Monthly Archives: February 2018

StrictlyVC: October 27, 2017

Friday! [Tom Cruise-style-sock slide.] Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Whoa. According to the WSJ, CVS is in talks to buy Aetna for more than $66 billion as the drugstore giant scrambles to fortify itself against looming competition from Amazon. (You may have heard: Amazon has quietly received pharmacy-wholesaler licenses in a dozen states.) More here.

Also somewhat shocking: Amazon is now the second-largest U.S. employer after Walmart.

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Peter Thiel Thinks Focus on Self-Driving Misses an Important Shift: Telecommuting

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel doesn’t like investing in trends, he’s fond of saying. It’s a mantra he repeated this week at the Future Investment Initiative, an investment forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he took the stage with journalist Maria Bartiromo.

Asked about where he’s investing, he noted that he’s looking outside of Silicon Valley largely, but he suggested he doesn’t put much stock in “buzzwords” like SaaS software or virtual computing or augmented reality or artificial intelligence. “Even though these trends may or may not happen, as investments, they’re dangerous,” he said. In fact, “when you hear buzzwords, you should run away as fast as you can,” he added. Otherwise, there are “many companies of that kind, and many competitors.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thiel feels the same way about self-driving technologies —  even while his venture firm, Founders Fund, is an investor in the ride-sharing company Lyft, whose future would seem to depend on its ability to become a self-driving company at some point.

Thiel did say, however, that he will make one exception to his own rule; he said that he’s willing to “look at trends that aren’t on anybody’s radar.”

In fact, one trend that he said he thinks merits far more attention that it receives today, perhaps because it doesn’t challenge the mind in the same way as self-driving cars or flying planes might, is good-old telecommuting and how the inevitable rise of it will change the landscape.

Indeed, asked about the future of transportation, Thiel seemed to suggest there might not be much need for it, at least, not by individuals needing to get to the jobs.

More here.

New Fundings

&pizza, a five-year-old, Washington D.C.-based pizza chain, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from RSE VenturesMore here.

Carousell, a five-year-old, Singapore-based mobile listing service for secondhand goods and services, has raised between $70 million and $80 million in Series C funding, including from RakutenSequoia CapitalGolden Gate Ventures and500 Startups. TechCrunch has more here.

City Cloud International, a Hangzhou, China-based cloud computing startup, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Cisco Investments and Country Garden Holdings. DealStreetAsia has more here.

SoundAI, a 1.5-year-old, Beijing, China-based developer of acoustic technologies, has raised $15 million in equity and debt funding, including from BaiduAplus CapitalFrees FundLinekong Interactive Group and the Bank of Beijing. China Money Network has more here.

Templum, a months-old, New York-based blockchain startup, has raised $2.7 million in seed funding, including from Raptor GroupGalaxy Investment PartnersBlockchain Capital and firstminute.capitalMore here.

New Funds

The Hong Kong-based investment firm China Everbright, and the international venture firm Walden International Group, are jointly launching a $500 million fund that will target investments in enterprises along the semiconductor and electronic information supply chain, including microchips and artificial intelligence. China Money Network has more here.

IPOs

ForeScout Technologies, an Internet of Thing security company, saw its shares spike 16 percent during intraday trading today after going public this morning. After pricing at the top of the range at $22 per share, the stock is hovering above $25. TechCrunch has more here.

Razer, the U.S. and Singapore-based gaming hardware maker that’s backed byIntel and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, plans to launch an IPO on Monday in Hong Kong that could raise up to $550 million. Reuters has more here.

Zscaler, a nine-year-old, San Jose, Calif.-based company, has filed confidentially for an IPO, reports TechCrunch. The cloud security outfit is aiming to go public before the end of the year. More here.

People

Foundation Capital is adding two new entrepreneurs-in-residence: Natalia Burina, previously a director of product at both Salesforce and Parable, is joining to work with companies focused on enterprise AI, consumer mobile, and marketplaces; Nick Soman, previously a product lead at Gusto, will be working on blockchain-related projects.

John Gaeta, a visual effects supervisor on The Matrix and the creator of Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division ILMxLab, is joining low-flying, Florida-based augmented reality start-up Magic Leap.

Chris Leavy, a former Blackrock executive, is raising one of the biggest marijuana funds yet.

Alibaba Group’s Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai is buying 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in a deal that values the NBA team club at a record $2.3 billion.

The AI ambitions of tech giant Baidu just suffered another blow as Lin Yuanqing, head of its Institution of Deep Learning (IDL), has left the company.

Data

U.S. iPhone users will spend an average of $88 per year on paid apps and in-app purchases by 2020, according to a new forecast out this week from Sensor Tower.More here.

How Americans really feel about FacebookApple, and more (survey).

