StrictlyVC: March 31, 2014

Hi, good Monday morning, everyone. No column today; StrictlyVC had family in town this weekend. But we’ll see you back here tomorrow with more good stuff. In the meantime, enjoy the intel below!


Top News in the A.M.

Why bitcoin can no longer work as a virtual currency, according to Georgetown Law professor Adam Levitin.


New Fundings

Alignable, a two-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based social network for local business owners, has raised $3.5 million in a partial close, shows an SEC filingSaturn Partners, a Boston-based venture capital firm, is among the company’s backers.

BandPage, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that helps musicians easily create websites that keep their fans informed, has raised $8.5 million in fresh funding, according to an SEC filing that lists a target of $9.2 million. Earlier investors in the company include Mohr Davidow PartnersWalden Venture CapitalNorthgate Capital and GGV Capital. The company has raised nearly $27 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Breakout Labs, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based nonprofit that’s financed by the Thiel Foundation and uses tax-free grants of up to $350,000 to jumpstart science companies, has a new partner. According to the San Francisco Business Times, NetScientific, a U.K.-based biomedical and health care tech investor, is pledging up to $250,000 in next-stage funding for Breakout Labs’ companies, beginning with a San Francisco-based diagnostics company called CytoValeMore here.

Capital Teas, a 6.5-year-old, Annapolis, Md.-based specialty tea company that sells online and through retail stores, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Pear Tree Partners in Massachusetts.

ClearStory Data, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose tools are designed to allow users to conduct their own big data exploration, has raised $21 million in Series B funding led by DAG Ventures, with earlier investors Andreessen HorowitzGoogle VenturesKhosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers participating. The round brings ClearStory Data’s total funding to $31.5 million.

Crossbar, a four-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based memory technology company, has raised $25 million in Series C funding from new investors SAIF PartnersKorea Investment PartnersCBC-Capital and Tao Venture Capital Partners, along with earlier investors Artiman VenturesKleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersNorthern Light Venture Capital and the University of Michigan. The company has raised roughly $45 million to date.

Fluentify, a year-old, London-based videoconferencing language learning platform, has raised $410,000 in seed financing led by Stefano Marsaglia, former chairman of Barclays global financial institutions group and current co-head of Mediobanca investment bank. The company has raised $500,000 altogether, reports TechCrunch.

FTBpro, a three-year-old, London-based fan generated media platform for online soccer, has raised $18 million in new funding, including from Dawn Capital, an unnamed Asia-based media investor and earlier investors Battery Ventures and Gemini Israel Ventures. The company has raised $28.3 million altogether, according to Crunchbase. The company says that more than 1,700 contributors publish their analysis on the site and that millions of sports fans comment on their posts.

Handshake, a four-year-old New York-based maker of a sales order management app, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led byEmergence Capital Partners. Other participants in the round included BOLDstart VenturesPoint Nine Capital and seed backers MHS CapitalHigh Peaks Venture Partners and SoftTechVC. The company has raised $9.5 million to date.

Intime Retail, a 16-year-old, Beijing-based investment holding company that operates department stores throughout China, has agreed to sell a 35 percent stake in its business to Alibaba for $692 million; the two will form a joint initiative to focus on offline-to-online retail opportunities.

Kitchensurfing, a year-old, New York-based marketplace for private chefs to offer their services for in-home meals, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from earlier investors Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. The company, which has raised $19.5 million to date, is a rare early-stage investment for Tiger Global, notes Fortune’s Erin Griffith in a piece about the new funding.

Lookback, a months-old Stockholm-based platform that enables developers to record onscreen activity to better understand bugs or other glitches, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding led by European investor LakestarIndex Ventures and numerous angels also participated in the round, says TechCrunch.

Sigfox, a 4.5-year-old, Labège, France-based cellular network that says it’s fully dedicated to low-throughput communication for connected objects, has raised $21 million in new funding from previous investors, including Intel CapitalPartechIxo Private Equity and Elaia Partners. New investors Idinvest Partners and BPIfrance also participated. GigaOm has more here. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised roughly $32 million to date.

Soar, a months-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based still-stealth company founded by Osman Rashid — who previously cofounded both Kno and Chegg — has raised $2 million in equity, shows an SEC filing. Kno, an e-learning startup, was acquired by Intel last November in what GigaOm characterized as a crash landing. Chegg, an online textbook rental company, went public last November.



Aerohive Networks, a 7.5-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based maker of Wi-Fi equipment and network management software, enjoyed a lukewarm reception by public market investors on Friday, its first day on the New York Stock Exchange. The company had sold 7.5 million shares for $10 a piece Thursday night; on Friday, shares sagged to $8.81 before closing the day at $9.99. The company’s biggest venture backers are Northern Light Venture CapitalLightspeed Venture PartnersNew Enterprise AssociatesKleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and DAG Ventures.

Everyday Health Media, a 14-year-old, New York-based operator of dozens of health-related websites, also closed slightly below its opening price on Friday, ending the day at $13.50 a piece from the shares’ offering price of $14. EveryDay Health had raised about $70 million over the years. According to its S-1, WF Holding Co. is its biggest shareholder, with 30 percent of the company. Meanwhile, Rho Ventures owns 25 percent; Scale Venture Partners owns roughly 8 percent; and Foundation Capital and NeoCarta Ventures hold stakes of around 6 percent. Asked by the WSJ if he was disappointed by the company’s first day performance, CEO Ben Wolin suggested the outlet “check the price in a couple of years.” But analysts worry such tepid receptions could signal a cooling off of what’s been the best start to new stock offerings since the dot-com boom of 2000, says a USA Today report.

