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StrictlyVC: October 6, 2017

Friday! [Jumping jacks.] Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Former Yammer and Zenefits CEO David Sacks appears to be raising a venture capital fund, according to an SEC filing flagged by Axios.

AOL is shutting down Instant Messenger on December 15.

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Roivant Looks to Turn the Page, and Quickly

A new hormonal therapy designed to treat uterine fibroids called relugolix has finished a Phase 3 study in Japan, and the results are positive.

That’s welcome news for a SoftBank-based company based in Basel, Switzerland called Roivant Sciences that’s separately dealing with much lousier news.

But let’s back up a bit first.

The Phase 3 trial was one of several Phase 3 trials of relugolix that are ongoing, including in the U.S. and Europe, where the drug is also being tested as a means to treat endometriosis-associated pain and to help men with advanced prostate cancer by suppressing their testosterone levels. The result out of Japan isn’t enough to win it FDA approval, but Myovant, the biopharmaceutical company behind it, is expected to use the result from Japan to support its approval here in the U.S.

Why does it matter? Well, for one thing, a win would be meaningful for Myovant, which staged the biggest biotech IPO of last year, shortly after recruiting Lynn Seely as its CEO. (Seely was formerly the chief medical officer of Medivation, which sold to Pfizer last year for $14 billion). In other words, expectations are high.

Myovant is also a subsidiary of Roivant, a young holding company whose 32-year-old founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, believes will become a giant holding company for dozens of independent biopharmaceutical companies.

Ramaswamy sold SoftBank on that vision over the summer, in fact, with SoftBank leading a $1.1 billion investment in the company (and getting a steep discount on its privately held shares in the process, we’re told).

Then, disaster. More specifically, early last week, Axovant — another of Roivant’s holding companies that was taken public and itself wound up becoming the biggest biotech IPO of 2015 — received news that its much-hyped, experimental Alzheimer’s drug, interperdine, doesn’t work. (We wrote about that here.)

Now, to regain his place as a wunderkind of the biotech world, Ramaswamy — a Harvard-educated biology major with a law degree from Yale — needs some positive momentum.

More here.

New Fundings

Bioarray Genetics, an eight-year-old, Farmington, Cn.-based personalized medicine startup, has raised $4 million in Series B funding from Quark Venture, GF Securities, and Connecticut InnovationsMore here.

Butterfly, a nearly three-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based online platform that provides real-time leadership coaching, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding from DaphniTectonic VenturesPrecursor Ventures and numerous angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Gobble, a seven-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based 15-minute meal kit delivery service, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Khosla Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

The Honest Company, a five-year-old, L.A.-based consumer product goods company that sells all-natural body and home care products, is reportedly raising a down round, and losing its “unicorn” status in the process. More here.

NearGroup, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based chatbot that connects people based on their proximity, personality and creative content, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding led by OpenOcean, with participation from Neotribe and BoostVC. TechCrunch has more here.

Netcapital, a two-year-old, Boston-based funding portal that connects private companies with retail investors, has raised an undisclosed amount of money from TechStars, along with a long list of individual investors, including DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, longtime tech operator George Bell, and former Intuit and Personal Capital founder and former CEO Bill HarrisMore here.

QuanticMind, a six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based maker of predictive advertising management software, just raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Foundation Capital, with participation from other investors, including Safeguard Scientifics and Cervin VenturesMore here.

Shyftplan, a five-year-old, Berlin-based company that makes workforce management software for industrial enterprises and smart factories, has raised €3 million ($3.5 million) in Series A funding from Unternehmertum Venture Capital PartnersSenovocoparion and Kizoo Technology CapitalMore here.

Stellar Labs, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based marketplace for private chartered flights, has raised $26.3 million in Series A funding from Global Jet Capital, Columbia Equity Partners, and ExpaMore here.

Vestagen Protective Technologies, an eight-year-old, Orlando, Fla.-based maker of advanced performance textile products, raised $9.5 million in fundind, including from Advent Life SciencesHealthQuest CapitalGreenline Ventures, Northwell Ventures and Mercy Health of CincinnatiMore here.

UrbanSitter, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based online childcare marketplace, just raised $17 million in Series C funding led by Advance Venture Partners, with participation from Canaan PartnersAspect VenturesDBL InvestorsFirst Round CapitalMenlo Ventures and Rustic Canyon Partners.

Visterra, a 10-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based biotech company focused on identifying and treating unique disease targets, has raised $46.7 million in Series C funding. Investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationMRL Ventures FundVertex Venture HoldingsPolaris PartnersFlagship PioneeringOmega FundsCycad Group and Alexandria Venture Investments. FierceBiotech has more here.

IPOs

HelloFresh, the meal-kit startup owned by Rocket Internet, aims to announce an IPO in the second half of October, as the German company tries to distance itself from the post-IPO flop of Blue Apron, says Bloomberg.

MongoDB, a 10-year-old, New York-based cloud company, plans to raise about $152 million in an IPO of eight million shares that are priced between $18 to $20, the company revealed in a new filing. The company’s biggest backers include Sequoia CapitalFlybridge CapitalUnion Square Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates.

On Wednesday, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, a nine-year-old, Boston-based biotech company that’s developing obesity treatments, raised $120 million in an offering of 7 million shares priced at $17, above its previously stated range of between $14 to $16 a piece. Rhythm’s biggest outside shareholders include New Enterprise AssociatesThird Rock VenturesMPM BioVentures , OrbiMed Private Investments, and Pfizer. As of this writing, the shares are now trading at roughly $25 apiece. Xconomy has more here.

Switch, a 17-year-old, Las Vegas, Nev.-based data center company, raised $531 million in an offering of 31.3 million shares at $17, above its previously stated range of  $14 to $16 apiece. It began trading on the NYSE this morning and things are trending well right now.

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Exits

Boeing said yesterday that it plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, a  550-person, Virginia-based maker of aerial drones and pilotless flying systems in a move that Boeing said could pave the way for fleets of small flying taxis. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Fox Business News has more here.

People

Elon Musk finally gets the melancholy theme song he deserves.

Google News creator has called its coverage of the Las Vegas massacre “shameful and irresponsible.”

Data

Sovereign wealth funds are hoping early investments in small healthcare and biotech firms will yield big returns down the line. So suggests new data from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute that shows such funds’ direct investments in privately held pharmaceutical and healthcare companies totaled $5.58 billion this year as of mid-September, up from $2.15 billin in the first three quarters of last year. Reuters has more here.

Essential Reads

Amazon is in the final stages of figuring out its strategy to get into the multibillion dollar prescription drug market. CNBC has more here.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau yesterday imposed tough new restrictions on so-called payday lending, dealing a potentially crushing blow to an industry that churns out billions of dollars a year in high-interest loans.

Here’s how a tender offer like Uber‘s would unfold.

Detours

Ancient viruses are buried in your DNA.

Ten bars to see before you die.

Retail Therapy

Apartment things to buy in your 20s. (We can attest that enamel mugs are forever.)

“So, I’ll just be downstairs, fixing something.”




StrictlyVC: October 4, 2017

Hello! Hope you’re having a wonderful Wednesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Uber had its big board meeting yesterday and it sounds like some progress was made. Reportedly, the 11-person board agreed to switch to a new, “one share, one vote” type structure, which reduces the clout of former CEO Travis Kalanick along with some other earlier investors, including Benchmark. (Investor Shervin Pishevar, who held an observer role for a couple of years, is threatening to launch a class-action lawsuit over the decision, writing to the board yesterday that its actions were “unfair and illegal” and threatening to “be relentless in rectifying this wrong. We will hold these people accountable under the law.” Pishevar added that the company is “robbing” both “employees and advisors” of their “hard-earned shareholder rights worth billions in value.” (We’re not sure how hard the advisors worked, but . . .)

Meanwhile, SoftBank, whose modus operandi we wrote about yesterday, looks to get getting its wish. According to reports, the Japanese conglomerate, alongside the U.S. investment group Dragoneer, can move forward and invest up to $1.25 billion in Uber at the $68 billion valuation  it was assigned in late 2015 — as long as it can find sellers. The syndicate is also looking to buy up to $10 billion worth of secondary shares at a valuation of $50 billion, says Recode. Again, this is contingent on its ability to find shareholders who are ready to cash out ahead of an expected 2019 IPO.

Not last, Uber’s directors voted to add six new seats to make a 17-member board, reports the New York Times. SoftBank would get two of the new seats, with another going to an independent chairman or chairwoman and three going to new independent directors. That should safely make any kind of meaningful individual participation completely impossible. (For what it’s worth, the WSJ ran some interesting data last year on the boards of the biggest U.S. companies.)

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Roofstock, a Marketplace for Single-Family Homes with Tenants, Raises $35 Million

Roofstock is a two-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based marketplace for buyers and sellers of single-family homes that have tenants residing in them. The rather specific idea behind it is appealing on a couple of levels, including because both institutional and retail investors can buy and sell homes without forcing renters to leave the property during a transaction — a big problem for many families in the Bay Area, for example.

Buyers also avoid the hassle of finding renters, gaining a property that will presumably generate cash flow from the outset.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that VCs like it, too. In fact, today, the 65-person company is announcing $35 million in Series C funding led by Canvas Ventures that brings its total funding to just less than $70 million altogether. Other participants in the round include earlier backers Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Nyca Partners, QED Investors, and FJ Labs.

Yesterday, to learn more, we had a quick exchange about the round with Roofstock cofounder and CEO Gary Beasley, who was previously the co-CEO of Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust, one of the largest publicly traded single family rental (SFR) companies in the U.S. Earlier in his career, Beasley also spent more than two years as CEO of Waypoint Homes, an operating company that acquires, renovates, leases and manages a portfolio of rental homes in markets around the country.

How many properties have sold on Roofstock so far?

We don’t disclose the absolute number of properties sold on the platform, but it represents hundreds of millions of dollars in value this year alone.

