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Netflix hit a new milestone today; it’s worth more than $100 billion for the first time, after surprising industry observers with better-than-expected growth in its subscribers.
SEC Chair Jay Clayton said this morning that the agency is paying special attention to public companies that change their name or business model in order to capitalize on blockchain-related hype.
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|Primary Data, Which Raised Roughly $100 Million from Investors, is Shutting Down
A startup that’s operating in stealth mode raises an almost stunning amount of money before it releases a product. Investors write outsize checks to the outfit anyway because of the people involved in it, but before you know it, poof, the company is imploding, and the capital is gone.
It’s a story that industry watchers know well at this point. Clinkle — the payments reward network that raised what was at the time the “largest seed round in Silicon Valley history,” then never released a product, remains the most widely mocked example of the genre. Another related flop: Airtime, a video chat service that was created by Napster founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning and launched with so much fanfare that you just knew it wasn’t going far.
The latest example follows a similar trajectory. It’s not a consumer brand, though. Instead, Primary Data, a four-year-old, Los Gatos, Ca.-based data virtualization startup, is in the processing of shutting down after raising a whopping $100 million in equity and debt and attracting the likes of Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak to its management team.
What happened? Neither the company nor the numerous investors who we’d reached out to over the weekend have responded to our requests for comment, but according to a trusted source close to the company, Primary Data’s problem from the outset was that its technology was never quite as compelling as it needed to be, given that it was trying to sell mission-critical software. (If it’s not up to snuff, data virtualization software can create challenges with manageability, usability, data quality and performance.)
Certainly, the issue wasn’t one that Primary Data’s investors — including Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures Partners, and Pelion Venture Partners — anticipated at the outset.
With Primary Data, VCs were re-investing in a team that had brought them financial success with their previous startup: Fusion.io, a flash storage company that enjoyed a highly successful public offering in 2011. Indeed, when Fusion.io cofounders David Flynn and Rick White left in 2013, investors quickly provided the pair with $50 million to spin up their next thing. (It was separately becoming clear that Fusion.io was heavily reliant on two big customers. As those customers dialed back on their flash storage, Fusion.io’s share price began slipping, and it was acquired in 2014 by the chipmaker SanDisk.)
We aren’t sure as of this writing why Primary Data’s software disappointed. What we do know is the company had brought aboard the founders’ longtime colleague, Lance Smith, as Primary Data’s new CEO in 2014. Smith had joined Fusion.io as its president and COO in July 2008 and spent six years with the company.
Immediately upon joining Primary Data, Smith realized that its burn rate was out of control, particularly for a company with no revenue. But while the processes Smith instituted helped, they didn’t change the fact that Fortune 500 companies weren’t prepared to buy Primary Data’s technology — even after Wozniak joined the team shortly afterward as chief scientist. (Like Smith, Wozniak was also an alum of Fusion.io, where he’d been named chief scientist in 2009.)
We’re told that the offerings from a Israel-based storage technology called Tonian that Primary Data acquired for undisclosed terms were expected to help address the problem but fell short. Meanwhile, a new version of Primary Data’s software that was rolled out in August apparently wasn’t compelling enough to bring aboard key customers, either.
Primary Data’s lofty valuation out of the gate also apparently worked against the company. Though it announced funding this summer from insiders — it announced $20 million in follow-on funding and a $20 million line of credit that we understand was basically a bridge loan provided by its founders — we’re told that its backers more recently decided they’d rather shut down the company than re-invest on terms they found disagreeable.
Specifically, they were asked to allow their preferred shares to be converted to common — and then reverse split 20:1. (In other words, management wanted to reduce the total number of shares outstanding and increase the share price by that same multiple.) The VCs said no. Soon afterward, the company’s website went blank.
Reached last night via email, Wozniak said he hasn’t been “on top” of Primary Data’s day-to-day goings-on, largely owing to his public-speaking obligations.
Apprente, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based AI technology company, has raised $4.75 million in seed funding, including from AME Cloud Ventures, Greylock Partners, Morado Ventures, Pathbreaker Ventures, and StageOne Ventures. More here.