Essential Reads

The SEC has for the first time taken action against a privately held Silicon Valley “unicorn” startup — Zenefits — for misleading its investors. Buzzfeed has more here.

WhatsApp is finally allowing users to recall messages sent by mistake.

Waymo says it’ll begin testing its self-driving cars in snowy Detroit.

Meet the high schooler shaking up artificial intelligence.

Detours

Oh. My. Gourd.

Things that should come with trial periods.

Fair accusation of sexual harassment or witch hunt?

Retail Therapy

A “Stranger Things” Christmas sweater. Buying.




StrictlyVC: October 26, 2017

Thursday (already!).

Top News in the A.M.

COME. ON.

Twitter said today it could turn its first-ever profit, and its shares surged on the news.<

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Women of DFJ Push Back on Claims that “Predatory Behavior” is “Rampant”

Several women who either work at venture firm DFJ or have worked for the 30-year-old outfit in the past are pushing back against new allegations that founders should be wary of approaching the firm owing to “predatory behavior” that is “rampant.”

Yesterday, The Information reported that Steve Jurvetson, a cofounder of DFJ, is being investigated for sexual harassment, as told to it by the Menlo Park-based firm. DFJ says it launched an investigation in August after rumors began swirling about him.

Said longtime DFJ employee Carol Wentworth to the outlet, “[E]arly this summer we became aware of indirect and secondhand allegations about Steve Jurvetson and we immediately opened an independent investigation, which is ongoing at this time,” she added.

Asked for comment earlier today, Wentworth would only share the same statement.

It isn’t clear if the investigation is tied — or tied exclusively — to Keri Kukral, founder of a company called Raw Science. But she wrote on Tuesday on Facebook post that “women approached by founding partners of Draper Fisher Jurvetson should be careful. Predatory behavior is rampant.” She added that “silencing behavior ranges from security w/in the firm creating files on women, to potential violations of revenge porn laws, to grotesque threats.”

Kukral also wrote, somewhat cryptically, that “women have been banned by heads of TED from attending conferences. I have experienced some (not all) of these things along with many others. The situation I found myself in is personally atypical and I’ve not been in any other situation remotely like it. I was not seeking investment or trying to further my career. My investment rounds have occurred entirely outside of Silicon Valley both before and after this experience. I will not step foot in SV for investment.”

Kukral had a personal relationship with Jurvetson a couple of years ago, a source tells us. Kukral had added in subsequent comments to her post that her experience was not in a professional context.

The founding partners of DFJ are Tim Draper, who left the firm two years ago, Steve Jurvetson, and John Fisher, who remains on DFJ’s growth team.
In the meantime, writing on her personal site this morning, Heidi Roizen, who has been a partner with the firm since early 2012, didn’t mince words about the firm’s culture, saying that “[S]imply put, I would not work for DFJ if I felt the culture was not one of high integrity and opportunity for all — including women.  Including me.”

Two other women — Annie Hazlehurst, a former DFJ employee who today runs her own science and software-focused venture firm in New York, and another former DFJ employee named Courtney McColgan, who is today the cofounder and CEO of Runa, a Mexico City-based HR software startup — have also weighed in to come to DFJ’s defense, and that of Jurvetson.

More here.

New Fundings

Amastan Technologies, a three-year-old, North Andover, Ma.-based company whose microwave plasma tech aims to disrupt traditional chemical processes for producing advanced powders and materials, raised $13.85 million in Series B funding. Anzu Partners led the round, with participation from Material Impact,RKS VenturesKLP Ventures and LaunchCapitalMore here.

Amperity, a year-old, Seattle-based company using machine learning to create customer profiles for global brands, has raised $28 million in Series B funding. Tiger Global Management led the round, and was joined by Madrona Venture Group. GeekWire has more here.

Brainly, an eight-year-old, Kraków, Poland-based peer-to-peer learning platform for students, has raised $14 million in new funding led by Kulczyk Investments, with participation from earlier backers NaspersGeneral CatalystPoint Nine Capital, and Runa Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

Connatix, a four-year-old, New York-based video tech provider and syndication platform for content publishers, has raised $15 million in growth equity funding led by Volition CapitalMore here.

Credit Sesame, a seven-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based personalized credit service, has raised more than $42 million in equity and venture debt, including from new and earlier backers Menlo VenturesInventus CapitalGlobespan Capital,IA Capital, and SF Capital. Crowdfund Insider has more here.

Current, a two-year-old, New York City-based startup selling a debit card and companion smartphone app for teens, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by QED Investors, with participation from Cota Capital and ExpaMore here.

Genus AI, a London-based artificial intelligence startup (that hasn’t been super specific about what it’s working on), has raised $1 million in funding led by Picus Capital, with participation from numerous angel investors. Tech.eu has more here.

