StrictlyVC: March 14, 2018

Happy Wednesday, all! We’re so inspired by the many U.S. high school students who were out in the streets today, pushing for much-needed gun regulations in this country. If your kid or sibling is among them, please give them a high-five from us and encourage them to keep organizing. No one should be afraid to go to school.


Top News


In June, Google will begin ban all cryptocurrency-related advertising, including about initial coin offerings, wallets, and trading advice. “We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution,” Google’s director of sustainable adds, Scott Spencer, tells CNBC.


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The SEC Just Charged Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes and Former Prez Sunny Balwani with “Massive Fraud”


Years after it was reported that the SEC was looking into improprieties at the once high-flying  blood-testing company Theranos, its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, and the company’s former president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani,” have been formally charged with massive fraud by the agency.


The charge, more precisely: that the two raised more than $700 million from investors through an “elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.”


Theranos  and Holmes have agreed to resolve the charges against them, says the SEC, though neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the SEC’s complaint.


For her part, Holmes has agreed to: pay a $500,000 penalty; be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years; return the remaining 18.9 million shares that she obtained during the fraud; and relinquish her voting control of Theranos by converting her super-majority Theranos Class B Common shares to Class A Common shares.  This way, if Theranos is acquired or otherwise liquidated, Holmes won’t profit until more than $750 million is first returned to Theranos’s shareholders.


As for Balwani, the SEC says it will litigate its claims against him in federal district court.


Theranos first came under scrutiny in October 2015, when the two-time Pulitzer-prize winning WSJ journalist John Carreyrou published an explosive investigative piece, suggesting that the company — then valued by investors at a stunning $9 billion — had greatly exaggerated its abilities to quickly process an expansive range of laboratory tests from a few drops of blood.


In reality, former employees told Carreyrou, the lab instrument Theranos had developed handled just a small fraction of the tests sold to consumers, with the rest being done with traditional machines from companies like Siemens. (Famed attorney David Boies, who represented Theranos at the time, acknowledged to the WSJ that Theranos wasn’t using its device for all the tests it offered, calling the transition a “journey.”)


More here.


New Fundings


BioLumic, a 5.5-year-old, Palmerston North, New Zealand-based company that has developed an ultraviolet crop yield enhancement system, just raised $5 million in Series A funding co-led by Finistere Ventures and the Radicle Growth acceleration fund, with Rabobank’s recently launched Food & Agri Innovation Fund and earlier investors also joining the round. VentureBeat has more here.


Escalier Biosciences, a two-year-old, Netherlands-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing topical and oral drug candidates for psoriasis, has raised $19 million in Series B funding led by Forbion, with participation from earlier backers New Science Ventures and BioGeneration VenturesMore here.


EVelozcity, a new, L.A.-based startup that was founded by three BMW veterans who also worked for Faraday Future and are planning a line of three sub-$50,000 electric vehicles, says it has raised a stunning $1 billion from a “group of financially oriented investors” from China, Europe and the U.S. Forbes has much more here.


Figo Pet Insurance, a five-year-old, Chicago-based insurtech startup catering to pet owners, has raised $4 million in new funding led by HCS Capital Partners of Miami. More here.


Gavelytics, a two-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based judicial analytics company, has raised $3.2 million in funding, including from serial founder Brian Lee. has more here.


Luminate Security, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca., and Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that provides access to corporate applications in hybrid clouds, has raised $14 million in combined seed and Series A funding. Investors include U.S. Venture PartnersAleph, and the ScaleUp program of Microsoft for startups. More here.


MyPadi, a two-year-old, Abuja, Nigeria-based online platform that helps university students find housing, including at hostels and via shared rooms, has raised pre-seed funding of an undisclosed amount, including from EchoVCMore here.


OpenBazaar, a two-year-old, Washington, D.C.-area company that’s creating a decentralized marketplace — meaning it connects people directly to each other via a peer-to-peer network rather than through a centralized site as with Amazon or eBay — has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by OMERS Ventures. Other participants in the round include BitmainDigital Currency GroupBlueYard CapitalUnion Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. Yahoo Finance has more here.


Outdoor Voices, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based maker of athletic apparel, has raised $34 million in Series C funding led by GV. The company, whose other backers include General Catalyst and Forerunner Ventures, has now raised $57 million altogether. CNBC has more here.