How, or where, does the company drum up inventory?

Properties are broadly sourced, from small retail sellers to mid and large institutions.

Is there anything preventing new landlords from increasing the rent of tenants as soon as a property changes hands?

Landlords need to honor existing leases and follow local laws and regulations when contemplating rent increases.

Where does Roofstock operate — in what markets?

We have listings in 15 markets across the U.S., each of which is unique and presents different characteristics and opportunities for investors to gain real estate exposure.

Do you have partnerships with other real estate brokers?

More here.

New Fundings

Bluecore, a four-year-old, New York-based SaaS company that aims to help retail marketing organizations make smarter decisions, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investors Georgian Partners, FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Clearsurance, a two-year-old, Newburyport, Ma.-based crowdsourced review, rating and educational platform for the insurance industry, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by the company’s founder and CEO, Michael Crowe, with participation from other investors, including Davis Capital Partners. More here.

Fuel50, a six-year-old, Redondo Beach, Ca.-based company whose “career path” software aims to boost engagement and retention at big companies, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding, including from Rincon Venture Partners and Bonfire Ventures. More here.

Glovo, a nearly two-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based on-demand delivery company similar to Postmates in the U.S., has  €30 million ($35 million) in Series B funding led by Rakuten Capital, and Cathay Innovation. Earlier investors Seaya Ventures, Entreé Capital, Caixa Capital Risk, and Bonsai Venture Capital also participated. TechCrunch has more here.

Grateful Ventures, a three-year-old, Phoenix, Az.-based online media company that focuses on lifestyle content, including videos about food and cooking, has raised an undisclosed amount of less than $10 million from Gannett Co, says Reuters. More here.

Grow, a two-year-old, New York-based company at work on a “smart planter” for gardening, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding led by Resolute Ventures. More here.

Immatics, a 17-year-old, Tübingen, Germany-based developer of cancer immunotherapies, has raised $58 million in Series E funding from Amgen, along with earlier backers Dievini Hopp Biotech and Wellington Partners. FierceBiotech has more here.

Infinidat, a six-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based data-storage firm led by EMC co-founder Moshe Yanai, has raised $95 million in Series C funding at a $1.6 billion valuation. Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing led the round, with participation from earlier backer TPG Growth. Xconomy has more here.

Numetric, a two-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based business intelligence tools company, just raised nearly $13 million in funding from investors, including Insight Venture Partners, EPIC Ventures, Tim Draper, and Aaron Skonnard of Pluralsight. More here.

PatientWisdom, a two-year-old, New Haven, Ct.-based digital application that collects and curates patient stories, has an undisclosed amount of funding, including from OSF Ventures. More here.

Pensa, a four-month-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based cloud platform that enables the adoption of virtual data centers, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by March Capital Partners. More here.

Radar, a 1.5-year-old, New Yor-based location platform for mobile apps, raised $2 million in seed funding led by Accel Partners, says Fortune. Other investors in the round include Expa and Fuel Capital. More here.

TripActions, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based travel management software startup, has added $12.5 million to a Series A round that’s now closing with $27.1 million altogether. Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by other investors, including Zeev Ventures. More here.

Urgent.ly, a 4.5-year-old, Vienna, Va.-based digital roadside assistance platform, has raised $10 million in Series B funding, including from American Tire Distributors, Verizon Ventures and Forté Ventures. More here.

Vestwell, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based maker of software for registered financial advisors, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by F-Prime Capital Partners, with participation from Commerce Ventures, FinTech Collective and Primary Venture Partners. Built in NYC has more here.

New Funds

The Rise Fund, a social impact private equity fund from TPG Capital, has closed with $2 billion in capital commitments, according to Bloomberg https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-03/tpg-seals-record-2-billion-for-rise-impact-fund-co-led-by-bono. The brainchild of TPG Growth’s head honcho Bill McGlashan, the team had announced it would begin raising this vehicle last December.

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Exits

Apple has acqui-hired the team from a two-year-old, New York-based messaging assistant called Init.ai to work on Siri. (Please, God, let them improve Siri.) The company had raised an undisclosed amount of venture funding last year, including from Boldstart Ventures, Danmar Capital and Techstars. TechCrunch has the scoop here.

Boston Scientific Corp is acquiring Apama Medical, a Campbell, Calif.-based medical device firm, for $300 million, which includes $175 million in cash upfront. According to Crunchbase, Apama had raised more than $34 million in funding, including from Ascension Ventures, Medvance Incubator Partners, ONSET Ventures and Incept. It also secured $6.5 million in debt last year from Silicon Valley Bank. Mass Device has more here.

People

Laurene Powell Jobs has agreed to acquire around a 20 percent stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, a Ted Leonsis-led sports empire that owns the Washington Wizards, among other things. The deal puts Jobs in a very small group of female NBA owners. CNBC has more here.

Mark Kraynak has joined San Francisco-based Aspect Ventures as an entrepreneu-in-residence. Kraynak was previously an executive at the publicly traded cybersecurity company Imperva for nearly 13 years; he’ll help support Aspect’s portfolio companies, particularly those focused on cybersecurity. (These now account for one-fourth of the firm’s portfolio.)

The venture firm Relay Ventures announced some moves last week that we’d forgotten to share, adding Spiros Michalakis, a professor of quantum physics at Caltech, as a “professor-in-residence”; Jessica Tsoong, whose company, WiFSLAM sold to Apple in 2013, as an entrepreneur-in-residence; and Kady Srinivasan, who is the head of digital market at Dropbox, as a venture advisor. The firm also promoted Jake Cassaday, who works in its Toronto office, to associate partner.

Vanity Fair is hosting its “New Establishment Summit” in L.A. today, for the second day in a row. You can catch the live stream here.

Data

Crunchbase just released its second “women in ventures” report, and the update is encouraging.

Essential Reads

Google held a press conference today in San Francisco, where the company announced everything from new phones to wearable cameras. You can check out what you missed right here.

Jack Dorsey returned to Twitter two years ago, but many believe he hasn’t moved quick enough.

A look at Apple and Qualcomm‘s billion-dollar war over an $18 part.

Detours

Every Harrison Ford performance ranked.

Ten Instagram hacks to up your game.

What.

Retail Therapy

An electric tire pump that fits in your pocket.




StrictlyVC: October 3, 2017

Hi! Thanks so much to the many of you who wrote in yesterday, trying to help us out with this new format. We fixed up a few things (the email header, the unsubscribe link). Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a fix for those of you who use Outlook but we’re working on it!

Top News in the A.M.

Put away the popcorn and candy bars. Judge William Alsup just ruled that the Waymo versus Uber trial would be delayed until December 4.

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What SoftBank Really Wants

Some in Silicon Valley aren’t quite sure what to make of SoftBank and its massive, roughly $100 billion Vision Fund. At times, they say privately, it looks like a drunken gunslinger, firing off massive checks in quick succession.

But sources close to SoftBank say there is a method to its madness. In fact, these same sources say SoftBank’s investors believe they’ll see at least a 20 percent internal rate of return (IRR) over time from Vision Fund as it funds whole sectors being disrupted by artificial intelligence and machine learning — from pharma, to utilities, to ridesharing — and whose data SoftBank can leverage into an endless stream of opportunities.

The idea, these people say, is not to produce venture-like returns. The idea is instead to return more money to investors than private equity firms like KKR, whose first 18 private equity funds wound up delivering more than two times total capital invested on a gross basis, and produced a net IRR of 18.9 percent. Says one source close to SoftBank, “If someone is investing in [Vision Fund], he’s expecting to get better returns than with KKR and Blackstone.”

Indeed, 20 percent IRR over seven years — the time SoftBank estimates it will take most of Vision Fund’s bets to play out — is the “worst-case scenario” says one source. “Best case,” adds this person, is “investors get close to what Masa has done in the past.”

It’s a reference to the 44 percent IRR on investments that SoftBank can boast over its 18-year history, though more than one critic has noted that much of this number is rooted in SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son’s early bet on Alibaba, beginning in 2000. Son would eventually pour $58 million into the company; those holdings, which SoftBank maintains, save for a $10 billion chunk it sold to finance another purchase, are currently worth $130 billion.

Higher and higher

Doing back-of-the-napkin math on this 20 percent IRR — whether over seven years or a more traditional 10-year time frame — would translate into between $130 billion and $430 billion for SoftBank’s investors — minus its initial investments, management fees and the debt that makes up roughly $44 billion of Vision Fund’s total holdings.

That’s a whole lot of capital to generate for limited partners, so how does it do it? SoftBank thinks it can get there largely through ridesharing, say sources familiar with its thinking. More specifically, SoftBank is counting on the smooth evolution of today’s rideshare companies into vast networks of self-driving taxis.

It has already made an array of bets that underscore this theme, including on the China-based ride-hail giant Didi Chuxingin Grab, the dominant ride-hail startup in Southeast Asia; and in Ola, India’s leading ride-hailing company, which reportedly closed on $2 billion just yesterday, including from SoftBank.

Helping grow a U.S. player is also crucial to its strategy, and SoftBank has been openly unsentimental about whether that means funding Uber or Lyft, though Uber would seem to be its strong preference. Says one source close of a meeting that’s slated to take place today, wherein Uber’s directors will vote on whether to go forward with a $10 billion stock sale to SoftBank: “Uber should be scared of SoftBank funding Lyft. They better take [the money].”

We’ll see soon enough how scared or not Uber may be of scorning SoftBank. Certainly, though, concern about the companies that SoftBank doesn’t fund is growing in Silicon Valley.

More here.

New Fundings

Angaza, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based pay-as-you-go platform company, has raised $10.5 million in Series B funding led by Emerson Collective, with participation from Rethink Impact,Salesforce VenturesSocial Capital, and the Stanford StartX fund. TechCrunch has more here.

