|Happy Thursday, everyone! (So much going on today!)|
Despite overwhelming opposition from Congress, technical experts, advocacy organizations, and the American people, the FCC voted this morning to eliminate 2015’s Open Internet Order and the net neutrality protections it established. TechCrunch has more here (and it’s worth reading). Also, here’s what happens next.
Shervin Pishevar just announced his resignation from Sherpa Capital, the venture capital firm he co-founded, following a variety of sexual misconduct allegations. We’ll see what happens to the firm now. (LPs who we spoke with last week questioned whether the outfit can continue forward without him.) Story developing.
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|Y Combinator is Zeroing in on Bigger, Breakaway Companies with a New, Growth-Stage Program
Y Combinator famously funds a lot of companies, but there’s always more it could be doing, said its president, Sam Altman, in an interview with TechCrunch this fall. “I do think startups are a super important vehicle to make things happen in the world today and I think we are nowhere near the limit of how many we can help.”
Altman had added that YC is “always slightly broken, because we’re always trying to grow; we’re always trying to do new things.” And while he didn’t offer specifics on what new things YC might try, today, the outfit is taking the wraps off one of those initiatives: a new growth-stage program designed to help both YC companies and non-YC companies figure out how to scale.
The idea is partly to address what YC companies have described to its leadership as a thinning of its network over time, largely because there simply aren’t as many companies that make it to the growth stage. YC estimates that of the more than 1,200 active YC companies in the world today, about 60 or so employ more than 100 people.
YC also sees an opportunity to work with companies that are too busy trying to keep the wheels on the track to think much about the big picture. Some of the questions that founders tell them they could use help with are how to recruit engineers at scale, and how to accelerate user growth and acquisitions systematically.
Presumably, too, the program allows YC to cement its relationship with maturing companies — an increasingly tall order in a world drowning in later-stage capital, including, most obviously, from SoftBank’s nearly $100 billion Vision Fund.
36Kr Media, a six-year-old, Chinese tech news group being spin off from 36Kr, has raised $45 million in Series A funding co-led Gobi Partners and China Prosperity Capital, with participation from Focus Media Information Technology,Hangzhou Finance Investment Group, and Baidu Video. China Money Network has more here.
Dreamscape Immersive, a 1.5-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based location-based virtual reality startup headed by Disney and DreamWorks veterans, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. led by AMC Entertainment. Other participants in the round include Nickelodeon, Majid Al Futtaim, VRSense Solutions, Image Nation Abu Dhabi and earlier investors Bold Capital Partners, 21st Century Fox and Warner Bros. Variety has more here.
Eight Sleep, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based smart mattress maker, has raised $10.5 million in fresh funding led by Khosla Ventures, according to an SEC filing. According to Crunchbase, the company had previously raised $22 million from investors, including Azure Capital Partners, Comcast Ventures, and Sinovation Ventures. More here.
Friss, a six-year-old, Netherlands-based maker of fraud, risk and compliance analytics software for personal and casualty insurers, has raised €15 million ($17.7 million) in Series A funding co-led by Aquiline Technology Growth and Blackfin Capital Partners. More here.
Ginkgo Bioworks, a nine-year-old, Boston-based synthetic biology startup that’s trying to tackle sustainable agriculture, has raised $275 million in Series D funding from earlier backers Viking Global, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, Cascade Investment, and Bill Gates. General Atlantic also joined the round as a new investor. The company has now raised $429 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
Hawthorne, a two-year-old, New York-based brand that makes personal care products for men, has raised $2.2 million from investors, including Shana Fisher of3KVC, Comcast Ventures, and Founder Collective, as well as Zola founderShan-Lyn Ma and other individuals. More here.
Heartbeat, a nearly two-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based two-way brand endorsement platform (it develops user-generated content campaigns), has raised $1 million in seed funding led by Sinai Ventures, with participation from Right Side Capital Management, among others. More here.
Helpster, a two-year-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based startup that connects blue-collar workers with employers in Southeast Asia, has raised $2.5 million in new funding from Mojo Partners, along with earlier backers Convergence Venturesand Wavemaker Partners. The company has now raised $5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
Kingsoft Cloud, a Beijing, China-based cloud storage and distribution company, has raised $300 million in Series D funding from Liyue Investment, China Minsheng Investment and controlling shareholder Kingsoft, which trades publicly on the stock exchange of Hong Kong. China Money Network has more here.
NorthSea Therapeutics, a new, Netherlands-based Dutch developer of an oral treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (a type of fatty liver disease), has raised €25 million ($29.4 million) in Series A funding co-led by Forbion and BGV, with participation from New Science Ventures. More here.
Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company developing immunotherapies that target the tumor microenvironment, has raised $62 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Sofinnova Ventures, Vida Ventures and earlier investorsOrbiMed, SV Health Investors, Osage University Partners and Mission Bay Ventures. More here.
Skillz, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based popular mobile e-sports startup, has raised $25 million in Series C funding co-led by Telstra and Liberty Global, with participation from earlier backers, including Accomplice and Wildcat Capital. Forbes has more here.
Squarespace, a 12-year-old, New York-based leader in the old-school art of designing websites, has raised $200 million in funding from General Atlantic, with most of the money being used to buy up the shares of earlier investors and employees. The new shares value the company at $1.7 billion, says Bloomberg. More here.
Virtual Incision, a 10-year-old, Lincoln, Neb.-based maker of a miniaturized robotically assisted surgical device, has raised $18 million in Series B funding led bySinopharm Capital, with participation from PrairieGold Venture Partners and return backer Bluestem Capital. The Lincoln Journal Star has more here.
Almost exactly two years ago, the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz took the wraps off a $200 million “biofund” that aimed to invest at the intersection of biology and engineering and was being led by its (then) new general partner, Vijay Pande. Pande argued at the time that it was finally possible to invest in software-enabled biotech ideas — without having to wait eons for them to pan out — thanks largely to the growing ubiquity of machine learning and the falling cost of computing. Evidently, that experiment is playing out as planned. Today, the firm is announcing a $450 million second fund led by Pande — formerly the chair of Stanford’s chemistry department — and Jorge Conde, a serial entrepreneur who officially joined the firm a few months ago as a general partner. More here.
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Felix Capital hired its first entrepreneur in residence, George Pallis and hired a new associate, Emilie Spire. Pallis was most recently director of marketing at Deliveroo; Spire was previously an operations project manager at BlaBlaCar.
Andrew Ng, the cofounder of Coursera who more recently led Baidu’s AI group, just launched a new startup called Landing.ai that’s focused on bringing artificial intelligence to the manufacturing industry. TechCrunch has more here.
Hubble, the venture-backed “Warby Parker of contact lenses,” appears to be playing fast and loose with some basic consumer protections.
You don’t want them. Facebook didn’t want them. But here come the Facebook pre-roll ads.
Samsung is coming out with its own smart speaker.
George and Amal Clooney definitely win at parenting.
How to plan your holiday party after you’ve been accused of sexual misconduct.
The most over-the-top private jets in Hollywood.
The 32 best gifts for every kind of kid.