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StrictlyVC: July 29, 2016

We heart Fridays!

Giant thanks to our friend Semil who has stepped in numerous times since StrictlyVC’s launch to help with guest interviews and was a tremendous help with StrictlyVC over the last couple of weeks (including authoring today’s column).

As we mentioned yesterday, we’re shutting entirely for one week, beginning Monday, but we’ll be back in production starting August 8. Take care, everyone, and we’ll see you soon.:)

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Top News in the A.M.

Alphabet and Amazon both beat expectations yesterday during their earnings calls. More here and here.

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Exits and Commitments

Today wraps up the third summer I’ve had the luxury (and wielded the power!) of being a guest curator for StrictlyVC while Connie takes some well-deserved R&R on the beach with her family. This year, along with the standard Q&A’s with fellow investors, I’ve been reflecting on my few years as a small investor. Last Friday, I tried to collect and synthesize the questions I’ve received over the years about starting a fund as an “FAQ.” This Friday, I’ve been thinking about exits.

The job of a fund manager, beyond allocating capital and helping those founders along the way, is to return capital. It’s ultimately the only thing a manager is judged on, professionally speaking. Everyone reading this newsletter already knows that. Yet, on this judgment metric, managers aren’t often in control of how or when those events occur. It typically takes Fund 2’s and 3’s to see what works, and yet, as the old adage goes, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

For newer, smaller funds like mine and many others, folks hope for public offerings down the road, though lately those outcomes feel harder to come by for a variety of reasons. Folks also hope for large acquisitions, and while many investors believe those may pick up over time, large ones are rare. Then there are secondaries and partial stock sales to newer investors from larger investment firms that have higher thresholds for ownership targets in their fund models.

Investors and pundits chatter enough about an IPO or the large acquisitions they’re involved with or monitoring, but secondaries are not typically discussed for a host of reasons: reputation, private information, signaling, etc. I was afraid to discuss the topic myself until I realized they happen quite frequently, that secondaries have been discussed openly by one of the best venture investors in the world, and that they aren’t that big a deal for smaller funds that aren’t “an investor of record” in a company. (I should be clear here in stating that the investors who take concentrated positions in companies, join their boards, and manage larger funds have many reasons not to engage in secondaries because they need to play for a larger outcome, and any shuffling of a syndicate can be interpreted as a potentially negative signal by the private market.)

Secondaries do not magically occur, however. They require creativity, patience, and, most importantly, the acceptance of other people in the deal on the table, including the existing investors, the new investors, and, of course, the CEO. The early investor has to ask for permission. He or she has to explain their rationale honestly. Signatures need to be collected. He or she still helps out, too. The relationship doesn’t end, and often it’s the companies helping the investor out more than the other way around.

These decisions, I’d argue, are not necessarily intuitive for most small fund managers, most of whom do not have experience managing institutional money. Whereas most very early-stage decisions are made without much data, decisions to sell in future rounds when companies are doing well require an entirely different level of analysis. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve found that process significantly more challenging and the learning curve steeper.

Still, secondaries are still comparatively easy for small funds to execute if they really want to. The absolute dollars at issue are often not material enough to arouse emotions. It’s considerably harder for bigger funds with classic partnership structures, whose general partners may make one to two new investments per year, sit on boards, and continue to follow-on in their investments all the way to the finish line. Larger funds often can’t, like smaller funds, invest in a bunch of companies per year and see what happens; they have to be selective and commit for a longer period of time. They often can’t, like smaller funds, scale down their ownership because those signals may negatively impact a specific company. They often can’t, like smaller funds, not maintain ownership because their fund sizes require large outcomes.

I’m not saying these larger VC firms are saints or always helping out, but it’s a complicated dynamic that’s often overlooked or dismissed in the current environment of exploding company creation and exploding new fund formation. We should keep in mind the commitment of those founders and their early VC investors who take on and embrace long-term risk. Three years into the game, that’s most of what’s on my mind.

Thanks for reading, and welcome back, Connie!

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New Fundings

BP3 Global, a nine-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based maker of data analytics software, has raised $10 million in growth equity funding from Petra Capital Partners. Silicon Hills has more here.

Cloudvirga, a months-old, Irvine, Ca.-based cloud software platform for streamlining the mortgage process, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding led by Dallas Capital, with participation from Upfront Ventures and Tribeca Angels. The Orange County Business Journal has more here.

Jumia, a four-year-old, Lagos, Nigeria-based online retailer specializing in electronics, fashion, home appliances, and children’s items, has raised $55 million from the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the UK’s development finance institution. Dignited has more here.

LeadGenius, a five-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based startup that makes automated sales software, has raised $10 million in Series B funding co-led by Lumia Capital and past investor Sierra Ventures. Other participants in the round include Better VenturesBee PartnersY CombinatorKapor CapitalInitialized CapitalFuel CapitalScrum Ventures and Funders Club. TechCrunch has more here.

Mozio, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based search and booking engine that enables users to find the fastest means of getting to the airports, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from JetBlue Technology Ventures. Tnooz has more here.

nVision Medical Corp., a 4.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based biotech startup at work on medical devices to treat infertility caused by fallopian tube dysfunction, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Arboretum Ventures, with participation from earlier backer Catalyst Health Ventures. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

Reltio, a five-year-old, Redwood Shores, Ca.-based data management platform, has raised $22 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from earlier backers Crosslink Capital and .406 Ventures. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

Retty, a five-year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based site where users can write reviews about restaurants and diners, has raised $10.5 million in Series D funding led by World Innovation Lab, with participation from ABC Dream Ventures and Eight Road Ventures Japan. The Bridge has more here.

Roomi, a year-old, New York-based marketplace for shared housing, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by DCM Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

VytronUS, a 10-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company whose medical devices are designed to treat cardiac arrhythmias, has raised $49 million in Series C funding, including from Apple Tree Partners, New Enterprise Associates, BioStar Ventures and Windham Venture Partners. More here.

Wonder Workshop, a 3.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based maker of robots that children can program using mobile devices, has raised $20 million in Series B funding co-led by WI Harper Group and Idea Bulb Ventures, with participation from Learn Capital, CRV, Madrona Venture Group,  and TCLMore here.
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IPOs

Talend, a 10-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based big data software company, made a solid debut as a public company today. After pricing its shares at $18 last night, the company began trading on Nasdaq at $27.66, up 54 percent, giving the company an implied valuation of $537 million. TechCrunch has more here.

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People

Garrett Camp, Uber cofounder and CEO of Expa Studios, has unveiled Expa’s latest project, Haus, a real estate play that digitizes the entire process of buying and selling residential property. More here.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just became the third-richest man in the world.

Microsoft is cutting 2,850 more jobs beyond the 1,850 that the company announced would be eliminated earlier this year.  The new cuts will hit phone hardware and sales. ZDNet has the story.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has almost completed a new book tentatively titled “Option B” that focuses on healing from adversity and coping with those difficult circumstances. Recode has more here.

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Data

A new study from SurveyMonkey reveals the 30 most-downloaded and most-used apps in the U.S. iOS and Android app stores so far this year. More here.

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Essential Reads

Apple has hired the former head of BlackBerry  automotive software division as its car team places increased emphasis on developing self-driving technology over efforts to design its own vehicle, says Bloomberg. More here.

Perhaps in preparation for a someday self-driving fleet, Uber has launched a program called UberCentral that allows businesses of any size to request, pay for, and manage rides for customers from a centralized dashboard. TechCrunch has more here.

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Detours

The unraveling of Harvard’s star trading desk.

What your brain looks like when it solves a math problem.

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Retail Therapy

Alpha Tiny House.




StrictlyVC: July 28, 2016

And it is Thursday! Today’s Q&A brought to you again by the dexterous Semil Shah.

Also, an important programming note, or a no-programming note(?): StrictlyVC will not go out to readers next week. We do this about two separate weeks each year to give Connie a full and complete break so she doesn’t lose her mind. The good news: we’ll be back in full form on August 8!

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Top News in the A.M.

Facebook crushed its second quarter earnings and saw its shares hit a new high yesterday as a result. More here.

