StrictlyVC: June 5, 2014

Hi, everyone, and happy Thursday morning.

StrictlyVC was on parenting duty yesterday (closed summer camp), but hopefully you’ll gain a useful insight or two from today’s rushed column!


Top News in the A.M.

Mobile and Sprint are reportedly zeroing in on a $32 billion merger.


The Pain and Pleasure of Cloud-Based Subscription Billing

Earlier this week, a group of CEOs, SVPs, technology strategists and the like gathered around a conference table in downtown San Francisco to discuss their companies’ respective experiences in switching to a subscription-based businesses. The move hasn’t always gone well with their customers or their sales staff, they openly admitted. But they argued that not only was the switch well worth it but that they increasingly had no choice. Below are some of their comments.

Mark Field, the chief technology officer of the life sciences company LifeTech, acquired earlier this year by Thermo Fisher Scientific on some of the challenges his business has endured in switching from a licensed to a subscription model: “It’s not something that’s easy to change. And as we’ve been acquired, I’m hitting all those roadblocks again. . . Our go-to-market is completely different now, and on the sales side, this is disruptive, big time. If [salespeople] just sold software, it would a licensed sell, and they’d get their commission, make their number; now it’s a subscription. It’s a smaller amount over a long period of time. [The employee] may not even be around before we start to get the full value of that subscription. So we have to think about how do we commission them. . . It’s no longer a technology system issue; it is an organizational issue.”

Field went on to add that while LifeTech may have lost 3 percent of its customers in switching to a subscription model, it has gained many more who couldn’t afford to license its technology but can afford to rent it. He also told those gathered that LifeTech has better insight into its customers than ever before. “It’s changing the way we do R&D, because we’re taking feedback from what we see customers do – which is very different from what they say what they do.”

David Wadhwani, an SVP and general manager at Adobe, on initially enraging part of its customer base by switching business models in the spring of 2013, and getting through it: “Since we announced [our subscription model], our market cap has more than doubled. A lot of this has to do with lifetime value; you have to believe in the retention rates of what you get, you have to believe in the quality of the revenue stream.”

It was important to bring Wall Street along, though, noted Wadhwani: “When we announced the transition, we pulled together between 100 and 150 analysts in New York and spent eight hours with them in what was maybe the most dense presentation we’ve ever put together. . . We needed Wall Street to understand a different model for valuing the company; otherwise, we would have been dealing with a significantly under-valued stock price in addition to having to deal with all that transition.”

Venture capitalist Mike Volpi of Index Ventures also talked about Wall Street’s response to subscription-based businesses, noting that it’s been uneven to date: “Generally, I think Wall Street is . . .figuring out what metrics they should be looking for. Five or seven years ago, my guess is that Wall Street wouldn’t have understood this notion of a subscription at all and didn’t have the tools to measure what a good subscription business was versus a bad subscription business. Then they came to phase where any subscription business must be great, checkcheckcheck. Now we’re entering a time when investors are learning to discern between what’s good and not . . . Venture capitalists went through this three to four years ago . . . the broad investment community is coming to terms with it now.”

Not last, Karen Devine, technology strategist at Intuit, talked at some length about Intuit’s process of switching over its business, suggesting that, like Adobe, the worst is now, hopefully, behind it.“Three years ago, we were pressured every quarter from sales to do an on-premise version of our software — [these were] million dollar deals. Fortunately, we had the fortitude to say no, because supporting each one is difficult with a cloud-based business. And [to show how much things have changed in the last year], we probably haven’t been asked about an on-site version in three or four quarters.”


New Fundings

Ambition, a 16-month-old, Chattanooga, Tn.-based company whose fantasy football-style app uses gamification to improve sales and productivity, has raised $2 million from SV AngelGoogle Ventures and others, reports Venture Capital Dispatch. The company was seeded with $600,000 from the Chattanooga venture incubator Lamp Post Group.

Biotz Intelligent Technologies, a two-year-old, Kerala, India-based startup that has developed a 3D printer called the Makifyre, is close to closing a Series A round of funding, including from the Gurgaon-based private equity firm Ncubate, Biotz’s founder and CEO Paul Anand tells Biotz had previously raised $50,000 in seed funding from an unnamed investor.

Buzzoola, a nearly three-year-old, Moscow-based native video advertising platform, has raised $2 million in seed funding from I2BF Global Ventures. The company had previously raised $1 million in funding from BKF Bank.

Complexa, a six-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on anti-inflammatory and fibrotic diseases, has raised $13 million in Series B financing led by JAFCO, with “significant” participation from earlier investors. The company has raised $18.4 million altogether, including from Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and PLSG Accelerator Fund.

