StrictlyVC: March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patty’s Day, everyone! Don’t forget to wear something green today, lest you rightly get flak from someone at some point for being all old-timey rather than fun and sassy.


Top News in the A.M.

Apple Designer Jonathan Ive gives what’s being characterized as his first in-depth interview, in Time.

Reversing earlier assertions, officials this morning said that they couldn’t pinpoint whether the missing Malaysia jet’s communication system was turned off before or after the cockpit’s last radio contact.


With Six Tech IPOs Coming This Week, Whispers of Others Grow Louder

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that GoDaddy, which provides domain-name registration and Web hosting services to millions of customers, is “preparing for an initial public offering” and that in “coming weeks [GoDaddy] plans to interview banks” to underwrite its offering. The source was “people familiar with the matter.”

For better or worse, such whisperings have now become the new normal, and we can expect to see much more of the same as a result of the JOBS Act and the changes it has brought to tech IPOs. (The JOBS Act permits companies to submit confidential draft registrations to the SEC and go public within 30 days of their acceptance.)

Before the JOBS Act, filing an S-1 was much more public. Competitors knew a company was planning to go public, and any revisions by the SEC caused costly delays that could cause a company to miss its “window” to go public.

GoDaddy was just one company that suffered through this process. In 2006, it tried to go public but later pulled its offering. Former CEO Bob Parsons, who was replaced as CEO in 2012, said at the time that he yanked the offering because he found the quiet period that came along with it “suffocating” as it prevented him for doing radio, TV, or his-then weekly Internet radio show. (The company was also losing money, according to its S-1.)

Today, the JOBS Act gives companies much more flexibility in timing their offering, and leaking their supposed IPO plans has become a big part of the process.

For now, the situation seems to be a win-win for everyone involved. Companies can test the public waters while simultaneously chumming for strategic acquirers, while reporters can feast on “scoops” that are hard to disprove.

If there’s any downside, it’s that not going public after all can be, well, awkward, says Jay Ritter, a professor at the University of Florida who studies the I.P.O. market. “One of the reasons companies like confidential filings is that if they start the process then pull back because the market isn’t as receptive to their business model as they thought, it can be embarrassing for a company, just as it might be embarrassing for someone who broadcasts that they’ve applied for a new job and gets turned down. People like to wait until the good outcome is about to occur before they announce things.”

Conceivably, employee morale could take a hit, too, if staffers become convinced that an IPO is nearer than they thought based on press reports.

But John Fitzgibbon, founder of the research firm IPO Scoop, says the advantages far outweigh any potential downside.

“Before the Jobs Act,” says Fitzgibbon, “companies had to hang it out there and hope to God the market didn’t fall apart. But [the nearly two-year-old law] created market timing.”

Now, says Fitzgibbon, “You prime the pump, get the guns lined up and, like Bunker Hill, you don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”


New Fundings

Gravie, a year-old, Minneapolis-based health insurance marketplace, has closed a $10.5 million Series A round led by Aberdare Ventures, with participation from exiting investor FirstMark Capital. The round brings the company’s total funding to more than $13 million. electronics, a year-old, L.A.-based company, has raised $6 million, according to an SEC filing that shows a target of $40 million. The company doesn’t appear to have a site live. Notably, it’s being led (or co-led) by Chandrasekar Rathakrishna, whose last startup, Fusion Garage, tussled with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington after a deal to co-create a tablet called the Crunchpad went south. Fusion Garage eventually produced the tablet on its own, calling it the JooJoo. (Then Apple’s iPad came out. So.), a four-year-old Tysons Corner, Va.-based company that authenticates military and public safety personnel to access online discounts and benefits at retailers, has raised $10.3 million in new funding, shows an SEC filing. Last September, received a $1.2 million grant from National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop and test online identification technology. The company had earlier raised seed funding from BoxGroup, the New York-based seed fund founded by David Tisch and Adam Rothenberg.

InVenture, a 2.5-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based startup that helps so-called unbanked and underbanked people in India and Africa get access to financial services, has raised $1.2 million in a seed round led by Lowercase Capital. Other participants in the round includedCollaborative FundGoogle Ventures and Mesa+, the CEO told VentureWire on Friday.

