StrictlyVC: September 24, 2013

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Top News in the A.M.

Beijing is lifting a ban on Internet access within the Shanghai Free-trade Zone to foreign websites, including Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter has reportedly chosen to list on the NYSE, in an offering that would value the company at roughly $16 billion.

The Case for Embracing General Solicitation: VC Edition

Ask a VC whether top venture firms are liable to take advantage of the new general solicitation rules, and the answer is often a barely suppressed laugh.

It’s easy to understand why some might look down their noses at the changes. VCs have been operating like a private club for a long time, and they tend to see their publicity-seeking brethren as trendy and desperate.

But all it takes is a quick skip down memory lane to see how fast some of the most mocked innovations to the VC game have become standard operating procedure for today’s Midas List.

Take secondary investments. As recently as 2004, selling a stake to a secondary buyer was an admission of defeat. But along came SecondMarket followed by a long string of savvy secondary transactions — like those Groupon shares that NEA offloaded to later investors, or Accel’s partial sale of its Facebook stake to Technology Crossover Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz — and suddenly, you were a dummy if you didn’t take some money off the table.

And what about marketing? If you’ve been in the industry for more than a decade, you know that many of the most august firms used to avoid reporters like the plague. Then some prescient venture capitalists like Fred Wilson began to build huge followings, and before you knew it, blogs became de rigueur. Andreessen Horowitz took things to another level when it began aggressively courting press attention in 2009. A lot of the firm’s peers privately complained that the firm was sucking all the air out of Silicon Valley, but today, every top firm has an executive or a team of people focused on communications and content strategy.

The list goes on and on. Seed-stage investing used to be a niche strategy as recently as 2005. Today, there’s a glut of seed-stage investors and seed-funded companies.

Investment documents used to 100 pages long and cost a fortune. Now, many startups use standardized Web templates that they can tweak to their heart’s content.

Successful entrepreneurs were outsiders in VC circles; now many have an easier time raising new venture funds than traditional firms.

Do you see where this is going? Yes, the prospect of advertising may seem outlandish right now, but so did a lot of these other trends.

On the plus side, if advertising can speed up a team’s fundraising process, VCs should have more time to make more money for their partnerships.

And themselves.


New Fundings

UniversityNow, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that is parent company to two online universities, has raised $19 million in Series C funding from lead investors Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA and First Analysis Corp were the lead investors. Existing investors University Ventures, Novak Biddle Venture Partners, Kapor Capital and Bronze Investments also participated in the round.

SimilarGroup, a Tel Aviv-based company that produces an online Web measurement tool called SimilarWeb, has raised $3.5 million in funding, an extension of its Series B round, led by angel investor Lord David Alliance, who is chairman of the clothing catalog retailer N Brown Group. The company has raised $7 million to date. More here.

SafeShot Technologies, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Calif.-based company that develops safety syringes, has raised $6 million in funding. The financing is part of a $3 million round that SafeShot raised a year ago. The company hasn’t publicly disclosed who its backers are.

AIQ, a Clifton, N.J.-based publisher of financial advisor directories, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from Stonehenge Growth Equity. Earlier this year, the company raised $5 million Series A round from Penton Media.

Mobincube, a five-year-old, Valencia, Spain-based startup whose software allows users to create apps, has raised 700,000 euros (approximately $946,000) in seed funding led by Inveready. The round also included The Crowd Angel and Bankinter.

RainDance Technologies, a nine-year-old company based in Lexington, Mass., has secured up to $35 million in a structure debt agreement with Capital Royalty Partners. The funding comes on the heels of two sizable equity rounds: a $37 million round in 2011 and a $20 million round that was announced in April of this year. RainDance has created a system a system for performing lab experiments using minuscule amounts of material and has raised more th$100 million in venture capital to date.

MediSafe, a medication-compliance company that participated in Microsoft’s accelerator program last year, has raised $1 million in funding, led by Israeli venture firms TriVentures and Lool Ventures. The company is based in Haifa, Israel and has an office in San Francisco.

