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StrictlyVC: October 5, 2017

Hello and happy Thursday!

Did we mention that StrictlyVC now has a little white mascot? He’s very cute as you can see below, but he is slowly and very surely killing us. Why didn’t anyone warn us that puppies are like babies? (Okay, yes, virtually  every pet owner we know warned us that puppies are like babies. Did we listen? We did not.)

Top News in the A.M.

A new breach, considered the most serious in years, could enable Russia to evade NSA surveillance and more easily infiltrate U.S. networks. The WSJ has the story here.

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Startups Say This Fintech ‘Lab’ is Giving Them Needed Access to Wall Street and Regulator

Banks want to know what around the corner is trying to put them out of business, so it’s no surprise that a spate of fintech-focused accelerator programs has sprung into existence in recent years. For example, Deutsche Bank just opened is fourth innovation lab in New York this year, after opening outposts in Silicon Valley, Berlin, and London. Barclays, which initially opened its accelerator program in London, is now in the U.S., too, having partnered last year with TechStars. Wells Fargo also provides money and mentoring to companies that enter into its semi-annual accelerator program in San Francisco.

Another program that gets high marks from founders is the Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab), an offshoot of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, a 13-year-old nonprofit focused on serving unbanked and underbanked customers.

What is FinLab and what’s the appeal to founders? Broadly speaking, it’s a 2.5-year-old program that aims to find and nurture fintech startups that are helping Americans save, access credit and build assets, and it is itself fueled by a $30 million, five-year grant from JPMorgan. Startups are under no obligation to transact with the bank or sell it a stake of their business. As far as JPMorgan is concerned, FinLab’s mission is a solid one. Plus, it can gather useful intelligence about what startups are cooking up, and it’s a good look for JPMorgan, given that banks are not on most Americans’ list of most-loved companies. (A recent Gallup poll shows that a meager 27 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institutions.)

FinLab is fairly small and mostly virtual, but it seems to have a knack for sifting through applicants to find interesting companies. Among those startups it has worked with so far is Propel, a startup that helps people who receive food stamps manage their benefits. (It raised $4 million in seed venture funding after joining the program, including from Andreessen Horowitz and Omidyar Network.)

Another company that’s currently a part of the program is Dave, an app that alerts consumers ahead of an upcoming overdraft and can advance them money. Though its founders have created several companies previously and they’d already raised $3 million in seed funding — including from Mark Cuban and The Chernin Group — the team still applied to be a part of FinLab.

The two are now among 26 companies that have either graduated or are working currently with FinLab, whose nine-month-long program features some of the typical one-on-one engagement with mentors that are a feature of most accelerators. FinLab’s strongest enticement, however, are six day-long meetings that it organizes for its companies — meetings that can mean the difference between these companies thriving and wilting on the vine.

More here.

New Fundings

3T Biosciences, a young, Palo Alto, Ca.-based stealthy oncology startup, has raised more than $12 million in seed funding from backers that include Peter Thiel and Sean Parker. CNBC has more here.

21Buttons, a 1.5-year-old, Barcelona-based social commerce app dedicated to fashion, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Kibo Ventures, with participation from JME VC and earlier backers Samaipata Ventures, Breega Capital360 Capital PartnersBanc Sabadell Venture CapitalSputnik and Mediaset. TechCrunch has more here.

Cardiologs, a three-year-old, Paris-based ECG analysis platform, has raised $6.4 million in new funding from IdinvestISAIKurma PartnersPartech Ventures and earlier backer Bpifrance. The company has now raised $10 million. More here.

Energage, an 11-year-old, Exton, Pa.-based maker of employee engagement software, has raised $10 million in new funding led by NewSpring GrowthMore here.

Featurespace, a 12-year-old, Cambridge, England-based adaptive behavioral analytics startup, has raised £16.5 million ($21.6 million) in funding led by Highland Europe, with participation from WorldpayInvoke Capital and earlier backer Touchstone Innocations. The University of Cambridge has more here.

FlyHomes, a two-year-old, Seattle-based tech-enabled real estate brokerage, has raised $4 million in funding e-commerce pioneer Mark Vadon, with participation from Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Avant CEO Al Goldstein. It has also secured $2 million in debt funding. GeekWire has more here.

FogHorn Systems, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based maker of edge software for industrial and commercial IoT applications, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Intel Capital and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures. Other participants in the round include Honeywell Ventures and earlier investors March Capital PartnersGEDell Technologies CapitalRobert Bosch Venture Capital, Yokogawa Electric CorporationDarling Ventures and The Hive. CRN has more here.

Home61, a three-year-old, Miami-based end-to-end real estate platform, has raised $4 million in funding, including from FF Angel and FJ Labs. The Real Deal has more here.

Palleon Pharmaceuticals, a 1.5-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based developer of cancer checkpoint drugs, has raised $47.6 million in Series A funding from SR One, Pfizer VenturesVertex Ventures HCTakeda Ventures and AbbVie Ventures. Xconomy has more here.

PartySlate, a two-year-old, Chicago-based digital platform for party hosts, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding led by Hyde Park Venture Partners, with participation from Hyde Park AngelsInvestHER VenturesJump InvestorsWavemaker Partners and Halogen Ventures. Nibletz has more here.

PremFina, a 3.5-year-old, London-based startup that makes software for insurance brokers, has raised $36 million in funding co-led by Rakuten and Draper Esprit, with participation from Thomvest VenturesEmery CapitalRubicon Venture Capital and Talis Capital. Business Insider has more here.

Seasoned, a new, San Francisco-based foodservice-centric community, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by TPG GrowthMore here.

Secret Escapes, a seven-year-old, London-based members-only luxury travel club, is closing in on a £52 million ($66 million) Series D round led by Temasek, says TechCrunch. More here.

Wala, a two-year-old, Cape Town, South Africa-based blockchain-powered financial services platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Newton PartnersMore here.

Zefo, a two-year-old, Bangalore, India-based used furniture and appliances marketplace, has raised $9 million in Series B funding from Sequoia Capital IndiaHelion Venture Partners and Beenext. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Reach Capital, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture capital firm that’s focused on early-stage edtech startups, is looking to raise $75 million for its second fund, shows a new SEC filing. Reach had spun out of NewSchools Venture Fund in 2015 and closed its debut fund with $53 million later that year. More here.

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Exits

Navient, one of the largest U.S. companies that collects payments on student debt, jumped into the lending business yesterday by agreeing to acquire financial-technology startup Earnest for $155 million in cash. Navient plans to maintain the Earnest brand as a separate unit, which will be led by its co-founders, Louis Beryl and Ben Hutchinson, says the WSJ. Earnest had raised a ton of equity and debt funding — at least $320 million by our count. More here.

People

Nick D’Aloisio, who previously founded news summary app Summly (which he famously sold to Yahoo at age 17 for a reported $30 million), has raised funding for a new stealthy startup that promises to help users find and instantly chat to an expert on a range of topics. (Yes, this same idea has tried and failed a million times, but let’s stay tuned.) TechCrunch has more here.

How Apple CEO Tim Cook is remembering Steve Jobs on the sixth anniversary of his death.

Rapper and Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah has cofounded a new cryptocurrency firm — Cream Capitol — that hopes to raise $30 million in funding through a digital coin sale. Rolling Stone has more here.

Aymerik Renard has joined the hardware-focused fund Hardware Club as a general partner. Renard was most recently a director with Western Digital Capital and, before that, a director with SanDisk Ventures.

FirstMark Capital, the New York-based venture firm, has brought aboard Catherine Ulrich as a managing director. Ulrich was previously the chief product officer at Shutterstock and, before that, Weight Watchers. She is the firm’s first senior female investing partner. TechCrunch has more here.

Data

Venture capital has hit an all-time high in India—and a quarter of it came from one investor.

Meanwhile, dealmaking in China is slowing.

Essential Reads

Amazon is testing its own delivery service to rival UPS and FedEx.

Netflix is raising some prices starting today.

Baidu just opened a second R&D lab in Silicon Valley to work on autonomous driving, among other things.

A list of everything that Magic Leap has released so far.

Detours

Screw you, sports bottles.

A bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein.

Hostile Takeover High.

Retail Therapy

The Quiet Punch, for when those deals go south.




StrictlyVC: September 19, 2017

Hello! We’re at TechCrunch’s Disrupt event in San Francisco again today; we just wrapped up a lively discussion with Elizabeth Iorns of Science Exchange, Jen Rubio of Away, and Rachel Carlson of Guild Education — three acutely interesting founders in different phases of their companies’ lifecycles. More on that this week.

We’ll also looking forward to talking a little later today with Sam Altman of Y Combinator. More on that soon, too. In the meantime, happy Tuesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The National Venture Capital Association has launched a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming it took illegal steps to prevent an immigration policy that would have helped foreign-born founders stay in the U.S. to build startups. The WSJ has the story here.

Sponsored By . . .

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

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

Steve Jurvetson on Why He Couldn’t Join the Board of Secretive Zoox

On stage yesterday in San Francisco, we had the chance to catch up with investor Steve Jurvetson about a wide number of things that are sweeping across the startup landscape (and might fundamentally change it), from ICOs to Softbank’s giant Vision Fund to AI to Elon Musk’s new Boring Company.

Jurvetson had plenty of interesting insights about all, unsurprisingly. He somewhat famously graduated from Stanford in 2.5 years, at the top of his class, and has led early investments in many pioneering companies, from Hotmail to SpaceX and Tesla. (He sits on the boards of the last two, alongside Musk.)

Another board seat Jurvetson planned to take but didn’t, he said today, was with Zoox, the three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based startup that’s building self-driving cars from the ground up with an eye toward picking up passengers as a service.