Homelyfe, a year-old, London-based insurance product purchase manager, has raised $2.8 million in seed funding co-led by Talis Capital and Peterson VenturesMore here.

JazzHR, an eight-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based recruiting software startup for small and medium-size businesses, has raised $6.6 million in funding led byVolition Capital, with participation from Birchmere Ventures and Rincon Venture PartnersMore here.

Ninebot, a five-year-old, Beijing-based short-distance electric transportation maker, has raised $100 million in Series C funding, including from SDIC Fund Management Company and the China Mobile Fund. In 2015, Ninebot merged the Segway, the U.S. company. China Money Network has more here.

Menusifu, a four-year-old, New York-based restaurant software startup, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Amino Capital and joined by Jubilee Capital Management. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Orchid Labs, a months-old, San Francisco-based developer of a new blockchain-based protocol, has raised $4.7 million in seed funding from an investor group that includes Sequoia CapitalAndreessen HorowitzDFJPolychain Capital,MetastableBlockchain CapitalCrunchfundStruck CapitalCompound andOpen Ocean (a newer European VC fund). Axios has more here.

Pollen Metrology, a Moirans, France-based maker of smart process-control software to accelerate the manufacturing high performing materials, has raised £2.4 million ($3.2 million) in funding, including from XAnge and KREAXIMore here.

Scoutible, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based video game-based artificial intelligence for hiring, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Learn Capitaland Mark Cuban, with participation from Great Oaks, New Enterprise AssociatesStanford StartX Fund, and Mindset VenturesMore here.

Skybox Security, a 15-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based cybersecurity analytics company, has raised $150 million in new funding led by CVC Capital Partners. Reuters has more here.

Snapcart, a two-year-old, Indonesia-based cashback app, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Vickers Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Wavemaker Partners and SPH Ventures and new investors Social CapitalKickstart Ventures and Endeavor Catalysts. Tech in Asia has more here.

Stardog Union, a 12-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based enterprise data unification platform, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Grotech Ventures, with participation from Core Capital and Boulder Ventures.

Umbo Computer Vision, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based AI startup and maker of autonomous video security products, has raised $6.8 million in Series A funding led by CDIB Venture Capital Corp, with participation from AppWorks VenturesMesh Ventures, and Substance CapitalMore here.

Ursa Space Systems, a three-year-old, Ithaca, New York-based satellite analytics-as- a-service company, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Paladin Capital Group, with participation from New Enterprise AssociatesRRE VenturesS&P Global, and other strategic investors. Space News has more here.

New Funds

GSR Ventures, a firm set up by Chinese tech entrepreneurs in 2004, is looking to raise up to $325 million for its sixth fund, shows an SEC filing.

ING Ventures has raised €300 million ($354 million) for its fourth, fintech focused, fund. Banking Technology has more here.

Fifteen-year-old, L.A.-based Kayne Partners says it has closed its fourth growth equity fund with $385 million in capital commitments. More here.

IPOs

Legacy Acquisition, a blank check company formed by former Proctor & Gamble executives, filed for an IPO yesterday. The Cincinnati, Oh.-based company plans to raise $300 million. Nasdaq has (a little) more here.

scPharmaceuticals, a three-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company behind a subcutaneous delivery device and drug candidate, intends to raise $100 million in an IPO according to an S-1 filing. The company is part of a new trend around repurposing existing drugs for easier delivery. 5AM VenturesLundbeckfond Invest, and OrbiMed are among its biggest outside shareholders.

Unraveling the world’s largest IPO, Saudi Aramco (video). And more here, in the New York Times.

Exits

Apple acquired PowerbyProxi, a New Zealand-based company that designs wireless power products for consumers and industry, for undisclosed terms. PowerbyProxi had raised approximately $9 million in venture funding, including fromSamsung VenturesMovac, and TE Connectivity. Reuters has more here.

The publicly traded cloud service provider ServiceNow is acquiring SkyGiraffe, a five-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based enterprise mobility platform that had raised at $10.5 million, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include SGVC and Trilogy Equity Partners. ZDNet has more here.

Smith & Nephew, the London-based multinational medical equipment company, is buying Rotation Medical, an eight-year-old, Plymouth, Mn.-based sports injury business, for up to $210 million. Rotation Medical had raised $56 million in funding, including from New Enterprise Associates, Pappas Ventures, and Life Sciences Partners. Seeking Alpha has more here.

People

David DeWalt, former CEO of the cybersecurity software company FireEye, has joined Allegis Capital as its newest managing director. Allegis is also changing its name to Allegiscyber and opening up an office in Maryland, where it can more actively invest in East Coast companies.

The plot thickens: Hong Ge, the vice president of Airbnb’s China division, who resigned earlier this week after just four months on the job, appears to have left owing to allegations about an inappropriate personal relationship between him and a subordinate, reports The Informatiion.

