to go public. The plan is raise $75 million and trade on Nasdaq. More here.


Quest Diagnostics is acquiring Cleveland HeartLab, a Cleveland, Oh.-based diagnostic services company, from investors that include the Cleveland Clinic. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed.


Prominent Stanford leader and donor John Freidenrich, an alumnus who was involved with the university for more than 40 years, died last week at Stanford Hospital. He was 80. More here.

Uber’s U.S. chief Rachel Holt said at a conference hosted today by The Information that “mistakes” have been made at the company, but the business is “sound.”

Rebecca Kaden has announced that she’s leaving Maveron to join Union Square Ventures as a general partner on its investment team. She’ll be the first female partner at USV. TechCrunch has more here.

Ben Metcalfe has joined San Francisco-based Ridge Ventures (f.k.a. IDG Ventures USA) as a principal. Metcalfe was most recently a senior product manager at Uber and before that, had cofounded the managed hosting platform company WP Engine. TechCrunch has more here.

Snap has been hit with more layoffs as management evaluates trimming headcount across different teams, reports Business Insider.

Lockhart Steele, Vox Media’s Editorial Director and former Curbed CEO and founder, has been fired for “engaging in conduct that is inconsistent” with the company’s “core values.” More here.


Nationwide’s year-old corporate venture capital unit, Nationwide Ventures, is looking to hire an in-office consultant to screen potential investments in financial and insurance startups. The job is in Columbus, Oh.

Essential Reads

Designer-founder Tony Fadell gets a big wet kiss from Wired. (Despite being sycophantic, it’s a fun read.)

CoinList, a provider of financial services for staging and managing initial coin offerings (ICOs), is spinning out of AngelList as a standalone company that will be led by former Sidewire CEO Andy Bromberg, it tells Axios.

You can now PayPal friends in Messenger.


Art can be an investment. But is it a good one?

Why the current best treatment for sleeplessness is psychological (not pharmacological).

Retail Therapy

Kidrobot bookends.

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