A year ago, Zoox raised what Jurvetson characterized as the biggest round of Series A funding ever when it closed on $240 million, including from DFJ, Lux Capital, Blackbird Ventures and others.

So much money makes sense, argued Jurvetson. “It’s a capital-intensive business. If you’re going to operate a fully autonomous driving service in an urban environment – imagine an Uber- or Lyft-like service without humans in the loop — that is a big innovation stream.”

What Jurvetson didn’t anticipate when his firm, DFJ, wrote a check to Zoox — this was “before they had a board, before they really had any structure whatsoever, before the Series A” —  was that Musk would make plans to jump into the car-as-a-service business, too.

Though “[t]here was no whisper of Tesla being competitive” early on, said Jurvetson, that changed abruptly on a Tesla shareholder call last October.

More here.

New Fundings

Aqua Security, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based container security platform provider, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Microsoft VenturesTLV Ventures and Shlomo Kramer. Altogether, the company has now raised $38.5 million. More here.

Capsule8, a two-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based threat prevention and response platform for cloud-native environments, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. The company has now raised $8.5 million altogether. More here.

DouxMatok, a 3.5-year-old, Israel-based startup claiming to have found a way to make sugar more efficient and potent so people can eat less of it and still get the same effect, has raised $8.1 million in funding led by Pitango Venture CapitalMore here.

Funnel, a three-year-old, Stockholm Sweden-based startup whose software-as-a-service helps companies analyze the effectiveness of online marketing spend across multiple channels, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Balderton Capital led the round, with participation from earlier investors, including Industrifonden and Zobito. TechCrunch has more here.

JingChi, a months-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based autonomous driving start-up founded by Wang Jing, the former head of Baidu’s autonomous driving unit, has raised $30 million in seed funding and is now poised to raise $100 million in Series A funding, says the company. Backers so far include Aplus Capital, an investment firm started by Yu Minhong, the founder of New Oriental Education & Technology Group (which went public in 2006 and minted many gazillionaires). China Money Network has more here.

Loftium, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based company that provides users with a down payment in exchange for splitting Airbnb income on a spare room for 12 to 36 months, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by DFJ. The company, which had previously raised funding from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, closed the round in April.  The New York Times has more here.

Luno, a four-year-old, Singapore-based bitcoin wallet and exchange, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by Balderton Capital, with participation from earlier backer Digital Currency Group. TechCrunch has more here.

MealPal, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based subscription service that provides its customers with daily lunch options from restaurants near where they live or work, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Menlo Ventures. Prior to this round, the company had raised $15 million from Bessemer Venture PartnersComcast VenturesHaystack and NextView. TechCrunch has more here.

Minio, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based provider of open source object storage for cloud-native and containerized applications, has raised $20 million in Series A funding jointly led by Dell Technologies CapitalGeneral Catalyst Partners and Nexus Venture Partners, with additional participation by Intel CapitalAME Cloud and Steve Singh. TechCrunch has more here.

Patreon, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based membership platform that makes it easier for artists and creators to get paid, has officially closed on $60 million in new funding. (TechCrunch reported last week that this deal was in the works.) Earlier investor Thrive Capital led the Series B round, with participation from earlier backers CRV and Freestyle, as well as new investor DFJ. The company has now raised $107 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Resolute Innovation, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that’s building a searchable R&D database to speed along the the university tech transfer process, is raising $3.3 million in Series A funding led by Revolution Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Ushr, a three-year-old, Livonia, Mi.-based company working on high-definition mapping technology and software for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Forté Ventures led the investment round, and was joined by investors that include EnerTech CapitalEmerald Technology Ventures, and GM Ventures. Newscenter.io has more here.

Younited Credit, an eight-year-old, Paris, France company that’s building a crowdlending platform in continental Europe, has raised $47.8 million led by earlier investors EurazeoCrédit Mutuel ArkéaAG2R La Mondiale and Weber Investissements. Other participants include new investors Matmut InnovationZencap Asset Management, and Bpifrance. TechCrunch has more here.

The Zebra, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based auto insurance comparison marketplace, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners. Other participants in the round include Silverton PartnersFloodgateBallast Point VenturesMark CubanDaher Capital, and Birchmere LabsMore here.

New Funds

The Engine, based out of MIT and Cambridge, has raised a $200 million fund to back and help incubate startups working on “tough tech” — new challenges in areas like aerospace, advanced materials, biotech, genetic engineering and renewable energy. According to Katie Rae,  CEO and managing partner of The Engine, about $25 million of the capital commitments comes from MIT, with the rest from family offices and other fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Thailand’s retail giant Central Group and China’s second-largest online shopping site operator JD.com have signed a deal to set up a $500 million e-commerce and fintech joint venture in Thailand, with an eye toward funding Thailand’s developing e-commerce market. The outfits are each chipping in exactly half the funding. The Nikkei has more here.

IPOs

ZhongAn, a four-year-old, Shanghai, China-based company that became China’s first online-only insurer, said yesterday that plans to raise up to $1.5 billion in an IPO that could value the company at around $10 billion. Softbank Group will be a cornerstorne investor in the offering.

Restoration Robotics, a 15-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that’s developing a robotic device that assists doctors during a part of a hair restoration procedure, is planning to go public, offering 3.125 million share priced at between $7 and $9 a share. The company’s biggest outside investors include Sutter Hill VenturesClarus LifesciencesAlloy Ventures, and InterWest Partners. MarketWatch has slightly more here.

Roku just more than doubled its IPO target.

Exits

Toys ‘R’ Us could file for bankruptcy as soon as the next few weeks, as nervous suppliers have tightened terms for the retailer ahead of the crucial holiday selling season, according to the WSJ. More here.

People

Google SVP John Giannandrea spoke at Disrupt today, calling talk by tech leaders about the potentially alarming consequences of artificial intelligence both “unwarranted and borderline irresponsible.” More here.

Highland Europe has brought aboard as a growth investor Gajan Rajanathan, who will join the team in September. Rajanathan joins as a VP with the M&A advisory services firm Qatalyst Partners, where he has spent recent years building up its European operations. Earlier, he worked in Credit Suisse’s M&A group in New York.

Data

New numbers show how rarely Twitter takes action against abusive behavior reports.

Essential Reads

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus reviewed.

Entrepreneurs are exploring new ways to list companies on exchanges — and placate stock-holding Silicon Valley employees — while avoiding the pitfalls of initial public offerings.

Skully, the AR helmet company, is attempting a comeback.

Detours

Uber is sorry for its “wife appreciation day” promo.

Survival of the prettiest.

Argh.

Retail Therapy

Now that’s how to salvage a barn.




StrictlyVC: September 14, 2017

Thursday! Hello! We’re just off some calls relating to Disrupt, TechCrunch’s big SF event kicking off next week. We’re excited to see some of you there.:)

Also! Our last StrictlyVC event of the year is suddenly coming up in less than two weeks. A few of you have reached out about volunteering (thank you, awesome people). We could use a couple more of you if you’re game.

Top News in the A.M.

According to the Financial TimesNestlé is paying $500 million for a 68 percent in the California-based cafe and roastery chain Blue Bottle, in a deal that values the company at more than $700 million. Blue Bottle has been rumored for months to be raising fresh capital; the deal directly pits Nestle against Starbucks and other big coffee brands in the U.S.

E-commerce company Wish is raising around $250 million in new funding at a valuation north of $8 billion, says Axios, which adds that several mutual funds are expected to participate, including Wellington Management. You can learn a lot about the company by revisiting this piece about it, which we wrote after its personable but reclusive CEO, Peter Szulczewski, spoke at a StrictlyVC event last year.

Meanwhile, mysterious Magic Leap, the Dania Beach, Florida-based wearable tech company that has yet to release a product (though it keeps invitingreporters to its headquarters to dazzle them), is reportedly raising $500 million in fresh funding, at a post-money valuation of $6 billion. Bloomberg says that Temasek Holdings, an investment company owned by Singapore, may take part in the round.

Sponsored By  . . .

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

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

NFX Guild Just Showed 14 Startups to Investors at Its Demo Day

Yesterday, three-year-old, NFX Guild, a Silicon Valley-based, invite-only accelerator program that has now worked with 80 companies, hosted its newest demo day before 200 venture investors at the Computer History Museum in unfailingly sunny Mountain View, Ca.

The outfit — which is backed financially by the venture firms CRV, Shasta Ventures, Greylock Partners, and Mayfield, and that works only with startups that’ve been referred to it through a network of scouts — dialed back on the number of presenting companies. (Its previous three batches featured 16, then 13, then 21 companies, respectively. Yesterday, it featured 14.)

A more concentrated effort seemed to pay off, with a number of intriguing teams pitching their work, from a company promising to wring more revenue out of attorneys’ mobile phone use, to a new open source platform for data scientists, to a startup trying to modernize moving companies.

Altogether, says serial entrepreneur and firm cofounder James Currier, 70 percent of the companies to pass through NFX Guild have gone on to raise subsequent funding.

For those of you who didn’t make it to the event but want to know some of the ideas and teams that NFX Guild thought would interest their fellow VCs, here’s who presented what, starting with a company called Zero.

More here.

New Fundings

Bellgram, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.based company that aims to help businesses by collecting relevant conversation data with customers before, during, and after conversations — data that it then indexes and made searchable — has raised $800,000 in seed funding. Backers include Arzan Venture Capital500 Startups, and SGH Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Birdies, a 2.5-year-old, Bay Area-based maker of luxury slippers, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Slow VenturesGraph Ventures, and Social Capital. Digiday has more here.

Braavo Capital, a two-year-old, New York-based integrated financing platform for mobile app businesses, raised more than $70 million in debt and equity. Mark 2 Capital led the round. New York Business Journal has more here.