Oracle is acquiring the cloud software provider NetSuite for about $9.3 billion, or $109 per share, in an all-cash deal, the companies announced this morning. More here.

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VC Kent Goldman on Changing Dynamics Between Seed-Stage Firms

Two years ago, Kent Goldman, a former partner with First Round Capital, took the wraps off his own seed-stage venture firm and the novel idea that it incorporates. Specifically, Goldman said that his new firm, Upside Partnership, would give every founding team that it backs a piece of its own carry, effectively making them Upside’s partners.

Investors liked the idea, committing $30 million to Goldman’s debut fund, and committing another $44 million to his second fund, which closed earlier this year. We caught up with him recently to talk about the current, seed-stage ecosystem. More from that chat below.

In the consumer tech landscape today, what are some consumer behaviors you’re tracking that could lead to new products, services or networks?

It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve taken a thematic approach to investing. I try to be proactive about people rather than ideas. Founders are much better at seeing the future than investors, so my focus is really on finding people who’ve been thinking about and working through solutions far longer than I’ve even known a problem exists.

I have gotten wrapped around the conversational UI axle. Some of Upside’s earliest investments were behind founders building companies around text-based conversational UIs. With the attention now being paid to voice interfaces, it’s been difficult not to revisit the idea of a disappearing UI and the challenges they present to our collective learning around visual interfaces. For example, we’re used to having app icons to remind people about the existence of apps they’ve already downloaded. We’re used to visual design being used as a method to introduce new features. But how do you remind a user of skill they added to their Amazon Echo? What’s the audio equivalent of an app tutorial? How do you train a user to a specific conversational app syntax? What’s the audio corollary of a badge count? It’s been fun to kick around these questions with folks.

With one fund of Upside Partnership under your belt, what’s been the single-most surprising element of running the fund?

The biggest surprise is that we’ve been the first institutional investor to commit to funding a founding team in the majority of our investments. Our typical initial investment is very deliberately around $300,000. Because Upside was formed with the intention of playing well with other investors, I thought it was more likely that we would be tucked into a round after a lead was chosen. More often than not, it’s been the opposite. It’s been a gratifying development.

Another surprise was that four of our first eight investments backed female founders.

How do you anticipate seed syndicates changing as more investors enter the mix and smaller funds begin to scale? 

It’s going to get a bit edgy in syndicate land. When I joined First Round, back in “super angel” days of 2008, I saw how much support founders could get when their investor syndicates were working in alignment with one another. But as the seed landscape evolved, becoming the lead investor or hitting arbitrary ownership targets became increasingly important to a number of funds.

At some point investors decide whether they believe special founders drive outsized returns or concentrated ownership does. I strongly believe it’s the former, so I decided to build a fund that would be focused on overachieving as a syndicate member. This means investing time to help regardless of your check size. And it means there is a bit more freedom to support the founders you want to work with. One way to do this well is to keep fund sizes small.

As many emerging funds make the decision to grow their size and set a goal to lead rounds, they’re going to discover that it’s much more challenging to directly compete with elite firms like First Round than it is to work alongside them. In doing so, they’re making the decision to put their access to great founders in jeopardy. It’s always been a puzzling strategic choice to me; do they want to scale fund size or do they want to scale returns?

Many of your seed deals have gone on to raised Series A rounds. How does the nature of your work with companies change after that Series A closes?

I’m most engaged with founders at the seed stage. The challenges they face are the ones I best understand. As their companies scale beyond into Series B territory, the decisions they face fall outside of my focus. By this point, I hope to have earned enough of their confidence that they will still consider me a trusted counsel – it’s the way I hope to earn the opportunity to make follow-on investments in their businesses. But, as companies age, I anticipate becoming more reactive, rather than proactive.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a popularly held point of view?

Investors stand on the shoulders of founders. And often founders, not investors, give other founders the best operational advice. It’s why we make each founder we back a partner in our fund. Venture firm’s brands are built on the smarts and fortitude of the people they back. It’s wise to recognize this with more than hollow lip service.

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New Fundings

Cronycle, a three-year-old, London-based collaborative research platform that enables users to filter through articles on Twitter and RSS feeds to find relevant content, has raised $2.6 million in Series A funding from Andurance Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

EverFi, an eight-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based education software startup, has raised $40 million in Series C funding from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, New Enterprise Associates and Rethink Education. Fortune has more here.

Good Eggs, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based online grocer that claims to deliver top local, organic produce, along with sustainable meat and fish, has raised $15 million in new funding led by Index Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Matific, a nearly four-year-old, New York-based ed tech company, has raised $45 million in Series B funding led by cofounder Leon Kamenev. GeekTime has more here.

Paidy, a Tokyo, Japan-based cardless e-commerce payment and instant credit service, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Eight Roads (the investment arm of Fidelity), and SBI Holdings. Other participants include Itochu Corporation and earlier investors Arbor Ventures and SIG Asia. TechCrunch has more here.

Peek, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that lets people book tours and activities, has raised $10 million in funding from individual investors, including Trulia founder Pete Flint, TPG co-CEO David Bonderman, and former Kleiner Perkins partner Ray Lane. TechCrunch has more here.

PhishMe, a five-year-old, Leesburg, Va.-based cybersecurity platform turns employees into an active line of defense by enabling them to identify, report, and mitigate spear phishing attacks, has raised $42.5 million in Series C funding led by earlier Paladin Capital Group, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners. More here.

Phosphorus, a months-old, New York-based computational genomics company that’s focused on fertility, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Poq, a five-year-old, London-based app commerce startup, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Beringea, with participation from Seedcampand VenrexMore here.

RedWave Energy, a five-year-old, Glen Ellyn, Il.-based company that’s developing technology to generate renewable energy from the previously untapped infrared (IR) and near IR spectrum, has raised $5.5 million in funding led by Energy Foundry. Other participants include Northwater CapitalPrime Coalition and a Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund. The Chicago Tribune has more here.

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IPOs

Tomorrow, Talend, a 10-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based big data software company, is going public in what will be the second IPO for a venture-backed Bay Area tech company this year. The San Francisco Chronicle has more here.

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Exits

Private equity eats another software company. This time, OMERS Private Equity and funds managed by Harvest Partners are paying about $1 billion to acquire publicly traded Epiq, an outfit that sells IT services like electronic discovery to the legal profession. More here.

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People

Tech entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg didn’t mince words last night at the Democratic National Convention, calling fellow billionaire businessman Donald Trump a con man. More here.

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Jobs

SherpaFoundry, the strategic advisory firm of the venture firm Sherpa Capital (it makes connections between startups and corporations), is looking for what it calls a coverage partner. It sounds largely like a corporate development position — you’d be trying to drum up new corporate members, identifying startups with compelling teams, developing sector maps, etc — and it requires five to 10 years of experience. To apply, reach out to SherpaFoundry CEO Neal Hansch at neal@sherpafoundry.com.

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Data

According to a new Cambridge Associates report, endowment portfolios with more than 15 percent allocated to private investments have outperformed their peers consistently, and for decades. Read it here.

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Essential Reads

Facebook sees two billion searches a day, but it’s attacking Twitter, not Google.

SoundCloud‘s owners are considering a sale that could value the German music streaming company at $1 billion, according to Bloomberg. More here.

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Detours

A guide to guerilla parenting.

Confessor. Feminist. Adult. What the hell happened to Howard Stern?

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Retail Therapy

A 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring. Starting price: $20 million.




StrictlyVC: July 27, 2016

Hi, happy Wednesday, everyone. Today’s Q&A is brought to you again courtesy of investor Semil Shah, as Connie’s off shooting Nerf guns with her sons somewhere. (Thanks, Semil!)

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Top News in the A.M.

Twitter reported its earnings yesterday, and the newest number to bother Wall Street centers on its revenue growth, which has fallen dramatically. The company’s shares are down 13 percent today as a result.

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Quick Chat with Avidan Ross

A year ago, Avidan Ross, an investor with an engineering background, raised a debut, $31.4 million, fund under the brand Root Ventures. The idea was to back early-stage hardware startups — eight to 10 of them each year. StrictlyVC talked with Ross at the time; we more recently caught up with him to ask how things are going, one year into his newest adventure.

