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StrictlyVC: February 27, 2017

Hi! Happy Monday, everyone. Hope you had a terrific weekend. (Hey, it had to be better than PWC’s, right?)

Top News in the A.M.

The mobile industry’s biggest annual gathering—Mobile World Congress—is well under way in Barcelona. Apple never attends and Samsung has introduced new tablets instead of phones this year; that’s left Huawei and LG vying for attention for their new smartphones. You can find lots more coverage here at TechCrunch.

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, just acquired Read It Later, developer of the read-it-later service Pocket. Terms aren’t being disclosed, but founder Nate Weiner will continue to run the company, including to manage his team of 25 people. Recode has more here.

Tesla stock is slipping in price today after Goldman Sachs turned negative on the stock and downgraded its shares to sell from neutral. More here at Bloomberg.

Softbank is in Talks to Invest Up to $4 Billion in WeWork

SoftBank is being linked with an investment that could value WeWork at more than $20 billion.

CNBC reported that the Japanese telco giant is gearing up to make an initial investment of $2 billion into WeWork, with a view to putting nearly $1 billion more into the firm. The publication said the secondary investment could reach $2 billion, which would put SoftBank’s total input at $4 billion overall.

WeWork declined to comment on the report.

So far, the seven-year-old company has raised $1.4 billion from investors.

A source familiar with the situation confirmed that WeWork is in talks with SoftBank over an investment per the report. However, the person added that the Japanese had also held discussions with a view to participating in its $150 million Series C (2013) and $355 million Series D (2014) rounds, deals that SoftBank ultimately did not join.

One gating factor this time around centers on SoftBank’s Vision fund, which is still seeking commitments from investors, and in particular prospective LPs in the Middle East, our source added.

More here.

New Fundings

Arrakis, a new Cambridge, Ma.-based company that’s developing two platforms to identify new RNA targets and their small molecule drug counterparts, has raised $38 million in Series A funding led by Canaan Partners, with support from Advent Life Sciences, Pfizer, Celgene Corporation, Osage University Partners and biotech entrepreneur Henri Termeer. MedCity News has more here.

Cherwell Software, a 12-year-old, Colorado Springs, Co.-based IT service management software company, has raised $50 million in fresh funding from KKR‘s $771 million Next Generation Technology Fund. KKR joins earlier investor Insight Venture Partners, which began investing in Cherwell in 2012. TechCrunch has more here.

Congenica, a nearly three-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based provider of clinical genome analysis technology, just raised $10 million in Series B funding from Parkwalk Advisors, along with earlier backers Cambridge Innovation Capital and Amadeus Capital Partners. More here.

Cordial, a 2.5-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company whose software tracks user behavior across apps and sites, then generates marketing emails crafted for those users, has raised $6 million in new funding led by Upfront Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Dealflo, a nearly five-year-old, London-based startup that provides financial agreement automation services, has raised £10 million ($12.4 million) in funding led by Holtzbrinck Ventures, with participation from Notion Capital and Frog Capital. The company says it has now raised raised £13.5 million altogether. More here.

Dubset Media, a nine-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based music rights management database, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Cue Ball Capital, with participation from MediaNet, Neoteny 3, Resolute Venture Partners, and Redwood Venture Partners. More here.

Exonics Therapeutics, a newly launched, Boston, Ma.-based biotechnology company that plans to use gene editing technologies like CRISPR to advance the development of a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, has raised $5 million in seed financing. The capital comes from CureDuchenne Ventures, a subsidiary of the nonprofit CureDuchenne. FierceBiotech has more here.

LeoLabs, a year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based startup that aims to detect, map and help avoid collisions with debris and objects floating in orbit, has raised $4 million in funding from SRI International (from which the company spun out), Horizons Ventures, and Airbus Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Oyo Rooms, a nearly five-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based online marketplace for affordable hotel rooms in the country, is reportedly in talks to raise between $300 million and $500 million from the Softbank Vision Fund. It would be the largest round in India’s startup sector since November 2015. The Economic Times has more here.

POD Point, an eight-year-old, London-based electric vehicle charge point supplier, is raising £9 million ($11.2 million) in funding from Draper Esprit, along with Barclays Capital, which is is providing £2 million of venture debt. In addition, £550,000 in additional equity investment has been raised from angel investors and the company is making £2 million worth of shares available to the public through the equity funding platform Crowdcube. Tech.eu has more here.

Polarity, a 2.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based human memory augmentation and collaboration platform (we’re not sure what that means, either), has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Strategic Cyber Ventures, with participation from Ron Gula, founder of Gula Tech Ventures. More here.

Snow, a year-old, South Korea-based Snapchat clone that’s owned by parent company Naver, has sold a meaningful chunk of its business to Line, a now-public messaging service that also counts Naver as its parent company. Line had previously purchased 25 percent of Snow last fall for $45 million; its newest arrangement with the company, for an undisclosed amount of money, brings its stake in Snow to 48.6 percent. TechCrunch has the story here.

Tealium, a nine-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based customer engagement and marketing platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series E funding from Citi Ventures. More here.

Workfit, a months-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company whose virtual assistant technology makes meetings searchable, takes note of decisions, and encourages follow-up on action items, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding from Battery Ventures, Greycroft Partners, Salesforce Ventures and a number of angels. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Alta Partners, a 19-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm, is looking to raise $200 million for its ninth life sciences-focused fund, shows an SEC filing. The firmclosed its eighth fund with $500 million back in 2006.

Formation Group, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based investment firm, has closed on $121.3 million for its debut fund, shows an SEC filing. Formation was cofounded by Gideon Yu, a former CFO for both Facebook and YouTube. Yu was also a founding member of the venture firm Formation 8, whose members have since gone on to raise separate funds.

Sequoia Capital China and IDG Capital have teamed up with the Chinese travel agency China CYTS Tours Holding to establish a joint fund, reports China Money Network. Though the outlet doesn’t report a target, it says the fund aims to capitalize on China’s fast-growing tourism industry, which is seeing both record numbers of Chinese citizens traveling abroad and foreigners visiting China. More here.

And, not so much a new fund as a notable change at the top: Foxconn is taking over SoftBank’s Asia-based tech investment fund. The manufacturing giant has agreed to buy a majority 54.5 percent stake in SoftBank Asia Capital in exchange for $600 million, according to a filing spied by TechCrunch. The deal is scheduled to go through March 1, after which time SoftBank Asia Capital will no longer be a SoftBank affiliate. More here.

(Other) Exits

Apple has acquired Realface, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based machine learning startup whose facial recognition technology can be used to authenticate users, for “a couple of millions of dollars,” according to the Times of Israel. More here.

Bloq, a 1.5-year-old, Chicago-based company whose software aims to allow companies to build, manage and scale blockchain-enabled ecosystems, has acquired a blockchain analytics company called Skry — formerly Coinalytics — for undisclosed terms. It’s the first acquisition for Bloq, which hasn’t disclosed outside funding. More here.

HomeHero, a three-year-old, Santa Monica., Ca.-based platform connecting in-home caregivers with clients, has shut down. The company had raised $23 million from investors, including Graham Holdings Company, Social Capital, Tencent Holdings, the Launch Fund, and Science Inc.  Cofounder and CEO Kyle Hill says that being forced to switch from a contractor model to paying staffers as W-2 employees killed the company. More here.

People

It pays to be an Apple board member. According to Apple Insider, an SEC filing on Friday revealed that Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president and climate activist, sold about $30 million in Apple stock last week. Gore, who was appointed to the company’s board in 2003, still owns Apple shares worth $31.5 million, according to the outlet.

Perhaps an on-stage interviewer at the Mobile World Congress was off the grid last week, or perhaps Anthony Levandowski, who sold his company Otto to Uber last year, refused to appear if asked about a new lawsuit from Alphabet that accuses Otto of IP theft. Either way, the allegations were very notably not addressed in a fireside chat earlier today, says TechCrunch. More here.

According to four sources who spoke to the New York Times last week, the reason that Snap’s founders are denying shareholders any say in the running of their company can be traced to dissatisfaction with Jeremy Liew, a venture capitalist with Lightspeed Venture Partners who wrote Spiegel the company’s first check, for $485,000. Here’s why we don’t buy that argument.

According to Fortune’s Erin Griffith, Brian Pham, a principal at Sherpa Capital since 2013, has left the firm to build his own startup in what he calls “consumable” AR. He tells Fortune he hasn’t raised any money yet.

Billionaire Peter Thiel‘s “fingerprints are all over the administration,” reports Politico in a breakdown of where Thiel’s influence is most apparent.

Jobs

Bolt, the early-stage, hardware-focused venture firm, is looking to bring aboard a VP of finance. The job can be in either San Francisco or Boston.

Data

A quick look at how some of the biggest tech companies stack up when it comes to gender.

Essential Reads

China is developing its own digital currency. Bloomberg has the story here.

Detours

How Ikea’s Billy bookcase took over the world.

Vanity Fair’s Oscar party pics (including of Elon Musk and his glamorous mother, Apple’s Jony Ive, sisters Anne and Susan Wojcicki, actress-founder Jessica Alba, Recode’s Kara Swisher and many others).

Retail Therapy

For busy, frazzled home cooks, this is a magical pot, says Bloomberg.


StrictlyVC: February 24, 2017

Friday! Happiness.

Sorry for neglecting to include a link yesterday so that you could finish reading our central piece (about a new service for founders called Signal). If you were wondering how the story ends, you can read the rest here.

We’ve been on the phone since elbowing our kids out the door this a.m. so no column today, but there’s a wealth of great stuff below worth checking out.

Before we go, one last mention that this week’s sponsor, the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, is now accepting applications for its next class. Selected companies will receive $250,000, plus access to lots of fintech resources. If you’re a fintech innovator with a product or service that can help more Americans achieve financial health (or know someone who is), apply today. Applications are due March 16.