Call9, a two-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company whose app gives nursing homes and rehabilitation centers an alternative to calling 911 (it connects connects on-site clinical care specialists with remote emergency medicine physicians), has raised $24 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Redmile, with participation from RefactorWestern Technology Investment, and earlier backers Index Ventures and YCombinator, among others. More here.

Carrot Fertility, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that partners with companies to help employees access egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, and other fertility care, raised $3.6 million in seed funding. SoftTech Ventures led the round, and was joined by Maven VenturesPrecursor VenturesSound VenturesSherpa VenturesCore VCFounders Fund, and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.

CashShield, a nine-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based online fraud risk management company that works with enterprises, has raised $5.5 million in funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from private equity firm Heliconia Capital Management, entrepreneur Tony Fadell, gaming company Razer, and the venture capital firm Stream GlobalMore here.

Eaze, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based weed delivery startup, has raised $27 million in Series B funding led by Bailey Venture Partners, with participation from from DCM VenturesKaya Ventures and FJ Labs. TechCrunch has more here.

ExecThread, a two-year-old, New York-based job-sharing network for executives (and, it says, the largest aggregator of unpublished executive-level job opportunities), has raised $6.5 million in funding co-led by Canaan Partners and Javelin Venture Partners, with participation from Corazon CapitalCoVentureNextView Ventures and other angel investors. More here.

FanDuel, the eight-year-old, New York-based fantasy sports site, is reportedly raising between $30 million and $40 million in new funding from earlier backers in a deal that would be structured as a convertible note. The company has already raised more than $400 million from investors. Axios has the story here.

Furhat Robotics, a three-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based developer of a “social robot” and attendant platform, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Balderton Capital and LocalGlobe. NewsCenter.io has more here.

HouseCanary, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based data analytics and valuation platform for real estate professionals, announced raised $31 million in Series B funding from investors that include Penny Pritzker of PSP Capital and earlier backer Hillspire (which is Eric Schmidt’s family office). The company has now raised $64 million altogether. More here.

Iconic Protein, a six-year-old, San Clemente, Ca.-based maker of a line of grass-fed protein drinks, has raised $8 million in funding led by the private equity firm KarpReilly. BevNet has more here.

Infostellar, a year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based platform that connects satellite owners and operators with those who own and operate antennas (TechCrunch calls it an “Airbnb for satellite antennas”), raised $7.3 million in Series A funding. Airbus Ventures led the round, with participation from WERU InvestmentD4VSony Innovation Fund and earlier backers FreakOut Holdings and 500 Startups JapanMore here.

MissionU, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based one-year college alternative that charges no tuition up front, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. FirstMark Capital led the round. Other participants include First Round CapitalUniversity VenturesBox GroupRethink EducationLearn CapitalJohn Doerr, and Omidyar Network. TechCrunch has more here.

Prellis Biologics, a year-old, San Francisco-based company at work on creating three-dimensional printing of human tissue, with the ultimate goal of producing organs for transplant, has raised $1.8 million in seed funding, including from True VenturesCivilization Ventures, and 415 Ventures. The WSJ has more here.

Snappr, a 1.5-year-old San Francisco-based the on-demand photography service, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Investors include Airtree Ventures (the largest venture fund in Australia, where Snappr was founded), Google Maps cofounder Lars Rasmussen, and a founding member of Zynga, Justin Waldron. TechCrunch has more here.

StoreDot, a five-year-old, Herzelya, Israel-based nanotechnology materials company that has said its batteries can charge a smartphone in one minute, has raised $60 million in funding led by Daimler, with participation from Samsung Ventures and Norma Investments. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Breakout Ventures, a new, San Francisco-based venture group that spun out of Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs, has closed its debut fund with $60 million in capital commitments, shows an SEC filing. The firm’s managing partner is Lindy Fishburne, who remains executive director of Breakout Labs, a philanthropic program that supports early-stage science startups and is funding by Thiel. TechCrunch has more here.

Firstminute Capital, the startup investment fund from Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman and former Goldman Sachs analyst Spencer Crawley, has added another $25 million in capital commitments to its debut fund, first announced in June with a close of $65 million. New investors include Chinese tech giant Tencent, BlaBlaCar cofounder Frederic MazellaSir Paul Ruddock, and other high net worth individuals. Business Insider has more here.

Smartphone giant Samsung has just set up a $300 million fund to invest in automotive startups and autonomous driving technology. TechCrunch has much more here.

IPOs

Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, a Palo Alto, Ca.-based “blank check” company formed by Social Capital and the London-based venture firm Hedosophia, announced yesterday that it had raised $600 million in its IPO, up from the $500 million the company originally filed for at the beginning of September. Business Insider has more here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

“South of Market, The Musical” is back for v2! The annual tech parody is running Oct 12-22nd in San Francisco and features an entirely new script, cast and score! This year’s show follows an aspiring tech journalist as she attempts to get the scoop on the too-good-to-be-true hottest startup of the year – ai.ai.  With songs likes “Self Driving,” “Boulder Moves, Bolder You,” and “Tech Issues,” this year’s show highlights the perks and perils of startup scene hype machine.

The show will also feature a host of cameo appearances (including by yours truly and Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover). Tickets are on sale now, so come see our musical debut!

People

Canvas Ventures has promoted Sarah Catanzaro to data partner and Jennifer Kaehms to associate. More here.

New York Times reporter Mike Isaac is writing a book about Uber.

Jobs

Lift Ventures, an outfit that incubates, acquires, and invests in data-driven online businesses, is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Google systematically pays women less than men doing similar work, according to a new class action-lawsuit accusing the technology company of denying promotions and career opportunities to qualified women who are “segregated” into lower-paying jobs.

Rule-breaking at an early age may point to the success of company founders like Martin Shkreli, researchers say. It may also foretell their undoing.

Facebook just launched a “Snooze” button that lets users temporarily blockcertain “friends” (the hope being people will use this rather than permanently block or unfriend people on the platform).

Bitcoin has fallen again for a fifth day, its longest losing streak in more than a year, after one of China’s largest online exchanges said it would stop handling trades by the end of the month amid a government crackdown on cryptocurrencies.

Detours

Martin Shrekli is now in jail for a most unlikely reason. Meanwhile, remember that $2 Million Wu-Tang album he was going to sell? It might not be a Wu-Tang album.

Retail Therapy

An inflatable travel bag.




StrictlyVC: May 5, 2017

Thank you, thank you to everyone who came out to our event in San Francisco last night. We had so much fun!

These things are always a little nerve-racking to put together but well worth the effort, and last night was no exception, owing to our wonderful speakers, our sponsors, and our hosts. We’ll have much more on the discussions — with Confide’s Jon Brod, Impossible Foods’s Patrick Brown, and Lightspeed’s Ravi Mhatre and Barry Eggers — very soon, along with pictures and video. (You can catch our interview with The RealReal’s Julie Wainwright below.)

We also want to thank one last time our partners in the event: Square 1 Bank, Rosebud Communications, Bullish, and Haystack. Your support made it much easier for us to do our job last night.

One final note to the generous team at NextWorld Capital: Thank you so much for hosting all of us, and for the second time, no less. We can’t tell you how much we appreciated it.

It’s a long ways off, but if you want to mark it on your calendars, we’ll be hosting our next party on September 27, a Thursday night, in San Francisco. More details to come this summer.:)

(P.S. Sorry for the very short newsletter. Crazed morning. Running out the door. More Monday.)

Top News in the A.M.

The Justice Department has reportedly opened a criminal probe into Uber’s use of Greyball software to evade regulators. Reuters has more here.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC has been sponsored this week by the Bay Area firm Greenbrier. Scandal; injury; breach; litigation; presidential tweet. Crises can damage your corporate brand, personal reputation, employee morale and have lasting financial impacts. That’s why you need Greenbrier. We provide crisis planning, strategic advice and tactical execution to clients facing complex image, marketing, branding, media, legal and political challenges. With more than 30 years experience predicting, mitigating, managing and building resilience against reputational risks, Greenbrier can help.

The RealReal is Opening a Real Store in New York (and Other News from CEO Julie Wainwright)

At an event in San Francisco last night I sat down with The RealReal founder and CEO Julie Wainwright, who is renowned in startup circles for a variety of things, including her role in winding down the e-commerce company Pets.com during the dot.com era; being one of the bigger personalities in the industry; and launching what’s become one of the fastest-growing consignment startups among a handful that received funding roughly six years ago.

Some no longer exist. The RealReal has meanwhile garnered $123 million in venture funding and says it’s on track to see $500 million in gross merchandise value this year — nearly half of it through the company’s mobile app.

She attributed that success so far to zeroing in on the luxury market, taking possession of consigners’ products and focusing on trust above all else, by ensuring that every item that The RealReal sells to a customer has been inspected and authenticated before it gets shipped out the door. She also said the company is weighing a strategy of opening a series of brick-and-mortar stores, starting first with one New York location that’s currently in the works.

Excerpts from our sit-down, edited for length and clarity, follow:

You’ve raised a lot of money, including a $40 million Series E round last year, but you’re also very much in growth mode. For the VCs in the audience: might you raise another round anytime soon?

No. We’re good for a while.

You started with apparel, but you sold $100 million in watches and fine jewelry last year. Is that now your best-selling category?

The reason we went into jewelry was we were trying to cater to our consigner base, who was saying, “Can you sell this for me? Can you sell that?” And we said, “You can bring in your jewelry and watches; we have a gemology and a watch expert on site.” And it just exploded our business.

You’re talking about valuation offices, which you’ve been launching across the U.S. over the last 18 months. You and I talked about these recently, but they seem to be underreported.