Imagine a new consumer hardware startup team forming. In an ideal world, what kind of team should it assemble if it aims to become an MVP in the consumer market?

I hate to say this, but it depends. If the team is building some deeply technical hardware with ongoing material science development, then there better be a material scientist on board. Generically, I’d say that at least one person on the team has to be ready to roll up their sleeves and deal with the business development side of the startup. That means everything from sales and marketing to fundraising and operations. The core tech of the company should never be outsourced, so we love seeing a very strong technical team. No matter the team’s professional background, the most important element is a passion for the problem the business is solving. Building hardware companies is way too hard to just be opportunist. Hardware founders have to be driven by a deep fire that will not let them sleep until the problem is solved.

You’ve been at this for a year. What’s been the single-most surprising element of running your fund so far?

The help from my LPs. Seriously, I’m not just kissing up to the folks who gave me money. My LP base is far more diverse than the average Silicon Valley fund. We took funds from individuals and institutions, but their industrial affiliation is widely varied, from medical to real estate to manufacturing and logistics. When you’re working on hardware, the industries and partners you’re looking for aren’t just spread across industry but also geographically diverse. Most other firms can get away with extremely deep relationships along the 101 freeway. We had to go broader, and a strong LP network has been helpful in generating great strategic relationships in every possible industry.

With all of the startups going after the smart home market, how did Amazon Echo just cut through the noise? What can founders and investors in the space learn from Echo’s success?

I think the main reason for Alexa’s success is the intuitive natural user-interface. Alexa works because she is listening when your hands are full or you’re deeply sitting in the couch. Also, Alexa launched with a very basic first set of functions, making the interaction simple and intuitive. When people interface with software, a counterintuitive experience such as Snapchat actually becomes a feature. In the world of physical objects, the design should be first and foremost intuitive and delightful. I think that founders of hardware startups often think this is just about industrial design, but Echo showed us that it’s more about an intuitive user experience, and interaction is the core.

You recently opened up a new SF office, or should we say, workshop. Tell us about how you designed and built it. How can people check it out?

I like building things. My home garage is a mini maker space, filled with CNC routers, laser cutters, and 3D printers. As our team grew, it became clear that we needed a little bit of space to call our own. Just like the garage, it seemed only natural to make it an inspiring workshop. Our friends at Dodocase were kind enough to share some of their factory in the [the San Francisco neighborhood] Dogpatch with us, and we’ve been working there ever since. Instead of creating an office with a lobby, reception, and conference rooms, it’s an open access space for entrepreneurs to collaborate and ideate on designs. We have a café inside the space to keep everyone properly caffeinated, beer taps for meetups, and have access to the larger equipment within Dodocase when someone wants to go big. If anyone wants to come hang, tweet at @rootvc or @avidanross, and we’ll get you some machine time.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a popularly held point of view?

I think that most hardware companies should never take venture money. If you walk down the aisles of a Best Buy or a Target, nearly all those products were never venture backed. Do not feel pressured to measure your success as your ability to raise venture capital. If your product has the ability to be a Trojan horse for a much larger recurring revenue or network-effect-driven business, it might be worth pursuing venture investment.

I like to think of entrepreneurs as fire starters. You can build a fire with brush, then twigs, then branches, and while it might take a while, the flame is sustainable. Meanwhile, venture capital is like gasoline. If your fire is not built to consume the fuel, it can [destroy your business].

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New Fundings

Automile, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that makes tracking software for fleet management, has raised $6.2 million led by SaaStr Fund, with participation from earlier backers Dawn Capital, Point Nine Capital and individual angels, including Justin Kan and Niklas Zennstrom. VentureBeat has more here.

B12, a year-old, New York-based startup that build websites with A.I. and human help, has raised $12.4 million in Series A funding from General Catalyst Partners, Breyer Capital, Founder Collective, and SV Angel. VentureBeat has more here.

Big Health, a year-old, London-based startup that aims to come up with numerous digital behavioral health programs, beginning with a sleep product called Sleepio, has raised $12 million in new funding led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Index Ventures, and numerous individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Black Bear Energy, a year-old, Boulder, Co.-based startup that provides services to commercial renewable energy buyers, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Boulder Ventures, with participation from earlier investor Rocky Mountain Institute. BizWest has more here.

CellMax Life, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based cancer blood-testing company, has raised $9 million in Series A-1 funding led by Artiman Ventures, with participation from Taiwanese investors, including Acer founder Stan ShihMore here.

Density, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that’s launching a people-counting sensor to measure how many people are inside a space at any given time, has raised $4 million in Series A  funding led by Upfront Ventures, with participation from Ludlow Ventures, Jason Calacanis, Dawn PatrolHiten Shah and Arjun Sethi. TechCrunch has more here.

Nomad Health, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based online marketplace connecting doctors with freelance clinical work, has raised $4 million in Series A funding co-led by First Round Capital and RRE Ventures, with participation from .406 Ventures. More here.

Prospera, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company whose software tools aim to help growers optimize their crops, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

SafeBreach, a two-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based cybersecurity startup that generates war games simulations within organizations’ information systems to detect any vulnerabilities, has raised $15 million in Series A funding from Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, Hewlett Packard Pathfinder and Maverick Ventures, along with earlier investors Sequoia Capital and Shlomo Kramer. SecurityWeek has more here.

Shipt, a 2.5-year-old, Birmingham, Ala.-based online grocery marketplace, has raised $20.1 million in Series A funding from Greycroft Partners, Harbert Growth Partners and e.ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Sun Basket, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based organic meal kit provider, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Accolade Partners, with participation from Founders Circle, Shea Ventures and earlier investors Vulcan Capital, PivotNorth, Relevance Capital, Filter14 and Baseline Ventures. GeekWire has more here.

Vtesse, a 1.5-year-old, Gaithersburg, Md.-based drug developer focused on rate life-threatening diseases like Niemann-Pick Type C1 disease, has raised $17 million in Series A funding, including from Alexandria Venture Investments, Bay City Capital, Lundbeckfond Ventures, and earlier investors New Enterprise Associates and Pfizer (which helped create the orphan disease incubator). FierceBiotech has more here.

Upthere, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based personal cloud storage service, has raised $77 million led by KPCB and Western Digital, along with Elevation Partners, Floodgate, GV, NTT Docomo Ventures, and Square 1 Bank. TechCrunch has more here.

Zeek, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup whose app lets you buy and sell unwanted store gift vouchers, has raised $9.5 million in Series B funding led by Scale-Up Venture Capital, with participation from long list of additional investors, including Blumberg Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, FJ Labs, Uri Levine, Emery Capital, Ton Ventures, Radiant Venture Capital, iAngels and Target Global. TechCrunch has more here.

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Exits

Analog Devices is buying fellow chipmaker Linear Technology for about $14.8 billion. Analog’s $60-per-share offer represents a premium of nearly 24 percent to Linear’s Monday close. Reuters has more here.

LeEco, the China-based multidisciplined powerhouse (it has a video streaming service, and makes TVs, smartphones and even has a car in the works) is acquiring 14-year-old Vizio, a California-based budget TV manufacturer, for $2 billion. TechCrunch has more here

LogMeIn, a Boston-based company that offers a web conferencing service, is acquiring Citrix-owned rival GoToMeeting. The deal is valued at about $1.8 billion. Fortune has more here.

Myntra, a fashion portal owned by Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart, has acquired Indian e-commerce site Jabong from Rocket Internet for $70 million. According to LiveMint, Jabong’s value had “collapsed” over the last year, owing to leadership issues, market share losses, and a funding crunch. More here.

Skully, a venture-backed company that had famously promised beautiful augmented reality motorcycle helmets, is no more, says TechCrunch. More here.

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People

Gunnard Johnson, who specializes in advertising analytics and was hired by Snapchat earlier this year, has left to join the digital pinboard company Pinterest as its head of measurement science and insights, leading a new team of 12 employees. Fortune has more here.

The payday of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is even more insane that you may have heard.

