StrictlyVC: January 22, 2014

110611_2084620_176987_imageGood Wednesday morning, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

Is Asia’s most successful businessman, the billionaire Li Ka-shing, getting, well, rusty?


Zepp Labs Gets Into the Swing of Things With Fresh $15 Million

Sports tech startup Zepp Labs, a three-year-old, 35-person startup in Los Gatos, Calif., is capitalizing on athletes’ desire to ace the competition. Specifically, the company is tracking athletes’ batting, golf, and tennis swings via its one-inch-square, 3D motion sensors, units that can capture 1,000 data points per second and transmit the visualized information to users’ iOS or Android devices in real time.

It’s a big market, says cofounder and CEO Jason Fass, who sees athletes of all skill levels – and interests — as potential customers for the lightweight sensing units, which are mounted directly on bats, clubs, and rackets. Zepp is really “building a platform that we can take into other sports,” he says.

Retailers see the possibility. Apple and Verizon are among others that sell Zepp’s $150 sports sensors. VCs are biting, too. This morning, the company is announcing a $15 million Series B round led by GGV Capital, financing that brings Zepp’s total funding to $20 million.

Yesterday, I chatted with cofounder Jason Fass – formerly a director of product management at both Jawbone and Apple – about how he’ll use the new funding, as well as who his earliest adopters are.

Where did this idea come from?

Originally, we had the idea to build a game controller like a Nintendo Wii, but we looked at what was happening in wearables and we realized no one was really doing this for sports and athletes and that the technology we were building could be insanely accurate.

The company has said some pro athletes, like Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval, use the sensor. Where are you seeing the most pick-up, in professional sports leagues, youth leagues?

Golf and baseball are among the most mature in customers’ desire for data. Golf is growing rapidly, especially with a lot of early adopter tech folks. We’re also now seeing a lot of interest in the baseball community because there’s just nothing like this. We get emails every day from Little League coaches and batting camps; we’ve also been approached by a number of Major League Baseball teams. People are excited because the technology gives them a perspective on their swing that they couldn’t get before.

Interesting about kids’ baseball; I’d wonder about making kids overthink their swing.

There’s definitely an element of analysis by paralysis, but it’s hard to go from a Little Leaguer to the Major League, so players and coaches and parents are really looking for ways to help kids improve. We see parents all the time who are like, “He’s the best on the team but we want to keep him moving forward.” They used to describe his swing to him; now he can see it for himself on his iPod or Android Touch.

What did you learn at Apple and Jawbone that you’re applying to this startup?

One of the biggest things I learned at Apple [were the benefits of focusing] so intently on product. So we focus a lot on product. From a sales and go-to-market and channel perspective, Jawbone has just done a fantastic job. I’m applying those lessons here, too.

What are you planning to do with your new funding?

Ultimately, we think every ball, bat, racket, and shoe will be digitally connected and that there’s an opportunity for a company to own that sports technology space in a way that no one owns right now. It sounds lofty, but that’s our goal.


New Fundings

4C Insights, a three-year-old, New York-based data analytics and marketing intelligence startup, has raised $5 million in Series B funding from Jump Capital, a private investment firm launched by the founders of Jump Trading, a trading firm in Chicago.

Adallom, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv-based SaaS security startup, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from existing investor Sequoia Capital. The company — founded by alumni of the Israeli Intelligence Corps — had previously raised a $4.5 million round led by Sequoia.

Ahalogy, a 2.5-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based Pinterest marketing platform, has raised $3.1 million in Series A funding, co-led by Hyde Park Venture Partners and Origin Ventures. Other investors in the round included CincyTechNorth Coast Angel Fund, and Vine Street Ventures.

Aorato, a two-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $10 million in Series B funding in a round that included Accel PartnersGlilot Capital Partners, and Innovation Endeavors, along with individual investors.

Docker, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose open-source technology helps developers move code to the cloud quickly, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Greylock Partners. Other participants included Insight Venture Partners and previous investorsBenchmark CapitalTrinity Ventures, and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.