It’s true. We did a little test in Midtown [in New York] around 18 months ago. We now have six offices across the U.S. and soon to be seven. We wanted people to comparison shop because we know you make two-and-a-half to three times more money if you sell your fine jewelry to us. We also wanted to remove any friction. [Jewelry consignment] is sort of weird space. If you’ve ever tried to sell jewelry to anyone else, it’s a pawn shop environment; it’s a little gross. So we wanted to bring the whole process up front, have a discussion with people, and have it be transparent and respectful.

Back to your best-selling items . . .

For men, it’s Rolex. For women, there are three across all age groups: Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton.

Meaning clothing or jewelry or both?

Apparel is our number-one product in unit and dollars.

Are men buying or selling on The RealReal? What’s the gender breakdown?

We actually don’t get enough men’s consignment, so it sells through faster. Twenty percent of our shoppers are men who are shopping for themselves. They’re buying watches, primarily, and leather goods, but also apparel. Their average order size is smaller, but you men [in the audience] don’t like to return things, despite that we have a return policy. So that’s good; it all evens out. [Laughs.]

What percentage of shoppers are also consigning items?

More here.

New Fundings

Devicare, a four-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based maker of remote patient monitoring software, has raised €3 million ($3.3 million) in seed funding from EMESA Corporación Empresarial and numerous family offices. More here.

Outset Medical, a 14-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based medical device company that makes dialysis machines, has raised $76.5 million in Series C funding led by T. Rowe Price Associates, with participation from Fidelity Management & Research Company, Partner Fund Management LP, Warburg Pincus, Perceptive Advisors and The Vertical Group. FierceBiotech has more here.

Essential Reads

It looks like Amazon’s Video app is finally coming to Apple TV this summer.

Detours

The world’s cheapest cities for a date . . .according to Deutsche Bank(?).

Retail Therapy

The BumpBoxx boom box. (Scientifically proven to win back lost love.)




StrictlyVC: April 5, 2017

Happy Wednesday, all!

Quicklike, before we jump into the newsletter, we want to give a shout-out to our newest sponsor, Bullish, a strategic creative and consumer investment firm with a proposal for select StrictlyVC readers wanting to come to our May 4th event in San Francisco. Stay tuned to learn more! (Intrigue!)

Thanks, too, to our other generous sponsors: Square 1 Bank, a bank for both entrepreneurs and investors; L.A.-based Rosebud Communications, which does PR for startups; and the early-revenue stage investor NextWorld Capital, which very nicely offered to host the evening at its beautiful space in the city. It takes a village, and we greatly appreciate everyone’s support.

(We running low on seats, by the way, so don’t wait if you’re thinking of coming.)

Top News in the A.M.

Uber admitted today that it had found one of the documents that Waymo alleges was stolen by a former employee — on the employee’s personal computer.

Cendana Capital, a Top Seed Fund Investor, Has Raised Big $$

Michael Kim is pretty much killing it.

Seven years ago, when he first approached investors with the idea of creating a fund-of-funds that would invest in seed-stage, or so-called micro VC, funds, they were cool to the idea. In fact, it took Kim — formerly a partner with the venture firm Rustic Canyon Ventures — roughly two years to raise the firm’s $28.5 million debut fund.

Fast forward, and Kim’s Cendana Capital — which has backed venture firms Forerunner Ventures, SoftTech VC, IA Ventures, First Round, Freestyle Capital, K9 Ventures, Bowery Capital, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures, among others  — just closed on $260 million in fresh capital across a network of five funds.

One vehicle is Cendana’s third and newest fund-of-funds, which works just like that $28.5 million debut fund, except it’s nearly three times as big, with $80 million in commitments.

Kim also raised $35 million to make direct co-investments; a $60 million co-investment fund that he manages on behalf of The University of Texas Investment Management Company; a $75 million fund called Cendana Blackbird that Cendana manages on behalf of an unnamed pension fund (it invests in Cendana’s portfolio funds in cases where it can get a greater allocation); and a $10 million, late-stage fund called Cendana Kendall that’s being managed on behalf of an unnamed family office. (The idea is for Kim to plug the money into one or two breakaway companies in one of his fund managers’ portfolios.)

Altogether, the San Francisco-based outfit now manages around $450 million — which says a lot about how much the market has changed. We talked with Kim — who runs Cendana with principal Graham Pingree — about that ongoing evolution yesterday.

Cendana seems to be an investor in every major micro VC fund out there. How many funds are you involved with?

We have 15 “core” relations, where we’ve invested $8 million to $10 million, then we have a pilot program where we invest $1 million in 8 or 9 groups that we like but we have some lingering questions about their strategy. For example, NextView Ventures in Boston and Mucker Capital in L.A. were part of our pilot program because we didn’t have a high conviction about either the Boston or L.A. ecosystems. Now we do, so they’ve become core.

The hardware investment firms Bolt and Root Ventures also became part of that pilot program, because we had questions about whether seed was the right entry point for hardware investing.

Which is the newest fund to join your pilot portfolio?

Notation Capital in Brooklyn.

Do all “pilots” become “core”?

No. And we’ve ended up not continuing with some core funds as some have evolved from seed-stage to Series A stage funds, and backing them is not the mandate our LPs gave us, notwithstanding how amazingly they’ve performed for us. I won’t share publicly which those are, though.

Where do you draw the line? So many of your managers are now investing two or three times the amount of their debut funds.

More here.

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsor . . .

Today’s StrictlyVC is brought to you by John Gannon‘s VC jobs email list.  Join more than 3800 VCs (from Sequoia, Redpoint, and other top firms) and VC job hunters in using Gannon’s list to help them get jobs at top firms like Bessemer, General Catalyst, OpenView, and IVP. Click here to subscribe.

New Fundings

AdAsia, a one-year-old, Singapore-based online advertising startup, has raised $12 million in Series A funding from Japanese investor JAFCO. TechCrunch has more here.

Armor, an eight-year-old, Richardson, Tex.-based managed security firm, has raised $89 million in funding led by Singapore Technologies Telemedia. The company had earlier raised funding from The Stephens Group. According to Crunchbase, the company has now raised roughly $150 million to date. More here.

Aurora Innovation, a months-old, Bay Area-based stealth startup led by Chris Urmson, former CTO of Alphabet’s self-driving car project, has raised just more than $3 million in venture funding shows an SEC filing first flagged by Axios. The outlet has more here (including news about a lawsuit that could potentially slow Urmson down).

Azitra, a three-year-old, Farmington, Ct.-based biotech company that’s using the skin’s microbiome to develop new treatments in dermatology and skin infections, has raised $2.9 million in Series A funding led by Bios Partners. FierceBiotech has more here.

CheckRecipient, a nearly four-year-old, London startup that uses machine learning to help prevent emails from being sent to the wrong recipient, has raised $2.7 million in funding co-led by Accel Partners and LocalGlobe. Others participants include Winton Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners and Crane. TechCrunch has more here.

Coras, a 1.5-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based event ticketing platform, has raised €1.9 million in funding led by Atlantic Bridge, with participation by U2 guitarist Edge, Hambro Perks, and Elkstone Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Dojo Madness, a 2.5-year-old, Berlin-based startup that sells analytics and coaching tools to casual and professional online gamers, has raised $6 million in new funding. Raine Ventures, the venture capital arm of The Raine Group, led the round, with participation from Kakao’s K Cube Ventures and earlier investors, including March Capital and DN Capital. The round brings Dojo’s total funding raised to $12.75 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Platterz, a two-year-old, Toronto-based corporate catering platform, raised $6.7 million in seed funding, including from AltaIR Capital, Globalive Capital, and numerous angel investors, including investor Oren Zeev. BetaKit has more here.

Qumulo, a four-year-old, Seattle-based developer of NAS storage systems, has raised $30 million in funding led by Northern Light Venture Capital. Other participants include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Madrona Venture Group, Top Tier Capital Partners, and Tyche Partners. More here.

SlashNext, a three-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $9 million in Series A funding co-led by Norwest Venture Partners and Wing Venture Capital. More here.

Snowflake Computing, a nearly five-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that sells data warehousing as a service, has raised $100 million in Series D funding led by Iconiq Capital, with help from Madrona Venture Group. Early investors Altimeter Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures and Wing Venture Capital also participated. The company says it has now raised $205 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Street Contxt, a five-year-old, Toronto-based equity research company, has raised an undisclosed amount of new funding from Joe Lonsdale, Point72 Ventures, Palm Drive Capital and Portag3 Ventures. The company has now raised $15 million altogether. More here.

Wecash, a nearly four-year-old, Beijing-based big data-based credit assessment company, has raised $80 million in Series C funding led by China Merchants VC Management, Forebright Capital, and SIG, with participation from Dongfang Hongdao Capital and Lingfeng Capital. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

83North (formerly Greylock IL), which since 2008 has focused on backing startups in Europe and Israel, has closed its fourth fund with $250 million in commitments. TechCrunch has more here.

Forward Partners, a 4.5-year-old, London-based venture firm firm, has closed its second fund with £60 million in commitments ($75 million). Interestingly, it says it has just one major institutional investor, though it’s declining to name who that is. TechCrunch has more here.

IPOs

Okta, the eight-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of identity access management software, has increased its proposed IPO price range from $13 to $15, to $15 to $17 per share. The company is expected to price its IPO on Thursday night. Nasdaq has more here.

Exits

Compete-Nickel, a Paris-based company that provides customers with an online payment account within 10 minutes via thousands of tobacco shops in the country, has been acquired by BNP Paribas for an undisclosed amount of money. According to Crunchbase, the startup had raised roughly $10 million in funding from Partech Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Petco, the San Diego-based pet supply chain owned by the private equity firm CVC Capital, has acquired PetCoach, a Philadelphia-based startup whose app connects pet owners with veterinarians. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. PetCoach raised $2.3 million in funding, including from Comcast Ventures, Maveron, and DreamIt Ventures. More here.