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Jobs

Trinity Ventures is looking to fill two associate positions, one focused on consumer investing and one on enterprise and business-to-business investing. The jobs are on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Ca. You can send your resumes to info@trinityventures.com.

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Essential Reads

The inside story Of Pokémon GO’s evolution from Google castoff to global phenomenon.

Tesla has finally shown off its massive battery factory in Reno, Nev.

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Detours

The average legal pot user spends $647 a year on weed.

The three-year process to redesign the FDA’s nutrition label.

This sure sounds like one crazy hedge fund(!).

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Retail Therapy

Major pieces from Philip Johnson’s landmark 1959 Four Seasons restaurant are set to hit the auction block. You can check out the goods here.




StrictlyVC: July 26, 2016

Happy Tuesday! Today’s column brought to you by the prolific Semil Shah while Connie swelters somewhere under the Heat Dome.

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Top News in the A.M.

What you should expect from today’s Apple, Verizon and Twitter earnings reports.

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Chatting with Jenny Lefcourt of Freestyle Capital

A little more than two years ago, Jenny Lefcourt, who cofounded the wedding registry startup WeddingChannel.com and a short-lived e-commerce company called Marrkit, made the leap into venture capital.

Specifically, the Stanford MBA joined Freestyle Capital founders Josh Felser and Dave Samuel at their small but growing seed-stage fund, and she’s been helping build the firm’s brand and the rest of its business since.

We caught up with her recently to talk about her newest gig.

You’re the newest GP at Freestyle, a seed-stage fund. What’s been the most surprising part of the transition? 

I’m still an entrepreneur at heart and felt that being a seed-stage VC would enable me to add the most value to my portfolio companies while also being the most exciting and fulfilling for me as an investor. Compared to being an entrepreneur, I expected the highs to not be as high but the lows not as low, but I’ve been surprised by how high the highs are. [Watching] my entrepreneurs and their companies develop from tiny to thriving has been more of a thrill than I had imagined. I’ve also been surprised and delighted by the depth of relationships I’ve developed with my entrepreneurs. Being in the trenches with them creates quite a bond.

As some micro funds grow and add partners, what would be your advice as to how they integrate new faces?

My advice to a micro fund looking to add a partner would be to add someone who has a different lens on the world and that you trust and respect.  Groupthink can be deadly to a partnership, so you need to ensure that you not only have differing points of view but that you have a relationship between the partners that welcomes debate.  Josh, Dave and I have hearty debates, we each have unique skill sets that help Freestyle’s portfolio companies. Also, and important to me, we laugh a lot. Laughter is really underrated as the glue that holds people and teams together.

You have deep experience in retail, both as a founder and an investor. What are your views on how consumer retail transforms over the next decade? Is there any chance to find a category that Amazon won’t gobble up?

I believe there is going to be a big pendulum swing back to curation and service. The internet delivered access to so much inventory online, which was thrilling to online shoppers for a while.  Now, consumers find it hard to sift through the options and are ready for fewer, more personalized offerings.  This will require retailers to use the data they have on their consumers and provide more service to make a sale. Retailers will also need to truly become omnichannel —  the most overused and not-delivered-upon concept in retail — to provide the unique experiences that will keep them competitive in the Amazon-versus-everyone else world that we live in.

As Freestyle grows, how have you and partners evolved your thinking around follow-on funding for your seed companies?

We’ve reserved a greater percentage of our recent funds for follow-on financings than we used to. We’re usually participating in our pro-rata for Series A and sometimes Series B, and we’ll “back up the truck” for some of our best performing companies. Our usual initial check size is between $500,000 to $1 million, and our entrepreneurs are typically raising between $2 million to $3 million.  We lead rounds and write big checks for our fund size because our model is to work very hard and closely with the teams that we back.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a popularly held point of view?

I don’t seek out high-profile entrepreneurs who I know many VCs are attracted to. I find that high-profile entrepreneurs can be distracted by the many invites they get to networking events, speaking engagements, parties, advising, etc.  The entrepreneurs I have backed have all been heads-down and hard-working people who surgically apply networking. Between Josh, Dave and I — and others with whom we coinvest — we can get our teams in front of just about anyone they desire to meet.  So, while the entrepreneurs who attend events like Summit at Sea are smart, hard-working and fabulous, they’re not typically the entrepreneurs I choose to invest in.

—–

New Fundings

Acalvio Technologies, a year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based threat detection technology startup, has raised $17 million in new funding from investors, including Accel Partners, Ignition Partners and Eileses Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Reflect, a year-old, Portland, Or.-based data visualization service, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by DFJ. Other participants include Founders’ Co-Op, Liquid 2 Ventures (Joe Montana’s investment vehicle), TechstarsStanford University and a number of angel investors, including Parse co-founder Ilya Sukhar. TechCrunch has more here.

Scopely, a five-year-old, Culver City, Ca.-based mobile entertainment network, has raised $55 million in fresh funding led by Greycroft Growth Fund, with participation from Elephant Partners (the new fund of Warby Parker co-founder Andy Hunt and former Highland Capital colleague and partner Jeremiah Daly); Evolution Media Partners, a partnership of CAA-backed Evolution Media Capital; TPG Growth; Participant Media; Highland Capital; Sands Capital Ventures; and Take-Two Interactive. More here.

Takt, a year-old, San Francisco-based real-time marketing personalization platform, has raised $30 million in Series A funding led by BCG Digital Ventures, with participation from Starbucks. More here.

Transfix, a three-year-old, New York-based tech platform that provides brokerage services to independent over-the-road truck drivers and small carriers, has raised $22 million in Series B funding led by  New Enterprise Associates, with participation from earlier backers Canvas Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Corigin Ventures. Connie talked with the company last November to learn more.

—–

New Funds

Volition Capital, a six-year-old, Boston-based growth-stage investment firm, has closed its third fund with $250 million. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Exits

Hailo, a five-year-old, London-based, smartphone-based taxi-hailing service, has sold 60 percent of its company to Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler and will rebrand its operations under MyTaxi, another on-demand ride-sharing company that was acquired by Daimler subsidiary Moovel in 2014. TechCrunch has more here.

Taboola, the startup behind the publishing widget that recommends more content at the end of articles online, has acquired ConvertMedia, a recommendation engine designed specifically to sniff out and recommend online videos at scale. TechCrunch is reporting the price at just shy of $100 million. More here.

—–

People

Beats cofounder Dr. Dre was reportedly placed in handcuffs and searched by police after a confrontation with a man whose car was parked in front of his Malibu home on Monday. More here.

—–

Essential Reads

Twitter tries to explain itself, again.

Thinking of suing Uber? Let this be a warning.

An investment banking analyst just downgraded Apple, saying it has “peaked.”

—–

Detours

A century of trends in adult human height.

What Team USA wears to work.

—–

Retail Therapy

Ahh, I’ve created a monster.” (For that little startup in your life.)




StrictlyVC: July 25, 2016

Hi, happy Monday, everyone!

Some quick notes before we get started. Our September event is now sold out, though feel free to join our waitlist and we’ll happily squeeze you in if we have any cancellations. We’re also very excited to announce that author, entrepreneur, and former Google exec Kim Malone Scott and investor Hunter Walk are joining the program to talk about “radical candor,” a movement that also been likened to “front-stabbing.” (You’ll want to learn more.)

Giant thanks again to our sponsors, including Ballou PR, which has been helping European and U.S.-based startups navigate the European media world for the last dozen-plus years; the seed-stage hardware investing firm Bolt, with offices in San Francisco and Boston; and Mattermark, the San Francisco-based company that’s busily organizing the world’s business information.

—–

Top News in the A.M.

It’s official. Yahoo has sold to Verizon for $4.8 billion. CEO Marissa Mayer is staying onboard the company, she says, though she hasn’t disclosed for how long.

—-

CrunchFund Has a New Partner in Susan Hobbs

CrunchFund has a new partner, and it didn’t need to look far for her, either.

Last week, Susan Hobbs joined the five-year-old, seed-stage outfit from Y Combinator, where she spent the last 15 months as Y Combinator’s director of programming and events. But as readers may recall, Hobbs had spent the previous four years as director of global programming right here at TechCrunch, where she helped select and recruit tech leaders to the Disrupt stage.