Cargo, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that wants to let every ride-share driver sell convenience store offerings to his or her customers, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding from CRCM Ventures and eighteen94 capital, which is Kellogg’s venture capital fund. TechCrunch has more here.
Maxi Mobility, a seven-year-old, Madrid, Spain-based startup behind ride-hailing app Cabify and Easy, has raised $160 million in funding at a post-money valuation of $1.4 billion. Investors include Rakuten Capital, TheVentureCity, Endeavor Catalyst, GAT Investments, Liil Ventures, and WTI. TechCrunch has more here.
Techcyte, a 3.5-year-old, Orem, Ut.-based cloud-based digital microscopy software platform, has raised $4.3 million in funding from unnamed investors. More here.
VSORA, a two-year-old, Paris, France-based company that develops digital signal processing technology for chips used in 5G networks, has raised $1.7 million in Series A funding from Omnes Capital and Partech Ventures. Tech.eu has more here.
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There aren’t a lot of venture funds that are led by a single general partner who happens to be a woman, but Silicon Valley has a new one: Katalyst.Ventures, led by Susan Choe, who previously cofounded Visionnaire Ventures. According to an SEC filing, she has raised $34 million so far, too. TechCrunch has more here.
Translink Capital, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm, has raised $107.5 million for its fourth fund, according to an SEC filing. More here.
Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has tapped three banks to work on a proposed IPO for its sports businesses, reports Reuters. More here.
Payroll provider ADP says it’s acquiring WorkMarket, a seven-year-old startup that specializes in workforce management software and operates across a wide range of employees and contractors. Terms aren’t being disclosed. WorkMarket had raised more than $50 million from investors, including Union Square Ventures andSpark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
Uber’s food delivery branch, Uber Eats, has made an acquisition that could see the company also producing more of the product it’s bringing to its customers. It’s gobbling up Ando, a two-year-old, delivery-only “restaurant” founded by Momofuku chef David Chang, for undisclosed terms. TechCrunch has more here.
French healthcare group Sanofi has agreed to acquire the U.S.-based publicly traded hemophilia specialist Bioverativ for $11.6 billion in what amounts to Sanofi’s biggest deal in seven years. The move comes at a time of renewed interest by large drugmakers in smaller biotech firms. Reuters has more here.
And, a little afield, but probably relevant for some of you: Rum giant Bacardi said today that it’s buying the maker of Patrón tequila for $5.1 billion. It’s one of the largest liquor deals in recent years. Fortune has more here.
Cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase just announced that it’s hiring Tina Bhatnagar as VP of operations and technology. Bhatnagar comes from Twitter, where she was VP of operations and user services. She’ll oversee the company’s fast-growing (and often beleaguered) customer service division.
Brian McClendon, a former engineering executive at startups and large tech companies, including Google and Uber, has announced his candidacy to run for the open seat of secretary of state of Kansas.
The venture firm Osage University Partners has promoted four employees: Beth Grafstrom to VP of Finance, Claudia Dunnous to CFO, David Dorsey to Senior Associate, and Stephanie Stehman to Principal. More here.
Sphero, the Boulder, Co.-based maker of those fun Star Wars droids, has laid off dozens of employees in a restructuring that will see it focus more on education.
LaunchCapital, the seed stage venture firm, is looking to a hire an investment associate. (The firm is open to MBAs but you needn’t be one to apply.) The job is in New Haven, Ct. and involves frequent travel to New York and Boston.
More than 10 percent of ICO proceeds to date have been stolen, according to new research by Ernst & Young.
In the words of a concerned colleague of ours in Thailand: “Facebook is literally destroying Southeast Asia.”
Investors are trying to buy secondary shares of Coinbase, but it doesn’t allow them to trade, according to Recode.
The government of Shenzhen has banned the deployment in its city of bikes byBluegogo, the deckles bike-sharing start-up now controlled by China’s largest ride sharing firm Didi Chuxing. China Money Network has more the somewhat messy situation here.
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