AtScale, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based business intelligence platform, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Atlantic Bridge. TechCrunch has more here.

CathWorks, a four-year-old, Israel-based developer of non-invasive FFR measurements for guiding coronary interventions, has raised $15.8 million in Series B funding co-led by Quark Ventures and Triventures. Other investors in the round included Planven InvestmentsPontifaxCorundum Open Innovation andBioStar Ventures. Mass Device has more here.

Cullinan Oncology, a new, Cambridge, Mass.-based cancer drug development company led by former Intarcia Therapeutics execOwen Hughes, has raised $150 million in funding from MPM Capital and F2 Ventures. Xconomy has more here.

EnvoyGlobal, a 19-year-old, Chicago-based maker of compliance management software for immigrant employees, has raised $21 million in Series C funding led by Catalyst Investors, with participation from General Catalyst Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Forensic Logic, a 14-year-old, Walnut Creek, Ca.-based company that sells network search technology and cloud-based information services to law enforcement, has raised $20 million in growth equity funding from Mainsail PartnersMore here.

Frame.io, a two-year-old, New York-based collaboration platform for the video industry, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led byFirstMark Capital, with participation from earlier investors including Accel PartnersSignalFire and Shasta Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

HYPR Corp, a three-year-old, New York-based company whose authentication technology secures traditional passwords and also biometrics like fingerprints, faces and voices, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led RRE Ventures, with participation from earlier backers RTP VenturesBoldstart Ventures, and Mesh Ventures participated. TechCrunch has more here.

Latitude Geographics Group, an 18-year-old, Victoria, B.C.-based maker of web-based mapping software and related geographic information system (GIS), capabilities has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Battery VenturesMore here.

Level Ex, a two-year-old, Chicago-based virtual surgery mobile app maker, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by 4490 Ventures, with participation from JAZZ Venture Partners and Pritzker Group Venture CapitalMore here.

Nanotronics, a seven-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based developer of an advanced automated microscope, has raised $30 million in Series D funding led by Investment Corporation of Dubai, with participation from earlier investor Founders Fund. The company has now raised $71 million altogether. More here.

MessageBird, a six-year-old, Amsterdam-based cloud communications company, just raised $60 million in Series A funding from Accel Partners and Atomico, after founder and CEO Robert Vis bootstrapped it for six years. Fortune has more here.

Ola, a seven-year-old, Bengalaru, India-based ride-hail company, has raised $2 billion in fresh funding from new investors, includingSoftBank and Tencent Holdings. Bloomberg has more here.

OpsRamp, a three-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based enterprise IT management platform for hybrid environments, has raised $20 million in funding from Sapphire Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Recursion Pharmaceuticals, a four-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based drug discovery startup that leverages AI, has raised $60 million in Series B funding led by Data Collective. Other investors in the round include MubadalaMenlo VenturesCRVTwo Sigma and earlier backers Lux Capital, Obvious VenturesAdvantage CapitalFelicisEpi and AME. TechCrunch has more here.

STARC Systems, a three-year-old, Brunswick, Me-based maker of easy-to-install, reusable safety barriers for construction sites, has raised $3.5 million in funding led by Blue Heron CapitalMore here.

TrademarkNow, a five-year-old, New York-based trademark management platform, has raised €3 million from Karma Ventures,Balderton Capital and Montiko GmbH. It also has landed a €2 million loan from Finnvera. Tech.eu has more here.

Truphone, an 11-year-old, London-based mobile telecommunications company, has raised a whopping $339 million in funding, including from Minden and Vollin Holdings. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Salesforce just launched a $50 million impact investing fund that will focus on companies doing innovative impact work, using Salesforce’s software in the fields of workplace development, equality, sustainability, and the social sector. Fast Company has more here.

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IPOs

ForeScout Technologies, a 17-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based cybersecurity company, has filed for an $100 million IPO. The company’s biggest outside shareholders include Accel Partners,Amadeus CapitalMeritech Capital PartnersPitango, and Wellington ManagementMore here.

Exits

Body Labs, a company with a stated aim of creating true-to-life 3D body models to support various business-to-business software applications — such as virtually trying on clothes or photorealistic avatars for gaming. TechCrunch sources say the price was roughly $70 million. It has the scoop here.

Microsoft announced today that it has acquired the social VR app AltspaceVR, whose app allows users across headset and web platforms to join 3D chat rooms to play games, watch videos and attend events. In July, the company said it was shutting down, after a funding round failed to materialize. Weeks later, it suggested that a “third party” had come to its rescue. More here.

ServiceNow, best known for helping large organizations organize field service and help desk activity, has acquired a 16-year-old, San Diego-based design firm called Telepathy for undisclosed terms. TechCrunch has more here.

StackCommerce, a company that sells articles sponsored by brands and published on sites, has acquired Joyus, a San Francisco-based online video marketing company. Terms aren’t being disclosed. According to Crunchbase, Joyus had raised $67.4 million in funding from investors, including Marker CapitalInterWest Partners,Accel Partners and Time Warner Investments. TechCrunch has more here.

Walmart has acquired Parcel, a New York-based delivery startup. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the purchase price was less than $10 million, according to Recode. Parcel had raised $2 million from investors, including Galvanize VenturesGreat Oaks Venture CapitalLiberty City Ventures, and Interplay Ventures.

People

A startup led by former Facebook and Google employees is launching a cryptocurrency index fund backed by AngelList founder Naval RavikantMore here.

Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith just blamed the company’s giant data breach on a single person who failed to deploy patch. More here.

Jobs

Albion Capital, the 21-year-old, early-stage, U.K.-based venture firm, is looking to hire an investment associate. The job is in London.

Essential Reads

Here’s the top-secret report of what Uber knew before it acquired a controversial trucking startup.

Does even Mark Zuckerberg know what Facebook is?

Detours

The graphic designer behind the Papyrus font: “If I can take this time to apologize to my brother and sister graphic designers . . .”

Retail Therapy

VC Alan Saltzman is selling his Atherton estate for $40 million. (It’s been on the market since March, so if you want to wheel and deal . . .)




StrictlyVC: October 2, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy Monday, hope you had a great weekend.:)

Quick mention: we’ve been re-routed to a new product by our email service provider that mostly looks the same but is better optimized for mobile, we think/hope. If you see anything funky in the formatting, let us know? (We’re aware that we don’t quite have the “unsubscribe” link figured out below but tell us if you spy anything else.)

Top News in the A.M.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments today regarding whether employers can require employees to give up the right to sue as a group. For Silicon Valley, where companies routinely ask staffers to forfeit this right, the outcome could have huge ramifications. Wired takes a look here.

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“LPs Have a License Now to Ask Questions That are Uncomfortable”

Last Wednesday night, at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco, this editor sat down with Michael Kim of Cendana Capital and Elizabeth “Beezer” Clarkson of Sapphire Ventures. I’d invited these fund of fund managers to a StrictlyVC event as they’re two of very few limited partners — meaning people who give VCs money to invest — who speak publicly about their work.

Typically, LPs prefer to operate in the shadows so they won’t be inundated with pitches by venture firms looking for capital. But they also refrain from raising their hand because they are “sheep,” said Kim, whose firm has stakes in SoftTechVC, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and roughly two dozen other firms.

Noting that many LPs work for institutions like pension funds and universities and have investment committees to answer to, he borrowed the old catchphrase that “no one ever got fired for buying IBM,” meaning LPs often prefer to write checks to established firms rather than gamble on up-and-comers. (For good measure, Kim also called his LP peers “not that smart, typically.”)

It was that kind of conversation, to the crowd’s delight. More outtakes from our chat with Kim and Clarkson — whose bets include Data Collective, August Capital, and Point Nine Ventures in Berlin — follows here.

Let’s start with sexual harassment, an issue that rocked Silicon Valley this summer. How does someone with the reported reputation of an investor like Justin Caldbeck raise a fund — and continue to raise funds?

MK: First, Cendana invests in seed funds; we did not invest in [the fund Caldbeck cofounded] Binary, which is a Series A fund. But I would have to say that when I heard about the story, I was thinking, ‘It finally came out.’ Those topics were out in the market for at least two years, and I know a lot of reporters were looking into it, they just couldn’t get people to go on record. I think that Reed [Albergotti, the reporter who broke the Binary story] was able to [persuade his sources to speak up] represents a sea change in terms of how people are viewing the topics around this, and it’s a great thing.<

So LPs knew.

MK: I would say a lot of LPs probably didn’t know, because I don’t think most LPs do their work and they don’t do their due diligence. If they’d scratched the surface, it would have been very obvious to them.

Beezer, what do you think?

BC: I think Michael is right about there being a sea change. Over the summer, you had so many people coming forward about Binary, and what was going on in some [other] portfolio companies – there was suddenly pre all that and post all that, and the nice thing is that I now have people saying, “I would probably have never told an LP before, but I want to tell you X.”  This information is now connecting.

More here.

New Fundings

Beehive, a four-year-old, Dubai-based peer-to-peer lending platform, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from the Riyad TAQNIA Fund and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund. Forbes has more here.

Burrow, a 1.5-year-old, London-based online mortgage broker that was formerly known as Dwell, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Passion Capital. UKTN has more here.

Cloud4Wi, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based location analytics and marketing platform, raised $11.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Opus Capital and United VenturesMore here.

KSQ Therapeutics, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based drug discovery startup that utilizes CRISP-based screening tools, has raised $76 million in funding led by Flagship Pioneering, with participation from Polaris PartnersARCH Venture Partners, andAlexandria Equities. The company also announced that former Genzyme CEO David Meeker will be its new CEO. More here.

Kryon Systems, an eight-year-old, Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based company that has developed a robotic process automation platform, just raised $12 million in Series B funding, including from Aquiline Technology Growth and Vertex Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Peptilogics, a new, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based developer of a peptide platform to treat multidrug-resistant bacterial infections, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from Peter Thiel, serial entrepreneur Stefan Roever and BlueTree VenturesMore here.