CrunchFund was famously co-founded by TechCrunch cofounder Michael Arrington, who launched the San Francisco-based firm with former college friend and longtime VC Patrick Gallagher.

CrunchFund is currently raising its third fund and targeting $30 million fund, according to an SEC filing. Assuming it closes on that amount, it will be very much in line with its previous two funds, which closed with $32 million and $27 million, respectively.

Gallagher, who declined to comment on CrunchFund’s newest fund, remains managing partner at the firm. Arrington stepped away from it last spring, owing to health concerns, and now serves as an advisor.

More here.

—–

New Fundings

Bluebridge, a five-year-old, Indianapolis software-as-a-service startup that has developed a mobile app communication platform allowing organizations to connect with their audience, has raised $3 million Series A funding from Cultivation Capital, with participation from Allos Ventures. St. Louis Business Journal has more here.

Kandou Bus, a five-year-old, Lausanne, Switzerland-based company that has developed a chip-to-chip link technology, has raised $15 million from Bessemer Venture Partners. More here.

SNÉ, a three-year-old, Ra’anana, Israel-based startup that provides commercialization of intellectual property for more than 40 Israeli colleges and government-funded research institutes and hospitals, has raised $2.5 million in funding from Arieli Capital. Globes has more here.

StackPath, a Dallas, Tex.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $150 million in Series A funding from ABRY Partners in one of the largest single rounds for a security platform. TechCrunch has more here.

Tide, a 1.5-year-old, London-based mobile-first banking service for small businesses, has raised $2 million in seed funding from Passion Capital and numerous individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Tricida, a three-year-old, South San Francisco-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on chronic therapies for patients with chronic kidney disease, has raised $55 million in Series C funding led by Longitude Capital, with participation from Vivo Capital and earlier backers OrbiMed, Sibling Capital Ventures and Limulus Venture Partners. The company has now raised $95 million to date. More here.

Zoomcar, a four-year-old, Bangalore, India-based car rental company that lets individuals rent by the hour or day, is raising $25 million in Series C funding from Ford Smart Mobility, Reliance Venture Asset Management and Sequoia Capital, according to Business Standard, which says the deal represents Ford’s first investment in India. More here.

—–

Exits

Indian classifieds startup Quikr has acquired Hiree, a hiring startup focused on white-collar jobs with over 2,000 employer partners. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Hiree had raised $6 million from IDG Ventures India and numerous angel investors. Quickr has raised close to $350 million from investors, including Tiger Global. TechCrunch has more here.

Teradata, the publicly listed, U.S.-based big data company, has acquired Big Data Partnership, a London-based startup that provides training to help companies become more savvy in the use of big data. Terms of the deal aren’t disclosed. Big Data Partnership has raised just over £4 million in funding, backed primarily by Beringea.

Publicly traded WorkDay has agreed to acquire Platfora, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based maker of big data management software for undisclosed terms. According to CrunchBase, Platfora had raised roughly $95 million in funding, including from Allegis Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Battery Ventures. Fortune has more here.
—–

People

Cyanogen, which has struggled in its quest to sell Android phone makers on an alternative to Google’s version of Android, is making significant staff cuts.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is reportedly “spending time” with actress Amber Heard. (Again, it’s not that we care about these things, but we thought you might.)

—–

Jobs

Siemens Venture Capital is looking to hire an associate. The job is in Boston.

—–

Essential Reads

Tesla and Solar City are nearing a merger agreement.

How and where to stream the Democratic National Convention.

—–

Detours

The right way to bribe your kids to read.

The weird, wild world of death fraud.

Ask for an odd number, and 20 other tips for getting the salary you want.

—–

Retail Therapy

Something to keep you cool.




CrunchFund Has a New Partner in Susan Hobbs

Susan Hobbs Profile ImageCrunchFund has a new partner, and it didn’t need to look far for her, either.

Last week, Susan Hobbs joined the five-year-old, seed-stage outfit from Y Combinator, where she spent the last 15 months as Y Combinator’s director of programming and events. But as readers may recall, Hobbs had spent the previous four years as director of global programming right here at TechCrunch, where she helped select and recruit tech leaders to the Disrupt stage.

CrunchFund was famously co-founded by TechCrunch cofounder Michael Arrington, who launched the San Francisco-based firm with former college friend and longtime VC Patrick Gallagher.

CrunchFund is currently raising its third fund and targeting $30 million fund, according to an SEC filing. Assuming it closes on that amount, it will be very much in line with its previous two funds, which closed with $32 million and $27 million, respectively.

Gallagher, who declined to comment on CrunchFund’s newest fund, remains managing partner at the firm. Arrington stepped away from it last spring, owing to health concerns, and now serves as an advisor.

More here.




StrictlyVC: July 22, 2016

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Today’s column comes to you courtesy of Semil Shah. See you back here in a few days.:)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Verizon is the lead bidder to buy Yahoo, and a sale could be announced as soon as early next week, CNBC is reporting.

—–

A “Should I Raise a Fund” FAQ

Without fail, at least once a week, someone pings me or asks for an intro to learn about how I set up my fund Haystack. I think many people want to start a smaller seed-stage fund, which is cool. I’m happy to share whatever I can with others. But I am also no expert. I write about it openly as I go through it as a way to share what I learn and internalize those lessons for the longer journey. Here are some of the most common questions I receive:

Should I raise a fund?

Sure! You should try to do what you want to do. If you’re a bit more careful about charging ahead, the two key questions I’d ask are 1.) are you excited about the deal flow you have and 2.)  do you have access to a stable base of capital to invest? If the answer to either question is met with hesitation, realize it will take a long time.

How much capital should I raise?

It depends on what kind of investment model you want to pursue. There’s no right answer. One has to consider factors like investment pace, number of investments to make over a defined period, and how to model out a return once all the principal is returned to investors. Based on the time and paperwork and fees it takes to get up and going, my stock line is that $5 million is the minimum one should seek to set up a fund vehicle. Doing less is still a lot of work without the benefits that come from having at least $5 million.

Should I have a partner?

Again, it depends on what you want to do and build. If you know someone well and they align with your objectives and values on a long-term basis, it is probably a good idea to consider it. Having a partner can help a team see more deals and lead to better decisions, and you get a companion in the journey. Institutional LPs prefer their funds to not have sole “key man/woman risk” in the event something happens to a single GP. On the other hand, partnerships that blow up due to misalignment are painful to watch and tough to recover from.

What kind of model should we construct?

On a clean sheet of paper, list out your variables: Number of deals per partner per quarter; average check size; investment period; and reserves you’d keep to follow-on into new deals. You’ll also need a budget for fund expenses and fees, if appropriate.

How much money do I need to start?

Most LPs will want to see that you can commit 1 to 3 percent of the total fund size from the GP accounts to ensure incentives are aligned. In some larger funds, this percentage can be higher.

What if the fund doesn’t generate enough fees?

Smaller funds generate small fees, some small enough to not make it worthwhile to take fees. In that case, the investor needs to supplement income in some way.

Who should we raise from?

People that you know! It’s a trust business, so unless you have an exceptional background and/or access to a unique network, people have many other options.

How much time will it take?

If you know people with money who really trust you, it can take a few months. If you don’t, it could take years. There are well-known investors in the Valley who have confided in me that their first funds took well over 12 months to raise.

Should I just raise it on AngelList and run Syndicates?

If you have enough money for the deals you’d like to do and can encourage people you know to co-invest alongside you, AngelList offers many benefits. Without a formal fund, you can still leverage your investment, charge a carry (if you want to), not have to raise a specific vehicle, and hire service providers for back office help, and each deal turns into a special purpose vehicle (SPV).

There are benefits of having your own fund, too, of course, and there are options where you can pursue a blended strategy if you can pull it off.

Back office and service providers?

Simple advice would be to ask for referrals and bring on shops that have experience in handling small funds. There are so many details here, and most investors cannot manage it themselves.