Top News Today

Alphabet’s Waymo is alleging in a new lawsuit that Uber has stolen some of its self-driving secrets. Specifically, Waymo says former employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, formed the self-driving truck startup Otto using those designs and technology, then earned more than $500 million for himself and other Otto employees when Uber soon after acquired his company. More here.

The FCC yesterday weakened a net neutrality rule in a prelude to larger rollbacks.

President Trump’s decision to rescind protections for transgender students has provoked a fresh outcry from Silicon Valley’s tech titans.

New Fundings

AirMap, a two-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based company that’s building software and systems to help drone operators fly only where it’s safe and legal, has raised $26 million in Series B funding. Microsoft Ventures led the round, with other participants that include Airbus Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Rakuten, SonyYuneec and earlier backers General Catalyst Partners and Lux Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Bigscreen, a two-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based company that’s trying to bring personal computing into virtual reality with software that lets users hang out and collaborate in VR, has raised $3 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in the round include True Ventures, Presence Capital, Ludlow Ventures, David Bettner and SV Angel. More here.

Doctor.com, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based marketing startup that helps physician practices boost their online visibility and reduce “referral leakage,” has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Spring Mountain Capital, with participation from Colle Capital. MedCity News has more here.

Fossa, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose technology aims to help companies understand what’s in the open source code they might be using, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding. Bain Capital Ventures led the round, which also included participation from numerous high-profile angel investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and YouTube cofounder Steve Chen. VentureBeat has more here.

Hiatus, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based startup that helps users identify (and cancel) their monthly reoccurring subscriptions, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from unnamed sources. TechCrunch has more here.

Kinnos, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based start-up healthcare company that develops technologies to prevent surface-transmitted infections, has raised $1 million in seed funding led by the family office Georgica Advisors, with participation from New York Angels, VentureWell, and other strategic angel investors. More here.

Layer, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based messaging platform that helps developers to add messaging, voice and video to any app, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Greycroft Partners. Other participants include Microsoft Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. The startup, which has now raised $23 million altogether, has also acquired a text messaging app called Cola that had raised $1.3 million in seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.

Roku, a 15-year-old, Los Gatos, Ca.-based streaming TV pioneer, is in advanced discussions to raise at least $200 million in new funding at a post-money valuation of around $1.5 billion, says Erin Griffith of Fortune The round will reportedly be led by U.S.-based investors, but “not standard Silicon Valley venture firms.” The total raise could go above $200 million because a portion of the deal may include secondary sales by existing investors. More here.

SoFi, the six-year-old, San Francisco-based online finance startup, has confirmed $500 million in new funding led by Silver Lake. Other participants in the round include SoftBank and GPI Capital. The company has now raised $1.9 billion altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

TravelCar, a four-year-old, Paris, France-based peer-to-peer car sharing platfrom for travelers at airports and train stations, has raised €15 million ($15.8 million) in funding from PSA Group and MAIF. More here.

New Funds

K2 Global, a 1.5.-year-old, San Francisco-based private equity and venture capital firm, has closed on a new, $183 million fund that it intends to invest in early-stage startups with global aspirations. TechCrunch has more here.

Vanedge Capital Partners, a six-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based early-stage venture capital firm, has closed a new fund with $161 million, from limited partners that include HarbourVest Partners, BDC Capital, and Export Development Canada, among others. The Globe and Mail has more here.

IPOs

Wall Street speaks: The cases for and against investing in Snap‘s fast-approaching IPO.

Exits

Airbnb has finalized its deal to buy social payments startup Tilt. According to TechCrunch, investors will be getting back about $12 million in cash, but the deal value is “tens of millions of dollars higher,” including employee retention packages. Tilt had raised more than $60 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and SV Angel. More here.

Amobee, a market technology that was acquired by Singtel in 2012, announced yesterday that it is acquiring the ad tech company Turn for $310 million. Turn had raised more than $150 million from investors, including Fidelity Investments, Norwest Venture Partners, and Shasta Ventures. More here.

Stayzilla, a six-year-old Airbnb for homestays in India, is shuttering its service. The company had raised $34 million from investors, including Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Zalora, the Rocket Internet-backed online fashion store, is continuing its retreat from Asia. The firm sold off its businesses in Vietnam and Thailand last year; now it’s withdrawing from the Philippines and Indonesia. TechCrunch has more here.

People

It’s not just Susan Fowler Rigetti. Women in engineering roles at Uber told CEO Travis Kalanick this week: “There’s a systemic problem with sexism here.” (Rigetti meanwhile suggests that Uber is already doing opposition research to discredit her.)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk just addressed some harsh claims about working conditions at his company in a staff-wide email. The short version: he says Tesla’s Fremont factory is safe and that Tesla pays more than other automakers. He also notes (in unique Musk fashion) that an electric pod car roller coaster is coming that will allow “fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus.” More here.

Investor Chamath Palihapitiya says that, okay, yes, he wishes he’d invested in Snapchat’s Series A round. But he tells USA Today he isn’t buying into its IPO. “When you look at Snapchat, it doesn’t have governance. It doesn’t have compounding growth in users but it has compounding growth in usage. As a risk manager, I can overlook governance if I have massively compounding users and usage. But if one of those things is not there, I am not going to take the risk.”

Data

For the second year in a row, global technology M&A activity soared to an all-time high in 2016, says a new report from Ernst & Young.

Alexa, the voice control technology in Amazon‘s Echo automation device, now has 10,000 apps, or “skills” in Amazon parlance. Fortune has more here.

An opportunity for startups? The U.S. government spends 0.1 percent of its gross domestic product on helping Americans deal with changes in the workplace like automation. (H/T: FiveThirtyEight). More here.

Essential Reads

Lightspeed Venture Partners is poised to reap more than $1 billion from an early bet on Snap, but the money masks what has long been complicated relationship between the venture firm and Snap, reports the New York Times.

Why one Mountain View, Ca., high school stands to make up to tens of millions of dollars off Snap’s IPO.

Detours

Bees are even smarter than we realized.

So, um, how do you, like, stop using filler words?

Inside the surprisingly simple home of Warren Buffett.

Retail Therapy

Ten truly remote places where your boss can’t track you down.


StrictlyVC: February 23, 2017

Hi, happy Thursday! One more day, friends; let’s do this thang!

StrictlyVC is sponsored this week by the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, which is now accepting applications for its next class. Selected companies will receive $250,000 (which is not nothing!), plus access to lots of fintech resources. If you’re a fintech innovator with a product or service that can help more Americans achieve financial health (or know someone who is), apply today. Applications are due March 16.

Top News in the A.M.

Amazon is sticking to its guns in the fight to protect customer data. The tech titan has filed a motion to quash the search warrant for recordings from an Amazon Echo in an upcoming murder trial. Forbes has more here.

A New Way for Founders to Connect with the Right VCs

A young Silicon Valley venture firm is taking the wraps off a piece of software that it says makes it a cinch for founders to figure out which VCs are worth approaching, based on stage, sector, and a variety of other factors.

It’s called Signal, and it’s the first project of NFX Guild Labs, an offshoot of the venture firm and invite-only accelerator program NFX Guild, which we’ve written about here.

Serial entrepreneur James Currier — who cofounded NFX with longtime business partners Gigi Levy Weiss and Stan Chudnovsky (who’s also the head of product at Facebook Messenger) — says that like so many innovations, Signal comes from a problem he found himself struggling to address.

Though part of NFX Guild’s promise to founders is to help them navigate the fundraising process, he says there was “no place for us to get an easy, clean list of active investors, where we could choose our target investors, then export that into a Google Doc or whatever.”

Signal is focused foremost on founders, but it should prove useful for VCs, too, says Currier. He uses travel startups as a theoretical example. “For [the early-stage venture firm] Felicis, a related intro is [a waste of everyone’s time]. Felicis doesn’t invest in travel, but no one knows that and there’s no easy way for Felicis to signal that to everyone. Or,” adds Currier, “say you’re an investor and you haven’t really spent time with blockchain startups. You won’t pop up on a founder’s radar as a result, but if you say on Signal that you’re starting to [poke around], you will.”

More on how it works here.

New Fundings

C3Nano, a 6.5-year-old, Hayward, Ca.-based company that develops hybrid carbon nanotube-based transparent electrode inks and films for display devices, has raised $15 million in new funding led by earlier backer GSR Ventures. Other investors in the round include Nissha Printing Co., Xinjiang Guoli Minsheng Equity Investment Co., Phoenix Venture Partners, and several undisclosed backers. The company has now raised $37 million altogether. More here.

Collage, a six-month-old, Toronto, Canada-based digital HR and benefits platform to enables companies to quote, buy and manage their benefits plans online, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Diagram. BetaKit has more here.

Earin, a 2.5-year-old, Lund, Sweden-based company that makes small wireless earbuds, has raised $3.5 million in funding from numerous business angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Enbala Power Networks, a 13-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based maker of distributed energy resource management software, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by ABB Technology Ventures. Other investors in the round include National Grid, GE Ventures, Chrysalix Venture Capital and Obvious Ventures. More here.

Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a 2.5-year-old, Hamilton, Ontario-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing targeted alpha-particle radiotherapeutics for treating cancer, has raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Other participants include HealthCap, TPG Biotech, Genesys Capital and FACIT. More here.

Mercatus, an eight-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based provider of cloud software for power producers and utilities to manage energy development projects and portfolios, has raised $5.1 million in funding as part of an extended Series B funding round. The capital, which brings the round’s total to $16.8 million, was led by TPG Alternative & Renewable Technologies Research. More here.

