StrictlyVC: October 7, 2013

110611_2084620_176987_imageHi, everyone, hope you had a great weekend!

Top News in the A.M. 

We’re entering week two of the shutdown with no end in sight. On talk shows yesterday morning, House Speaker John Boehner rejected continued calls to reopen the government and raise the federal debt limit unless President Obama plays ball, saying, “He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call.” [Eye roll. Hair pull. Screams.]

Dick Costolo’s Joke Bombs, on Twitter

Over the weekend, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo finally did something that millions of Twitter users have done before him: He tweeted a comment that’s attracting unwanted attention.

The tweet was prompted by a New York Times report that Twitter has just one woman among its top officials. The story includes comments from academic Vivek Wadwha, who ascribed Twitter’s gender imbalance to “elite arrogance” and the “same male chauvinistic thinking” that permeates Silicon Valley. Costolo took to Twitter Friday night to call Wadwha the “Carrot Top of academic sources.”

Coming from anyone else, the tweet might have been mildly amusing if a bit mean-spirited — typical Twitter fare, in short. Coming from Costolo, it was a surprising misstep. Twitter is in its quiet period. Within weeks, it will be a public company. So why not just keep quiet until then?

In shooting the messenger and not addressing the message itself, Costolo also inadvertently helped feed people’s worst perceptions of Twitter, including that it’s not always a friendly place to hang out. As Josh Constine observed in a recent TechCrunch piece, many users already avoid or abandon Twitter because of its competitive undertones and the pressure they feel to be “thought leaders.”

Half a day after Costolo published his tweet, one such thought leader, the blogger-entrepreneur Anil Dash, decided to challenge him on it. Tweeting to his 477,525 followers, Dash said that he was “sorely disappointed to see @dickc respond defensively to criticisms of industry sexism. Why not just lead, as Twitter does on free speech?”

After a few defensive exchanges with Dash and others on the topic, Costolo suggested that he’s very mindful of the gender issue at Twitter, tweeting: “I *think* I have an acute understanding of the topic & host of related issues. Of course, proof is in deeds.”  (In a display of deference to Costolo that has also become de rigueur among Twitter’s most astute users, Dash “favorited” each of Costolo’s responses before responding to them.)

Whether there will be lingering damage from Costolo’s tweet remains to be seen. Plenty of people have lost their jobs over less, but Twitter doesn’t seem inclined to ditch its star CEO any time soon.

As for Carrot Top, a comic long known for his red hair and his use of props, no one yet knows how he feels about being dragged into the conversation. His publicity team didn’t respond to questions sent to them yesterday morning.

It’s worth noting that Costolo himself once tried to be a stand-up comic, an effort that led to zero job offers, as he shared during an on-stage interview in May. “It was one part of [my career] strategy,” he’d said, as the crowd erupted with laughter.


New Fundings

ERN, a two-year-old, London-based “big data” company focused on helping its banking customers create loyalty programs, has raised $1 million from undisclosed sources, bringing the total amount of capital raised by the company to date to $5.6 million.

Fastacash, a two-year-old, Singapore-based social payments platform, has raised $3 million in Series A funding from Jungle VenturesSpring Singapore, and Spring SEEDS Capital.

Lark, a three-year-old, Mountain View., Calif.-based maker of a smart wristband and app, has raised $3.1 million of a $3.6 million round of funding, according to an SEC filing. According to TechCrunch, which spied the filing on Friday, Lark has previously raised $1 million from Lightspeed Venture PartnersCrunchFund and others.

Loom, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that’s taking on Apple’s iCloud as a better storage solution, has raised $1.4 million from Google VenturesGreat Oaks VCTencent and numerous angel investors among others.

MongoDB, a six-year-old, New York-based data management company, has raised $150 million from new investors Altimeter and T. Rowe Price. The firms were joined by existing investors Intel Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Red Hat and Sequoia Capital. To date, MongoDB has raised roughly $230 million from investors.

Silk, a year-old, Amsterdam-based Web data-crunching platform designed for so-called knowledge workers, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding, led by New Enterprise Associates and Atomico. The company has previously raised $435,000, including from Atomico.

