StrictlyVC: December 6, 2013

110611_2084620_176987_imageHappy Friday, everyone! Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week with some interesting features, including interviews with entrepreneur Tristan Walker and software mogul and philanthropist Mitch Kapor.


Top News in the A.M.

The personal genetics startup 23andMe announced last night that it will stop giving new customers genetic analysis information , after being warned by the FDA over compliance issues. It will provide new customers only ancestry information and raw health data until it’s classified as a medical device. The road toward that end could beespecially long, observes the Washington Post, given the government has rarely dealt with the kind of health claims that 23andMe makes.


VCs Start Thinking More Creatively About AngelList 

This week, three-year-old Kima Ventures, a Paris-based seed fund that backs one to two startups a week, made headlines for a new way that it plans to use AngelList, the popular platform for startups and investors. As Kima’s cofounder Jeremie Berrebi told me, the firm will invest $150,000 a shot in up to 50 startups in exchange for a 15 percent equity stake in each company. Kima says the funds will be transferred to each winning startup within 15 days. Companies have to apply for the money on AngelList.

Kima’s AngelList play may be the splashiest to date, but it’s one of a growing number of venture firms that’s looking for ways to work with AngelList in new and different ways.

Indeed, AngelList’s months-old Syndicate’s platform, which allows a “lead investor” to syndicate investments on a deal-by-deal basis in exchange for carry, seems to be bringing out the creative side of many investors.

Renowned VC Tim Draper, for example, told me recently via email that “I certainly plan to syndicate on AngelList.”  Draper wasn’t specific about a timeline or his plans, but he said it’s all part of the natural evolution of things. “I want launching a company to be a snap,” including the funding process, he wrote.

Similarly Semil Shah, who manages a $10 million seed-fund called Haystack, recently voiced enthusiasm over Syndicates as we chatted over coffee in downtown San Francisco. “I’m not 100 percent sure how I’m going to use it,” he admitted, “but I’m definitely going to use it.”

Jeff Fagnan, a partner at Atlas Venture, which has invested in AngelList, says Atlas has “identified a dozen very influential serial entrepreneurs and angels in Boston who we think could [further spur the growth of the startup] ecosystem [locally], and we’re telling them that anything they invest in as a lead [using the Syndicates platform], we’ll invest up to an additional $250,000 per any of their projects.”

“I don’t think we know what kind of activity it will result in,” says Fagnan, but he says it beats “scout programs,” which he calls “archaic and wrong. It’s like, ‘You’re our scout. Bring us back some dealflow and we’ll throw you a few ducats.’” Atlas is open to anyone else joining a Syndicate that involves the firm. “We just want to promote as much early-stage innovation as possible,” he says.

The firms won’t be the first to publicly embrace the platform; in October, Foundry Group, the Boulder, Colorado-based venture firm, said that it plans to start investing in startups using Syndicates. But they seem to signal that VCs would rather experiment with the platform than let it cannibalize their business.

As Shah puts it, “After the noise of the launch of Syndicates, there’s going to long education process, and mistakes will be made. But we’ll definitely see a major venture capital firm” use the platform soon. “General frustration with [traditional] venture capital has been building up to the point that it’s inevitable,” he says.


New Fundings

Box, the eight-year-old, Los Altos, Calif.-based storage and collaboration software company, has raised $100 million in new funding at a valuation of roughly $2 billion, CEO Aaron Levie tells the WSJ. The money comes from international investors interested in helping the company expand across the globe, including, most immediately, Japan, Australia, and Brazil. Backers in the round include Itochu Technology VenturesMacnica, and Mitsui & Co. in Japan; Telefónica SA in Europe and Latin America; and Telstra Corp. in Australia. Other investors include DST GlobalCoatue and previous Box investors. The company has now raised more than $400 million from investors.

DioGenix, a six-year-old, Gaithersburg, Md.-based company behind a next-generation sequencing assay that measures changes in human immunity, has received $3.2 million in funding. The capital comes from new and existing investors, including the pharmaceutical company Nerveda.

EducationSuperHighway, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based nonprofit that’s working to remove the “roadblocks to high-speed Internet for students and teachers” has raised $9 million from Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education fund, along with the Gates Foundation, and several other “foundations and education entities.” EdSurge founder Betsy Corcoran has much more on the investment here.

Healthbox, a two-year-old, Chicago-based accelerator focused on identifying and helping to grow healthcare-related startups, has raised $2 million, according to an SEC filing. The outfit is targeting $8 million.

Homejoy, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based home cleaning company, has raised $38 million in Series B funding from Google VenturesRedpoint VenturesFirst Round Capital, and individuals Max LevchinOliver Jung and Mike Hirshland. Homejoy’s online platform matches users with screened, background-checked and trained cleaners, who charge $20 per hour. The company has now raised a total of $40 million.

Mozido, an eight-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based mobile payment company, announced that it has received the first $30 million of a committed $70 million round of financing led by an unnamed Boston-based investment advisor. The funding brings the company’s total capital raised to more than $100 million. Other investors in the company include Brentwood InvestmentsTomorrowVenturesAtlanticus Corporation and Turner Investments’ founder Bob Turner.