Privacy Labs, a stealth-stage, Seattle-based startup that wants to enable internet users to “regain control” of their personal data, has landed $4 million in seed funding led by Initialized Capital. Other participants in the round include Lemnos Labs, Liquid 2 Ventures, CrunchFund, Fuel Capital and angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Roadmunk, a 4.5-year-old, Toronto, Ontario-based product roadmapping platform, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Golden Venture Partners, Felicis Ventures and Garage Capital. BetaKit has more here.

SlamData, a two-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based open source analytics company for modern unstructured data, has raised $6.7 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Storj Labs, a 2.5-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based distributed cloud storage provider, has raised $3 million in seed funding, including from GV, Qualcomm Ventures and Techstars, as well as Cockroach Labs, Ionic Security, and Pindrop Security. CoinDesk has more here.

TL Biolabs, a year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based start-up whose genomic test provides farmers with information on the health, productivity, and fertility of their cows, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Refactor Capital, Josh Buckley, and Y Combinator. More here.

Uponit, a 1.5-year-old, Tel Aviv and New York-based ad recovery platform for premium publishers (it helps publishers measure and restore their blocked ad inventory and serve direct ad campaigns), has raised $2.3 million in funding led by Jerusalem Venture Partners. More here.

Vention, a  year-old, Montreal, Quebec-based 3D machine builder platform that enables designers to design and order their custom industrial equipment in a few days, has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding. The round was led by Bolt and Real Ventures, with participation from numerous individual investors. More here.

Zibby, a four-year-old, New York City-based provider of a point-of-sale lease payment software for online and in-store shopping (it targets non-prime customers who may not own a credit card), has raised $150 million in debt financing from Victory Park Capital. Bankless Times has more here.

Exits

Wix.com has acquired DeviantArt, a 16-year-old online community for artists, designers and art/design enthusiasts with some 325 million individual pieces of original art and more than 40 million registered members, for $36 million in cash. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, the founders of e-commerce giant Snapdeal, told employees they have to lay off roughly 600 of their 8,000 staffers in a bid to make a profit. CNN has more here.

Tesla announced on its earnings call yesterday that CFO Jason Wheeler has decided to leave the company in April to pursue opportunities in public policy. He’ll be replaced by Deepak Ahuja, who was Tesla’s first CFO when he joined the company in 2010. More here.

Essential Reads

Uber is not a happy place, dozens of employees tell the New York Times.

Brett King once hoped his company, Moven, would become “the Facebook of banking.” Today, like a lot of startup founders, he is selling his software to the banks he once scorned.

Detours

Neat. NASA has discovered seven planets with Earth-like qualities orbiting a nearby star, making them among the strongest candidates in the continued search for extraterrestrial life among planets that exist outside of our own solar system. More here.

Is your favorite lipstick –gulp — fake?

And the Oscar for Best Picture Nobody Saw goes to . . .

Retail Therapy

A snuuggie for thug(gie)s.


StrictlyVC: February 21, 2017

Hi, happy Tuesday from sunny-for-the-moment San Francisco, where we’ve been on back-to-back calls this morning. (Like everyone else, we right now have Uber on the brain. More on this tomorrow.)

Hope you had a fun, relaxing long weekend.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Following the disclosure of two massive data breaches last year, Yahoo and Verizon finally confirmed new terms for the sale of Yahoo to Verizon earlier today: Verizon will pay $350 million less than originally planned, or $4.48 billion, to acquire Yahoo. More here.

In San Francisco, Lease Prices Hold Steady, But Landlords Offer More Perks

Leasing commercial space in San Francisco is as expensive as ever, but prices are mostly holding steady for the first time in a long time —  not rising. That shift has landlords offering more perks and brokers wondering what’s next.

Their obvious concern: that good times can’t last forever, especially for venture-backed companies that aren’t IPO candidates and whose chances of getting acquired may be diminishing by the quarter.

Certainly, the cash isn’t flowing quite so freely at the moment. According to Pitchbook, investment in U.S.-based startups is right now down 40 percent year from the amount invested at this point last year.

Meanwhile, Medium, DoubleDutch, AdRoll and Github are among a growing number of San Francisco-based companies that have downsized recently as they either rethink their strategies or refocus on core strengths while simultaneously reducing their overhead.

“With some of the things that are being talked about on a federal policy level — reducing the corporate tax rate, repatriating cash at a lower tax rate — it looks like the [positive] economic cycle will continue for the tech industry,” says Colin Yasukochi, director of research and analysis at the commercial brokerage firm CBRE. “How long it will last is anyone’s guess, though,” he adds.

“This expansion is definitely long in the tooth, for the U.S. and the Bay Area in particular,” says Robert Sammons, a director of research at the commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield. “But I think we’re forecasting a slowdown, not a recession, and I think it’s just because it’s the cycle. It’s time. We need to reset the clock a bit.”

More here.

New Fundings

Affigen, a year-old, St. Louis, Ms.-based biotechnology company that develops therapeutics targeting cell lineage-specific tumor proteins, has raised $17 million Series A funding led by Black Beret Life Sciences. More here.

ConsejoSano, a  two-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based digital health platform for Spanish speakers to navigate America’s healthcare system, has raised $4.9 million in Series A funding led by 7wire Ventures, with participation from Tufts Health Ventures, TOTAL Impact Capital, Wanxiang Healthcare Investments, Acumen, Oxeon Partners and Impact Engine. MobiHealthNews has more here.

Cloud Lending Solutions, a 4.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based financial services company whose end-to-end cloud-based lending platform (built natively on Salesforce) is used by online lenders, banks, credit unions and others, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by Cota Capital. Earlier investors also joined the round. More here.

Data.world, a 1.5-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based social network for data people interested in solving complex academic, commercial, and societal problems quickly, has raised $18.7 million in funding led by Pat Ryan’s family investment group, with participation from Chicago Ventures, Fyrfly Venture Partners, Hunt Technology Ventures, LiveOak Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures, and Sherpa Asset Management. Numerous individual investors also joined the round. More here.

FAMOCO, a 6.5-year-old, Paris, France-based startup that connects contactless card and NFC phones to accelerate the deployment of business-to-consumer and business-to-business services, has raised $11 million in Series B funding led by Idinvest Partners. Other participants in the round include Orange Digital Ventures, Hi Inov, SNCF Digital Ventures, BNP Paribas Développement, BPI-Ambition Numérique and business angels. More here.

Haoqiao, a 3.5-year-old, Beijing-based business-to-business hotel booking site, has raised $17 million in funding led by China Merchants Capital and National SME Development Fund. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Kakao, the 22-year-old, South Korean messaging platform giant, has received $200 million in funding from Alibaba’s payment affiliate Ant Financial. TechCrunch has more here.

Monzo, a 1.5-year-old, London-based digital-only bank, is reportedly closing its Series C funding with roughly £30 million, with Thrive Capital leading the financing. TechCrunch has more here.

Skurt, a 2.5-year-old, L.A.-based rental car delivery startup, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by earlier investor Upfront Ventures. Other participants in the round include BMW, Troy Carter’s Cross Culture Ventures, Expansion VC, Greycroft Partners and NBA legend Magic Johnson. TechCrunch has more here.

True Balance, a 2.5-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based application that helps prepaid users save and manage their mobile balances, has raised roughly $15 million from Softbank Ventures Korea and other investors. More here.

New Funds

Rapper and ubiquitous mogul Jay-Z is launching a venture capital fund, according to Axios. One of his partners will be Jay Brown, a longtime business partner and president of Roc Nation. More here and here.

IPOs

MuleSoft, an 11-year-old, San Francisco-based platform for building application networks, has filed to raise $100 million in an IPO. The company has raised more than $250 million in venture funding; you can see who owns what right here.

Exits

Magic Leap, the augmented reality startup that has raised $1.4 billion in funding but has yet to release a product, has acquired the 3D division of Dacuda, a Zurich-based computer vision startup. The idea, says TechCrunch: to expand its work in computer vision and deep learning and to build out its operations into Europe. More here.

Meltwater, a 16-year-old, San Francisco-based self-described “media intelligence” company, has acquired Wrapidity, a U.K.-based AI startup that has built technology to automate the extraction of data from unstructured web-based content. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

People

So far, AOL cofounder Steve Case has overseen the investment of $840 million in startups outside of California, New York and Massachusetts through his venture firm, Revolution. The goal: to “reduce some of the either naiveté or, to some degree, arrogance that I do see in places like Silicon Valley.”

Renowned VC Brad Feld says not to get too excited about all these new acquisition by non-tech companies. Here’s why.

Uber has hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to help lead an investigation into claims of sexual harassment and discrimination that a former female engineer made public over the weekend in a highly circulated blog post. More here.

Vic Pascucci, who previously led insurer USAA’s corporate venture-investing program, has signed on as managing partner at the venture firm Lightbank. He takes over control of the fund from cofounders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, who are each running a startup right now. More here.

Data

Total funding for U.S. fintech companies and deal activity dropped significantly in 2016, down to $12.8 billion from $27 billion in 2015, a result of political and regulatory uncertainty, a decline in megadeals and investor caution, according to KPMG. More here.

Essential Reads

Facebook Messenger now lets you send money with Transferwise.

Snap‘s IPO is coming, and wealth managers and real estate agents are ready.

Detours

China’s millennials are hustling for part-time gigs Instead of traditional jobs.

Inside the French Laundry’s new $10 million kitchen.

Auto loans to Americans with poor credit have been booming, and many finance companies, credit unions and auto dealers are using technologies to track the location of borrowers’ vehicles in case they need to repossess them.

Retail Therapy

Boniface de Castellane and Anna Gould reigned over French capital during the Belle Èpoque. Now some of their art and antiques are being sold at auction.