The California Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that determined billionaire Vinod Khosla must allow public access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County. (Thank you, judges. Khosla should have ended this fight a long time ago. What a PR disaster.)

Keith Noreika, the first banking regulator installed by the Trump administration, is reportedly undoing consumer protections to help his former, and future, clients. The agency chief is a “temporary employee,” an unprecedented twist that protects him from scrutiny over conflicts of interest. The WSJ has more here.

Billionaire Peter Thiel said earlier today at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that people are “underestimating” bitcoin, which he sees as a reserve form of money. “[I]t’s like gold, and it’s just a store of value. You don’t need to use it to make payments,” Thiel said. “If bitcoin ends up being the cyber equivalent of gold it has a great potential left.”

Essential Reads

A new lawsuit claims that Uber pays female engineers, and some engineers of color, less than male, white, and Asian-American counterparts. The complaint states that Uber’s biannual “stack ranking” system is invalid, arbitrary, and forces different outcomes between employees “regardless of whether there are meaningful performance differences between individual employees within a particular peer group.” Ars Technica has more here.

More on how FacebookGoogle and Twitter employees helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election.

Now you can buy a car on Facebook.

Detours

Couples’ costumes so bad, they’re good.

Director James Toback is now being accused of sexual harassment, too.

Retail Therapy

$1.3 million bathtub, when you have more money than you know what to do with, evidently.




StrictlyVC: October 25, 2017

Wednesday!

Top News in the A.M.

Steve Jurvetson, a cofounder of DFJ, is being investigated for sexual harassment, according to The Information. A spokeswoman tells that outlet that it has “never received a complaint about the professional conduct of any of our partners or investment professionals” but based on “indirect and second-hand allegations about Steve Jurvetson” opened an “independent investigation, which is ongoing at this time.” It isn’t clear if the investigation is tied to founder Keri Kukral, but she wrote yesterday https://www.facebook.com/keri.kukral in Facebook post that “women approached by founding partners of Draper Fisher Jurvetson should be careful. Predatory behavior is rampant.” Kukral had a personal relationship with Jurvetson, a source tells The Information. She added in subsequent comments to her post that her experience was not in a professional context.

Tesla just fired hundreds more workers, this time at SolarCity, citing performance reviews. But the workers say planned performance reviews never happened. CNBC has more here.

Donald Trump does not intend to appoint National Economic Council Director (and former Goldman Sachs president) Gary Cohn to lead the Federal Reserve, three people tell Bloomberg this morning. In fact, says Bloomberg, Trump has remarked in at least one private meeting that Cohn has no chance. (So, who knows, basically.)

Sponsored By . . .

You can have it both ways. Work with a PR partner that delivers high-level results without the B.S. or fluff. At FLIGHT, we build long-term relationships with our clients and focus on smart visibility that grows their business. Visit us at www.flightpr.com or say hello@flightpr.com. Woman-owned and operated, with offices in Silicon Beach and Austin.

Social Capital is Now Investing in Startups Sight Unseen

There’s little question that former Facebook executive and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya thoroughly enjoys challenging the way that startups are funded. Because he has the hot hand, so to speak, he’s able to get away with it, too.

Last month, for example, Palihapitiya’s firm, Social Capital, took the unusual step of raising $600 million in an IPO for a SPAC called Social Capital Hedosophia. The shell company will use the money to acquire all or part of a privately held tech company, thereby taking it public and circumventing what Palihapitiya sees as the unnecessarily long, expensive and distracting process of going public.

Now, Social Capital has another trick up its sleeve. It’s beginning to invest in far-flung startups, sight unseen.

Entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world can fill out a questionnaire, then submit revenue figures and either raw engagement or transaction logs (or both) to Social Capital, including sometimes by granting the firm direct access to the cloud services they use. It’s entirely self-serve. If Social Capital likes what it sees, it will write a check of up to $250,000. If it doesn’t, it will at least deliver feedback to the startup regarding tweaks it might make to its business model. (Entrepreneurs interested in applying can let the firm know here.)

How can Social Capital possibly know how to improve a company’s business model when it hasn’t even met its founders?

More here.

New Fundings

AMOpportunities, a four-year-old, Chicago-based platform that brings international medical trainees to the U.S. for short-term medical training, has raised $1.1 million in financing led by OCA Ventures and HealthX VenturesMore here.

ChowNow, a seven-year-old, L.A.-based online food ordering service, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Catalyst Investors. The round brings ChowNow’s total funding to nearly $40 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Convargo, a 1.5-year-old, Paris-based marketplace for shippers and carriers that enables both sides to connect and send goods across France more efficiently, has raised $19 million in Series A funding led by Inventure Partners and Earlybird, with participation from numerous individual investors, including Nest Labs cofounderTony Fadell. TechCrunch has more here.