Gainspeed, a two-year-old, Sunnyvale, Calif., company that migrates the networks of cable operators to a software-driven, all-IP architecture, has raised $10 million in Series B funding, according to an SEC filing. The company’s investors include Juniper NetworksNew Enterprise Associates, and Shasta Ventures. It has raised roughly $33 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Intercom, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based messaging service that businesses use to create personalized customer responses online, has raised $23 million in Series B funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Other participants included Social+Capital Partnership. Intercom was incubated at 500 Startups; it has raised $30 million altogether.

Nexmo, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that links the cloud applications of customers like Airbnb directly to carriers, has raised $18 million in Series C funding led by Sorenson Capital. Intel and NHN Investment also participated in the round, which brings Nexmo’s total funding to $22 million.

StormWind, a four-year-old, Phoenix, Az.-based online training and e-learning company, has raised $5 million in Series C funding from existing investor GSV Capital. The company has raised $9 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

Synthelis, a three-year-old, La Tronche, France-based biotech company that’s developing therapeutic targets and antigens for use in new drugs and vaccines, has raised €610,000 from French investors, includingRhone-Alpes CreationAlpes Developpement Durable Investissement (A2D-Invest)Sud Rhone-Alpes CapitalViaduc and the Savoy andGrenoble Business Angels networks.

YOHO!, a 8.5-year-old, Nanjing, China-based media and e-commerce company focused on fashion, has raised $30 million in Series C financing from SAIF Partners. It has raised its previous (undisclosed) rounds of funding from CDHfundBertelsmann Asia Investments, and Vertex Venture Capital.

ZipLine Medical, a seven-year-old, Campbell, Calif.-based medical device company that’s developing noninvasive surgical skin closure devices (to replace, for example, staples), has raised $4.3 million in Series C funding. New investor RA Capital Management led the round, which included participation from existing investors XSeed Capital and Claremont Creek Ventures.


New Funds

Earlybird Venture Capital, the 17-year-old, Berlin-based early-stage venture firm, has raised $110 million for its new Digital East Fund, the company announced yesterday morning. The fund is targeting $130 million and will focus on tech companies in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe. LPs include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Fund, the International Finance Corp. and Istanbul Venture Capital Initiative. The funds bring the amount of capital that Earlybird has raised over the years to more than $900 million.

Chicago entrepreneurs Sam Yagan and Steven Farsht are raising a new investment fund, shows an SEC filing. Called Corazon Capital, it has so far garnered $6.6 million; the total offering amount is marked as “indefinite.” Yagan cofounded the dating site OkCupid, acquired by Match, Inc., in 2011 for $90 million; Yagan is currently the CEO of Match. Farsht is a director and board member at TechStars Chicago and is a member of the FireStarter Fund. Previously, he was COO of Tap.Me, a company that sold to MediaMath in 2012 for undisclosed terms; he was also a general partner with Norwest Equity Partners.



Sabre Corp., the owner of online travel agency Travelocity, has filed to raise up to $100 million in an IPO as it attempts to become a publicly traded company again. Its principal shareholders include TPG, which owns 45.3 percent of the company’s shares; Silver Lake, which owns 27.9 percent; and Sovereign Co-Invest, which owns a 23.4 percent stake. Reuters has more here.



Airwatch, a 10-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based mobile device management company, is being acquired by cloud software maker VMWare for $1.5 billion in mostly cash, with $365 million in installment payments and unvested stock options. Airwatch had raised $225 million as a standalone company, and all of it came last year: the company closed on $200 million from Insight Venture Partners last February; last May, Accel Partnersinvested another $25 million in the company. “With mobile device usage becoming more prevalent in the workplace, we believe this acquisition will prove strategic in complementing and enhancing VMWare’s end-user computing business,” ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall told Reuters.

Drawing app DrawQuest is being shut down by Chris Poole, its creator and the founder of 4chan founder, Poole announced yesterday. Canvas Networks, an online community that Poole created in 2011, will also be closing. “No soft landing, no happy ending — we simply failed,” Poole wrote on his Tumblr page. “Although we arguably found product/market fit, we couldn’t quite crack the business side of things.” In 2011, Poole raised $3 million for Canvas from Union Square VenturesSV AngelLerer VenturesAndreessen HorowitzFounder Collective and Joshua Schachter.