StrictlyVC: February 17, 2017

FRIDAY. Sweet, tender Friday.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone! We won’t be be publishing on Monday in honor of President’s Day (i.e., our kids will be home with us) but we’ll see you back here on Tuesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Facebook has changed its mission.

One of the largest U.S. apartment landlords just filed civil lawsuits in California and Florida against Airbnb.

Social Finance is reportedly close to raising about $500 million in funding led by the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners. Bloomberg has more here.

How to Build a Brand in 2017: Tips from Glossier’s Emily Weiss

There’s no shortage of women’s beauty brands, yet for many millennial women in particular, one young outfit — the cosmetics company Glossier  — seems to stand out. Having products that customers like is undoubtedly one large reason why. The company’s “boy brow,” a kind of mascara meant to thicken and tame eyebrows, is particularly popular. But Glossier has also found a way to establish a kind of cult following because of the numerous ways it keeps communication channels to its consumers wide open.

At a StrictlyVC event in San Francisco last week, Glossier’s founder, Emily Weiss, talked about focusing on ways to engage customers that more traditional brands have neglected. Weiss, a former beauty editor who launched Glossier several years after creating Into the Gloss — a site about women’s grooming routines that now attracts 1.5 million unique visitors monthly — also talked about the role of content in growing her business.

You can catch part of that talk by clicking through to TechCrunch below. Her interviewer is venture capitalist Eric Liaw of IVP, which recently wrote led Glossier’s $24 million Series B round. In the meantime, here are some other interesting — and instructive — outtakes from that conversation.

On why Weiss launched Glossier in 2013, after creating Into the Gloss out of her apartment in 2010:

Here, Weiss talked about the many influential people she’d come to interview for Into the Gloss, including J.Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons, serial entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, and professional celebrity Kim Kardashian. “I’d be sitting on their bathroom floors and squeezing tubes of creams and … discussing the big wide world of beauty, and I realized there was a disconnect” between the leading beauty conglomerates and their customers, said Weiss. Though many women seemed to have an affinity for certain products, they didn’t necessarily know anything about those brands’ values or communicate with them in any way. Weiss spied an opportunity to rectify that by “building a company around what women want, not just from a product perspective but from an engagement perspective, from a distribution perspective, and from a values perspective.”

Could she have built Glossier if Into the Gloss hadn’t attracted a following first? Could she have launched the two in reverse order?

As a “content-first” company, it’s a question that Weiss receives a lot, evidently. But she doesn’t see the two businesses — the blog and the cosmetics line — as distinct. “Sure,” she’d said, “we could be a like a lot of consumer brands that start blogs after they start their business. But in our case, I think Glossier is still very much a content company. I think about our products themselves as pieces of content.” How, exactly? Because many of its customers purchase its products, photograph them, then upload them to social media — often knowing Glossier will re-post them to its own accounts. In fact, she likened Glossier’s products to “crayons” for its customers.

On how the brand has stayed “authentic” versus become seen as more commercial:

Weiss noted that in 2017, not only is the customer always right, but thanks to social media — whether it’s a product review on Amazon or an Instagram post, that customer “has a microphone and she’s reaching 50, 500, 5,000 or 500,000 of her nearest and dearest friends and is able to talk about her preferences.”

To ensure she is saying only positive things about Glossier, the company focuses, of course, on maintaining product quality. “Ultimately we’re making and selling a consumer good that needs to work and that need to make customers happy.”

But the company is also very focused on transparency and “voice,” Weiss explained. “We like to think that whenever we talk to [our customer] through captions on Instagram or through email or through copy on the site, that we’re writing text messages to a friend.” For Glossier, “staying true to that voice has created a lot of loyalty and trust with our customer,” she said.

Other reasons that Glossier has struck a chord with its customer base:

One point we found particularly interesting during Weiss’s talk was about Glossier’s willingness to acknowledge and support other brands.

More here.

New Fundings

Conductor Technologies, a 2.5-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based company behind a cloud rendering platform that was used in 2016’s blockbuster movies “Deadpool” and “Star Trek Beyond,” has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by Walden Venture Capital, with participation from Autodesk. Automation World Network has more here.

HemoSonics, a nearly 13-year-old, Charlottesville, Va.-based point-of-care blood diagnostics platform developer, has raised $15 million in a funding, according to an SEC filing posted this week that shows the entire round came from one investor. More here.

Immuta, a 2.5-year-old, College Park, Md.-based unified data platform that aims to free data science teams to work more freely with highly regulated data, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Drive Capital, with participation from Greycroft Partners and Conversion Capital. The company has now raised $9.5 million to date. More here.

Ms. Paris, a 1.5-year-old, China-based online fashion rental company, has raised $18 million in Series A funding led by Northern Light Venture Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners China and China Growth Capital. More here.

Mylestone, a year-old, Boston-based company that’s experimenting with turning our digital footprints into narratives that help us recall highlights from our lives, has raised $2.5 million in new funding led by True Ventures, with participation from Founder Collective, Boston Seed Capital, Converge Ventures and Mergelane. The company has now raised $4.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Opal, a five-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based collaboration platform for marketing teams, has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners. Earlier investors also participated, including Madrona Venture Group, Seven Peaks Ventures, and MMC Ventures. GeekWire has more here.

Plays.tv, a new, Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that provides a platform for gamers to record, replay and relive their games, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures. Other participants in the round include the San Francisco 49ers, Jeremy Lin, Accel Partners, Tenaya Capital, DAG Ventures, and Founders Fund.

Soundtrack Your Brand, a three-year-old, Stockholm-based startup that provides (licensed) background music streaming services to businesses, has raised $22 million in funding co-led by Industrifonden and Balderton Capital. Other participants in the round include Telia Company, Northzone, Creandum, HMP, and Jorg Mohaupt. TechCrunch has more here.

Sun Basket, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based meal kit delivery startup focused on recipes and ingredients that are gluten-free, paleo, and otherwise accommodate vegetarian lifestyles, has raised $15 million in Series C funding led by Sapphire Ventures. Other paticipants in the round include Baseline Ventures, PivotNorth Capital, Accolade Partners, Founders Circle Capital, Shea Ventures, Relevance Capital, Vulcan Capital, filter14 and unnamed angel investors. the company has now raised $43 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Upstream, a 16-year-old, London-based mobile commerce platform that enables users to receive and pay for subscription services like cloud storage, language learning courses and apps on their mobile devices, has raised €25 million ($26.6 million) in growth funding from the European Investment Bank. More here.

Xcell Biosciences, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose platform enables propagation and gene editing in hard-to-transfect cell types, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by HBM Genomics, with participation from unnamed earlier investors. More here.

YotaScale, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based cloud computing startup, has raised $3.6 million in funding, including from Engineering Capital, Pelion Ventures, and several angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Longtime VC Kittu Kolluri, who left New Enterprise Associates last year, has filed paperwork with the SEC to raise $90 million for a new fund under the brand Neotribe Ventures. The firm is based in Palo Alto, Ca., and it counts Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang as a special advisor. More here.

New Kid on the Block

Singapore-based investment company Temasek as grown from its initial portfolio of mostly Singapore-based companies to become an active investor in Asia, Europe and the Americas. In fact, the company’s exposure to North America has increased to 10 percent of the portfolio in 2016, so it has decided to open a San Francisco office. The company’s managing director of public affairs, Stephen Foresaw, can let you know more if you have a housewarming gift in mind: stephenforshaw@temasek.com.sg.

Exits

WayUp, a startup that creates job listing sites for college students and recent graduates, is buying a similar startup, Looksharp, for an undisclosed amount of money. Looksharp had raised more than $10 million in funding from investors, including 500 Startups, Artis Ventures, Kapor Capital and Subtraction Capital. WayUp, meanwhile, has raised nearly $9 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Data

The growth of politically-focused mobile apps has been booming since the U.S. president election, with the top five political apps receiving a combined 300,000 downloads across iOS and Android over the past three months, says App Annie. TechCrunch has more here.

The quick and the dead: The on-demand companies that went splat, courtesy of CB Insights.

Essential Reads

Snap is about to embark on its investor roadshow, and a new video gives a glimpse at how it will be trying to persuade Wall Street to buy shares.

Theranos is on the ropes, says the WSJ. The blood-diagnostics firm reportedly told investors that it had $200 million in cash on hand at the end of 2016. That’s less than a quarter of what it had raised from them. Meanwhile, investors were told Theranos didn’t generate any material revenue in 2015 or 2016. More here.

How Silicon Valley is trying to hack its way into a longer life.

Detours

Scientists have discovered why your selfies are authentic while everyone else’s are narcissistic.

What the Oscars looked like the year you were born.

Funny.

Retail Therapy

jaw-dropping penthouse in New York’s tallest residential building is for sale.


StrictlyVC: February 16, 2017

We made it through another visit to the symphony with 44 seven-year-olds, but just barely. Thanks to those of you who nicely pointed out that yesterday was not, in fact, Tuesday. For the newer reader who wondered yesterday if we’re a bunch of stoners, we wish. (Who has time?)

Top News in the A.M.

Snap, parent of messaging service Snapchat, has set the price range for its IPO and it’s seeking a a valuation of between $16.20 billion and $18.52 billion. That’s roughly 10 percent below expectations, which has industry observers wondering about its motivations. Either way, it gives the company the richest valuation in a U.S. tech IPO since Alibaba (and, before that, Facebook). Reuters has more here.

Atomico Just Closed on $765 Million, Its Biggest Fund Yet

Atomico has closed its fourth fund with $765 million, making it one of Europe’s single largest venture capital funds.

The firm began raising the fund eleven months ago (we’d flagged it for you after searching the SEC filings). And while it represents a sizable step up from Atomico’s third fund, which closed with $476.6 million in 2013, its pace of fundraising highlights a major difference between Europe and the U.S., where LPs often feel pressured into committing quickly to top funds.