Bankruptcy

Payless ShoeSource is the latest retailer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, adding its name to a growing list of chains that have struggled to compete against online and off-price retailers. CNBC has more here.

People

Fred Destin is transitioning out of Accel, the London-headquartered venture firm that he joined several years ago from Boston’s Atlas Venture. He tells TechCrunch he’s taking off to create his own franchise, either with a team or as a solo general partner. More here.

Mark Friedman, a spent 12 years as a senior software engineer at Google, has joined year-old Thunkable as its VP of engineering. Friedman had co-createdApp Inventor, a collaboration between Google and MIT that became one of largest platforms for building Android apps; his fellow engineers on the project have since relaunched that platform as Thunkable.

Anthony Pompliano, a venture capitalst in North Carolina, yesterday escalated a legal battle with Snap, where Pompliano worked for just three weeks in 2015 after being recruited away from Facebook. Axios has more here.

Mike Swartz, an operations veteran who spent nearly a decade at Amazon before joining Instacart in February last year, has left the company. No word on his next moves. “He’s been a great asset to our team in the last year, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Instacart said in a statement to TechCrunch. More here.

Data

Pitchbook and the NVCA published some first quarter data today, and it shows a funding slowdown. What they found: from January through March, investors plugged $16.5 billion into 1,797 venture-backed startups. That’s up from the fourth quarter, but it’s the fewest number of companies to receive funding since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Essential Reads

Amazon‘s robot war is spreading.

Amazon is ready for some football.

Detours

Your work friends are faking it, says this cruel, workplace relationship expert.

How to tell when Uber is secretly overcharging you.

Parents, rejoice! Amazon will refund millions of unauthorized in-app purchases that kids made on mobile devices, having just dropped an appeal related to ruling last year.

Retail Therapy

When the future is so bright . . .




StrictlyVC: March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, dear readers! Wear a touch of green, enjoy a foamy pint, and do not say to anyone Irish, “Top of the mornin’ to ya,” unless you want to be mocked mercilessly afterward.

Top News in the A.M.

Mulesoft, the first enterprise technology IPO of 2017, is already looking like a big winner, popping around 50 percent above its $17 debut price to about $25.50 a share in its first few hours of trading. Business Insider has more here.

Permira’s Brian Ruder on Private Equity’s Attraction to Tech

For the last couple of years, private equity firms have been buying up public software companies that had fallen out of favor with investors. In fact, many of the top software deals in the U.S. last year were take-private transactions. Just three of them included the visual analytics company Qlik Technologies, which sold to Thomas Bravo; the marketing software company Marketo, acquired by Vista Equity Partners, and the event management company Cvent, also acquired by Vista.

Public tech companies have largely seen their valuations rebound, however. For that reason, a separate opportunity that Brian Ruder, co-head of technology at the global PE firm Permira, expects to see more centers on maturing tech companies that haven’t yet gone public. We talked with Ruder recently to learn more about Permira, and why venture-backed outfits are more interesting than ever to him.

Obviously, it’s not brand new, this trend of PE shops gravitating toward software companies, even if it did seem to become more of a “thing” beginning last year.

Permira has been at it for 30 years. We grew out of being a venture capital firm that backed disruptive, late-stage companies. But we evolved [over the last decade] beyond just buying classically undervalued and under-managed companies and into buying great growth businesses that just need larger and larger pools of capitals. What we’re looking for are companies that have good growth opportunities and to back them aggressively.

I think what’s more new is using operating expertise and a [PE size] capital base to back companies that have been in the VC ecosystem and are looking for an alternative to going public, where you can solve historical shareholder alignment problems without tapping the public market to do that.

More here.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is brought to you today by the startup studio Expa. Startups can apply now to be considered for Expa Labs, where selected companies receive a $250,000 or $500,000 equity investment, six months of office space, and guidance from the Expa team. The application deadline is coming up March 31.

New Fundings

Cell Medica, a 12-year-old, London-based cellular immunotherapy company, has raised £60 million ($74.1 million) in Series C funding from Touchstone Innovations, Invesco Perpetual, and Woodford Investment Management. More here.

CNEX Labs, a 3.5-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based developer of solid-state storage controllers, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series C funding led by Microsoft Ventures. The company said it has raised a total of $60 million to date. More here.

Cohero Health, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based digital health company focused on respiratory illnesses, has added an undisclosed amount of funding to its Series A round from Samsung NEXT and Omron Healthcare. More here.

Homage, an eight-month-old Singapore-based startup that connects caregivers with elderly people seeking assistance, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding. The money comes from 500 Startups, Golden Gate Ventures, and SeedPlus, a fund affiliated with Jungle Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Moximed, a three-year-old, Hayward, Ca.-based knee implant company, has raised $50 million in Series C funding. Investors include Advent Life Sciences, Future Fund, New Enterprise Associates, Morgenthaler Ventures, Gilde Healthcare, GBS Venture Partners, and Vertex Healthcare. More here.

MultiX, a 6.5-year-old, Grenoble, France-based startup that makes x-ray imaging software for airports, has raised €3.5 million ($3.8 million) from Omnes Capital and H3C. Tech.eu has more here.

RenalGuard, a young, Milford, Ma.-based medical device company whose technology measures a patient’s urine output and automatically infuses needed hydration fluid to prevent acute kidney injury, has raised $14.5 million in Series A funding led by Exigent Capital, with participation from Genesis Capital Advisors and other investors. More here.

Solarisbank, a year-old, Berlin-based fintech startup that’s using its banking license to create a platform that enables other fintech startups to legally offer their services, has raised $28 million. The round was led by Arvato Financial Solutions, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann Group, and Japanese investor SBI Group. Seed round investors FinLeap and Hegus and yabeo Capital also participated. VentureBeat has more here.

Visier, a six-year-old, Vancouver and San Jose, Ca.-based workforce analytics company, has raised $45 million in Series D funding led by Sorenson Capital, with participation from earlier backers Foundation Capital, Summit Partners and Adams Street Partners. More here.

New Funds

Bivotal bioVenture Partners, a new, San Francisco -based venture firm specializing in biotech, has raised $300 million in capital commitments for its first fund. The firm’s founding managing director is Tracy Saxton, a veteran of both Roche Venture Fund and SV Life Sciences Advisers. The team she builds will be investing money on behalf of Vincent Cheung and the Hong Kong-based Nan Fung Group, a conglomerate looking to expand beyond real estate projects into biotech. Endpoints News has much more here.

IPOs

Netshoes, a Brazil-based online retailer with annual sales of more than $500 million, has filed to raise up to $100 million in a U.S.-based offering. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised roughly $215 million from investors, including Iconiq Capital, Riverwood Capital, and Tiger Global Management. More here.

Exits

True&Co., an e-commerce company featuring lingerie, has been acquired by Phillips Van Heusen, parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod, among other brands. Terms aren’t being disclosed, but sources tell TechCrunch that investors mostly got their money back. True&Co had reportedly raised $13 million from Crosslink Capital, Cowboy Ventures, First Round Capital, SoftBank, SoftTech VC and VTF (formerly the Vegas Tech Fund). More here.

People

Adit Singh, who has spent the last 3.5 years as a partner at Foundation Capital, has left the firm to co-found NeoTribe Ventures, a new, Palo Alto, Ca.-based investment fund. More here.

Honest Company, the five-year-old, consumer products company cofounded by actress Jessica Alba, has appointed Nick Vlahos as CEO. Vlahos was previously COO at Clorox, where he spent the last 22 years. He’s replacing serial founder Brian Lee, whose other past companies include LegalZoom and ShoeDazzle. Fortune has more here.

The people from “Government Sachs.”

Jobs

Sony Pictures is looking for a VP of corporate development. The job is in Culver City, Ca.

Essential Reads

Progress report: Uber’s autonomous cars drove 20,354 miles and had to be taken over at every mile.

Netflix is giving its star rating system the thumbs down.

YouTube is doubling down on competitive gaming, signing a multi-year deal yesterday with e-sports platform FACEIT to stream its competitive gaming league.

Detours

An exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry could cost a dairy company an estimated $10 million.

How Utah reduced chronic homelessly by 91 percent.

Why basketball games are so squeaky.

Sorry for the delayed response!

Retail Therapy

Is it just us, or is this the world’s most ominous-looking fishing boat?




StrictlyVC: February 3, 2017

This will sound familiar, but we are again racing out the door to a doctor’s appointment — this time to see our friendly neighborhood dentist. Why do we make appointments in the morning, the worst possible time of the day for us to do this? We may well contemplate this today while our gums are being prodded.

No column today, but happy Friday, everyone; we’ll see you back here Monday.:) (Speaking of which, if you were thinking of coming to the Crunchies awards on Monday night in San Francisco, it’s not too late to grab a ticket here.)

Top News in the A.M.

Yesterday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from the new administration’s economic advisory council. In an email to employees, he said his participation was being interpreted as a sign that he had endorsed the president and the administration’s agenda, when in reality, he thinks the  immigration order is hurting many people across America. (The New York Times looks at the various factors that drove Kalanick’s eventual decision here.) The conversation in Silicon Valley almost immediately shifted focus to another tech entrepreneur on the council: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. But Musk says he’s staying on.

New Fundings

Ceres Nanosciences, a nine-year-old, Manassas, Va.-based life sciences company developing a diagnostic test for Lyme disease, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by GreyBird Ventures. Washington Business Journal has more here.

Hutch, a 5.5-year-old, London-based startup that makes free-to-play mobile games, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures and Backed VC. TechCrunch has more here.

