StrictlyVC: March 19, 2018

Happy Monday, everyone. Such a busy news day, crikey!


Top News


A 49-year-old woman who was crossing a street was killed yesterday by an Uber self-driving SUV in Arizona. It’s the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, notes Reuters. The National Transportation Safety Board is opening an investigation into the accident, says TechCrunch. Uber has halted its self-driving tests for now, notes the Verge. But you can guess the incident is raising a lot of questions for Uber and other automakers that are focused on self-driving tech — from how this happened exactly, to whether the human in the self-driving car or Uber will be held accountable (or both). For what it’s worth, here’s how Uber’s self-driving cars are supposed to protect pedestrians.


Apple is making its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its Cupertino, Ca., headquarters to produce small numbers of the screens for testing purposes, reports Bloomberg.


Hoping to tamp down furor over reports that its user data was improperly acquired by the political consulting and marketing firm Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has hired the digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg to perform an audit on Cambridge, reports TechCrunch. (Facebook’s share price fell 7 percent today.)


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Police are Beginning to Ask Google for Data from All Mobile Devices Close to Certain Crimes


According to a new report from Raleigh, N.C. television affiliate WRAL, Google might have quietly helped local detectives in their pursuit of two gunmen who committed separate crimes roughly one-a-half years apart. How? According to the story, Raleigh police presented the company with warrants not for information about specific suspects but rather data from all the mobile devices that were within a certain distance of the respective crime scenes at the time the crimes were committed.


In one of its homicide cases, Raleigh police reportedly asked Google to provide unique data for anyone within a 17-acre area that includes both homes and businesses. In the other, it asked for user data across “dozens” of apartment units at a particular complex.


As the outlet notes, most modern phones, tablets and laptops have built-in location tracking that pings some combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile networks to determine each device’s position. Users can switch off location tracking, but if they’re using a cellular network or relying on WiFi to connect, their devices are still transmitting their coordinates to third parties.


Google hasn’t responded to a request for more information that we’d sent off yesterday afternoon. But in response to WRAL’s investigation, a company spokesman declined to comment on specific cases or discuss whether Google has fought requests from the Raleigh investigators, saying only that: “We have a long-established process that determines how law enforcement may request data about our users. We carefully review each request and always push back when they are overly broad.”


Either way, the area-based search warrants that Raleigh detectives have sought seem to be a newer trend — one that will undoubtedly concern Fourth Amendment advocates anew.


More here.


New Fundings


Farmstead, a two-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based AI-powered digital micro-grocer, raised $2 million in funding co-led by Resolute Ventures and Social Capital, with participation from SV Angel and Y Combinator. The outfit had separately raised $2.8 million in seed funding back in October. More here.


Kahoot, a six-year-old, Oslo, Norway-based education quiz app, has raised $17 million in funding at a $100 million valuation, including from Datum Invest AS,NorthzoneCreandum, and Microsoft Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


Phlur, a two-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based direct-to-consumer fragrance company founded by a former president of global e-commerce for Ralph Lauren, is targeting up to $8 million in venture funding, according to an SEC filing that shows it has raised at least $2.4 million toward that end. Among its backers is Austin firm Next Coast Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


Promise, a five-month-old, Bay Area-based startup whose technology helps ensure that people who are arrested comply with court orders (versus wind up in jail unnecessarily), has raised $3 million in funding led by First Round Capital, with participation from Jay Z’s Roc Nation8VC and Kapor Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


Spindrift, an eight-year-old, Newton, Ma.-based sparkling water company that uses real squeezed fruit, raised $20 million in funding. VMG Partners led the round, with participation from Prolog VenturesKarpReilly and RiverPark VenturesMore here.


twoXAR, a 3.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based artificial intelligence-driven biopharmaceutical company, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by SoftBank Ventures, a SoftBank Group early-stage venture capital arm. Other participants in the round include Andreessen Horowitz and OS Fund. Xconomy has more here.


Yestock Car Rental Co., a 13-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based car rental company, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from Didi Chuxing. China Money Network has more here.


ZineOne, a 4.5-year-old, Milpitas, Ca.-based customer engagement startup that helps brands interact with their customers across a variety of channels, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Omidyar NetworkMore here.


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New Funds


VentureFriends, a two-year-old, Athens, Greece-based venture firm, has closed on €45 million in capital commitments ($55.5 million) for its second fund, says TechCrunch. More here.




