StrictlyVC: January 16, 2014

110611_2084620_176987_imageIt’s Thursday, woo-hoo! Hope it’s off to a good start.

It’s been a busy week; be on the lookout for the inside scoop about Crosslink, GGV Capital, Next World Capital and Polaris. (Who will make a mint off Alibaba? Who’s hiring? And, crucially, who has the best roof deck?) Meanwhile, today StrictlyVC is following up on last week’s promise to feature Mike Volpi on Bitcoin mania.


Top News in the A.M.

Citibank plans to reissue all customer debit cards involved in the data breach at Target, making it the second major bank to do so since the attack was disclosed last month.


Mike Volpi: If You Don’t Own Bitcoin Yet, Buy It

Last Thursday, I sat down with Mike Volpi of Index Ventures at his San Francisco office, where we discussed a wide range of things. Here are his thoughts on Bitcoin, lightly edited for length.

If you were to start your own company in 2014, what would it be?

If I were to do something [on my own], I’d definitely do something with Bitcoin.

Has Index made any bets on the currency yet, directly or through a startup?

I’ve heard a number of VC firms have bought Bitcoin as part of their portfolio. But we don’t have an investment in Bitcoin yet. We’re looking at a lot of different things and trying to break it down a little. It’s very early so it’s kind of hard to tell, but we do love the international component of it, so one of the angles we’re exploring is what does it mean from an international perspective, rather than merely a domestic speculation perspective.

Do you think we talk too much about Bitcoin in the context of the U.S.?

Much of the coverage here tries to think of it in the context of an American phenomenon, and where I think it [has received too little coverage] is its global importance. We all have bank accounts and credit cards and all that good stuff, but if you think of some person in South Africa or Ecuador or Argentina or Malaysia, it has a whole different meaning to that world, where currencies are volatile and you don’t have access to dollars and just 10 percent of people have credit.

I often hear that, but how or when will it become useful to people in developing countries, given its volatility and soaring value?

Currency is a multidimensional thing. First, it has stored value, like gold. You don’t really use it every day, but you have it there for safekeeping and it increases in value over time. Another aspect of currency is what we use for transactions: You buy a product from me and I give you money. The last aspect is the transactional plumbing – not that we exchanged value but that there’s a pipe underneath it all that allowed us to do that. Bitcoin is all of that smashed into one.

Because it’s so volatile, people treat it like stored value. You’d be crazy to use it right now – or, at least, it would be very unusual –particularly if you can use other currencies to buy stuff. But you have to think past the point of all that volatility. No one knows what it’s worth, but at some point, people will figure it out, more or less.

What then?

Then, if you’re using your favorite Argentine currency and yesterday it was worth this and today it’s worth half that because your government had a coup d’état or something crazy like that, would you rather be transacting in a Bitcoin currency, which will eventually get more stable because of its global nature, or your currency, which is far less [stable]? Or, if you want to buy products and you don’t have access to dollars because your government decided that it needed to keep all the dollars — that’s where it starts mattering more.

How long until we get there?

I think it will take five years – maybe even 10 years — to stabilize.

In the meantime, are you personally buying Bitcoin?

I have a few personally. I think the best strategy is to own them right now, and if you don’t, I would recommend it!


New Fundings

Bookacoach, a three-year-old, Indianpolis-based online marketplace for sports lessons in the U.S., has raised $250,000 co-led by Elevate Ventures of Indianapolis alongside earlier investors. Elevate Ventures’ investment was made through the Indiana Angel Network Fund, a seed and early-stage co-investment program under the U.S. Department of Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Bookacoach has now raised $450,000 altogether.

ClearSky Data, a stealthy, Waltham, Ma.-based startup, has raised $12 million from General Catalyst and Highland Capital Partners, which is hosting the company in its offices. The company says it’s working to solve enterprise infrastructure problems for medium and large companies.

Confer, a year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based security software company that allows companies to collect and share threat intelligence, has raised $8 million in Series A funding from Matrix Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners.

Contently, a three-year-old, New York-based company that helps brands and journalists tell engaging stories, has raised $9 million in Series B funding from Sigma Prime, Sigma West, Lightbank,Contour Ventures, and David Lerner. The round brings the company’s total funding to $11 million.

FRX Polymers, a six-year-old, Chelmsford, Ma.-based maker of environmentally friendly, flame-retardant plastics, has raised $12 million in Series C funding led by Evonik Venture Capital GMBH. Previous investors Capricorn Venture Partners, DB Masdar Cleantech Fund, SAM Private Equity, BASF Venture Capital, Israel Cleantech Ventures, Triton Systems and many of the company’s founders and employees, also participated.

LiveIntent, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based startup that provides tools for advertising in email newsletters and alerts, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Bullpen Capital, with additional money from Alpha Capital, Valor Capital, and a Brazilian outfit. The company has raised roughly $32 million to date.

Meet You, a year-old Xiamen, China-based mobile health application, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Matrix Partners. Previous investor K2 Ventures; Meet You’s founder, Chen Fangyi; and his team, also participated.

Pingboard, a year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company that’s making a software platform targeted at office managers, has closed a $1.25 million seed round of funding led by Silverton Partners.

Venga, a three-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based company whose software uses point-of-sale and other data to help restaurants better understand their customers, has raised $1 million in Series A funding led by Militello Capital. Other investors include Jose Andres’s Think Food Group, Cornell University’s Big Red Ventures, and Brad Zions, the cofounder of L.A.-based Lemonade Restaurant Group.

Wandoujia, a four-year-old, Beijing-based Android mobile app distribution platform, has raised $120 million in Series B funding, according to Chinese media reports. SoftBank led the round, with previous investors DCM and Innovation Works Development Fundparticipating. The company has raised at least $200 million to date, including an $80 million Series A round led by DCM in 2012.