Palantir Technologies, the nine-year-old, Palo Alto, Calif.-based data insights company with roots in the intelligence world, is about to announce a round of as much as $100 million in new funding, at a stunning $9 billion valuation, reports the WSJ. The company was valued at $6 billion as recently as September, when it raised a $196.5 million round. Palantir’s earliest investors include Founders Fund and In-Q-Tel.

Roka Bioscience, a four-year-old, San Diego-based industrial testing that develops molecular tests for biopharmaceutical, food, and water safety testing, has raised $17 million, just months after closing on a separate, $25 million round, show SEC filings. The company has now raised more than $100 million, including from publicly traded Gen-Probe (which spun out Roka in 2009), OrbiMed AdvisorsNew Enterprise Associates, and TPG Biotech.

Sketchfab, a two-old, New York-based company that aims to become the “YouTube of 3D renderings” has raised $2 million from Balderton CapitalPartech VenturesBorealis Ventures, and TechStars founder David Cohen, along with existing angel investors.

Swapbox, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that is building rental lockers for people to receive and store items, has raised $800,000 in funding. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and roboticist and Y Combinator partner Trevor Blackwell led the round. Other notable investors include Base Ventures and the Swiss firm ACE & Company. Vator News has much more here.

Takipi, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv-based startup that analyzes software code and creates real-time maps of how code evolves, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Menlo Ventures. Cofounder Iris Shoor tells me the idea behind Takipi “came about in the previous startup I co-founded [VisualTao, which was acquired in 2009], when we scaled from zero to five million users in one year. All the tech bumps and downtimes we faced led us to build a new kind of technology that helps companies deal with rapid code changes across millions of daily events.”

Trifacta, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based software company developing productivity platforms for data analysis, has raised $12 million in Series B financing. Greylock Partners and Accel Partners led the round. Altogether, investors, including XSeed Capital and Data Collective, have provided the company with $16.3 million, according to Crunchbase.



Venture capitalist and Tesla investor Ira Ehrenpreis has made a mint on green tech, but it’s been anything but easy, and the cleantech sector still faces formidable challenges, as Ehrnepreis noted in a speech this week. “We are not an industry like the bits and bytes world,” he said. “Many cleantech companies have to cross the valley of death to get to the market.” Xconomy has more here.

Jon Jenkins, who joined Pinterest a year ago as its head of engineering, is leaving the company, reports TechCrunch. On Quora, Jenkins revealed that he wants to launch his own company.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is profiled again, this time in the January issue of Vanity Fair. One aspect of the profile that we found particularly fascinating (and new) is that Mayer is routinely and sometime atrociously late for meetings. When news broke of Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo’s CEO, writes reporter Bethany McLean, “Mayer set up a meeting with [interim CEO Ross] Levinsohn at the board’s behest, because the board hoped he’d stay on. According to one person he confided in, he came at the appointed time to Mayer’s office. He waited, and waited some more. And then he said to her assistant, ‘I’m going to wait in my office,’ which was just a short walk from Mayer’s. Mayer’s assistant said, ‘Oh no, you have to sit right here and wait.’” (Levinsohn didn’t wait.) Mayer still makes people wait, reports McLean. As a former executive tells it: “You get the team together [for a meeting with Mayer], you wait 10 minutes, 30 minutes, two hours, and she doesn’t show.”

In a speech this week, billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker noted that as many as 24 Chicago-area tech companies are now mature enough to consider plans to go public, but he cautioned that the city desperately needs to staunch a brain drain that still sees 60 percent of computer science graduates from the University of Illinois take jobs in Silicon Valley.



Glassdoor, the jobs listings site, announced a $50 million round yesterday, led by Tiger Global Management, along with Dragoneer Investment Group and existing investors Benchmark CapitalSutter Hill VenturesBattery Ventures and DAG Ventures. Now, the company suggests, it’s IPO time. “It’s a real business,” CEO Robert Hohman tells AllThingsD. With $93 million in venture backing and hundreds of employees, “We are approaching a size when we begin to think about being a public company,” he says.


Job Listings

Google is looking to hire a “venture capital and incubator sales manager” to convince venture firms (and their portfolio companies) to use Google’s cloud platform. Minimum qualifications include an undergraduate degree and six years of business development or sales experience in tech. Preferred qualifications include three years of experience at a venture capital firm or tech incubator.



CB Insights reports that while funding for edtech startups has fallen between this year and last, investors have still poured more than $500 million in to the top 10 biggest deals. Here is its list of the biggest rounds of 2013.


Essential Reads

Looks like red-hot messaging app Snapchat may be raising far less, at a lower valuation, than previous reports have speculated.

Square, the company behind an increasingly popular mobile payments system, has been talking to investors about funding a tender offer for employee shares that would value the company at around $5 billion, three people tell The Information. The move suggests an IPO may not be around the corner after all.

Bitcoins continue to be stolen and transferred illegally, and there’s little to stop perpetrators. As the New York Times reports, top regulators often don’t knowwhich authority should be cracking down on virtual currency fraud, or even what constitutes fraud in a market that some view as a giant bubble and others as the future of money.



Are you a workaholic? Blame your parents.

This week, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Dick Durbin and Rep. George Miller opened up their D.C. frat house to CNN, and things got weird.



Retail Therapy

You can get a iPhone 5s in Apple’s gold finish, or you can buy a real, 24-carat gold iPhone. Which is it going to be, player?


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