Intel Media‘s OnCue, an Internet television startup, has been acquired by Verizon for reportedly less than $200 million. The deal will see 350 Intel employees move over to Verizon. With the acquisition, “We will have the opportunity to enhance, expand, accelerate and integrate our delivery of video products and services to better serve audiences on a wide array of devices,” said Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in a statement.



Investor-turned-tweeting maestro Marc Andreessen gives the world aBitcoin primer in Dealbook. (It’s worth saving for future reference, whether or not you agree with all of his conclusions.)

Benedict Evans, a London-based mobile analyst, is joining Andreessen Horowitz in Menlo Park, Calif., where he’ll be “part of the deal and research team and will work across the organization to bring his insight and analysis to the firm and our portfolio,” says a spokeswoman. Evans has spent the last 15 years working as a strategist for tech and media organizations, including NBC Universal and Orange, the French telecommunications company.

Donald Fischer has joined the General Catalyst Partners as a venture partner in Boston after five years at Greylock Partners, where as a principal, he focused on big data, open source, cloud, and other enterprise tech startups. According to his LinkedIn profile, Fischer incubated the startup Typesafe at Greylock, then “led the Series A investment, launched the company, and served as CEO for the first year of operations leading up to a $14M Series B financing.” Before Greylock, Fischer was VP of online services at Red Hat.

Adam Nash is replacing Andy Rachleff as CEO of the financial advisory startup Wealthfront, making Nash, previously Wealthfront’s COO, its third CEO in five years. Of the transition, Rachleff, a legendary venture capitalist who’d never run a company before, tells reporter Sarah Lacy: “If I’d known how hard this was going to be, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”

Luis Robles, who joined Sequoia Capital as a partner in 2010, has left the firm, reports Dan Primack. (Sequoia doesn’t comment on personnel changes but a source says Robles is pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors.) Robles led a handful of enterprise deals for Sequoia, including ThousandEyes, a four-year-old company that provides IT performance management for its customers. Before joining Sequoia, Robles was a senior product manager at VMWare.



Y Combinator, the popular accelerator, is hosting its first female founders conference on Saturday, March 1, says cofounder Jessica LivingstonIn a blog post, Livingston says the the event aims to “gather together female founders at all stages to share stories, give advice, and make connections.” The conference will feature talks by female alumni of Y Combinator, as well as Eventbrite co-founder Julia Hartz and VMware co-founder Diane Greene.


Job Listings

Microsoft is looking for a director of business development in its wearables division. You’ll need at least eight years of relevant experience in high-tech; the job is at the company’s Redmond, Wa.-headquarters.



CB Insights points us to 20 venture-backed companies that nobody calls “clean tech” but probably should.

Pitchbook looks at the 8 venture funds that raised between $250 million and $500 million in 2009, finding their median IRR is currently 16.5 percent. The best performers of the lot right now: Highland Capital Partners VIIIScale Venture Partners III, and Trinity Ventures X.


Essential Reads

Columbus, Ohio man who went to the movies with his wife, was subjected to a “terrifying” hour-long interrogation by the FBI and local police because he was wearing Google Glass and was thought to be illegally taping the movie. (Not a satire.)

According to Cisco’s annual security report, 99 percent of all malware in 2013 targeted Android devices.

According to a provocative new study by researchers from Princeton University who compared the life cycles of ideas with the life cycles of diseases, Facebook users will lose interest in the social network as their peers do, with the bulk of this activity occurring between 2015 and 2017.



Artisanal toast: San Francisco’s newest obsession.

A Q&A with neuroscientist James Fallon, who discovered that he has, gulp, the brain of a psychopath.

Where the real Sochi Olympics will be taking place.

Berkshire Hathaway and Quicken Loans are partnering to award anyone who fills out a perfect 2014 Men’s NCAA Tournament bracket with $1 billion. The contest starts March 3.


Retail Therapy

From the accessories-gone-mad files: A tray for your Apple TV. Lined with merino wool. In sustainably sourced walnut or maple wood, naturally.


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