Investors had plenty of reason to be excited about Atomico. Its current stakes include Finnish game maker Rovio, as well as the “unicorn” payments company Klarna and the travel site GoEuro. It also saw huge wins when Climate Corp. sold to Monsanto for roughly $1 billion in 2013 and again last year when early portfolio company Supercell sold a majority stake in its business to China’s Tencent for $8.6 billion.

But general partner Mattias Ljungman notes that the U.S. has a “much longer tradition” of investing in venture capital firms. Meanwhile, institutions in Europe are “sort of now starting to look at it. If you compare it with private equity [where investors tend to buy and sell entire companies], that also took time in Europe.” He says. “But once investors started to understand it, the amount of capital they began deploying became significant and even outpaced what we saw in the U.S.”

Atomico thinks European venture capital could reach the same kind of breakout velocity at some point. In the meantime, the firm — originally founded by Skype cofounder Niklas Zennstrom — is now one of the best-funded firms in Europe, with its central office in London but people on the ground in Beijing, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, New York and Stockholm (where Ljungman happened to be when we spoke).

Atomico also now offers some of the most extensive services to its portfolio companies, it likes to note.

More here.

New Fundings

Brightwheel, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile platform that provides teachers with tools for learning, communication, and photo sharing, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, ICONIQ, and Brightwheel’s earlier backers. These include Eniac Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Lowercase Capital, RRE Ventures, and numerous individuals, including Mark Cuban. TechCrunch has more here.

Dermata Therapeutics, a three-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based biotechnology company that’s developing new products to treat a variety of dermatological diseases, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding, with an agreement with its (undisclosed investors) that it will receive another $2.5 million as part of the round if it meets certain specified milestones. The company has separately secured $5 million in debt from Silicon Valley Bank. More here.

Lytro, a 10.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that has changed course over time and is today developing cinema-level camera systems, just raised $60 million in Series D funding led by Blue Pool Capital. Other participants in the round include EDBI, Foxconn, Huayi Brothers and Starwood Capital Group chairman Barry Sternlicht. TechCrunch has more here.

MobiTV, a 17-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based company whose platform delivers live and on-demand video to any screen, has raised $21 million in funding from Oak Investment Partners and Ally Corporate Finance, says Fortune. More here.

OpenFin, a 6.5-year-old, New York-based startup focused on helping financial services firms update their technology infrastructure, has raised $15 million in funding led by J.P. Morgan. Other participants in the round include Bain Capital Ventures, Euclid Opportunities (the venture funding arm of NEX Group), DRW Venture Capital, Nyca Partners, Pivot Investment Partners, and angel investors. VentureBeat has more here.

Ozobot, a four-year-old, Redondo Beach, Ca.-based company that makes a programmable toy robot, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Tribeca Venture Partners, with participation from ZICO Coconut Water founder Mark Rampolla, and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Rhythm, a 6.5-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing peptide therapeutics for rare genetic deficiencies that result in life-threatening metabolic disorders, has raised $41 million in funding from earlier backers Deerfield Management, Ipsen, OrbiMed, MPM Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Pfizer Venture Investments, Third Rock Ventures, and an undisclosed public healthcare investment fund. More here.

SolarisBank, a 1.5-year-old, Berlin-based banking-as-a-platform startup, has raised €30 million ($32 million) in Series B funding from German and U.K. venture capital firms, including Index Ventures. Banking Technology has more here.

TetraVue, a nine-year-old, Carlsbad, Ca.-based company that’s developing high-resolution 3D measurement and imaging technology, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Nautilus Venture Partners. Samsung Catalyst Fund and Foxconn also joined the round. More here.

Top Hat, an eight-year-old, Ontario, Ca.-based company whose interactive software helps college professors engage students over their own devices, has raised $22.5 million in Series C funding from Union Square Ventures. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Emergence Capital, Georgian Partners, iNovia Capital, Golden Venture Partners, Version One Ventures and SoftTech VC. Techvibes has more here.

Truebil, a 1.5-year-old, Mumbai, India-based marketplace for selling used cars in India, has raised $3 million in post-Series A funding from China’s Shunwei Capital. Its $5.5 million Series A was raised in January 2016. TechCrunch has more here.

uShip, a 14-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based online shipping marketplace, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by DB Schenker, a Berlin-based global logistics and supply chain manager (and existing uShip partner). The company has now raised $50 million to date. More here.

(Other) New Funds

Cervin Ventures, a nine-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based seed and early-stage venture firm focused solely on enterprise startups, has closed on $56 million in commitments for its newest fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Goodwater Capital, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based venture firm whose detailed Snap research we wrote about earlier this week, has closed its second with $250 million in commitments — almost twice the $130 million it had raised for its debut fund. Goodwater is run by cofounders Chi-Hua Chien, formerly of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Eric Kim, formerly of Maverick Capital. More here.

Exits

Beepi, the 3.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based online marketplace for used cars, is winding down, reports the WSJ. The company had raised $150 million from investors, including venture firms Foundation Capital, Redpoint Ventures and Sherpa Ventures and individuals such as Yuri Milner and Fabrice Grinda. As the WSJ notes, the company was also the largest AngelList syndicate deal in late 2014, in a $2.7 million funding that was led by investor Gil Penchina and included 86 individuals. Neither equity investors nor employees are likely to get any money back, says a WSJ source. More here (though note that it’s behind a firewall).

Dating app Tinder is looking to get into video. The company announced today it’s acquiring a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based startup called Wheel that had developed a social network for sharing “video stories” that were said to closely resemble Snapchat’s Stories. Terms aren’t being disclosed. Wheel had raised $2 million from Upfront Ventures, Machinima founder Allen DeBevoise, and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Verizon is bolstering its efforts in drones by acquiring Skyward, a 4.5-year-old, Portland-based startup whose software helps commercial drone operators in industries like construction more efficiently track, connect and manage drones. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Skyward had raised $4.1 million in 2015 from numerous investors, including Verizon Ventures and Draper Associates. GeekWire has more here.

People

VC Mike Hirshland has some (very early) seed-stage investing advice. We talked with him over coffee earlier this week.

Elon Musk really is starting a tunnel digging company, and it really is called The Boring Company – TBC for short, which he says could also mean “to be continued.” More here.

Restless employees who have worked at Uber for four years can cash out up to 10 percent of their shares, according to Bloomberg. According to TechCrunch, the deal impacts only the company’s first 500 to 600 employees, who must be fully vested to take take advantage of the program.

Essential Reads

Apple vowed to revolutionize television. Here’s an inside look at why it hasn’t.

The U.S. patent office ruled yesterday that hotly disputed patents on the revolutionary genome-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 belong to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, dealing a blow to the University of California in its efforts to overturn those patents. STAT has more here.

Detours

Make Trump’s Tweets Eight Again.

The world’s most admired companies, 2017 edition.

Why your dog’s personality is a lot like yours.

Retail Therapy

Protest tees.


StrictlyVC: February 15, 2017

Hi there, happy Tuesday, everyone. SVC is short and sweet today (field trip). More tomorrow.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Verizon is close to finalizing a renegotiated deal for Yahoo‘s internet properties that would reduce the price of the $4.8 billion agreement by about $250 million. Bloomberg has more here.

More Capital for L.A., as Fika Ventures Closes Its Debut Fund

Investors are seemingly growing more excited about L.A. by the day. The newest sign comes via a $40 million fund that L.A.-based Fika Ventures is announcing today.

That’s none too shabby for a venture firm that was founded just last year.

Fika was created by TX Zhuo, formerly a managing partner at Karlin Ventures, and Eva Ho, a former general partner and cofounder of San Francisco-based Susa Ventures who decided not to participate in that firm’s second, $50 million seed-stage fund — a split that Ho characterizes as “highly amicable. I left because I wanted to focus more on L.A-based investments, as well as be part of a smaller partnership. (Ho had three other partners at Susa.)

The two met in 2011, when Zhuo left a job as an associate with a Palo Alto outfit and headed to L.A. to launch Karlin, which is an affiliate of a much larger investment firm called Karlin Asset Management. He and Ho wound up working on several local events together, as well as collaborating and co-leading several days; over time, they realized they had complementary networks and like investing in similar things.

Ho declines to take credit for any deals at Susa, saying it “applied a team-approach across all deals,” but she says she was involved in supporting companies that include Andela, a startup currently building a network of top tier computer science education programs across the African continent (it has gone on to raise $41 million to date, including from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative); Modsy, a startup bringing virtual reality to home design (it has raised roughly $10 million, including from Norwest Venture Partners); and Flexport, a freight logistics company that wants to be the Uber of the oceans and has so far raised at least $94 million toward that end.

Zhou’s most notable deals meanwhile include the interior design marketplace Laurel & Wolf (it has raised more than $25 million, including from Benchmark) and PolicyGenius, an online insurance platform that has raised roughly $21 million, including from  Revolution.

Zhou and Ho says the fund took about six months to raise, including from some funds of funds, family offices, VCs, CEOs and founders — including 15 from their past portfolios. They also attracted institutional investors Cross Creek Advisors and Knollwood Investment Advisory.

Their pitch?

More here.