Ulmart, a Russia-based e-commerce company that saw sales of $1.2 billion last year, is close to appointing advisers for a London IPO next year, says The Telegraph. The Amazon-style marketplace, which sells everything from consumer electronics to furniture, has overtaken the Russian search engine Yandex as Russia’s largest Internet business and is currently valued at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, says the report.

Videology, a seven-year-old, Baltimore, Md.-based video advertising platform, hit revenue of $200 million last year and is “preparing” for a possible IPO next year, its CEO, Scott Ferber, tells Business Insider. The company has raised roughly $135 million to date, including from New Enterprise AssociatesValhalla PartnersQED InvestorsComcast VenturesPinnacle Ventures, and Catalyst Investors.



Hedge fund titan Steven Cohen, head of the troubled hedge fund SAC Capital, has increased his stake in game maker Zynga to 5.3 percent, according to a regulatory filing flagged by Bloomberg. The stake is more than double the 2.2. percent SAC held at the end of last year. Zynga, whose shares closed at $4.42 on Friday, are up 16 percent this year.

Brendan Eich, a cofounder of the nonprofit Web organization Mozilla, was named its newest CEO last week, and his appointment isn’t sitting well with a lot of people. Three Mozilla board members resigned in protest, including venture capitalist John Lilly (himself a former Mozilla CEO), reports the WSJ. The trio had reportedly wanted Mozilla to a bring aboard a CEO from outside the organization. Meanwhile, some employees are also publicly protesting Eich’s appointment, noting that Mozilla “stands for openness and empowerment,” and that Eich had supported Proposition 8, which would have kept same sex couples in California from receiving the same rights as all other married couples.

Antoine Leblond, a longtime Windows executive, is leaving Microsoft after nearly 25 years at the company, reports Re/code. Leblond spent much of his career working closely with former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky, who left Microsoft in late 2012 and who is now partner at Andreessen Horowitz and an advisor to the cloud storage company Box, among other things.

After it was discovered that Box cofounder Aaron Levie owns just 4 percent of the online storage company — a pittance compared to Box’s venture investors — someone anonymously asked on Quora how Levie feels after “watching DFJ and USVP laugh to the bank after 10 years of sweat, blood, and tears.” Levie, who is widely known to have a healthy sense of humor, quickly took to the question-and-answer platform to answer: “So far, I have yet to bleed while building Box (well, one time I was late to a meeting and cut myself shaving). And honestly, if anyone is regularly bleeding while building a software company, I would have some serious questions about their strategy and if they’re executing properly. Definitely lots of tears and sweat though. Start your company because you want to change the world, and the rest is gravy.”

CNet cofounder Halsey Minor has again slashed the price of his Pacific Heights mansion in San Francisco. (Separately, it looks like Minor is getting into bitcoin; at least, he’s listed as a director of Bitreserve, a year-old bitcoin trading platform, on this SEC filing.)

In a “60 Minutes” episode that aired last night, super entrepreneur Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, spoke candidly about his trajectory, which hasn’t exactly been a straight shot to the moon. “I remember waking up the Sunday before Christmas in 2008, and thinking to myself, ‘Man, I never thought I was someone who could ever be capable of a nervous breakdown,’” said Musk. “I felt this is the closest I’ve ever come, because it seemed…pretty dark.” Watch here.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could try delivering Internet access to the developing world though aerial drones or, like Google, though fleets of balloons. He’s betting on drones, and he outlined why last week. GigaOm has the story.



This Saturday, the two-day IN3 conference kicks off in Dublin, Ireland. If you happen to be in the area, you can catch 40 early-, mid-, and late-stage med tech startups that are either looking for funding or, in some cases, to strike strategic partnerships.

Nokia is planning to hold a press event this week in San Francisco, alongside Microsoft‘s Build developers conference. More here.


Job Listings

IAC is looking for an associate director/director in its M&A group. The job is in New York.



VCs are increasingly enthusiastic about ways to disrupt the commercial real estate market. At least two companies, Realty Mogul and RealCrowd, announced funding last week and according to CB Insights, investors plugged $429 million into 102 related deals last year — the majority of them seed-stage financings. Here’s a breakout of what’s going on.

Pitchbook‘s daily benchmark looks at the performance of the 23 U.S. fund-of-funds that raised between $250 million and $500 million and closed in 2007 and finds that their IRR right now is 7.98 percent. The top performers based on IRR are: Drum Special Situation Partners II,Hamilton Lane Private Equity Fund VI, and RCP Fund IV.


Essential Reads

What’s it like for a fast-growing start-up to have Sequoia Capital as a major investor? Forbes, which interviewed many of its founders, just published the first part of its “start-up confidential” guide to working with the storied firm.

Neurosurgeons in the Netherlands are revealing that they successfully implanted a 3D printer skull to treat a 22-year old suffering from a bone disorder. The procedure took place three months ago; the patient has made a full recovery.

Big data’s challenge: Gain new insight without making the same old statistical mistakes.



London is now home to 67 billionaires, beating out other cities as the top European destination for the superrich.

A campaign to “cancel” Colbert.

Secret rooms.


Retail Therapy

The must-have corporate status symbol.

The “greatest hoodie ever made.” (And no longer on back order.)

AirDroids is developing a miniature helicopter drone that can carry a GoPro camera and follow a user by tracking the smartphone in his or her pocket. It isn’t the tech used in this amazing video (which was shot by a DIY helicopter and manually piloted), but the footage suggests very cool possibilities!


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