Deserve, a 4.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company that makes credit products for international students and college-age teeneagers, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Accel Partners, with participation from Aspect VenturesMission Holdings and others. The company was formerly called SelfScore. TechCrunch has more here.

Echo, a two-year-old, London-based startup whose app helps users manage their medication and order repeat prescriptions for delivery, has raised £7 million in Series A funding led by White Star Capital, with participation from MMC VenturesLocalGlobe, and Rocket Internet’s Global Founders CapitalMore here.

GuestReady, a year-old, London-based service for Airbnb hosts wanting to manage their property, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Impulse VC (a Russian fund that’s backed by billionaire Roman Abramovich), with participation from Australia’s Xponova and Boost Heroes, a VC led by Lastminute founder Fabio Cannavale. Existing backers also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Jiko, a 1.5-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based debit card banking startup, has raised $7.7 million in Series A funding from Upfront VenturesRadical ImpactSocial Capital and others. TechCrunch has more here.<

Klook, a three-year-old, Hong Kong-based travel startup that specializes in helping travelers book trip activities and logistics for when they are overseas, has raised $60 million in Series C funding led by earlier backer Sequoia Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners (also an earlier backer). The money comes just six months after Klook closed its Series B round with $30 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Reflektion, a five-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based marketing startup that uses predictive analytics to increase conversion rates on e-commerce sites, has raised $12 million in additional Series B fund. SAP founder Hasso Plattner led the round, with participation from returning investors Battery Ventures and Clear Ventures. Reflektion has now raised $41.3 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Draper Espirit, the publicly listed venture firm in London, has said it planned to invest in other early-stage venture firms in Europe. Now it has taken those plans a step further, buying outright the first two funds of Seedcamp, an investing outfit in the U.K., for $23.6 million. It will manage out the assets from both, reports TechCrunch. More here.

Not a new fund exactly, but it’s worth noting that Weibo, the Beijing-based, Twitter-like Chinese social network, is raising $700 million as it looks for acquisitions to continue the growth its business has seen this year. The publicly traded company, which is majority owned by Alibaba and the media company Sina, is listed on Nasdaq and currently enjoys a $21 billion market cap. TechCrunch has more here.

People

DoorDash CFO Mike Dinsdale has left the company less than a year after he joined, TechCrunch has learned. The food ordering and delivery startup is actively looking for a replacement. More here.<

Ronnie Gurion — whose LinkedIn profile states that he has been leading Airbnb’s international business development efforts since April of last year — has quietly stepped down to become the chief strategy officer at the competing vacation rental platform HomeAway. More here.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is claiming that his Vision Fund has already bagged $3 billion in profit. It’s  all on paper at this point, but hey, no one likes a stickler.

Grab, Uber’s chief rival in Southeast Asia, finally has a new CTO more than two years after its previous one departed. Today the company introduced Theo Vassilakis, a former Googler who also spent time with Microsoft, as its second ever CTO. TechCrunch has more here.<

Jobs

Foundry Group, the Boulder, Co.-based early-stage venture firm, is hiring a general counsel. This individual will be responsible for all legal activities of the fund and work with portfolio companies on select issues. More here.

Data

The Silicon Valley executive search firm Lonergan Partners has just published a new “Who Runs the Valley” type survey, focused on C-suite execs at the biggest publically traded companies in the region. It has some interesting info, including the average age of incoming CEOs, how long CEOs who were replaced last year had been in their roles, and what percentage had previous experience running public companies. One alarming observation: all incoming CEOs were male. You can check it out here.

Essential Reads

Uber just launched a credit card.

Square, the Twitter boss’s other company, could soon pass it in value.

Detours

The art world star you’ve never heard of.

“Tiny House Hunters” and the shrinking American dream.

The surprising history of “OMG.”

Retail Therapy

Smallbirds, for those too young to work in tech (for now).




StrictlyVC: October 24, 2017

Hi, all, happy Tuesday!

Top News

Over the summer, two women filed complaints with the state of California against Uber for allegedly paying them less than men in similar roles. The previously unreported claims just came to light through a public records request by The Information. More here.

Sponsored By . . .

You can have it both ways. Work with a PR partner that delivers high-level results without the B.S. or fluff. At FLIGHT, we build long-term relationships with our clients and focus on smart visibility that grows their business. Visit us at www.flightpr.com or say hello@flightpr.com. Woman-owned and operated, with offices in Silicon Beach and Austin.

Airbnb Just Lost the Exec It Hired to Lead Its China Biz

China is a tough nut to crack, no matter how much money U.S.-based companies have to throw at it.