I’ll end the FAQ by underlining a few disclaimers. One, I’m not an expert at this; I’m working hard to figure it out myself. Two, going into this without a clear lane for deal flow and without a clear capital partner to get started is really hard. I would never discourage anyone from trying, but it could take a lot longer than you might imagine. Three, experience matters. I was exposed to venture investing a bit before I started, but that’s no substitute for doing it before at an established venture fund and/or working as an operator in a dynamic technology company and making angel investments over the years.

The narrative over the past few years has been that anyone can and should invest, and that’s true. But those who hold demonstrable and relevant experience will have a huge fundraising and deal flow advantage over everyone else. That’s the hard reality to consider before going down this road. Good luck!

—–

New Fundings

AristaMD, a two-year-old, La Jolla, Ca.-based company whose software facilitates specialist referrals, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Avalon Ventures, with participation from Correlation Ventures. More here.

BYD Company, a 21-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based  automaker and rechargeable batteries firm, has received a $450 million investment from Samsung. The move seemingly puts the Korean smartphone giant in direct competition with the automotive efforts Google and Apple. Reuters has more here.

Eve Sleep, a year-old, U.K.-based online mattress retailer, has raised £6.9 million in fresh funding ($9 million) in fresh funding from earlier backers Octopus Ventures and DN Capital. FinSMEs has more here.

Global Fashion Group,  the two-year-old, Luxembourg-based umbrella group that manages Rocket Internet-backed online fashion businesses worldwide, has added €30 million ($33 million) to a €300 million round that it announced back in April. The money comes from Rocket Internet and Kinnevik. TechCrunch has more here.

Kazan Networks, a two-year-old, Auburn, Ca.-based data storage performance startup, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Samsung Ventures, with participation from Intel Capital and Western Digital Corp. More here.

Treebo Hotels, a 1.5-year-old, Bangalore, India-based online budget-hotel aggregator that provides standard accommodations across a network of partner hotels in India, has raised $17 million led by Bertelsmann India Investments, with participation from earlier backers SAIF Partners and Matrix Partners India. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

New Funds

KK Fund, a two-year-old, Singapore-based venture firm, just raised a new fund that will target seed-stage opportunities in Southeast Asia. The size of the new pool isn’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

—–

Exits

Monotype, a 130-year-old, Woburn, Ma.-based publicly traded company that sells type-related products, has acquired 5.5-year-old, New York-based Olapic for approximately $130 million. Olapic helps brands collect, curate, use and analyze user-generated content in the form of images and videos. The company had raised roughly $21 million over the years, including from Fung Capital USA and Felix Capital (a young firm that marks its first exit with the deal).

—–

People

Coding school startup General Assembly confirmed Thursday afternoon that it was cutting 50 members of its 750-strong global staff. The layoffs amount to 6.7 percent of total staff. Inc. has more here.

Elon Musk may have struck out with his much-hyped 1,500-word manifesto, published earlier this week. Bloomberg takes a look.

Twitter’s media team is losing another executive: Kirstine Stewart, the VP of media for Twitter’s North American media partnerships. Recode has more here.

Peter Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention last night and it was . . . fine?

—–

Jobs

Apple is looking to add an analyst to its corporate development group. The job is in Santa Clara, Ca.

—–

Essential Reads

According to a new Buzzfeed report, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund privately values Palantir Technologies — the data analysis company where Thiel is chairman — at a 40 percent discount.

Liberty Media reportedly floated an offer to buy Pandora for $15 a share, but the offer was rejected by the streaming music company’s board. The WSJ has the story here.

Everybody is doing it, including Amazon, which yesterday announced a partnership with Wells Fargo to supply some Amazon customers with “discounted” student loans.

In San Francisco, flyers are starting to name and shame Airbnb hosts.

—–

Detours

Why Italians, Maori, and children of divorce have the least childhood amnesia.

The world according to “BoJack Horseman.”

Famous artist emojis.

—–

Retail Therapy

Balloon lamp!




StrictlyVC: July 21, 2016

Happy Thursday! Our good friend Semil Shah brings you today’s interview as Connie spends some time offline. (This afternoon’s project has to do with sea glass. We try not to ask too many questions.)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

The Department of Justice just shut down the biggest torrent site in the U.S.

—–

Ludlow Ventures’s Jonathon Triest on the Importance of Being Nice

By now, you may well have heard of Ludlow Ventures, a young, early-stage venture firm in Detroit that seems to punch above its weight. Indeed, the firm’s first fund closed with just $15.5 million in late 2014, yet its investing team — partners Jonathon Triest and Brett Brett deMarrais — have managed to make an array of interesting bets, in Detroit, New York, L.A., and elsewhere. Among them: the organic meal delivery service Sprig, the product discovery service Product Hunt, the wireless power startup uBeam, and the heads-up display maker Navdy.

We caught up with Triest recently to talk about Ludlow’s approach.

You’re based in Detroit. What’s the advantage of living outside of the Bay Area? What’s the disadvantage, and how do you address it?

My job depends on getting to know the most talented entrepreneurs; first. Most of the founders we work with live thousands of miles from Detroit, which makes my job interesting. It forces me to be creative, find unique ways to get founders’ attention, and stay on top of who’s building what/where. In our early days at Ludlow, offense was our only access to deal flow. While we’re now fortunate to have substantial inbound deals, though we’re [still] at our best when on the hunt.

You and your team have built a reputation for finding interesting founders and deals in the consumer space well before investors who are physically closer to those young teams. Without revealing state secrets . . . actually, please reveal them!

Super simple. Be a really good friend to the people you invest in. I’m shocked at how many VCs cannot, for the life of them, personally connect with the founders they invest in. C’mon VC dudes and dudettes; get your S%^$ together. The best deals are referrals from people you’re working with or have worked with in the past.

It also doesn’t hurt to scour Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook, etc., for people expressing unhappiness at their current job [and shoot them a note]. “You’re awesome. Here’s my phone number when you decide to start your own company!”

What’s a particular space within consumer tech or networks that excites you?

I scour the Steam store every day to see what new VR games/software were released. I download nearly all of them and take them for a ride. As a consumer, I’m having a blast losing myself in poorly rendered environments. We have a small office, so I’ve nearly broken my arm dozens of times while trying to bash zombies’ heads in.

As an investor, I’m scared out of my mind at how slow I believe the consumer uptake will be.

In the context of early-stage investing, what’s something that you believe that isn’t necessarily a popularly held point of view?

Two things, actually. That social intuition and empathy are the strongest qualities of early-stage founders. And that a founder’s ability to hire his/her first employees is the best predictor of success. If you have enough smarts and passion for what you’re building, you’ll likely be able to attract and retain others. If you can’t effectively communicate why you’re doing what you’re doing, others won’t be able to either. You might as well go spend your time f’ing up zombies in VR.

—–

New Fundings

Brandcast, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that enables marketers and designers to build mobile-friendly sites without having to write code, has raised $13.9 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Correlation Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Deposit Solutions, a five-year-old, Hamburg, Germany-based fintech startup that’s focused on the European retail deposit market, has raised €15 million ($16.5 million) in new funding, including from Valar Ventures, FinLab and Greycroft Partners. Business Insider has more here.

Doppler Labs, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based wearable tech company that makes a wireless listening system, has raised $24 million in fresh funding led by The Chernin Group. VentureBeat has more here.

Indigo, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based ag-tech startup that leverages genomic sequencing and computational bioinformatics to identify microbes vital to a plant’s health, increase nutrient intake, and improve water use efficiency, has raised $100 million in new funding led by the Alaska Permanent Fund, with participation from Flagship Ventures and other numerous other, unnamed investors. Fortune has more here.

Inkbox, a year-old, Toronto-based company whose tattoos last two weeks, has raised $1 million in seed funding from a list of angel investors that includes actress Alison Sweeney and reality TV show host Jeff Probst. TechCrunch has more here.

MyWish Marketplaces, a seven-year-old, New Delhi, India-based online financial product marketplace, has raised $15 million in fresh funding from Franklin Templeton. TechCrunch has more here.

N-of-One, an eight-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based precision medicine oncology decision support company, has raised $7 million in Series B funding from Providence Ventures and Excel Venture Management. TechCrunch has more here.