Reachify, a two-year-old, New York-based business intelligence platform aiming to make it easier for enterprises to know which vendors to enterprise software vendors to use, has raised $1.5 million in funding led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from NEAFemale Founders FundBeanstalk Ventures andCommerce VenturesMore here.

Tecovas, a two-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based direct-to-consumer western brand, has raised $2.6 million in funding led by YETI Capital, with participation from earlier backers, including Trunk Club founder and former CEO Brian SpalyMore here.

New Funds

Afore Capital, a year-old, San Francisco-based venture capital firm, has closed its pre-seed venture fund with $47 million in capital commitments. We’ll have more on this effort over at TechCrunch later today.

NFX Guild, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based early-stage venture firm and accelerator program cofounded by James Currier,Stan Chudnovsky and Gigi Levy (the team also brought in former Trulia CEO Pete Flint last year), is looking to raise upwards of $150 million for a new fund, shows a new SEC filing. We wrote about the firm’s most recent “demo day” here.

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IPOs

CarGurus, an 11-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based profitable(!) car marketplace, has revealed plans to raised $132 million in an initial public offering of 9.4 million shares at $13 to $15 each. The company’s biggest outside backers include Allen & Co., Spinnaker Capital’s Anastasios Parafestas, and T. Rowe Price. Xconomy has more here.

People

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick appointed two directors late Friday afternoon, without consulting new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi or other members of the board. The company’s directors — including, presumably, new additions Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain — are scheduled to meet tomorrow to potentially revamp the company’s corporate governance. According to Recode, the proposal they plan to discuss — supported by Khosrowshahi  — would drastically limit Kalanick’s voting power and ability to return to leadership at Uber, which suddenly seems more crucial than ever to the company’s continued success. Indeed, last night, Khosrowshahi sent a letter to the the staff of the troubled car-hailing company, calling Kalanick’s actions “disappointing news” and “highly unusual.” More here.

In what sure seems like related news but Uber says is not: Jo Bertram, the company’s top executive in London, has quit for “an exciting new opportunity.” Business Insider has the story here.

Ben Narasin, who’d joined Canvas Venture Partners in the fall of 2015 and left recently, has headed to the Sand Hill Road offices of New Enterprise Associates, reports Axios. Narasin has worked with the firm on a number of past deals, including co-leading a seed round with NEA in the analytics company Branch Metrics.

Sandhya Venkatachalam, a cofounder of Centerview Capital, has joined Social Capital to lead growth equity investing. Fortune has the story here.

Jobs

New Enterprise Associates is looking to hire a consumer internet-focused analyst. The new hire will work in both Menlo Park and San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Facebook say it’s adding 1,000 people to its global ads review teams over the next year  and investing more in machine learning to better understand when to flag and take down ads. TechCrunch has much more here.

Say goodbye to your workarounds. Google is doing away with a “first click free” policy that requires subscription-based news outlets to offer three free articles a day through its search and news features (allowing users to skirt pay walls in the process). The New York Times has more here.

Goldman Sachs is reportedly exploring how it could help clients trade bitcoin and other digital currencies. Bloomberg has more here.

The ugly truth about America’s economy in just four words.

Detours

Can the “Uber of trash” clean up its own business?

Papyrus!

Essential Reads

A connected home security system, for $199.




StrictlyVC: September 29, 2017

We didn’t forget you (it’s been that kind of day). Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.

Also! We just posted pictures from Wednesday night’s event; we’ll have more content in the coming days, too. Thanks very much again to those of you who came out to spend the evening with us.:)

See you Monday.

Top News in the A.M.

Million of PCs, including Macs, could be vulnerable to a new kind of firmware hack.

Sponsored By . . .

Today’s StrictlyVC comes to you courtesy of Treble, a boutique PR agency with a unique value prop for both VC firms and venture-backed startups. Treble is an immersive partner for VC firms to propel exits across the spectrum of your portfolio investments. For startups, we optimally align early and collectively scale as we drive brand differentiation, strategic partnerships and revenue. We’ve achieved six exits since 2013, including StackEngine (acquired by Oracle), Boxer (acquired by VMware) and Joyride (acquired by Google). With expertise in B2B tech spanning across AI, big data, cloud, SaaS and cybersecurity combined with a growing B2C practice, Treble is on stand-by to help your brand rise above the noise. Contact us here.

Some VCs Want to Fund ICOs; Here’s What’s Tripping Them Up

Venture capitalists are in a pickle. Companies have raised more than $1.7 billion through initial coin offerings, or ICOs, this year by selling their own customized virtual currencies. For the companies, the trend is a godsend. They can raise the money and use it to fuel new projects without having to give away a piece of their company to venture capitalists. Meanwhile, both accredited and non-accredited investors are buying the tokens on the assumption that once these these projects are completed, their tokens will balloon in value.

Given ICOs’ momentum, it’s no wonder that a growing number of startups are contemplating them. Equally unsurprising is that some VCs, including Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, have been looking to capitalize on the trend, in some cases, by participating in what are called pre-sales of companies’ ICOs, wherein they’re purchasing tokens at a discount in exchange for diving in early.

Still plenty of other investors are nervous, and for good reason, starting with the SEC, which hasn’t offered much guidance to date relating to ICOs. Though the agency said in July that it thinks some virtual currencies should be considered securities and therefore made subject to federal securities laws, it’s currently making determinations on a case-by-case basis, depending on “facts and circumstances.”

That kind of wait-and-see stance largely explains why general partner Jules Maltz of Institutional Venture Partners says he’s “actually pretty scared” of ICOs. Speaking at a StrictlyVC event hosted earlier this week by this editor, he told the crowd, “A few of our companies have asked us about them and my conservative feedback to them has been, ‘I don’t want to go to jail as a board member.’ Seriously,” he added. “If you’re issuing something that could be deemed a security, and then everything goes to pieces, and the board wasn’t legally on top of it, I think the companies and the CEO [will be liable].”

Speaking alongside Maltz at the event, Megan Quinn, a general partner at Spark Capital, said her firm is also “treading pretty carefully” when it comes to ICOs, on the assumption that it’s a “matter of when, not if, the SEC becomes much more involved.” Indeed, after she noted that Spark is a venture investor in the popular chat app Kik, which this week closed its high-profile ICO with $100 million, Maltz asked Quinn if Spark has a board seat with the company. Quinn quickly noted that they are “board observers,” to chuckles from the crowd.

Yet the SEC may not even be the biggest complication right now, said two other speakers who’d come to address the crowd of largely VCs and founders, and who spend their days and nights focused on cryptocurrency issues.

Stan Miroshnik, an L.A.-based banker whose outfit, Element Group, is exclusively focused on the digital token capital markets, said that simply figuring out how to appraise a venture-backed company that has also raised money through an ICO is proving a minefield.

Asked specifically how VCs are calculating tokens on their balance sheets and whether these might impact valuations, Miroshnik said he’d “had this same conversation with [global accounting firm] Deloitte this week, and the answer was something like, ‘We have no idea.’ ”

The crowd laughed, but Miroshnik wasn’t joking.

More here.

New Fundings

Bastille, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based security startup, has raised $27 million in Series B funding, including from Bessemer Venture PartnersSpinnaker TrustComcast VenturesBallentine Partners and Keel FundsMore here.

DreamJay, a three-year-old San Francisco-based maker of a medical app that helps prevent nightmares, raised $2.3 million in Series A funding led by Joint Polish Investment Fund, with participation from Nordic Makers. Newscenter.io has more here.

Drive.ai, a two-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based developer of artificial intelligence software for autonomous vehicles, has raised $15 million in funding from Grab. The company will open an office Singapore as part of the round, which brings its total funding to $77 million. Business Insider has more here.

Enevo, a seven-year-old, Espoo, Finland-based, dumpster sensor tech company that’s now expanding into waste services, has raised $12 million in funding led by Lifeline VenturesMore here.

MariaDB, the eight-year-old, Espoo, Finland-based company behind one of the web’s most popular open source database servers, has raised $27 million in fresh funding led by Alibaba, which is contributing around €20 million, says TechCrunch. More here.

Peptilogics, a four-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based pre-clinical stage company that’s aiming to treat multidrug-resistant bacterial infections, raised $5.5 million in Series A funding. Investors include Peter ThielStefan Roever and BlueTree Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.

Signostics, a 12-year-old, Seattle-based ultrasound tool for bladder and kidney care, raised $35 million in funding from KKR. MassDevice has more here.

Trellis, a 3.5-year-old, Toronto, Ontario-based startup that makes cannabis inventory management software, raised $2 million in funding led by Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital, with participation from GatewayArgonautic Ventures and One Gun. Business Insider has more here.

Varjo Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, Helsinki, Finland-based virtual and augmented reality headset developer, has raised $8.2 million in Series A funding, including from EQT VenturesLifeline Ventures, and The Venture Reality Fund. VentureBeat has more here.

New Funds

Defy Partners, a Woodside, Ca-based investment firm founded by Trae Vassallo, formerly of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Neil Sequeira, formerly a managing director at General Catalyst Partners, has raised $151 for its inaugural fund, shows an SEC filing. An earlier filing had suggested their target was $125 million so the fund was apparently oversubscribed.

Two former 500 Startups partners, Elizabeth Yin and Eric Bahn, are trying to raise up to $50 million for a new venture capital effort called Hustle Fund, according to an SEC filing. A source tells Axios that the fund will back pre-seed startups.

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IPOs

Rovio, maker of the Angry Birds gaming franchise, saw a small pop of 4.3 percent in its first day of trading as a public company today, but “like the very birds that get catapulted in Rovio’s original blockbuster game, the rise was not to last,” says Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch. More here.

Exits

Apple has quietly acquired a small French startup called Regaind for unknown terms,  says TechCrunch. The French company, which had raised a bit less than $500,000 from Side Capital. has been working on a computer vision API to analyze the content of photos. More here.