Jobaline, a four-year-old, Kirkland, Wa.-based company behind an engagement platform for hourly workers, has raised $3.5 million from investors, including Madrona Venture Group, Trilogy Equity Partners, Founder’s Co-op and Rudy Gadre, as well as new Pacific Northwest angel investors. More here.

LendingFront, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based platform for business lending, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from a Fort Lauderdale, Fl.-based investment firm, Las Olas Venture Capital.

Litify, a months-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based developer of software for law firms, raised $5 million in funding from Fortress Investment Group. More here.

SparkFund, a 3.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based financial technology company that lets businesses pay over time for energy efficient products and services (it partners with utilities and others), has raised $7 million in Series B funding led by Energy Impact Partners, with participation from Vision Ridge Partners and undisclosed strategic partners. More here.

Taxfyle, a 1.5-year-old, Miami, Fl.-based on-demand tax and accounting marketplace, has raised $2 million in seed funding from individual investors. More here.

VisCardia, a 1.5-year-old, Beaverton, Or.-based medical device company that’s developing a chronic heart failure therapy, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding led by Kinetic Capital Partners. It simultaneously obtained the assets and technology rights from Inovise Medical. More here.

New Funds

Legend Capital, the venture and growth capital arm of China’s Legend Holdings Corporation, has raised $243 million for its seventh venture capital fund, according to an SEC filing that shows a target of $375 million. China Money Network has more here.

Exits

Worth noting: Teen-focused retailer Wet Seal sought chapter 11 protection yesterday the latest victim of market headwinds—declining traffic, changing consumer preferences and the popularity of online shopping. The WSJ has more here.

People

Mozilla is laying off around 50 people. Cnet has more here.

Jobs

Engineering Capital, the early-stage venture firm founded by former Foundation Capital investor Ashmeet Sidana, is looking to bring aboard an associate. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.

Essential Reads

Snap‘s IPO prospectus was made public yesterday, and reporters have been chewing through the numbers since. Among the many data points worth noting: Snap lost $515 million on $404 million in revenue in 2016, compared with the $373 million it lost on sales of $59 million in 2015.

Snap has a lot of users, but maybe less than you might have guessed: 158 million at the end up last year, up from 107 million in 2015, and growth appears to be slowing. The number of users rose 7 percent between the second and third quarters but grew just 3.3. percent in the last quarter of 2016.

Assuming the company is still valued out of the gate at between $20 billion and $25 billion, a select group of folks will make out exceedingly well. Among them, Benchmark, which owns 12.7 percent of the company, Lightspeed Venture Partners, which owns 8.3 percent, and cofounders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, both of whom own 21.8 percent of the company. (Turns out Reggie Brown, a third cofounder who was bounced out of the company early on, has done okay, too, having received a $157.5 million settlement after he sued Spiegel and Murphy for his fair share of the business.)

More here and here and here.

Apple will begin assembling iPhones in India by the end of April, a regional minister says, heightening its focus on the world’s fastest-growing major smartphone market as growth slows elsewhere. Bloomberg has more here.

Detours

Why the feds are losing the war on fake Super Bowl merchandise.

The most popular Super Bowl ads of all time.

An easy way to get your coworkers to trust you more.

Retail Therapy

A 295-foot yacht with a nightclub, hot air balloons, and its own submarine. (Now to snag an invite.)




StrictlyVC: February 2, 2017

Hi, happy Thursday, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

A Dallas jury decided yesterday that Facebook will need to shell out $500 million to tech company ZeniMax in a lawsuit that questioned the origins of the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. The jury found that cofounder Palmer Lucky did not comply with a non-disclosure agreement he had signed; it also said that Oculus did not steal trade secrets, as alleged by ZeniMax in its suit. More here.

Dropcam Cofounder Aamir Virani Joins Felicis

Last week, we learned that Dropcam cofounder Greg Duffy has headed over to Apple. Today, Felicis Ventures, the early-stage venture firm, is disclosing it has brought aboard Dropcam’s other cofounder, Aamir Virani, as its newest partner.

The move seems a perfect fit for both sides. Felicis wrote one of the earliest checks to Dropcam, an internet-connected security camera company that was sold to Nest Labs in 2014 for $555 million, months after Nest was itself acquired by Google for $3.2 billion.

As StrictlyVC reported in late 2014, the acquisition proved far from a seamless fit, and by last year, Duffy had gone public about his regrets over selling Dropcam to Nest, which he left in 2015.

For his part, however, Virani — who also left Nest in 2015 — stayed mum, calling Google “one of the great companies” of the world during a call earlier this week. Explaining his departure, he said simply that “I wasn’t really a big company person. I just don’t think that mentality is right for me. I like trying to figure out how to make something useful for customers, then figuring out how to create a business that will ensure it survives.”

It largely explains why, over the past year or so, Virani has chosen to do a limited amount of angel investing and to advise a small group of startups, many of them through his network, which includes friends from Rice University, where the Houston native nabbed his undergraduate degree, and Stanford, where he went to grad school.

More here.

New Fundings

Against Gravity, a year-old, Seattle-based virtual reality company that makes a social VR app called Rec Room, has raised $5 million in seed funding from Sequoia Capital, First Round Capital, Acequia, Vulcan Capital,Maveron, Anorak, Betaworks, and the Venture Reality Fund. More here.

Airware, a 5.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose cloud-based software and services aim to help large enterprises use drones throughout their operations, has raised an undisclosed amount of money from the venture arm of Caterpillar, the construction and mining equipment company. TechCrunch has more here.

ApcinteX, a young, Cambridge, England-based spin-out of the University of Cambridge that’s developing a new therapy for haemophilia, has raised £14 million ($17.6 million) in Series A funding led by Medicxi and Touchstone Innovations Group. More here.

Aquilon Energy Services, a six-year-old, Lisle, Il.-based cloud platform that enables energy companies to settle financial energy transactions, has raised $19 million in Series B funding from investors (and, the company says, customers) Citi, Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments, Invenergy, and Macquarie Group. More here.

Disruptor Beam, a six-year-old, Framingham, Ma.-based community-centric games company, has raised $8.5 million in Series B funding from earlier investor GrandBanks Capital and Romulus Capital. GrandBanks, which participated in Disruptor Beam’s $3.2 million Series A, says it bought out another early investor, Midverse Studios, as part of the deal. TechCrunch has more here.

GAN Integrity, a 2.5-year-old, Brooklyn, New York-based maker of compliance management software for managing corporate risk, third-party due diligence, and whisteblower concerns, has raised $9 million in funding led by Edison Partners. Other participants in the round include NorthCap, Chicago Ventures, MissionOG, and Cultivation Capital. Tech.eu has more here.

GoldenKey, a three-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based service that unbundles real estate services and gives buyers a three percent rebate when they buy a home through the startup, has raised $1.75 million from Lowe’s Ventures, NFX Guild (whose accelerator program it passed through last year), and others. The company has now raised $3.4 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

MapAnything, an eight-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based software service built on top of Salesforce for developing location-based workflows, has raised $33.1 million in Series B funding led by Columbus Nova, with participation from ServiceNow Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Opti, a 2.5-year-old, Boston-based IoT company that monitors and controls stormwater infrastructure in real-time, has raised $5.5 million in funding led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund, with participation from earlier investors MissionPoint Partners, the Renewal Funds, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and Geosyntec Consultants. More here.

PointClickCare, a 22-year-old, Mississauga, Canada-based maker of cloud-based software for the senior care industry, has raised $85 million in funding led by Dragoneer Investment Group, with participation from JMI Equity. BetaKit has more here.

Scytl, a 16-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based company that develops secure electronic voting technologies, has raised €12 million ($13 million) in funding from earlier investors Vulcan Capital, Balderton Capital, Nauta Capital, Spinnaker Invest, Sapphire Ventures, Vy Capital, Industry Ventures, and Adams Street Partners. Tech.eu has more here.

SIM Partners, an 11-year-old, Chicago-based location marketing company, has raised $5 million in funding led by River Cities Capital Funds, with participation from Jump Capital. More here.

Suplari, a year-old, Seattle-based stealthy enterprise “intelligent app” company, has raised $3.1 million in funding led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Amplify Partners. GeekWire has more here.

Tarveda Therapeutics, a 4.5-year-old, Watertown, Ma.-based cancer drug developer, has raised $30 million in fresh funding led by Versant Ventures, with participation from earlier backers New Enterprise Associates, Novo A/S, NanoDimension, and Flagship Pioneering. Xconomy has more here.

Text IQ, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that streamlines the document review process for attorneys, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Floodgate. Forbes has more here.

Vividion Therapeutics, a 2.5-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based biotech company whose drug discovery platform applies chemical proteomics to expand the druggable proteome, has raised $50 million in Series A funding co-led by ARCH Venture Partners and Versant Ventures. Cardinal Partners also participated in the funding. FierceBiotech has more here.

Wity, a year-old, Paris, France-based AI-driven virtual assistant that aims to help small businesses with their accounting and other administrative needs, has raised €4.7 million ($5.1 million) in funding from M Capital Partners. Tech.eu has more here.

Xnor.ai, a young, Seattle-based company bringing AI computational frameworks to mobile devices, raised $2.6 million in funding led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (from which the company spun off). TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Grab, the Singapore-based ride-sharing service, has created a $100 million fund to invest in Indonesian startups. TechCrunch has more here.

In a boost for the European life sciences start-up ecosystem, Dublin, Ireland-based venture capital firm Seroba has closed a third life sciences fund with €100 million ($107.9 million). Silicon Republic has more here.

Exits

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has acquired Niara, a 3.5-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based security analytics company, for an undisclosed sum. According to Crunchbase, Niara had raised around $30 million from investors, including Venrock, New Enterprise Associates, and Index Ventures. eWeek has more on the deal here.