Swoon Editions, a two-year-old, London-based company, has raised $1.93 million in new funding from Index Ventures, Octopus Investments and angel investors. The company, formerly known as Decoholic, is a platform for handcrafted furniture makers to sell their wares.



Lexmark International of Lexington, Ky., has acquired the healthcare software company Pacsgear, whose technology helps customers manage and share medical images, as well as integrate them with their picture archives and electronic medical records. The 13-year-old, Pleasanton, Calif.-based company was purchased for $54 million in cash and will be folded into the Lexmark subsidiary Perceptive Software.



Potbelly Sandwich Shop, the sandwich chain, saw its shares, priced at $14, soar during their first day of public trading on Friday, closing at $30.77, or up 120 percent for the day. The company’s biggest shareholders are MaveronAmerican SecuritiesOak Investment PartnersOxford Capital Group, and Benchmark Capital, whose pre-IPO stakes were 28.2 percent, 12.9 percent, 12.2 percent, 7.9 percent, and 7.7 percent, respectively.

GlycoMimetics, a 10-year-old, Gaithersburg, Md.-based clinical-stage biotech company that is developing treatments for orphan diseases, filed to go public on Friday. The company’s biggest shareholder is New Enterprise Associates, which owns 75.2 percent of the company. Genzyme Corporation owns another 11.6 percent. The company is looking to raise up to $86 million.

Mavenir Systems, an eight-year-old, Richardson, Tx.-based company focused on mobile communications infrastructure, filed to go public on Friday in an effort to raise around $85 million. Its biggest shareholders include North Bridge Venture PartnersAustin VenturesAlloy VenturesAugust Capital, and Cisco Systems, which own 24.5 percent, 23.1 percent, 17.1 percent, 16.3 percent, and 10.9 percent of Mavenir, respectively.

Karyopharm Therapeutics, a four-year-old, Newton, Mass.-based cancer drug company, also filed to go public on Friday. Karyopharm’s biggest shareholders include Chione, Ltd., which Karyopharm’s CEO has described as a Cyprus-based investment vehicle for an unnamed individual. Chione owns 46.8 percent of the company. Other major shareholders include Plio Limited, which owns 14.6 percent, Foresight Capital, which owns 9.4 percent, and Delphi Ventures, which owns 8.2 percent. Karyopharm is looking to raise $80 million.



Jeff Haughton, a 15-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, who rose through the ranks to become co-head of Goldman’s Global Financial Technology group, has left to join 12-year-old FT Partners, a boutique bank in San Francisco that focuses exclusively on financial services and technology. Haughton’s title is managing director.




Starting today in New York, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the US Israel Business Council will be partnering for a few days to present 14 Israel-based startups to early-stage investors. More information here.


Job Listings

Earlier this year, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment arm, Vulcan Capital, opened a new office in Palo Alto. Now, it’s looking to hire an associate director to help manage the team’s existing investments and support and identify other investment opportunities. Candidates have to have a tech background and/or investment management experience at a venture capital firm or a related business. Abhishek Agrawal, a former principal at General Atlantic, heads up the office.


Essential Reads

You’ll probably never read a better story than this about the iPhone.

In San Francisco, entrepreneurship operates on a “much more campaign-based model, where you’re going to crush it for a few years and then be absent for a while,” venture capitalist Roy Bahat tells New Yorker writer Nathan Heller, in this newest examination of the city’s ballooning power.

New York isn’t done with Airbnb. The state’s attorney general has now subpoenaed data about all Airbnb hosts within New York to determine how many are violating New York law, and Airbnb is supposed to turn over the data today, reports The Verge.



How realistic is “Homeland”? When it comes to Carrie, pretty realistic, actually, says a former CIA agent, weighing in on last night’s episode.

The broken lives of Fukushima in pictures.

“It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Mother*#%#ers.”


Retail Therapy

For the cultural anthropologist in your life, here’s an attractive book that documents the fashion, food, and interiors of airlines in different countries across the years.

Check out this very elaborate chart designed to help you find beer based on what you already like. (If you’re really serious about beer, you can order a framed copy for 90 smackers.)


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