New Fundings

Caavo, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based new media company that’s interconnecting pay TV, streaming and gaming in one $399 device, has raised $15 million in funding from Jason Krikorian at DCM, David Sze at Greylock Partners, Sky and Hearst Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Get Spiffy, a three-year-old, Durham, N.C.-based app for on-demand car washes and detailing services, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Bull City Venture Partners, with participation from Development 72, IDEA Fund Partners, and Industry Ventures. More here.

mClinica, a 4.5-year-old, Singapore-based company that provides data, analytics services, and patient programs to healthcare organizations in Asia’s emerging markets, has raised $6.3 million in Series A funding led by Unitus Impact in Silicon Valley, with participation from London-based Global Innovation Fund, Indonesia’s MDI Ventures, and Endeavor. Previous investors 500 Startups, IMJ Investment Partners and Kickstart Ventures also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

MealPal, a year-old, New York-based subscription service that provides members with affordable daily lunch options from restaurants near where they live or work, has raised $15 million in Series A funding. Comcast Ventures led the round, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Haystack Partners and NextView Ventures. More here.

MiDrive, a 3.5-year-old, London-based startup that helps users learn to drive with a driving test app and instructor marketplace, has raised £2 million in Series A2 funding from Initial Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Minute Media, a five-year-old, Tel Aviv-based sports media company whose sites use fan-generated content for sports journalism, has raised $15 million in funding led by Qumra Capital, with participation from Battery Ventures, Dawn Capital, and ProSieben. GeekTime has more here.

NewsWhip, a six-year-old, New York-based company that tracks what stories, themes and “influencers” are trending and provides that data to publishers and brands, has raised $6.4 million. The Associated Press and the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbu led the round. Other participants include Tribal Ventures, unnamed clients of investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald, and previous backers like Enterprise Ireland, Matter VC, Social Starts, and AIB Seed Capital Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Orreco, a six-year-old, L.A.-based sports and data science company that employs machine intelligence to find hidden signals in data that help improve athletic performance, has raised $2 million in Series A funding from True Ventures. More here.

Pleo, a nearly two-year-old, London-based fintech startup whose subscription-based platform helps companies automate their expenses, has added $3.25 million to a previously closed Series A financing, bringing the total round to $5.5 million. Creandum led the round, with participation from Seedcamp and Founders. Tech.eu has more here.

ROKT, a six-year-old, New York-based marketing technology company, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Moelis Australia Asset Management led the round, with participation from Time Inc.Square Peg Capital and individuals John Ho, Lachlan Murdoch, and Greg Roebuck. More here.

StockX, a four-year-old, Detroit-based marketplace for sneakers, has raised $6 million in fresh funding from a group of high-profile investors like Mark Wahlberg, Scooter Braun, and Wale. TechCrunch has more here.

(Other) New Funds

Venture51 Capital Partners, a six-year-old, San Diego-based early-stage venture firm, is looking to raise up to $25 million for its third fund, and it has amassed $6 million in commitments toward that goal, shows an SEC filing. More here.

Exits

PayPal is buying the 20-year-old, Vancouver-based bill payment management company TIO Networks for $233 million in cash. TIO has been trading publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange. TechCrunch has more here.

SoftBank is paying a whopping $3.3 billion in cash to acquire the Fortress Investment Group, an asset manager and investor in its own right, with significant holdings in Lyft, ZestFinance, Xapo, Jawbone and other tech companies. More here.

Walmart is acquiring a outdoor retailer Moosejaw for approximately $51 million in an all-cash deal. Headquartered in Madison Heights, Michigan, the 25-year-old company has a large online presence; it also has 10 brick-and-mortar stores across Michigan and the Midwest. TechCrunch has more here.

People

Tannen Campbell, a former VP of marketing at Magic Leap, says she was brought in to help improve its appeal to women. Now she’s suing the augmented reality company for sexual discrimination. More here.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told the world yesterday that he recently bought $7 million in Twitter stock. Whether it inspires confidence in other investors is an open question.

Essential Reads

To become a global travel behemoth, Airbnb is considering a combination of acquisitions and partnership deals to quickly grow its portfolio, according to Bloomberg. The company’s targets are in luxury tourism, airfare aggregation, group payments and guest-management. More here.

Apple is reportedly struggling to make big acquisitions. Here’s why.

Detours

Is the chicken industry rigged?

India has grown obsessed with crimes committed by software engineers.

Oh, great, guys. American’s just broke the American Psychology Association’s stress meter.

Retail Therapy

Bunny Mellon’s 142-piece collection of Schlumberger jewels. (It’s not for sale, but you can still marvel at it.)


StrictlyVC: February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day, cherubs!

Top News in the A.M.

Apple is launching its first TV show, “Planet of the Apps.” Here’s the trailer.

Facebook is coming to a TV near you.

A new regulatory filing shows Berkshire Hathaway quadrupled its stake in Apple in the fourth quarter.

This VC Firm Just Produced One of the First Detailed Equity Reports About Snap

Many things that used to be true primarily of the public market now happen within the world of private company investing, including the participation of mutual fund investors.

Now, you can add equity research reports to that list.

Goodwater Capital — a two-year-old, consumer-tech-focused venture firm is today taking the wraps off a detailed snapshot of pre-IPO Snap, parent of the disappearing-message app Snapchat. In doing so, the San Mateo, Ca., firm hopes to differentiate itself from its venture peers while also seizing on an underserved opportunity: producing research that helps Wall Street understand tech companies — before their own banking analysts do the job.

It’s a role that has largely been left to the media, which has been dutifully poring over Snap’s roughly 200-page S-1 since it was made public on February 2. Many reporters have done an excellent job, too.

Still, it’s nice to be able to review slightly more comprehensive, particularly if you missed a lot of the coverage that emerged in the days after Snap’s S-1 was first spied in the SEC’s giant electronic filing bin. It’s particularly worth examining if you’re not a Snap aficionado and want to become one quickly, given that the company’s roadshow could reportedly begin this coming Friday.

Goodwater’s report was overseen by Eric Kim, a former investor with Maverick Capital, who launched the consumer-tech focused firm with his former Stanford MBA classmate (and former Kleiner Perkins partner) Chi-Hua Chien in 2014.

Kim, who previously worked on numerous high-profile deals for Maverick like the the multi-platform texting app KakaoTalk and the e-commerce platform Coupang, clearly took the task seriously, too. In addition to its own analysis, Goodwater last month surveyed 2,076 participants who were evenly distributed across geography, age, and income, to produce some of its findings.

Says Kim of what motivated him, “I saw KakaoTalk evolve from a 15-person company into a very valuable public company and there was suddenly this huge gap to bridge, with Wall Street looking at very different metrics than we were accustomed to discussing. Our [Goodwater] report [on Snap] aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the company that both Silicon Valley and Wall Street can understand.”

Indeed, Kim says he doesn’t think people (i.e., reporters) are looking at the company in the same way that Wall Street is liable to evaluate it. For example, Kim notes that plenty of editorials have compared Snapchat with Instagram, but he asserts that even more than Instagram owner Facebook, Snap is “trying to take on the entertainment world and replace TV.”

In other words, a better comparison for Snapchat are entertainment companies.

More here.

New Fundings

8i, a nearly three-year-old, Wellington, New Zealand-based virtual reality company that’s focused on creating life-like humans in VR, has raised $27 million in Series B funding led by Time Warner investments, with participation from Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon Ventures, One Ventures, Seen & Speed Ventures and some of the firm’s previous investors. TechCrunch has more here.

AirTrunk, a three-year-old, Singapore-based data center startup, has raised $400 million in funding from Goldman Sachs and TPG Capital. DealStreetAsia has more here.

BirdEye, a five-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based maker of customer feedback management and monitoring software, has raised $25 million in Series B funding. The round was led by World innovation Lab and Trinity Ventures. Other participants in the financing include Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang, Square’s product engineering lead Gokul Rajaram, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. TechCrunch has more here.

Dedrone, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that develops drone detection technology, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Felicis Ventures, with participation from Cisco’s executive chairman, John Chambers. TechCrunch has more here.

Gamalon, a 3.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based startup whose technology writes and rewrites its own Bayesian programs (it ostensibly requires orders of magnitude less computation and training data relative to today’s state-of-the-art deep machine learning), has raised $4.5 million in seed funding from a long list of familiar names, including Felicis VenturesAdam D’Angelo, Andy Bechtolsheim, Steve Blank, Ivan Chong, and Georges Harik, among others. More here.

Intuition Robotics, a 1.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based maker of an elder care assistant robot, has raised $6 million in funding from iRobot and the equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd. More here.

IntSights, a 1.5-year-old, Herzilya, Israel-based security platform for cyber threats, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Investors in the round include Vintage Investment Partners and earlier backers Glilot Capital Partners, Blackstone, Blumberg Capital, and Wipro Ventures. GeekTime has more here.

Miyoko’s, a 3.5-year-old, Fairfax, Ca.-based line of non-dairy cheeses, has raised $6 million in funding led by JMK Consumer Growth Partners, with participation from CircleUp Growth Fund, Stray Dog Capital, and Obvious Ventures. You can learn more about the company here.

Nova Sciences Holdings, a recently established, Wakefield, Ma.-based industrial instrumentation company, has raised $100 million from Pamplona Capital Management and Ascent Venture Partners. More here.

Samanage, a 10-year-old, Cary, N.C.-based maker of enterprise service management software, has raised $20 million in new funding, including from Carmel Ventures, Gemini Israel Ventures, Marker LLC, Salesforce Ventures and Vintage Investment Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Sense.ly, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of a virtual nursing app, has raised $8 million in Series B funding led by Chengwei Capital, with participation from the Mayo Clinic, Bioved Ventures, Fenox Venture Capital and the Stanford StartX fund. TechCrunch has more here.

SmartUp.io, a nearly three-year-old, London-based mobile app with a points-based game to incentivize “micro” learning, has raised $5.5 million in funding led by Notion Capital and Hong Leong Group. Individual investors also joined the round, including Bebo cofounder Michael Birch and Jawbone cofounder Alex Asseily. TechCrunch has more here.