OpenSky, a marketplace for small businesses that’s backed in part by the juggernaut Alibaba, has spent a “few hundred thousand dollars” to acquire the assets of Dot & Bo, a San Francisco-based online furniture retailer that had raised $18.5 million from investors before shutting down in September. Recode has more here.

Salesforce, which is looking to sell more services to its customers that complement the software they are already buying, has acquired Sequence, a 12-year-old, user experience design agency based out of San Francisco and New York. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but according to Crunchbase, Sequence had raised less than $1 million. TechCrunch has much more here.

IPOs

Hamilton Lane, the 26-year-old, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based alternative asset manager, filed to raise up to $200 million in an IPO yesterday. Renaissance Capital has a bit more here.

People

Carl Schachter, a Google VP who was one of the public faces of its cloud computing business under Diane Greene, is leaving the company, reports The Information. No word yet on where he’s headed. The story is here.

The 10 people who know everybody in New York’s startup scene.

Jobs

The early-stage venture capital firm White Star Capital is looking to hire an associate. The job is in Montreal.

Essential Reads

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and other U.S. companies are circulating an open letter to President Trump expressing concern about his recent order on immigration and offering their help. Bloomberg has the story here.

Samsung Electronics may build a manufacturing base in the U.S. for its home appliances business amid growing concerns about protectionist policies pursued by the Trump administration. Reuters has more here.

Facebook had another strong quarter at the end of last year. TechCrunch has much more here on its newest earnings report.

Detours

Ron Hill ran every day for 52 years . . . until Sunday. The decision ended the longest-recorded streak of running every day.

What a bunch of turd balls.

Why Silicon Valley’s young elite won’t invest in art.

Retail Therapy

The Supreme x Louis Vuitton collection is now available for pre-order. (Just mentioning.)




StrictlyVC: February 1, 2017

Thank God it’s February. We’re not sure how much more of January we could have taken.)

Hope you’re having a nice Wednesday, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Online lender Social Finance is acquiring a digital-banking startup as it looks to accelerate its expansion into more pockets of consumer finance (and become the central financial services hub for its customers). Its new purchase: Zenbanx Holding, a four-year-old firm that offers online and mobile bank accounts in multiple currencies and performs international money transfers. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, but a WSJ source pegs the all-stock deal valued at nearly $100 million. More here.

Why East Coast Investors are Better Off if the Market Turns

new trends report published by the law firm Cooley report suggests that the venture market remains largely healthy for now. In the fourth quarter, for example, Cooley handled 187 “disclosable” (versus stealth) deals that represented more than $2.7 billion of invested capital. That’s 18 percent more deals than it closed in the fourth quarter of 2015 — though the amount of money involved fell 23 percent from the year-earlier period. (VCs were writing smaller checks into a greater number of startups.)

Of slightly more interest to us were the deal terms involved in these fundings, some of which suggest that East Coast VCs have more safeguards than their West Coast peers if the market changes.

We talked with one of the study’s author, Cooley attorney Dave Young, about what he found and what it might mean.

This report seems pretty positive on its face.

I think it shows a surprisingly strong, healthy venture market. In 2015, there was this sense that maybe things were getting overheated, with nontraditional investors coming in and leading later-stage rounds in companies that hadn’t proven themselves yet. And that led to the view that things would slow down meaningfully in 2016. That didn’t really happen, though. People were being more disciplined around valuations and the size of rounds, but a lot of deals were getting done.

You also focus on the terms in this report. Are you starting to see anything onerous? 

I’d say founder-friendly terms are still really prevailing, and by that I mean plain vanilla terms. Whenever we inevitably head back to where the economy turns down, terms will get tough, and the levers will shift back toward [investors].

So no pay-to-play provisions [meaning if a company needs to raise money and resorts to insiders for it, those who can’t or don’t want to contribute their pro rata share will see their preferred shares reduced to either common stock or some other subset of equity with fewer rights]. I think there was some expectation that those would start reappearing in deals as this tech boom runs on and on.

We’re seeing some, but it’s been steady over the last three or four quarters or so, which is a good sign. We’re seeing them in situations when it makes sense — when it’s the right tool for that particular situation. But it’s not something people are defaulting to.

That said, sometimes with those down rounds and recaps and pay-to-plays, there’s a bit of a lag, because if companies are having a hard time getting funded, earlier investors will put in six, nine, 12 months of cash. If you have $10 million in a company already, you’d rather do that than see it crater. But you only do it once. Without a new lead investor and a new plan, those companies [are going to go out of business].

East Coast investors have historically been a little more metrics-driven than West Coast investors. Is that still true and does that impact how the market could shake out if there’s a downturn?

This has always been the case, but you see East Coast terms that are way more investor favorable, compared with West Coast [terms]. It’s more surprising to me that that hasn’t changed over time.

How do the terms differ, exactly?

In East Coast deals, you see more of what are called redemption provisions and cumulative dividends. Redemption provisions basically give investors the right to be bought out four or five years down the line — to get their money back if a company joins the living dead. They’re very rarely seen in Silicon Valley, but they appear in 25 to 30 percent of the deals on the East Coast.

More here.

New Fundings

AIM, a 1.5-year-old, New York and Seoul-based startup behind an artificial intelligence-powered app for financial investments (largely for customers in Korea), has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from DT&I, Soorim, Seoul Business Agency, and Startup Bootcamp. TechCrunch has more here.

ClearMotion, an eight-year-old, Boston-based digital chassis developer that replaces traditional automotive shock absorbers with software-controlled actuators, has raised $100 million in Series C funding from clients of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Qualcomm Ventures, World Innovation Lab, and Eileses Capital. The company, founded out of MIT, has now raised more than $130 million altogether. More here.

Glide Technologies, an Oxford, U.K.-based pharmaceutical development and device company, has raised £3.2 million ($4 million) in funding from earlier backers Invesco Perpetual, Oxford Technology Venture Capital Trusts, Oxford Capital Partners and Hygea VCT. More here.

Inmoji, a 2.5-year-old, Boston-based startup that creates emoji-focused marketing campaigns, has raised $1.5 million in fresh funding that brings its total funding to $9 million. The capital comes from previous investor John Wigneswaran (a longtime pharma and medical device exec) and a group from MIT’s Sloan business school. TechCrunch has more here.

InovyTec, a six-year-old, Hod-Hasharon, Israel-based developer of emergency medical devices, has raised $3 million in fresh funding from Hong Kong-based Vincent Medical Holdings. The Times of Israel has more here.

Kinestral Technologies, a 6.5-year-old, South San Francisco-based maker of “smart-tinting glass,” has raised $65 million in Series C funding led by glass manufacturer AGC Asahi Glass, with participation from Hermes-Epitek and earlier backers 5AM Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, Capricorn Investment Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Versant Ventures. Silicon Valley Business Journal has more here.

LatiPay, a year-old Auckland, New Zealand-based cross border payments company looking to expand into Singapore and elsewhere, has raised $3 million in funding from Singapore-based Jubilee Capital Management, with participation from Tuhua Fund, Zino Fund and an unnamed angel investor. e27 has more here.

Netgain, a 16-year-old, St. Cloud, Mn.-based company offering IT-as-a-service for healthcare providers, has raised $25 million in funding from Bluff Point Associates. Tech.mn has more here.

Reserve, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based startup offering table and customer management tools for restaurants, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Expa, the startup studio where it was first incubated. Other investors include First Round Capital and Human Ventures. Reserve has now raised more than $27 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Trussle, a 1.5-year-old, London-based online mortgage broker, has raised £4.5 million ($5.7 miillion) in funding led by Orange Growth Capital,with participation from existing investors LocalGlobe, Zoopla, Seedcamp, and angel investors Ed Wray and Ian Hogarth. The Times has more here.

Uptake, a 2.5-year-old, Chicago-based predictive analytics startup that was founded by Groupon cofounder Brad Keywell, has raised $40 million from Revolution Growth. The company has been valued at $2 billion in the deal, says the WSJ. More here.

Wealthsimple, a 2.5-year-old, Toronto, Canada-based robo-adviser startup, has raised C$20 million ($15.3 million) from Power Financial Corp. Reuters has more here.

Xometry, a 3.5-year-old, Gaithersburg, Md.-based on-demand manufacturing marketplace, has raised $23 million in new funding from GE Ventures and earlier investors, including Highland Capital Partners. More here.

Exits

Fingerprint Cards, a Gothenburg, Sweden-based company, is paying $106 million to acquire Delta ID, a five-year-old, Newark, Ca.-based iris recognition technology company. According to Crunchbase, Delta ID had raised roughly $6 million, including from Intel Capital. More here.

Video app Flipagram is getting acquired by the Chinese company Toutiao for an undisclosed amount. Flipagram was once a social media darling — raising money from both Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital and attracting both star VCs John Doerr and Michael Moritz to its board — but the startup appeared to lose momentum over the last year. TechCrunch has more here.

Kickstarter, the crowdfunding service, has acquired the 1.5-year-old Canadian video streaming startup Huzza. The purchase follows a close collaboration between the two parties that led to the launch of Kickstarter Live back in November, a live streaming feature with real time feedback designed to give creators a direct channel of communication with their community. Terms aren’t being disclosed. It doesn’t look like Huzza raised outside funding (tho’ we aren’t positive about that). TechCrunch has more here.

Publicly traded games maker Take-Two Interactive has acquired Social Point, a nine-year-old, Barcelona-based social game publisher, for $276 million. According to Crunchbase, Social Point had raised roughly $44 million from investors, including Highland Capital Partners Europe, Idinvest Partners, and Nauta Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

IPOs

ForeScout, a 16-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based security company, has filed confidentially for an IPO, reports TechCrunch. The company has raised more than $158 million since it was founded, including from Accel Partners, Meritech Capital Partners and Pitango Venture Capital. More here.