Elasticsearch, a two-year-old, Los Altos-based company that has created popular open-source enterprise search tools, has raise $70 million in Series C funding led by New Enterprise Associates, which was joined by earlier investors Benchmark and Index Ventures. “We’ve been wooing them for over a year,” NEA partner Harry Weller tells Re/code. Elasticsearch, which also has an office in Amsterdam, has now raised $104 million altogether.

Larky, two-year-old, Ann Arbor, Mi.-based online platform and app that helps consumers find discounted retail items online, has raised $1.76 million in seed funding led by North Coast Technology Investors. Also participating were the Michigan Angel Fund, the BlueWater Angels, and the Pure Michigan Venture Match and individual investors. Larky had previously raised $650,000 in a seed round last year.

Lima, a 2.5-year-old, Newark, De.-based maker of a hardware adapter and a multi-platform app that enables users to access their entire digital library from all of their devices, has raised $2.5 million in Series A financing led by Partech Ventures. A Kickstarter campaign had previously garnered $1.2 million for the company.

Night Zookeeper, a three-year-old, London-based maker of educational games for children, has raised roughly $600,000 in new funding, mostly from individual investors. Night Zookeeper, which allows users to design their own character and story lines, says it is used in more than 5,000 schools and that it’s being tested in Canada and Japan.

PackLink, a 2.5-year-old, Madrid-based online comparison, booking and management service for consumer and business shipping needs, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners, with participation from previous investor Active Venture Partners. The company has now raised roughly $11 million to date.

RigUp, a months-old, Austin, Tx.-based software platform for oil rig logistics, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Founders Fund. Other participants in the round included Great Oaks VCBoxGroup, and individual investors. The WSJ has more on the startup here.

SAVO, a 15-year-old, Chicago Heights, Il.-based maker of collaborative sales and marketing software, has raised a $35 million round led by Goldman Sachs. Earlier investors Sterling Partners and SAP Ventures also participated. The company has raised $84 million to date.

Siftit, a two-year-old, Atlanta-based mobile restaurant supply chain ordering platform, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by the early-stage venture firm TechOperators. The company was founded by former executives of Radiant Systems, a restaurant retail technology company that was acquired by NCR for $1.4 billion in 2011

Slainte Healthcare, an eight-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based maker of revenue cycle management software for hospitals, has raised a “significant” investment from the AIB Start-up Accelerator Fund, managed by ACT Venture Capital.

Spinal Kinetics, an 11-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company that sells an implantable artificial disc to treat degenerative spinal disorders, has raised a $34 million round of funding from earlier investors Scale Venture PartnersLumira CapitalDe Novo VenturesSV Life Sciences and HLM Ventures.

SpinGo, a two-year-old, Draper, Ut.-based event search engine that scours more than 1,000 media sites and mobile apps for local event content, has raised $2 million in Series A funding from numerous individual investors. The company has raised $6 million to date.

Super Evil Megacorp, a two-year-old, San Antonio, Tx.-based stealthy gaming startup that’s building immersive games for tablets, has raised $11.6 million in new funding led by General Catalyst, with participation from Rain Ventures and earlier backers. The company had raised a $3.6 million seed funding in 2012 from Initial CapitalSignia Ventures,CrossCut Ventures and ZhenFund. The WSJ has the story here.

Toutiao, a two-year-old, Beijing-based Chinese news reader app, has raised $100 million in Series C funding led by Sequoia Capital, with the Chinese microblogging company Sina Weibo and other investors participating. The deal values Toutiao at $500 million, according to Chinese media reports.

Trevi Therapeutics, a three-year-old, Sandy Hook, Ct.-based company that develops drugs to treat uremic pruritus (chronic itching that occurs with advanced renal disease), has raised $25 million led by earlier investor TPG Biotech. The round brings the total capital raised by the company to at least $56 million, shows Crunchbase.

Zapya, a Beijing-based network-free close-range file sharing app for mobile devices, has raised $20 million in Series B funding from IDG Ventures. The company’s earlier investors reportedly include Northern Light Venture Capital and Innovation Works.


New Funds

Shunwei Capital Partners, a three-year-old, Beijing-based venture capital firm focused on early to mid-stage start-ups in China’s Internet and technology industry, has raised $525 million for two new venture funds, according to China Money Network. The firm was created by Lei Jun, founder of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, and Tuck Lye Koh, a Stanford grad and investor who’d worked previously at Deutsche Bank and Starr International. The firm’s first fund, says the report, was a $200-million-plus vehicle.



The financial data company Markit and eight more companies set terms this week for initial public offerings, ushering in what will likely be a busy June in the IPO market. Renaissance Capital takes a look at what’s happening here.