That was the overarching takeaway last night, given the news — first reported by Bloomberg — that Hong Ge is abandoning his post as the head of Airbnb’s China business for a new, as-yet-undisclosed opportunity.

Why does the departure matter? For starters, Ge was appointed to the role just four months ago. Further, Bloomberg says the company had struggled since 2015 to recruit a business chief, finally turning within and hiring Ge. He’d originally joined the company at its Bay Area headquarters last year, and earlier spent more than four years at both Facebook and Google as an engineer.

Kum Hong Siew, the current president of China operations, will take over the role in an interim capacity. Last week, the company also announced that co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk would become chairman of Airbnb’s China arm, spending half his time on business there and making monthly trips to the country from the U.S.

Airbnb, which goes by the name of Aibiying (it means “welcome each other with love”), faces fierce competition from local startups, including Tujia.com, which is backed by China’s largest online travel agent, and fast-growing Xiaozhu.com.

All are further dealing with tough regulatory challenges in China, where, as Reuters notes, movement between cities is watched closely and people must register temporary stays with local police.

We were unable to reach Ge for comment for this story, but this looks like a setback on its face.

More here.

New Fundings

Averon, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of a mobile identity verification standard, has raised $8.3 million in Series A funding led by Avalon VenturesMore here.

Blickfeld, a 1.5-year-old, Munich-based startup developing a LiDAR system to let autonomous vehicles “see,” has raised $4.25 million in seed funding. The round was led by Fluxunit (the corporate venture arm of lighting company Osram), High-Tech GründerfondsTengelmann Ventures, and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Derq, a 1.5-year-old, Dubai-based startup aiming to reduce vehicle accidents by improving how cars and infrastructure talk to each other, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Techstars Mobility Accelerator. TechCrunch has more here.

Doctorlink, a 1.5-year-old, U.K.-based startup that provides surgeons with a clinically approved digital triage and advice tool, has quietly raised an undisclosed amount of funding over the last 12 months, including £20 million from Eight Roads, the proprietary investment arm of Fidelity International. TechCrunch has more here.

Gro Intelligence, a three-year-old, New York-based agricultural data analytics startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A2 funding led by TPG Growth, with participation from Data CollectiveMore here.

HashiCorp, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based datacenter management tools company,, announced $40 million in Series C funding from its earlier backers, including GGV CapitalRedpointMayfield and True Ventures. The company has now raised $74 million altogether. More here.

iAdvize, a seven-year-old, Nantes, France-based customer engagement platform, has raised another $37.6 million from IdinvestBpifrance and Quadrille Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Kindred, a 2.5-year-old, Vancouver-based company aiming to create human-like intelligence in machines, has raised $28 million in Series B funding led by Tencent, with participation from previous investors Eclipse Ventures and First Round Capital. The company has now raised $44 million altogether. Betakit has more here.

KnowBe4, a seven-year-old, Tampa Bay, Fla.-based security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity, with participation from earlier investor Elephant. (Kevin Mitnick, an internationally recognized computer security expert, is the company’s chief hacking officer.) More here.

NeuroPace, an 18-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based developer of a neurostimulation system that can monitor and respond to brain activity with the aim of reducing seizure frequency, has raised $74 million in new  funding co-led by KCK Group and OrbiMed. Reuters has more here.

Nimble Pharmacy, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based prescription drug delivery startup, has raised $28 million in new funding led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Y CombinatorFirst Round CapitalDAG Ventures and Khosla Ventures. CNBC has more here.

OpenIO, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based object storage company, has raised $5 million from Elaia PartnersPartech Ventures and Nord France Amorçage. TechCrunch has more here.

Shift Technology, a four-year-old, Paris-based software-as-a-service that uses artificial intelligence to detect patterns and flag fraudulent insurance claims, is raising a $28 million Series B round from earlier backer Accel Partners, along with General Catalyst Partners. Other earlier backers, Elaia Partners and Iris Capital, are also participating in the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Trimian, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company whose app, mia Contacts, aims to make it easier for users to figure out that right person to connect with, has raised $3 million in funding led by Spark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Unikrn, a three-year-old, Seattle-based e-sports betting startup, has raised roughly $31 million in an initial coin offering. Celebrity investor Mark Cuban had participated in a pre-sale for the offering. CoinDesk has more here.

Wibbitz, a six-year-old, New York-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to create short videos based on text news stories, has raised $20 million in Series C funding, including from Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments and participation from The Weather ChannelThe Associated Press and TF1. Previous backers NantMobilelool Ventures and Horizons Ventures also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

People

AppDynamics co-founder Jyoti Bansal (you might remember he sold his company to Cisco in January for $3.7 billion) is back with a news startup called Harness. Its aim: to automate continuous code deployment. TechCrunch has more here.