People

German police yesterday arrested and detained Wolfgang Hatz, who’d previously been one of Volkswagen Group’s highest-ranking engineers. He’s the most senior executive to be arrested to date in connection with the scandal. Fortune has more here.

Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will go to London to meet Tuesday the city’s transport commissioner following the city’s decision to withdraw Uber’s licensing. TechCrunch has more here.

Elon Musk wants to fly you to London on a hypersonic space rocket airline? How crazy is that really?

Three women have sued Oracle for allegedly paying women less than men in similar jobs, and they are seeking class-action status on behalf of other women who worked at Oracle. The Information has the story here.

Essential Reads

It may be part of the world’s biggest retailer now, but Jet still has its own personality and that’s no accident.

Detours

How you should, and should not, cook with garlic.

A smartphone that keeps away mosquitoes.

What the critics are saying about “Blade Runner 2049.”

Retail Therapy

Time to head to the Scottish Headlands((?).




StrictlyVC: September 28, 2017

Happy Thursday! We had *so much fun* last night. Thank you, everyone who made it to the party. Huge thanks, too, to our speakers, who were candid, amusing, informative and, much to our enjoyment, not afraid to throw a lil’ shade here and there. Specifically, thanks to Megan Quinn of Spark Capital, Jules Maltz of IVP, Alex Rodrigues of Embark, Marco Santori of Cooley, Stan Miroshnik of Element Group, Beezer Clarkson of Sapphire Ventures, Michael Kim of Cendana Capital, Sarah McBride of Bloomberg, and Lora Kolodny of CNBC.

Thanks again, too, to our highly appreciated sponsors Ballou PRBolt, and Rosebud Communications.

We’re still recovering today, but we’ll let you know about our first event of 2018 as soon as we figure it out. In the meantime, pictures and content coming soon!

Top News in the A.M.

Twitter may have been used even more extensively than Facebook as a tool for Russian interference.

TaskRabbit, the on-demand platform for hiring people to tackle all kinds of tasks, including assembling furniture, has been acquired by Ikea, renowned maker of frustrating-to-assemble furniture. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but TaskRabbit had raised nearly $40 million from VCs, including Shasta VenturesFounders FundFloodgate and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

Today’s StrictlyVC comes to you courtesy of Treble, a boutique PR agency with a unique value prop for both VC firms and venture-backed startups. Treble is an immersive partner for VC firms to propel exits across the spectrum of your portfolio investments. For startups, we optimally align early and collectively scale as we drive brand differentiation, strategic partnerships and revenue. We’ve achieved six exits since 2013, including StackEngine (acquired by Oracle), Boxer (acquired by VMware) and Joyride (acquired by Google). With expertise in B2B tech spanning across AI, big data, cloud, SaaS and cybersecurity combined with a growing B2C practice, Treble is on stand-by to help your brand rise above the noise. Contact us here.

A Quick Look at the Evolving Software Engineering Jobs Market

Hired, a recruiting platform that connects companies with tech talent, published a new report this week on the state of software engineering jobs that suggests contract workers can make more than full-time software engineers.

According to its data, which comes from 175,000 interview requests from 10,000 companies on the platform (they have to state how much they are willing to pay an applicant early on in the process), the average 1099 tech contractor currently commands $71 per hour; that comes out to $147,680 a year, assuming a 40-hour work week.

In comparison, full-time tech workers make on average $122,762 per year.

Of course, freelance work is often uneven, even for software engineers. Having to pay for one’s benefits, including insurance and retirement, is costly, too. And no one covers contractors’ vacation time. Any time off means lost wages.

That could be one reason that companies are increasingly looking for contract workers, acknowledges Hired CEO Mehul Patel, who we spoke with earlier this week. He tells us Hired has seen a “quadrupling” of companies that are open to hiring freelancers.

Still, he doesn’t agree that in all, or even most, cases, hiring companies are trying to keep from paying for costly benefits and vacation packages.

More here.

New Fundings

Anchor, a two-year-old, New York-based audio broadcasting platform, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by GV, with participation from Accel PartnersThe Chernin GroupEniac VenturesHomebrew, Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman and others. The company has now raised $15 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Doing Now, a Beijing-based sports training group, has raised $75 million in Series A funding led by Yao Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Heetch, a four-year-old, Paris, France-based ride-sharing app that’s available to use in a growing number of European cities, has raised $12 million in funding led by Felix Capital, Alven Capital, and Via HD. Tech.eu has more here.

LetGo, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that has built a fast-growing mobile marketplace for people to buy and sell used goods, has quietly raised another $100 million in funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion, reports TechCrunch. The round reportedly involves earlier investors; these include 14WAccel PartnersEight Roads VenturesFJ LabsInsight Venture PartnersMangroveNaspersNew Enterprise AssociatesNextView and Northzone. The company has now raised $375 million altogether. More here.

Onfido, a five-year-old, London-based company that makes identity verification software, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Crane Venture Partners, with participation from Microsoft Ventures and Salesforce VenturesMore here.

Qingting FM, a six-year-old, Shanghai, China-based audio content platform that covers news, finance, education and more, has raised $150 million in Series E funding co-led by We Capital and Baidu, with participation from China Minsheng Investment GroupShenzhen Guozhong Venture Capital and Genimous Technology.

Suishou, an eight-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based Chinese personal finance management platform, has raised $200 million in Series C funding led by KKR‘s Asian Fund III, which it closed with $9.3 billion back in June. China Money Network has more here.

VoxelCloud, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based company that’s using cloud computing and AI to help medical practitioners better interpret medical images and clinical data, has raised $15 million in Series A-plus funding led by Tencent Holdings. The company had raised $10 million from Sequoia Capital just four months ago. More here.

Yooji, a five-year-old, France-based organic baby food startup, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Danone. The deal marks the  fourth investment in a year for Danone Manifesto Ventures, the company’s venture arm, founded last year. Reuters has more here.

New Funds

According to Axios, former Airbnb CFO Andrew Swain, who spent two years in the role and left in 2014, is forming a new venture fund with a former Airbnb director of product, Jonathan Golden, who left the company in July after a six-year run. Their firm is called Designed Partners, and they’re reportedly looking to raise $60 million. Looks like they have a placeholder site here.

Redpoint Ventures, the 18-year-old, Bay Area venture firm, is raising up to $400 million for its third growth fund, shows an SEC filing. The firm closed its first growth fund with $250 million in 2007 and its second, a $400 million vehicle, in late 2011.

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IPOs

Lyft is close to hiring an IPO advisory firm, in the first concrete step by the second biggest U.S. ride service company to become publicly listed, reports Reuters. More here.

Nightstar Therapeutics, a four-year-old, London-based gene therapy company focused on rare inherited retinal diseases, raised $75 million in its IPO. The company priced 5.4 million shares at $14 per share and began trading on Nasdaq today. (It’s right now trading at around $21.50.) The biggest outside shareholders in the company (as of this morning) were New Enterprise Associates and Wellington Management.

NuCana, a 20-year-old, UK-based developer of cancer therapeutics, has raised $100 million in its IPO. The company priced 6.7 million shares at $15 per share for an initial market cap of around $526 million. The company began trading on Nasdaq this morning and its share price is right now $16ish per share. Its biggest outside shareholders heading into the offering were Sofinnova VenturesMorningside Ventures and Scottish Enterprise.

Video streaming pioneer Roku is off to the races since going public on the stock market. After pricing its IPO shares at $14, the company’s shares began trading at $15.78 per share this morning and they’re now above $18 apiece, a jump of roughly 30 percent. TechCrunch has more here.

Exits

Daimler — the German car giant that owns Mercedes-Benz among other brands — has made one more acquisition to further its reach in ridesharing, acquired Flinc, a startup also out of Germany that has built a platform and app for peer-to-peer-style carpooling. Six-year-old Flinc had raised an undisclosed amount of money, including  from General Motors Ventures. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has the story here.

Naspers is paying $7775 million to acquire half of Rocket Internet’s stake in Delivery Hero, the meal delivery company that went public in June. The deal increase Naspers’s stake in the company to 23.6 percent. TechCrunch has more here.

The parent company of the Tokyo-based games giant Nexon has acquired Korea’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, Korbit, in a deal that values it at just over $120 million. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Newly public emails show how former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick angered regulators when he visited London in 2014.

Essential Reads

Here’s everything that Amazon announced yesterday.

In what’s being seen as a huge endorsement for cryptocurrencies, Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson said at a blockchain conference that Fidelity will soon allow its clients to see on its site their holdings of bitcoin and other virtual currencies held on digital asset exchange Coinbase.

Detours

How Adidas’s American revival turned into a scandal.

Sending all good juju to Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Retail Therapy

A GoPro. But this time, it’s black!




StrictlyVC: September 27, 2017

Happy Wednesday, everyone! We have to keep it short and sweet today (just back the vet, prepping for tonight’s StrictlyVC event in SF, blah blah), but more tomorrow.:)

Top News in the A.M.

A Texas city’s firefighter pension fund, with the aid of one of the nation’s leading securities class-action firms, is suing Uber and its former CEO, Travis Kalanick, saying both covered up a series of “illicit business tactics” while raising funds, leading to billions of dollars in losses for its investors.

Amazon is unveiling some new gadgets today at an event in Seattle, joining the rush of tech products vying for consumers’ attention before the holidays arrive. Among them: a new, smaller, $99 Echo.

Sponsored By . . .

Today’s StrictlyVC comes to you courtesy of Treble, a boutique PR agency with a unique value prop for both VC firms and venture-backed startups. Treble is an immersive partner for VC firms to propel exits across the spectrum of your portfolio investments. For startups, we optimally align early and collectively scale as we drive brand differentiation, strategic partnerships and revenue. We’ve achieved six exits since 2013, including StackEngine (acquired by Oracle), Boxer (acquired by VMware) and Joyride (acquired by Google). With expertise in B2B tech spanning across AI, big data, cloud, SaaS and cybersecurity combined with a growing B2C practice, Treble is on stand-by to help your brand rise above the noise. Contact us here.

