|Hi! Welcome back. We’re publishing in between a bunch of meetings today, so having to keep things short(ish) and sweet. Hope your week is off to a great start.:)|
U.S. stocks rose today and Treasuries fell as investors decided that President Donald Trump’s tough tariff talk probably won’t translate into severe protectionist policies after all. The market appears to be responding to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who broke with Trump over his decision to impose tariffs on imported aluminum and steel products, and who issued an implicit warning to the White House today to drop the plan.
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|Tina Sharkey Has 300 Things to Sell You (You May Find Yourself Buying Them, Too)
Brandless is an usual company. A direct-to-consumer purveyor of food, beauty, and personal care products, it says that every item it makes is non-genetically modified, kosher, fair-trade, gluten-free, often organic and, in the case of cleaning supplies, EPA “Safer Choice” certified. They are also priced at $3 across the board. The idea, says cofounder and CEO Tina Sharkey, is to “democratize better.” She believes that Brandless — which is very much a brand — is selling items to people, often with dietary restrictions, who “couldn’t shop their values” before Brandless.
That’s no small thing to Sharkey, who cares very much about Brandless’s customers, as anyone who has seen her speak publicly can attest. In fact, Sharkey, appearing at a StrictlyVC event last week, spoke about the importance of shared principles in sweeping language that elicited fervor in many of the gathered listeners — and some fatigue in others.
She talked of Brandless users who didn’t have access before to affordable gluten-free and organic products or “who had to drive 100 miles round trip” or who “didn’t know things existed like tree-free toilet paper, made with sugar cane and bamboo grasses.” (This last product was news to us, too.)
Sharkey — who has led a number of consumer-facing companies in her career, including cofounding iVillage and later serving as president and CEO of BabyCenter — said she sees in Brandless users “all of America,” not just those who “live in such a frickin’ bubble on the coasts.” Elites in East and West Coast cities are “not our country” alone, she said. “Our country is filled with extraordinary people, and we have bifurcated and sliced and diced and segmented people to such a degree that we’ve forgotten that we’re all awesome Americans, and American deserve better, no matter your politics.”
If it was hard to remember at times that she was talking about a company that sells nearly 300 household items, from maple syrup to fluoride-free toothpaste, the crowd didn’t seem to notice, nodding along in agreement.
Jscrambler, a three-year-old, Lisbon, Portugal-based web security startup, has raised roughly $2.3 million in Series A funding from Sonae IM and Portugal Ventures. More here.
Luminoso, a nearly eight-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based natural language company that helps its customers discover value in their unstructured text data (think product reviews, call center and chatbot transcripts), has raised $12.6 million in Series A1 funding led by SD Porter Holdings and Raptor Holdco. More here.
Owlstone Medical, a 14-year-old, Cambridge, England-based diagnostics company that’s developing a breathalyzer to detect disease, has raised $15 million in funding co-led by Horizons Ventures and earlier backer Aviva Ventures. More here.
Paro, a nearly three-year-old, Chicago-based platform that matches businesses with freelance bookkeepers, accountants, financial analysts, and CFOs who provide on-demand, hourly support, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led byRevolution Ventures, with participation from Global Founders Capital and Tom Williams, a prolific venture investor. TechCrunch has more here.
Redeam, a three-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based company whose technology enables tours and activities companies to more easily do business with third parties that resell their tickets, has raised $7.7 million in Series A funding led by Vertical Venture Partners, with participation from Thayer Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Tallwave Capital and Peninsula Ventures. More here.
RedDoorz, a three-year-old, Singapore-based budget hotel startup focused on Southeast Asia, has raised $11 million in new funding to expand its presence. Investors include DeepSky Capital, FengHe Group and Hendale Capital, along with earlier backers Sushquehanna International Group , IFC, InnoVen Capitaland Jungle Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
Starcity, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that’s building community-based housing akin to dorm rooms to make cities more affordable, has raised $16.45 million in Series A funding from Bullpen Capital, Y Combinator, Invest AG, Alrai Capital and a number of earlier investors. The New York Times takes alook here.
Google, which acquired Zagat for $151 million nearly seven years ago, is now selling the company to The Infatuation, an upstart restaurant review company that has “harnessed smartphone apps, an Instagram hashtag and a texting recommendation service as parts of its path to growth,” says the New York Times. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed.
Amazon has confirmed its acquisition of the U.K.- and Ireland-based cloud gaming platform GameSparks, a “backend as a service” for game developers to build various features like leaderboards into games and then manage them, all in the cloud. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.
Europe is on course for its busiest start to the year for IPOs since 2015 but a jump in stock market volatility and a few IPO flops have made investors more discerning of where they put their cash.
Bilibili, China’s leading video streaming platform specializing in animation, is headed for a North American share sale, shows a new SEC filing. The company aims to raise some $400 million in fresh capital, says Variety. The disclosure comes only days after iQIYI, one of China’s leading video streamers, revealed details of its IPO on the NASDAQ.
Homology Medicines, a three-year-old, Bedford, Ma.-based venture-backed biotech startup that’s developing a gene therapy delivery platform for rare diseases, has filed with the SEC to raise up to $100 million in an IPO. FierceBiotech has more here.
Zscaler, a 10-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based venture-backed company that sells a cloud-based network security service to enterprises, announced terms for its IPO today, revealing plans to raise $110 million by offering 10 million shares at a price range of $10 to $12. At the midpoint of the proposed range, Zscaler would command a fully diluted market value of $1.4 billion. More here.
Emilie Choi, who did more than 40 deals at LinkedIn as its head of mergers and acquisitions for eight years, has joined the digital currency exchange Coinbase as its VP of corporate and business development. Recode takes a look at what Coinbase might buy.
David Fialkow is a Boston-based cofounder and managing director of General Catalyst. He also helped produce “Icarus,” a documentary that uncovered proof of widespread doping at the Olympic level by the Russian government, and which won the Oscar last night for best documentary feature.
Ilya Fushman, a former Dropbox executive who headed to Index Ventures as a general partner in the summer of 2015, is now joining Kleiner Perkins as a general partner and managing member. Fushman joins another notable industry exec who’s trying to restore Kleiner’s reputation as a top venture firm; as readers might recall, Mamoon Hamid left Social Capital for Kleiner last August.
Kairos VC is looking to bring aboard an associate with a strong physical sciences background. The job is in Pasadena, Ca.
Coastal elites are catching the heartland bug, says a new report in the New York Times, which says that in the last three months of 2017, San Francisco lost more residents to outward migration than any other city in the country. More here.
Apple‘s AirPods earphones have been a surprise hit. Now, the company is planning a push into the high end of the market, says Bloomberg. (Interestingly, it notes, they’re likely to compete with Beats, a company Apple acquired just a few years ago.)
Watch out, Apple and Samsung? Xiaomi could sell smartphones in the U.S. as early as this year, extending the Chinese company’s Western expansion as it plans a highly anticipated IPO.
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