Meican, a 3.5-year-old, China-based online food ordering site, has raised $10 million in Series B funding to expand into more cities across the country, reports Tech In Asia. The round was led by new investor Nokia Growth Partners and included participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which had earlier provided the startup with an undisclosed amount of funding.

OKCoin, a China-based bitcoin exchange that claims to be the country’s largest by trading volume, has raised $10 million in funding, reports Coindesk. Investors include Ceyuan VenturesMandra Capital,VenturesLab, and other undisclosed angel investors. According to an earlier Technode report, OKCoin had raised $1 million in angel funding last November from venture capitalist Tim Draper and VenturesLab.

Sand 9, a 6.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based developer of tiny timer and frequency control technology for wireless devices, has raised $4.4 million, shows an SEC filing. The funds appear to bring the company’s total capital raised to around $75 million. Its investors include General Catalyst PartnersVulcan CapitalIntel CapitalFlybridge Capital PartnersKhosla VenturesCommonwealth Capital Ventures, andEricsson.

Synthesio, a 7.5-year-old, New York-based social analytics platform designed to monitor and analyze conversations about brands on social media and elsewhere on the Web, has raised $20 million in Series B funding from the European private equity firm Idinvest Partners. The company has raised $22 million altogether, according to Crunchbase.

TeaBox, a three-year-old, Siliguri, India-based e-commerce startup that sells numerous variants of tea, has raised around $1 million in seed funding led by Accel Partners IndiaHorizon Ventures also participated in the round.

Three Twins Organic, a nine-year-old, Petaluma, Ca.-based maker of organic ice cream, has raised $1.8 million from angel investors, according to an SEC filing that shows a target of $3 million. According to the company’s site, its ice cream is sold in hundreds of groceries stores, including the Whole Foods chain, and it has four standalone stores in Northern California.

VoltDB,a 4.5-year-old, Billerica, Ma.-based company whose database technology performs analytics on high-velocity data, has raised $8 million in new funding, shows an SEC filing. The round brings the company’s funding to close to $19 million. Co-founded by database pioneer Michael Stonebraker, VoltDB’s backers include Sigma Partners and Kepha Partners.

YeahMobi, a 4.5-year-old, Shanghai City, China-based mobile CPA affiliate network that’s helping Chinese mobile apps expand to overseas markets, has raised $15 million in Series A funding from three unnamed Chinese investors, reports TechNode.


New Funds

Expa Capital, a nearly year-old, San Francisco-based company that describes itself as a “startup studio,” has raised $50 million from investors including David BondermanSir Richard BransonLi Ka-ShingRam Shriram, and Meg Whitman. Expa was created by Garrett Camp, chairman and co-founder of StumbleUpon and Uber.

Uprising, a two-year-old San Francisco-based social impact firm, has raised $3.2 million for a sixth pool of capital, shows an SEC filing. Uprising was cofounded by Tabreez Verjee, a serial entrepreneur who seed-funded the non-profit lending organization



The Alibaba Group, China’s online commerce giant, confirmed early yesterday that it planned to begin the process of becoming a public company in the United States.

Castlight‘s IPO shares shot skyward on Friday. As the WSJ notes, those who invested $181 million in the company look poised to win big if its share price holds or rises, including Venrock, which owned 20 percent of Castlight before the offering and 18 percent afterward. The company’s other principal shareholders include Oak Investment Partners, which own 13.8 percent of the company’s stock post-IPO; Maverick Capital, which owns 8.9 percent; Fidelity Investments, which owns 8.6 percent; and Wellcome Trust, which owns 7.6 percent.

Just Eat, the 13-year-old, London-based online fast food ordering company, is looking to raise $166 million from the IPO, with an expected valuation in the range of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, according the FT (and flagged by TechCrunch). Just Eat has raised at least $90 million over the years, including from Index VenturesGreylock PartnersRedpoint VenturesVitruvian PartnersAxon Partners GroupForum Synergies.

Ignyta, a San Diego-based precision medicine developer, priced its IPO late last week, offering 5,245,000 shares of its common stock at $9.15 a share. The shares, a quarter of which are owned by the CEO’s investment firm, City Hill Ventures, remained mostly flat in their debut on Friday, closing at $10.20 per share.

Weibo, the major Chinese microblogging company often called the country’s Twitter, filed on Friday for its own stock sale. (Business Insider has published a handy guide to Weibo’s finances), if you’re interested.)