‘Fast Furniture’ Maker, The Inside, Lands $1.5 Million from Forerunner

Seventeen years ago, Christiane Lemieux created DwellStudio, a popular catalog and e-retailer that built one brick-and-mortar store in SoHo before being acquired for undisclosed terms in 2013 by the online store Wayfair.

Now, she’s back with The Inside, a two-person, New York-based, direct-to-consumer home decor brand that’s creating fashionable made-to-order furniture, and which just raised $1.5 million from renowned e-commerce investor Kirsten Green and her firm, Forerunner Ventures.

The items, which are made of wood and foam and made-to-order printed fabric, are priced around $300 on average and include everything from chairs, couches and beds, to screens, ottomans and benches. (It’s making kids furniture, too.)

As an added enticement, The Inside, which relies on 3D imaging and digital printing, also promises fast delivery. Specifically, it says it can make its furniture in just to six to nine days and ship it directly via UPS from where it’s made in Chicago. (Typically, custom upholstered pieces take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks to create.)

We talked with Lemieux earlier today to understand better what she’s aiming to do. Our exchange has been edited slightly for length.

Why pursue this idea right now?

What consumers have had up until now is a sea of gray product that all looks the same. Anyone in furniture retail knows this formula: inventory plus protracted design cycles plus large minimum order quantities plus long lead times plus and onerous logistics equals big pain points — also known as the traditional supply chain.

Like most retail companies, at DwellStudio, we also followed this cycle: design, sample, manufacture and import. This process typically takes 18 months from start to finish and because of the minimum order quantity from manufacturing partners, the selection becomes narrow quickly to avoid inventory exposure.

I really saw a hole in the market here.

More here.

(Other) New Fundings

Autolus, a three-year-old, London-based developer of CART-T therapies, has raised $80 million in funding from new investors Cormorant Asset Management and Nextech Invest, along with earlier investors SynconaWoodford Investment Management and Arix Bioscience. FierceBiotech has more here.

Banana Culture, a Shanghai-based e-sports company, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Matrix Partners China and eSport Capital, with participation from IDG Capital and Seeinfront Capital. (Interesting aside: the company’s founder, Wang Sicong, is apparently the son of China’s wealthiest man, Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin.) China Money Network has more here.

CallRail, a six-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based call analytics platform, has raised $75 million from investors, including Sageview Capital and Leaders FundMore here.

Chime, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile banking startup, has raised $18 million in Series B funding led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from Northwestern Mutual Future VenturesOmidyar Network, and earlier backers Crosslink CapitalAspect VenturesForerunner Venturesand Homebrew. The company has now raised $36 million altogether. More here.

Cloud9, a five-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based esports startup, has raised $19.7 million of what could be a $25 million round, per an SEC filing first spied by Axios. The company’s investors include Founders FundMore here.

CloudRanger, a four-year-old, Chicago-based maker of SaaS automation and scheduling software for Amazon Web Services (it automates its customers’ backup processes), has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Enterprise Ireland and unnamed private investors. More here.

Distrii, a two-year-old, Shanghai, China-based co-working space company, has raised $30 million in Series A funding from Junzi Capital and CDL China. China Daily has more here.

Eden, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based office management and tech support platform, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Spectrum 28, with participation from Fifth Wall VenturesBessemer Venture PartnersY Combinator Continuity FundCanvas VenturesComcast VenturesEniac Ventures and other earlier backers. TechCrunch has more here.

Engage Therapeutics, a months-old, Summit, N.J.-based developer of a rescue therapy for people who experience uncontrolled epileptic seizures, has raised $23 million in Series A funding led by TPG Biotech, with participation from Adage Capital Management and Lumira CapitalMore here.

Hoop, a 1.5-year-old,  London-based family activity discovery and planning app, has raised £2.4 million ($3.2 million) in funding led by BGF Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Klue, a two-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based competitive intelligence company focused on helping enterprise sales teams, has raised $4 million in funding led by OMERS Ventures, with participation from BDC Venture CapitalVancouver Founder FundSK Ventures and angel investors like Hootsuite CEO Ryan HolmesMore here.

Kyriba, a 17-year-old, New York-based company that sells SaaS-based treasury technology to corporate CFOs and treasurers, has raised $45 million in funding led by Sumeru Equity Partners, with participation from earlier backers BpifranceIris CapitalDaher Capital and HSBCMore here.

Legion Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based workforce engagement platform, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investors First Round CapitalXYZ Ventures, and Webb Investment Network. TechCrunch has more here.

Playbuzz, a five-year-old, New York-based storytelling platform for interactive content, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Viola Growth, with participation from earlier backers Disney, Saban Ventures83NorthCarmel VenturesFirstime and Oded Vardi. Variety has more here.

PlayerLync, a six-year-old, Englewood, Co.-based company that makes learning software so mobile workers can more easily train, learn, and collaborate, has landed a $2 million credit line from SaaS Capital, a lender focused exclusively on SaaS companies. More here.

Royole, a four-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based flexible display and sensor maker, has raised $240 million in Series D equity funding from Hanfor Capital ManagementWarmsun Holding GroupShanghai Pudong Development BankZhonghai Shengrong and Tanshi Capital. The company also secured $560 million in new debt financing. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

Partners for Growth, a 13-year-old, San Francisco-based venture debt firm, has closed its fifth fund with $276 million in capital commitments. More here.

Pi Labs, a three-year-old, London-based seed investment firm that’s focused on property tech and makes “pre-Series A” investments, has raised $10 million for its second fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

Founder Shield is a tech-enabled insurance brokerage that works with more venture backed startups than any brokerage in the world (no joke!). Our expert brokers have crafted policies for everyone from on-demand to cannabis to SaaS companies.  Create an account and get free quotes today.

People

Leah Busque, cofounder and executive chairwoman of TaskRabbit, has joined seed investment firm Fuel Capital as a general partner. Recode has more here.

“[Cryptocurrencies] is going to be the largest bubble of our lifetimes,” says hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz, who evidently flamed out at Fortress Investment Group and is now reportedly starting a $500 million he’d fund to invest in cryptocurrencies and ICOs. “Prices are going to get way ahead of where they should be. You can make a whole lot of money on the way up, and we plan on it.”

Jobs

Uber is looking to hire a senior associate into its corporate development unit. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Google will create a standalone unit for its shopping service and require it to bid against rivals for ads shown on the top of its search page, in an effort to satisfy European Union concerns over the display of product results. Bloomberg has more here.

People are dying, but Intercept’s CEO insists his drug-making company is still on track.

Detours

Beware the open-plan kitchen.

Jon Snow and Ygritte make it official.

Retail Therapy

An insulated-jacket-slash-drinks-cooler. (We hope this is expressly for awesome tailgate parties.)




StrictlyVC: September 26, 2017

Hi, happy Tuesday, all! Excited to see some of you tomorrow night in San Francisco!

Top News in the A.M.

Twitter says it’s going to try giving some of us 280 characters to see how that goes.

Dyson, known for its vacuums and fans and also sometimes for over-engineering things, is planning to sell an electric car in 2020. TechCrunch has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

Today’s StrictlyVC comes to you courtesy of Treble, a boutique PR agency with a unique value prop for both VC firms and venture-backed startups. Treble is an immersive partner for VC firms to propel exits across the spectrum of your portfolio investments. For startups, we optimally align early and collectively scale as we drive brand differentiation, strategic partnerships and revenue. We’ve achieved six exits since 2013, including StackEngine (acquired by Oracle), Boxer (acquired by VMware) and Joyride (acquired by Google). With expertise in B2B tech spanning across AI, big data, cloud, SaaS and cybersecurity combined with a growing B2C practice, Treble is on stand-by to help your brand rise above the noise. Contact us here.

Roivant Receives Bad News — and So Does SoftBank

Last month, SoftBank, through its massive Vision Fund, led the single biggest private financing round for a healthcare company ever — funneling $1.1 billion into the drug holding outfit Roivant Sciences.

Today, the Japanese conglomerate might be regretting that decision. The reason: despite hundreds of millions of dollars poured into one of Roivant’s publicly traded subsidiaries — Axovant Sciences — the company just received news that its much-hyped, experimental Alzheimer’s drug, intepirdine, doesn’t work.

It’s a devastating outcome for Axovant, which was taken public in 2015 in what was then the biggest biotech IPO ever in the U.S., and whose shares have plummeted nearly 75 percent today on the news.

The outcome is also a black mark against Roivant, which focuses on developing and commercializing a wide range of therapies and has numerous other subsidiaries, all of which involve the word “vant.”

More here.

New Fundings

Dreamscape Immersive, a 1.5-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based maker of full-body motion capture VR technology, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by movie theater chain AMC. TechCrunch has more here.

Drift, a three-year-old, Boston-based sales platform, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst Partners, with participation from CRVHubSpot, and Sequoia CapitalMore here.

Efinix, a five-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based programmable technology, raised $9.5 million in funding co-led by Xilinx and Hong Kong X Technology Fund, with participation from Samsung Ventures Investment CorporationHong Kong Inno Capital, and Brizan InvestmentsMore here.

Eligo Bioscience, a three-year-old, France-based biotech company that’s developing precision drugs to try to prevent and treat microbiome-associated diseases, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Seventure Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Fairphone, a four-year-old, Amsterdam-based company that designs modular smartphones with the aim of supporting repairability and encouraging sustainability, has raised $7.7 million in new funding from Pymwymic Impact Investing Cooperative, which invests in companies with an environmental or social purpose, along with another social impact investor, DOEN Participaties. TechCrunch has more here.

Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a three-year-old, Ontario, Canada-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, has raised $21 million in Series A funding, including from Adams Street PartnersSeroba Life Sciences and Varian Medical SystemsMore here.

Indigo, a four-year-old, Boston-based company aiming to create these to “modern seeds” to increase crop productivity and resilience in the face of stress, has raised $156 million in Series D funding at a $1.4 billion post-money valuation. Investors include Baillie GiffordActivant Capital and earlier backers Flagship Pioneering and the Alaska Permanent FundMore here.

Koho, a three-year-old, Canada-based financial services platform, raised $8 million in funding from Portag3 Ventures. BetaKit has more here.

Lively, a year-old, San Francisco-based health savings account platform company that aims to make it easier for users to get their money in and out of their accounts to pay for deductibles, raised $4.2 million in funding. Investors include Transmedia CapitalStreamlined VenturesY CombinatorSV Angel, and The Durant Company (cofounded by NBA star Kevin Durant). TechCrunch has more here.

Picniic, a year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based app that aims to help keep families organized, has raised $2 million in funding, including from Norway-based Telenor. BetaKit has more here.

ProsperWorks, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that provides a customer relationship manager (CRM) for G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work), has raised $53 million in Series C funding. Norwest Venture Partnersled the round, and was joined by GVIndustry VenturesNext World CapitalStorm Ventures and True Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Ritual Technologies, a three-year-old, Toronto-based startup whose app allows restaurant customers to order ahead for takeout food, has raised $43.5 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners. The WSJ has more here.

Transit, a four-year-old, Montreal, Canada-based transportation app that helps users more easily compare and combine different transport services, raised $5 million in funding led by Accel Partners, with participation from Real VenturesAccomplice, and BDC. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

IVP, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital and growth equity firm, just closed on $1.5 billion in capital commitments for its newest fund, IVP XVI. The fund is the firm’s largest yet, but only by a smidge. It closed its last fund with $1.4 billion in 2015. TechCrunch has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

Founder Shield is a tech-enabled insurance brokerage that works with more venture backed startups than any brokerage in the world (no joke!). Our expert brokers have crafted policies for everyone from on-demand to cannabis to SaaS companies.  Create an account and get free quotes today.

IPOs

iQiyi, a Chinese Netflix-style streaming company that’s majority owned by Baidu, is targeting a U.S. IPO as early as 2018, reports Bloomberg, which says it may be seeking a valuation as high as $10 billion. Baidu wants to continue holding a controlling stake in iQiyi upon the IPO via dual-class shares, it adds. More here.

Exits

Doorman, a San Francisco-based package delivery startup, is shutting the door on its operations. (Sorry.) The company, which had raised more htan $3 million from VCs — includng Motus Ventures500 Startups, and Matrix Partners  says it’s joining forces with a larger (undisclosed) team. TechCrunch has more here.

Google today announced it is acquiring five-year-old Bitium, which sells identity and access management services that let its customers give their employees a single login for multiple cloud service Financial details were not disclosed, but Bitium had raised a total of $14.9 million from investors, including Polaris Ventures and Resolute.vc. VentureBeat has more here.

Managed by Q, a New York City-based on-demand office services startup, has acquired Hivy, a year-old, Paris-based task management office tool. Hivy doesn’t appear to have raised (or, at least, disclosed) outside funding. According to Crunchbase, Managed by Q has raised at least $72.4 million in funding, including from GVGreycroft Partners, and RRE Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Personify, an eight-year-old, Chicago-based management software provider that’s raised around $27 million from investors, is acquiring Wild Apricot, an 11-year-old, Ontario, Canada-based web-based management software provider. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. More here.

Temasek will acquire a minority stake in CAA, a provider of entertainment and sports agency services (and another new investor gets slaughtered in Hollywood). TPG Capital will remain the agency’s biggest shareholder. The New York Times has more here.

After abandoning its plans to launch a subscription video-on-demand business earlier this year, IAC-owned streaming video site Vimeo announced today that it’s acquiring the live video streaming platform, Livestream, and launching its own live streaming product, Vimeo Live. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. According to Crunchbase, Livestream had raised roughly $15 million from investors. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Equifax‘s CEO is “retiring.”

Viviana Faga has joined Emergence Capital Partners as an operating partner. She previously led marketing for enterprise social at Microsoft.

Jobs

NextWorld Capital is looking to hire an operations associate/VP to help build and maintain its U.S. corporate relationships, as well as oversee an enterprise platform that connects these companies with the firm’s startups. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

The FDA wants to make regulations on Apple a little easier.

Detours

Saudi Arabia will finally allow women to drive.

Are you a psychopath? Let’s look at your playlist and find out!

Retail Therapy

For when you build your own franchise.




StrictlyVC: September 25, 2017

Hi, happy Monday, everyone! Ours could be better: we had one of those rare but horrible mornings when we hit the save button to publish the newsletter and poof, all of our work magically disappeared. Longtime readers know this happens to us roughly once a year. Screaming for a long while into a pillow helps.

Top New in the A.M.

China has largely blocked Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging app, the latest move by Beijing to step up surveillance ahead of a big Community Party gathering next month. The app has been banned before, so this may prove temporary.

Sponsored By . . .

Today’s StrictlyVC comes to you courtesy of Treble, a boutique PR agency with a unique value prop for both VC firms and venture-backed startups. Treble is an immersive partner for VC firms to propel exits across the spectrum of your portfolio investments. For startups, we optimally align early and collectively scale as we drive brand differentiation, strategic partnerships and revenue. We’ve achieved six exits since 2013, including StackEngine (acquired by Oracle), Boxer (acquired by VMware) and Joyride (acquired by Google). With expertise in B2B tech spanning across AI, big data, cloud, SaaS and cybersecurity combined with a growing B2C practice, Treble is on stand-by to help your brand rise above the noise. Contact us here.

New Fundings

Accelo, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based startup selling software designed for cost-sensitive, project-driven businesses, has raised $9 million in Series A funding. Level Equity led the round, with participation from Fathom Capitaland earlier investor Blackbird Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Analytical Space, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company at work on an optical communication data relay network, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding co-led by The Engine and Space Angels. Other investors in the deal include Flybridge Capital PartnersShasta Ventures, Yard VenturesDream Incubator, Dorm Room Fund and earlier investor NXT VenturesMore here.

Dazzling Star, an eight-year-old, Beijing, China-based children’s animation production company, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Yunfeng Capital, with participation from Sea of Stars CapitalMore here.

Deep Genomics, a three-year-old, Toronto-based platform that uses deep learning-based technology to help geneticists, molecular biologists, and chemists develop therapies, has raised roughly $13 million in fresh funding led by Khosla Ventures. The company had earlier raised $5 million led by True Ventures. BetaKit has more here.

Deliveroo, the five-year-old, London headquartered restaurant food delivery startup, has raised $385 million in new funding at a post-money valuation of more than $2 billion, says the company. The Series F round was led by U.S. fund managers T. Rowe Price and Fidelity, and included participation from earlier backers DST GlobalGeneral CatalystIndex Ventures, and Accel Partners. The company has now raised $860 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

DispatchHealth, a four-year-old, Denver-based company that provides mobile urgent care, has raised $30.8 million in funding co-led by Alta Partners and Questa CapitalMore here.

FEops, an eight-year-old, Gent, Belgium-based company that says it can improve transcatheter valve procedures based on personalized computer simulations, has raised €6 million ($7.1 million) in funding led by Valiance, with participation from Capricorn and PMVMore here.

Inkitt, a three-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based digital publishing platform that says it uses a computer algorithm to predict book success based on reader behavior,  has raised $3.9 million in seed funding led by Redalpine, with participation from Frontline Ventures and Speedinvest. TechCrunch has more here.

IsoPlexis Corporation, a Branford, Cn.-based life science company, raised $13.5 million in Series B funding led by Spring Mountain Capital, with participation from Connecticut InnovationsNorth Sound Ventures, and Ironwood CapitalMore here.

Jopwell, three-year-old, New York-based recruiting startup focused on diversity, has raised a $7.5 million in Series A funding led by Cue Ball Capital in a round that brings its total funding to $11.75 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Picfair, a four-year-old, London-based photo marketplace, has raised £1.5 million ($2 million) in funding led by Claverley Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Renrenche, a 3.5-year-old, Beijing-based used car marketplace, has raised $200 million from ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, says China Money Network, which notes that in China, used car trading platforms remain competitive and fragmented. More here.

SpringWorks Therapeutics, a months-old, New York-based company spun out of Pfizer to work on potential new treatments for underserved patient communities, has raised $103 million in Series A funding from Bain Capital Life SciencesBain Capital Double ImpactOrbiMedPfizer, and LifeArc. Xconomy has more here.

Symphony Communication Services, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based messaging startup taking on Bloomberg LP in a key part of its business, is in talks to raise at least $100 million from new investors, CEO and founder David Gurle tells The Information. The company had previously raised $230 million, including from BlackrockCitigroup, and Credit Suisse, among other banks. More here.

Synup, a three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based startup that helps marketers monitor where their brands are mentioned online, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Vertex Ventures, with participation from Prime Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Tempus Labs, a two-year-old, Chicago-based company that says it’s building the world’s largest library of molecular and clinical data — along with an operating system to make that data accessible and useful — has raised $70 million in funding, shows an SEC filing. Tempus was founded by Eric Lefkofsky, the serial entrepreneur who also cofounded the daily deals site Groupon and the venture firm Lightbank, among other things. More here.

New Funds

London and Antwerp-based Hummingbird Ventures, which counts Deliveroo and Showpad in its portfolio, last week closed a new $95 million fund to invest in tech startups at the late seed and Series A-stage companies. TechCrunch has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

Founder Shield a tech-enabled insurance brokerage that works with more venture backed startups than any brokerage in the world (no joke!). Our expert brokers have crafted policies for everyone from on-demand to cannabis to SaaS companies.  Create an account and get free quotes today.