Omise, a three-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based payment enabler much like Stripe, has raised $17.5 million in Series B funding led by SBI Investment of Japan, with participation from Sinar Mas Digital Ventures in Indonesia, Thailand’s Ascend Money, and earlier backer Golden Gate Ventures. Omise has now raised more than $25 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Redis Labs, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based open-source data structure store, has raised $14 million in Series C funding co-led by Bain Capital Ventures and Carmel Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Silicon Valley Bank and Tamar Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

ReviewTrackers, a four-year-old Chicago-based customer feedback platform, has raised $4 million in fresh funding led by American Family Ventures. The company also secured a $2.1 million debt facility from Square 1 Bank. FinSMEs has more here.

Stardog, an 11-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based enterprise data unification platform, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding led by Core Capital and Boulder Ventures. More here.

—–

IPOs

Seattle-based technology company Impinj priced its IPO of stock last night at $14 per share, the high end of its expected range. The company, which provides radio frequency identification technology, sold 4.8 million shares, raising $67 million before expenses. The stock began trading today on Nasdaq under the ticker “PI”. Those shares are currently trading above $16 apiece.

—–

Exits

Online travel agency Expedia has acquired Trover, a six-year-old, Seattle-based app and site where people share their travel photos. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to CrunchBase, Trover had raised $2.5 million in seed funding, including from Benchmark, Concur Technologies andGeneral Catalyst Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

MasterCard is acquiring roughly 92 percent of VocaLink, the tech giant behind the UK’s ATM, direct debit, and major mobile payments networks, for $1.14 billion in an all-cash deal. TechCrunch has more here.

——

People

Airbnb has brought aboard former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to help curb discrimination on the platform.

Elon Musk plans to steer Tesla towards fully autonomous driving, car sharing, and cargo transport, according to a company post about its “master plan.”

Snapchat cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel is now engaged to Australian model Miranda Kerr.

Reminder: renowned investor Peter Thiel is addressing the Republican convention tonight. Here is why reporter Kara Swisher predicts his speech will be about himself, not Silicon Valley.

—–

Jobs

Goldman Sachs Investment Partners is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in New York.

—–

Essential Reads

America wants to believe China can’t innovate. Tech tells a different story.

—–

Detours

The best fast foods, picked by the world’s top chefs.

How tennis balls are made. (Video.)

—–

Retail Therapy

Quench your thirst and meet your local SWAT team at the same time(?).

 




StrictlyVC: July 20, 2016

Happy Wednesday! Semil Shah, investor, writer, generous soul, brings you today’s interview as Connie spends some time offline. (Her stilts project was a bust, reportedly. Now it’s on to competitive dog grooming.)

—–

Top News in the A.M.

Dollar Shave Club, the five-year-old, L.A.-based personal grooming products e-tailer, is being acquired by Unilever for a reported $1 billion. According to CrunchBase, Dollar Shave Club had raised $163.5 million from investors across five rounds. Some of its backers include TCVVenrockForerunner Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersMore here.

—–

Jeremy Liew on What He Will, and Won’t, Invest in Right Now

Jeremy Liew joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2006 from AOL, where he’d worked in corporate development, and his star has been on the rise since, including thanks to an early check to messaging giant Snapchat. We caught up with him last week to chat about where he’s shopping next, among other things. Our exchange has been edited lightly for length.

Lightspeed just raised $1.2 billion in fresh funding and built out the consumer team. How long did that take you to form the team? What was the most challenging element?

Our search took us almost two years in total. We took our time because partnerships are a delicate balance, and we needed to find someone who we thought was going to be a well calibrated investor, who could win competitive deals, and who would fit in well with the rest of the partnership. We initially went out looking for one new partner, but in the end we found two people that really clicked with us as a group. Aaron Batalion joined us in November and Alex Taussig in January. Aaron was CTO of LivingSocial, one of our portfolio companies, and he was someone we’ve known for a long time. Alex was a partner at Highland [Capital Partners], where he had been for seven years. I’m so happy both are here.

As your consumer team grows, do you anticipate extending consumer investing to outside the U.S.? If so, where might you look and why?

Great insights can come from anywhere, and we’re open to investing in companies that target the U.S. market that are based offshore. We work closely with our sister funds, Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed India Partners, which both focus on geographies that represent huge and idiosyncratic markets that are quite distinct from the Western consumer market. We’ll sometimes coinvest with them, as we did with Oyo Rooms, but we often defer to their on-the-ground expertise in those markets. And our team in Israel has been making investments outside the U.S. for many years. Increasingly, we are seeing companies based outside the Bay Area and even outside the U.S. that are targeting US markets. Musical.ly is a great example of that, although not one in our portfolio. And we are invested in Blockchain, the biggest bitcoin wallet in the world, headquartered in London.

With FB, Amazon, Apple, Google, Uber, and more scaling to huge market caps and executing so well, is there room for venture capital to bet early on new spaces? Are consumer bets now riskier?

In the early ’90s, everyone worried about Microsoft. In the late ’90s they worried about Yahoo, Excite and AOL. There will always be huge companies that theoretically “could” enter many markets. But the reality is that even for a big company, it is hard to do more than three things at a time. After that, you’re staffing your B, or C or even D team on lower priorities for that company. If a startup whose sole reason for existence is a single new idea can’t beat the C team, even if it is Facebook’s C team, then they don’t deserve to win.

Now, I do think that it is hard for a startup to beat [these companies’] A teams. So I wouldn’t back a team trying to tackle the behemoths in their core markets or core areas of focus, and that would include a lot of AI areas today.

What’s the most contrarian space in consumer investing today? What do you think it will take for this space to potentially emerge?

I believe in media companies. Many think that big companies can’t be built in this area, but I think that some of the growth in video is changing that dynamic. Video is clearly a megatrend, and every genre of content that has been big in TV will have an analogue in the new video world, including mobile native video, tvOS, and web video. Twitch is the ESPN analogue. We invested in Cheddar, Jon Steinberg’s new company, which we believe is the CNBC analogue. Tasty and TasteMade are competing to be the Food Network analogue. And genres like late-night talk shows, morning shows, sports highlight shows, blooper shows, reality TV, judge shows, game shows, they will all have analogues.

What do you look for more broadly in early stage consumer companies?

What young women do and say today, we’ll all do and say in five to 10 years. Watching what becomes popular with young women and being incredibly data driven about this has been a good way to get in front of big consumer trends. For many of us VCs who live in a very different world than the average American teenage girl, our intuition about what is going to be popular is incredibly bad. But if you can ignore your intuition and trust the data for what is driving growth, engagement and retention, then double click to understand why, then you could get ahead of some very big consumer trends.

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New Fundings

CargoX, a 10-month-old, Sao Paulo, Brazil-based startup that has been described as “Uber for trucks,” has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from earlier backers, including Valor Capital Group, former DHL Express U.S. CEO Hans Hickler and Uber’s founding CTO Oscar Salazar. TechCrunch has more here.

Fast Japan, a young, Tokyo-based online chat concierge technology that provides consultation services on any number of Japan-related topics through Facebook Messenger, Line and its own chat function via its website, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from TLM and KLab Venture Partners. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Fuller, a five-year-old, Chiba, Japan-based mobile app analytics service startup, has raised $4.2 million in Series C funding SEGA Games Co., Voyage Ventures, Global Catalyst Partners Japan, the Asahi Shimbun Company, and two other funds supported by the Japanese government. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Pantheon, a nearly six-year-old, San Francisco-based website management platform, has raised $29 million in Series C funding from Foundry Group,Industry Ventures, OpenView Investment Partners, and Scale Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Sift Science, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that offers large-scale machine-learning services to help e-commerce businesses detect and fight fraud, has raised $30 million in fresh funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. The company has now raised $54 million altogether. More here.

Sprinklr, a seven-year-old, New York-based marketing software startup, has raised $105 million in Series F funding led by the Singapore-based investment firm Temasek, with participation from Wellington Management and EDBI, the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. The company has now raised $239 million altogether, and CEO Ragy Thomas says it is valued at $1.8 billion. Fortune has more here.

