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.

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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, which is backed by China’s largest online travel agent, and fast-growing

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.


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.


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


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.


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.

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