IPOs

RISE Education, a 10-year-old, Beijing-based education company providing English lessons, filed for an IPO of $100 million Friday. Bain Capital had acquired 90 percent of the outfit in 2013. More here.

Southeast Asia-based games and e-commerce firm Sea, formerly known as Garena, has filed for a much-anticipated U.S. IPO. The company, which is valued at over $3.75 billion, will list on the New York Stock Exchange as ‘SE’ and is looking to raise $1 billion. TechCrunch has more here.

Switch, a 17-year-old, Las Vegas-based provider of colocation and cloud services for large enterprises, is planning an IPO wherein it will sell 31.25 million shares at between $14 and $16 per share. Assuming it raises the roughly $500 million it’s targeting, it will become the third-biggest tech IPO of the year, notes Bloomberg. More here.

Exits

FatWallet says it’s shutting down. The comparison shopping website was acquired by eBates in 2011. (eBates was itself acquired by Japan’s Rakuten in 2014 for $1 billion.)

SAP, the German enterprise software giant, says it’s acquiring Gigya, a firm that helps online properties manage customer identities and profiles. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed officially, but TechCrunch is reporting that the deal is valued at $350 million. More here.

People

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahiapologized in an open letter today, after the transport authority of London said on Friday that it won’t renew the company’s license to operate in the city.

Per Axios’s Dan Primack on the continuing saga over at Binary Capital, the venture firm whose cofounder, Justin Caldbeck, was forced to resign earlier this year over a bevy of sexual harassment claims and whose future remains uncertain: “It looks like It looks like [Caldeck’s cofounder] Jonathan Teo isn’t going down without a fight. Axios has obtained a letter sent on Friday to limited partners in Binary Capital’s second fund, which ‘constitutes notice of the General Partner’s intent to dispute the validity of its purported removal.’ It adds that the removal ‘shall be deferred’ until the outcome of an arbitration process. No comment yet from Teo.”

Data

According to the mayor of Mountain View, Ca., Silicon Valley created nearly 300,000 jobs between 2010 and 2016, while while only 48,000 new housing units were permitted.

Essential Reads

Apple just switched from Bing to Google for Siri web search results.

The struggles of a breast-pump startup underscore VCs’ blind spot when it comes to women and babies.

North Korea says Donald Trump’s tweets are a declaration of war. Twitter won’t say if tweets that might spark armed conflict violate its rules.

Detours

What the media gets wrong about Trump, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.

Street views of 1980s New York.

The best places to punch someone, according to science.

Retail Therapy

Tyme fast food. When you aren’t above eating lunch out of jar. (We fit into this category.)




StrictlyVC: September 22, 2017

Friday! We are SO excited to see a bunch of you this coming Wednesday night at our last StrictlyVC event of the year. Giant thanks again to the early-stage hardware-focused venture firm Bolt; to Ballou PR, which has helped dozens of startups and VCs figure out media in Europe; and to Rosebud Communications, which prides itself on getting press for nascent startups, at fees that won’t break the bank.

If you weren’t able to get a ticket this time, don’t sweat it; we’ll have plenty of coverage for you afterward.

Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone!

Top News in the A.M.

Uber just lost its license to operate in London. Regulators say they were fed up with the company’s failure to report serious criminal offenses, among other things. Uber, which counts more than 40,000 drivers in London, is appealing.

Facebook is turning over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional committees investigating the Kremlin’s influence operation during the 2016 presidential campaign. The debacle underscores the unintended consequences of the tools it uses.

Benchmark is reportedly the lone holdout in a proposed deal for Softbank to buy between 17 percent and 22 percent of existing shareholders’ stake in Uber. Among Benchmark’s concerns, says the Information: that if early common shareholders sell shares, they’ll lose their 10-to-1 voting power, strengthening the voting power of ousted CEO Travis Kalanick.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is being brought to you this week by Future Labs AI Summit, a two-day conference comprising trainings, talks, and discussions with leading AI technologists, investors, academics, and entrepreneurs in New York City on October 30 – 31.

From deep dives into key areas animating AI conversations from leading technical experts to introductory courses in machine learning and game theory for AI, the Future Labs AI Summit features offerings for scholars, technologists, and investors alike. Attendees will also get a first look at demos from the second cohort of startups in the AI NexusLab, the accelerator program run by Future Labs, NYU Tandon, and ff Venture Capital. Get tickets here.

Despite Its Odds, Hyperloop One Just Raised Another $85 Million

Hyperloop One, a three-year-old, L.A.-based company working to create near-supersonic trains that can whisk both passengers and cargo in giant pneumatic tubes at speeds of many hundreds of miles per hour, has raised $85 million in fresh funding, as first reported in Recode.

The round, which comes from DP World, Caspian VC Partners, WTI and OurCrowd.com, brings the company’s total funding to $245 million.

It’s a lot of money for what still seems like a pipe dream, no pun intended. As the Verge noted in its own report on the new round, Hyperloop One still has “no commercial product, no revenue stream, no government approval, and no proof that its ultrafast transit system would even be safe for human passengers.”

Though the company has proudly touted its proof of concept — in late July, in the Nevada desert, it shot a 28-foot-long pod made of aluminum and carbon fiber down a 1,600-foot-long concrete tube at 192 miles per hour in five seconds, then immediately sent footage of the feat to numerous media outlets — its challenges are numerous and well-documented.

Among them: any route would need to be straight and level. Meanwhile land is expensive; presumably not all landowners would welcome hosting a hyperloop in their backyard. It could take tens of billions of dollars and decades to build. (You get the idea.) Hyperloop has also talked up its partnerships with governments around the world, though these are, for now, merely feasibility studies.

Apparently, such obstacles haven’t diminished the enthusiasm of the company’s newest investors, whose new round of funding reportedly values Hyperloop One at $700 million.

Still, it may grow harder for people to maintain their enthusiasm in its expensive approach, given that the idea’s earliest advocate, Elon Musk, has himself moved onto a project that he thinks will be less costly, more practical, and will require less time: tunneling underground.

More here.

New Fundings

Bellen, a 1.5-year-old, China-based medical contract research organization, has raised $38 million in Series B funding co-led by Legend Capital and China International Capital, with participation from investment firms Gefeiyueren and Dachen Chuanglian and games developer Dianjing Shijie. China Money Network has more here.

Flexport, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based customs brokerage and freight forwarding service, has raised $110 million in Series C funding at an $800 million pre-money valuation from “mostly existing investors, says TechCrunch, including DST GlobalMore here.

Gaosi Education, an eight-year-old, Beijing, China-based online K-12 education platform, has raised $83 million in fresh funding co-led by China Media Capital and AlphaX Partners, with participation from Sinovation VenturesChina International CapitalLoyal Valley Capital and Hina Group. China Money Network has more here.

Landos Biopharma, a new, Blacksburg, Va.-based biopharmaceutical company that aims to develop drugs for inflammatory bowel disease, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Perceptive Advisors. Xconomy has more here.

Securonix, a 10-year-old, Mumbai, India-based cyberthreat analytics startup, has raised $29 million in Series A funding led by the Boston-based private equity firm Volition Capital, with participation from Eight Road Ventures, the investment arm of Fidelity International. LiveMint has more here.

YH Global, a 20-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based logistics and supply chain management startup, has raised $182 million in Series A funding at a $1 billion valuation, according to local media outlets. Yonghua Capital and Co-Energy Finance co-led the round, and were joined by Stone CapitalTangrong Capital and Shenzhen Grandland Group. China Money Network has more here.

Yi+, a three-year-old, Beijing, China-based computer vision company that’s helping to build “watching and buying” experiences for customers like Alibaba Digital Entertainment, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Haitong Securities led the round, and was joined by BRJ Group and the Bank of Beijing. China Money Network has more here.

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New Funds

Baidu has announced a $1.5 billion fund that’s focused on backing autonomous driving tech companies. TechCrunch has more here.

East Ventures, a seven-year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based early-stage venture fund, has closed on a new, $30 million fund to fund startups in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country. This fund is the firm’s sixth to date in Southeast Asia — and its second this year. A $27.5 million fund announced in January is already fully deployed, thanks to ballooning outside interest in Southeast Asia. TechCrunch has more here.

IPOs

MongoDB, a 10-year-old, New York-based cloud company founded by the team behind DoubleClick, has filed to raise up to $100 million in an IPO. The company’s biggest outside backers include Sequoia CapitalFlybridge CapitalUnion Square Ventures, and New Enteprise Associates. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is planning to cut about 10 percent of its staff, or at least 5,000 workers, says Bloomberg, citing a broader effort to pare expenses as competition mounts.

Bob Kagle, co-founder and general partner at Benchmark, tells Fortune he “wouldn’t be surprised if [HPE CEO] Meg [Whitman] ended up the first female President.”

Actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow is tired of your Goop jokes. “If you want to f_ck with me, bring your A game,” she tells the Hollywood Reporter.

VC and former tech CEO Vinny Smith is selling his enormous $30 million Utah ranch. You can take a look inside here.

Jobs

Primary Venture Partners is looking to hire a senior associate to focus on business-to-business opportunities. The job is in New York.

Essential Reads

Walmart is testing a new service that will allow customers with August smart home devices, like the August doorbell and security cameras, to have their packages delivered inside their home instead of left on the doorstep.

Facebook just settled the lawsuit about its plan to create a class of non-voting shares, though terms of the settlement, including the future of Facebook’s plans to create the non-voting shares, aren’t yet known.

Inside Jeff Bezos’s $5 billion bet that Amazon can win India.

Detours

Instagram’s most beloved cookie dough confectioner is making people sick, says a new lawsuit.

Twelve fall TV shows to watch right now.

A peek into New York’s eclectic living rooms.

Retail Therapy

Body armor by McLaren. Hmm, which “prepper” is Client X, we wonder. (Or do we think it’s Musk?)