Wiivv, a 2.5-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based company that’s making and selling 3D-printed shoes and insoles, has raised $4 million in Series A funding from earlier backers Eclipse VC, Evonik Venture Capital, Real Ventures and Asimov Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Wiretap, a 2.5-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based security intelligence platform, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Draper Triangle Ventures and Ohio Innovation Fund. More here.

Exits

Staffjoy, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aimed to help small businesses manage their workflow schedule, is shutting down, it announced today. The company raised at least $1.2 million in seed funding, including from Caffeinated Capital. It had also received a $12,000 grant as a part of Y Combinator’s now shuttered Fellowship program.

People

Frazier Healthcare Partners has promoted Philip Zaorski to vice president and hired Ryan Lucero, also as vice president. Zaorski joined the the firm in 2012 as an associate; Lucero previously worked at Kohlberg and Company.

Jon Ma, an investor with Insight Venture Partners, has left to join the young, San Francisco-based early stage venture firm SignalFire. (We’d written about SignalFire here.)

Walt Disney cut ties yesterday with YouTube star PewDiePie, a 27 year-old Swede whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, for a series of videos he posted that features anti-Semitic or Nazi content. Fortune has more here.

Fred Wang has joined Adams Street Partners as a partner and member of its venture and growth equity unit. Wang was previously a general partner with Trinity Ventures. He starts at Adams Street on April 1.

Jobs

GE Ventures is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.

Essential Reads

Twitter plans to trim down its ad products.

Dubai plans to introduce flying drone taxis as early as this summer(!).

AWS yesterday announced Chime, cloud-based software designed to let business customers make voice or video calls, converse in chat rooms, and hold web conferences from their mobile or desktop devices. Fortune has more here.

Don’t look now, but the great “unbundling” has spun into reverse, with consumers merely swapping one bundle for another.

Detours

The 13 best beaches in America.

Why ugly, janky, old-school Craiglist is unbeatable.

Kellyanne Conway’s interview style, explained.

Retail Therapy

Books door mural, to go with your electronic reading devices. (It’s okay, we aren’t judging.)


StrictlyVC: February 13, 2017

Hi, everyone, welcome back from weekend. (Ours went too fast; we’re still zonked!)

Top News in the A.M.

Apple shares have been trading above their record closing high today, as investors bet that the 10th-anniversary iPhone expected later this year will renew the company’s momentum. The WSJ has more here.

Bradley Tusk on His Fast Rise in Silicon Valley

Bradley Tusk has long been known in political circles. He was once deputy governor of Illinois, working for the now-incarcerated former governor Rod Blagojevich. He also worked for Michael Bloomberg during one of his tenures as mayor of New York City and in 2009 ran Bloomberg’s successful, third re-election campaign.

In fact, thanks to a generous bonus check from Bloomberg, Tusk was able to launch a consultancy in 2010 that helps Fortune 500 companies launch political-style campaigns to achieve a particular end. A year later, in another stroke of luck, Tusk became the first outside consultant to Uber and accepted his pay in equity. Since then, through a separate outfit that only accepts its payment in equity,  Tusk has become a go-to source both Silicon Valley VCs and startup founders needing help in persuading regulators to let them have their way. (Among its other 23 clients: Eaze, AltSchool, Lemonade, and Handy.)

At a StrictlyVC event last week, Tusk talked about his work in Silicon Valley, whether he is interested (as sometimes rumored) in running for office himself, and what certain startups can expect from the Trump administration. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity; you can watch the broader interview if you click on the link below.

Why go into business for yourself after the Bloomberg campaign?

I knew that the skill set that I had was really devising and running campaigns, and because my work had taken me all over the country, I knew I could do it in lots of places. And those two things were a little different from what anyone else in that market was doing.

And Mike is a generous man, and he gave me a bonus at the end of the campaign, and I took a look at the amount left after taxes – it was all the money I had — and I looked at my wife and was like, “When this gets down to $50,000, I’ve got to go get a job.” And luckily it didn’t come to [that].

What did you learn from Bloomberg that you’re replicating?

The [most important] thing for Mike is his culture. So our business in some ways is a microcosm of Bloomberg, where we’re all in a bullpen and [operate in a] very flat hierarchy with total transparency and we try to treat people really well and pay them really well, and we assume that we’re going to get great talent and it’s going to pay off. If you look at almost all of his businesses, and as mayor, his real skill set is that he attracts [talented people], he knows how to recruit them, how to support them, and how to give them the confidence they need to take risks.

There are other political strategy firms working with tech companies, but Tusk Ventures is the only one that everyone knows of because you’re so high profile. Why not operate behind the scenes? 

[T]he deal flow is the lifeblood of any VC, and that’s true for us, too. And in some ways, because I didn’t come up through this world at all, there had to be a way to say “Hey, here’s who we are, here’s what we do. If you have a really interesting company with a really big problem, we’re willing to take it on and we’re willing to do it for equity and be part of your team.” But it took being out there enough for people to realize it.

Are other political strategists starting to emulate your approach?

I hope not. It’s a challenge in a sense that first, we’re able to do all of it for equity — though I pay my people in real dollars — so there’s a lot of financial risk that you have to be willing to take and I’m able to do that. Also, typically, if you’re someone like me and you’re five years into your political consulting firm, you sell it to one of these big holding companies like WPP or Omnicom. And they’d never let you do something like this. So I’d like to think there are some barriers to entry to replicating our model, but I’m sure someone else can come in and do it, too.

Are you interested in running for public office?

No, I mean, the only job to me that’s worth having is being mayor of New York City. It’s a great job. I did launch a super-PAC about a year ago to get rid of our current mayor, Bill de Blasio, just because I think we deserve better than a mayor who’s under seven separate federal corruption investigations and who comes to work at 11 a.m and doesn’t work on Fridays and doesn’t care about substance. But that’s different than saying I want the job. Also, I’m an independent – another thing I got from Mike Bloomberg. And kind of like in San Francisco, in New York City, if you aren’t a Democrat, it’s exceptionally hard to win.

Who would you get behind right now for president in 2020, including from the tech world?

More here.

New Fundings

Bloom & Wild, a 3.5-year-old, London-based online floral company, has raised £3.75 million ($4.7 million) in funding led by Burda Principal Investments, with participation from previous investors MMC Ventures and angel investors. More here.

Bolstra, a 2.5-year-old, Carmel, In.-based customer success management platform, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding co-led by Allos Ventures and 4G Ventures, with participation from Collina Ventures, Elevate Ventures and private investors. More here.

CareDash.com, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based physician ratings site, has raised roughly $2 million in funding, including $1 million in venture debt and another $1 million line of credit from Link Ventures. MedCity News has more here.

CrediFi, a 2.5-year-old, New York City- and Tel Aviv, Israel-based data and analytics platform for commercial real estate finance, has raised $13 million in Series B funding led by Liberty Interactive’s Liberty Israel Venture Fund, with participation from 31 Ventures Global Innovation Fund and earlier backers Battery Ventures, Carmel Ventures, OurCrowd and Stax. GeekTime has more here.

Electric Cloud, a 14-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that helps organizations deliver software faster by automating and accelerating build, deployment and release processes, has raised $11 million in funding. Wellington Financial provided a $6 million loan, and Bridge Bank provided the company with a $5 million line of credit. More here.

Exceed.ai, a year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based chatbot platform that allows brands to talk and sell directly to customers over chat, has raised $1.5 million in funding from Glilot Capital Partners. More here.

Frontclear, a two-year-old, Amsterdam, the Netherlands-based financial markets development company, has raised $30 million in funding from the Dutch bilateral development bank FMO. More here.

Nura, a 1.5-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based maker of custom headphones that has previously raised $1.8 million on Kickstarter, just secured $4.6 million in funding led by Sydneysiders and Blackbird Ventures, with participation from individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

SigTuple Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based health tech startup that’s creating a data-driven cloud-based platform to detect anomalies and trends in medical data (thus hopefully increasing the accuracy and efficiency of disease diagnosis), has raised $5.8 million in Series A funding led by earlier backer Accel Partners. Other participants in the round include IDG Ventures, Endiya Partners, Pi Ventures, VH Capital, and Axilor Ventures, as well as earlier investors Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal of Flipkart and others. LiveMint has more here.

Simba Sleep, a 1.5-year-old, London-based company whose next-gen mattress features four layers of cooling foams and 2,500 conical pocket springs, has raised £9 million ($11.3 million) from a long line of investors, including Henderson Global Investors, Numis Securities, and angel investors. The company has now raised £17.5 million ($21.9 million) altogether. FinSMEs has more here.

SpringCM, a 12-year-old, Chicago-based maker of document and sales contract management software for Salesforce customers, has raised $25 million in funding, including from Foundation Capital and Crestline Investors, a credit and structured capital focused institutional investment firm. As part of the funding, the company also has a new CEO: former Salesforce VP Dan Dal Degan. Built in Chicago has more here.

Trizic, a 4.5-year-old, San Rafael, Ca.-based technology platform that helps wealth managers connect with their clients digitally, has raised $3.3 million in funding led by Freestyle Capital, with participation from Broadhaven Capital Partners and Commerce Ventures. More here.

Voonik, a four-year-old, Mumbai, India-based online shopping app for women, has reportedly raised $6 million from Singapore-based RB Investments and earlier backers Sequoia Capital. LiveMint has more here.

Yunniao Delivery, a 2.5-year-old, Beijing-based business-to-business courier service platform, has raised $100 million in Series D funding led by the private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Warburg had also led a $100 million Series C round in the company in January of last year. DealStreetAsia has more here.

New Funds

Banking group BNP Paribas and global innovation platform Plug and Play have launched a three-month-long fintech and insurtech acceleration program in Paris. Startups can apply to join the acceleration program here.

Firstime Venture, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based venture capital firm, has held a $40 million close on its second fund. The outfit is targeting $60 million. More here.