And a switcheroo at Hulu: Mike Hopkins, the former 21st Century Fox executive who has been running the company since 2013, is leaving to run Sony TV. Randy Freer, another Fox executive who has been president and chief operating officer of that company’s TV business, is Hulu’s new top dog. Recode has more here.

Jobs

London-based venture firm Seraphim Capital is looking to bring aboard an investor director to help it source and lead deals for its new, $95 million space fund. Experienced applicants should write to info@seraphimcapital.co.uk.

Data

Since the beginning of 2015, U.S.-based fintech startups have pulled in roughly $18 billion across nearly 1,400 deals with venture participation, per PitchBook. Here are the 11 most valuable of them.

Essential Reads

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Public Investment Fund is poised to become one of the world’s biggest investors. But the fund is troubled by disappointing investments, including in Uber Technologies, says the WSJ. In fact, says the report, the fund’s chairman has been pushing back against parts of a deal with the biggest PIF partner, SoftBank Group, that could cut Uber’s value, which would force the Saudi fund to take a loss. More here.

Snap‘s internal data shows that well under half of Spectacles owners continued to use the camera-equipped sunglasses after just four weeks, reports Business Insider. More here.

Detours

A grain that tastes like wheat but grows like prairie grass.

Quiz: Which Mexican border-wall prototype is the worst?

Retail Therapy

The iPhone X. It’ll be available for walk-in customers to Apple stores who get there early enough on Friday, November 3.




StrictlyVC: October 23, 2017

No column today. We’re too busy digesting all the super creepy happenings in Silicon Valley of late. At this rate, we’ll need to add a new section soon called “Police Blotter.”  Check out “People” for more.

Also, happy Monday.:)

Top News

Amazon just spent more than it ever has in a single quarter lobbying the federal government, at $3.41 million. The (Jeff Bezos-owned) Washington Post has more here.

Your Chariot awaits (again).

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New Fundings

Abra, a three-year-old. Mountain View, Ca.-based bitcoin-based digital wallet app that’s primarily focused on foreign exchanges, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Foxconn, with participation from Silver8 Capital, Ignia and earlier backers Arbor Ventures, American Express, Jungle Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and RRE Ventures.

ActionIQ, a three-year-old, New York-based marketing platform that aims to give marketers better audience insights in order to run their campaigns more effectively, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Earlier backers Sequoia Capital and Firstmark Capital also joined the round, along with new strategic investor, Shutterstock.

ADC Therapeutics, a six-year-old, Lausanne, Switzerland-based biotech company that’s developing antibody drug conjugates that target cancer, has raised $200 million from investors, including AstraZeneca, Auven Therapeutics, Redmile and the Wild Family Office.

Automile, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based platform that’s connecting vehicle drivers and fleet managers with vehicle data, has raised $34 million in a Series B funding round led by Insight Venture Partners.

Blue Medora, a 10-year-old, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based company whose software helps administrator teams work collaboratively on a company’s infrastructure to avoid downtime and make predictive insights, has raised $8 million in Series B funding led by the Chicago-based venture capital firm First Analysis. Earlier backers Wakestream Ventures, Lewis and Clark Ventures, and eLab Ventures also joined the round.

CountingUp, a 5-month-old, London-based company aiming to merge banking and accounting software to make the lives of freelancers and sole-person enterprises easier, has raised £750k ($1 million) in seed funding from Frontline Ventures and others.

DeePhi, 1.5-year-old, Beijing, China-based AI startup at work on neural network compression technology and neural network hardware architecture, has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Samsung Group, according to Chinese media reports.

Eargo, a four-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based hearing aid maker, is raising $45 million in Series C funding led by Nan Fung Life Sciences, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Maveron and Charles and Helen Schwab.

EchoPixel, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based maker of interactive VR software for healthcare professionals, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from LAM Research, with participation from Aurus Capital, Runa Capital and Harris & Harris Group.

Equinom, a five-year-old, Israel-based seed breeding startup focused on developing specialized crops for the food industry, has raised $4 million from Fortissimo Capital.

Intezer, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that makes malware analysis and detection software, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from Magma and Samung NEXT.

Mya Systems, five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes AI-driven recruiting software, has raised $18 million in Series B funding led by Foundation Capital, with participation from Emergence Capital.

Nested, a 1.5-year-old, London-based estate agent that provides a cash advance to help customers buy a new house before they’ve sold their old one, has raised £36 million ($47.5  million) in funding that brings its total capital raised to just shy of £50 million. The round was led by Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital.

Solvvy, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based machine-learning-driven customer service platform that aims to more efficiently and affordably improve customer satisfaction, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Scale Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Pear Ventures, Signatures Capital and True Ventures. The company has now raised $16.5 million altogether.