Trim, a nearly year-old, San Francisco-based software-driven assistant that helps users manage subscriptions, set up spending alerts, and check their bank balance, has raised $2.2 million in funding led by Eniac Ventures, with participation from Sound Ventures, Version One Ventures, and Core Innovation Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

ZipBooks, a year-old, Lehi, Ut.-based startup that makes free accounting software for small businesses, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Peak Ventures, with participation from Pelion Venture Partners, Liquid 2 Ventures and earlier angel investors. More here.

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People

Facebook’s head of ad tech, Dave Jakubowski, threw some shade at Snapchat yesterday, saying that by refusing to use retargeting an other tracking methods, the company is “going to hit some challenges and marketers are gonna start to ask questions when they get out of the experimental budget phase.” TechCrunch has more here.

Twitter has permanently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos, an assh editor at the conservative news outlet Breitbart and one of its most notorious trolls. The move comes one day after he urged on a hateful mob that harassed “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones to the point that she quit Twitter. TechCrunch has more here.

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Jobs

Newly public Twilio is looking for a senior manager for its corporate development unit. This hire will also help to run the company’s $50 million TwilioFund program. The job is in San Francisco.

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Essential Reads

Companies that have already raised a lot of capital continue to attract more, shows a new report from CB Insights. More here.

In the latest chapter of the Hyperloop One drama, the company charges that cofounder Brogan BamBrogan and three others (the same three that filed a lawsuit against the company last week) made up a “Gang of Four” intending to “manufactur[e] a rebellion and incit[e] conflict in a transparent attempt to seize control of the company.” Fortune has more here.

Last December, Slack raised an $80 million app investment fund, with the help of some of the biggest venture firms in Silicon Valley. Here’s a look at the 11 startups it has funded since.

Theranos, already steeped in lawsuits, is suddenly battling yet another. In a suit filed yesterday, a former customer is alleging that the company’s faulty blood tests caused him to have a heart attack. TechCrunch has more here.

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Detours

The case against having a backup plan.

A crow dies, and an investigation begins.

What happened to the ice bucket challenge?

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Retail Therapy

Knockoff marble.




StrictlyVC: July 19, 2016

Happy Tuesday!

Quick reminder: On Thursday, September 29, on the top floor of SurveyMonkey’s Palo Alto offices, StrictlyVC is hosting our fifth and newest INSIDER event, featuring VC Marc Andreessen, SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie, and a surprise guest (to be announced!). There are only about 20 seats left at this point and we can’t accommodate you once they’re gone. (We’ve already been told that SurveyMonkey’s security guard will kindly point you back out the door owing to space constraints.)

Giant thanks to our partners in the event, who make these nights possible: Ballou PR, which helps startups and VCs establish themselves in Europe; Mattermark, which collects and analyzes data on private market funding and more; and Bolt, an early-stage venture firm focused on hardware startups.

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Top News in the A.M.

Surprise? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer provided no updates on the sale process yesterday during Yahoo’s quarterly earnings report.

Meanwhile, Netflix revealed that subscriber growth has stalled.

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Line, the Messaging App, Has Quietly Funded at Least Nine Startups

Line, the popular Japanese messaging service that went public last week on both the NYSE and in Japan, partnered on a fund a couple of years ago with the New York-based venture firm Collaborative Fund in order to gain more of a foothold in the U.S.

According to a Dealbook story that announced the pairing, the fund planned to invest less than $10 million and to focus on very early-stage startups. If all went as planned, it would also hopefully help Line find a way to compete with the likes of popular U.S. messaging services like Snapchat.

Fast forward to today, and that fund, called simply Collab+Line, has so far invested in nine companies, all of which can “benefit from working with a mobile messenger and/or have aspirations to expand to Asia,” says Craig Shapiro, Collaborative Fund’s CEO.

Its areas of focus include media, IoT, commerce, communications, and community.

Collaborative Fund is the sole manager of the fund, but it works closely with Line to “ensure there is an alignment of interests,” says Shapiro. In fact, Shapiro had told Dealbook for its story that by investing in start-ups through Collab+Line, Line could get close to U.S. startups and potentially even acquire them.

Asked if that’s still the idea, Shapiro tells us he “can’t comment.” Still, given Line’s new resources — its market cap is currently around $7 billion — some of its portfolio companies may be wondering.

Some of Collab+Line’s bets to date include the live social video network YouNow (five years old, based in New York, has raised $26 million); Particle, a prototype-to-production platform for developing IoT products (nearly five years old, based in San Francisco, has raised $4.2 million ); Slash, an iPhone keyboard that makes it easy to share things without switching apps (a year old, New York based, has raised $1.4 million); and Zendrive, a startup that uses smartphone sensors to measure drivers’ behavior (three years old, San Francisco based, has raised $15 million).

More here.

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New Fundings

Blue Cedar Networks, a months-old, San Francisco-based maker of app security software, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Accelerate IT Ventures, Benhamou Global Ventures, Grayhawk Capital, andGeneration Ventures. More here.

Cadenza Innovation, a 3.5-year-old, Oxford, Ct.-based battery technology company, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Golden Seeds, with participation from Connecticut Innovations, Scale Investors, and numerous individual investors, including Summit Power Group co-chair Eric Redman.More here.

Cambridge Medical Robotics, a two-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based startup developing a robotic system to perform minimally invasive surgery, has raised $20.3 million in new funding from investors, including ABB Technology Ventures, LGT Global Invest and Cambridge Innovation Capital. MedCity News has more here.

CommonBond, a five-year-old, New York-based platform that specializes in loans and refinancing for students, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Neuberger Berman Private Equity, with participation from August Capital, Tribeca Venture Partners, Social Capital, and Nyca Partners. The company has also secured $300 million in debt to loan out to prospective borrowers, including from Victory Park Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Guideline, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to make it much easier for employees to set up and make changes to the 401(k) plans, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Propel Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers New Enterprise Associates and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. The company, founded by Task Rabbit cofounder Kevin Busque, has now raised $10 million altogether. More here.

Jolt, a year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace that connects companies with professionals for live learning sessions, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Hillsven and UpWest Labs. GeekTime has more here.

Kiip, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based rewards network and mobile app that offers rewards from brands and companies for virtual achievements, has raised $12 million in Series C funding led by North Atlantic Capital, with participation from US Cellular and North Atlantic. That brings its total amount of funding up to $32 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Zenreach, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based enterprise software startup that provides WiFi hardware to restaurants and coffee shops on a monthly subscription basis, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Founders Fund, with participation from Bain Capital, SV Angel, Felicis Ventures, and SoftTech VC. The company has now raised $50 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

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New Funds

Bloomberg Beta, a three-old, San Francisco-based outfit that helps expand Bloomberg L.P.’s horizons by investing in nascent startups within Bloomberg’s broad areas of interest, has raised a second, $75 million fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Rise Capital, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm focused on expansion-stage tech companies in emerging markets, is looking to raise up to $50 million for its second fund, shows a new SEC filing. StrictlyVC sat down with founder Nazar Yasim a couple of years ago to learn more about its ambitions.

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Exits

A $1.2 billion takeover of Opera Software by a group of Chinese internet firms fell through yesterday after failing to get regulatory approval in time. It sent the Norwegian browser firm’s shares to a seven-month low. Reuters has more here.

Lookup, an India-based chat service that connects consumers to local business and is backed by Khosla Ventures, has been acquired by business discovery service NowFloats, which is also based in India. The deal priced is undisclosed, and Lookup said it will continue to operate independently. More here.

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Jobs

B Capital Group, the new venture firm cofounded by Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin, is looking to hire a VP of capital formation. The job is in L.A.

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Essential Reads

Should Silicon Valley startups and their investors be accepting money from Saudi Arabia?

Flipkart’s Amazon’s problem.

Germany wants to add black boxes to autonomous vehicles. Will other countries follow suit?

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Detours

Melania Trump’s determined ascent.

A trick to make first dates less painful.

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Retail Therapy

Astronaut tape dispenser. (This one’s for you, Steve Jurvetson.)