Grand Ventures, a new, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based venture firm, is targeting $50 million to invest in very early-stage companies in Michigan and the Midwest. The SEC filing is here. Crain’s Detroit Business has more here.

Nomo Ventures, a San Francisco, Ca.-based early stage venture capital firm, is looking to raise $25 million for its debut fund, shows an SEC filing. Rahul Prakash, who founded the firm, sold his company, My Energy, to Nest Labs prior to Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of the company. More here.

Suir Valley Venture Fund, a new London-based early-stage venture firm, is looking to raise €20 million ($21.2 million) for its debut fund. Suir Valley was founded by Barry Downes, who previously founded the company FeedHenry, acquired by Red Hat in 2014 for $82 million in cash. Silicon Republic has more here.

IPOs

Just how open is the IPO window for biotechs in 2017? After a solid start this year for life sciences offerings, two companies haven’t been able to get to market — the latest being Cambridge, Ma-based Visterra. Xconomy has more here.

Exits

Uber’s Southeast Asia rival Grab is in the process of buying up Indonesia-based online payment startup Kudo in its first major acquisition. A source close to discussions tells TechCrunch that talks are ongoing and a deal could be announced as soon this week for less than $100 million. More here.

Nokia is acquiring Comptel, a publicly traded, 31-year-old, Helsinki, Finland-based provider of a platform to deliver digital and communications services. The purchase price: €347 million ($367.7 million). TechCrunch has more here.

People

Chris Ciabarra  a Revel Systems cofounder who quietly left the payments company last week when Welsh Carson took a majority stake in the business and appointed a new CEO — has a new software company. You can learn more about Authenticated Reality here.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for governments to launch a public information campaign to fight the scourge of fake news, which is “killing people’s minds,” he tells the Telegraph. More here.

Starr VC Jim Goetz, who recently relinquished his management responsibilities at Sequoia Capital, said at the time that he was going to “decamp” Sequoia’s Menlo Park office for a few months. Now, it looks like he may be spending that time in South Florida. At least, Goetz just paid $20.33 million for a waterfront Miami Beach mansion that is 10,740-square feet and was built on spec in 2015 for Ahmad Lee Khamsi, a South American cable TV executive. The Real Deal has more here. You can take a virtual tour of the home here.

Tech investor Draper Esprit has brought aboard as an investor Nicola McClafferty, formerly the cofounder and CEO of Covetique, an online fashion retailer. Covetique was founded in 2011 and raised funding in part from Asos, the UK’s largest online fashion retailer, which later acquired the company. McClafferty has also worked as an associate with Balderton Capital in the past. The Irish Times has more here.

In the face of criticism regarding IBM’s decision to work with President Trump’s administration, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has written an email to employees, saying she believes the best course of action is to continue to engage with Trump and company. She adds that she has already used that access to raise concerns about his executive order on immigration. More here.

Jobs

Cleveland Clinic Ventures is looking to hire an associate. The job is in Cleveland, Oh.

Essential Reads

One reason veteran staffers quit Google’s car project? The company paid them too much.

Detours

The people who never forget.

Great news: butter is good for you. [Backward roll, handstand.]

Retail Therapy

Custom jackets for tough pooches.

Luxury homes, minus the giant bedrooms.


StrictlyVC: February 10, 2017

Friday! Pheeeew. Everyone, hope you have a wonderful weekend! Stay dry/warm.

For those of you who came out to our event in San Francisco on Wednesday night, we have lots of pictures here. Thank you again for making it a very fun event.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Ford is investing $1 billion into an AI startup, Detroit’s biggest investment yet in self-driving car tech.

Xiaomi is planning to roll out 1,000 retail stores.

Carl Bass on His Surprising Resignation from Autodesk — and What’s Next

Carl Bass is sitting at his desk at Autodesk today, but he’s no longer CEO of the publicly traded design software company. He stepped down earlier this week in a move that some associated — wrongly, notes Bass — with an interview Bass granted to the outlet Pando, wherein he disparaged President Donald Trump.

This morning, we talked with Bass about his resignation, his continuing role as a board member with Autodesk, if he regrets speaking out against the administration as a public company CEO, and whether he thinks more tech CEOs should do the same. The famously straight-shooting Bass had plenty to say about all. He also shared some of what he hopes to work on next. Our conversation has been edited lightly for length.

You stepped down as CEO on Tuesday, and senior VPs Amar Hanspal and Andrew Anagnost have been installed as interim co-CEOs. But you’re helping in the search for your replacement, is that correct? 

Yes, Tuesday was my last day, but I’ll continue working as an employee for three months and am continuing on the board of directors for a while. We started planning this a while ago, because the best way to do [a succession change] is for the current CEO to step down. Otherwise, the best external candidates aren’t sure there’s really a job opening.  You know, sometimes you see the pocket veto, where the CEO has a change of heart and says, “Hey, if you’re going to choose so and so, I’m not leaving.” This is a clean break, and outside candidates take it seriously, and the board takes it seriously. We’ve hired an outside search team who will be talking with both internal and external candidates, so hopefully [we’ll find the right candidate] quickly.

You’ve said that you and Autodesk’s board began succession planning talks 18 months ago, but some people believe an interview wherein you criticized Donald Trump played a role in the timing of your resignation.

There were a lot of rumors this week that couldn’t be further from the truth. To the extent that you take what a company says with a grain of salt [because companies can be so promotional], when it comes to governance, these are real rules. There are real penalties of law. Public companies don’t take that lightly.

Do you at all regret being so public about how you feel about Trump? 

Not, not at all. Not one bit. When you look at Trump, there are three things going on: policies; character and temperament; and executive or administrative functioning. I think on two and three, almost everybody can agree that he’s not qualified, and that’s why I joked [to Pando’s Sarah Lacy] that he’s running the government like someone in between a small businessman and dictator. I watch what’s happening every day, and I’m reminded of my kids when they were four years old and had no awareness of anything outside of themselves. He’s a 70-year-old baby.

On the policy stuff, it’s hard to parse what his is policy is. We’re against the “One China” policy; now we’re for it. We’re going to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jersusalem; now we’re not. Policy seems to be the part of the job that least interests him. These are complicated issues, but they don’t seem to captivate him. He doesn’t seem particularly curious or thoughtful about them. He’s more interested in tweeting out the latest insult that [springs to mind].

Do you think other tech executives should be more vocal, or is too much of a risk?

I think anybody who has a platform should speak out. I’ve had a ton of people reach out to me this week — people much better-known than I am, saying, “That’s awesome, what you said.” And I’m like, “Why don’t you say it? You have a bigger pulpit.”

A lot of people think Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk should step off Trump’s economic advisory council. What do you think?

It’s a complicated issue for Elon. I think many of the things he’s trying to accomplish are really worthy goals but they intersect with regulation: automomuos vehicles, putting things in space. You can’t do that without the government, so from very self-interested point of view, and in the interest of his companies, I understand. On the other hand, he has a very pubic platform and I’m sure he has an opinion and if everybody takes the self-interested view, the world doesn’t get to hear the opinions of its leaders. So I think it’s important but I certainly understand.

I’ve [feel even more strongly about Facebook COO] Sheryl Sandberg. She has gone out of her way to build a brand around the power of women and what they’re capable of, and when it comes to the Women’s March, she was invisible. She seems to have leaned out quite a bit.

More here.

New Fundings

Botworx.ai, a year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based conversational commerce platform, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Costanoa Ventures, with participation from SV Angel. More here.

Capsule8, a months-old, New York City-based cybersecurity startup that’s focused on container-aware, real-time threat protection for Linux, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding, including from Bessemer Venture Partners, Shardul Shah of Index Ventures and Jay Leek of ClearSky. More here.

Demisto, a 1.5-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based chatbot startup that offers a comprehensive security operations platform, has raised $20 million in funding led by ClearSky. SiliconAngle has more here.

Empow, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $9 million in funding from both private investors and the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy. FinSMEs has more here.

Evident.io, a 3.5-year-old Pleasanton, Ca.-based company that offers security services for public cloud infrastructure provider AWS, has raised $22 million in new funding led by GV. Earlier investors Bain Capital, True Ventures, and Venrock also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $49 million. VentureBeat has more here.

HealthReveal, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that uses remote monitoring and data analytics to help payers and providers make sure patients get the treatments that line up with evidentiary guidelines, has raised $10.8 million in first-round funding. The round was led by GE Ventures, with participation from Greycroft Partners, Flare Capital Partners, and Manatt Ventures.

Oncoinvent, a six-year-old, Oslo, Norway-based cancer therapeutics firm, has raised roughly $25 million from corporate investors that include Geveran Trading, Canica, CGS Holding, Helene Sundt, and Must Invest. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News has more here.

New Funds

Nasdaq is planning to set up a venture capital arm to invest in financial technology, according to Reuters. (Guess that’s one way to get listings!) More here.

People

A Google X engineer has written a bot that turns Donald Trump’s tweets into money for Planned Parenthood.

Data

VC firms backed a record number of cybersecurity startups in 2016. Bloomberg has more here.

Essential Reads

Inside Medium‘s meltdown: How an idealistic Silicon Valley founder raised $134 million to change journalism, then crashed into reality.

The AI threat isn’t Skynet; it’s the end of the middle class.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial announced a surprise deal to acquire international payment service MoneyGram for $880 million last month, but that looks like being just the start of its M&A activities. A source at the company confirmed to TechCrunch that it is close to raising nearly $3 billion in debt financing in order to bankroll further acquisitions. More here.

Detours

Cringe your way throught this Breitbart News interview with poor Sean Spicer.

Your dog is judging you for being a jerk.

Life on hold.

Retail Therapy

cat forest climbing tree. It’s not cheap, but whiskers is worth it.