WePay, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Calif.-based payments company for online platform businesses like, has closed a $15 million Series C funding, led by Phil Purcell of Continental Investors, who cofounded Discover Card was once CEO of Morgan Stanley. Other investors in the round include Max Levchin, Webb Investment Network, Raymond Tonsing, Highland Capital Partners, August Capital and Ignition Partners. The company has raised $35 million to date.


New Funds

Acton Capital Partners, a 5.5-year-old, Munich-based late-stage venture firm, has held a first close of its second venture fund, the Heureka Growth Fund. So far, Acton as gathered $110 million from mostly existing LPs, including European Investment Fund; the firm is targeting $200 million. Its last fund closed with €150 million in 2010.

Amplify, an L.A.-based accelerator, has raised its second fund, at “just over” $8 million, reports TechCrunch. The outfit, originally backed by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, reality TV mogul Mark Burnett and Accel Partners, has drawn a long number of high-wattage investors for its second effort, including Real Networks founder Rob Glaser and billionaire Ron Burkle. As TechCrunch reports, the accelerator backed 26 companies with its first fund; three have exited so far.

Blume Ventures, a two-year-old, Mumbai-based seed-stage fund, is looking to raise its second fund, reports the Economic Times. The firm, which closed its first fund with around $16 million, is now targeting $50 million. It saw its first exit last November, when the San Francisco-based mobile payments firm Boku acquired Qubecell, India’s largest carrier billing company, for an undisclosed amount.



Yahoo COO Henrique De Castro has been “essentially fired,” reports Re/code, which reported last week that De Castro was noticeably absent from Yahoo’s major CES events in Las Vegas. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer‘s letter to employees about De Castro, who Mayer felt “should leave the company,” is here. Re/code cofounder Kara Swisher cites clashes with Mayer as one reason for De Castro’s ouster (despite that Mayer recruited him from Google, where they once worked together). A bigger issue, says Swisher: Yahoo is set to announce its quarterly results later this month and they’re expected to dramatically lag Yahoo’s peers. Either way, don’t cry for De Castro; stunningly, it looks like he leaves Yahoo after 15 months with somewhere between $20 million and $60 million.

Singer Kanye West has shut down the anonymous founders of the digital currency Coinye by papering them with legal threats. “With each day that passes, Mr. West’s reputation is irreparably harmed by the continued use of the COINYE WEST, COINYE and/or COYE marks in connection with Defendants’ goods and services,” stated a trademark infringement lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, during a sit-down with Stanford’s president John Hennessy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “hinted that a little Mark Junior could be coming in the not-so-distant future,” reports Xconomy. (Move over, Prince George!) Here’s much more from that talk, which focused largely on privacy.


Concert Pharmaceuticals, a six-year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based biopharmaceutical company focused on developing small molecule drugs, is planning to raise roughly $75 million in an IPO, according to an SEC filing. The company’s shareholders include Three Arch Partners, which owns 12.8 percent; TVM Capital (12.4 percent),GlaxoSmithKline (11.8 percent); Brookside Capital Partners Fund(10.2 percent); Skyline Venture Partners (9.4 percent); Fidelity Investments (6.6 percent); Greylock Partners (6.3 percent); andFlagship Ventures (5.9 percent).

Microlin Bio, an 18-month-old, New York-based diagnostic and drug developer, hopes to raise $25 million in an IPO, shows an SEC filing. The company’s biggest outside shareholder is the nearly two-year-oldOhio State Innovation Foundation fund, a $35 million partnership between Ohio State University and Ohio University that provides venture funding to tech companies; it owns 7 percent of the fledgling startup.

Zendesk, the six-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of online help-desk software for businesses, has hired Goldman Sachs Group to lead its IPO, and Morgan Stanley to help with underwriting duties, sources tell the WSJ.



Ador, the four-year-old, Seattle-based company formerly known as Lockerz, has been sold to the Beijing-based publicly traded online retailer LightInTheBox Holding Co. The terms of the sale aren’t being disclosed. The social commerce company had raised north of $56 million over the years, including from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures and Liberty Media.


Job Listings

Sands Capital, a Washington, D.C.-area investment firm, is looking for a venture analyst with an undergraduate degree in business, engineering or other relevant major. Candidates should also have up to two years of experience, either in investment banking, venture capital or private equity. Learn more here.



Pitchbook publishes a look at 2008 vintage U.S. venture funds in the range of $100 million and $250 million and finds 28 of them. They’re doing pretty well, too. According to the firm, the funds have a median IRR of 16 percent and the top quartile have an IRR right now of 18.43 percent. The top performers, as of this writing: Aberdare Ventures IV,True Ventures II, and Union Square Ventures 2008.

Although 2013 was the best for venture-backed IPOs since 2007, things have been a little less exciting comes to acquisitions. There were 436 mergers and acquisitions of venture-backed companies in 2013, an 11% drop from 2012, according to VentureSource. More here.


Essential Reads

The San Francisco Cab Drivers Associations says that one-third of San Franciso’s taxi drivers have ditched their registered cabs over the last year to drive for a private transportation startups like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar.

How much do founders pay themselves? A lot less than you might imagine.



How information flows during emergencies. (H/T: MediaREDEF)

Bright lights, big emotions. For a calmer office, says a new study, dim the lights.

The 100 greatest sports photos of all time, as curated by Sports Illustrated.

The collateral damage of a teenager: What adolescence does to adolescents is nowhere near as brutal as what it does to their parents, writes author Jennifer Senior.


Retail Therapy

Inflatable snowshoes!

3D chocolate molds — of your face!

Dogs in fine Italian menswear.


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