People

Michael Cardamone has joined SaaStr Ventures as a venture partner. Cardamone — an early Box employee — is also a managing director at Acceleprise, an enterprise software focused accelerator.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s honeymoon with President Donald Trump is looking to be short lived. Bloomberg has the story here.

Star VC Jim Goetz is stepping away from his management responsibilities at Sequoia Capital, and Roelof Botha is stepping up. We have more here.

Martin Hauge, long a partners at the Nordic venture capital firm Creandum, has joined the growth-stage venture firm Frog Capital as its non-executive chair. More here.

Angela Tran Kingyens, a data scientist, PhD and former entrepreneur, has been promoted to principal at Version One Ventures, which she joined as an associate in 2013. Before joining Version One, Kingyens co-founded Insight Data Science, a YC-backed Silicon Valley startup that helps PhDs transition from academic research to careers in the industry.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg —  who did not join the global Women’s March on January 21nd and has stayed relatively mum about the new U.S. administration — opened up about her stance at an event this morning, saying that a personal obligation kept her from joining the massive protest. “I think we don’t know what’s going to be effective yet,” she added. “It’s very early days of the new administration, but we know that the issues for women in leadership are real and it is about the steps we take as a society. It’s about the public policy we take. It’s also about the individual steps women take.” TechCrunch has more here.

Officials in New Zealand released documents last night related to investor Peter Thiel’s application to become a citizen there. Wrote Thiel on a form that would eventually help win him citizenship: “I am happy to say categorically that I have found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future than New Zealand.” The New York Times has more here.

Jobs

Grishin Robotics, a hardware-focused venture firm that’s currently investing its second ($100 million) fund, is looking to hire an analyst or associate. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.

Essential Reads

Amazon said yesterday that it plans to build its first air cargo hub to accommodate its growing fleet of planes, signaling the company is ramping up its expansion into transporting, sorting and delivering its own packages. The WSJ has more here.

Snap is now working on virtual reality lenses that let people overlay images onto landscapes in the real world. The Information has more here.

Detours

Every single Ivy League school has now spoken out against Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Kung fu plus wildly out-of-place music! (H/T: Awesomer.)

Beyonce is pregnant — with twins!

Retail Therapy

The best noise-canceling headphones of 2017. We’re going to be needing some of these.




StrictlyVC: January 30, 2017

Hi, everyone. What a weekend. Blergh.

Top News in the A.M.

Trump out. Refugees in.” Silicon Valley companies entered the debate over Trump’s immigration policy this weekend, criticizing a new, seven-country immigration ban of people from predominantly Muslim countries and, in some cases, outlining plans to support the employees it affects.

Among the fastest to respond, Airbnb offered free housing to those who flew into the U.S. Friday night, only to discover they wouldn’t be allowed on to their destinations.

Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of Alphabet, joined protesters at San Francisco International Airport Saturday night as demonstrators assembled at airports across the country in opposition to the immigration order. Brin told The Verge that he was attending “in a personal capacity” and would not be giving comment. But Forbes’ Ryan Mac separately overheard him saying, “I’m here because I’m a refugee.”

Y Combinator Sam Altman was also at the SFO protest, telling Forbes, “I hope this will be one of the defining moments where people came together against this administration. This is an unacceptable action, and we need to make our voices heard.”

Lyft, the ride-hailing company, also reacted strongly, saying it will be donating $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years. (The ACLU filed suit against Trump’s administration for the refugee ban, and succeeded in getting a temporary stay of the order from a federal judge on Saturday.)

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, meanwhile, who is now a member of an advisory board that will be meeting quarterly at the White House to talk about manufacturing, tweeted (somewhat dispassionately), “The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.” (The Archbishop of Chicago agrees, writing yesterday that the weekend “proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history” and that the executive order runs “contrary to both Catholic and American values.”)

By yesterday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus appeared to reverse a key part of the immigration order, saying that people from the affected countries who hold green cards will not be prevented from returning to the U.S., but that border agents have “discretionary authority” to detain and question suspicious travelers from certain countries. A number of federal judges across the country also halted the implementation of the order. According to reports this morning, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees continue to detain people coming into the country.

According to a new Bloomberg report, it could get worse, too, particularly for high-tech companies. The outlet has reviewed a draft of an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programs they depend on to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.  If implemented, the companies would have to try to hire American first, and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid.

With Snap’s IPO Around the Corner, L.A.’s Amplify Lands New Fund

L.A. is getting a star turn, with the most iconic of its local startups — Snap — on the cusp of going public. Locals expect much more than an endless string of headlines about its IPO performance, too. “The initial performance of the stock will be almost irrelevant,” says Paul Bricault, cofounder of the L.A.-based accelerator and seed-stage venture fund Amplify. “The IPO will shine a bigger spotlight on L.A. tech, and it will likely spin out more Snap execs as founders of new startups over time —  as well as likely inject more capital into angel funding of startups in L.A.”

Bricault has reason for optimism. Five-year-old Amplify just closed its third fund with $10 million, and it could use new, promising startups  to fund, as well as more capital sloshing around L.A. for follow-on funding. Investing $12.6 million across its first two funds, Amplify has already invested in 50 startups. Fourteen have raised a Series A round, five have raised a Series B round, and ten have subsequently been shut down.

Amplify has nurtured almost all of them at its campus in Venice, Ca., where companies of various, early stages stay for five months on average and are given opportunities to meet with investors for whom they would seem to be a fit. (Rather than stage demo days, Amplify invites investors to its offices four times a year for pre-arranged one-on-one meetings with its portfolio companies.)

On average, the firm, led by Bricault (who is also a venture partner with Greycroft Partners), takes a 10 percent stake in each company in exchange for mentorship, introductions, and initial checks of between $100,000 and $250,000.

Bricault says a proliferation of seed-stage funds is already helping Amplify’s companies attract funding in their “post accelerator round,” but that L.A. is still falling short when it comes to Series A, B, and later rounds.

More here.

New Fundings

BitFury Group, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based bitcoin blockchain security and infrastructure provider, has raised $30 million in funding from Credit China Fintech Holdings Limited. Crowdfund Insider has more here.

The Bouqs, a four-year-old, L.A.-based online flower retailer, has raised $24 million in Series C funding led by Partech Ventures, with participation from NextEquity Partners, Reimagined Ventures, Azure Capital Partners, KEC Ventures, Quest Venture Partners, and Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec. TechCrunch has more here.

Budbee, a three-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based freight-forwarding service, has raised €3 million ($3.2 million) in funding, including from H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson, Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski, and former Qliro Group CEO Paul Fischbein. Tech.eu has more here.

CafeX Communications, a three-year-old, New York-based maker of software for real-time collaboration within business applications, has raised $18 million in Series C funding led by Rakuten. SiliconAngle has more here.

Entrypoint, a year-old, New York-based startup whose self-service platform helps users “drag and drop” elements into an interactive video, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Samsung NEXT and Two Sigma Ventures led the round, with participation from Indicator Ventures, KBS Ventures, Galvanize Ventures, Social Starts, Female Founders Fund, and Virtual Reality Investments. Fortune has more here.

Land Life Company, a three-year-old, Amsterdam-based startup whose planting technology aims to allow trees to grow in arid soils, has raised €2.4 million ($2.6 million) in Series A funding, including from Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Fund, SystemiQ, and Vectr Ventures. More here.

Mindspace, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based network of workspaces for freelancers and teams, has raised $15 million in Series A funding from undisclosed private investors. Tech.eu has more here.

Reviver, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of digital license plates, has raised $6.8 million in Series A funding co-led by WRV and ACK Group. More here.

Skinjay, a 4.5-year-old, Paris, France-based startup that makes in-shower micro-nebulization devices to deliver “essential” oils to the skin and into the lungs, has raised €3.5 million ($3.7 million) in funding from Seventure Partners. More here (if you read French).

Spoke, a 3.5-year-old, London-based online menswear brand, has raised $1.8 million in funding led by Oxford Capital, with participation from Forward Partners, Seedcamp, and a numerous angel investors. Tech City News has more here.

Exits

Ebates, a San Francisco based provider of online rebate service (it’s also a subsidiary of Rakuten), has acquired Cartera Commerce, an 11-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based company that creates rewards and offers for card issuers, airline frequent flyer programs and merchants. Terms weren’t disclosed, but according to Crunchbase, Cartera had raised roughly $37 million from investors, including Flybridge Capital Partners. More here.

People

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein left a voicemail for the firm’s 34,400 employees last night, saying Trump’s executive order of Friday is at odds with the firm’s long-held policies on workforce diversity and could disrupt Goldman Sachs’s business. “This is not a policy we support,” he said. Bloomberg has more here.

Australia’s largest venture firm, AirTree Ventures,​ has added James Cameron, formerly of a vice president with London-based Accel Partners, to its team. TechCrunch has more here.

Fitbit kicked off the week by announcing a six-percent reduction in global work force, following disappointing fourth quarter financials. The company will go into greater detail on an earnings call today, but a preliminary statement issued this morning details the loss of 110 jobs as part of a “reorganization of its business.” TechCrunch has more here.

Jobs

Dropbox is hiring a director to add to its business strategy and operations team. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Sequoia Capital now makes the majority of its investments outside the United States.

Snap reportedly plans to publicly file for its much-anticipated IPO late this week.

Detours

Why you’re paying so much to exercise.

That was some tennis match yesterday!

Eeek. A top European hotel says it had to pay thousands in Bitcoin ransom to cybercriminals who managed to hack their electronic key system, locking hundreds of guests out of their rooms until the money was paid.

Retail Therapy

The Polycade. (You are welcome, startups everywhere.)