Pilot, a year-old, San Francisco-based maker of advanced bookkeeping tech, has raised $15 million in funding led by Index Ventures, along with a long list of high-profile founders, including Patrick and John Collison of Stripe, and Drew Houston of Dropbox. TechCrunch has more here., a two-year-old, L.A.-based interfaith social networking app for members of religious communities, has raised a $14 million in Series A funding led by TPG Growth. Previous investors Science Inc. and Greylock Partners also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $16 million. TechCrunch has more here.


Skilljar, a 5.5-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based online training platform, has raised $16.4 million in Series A funding from Mayfield and Shasta Ventures, along with earlier backer Trilogy Equity Partners. Forbes has more here.


Skyroam, a 10-year-old, San Francisco-based WiFi provider, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by JAFCO Asia, with participation from Vickers Venture,GSR VenturesChina Broadband Capital, and Delta Electronics CapitalMore here.


Solebit, a four-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based cybersecurity company, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by ClearSky Security, with participation fromMassMutual Ventures and Glilot Capital PartnersMore here.


Tech Will Save Us, a 4.5-year-old, London-based startup that makes a range of hackable toys for kids, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led by Initial Capital, with participation from Backed VCSaatchInvestAll BrightUnltd-inc,Leaf VC, and numerous individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.


Zum, a 3.5-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based childcare and transportation platform (a newer Uber for kids), has raised $19 million in Series B funding led bySpark Capital, with participation from earlier backer Sequoia Capital. Forbes has more here.


New Funds


A new early-stage venture fund targeting tech startups in the Nordics is officially launching today. Founded by serial entrepreneur and Slush Chairman Ilkka Kivimäki, and former F-Secure and startup executive Pirkka Palomäki​, Helsinki-based will invest in nascent and burgeoning companies in the region, both at seed and Series A stage. TechCrunch has more here.




A Boston-based staffing software firm called Bullhorn has acquired two San Francisco-based companies — Talent Rover and Job Science — to help it serve potential customers who run their businesses on Salesforce’s CRM platform. Five-year-old Talent Rover had raised $12.5 million from investors; 19-year-old JobScience appears to have been bootstrapped. Terms of the transactions aren’t being shared. Bullhorn is owned by Insight Venture Partners, which bought the company from the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners last October. The Boston Business Journal has more here (sub required).




Investor Josh Elman will join the commission-free trading platform Robinhood as its VP of product. He’ll also retain a venture partner role with the firm Greylock Partners, which Elman joined as a full-time partner in 2013.


RIP, Stephen Hawking.


Axios spoke with Box founder and CEO Aaron Levie about what surprised him in the Dropbox numbers, how the market should view Dropbox vis-à-vis Box, and what he makes of Salesforce buying into the IPO.


Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has doubled down on his dire warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence, warning an audience at the South by Southwest conference earlier this week to “mark my words — A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes.”


Jun Ying, a former Equifax exec who was reportedly next in line to be the company’s global CIO, has been charged with insider trading by the SEC. The agency says he knew that Equifax had been hacked and that he sold his company shares before the public was notified.




IAC is looking to hire an associate director to help evaluate and execute M&A transactions and investments. The job is in New York.




E-cigs breed more smokers than they stop, according to a study published today by researchers at Dartmouth. From a Bloomberg write-up of the study: “Using 2014 census data, published literature and surveys on e-cigarette usage to build a model, the scientists were able to estimate that about 2,070 cigarette-smoking adults in America quit in 2015 with the help of the electronic devices. However—and perhaps more alarming—the model estimated that, at the same time, an additional 168,000 adolescents and young adults who had never smoked cigarettes began smoking and eventually became daily cigarette smokers after first using e-cigarettes.”


Essential Reads


Twitter is reportedly working on a camera-first feature that could threaten Snap.


It’s a matter of when, not if, the Bitcoin bubble will pop, says Allianz Global Investors, which manages almost 500 billion euro. According to an overlooked, six-day post that just caught the attention of Bloomberg, the firm argues that Bitcoin is worthless, even if blockchain technology is able to bring significant benefits to investors.




It’s Pi Day again. Here’s why it matters.


Damien Hirst’s post-Venice, post-truth world.


The newest travel trend: pop-up luxury hotels.


Retail Therapy


Imperial Walker Bed. (When you really want to win at parenting.)


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