Alzheon, a five-year-old, Framingham, Ma.-based biopharmaceutical firm that’s developing an Alzheimer’s drug, has filed to go public. Its biggest outside shareholders include Ally Bridge Group and Aptus Holdings. FierceBiotech has more here.


Homology Medicines, a three-year-old, Bedford, Ma.-based firm that aims to treat rare genetics diseases, has revealed plans to raising up to $100 million in an IPO. The company’s biggest outside shareholders include 5AM VenturesARCH VentureDeerfield, and Novartis. Nasdaq has more here.


Zuora, an 11-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based cloud subscription management platform, has filed to raise up to $100 million in a long-awaited IPO. The company’s biggest outside shareholders include BenchmarkRedpoint VenturesShasta VenturesTenaya Capital and Wellington Management Company. TechCrunch has more here.


And in Chinese-companies-rushing-to-go-public-in-the-U.S. news: Bilibili, a nine-year-old, Shanghai, China-based anime video sharing platform, plans to raise as much as $525 million through an offering of 42 million American depositary shares that are priced between $10.50 to $12.50 apiece. The company’s biggest outside shareholders are Loyal Valley CapitalIDG-Accel ChinaLegend Capital and Tencent Holdings. Bloomberg has more here.


Related item two: iQiyi, a eight-year-old Beijing-based video streaming service, has filed to raise up to $2.4 billion by offering 125 million American depositary shares at $17 to $19 apiece. the company is predominately owned by Baidu — it controls a 70 percent stake in the company. Xiaomi also owns 8.4 percent of the company. Bloomberg has more here.


Related item three: OneSmart, a 10-year-old, Shanghai, China-based K-12 after-school education provider, said it plans to raise up to $212 million in a stateside IPO by selling 16.3 million American depositary shares at between $11 to $13 apiece. Its biggest outside shareholders include Carlyle Asia Partners and Goldman SachsMore here.


Correction: Friday, we meant to give you information about Zscaler, a company whose shares began trading that morning. The blurb was mostly right but the market cap we gave you was way off. (Google had taken us to Zillow, which has a similar ticker.) Apologies for the mix-up.




Catherine Hoke, the founder of the nonprofit called Defy Ventures, which works to turn prisoners into entrepreneurs, is battling allegations of sexual harassment and fraud.


The controversial Saudi prince MBS is headed to the White House, then it’s on to Silicon Valley. He’s pushing a development blueprint, but he has some unsavory tactics that will need to be overlooked by his American friends first.


Facebook’s prized security chief, Alex Stamosis leaving following internal disagreements over how Facebook should handle its role in spreading disinformation.


Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur, the founder of Venture for America, is vying for the Democratic party nomination to run for U.S. President.




Match Group, the online dating company, reportedly wants to buy Bumble, the popular dating app that lets women make the first move. But Match may be trying to push the deal along in an unconventional way, reports Recode: A new patent infringement lawsuit filed late Friday in U.S. District court in Waco, Texas. More here.




Microsoft is looking to hire a new corporate strategy and development analyst. The job is in Redmond, Wa.




Google’s and Facebook’s share of the U.S. ad market could decline for the first time, thanks to Amazon and Snapchat.


Essential Reads


YouTube is reportedly introducing your kids to conspiracy theories, too.


Cadre, the real estate investing startup that was co-founded by CEO Ryan Williams and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, was the primary beneficiary of a property-flipping investment that may have been less profitable if Kushner Cos. had fully complied with New York City disclosure rules about rent-regulated tenants, which it did not, reports Bloomberg. The Associated Press, which broke the story, has more here.


IEX Group, the Silicon Valley stock market that wants to nudge investors to think long-term, took a step toward bringing its vision to Wall Street, filing for U.S. regulatory approval today to test a set of listing standards that would favor buy-and-hold investors. Bloomberg has the story here. We wrote last year about the case for tenured voting (i.e., the longer an investor hangs on to his or her shares, the more voting control he or she would amass).


The SEC just announced its highest-ever Dodd-Frank whistleblower award, with two whistleblowers sharing a nearly $50 million award and a third whistleblower receiving more than $33 million. The previous high was a $30 million award in 2014. We interviewed the attorney who led the program from its outset in 2011 until 2016, and he shed a lot of light on how to report wrongdoings to the SEC. It’s worth reading if you’re thinking about reaching out the agency at any point.




Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


An emotional guide to being ghosted.


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