PreCision Dermatology, a Cumberland, RI.-based company whose therapies are designed to improve skin care, has raised $67 million in debt from Golub Capital to fuel its acquisition plans. The company has already made one major acquisition, last year buying up the assets of Triax Pharmaceuticals of Cranford, N.J., maker of a popular topic steroid and several acne treatments. The terms of that deal were not disclosed, but investors led by Essex Woodlands, MidCap Financial, and NovaQuest Capital Management had help support the acquisition.


Foundation Medicine, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company whose molecular information platform generates genomic information about a person’s individual cancer, is expected to begin trading publicly tomorrow at a range of between $14 and $16 per share. Three-year-old Foundation has raised roughly $100 million, including from Third Rock VenturesGoogle VenturesKleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersBill Gates, Digital Sky Technology founder Yuri Milner, and others. The company is looking to raise around $75 million.

Evoke Pharma, a six-year-old, San Diego-based biotech company that develops drugs to treat gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, is also expected to begin trading publicly tomorrow. The company, which is majority owned by Domain Partners and LVP Life Science Ventures, plans to raise $27 million by offering 2.1 million shares at a price range of $12 to $14.

Motley Fool asks: Could Comixology, the comic book company, be the next “IPO multibagger?” If so, its founders could see a windfall. According to Crunchbase, the six-year-old company has raised just $150,000 in debt.

Fund News

Now that Dell is going private, its corporate venture arm is “revving up,” reports Deborah Gage of the WSJ.


Zal Bilimoria has joined Andreessen Horowitz as a new partner focused on identifying, evaluating, and recommending deals to the firm’s GPs, reports PandoDaily. Bilimoria joins Andreessen Horowitz from LinkedIn, where he was a senior product manager. Before joining LinkedIn last summer, he worked as a product manager at Netflix, Google, and Microsoft.

SynapDx, a venture-backed startup in Lexington, Mass., has a new VP of informatics in Mark DePristo, who joins from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Three-year-old SynapDx develops laboratory diagnostic services for autism and neurodevelopmental disorders and is backed by North Bridge Venture Partners, General Catalyst Partners, Google Ventures, Foundation Medical Partners, LabCorp, The Kraft Group, Casdin Capital and Windham Venture Partners.

Tenex Health, a Lake Forest, Calif.-based startup that’s trying to pioneer minimally invasive therapies for the removal of diseased soft tissue, has a new CEO: Jay Hallinan, who takes the reins on October 21. Hallinan was most recently a senior sales executive at Stryker Neurovascular; he has also held sales roles at 3M, Medtronic, and Boston Scientific. To date, Tenex has raised roughly $17 million from investors.


Blackberry is selling itself to a consortium led by its biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, which already owns 10 percent of the troubled smartphone maker. The deal is valued at roughly $4.7 billion, or $9 per share, a slight premium to where Blackberry’s stock was trading before it was halted, pending the news. You can learn more about questions raised by the deal here.

Job Listings

Silicon Valley Bank is hiring a valuation associate in San Francisco. The role entails what you’d guess it would: conducting research on companies, investment trends, and tech trends. You also need basic finance skills, basic accounting knowledge, and working knowledge of biology, chemistry and the regulatory environment.

Essential Reads

This self-taught programmer’s software is now being used by every single coach in pro basketball.

In a poll taken over the weekend about the looming debt-ceiling crisis and government shutdown, most Americans said that they were “totally excited about the new iPhone 5s.”

Whether you think it’s great or creepy, a memory-erasing technology might not be all that far off, observes Vanity Fair.


Doug Band was once President Clinton’s “body man.” But as he builds out his own business, he’s becoming a serious thorn in the Clintons’ side, reports the New Republic in a long but fascinating profile.

Retail Therapy

Neat. Create an old-school desk set-up for your iPhone with this cool handset stand.

Everything you’ll be needing for Armageddon, including thermal vision cameras, a rifle scope, a knife and a giant poster of a zombie — so you’ll recognize what’s trying to eat you at the end of days.


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