Winnow, four-year-old, London-based startup that whose smart kitchen tech helps commercial kitchens reduce food waste, has raised $7.4 million in new funding from Circularity Capital, as well as earlier investors Mustard Seed and D-Ax.

Zero, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose credit card acts like a debit card, has raised $8.5 million in funding led by ENIAC Ventures, with participation from New Enterprise Associates and Lightbank.

Zuzu Hospitality Solutions, a 1.5-year-old, Singapore-based startup that sells revenue management software and marketing services to small hotels, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Wavemaker Partners, with participation from other Southeast Asian venture capital firms Golden Gate Ventures, Alpha JWC and Convergence Ventures.

New Funds

CapHorn Invest, a seven-year-old, Paris-based venture firm, has closed on $150 million in capital commitments for its second fund. The outfit says it plans to focus on Series A rounds, investing anywhere from $600,000 to $6 million into its portfolio companies. TechCrunch has more here.

Dah Chong Hong Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed distributor and dealer of motor vehicles in Greater China, said it plans to partner with its parent company, a subsidiary of CITIC, to establish an investment fund to back consumer and healthcare companies. As China Money Network notes, the Asian market for consumer goods and healthcare products is large and growing rapidly, driven by rising demand from an increasingly affluent middle class across Greater China and Southeast Asia. More here.

Forerunner Ventures is raising around $55 million for a fund that will make follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies, says Axios. Forerunner had closed its third early-stage fund with at least $122 million last year.

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Exits

Cisco said today that it’s shelling out $1.9 billion to acquire BroadSoft, a Maryland company that delivers unified communications via service providers. Broadsoft had gone public in 2010 after raising more than $77 million from investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Hearsay Systems, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based company that helps financial services clients compliantly use social media, websites, text and email to engage with their customers, has acquired the tech and intellectual property of Mast Mobile, whose four-year-old, startup that allowed businesses to manage work and personal numbers on a single mobile phone. Terms aren’t being disclosed, but Mast had raised $7 million in 2015 led by FirstMark Capital. (We’d written about the company here.)

WeWork, the behemoth co-working company valued at $20 billion, says it has acquired the five-year-old, coding education platform Flatiron School. Flatiron had raised more than $14 million, including from Thrive Capital, Matrix Partners, and CRV. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s worth noting that coding bootcamps have been struggling of late, having expanded too fast. More here.

People

Magaly Charbonneau has joined the Montreal-based venture firm iNovia as a principal. She worked most recently as a business development specialist at Intel Security Group, More here.

Yes, that secret twitter account actually does belong to former FBI director James Comey.

Susan Fowler — the former Uber engineer whose post about the company’s culture led to the ouster of cofounding CEO Travis Kalanick — has an interesting backstory, as revealed to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

Tech entrepreneur Zain Jaffer, the founder of the six-year-old mobile ad video company Vungle, has been being arrested on a slew of charges, including a lewd act upon a child and assault with a deadly weapon. The alleged victim was his three-year-old son, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Jaffer was CEO; he has been replaced by the company’s COO and CFO. TechCrunch has more here.

B Capital Group, a global venture capital firm co-led by Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin, has brought aboard Howard Morgan, cofounder of First Round Capital, as its chairman, and Joe Davis, the North American Chairman for BCG, as the firm’s vice chairman. Dealbook has more here.

Tom Preston-Werner — who resigned from his role as CEO and co-founder of GitHub following an investigation into allegations of harassment and intimidation of a female employee by he and his wife — is back with a new startup, Chatterbug. More here.

An influential tech evangelist known in Silicon Valley circles, Robert Scoble, has apologized for bad behavior that he claims occurred when he had a drinking problem. But several TechCrunch sources say he has continued to sexually harass women in the industry.

Grace Yun Xia has joined the Singapore-based venture firm Jungle Ventures as an investor. She was previously a senior director for corporate strategy and development with Tencent.

Jobs

The 10-person investment team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to hire a principal-level person. The job is in Seattle.

Essential Reads

Snap badly overestimated demand for its Spectacles and now has hundreds of thousands of unsold units sitting in warehouses, either fully assembled or in parts, according to The Information, which goes on to suggest the disclosure “undercuts Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s recent contention that Spectacles sales of more than 150,000 had topped the company’s expectations.” More here.

Why Facebook should not be allowed to buy tbh, a deal that TechCrunch reported on last week.

Amazon is receiving pitches from Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh and many other U.S. cities that hope want to become home to its second headquarters. Here are some of the video pitches the e-commerce juggernaut has received so far.

Detours

Dogs pay attention to your looks.

The man who dresses Melania Trump.

The second season of “Stranger Things” lives up its expectations, says Gizmodo.

Retail Therapy

Buy your own bunker. (If we could afford it, we would.)