Corkbin, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile and social platform for wine enthusiasts, has been acquired by Hello Vino, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup behind a wine recommendation app, for undisclosed terms. Corkbin hadn’t disclosed any outside funding.

Dhingana, a 6.5-year-old, Pune, India-based music streaming site, has been acquired by Rdio, a San Francisco-based digital services company for undisclosed amount. The deal marks the entry of Rdio in India,according to Deal Curry. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Dhingana had reportedly shut down its operations in February after the biggest music label in India, T-Series, decided not to renew its contract with the company. Dhingana had raised at least $7 million in funding, including from Lightspeed Venture PartnersInventus Capital Partners, and Helion Venture PartnersRdio, meanwhile, raised $17.5 million in 2011 from Mangrove Capital Partners, along with earlier investors SkypeAtomico Ventures and the co-founder of both outfits, Janus Friis.

Mochi Media, a distribution and monetizing platform for Flash-based games that was acquired in 2010 for $80 million by the China-based games publisher Shanda Games, is closing down by month’s end,reports TechCrunch. “If Mochi had a more meaningful position today beyond Flash, then there may have been a different path for the company going forward,” writes CEO Josh Larson in a blog post.

Ono, a Spanish cable company, is being acquired by the British telecommunications company Vodafone for about $10 billion, reports Dealbook. The move is part of a wave of consolidation in the Continent’s telecommunications sector as companies look to offer bundled services like mobile, fixed-line, broadband and pay TV offerings, notes the report.



Last year, Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway paid Bill Gates and many of its other directors in the neighborhood of $2,000 for their service — a pittance compared with what most public company directors pocket. As the WSJ notes, the median retainer among S&P 1500 companies hit $168,270 in 2012. It’s probably much higher today, too. According to that same research, by the firm Equilar, director compensation increased nearly 30 percent from 2008 through 2012.

Alan Patricof and crew just landed what sound like nice new digs on Madison Avenue. According to the ObserverGreycroft Partners just leased 6,000 square feet south of Grand Central in a spot that commercial brokers, at least, are calling Tech-Creative Corridor.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has been elected to Salesforce‘s board of directors. The retired four star general is also a strategic limited partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t skipping on office hours, despite a net worth right now of roughly $28 billion. According to a Facebook employee who last week answered the question of how much time Zuckerberg logs at headquarters on Quora, Zuckerberg is “often in every morning before me and is around after dinner working as well. I would say he’s in the office roughly 9-10 hours a day, 5 days a week…I should say that it’s great to have him around with regularity and that he chooses to have the same desk set up as everyone else. He takes his job very seriously not just as a businessman but as a leader; he has helped keep our company culture what it is.”

An unnamed Silicon Valley billionaire has purchased the world’s most valuable life insurance policy, according to Dovi Frances, the financial advisor who says it took him seven months and 19 insurance companies to put it together. (It surpasses the $100 million policy sold to Hollywood mogul David Geffen in 1990, attests the Guinness Book of World Records, which reportedly spent three months reviewing Frances’ records.) Frances called it “worse than any audit you can think of.”



The Game Developers Conference kicks off today in San Francisco.

The GigaOm Structure Data event gets underway this week in New York. More information here.

And get ready to watch your Twitter feed fill with insights gleaned at TED 2014, the invite-only event getting underway today in Vancouver.


Job Listings

Open Innovation Center, the recently opened Samsung Electronics organization based in San Jose, Ca., is looking for a director of corporate development and M&A.



Roughly 67 percent of investor-backed tech exits in 2013 came after the company raised just a seed or Series A round of financing, shows CB Insights research.


Essential Reads

Meet Healthbook, Apple’s major first step into health & fitness tracking.

An ugly situation spills out of Github and into view, as a female engineer very publicly quits, citing discrimination and other bizarre happenings. The company, a social network for programmers that has raised more than $100 million, almost all of it from Andreessen Horowitz, says it’s taking appropriate action, including a “full investigation.”



You really can predict the “marrying type,” sort of, says a new study.

A developer has transformed a 19th century Brooklyn bank into a grand event space called Weylin B. Seymore, after a fictionalized Gatsby-esque character. The New York Times has the details, including a slideshow.

The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane is truly smitten with actress Scarlett Johansson.


A standing desk that won’t break the bank.

The desk caddy for the Renaissance man.


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