Vernon Davis, a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, broke his silence yesterday over that Fantex IPO. Dealbook has the story here.



IQM2, a nine-year-old, Ronkonkoma, Ny.-based maker of public sector meeting software, has been acquired by Accela, a 15-year-old maker of software for civic engagement. IQM2 doesn’t appear to have raised institutional funding; Accela has meanwhile raised at least $50 million from investors over the years, including Bregal Sagemount.

Namo Media, a year-old, San Francisco-based company that helps create mobile ads that sit “in-stream,” has been acquired by Twitter for undisclosed terms, Twitter announced in a blog post this morning. Techcrunch speculates that the move may signal that Twitter is looking to take its own ad network out to other sites. Namo Media had raised $1.9 million from a long line of investors, including Google VenturesAndreessen HorowitzBetaworksTrinity VenturesSusa Ventures, and numerous individuals, including Paul Buchheit.

Pryte, a one-year-old Helsinki-based company that aims to help mobile phone users in underdeveloped parts of the world to use wireless Internet apps, is being acquired by Facebook for undisclosed financial terms. Pryte’s service hadn’t publicly launched yet. Reuters has more here.

Serus, a 14-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company whose software is designed to manage outsourced manufacturing operations, has been acquired by publicly traded E2open, which paid $18.5 million — roughly two-thirds of it in cash and the other third in stock. Another $7.5 million is available in earn-outs. According to Crunchbase, Serus had raised at least $13.8 million from investors, including OVP Venture PartnersDiamondhead Ventures, and Zap Ventures.



Here are the angel investors who are, on paper at least, “Uber rich.”

Tony Bates has been named president of the pre-IPO wearable-camera maker GoPro, where he’ll report to the company’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman. He was also given a board seat. Bates is a former EVP at Microsoft who was once considered a CEO candidate to replace Steve Ballmer. In March, soon after new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was installed, Bates left the company.

Greylock Partners gets a glowing cover story in the new Newsweek, which, among many other things, talks with Evan Williams about Medium’s funding, led by Greylock. “Before deciding on his investors, [Williams] called around to other entrepreneurs to get reference checks on VCs. One call had particular impact. Williams spoke to Kevin Rose, a co-founder of Digg. Greylock had been one of its venture firms. Williams wanted to know one thing: How had David Sze—the partner who got Greylock in to the deal—treated the foundering CEO as his company was unraveling? That is, of course, when you see a VC’s real mettle—when he’s about to lose all his money. ‘The thing I heard, time after time, was David was always trying to do the right thing for the entrepreneur,’ says Williams. ‘People don’t universally say that about all investors.’”

Some big-names in tech are backing a super PAC formed by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig to reform the nation’s campaign finance laws. LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman has donated to the campaign, as have TED curator Chris Anderson, Union Square Ventures partners Brad Burnham and Fred Wilson, and — to the surprise of many — investor-entrepreneurPeter Thiel, a self-described libertarian. More here.

Robert May has been promoted to COO of Industry Ventures, the San Francisco-based investment firm. May has been the firm’s chief financial and compliance officer since 2011. (He remains its chief compliance officer.) May has also been the COO and CFO of Founders Fund in the past.

Abigail PosnerGoogle‘s head of strategic planning, on the general perception that people who wear Google Glass are, well, you-know-whats: “Over the course of human history, we’ve had to adapt to the negatives, fears and issues with any new tech,” says Posner. “These days, it happens quickly. It wasn’t too long ago, that people who walked around with their cell phones talking to themselves looked completely crazy. Now we all do it, and it’s a universally accepted behavior. People get used to everything.”

Leena Rao, a longtime TechCrunch reporter, is joining Google Ventures as an operating partner, she announced in a post yesterday. More here.


Job Listings, a two-year-old, L.A.-based company that offers prepaid debit cards as an alternative to traditional banking, is looking for a VP of business development. The company has raised $3 million from investors.

Socialyzr, a nearly three-year-old, Dallas-based company focused on social media optimization, is looking for a VP of business development. The company has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding.



IBF’s Venture Capital Investing Conference is taking place in San Francisco next week. You can check out the agenda here. (StrictlyVC will be interviewing Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC and Arvind Sodhani of Intel Capital on Wednesday.)



Pitchbook takes a look at 2006 vintage U.S. VC funds to see which are performing the best, concluding that of the 42 funds that raised between $100 million and $250 million dollars, the top performers based on IRR are currently 5AM Ventures IIAzure Capital Partners IIPTV Sciences II, and Sterling Venture Partners II. The median IRR is 5.1 percent; the top-quartile IRR hurdle rate is 9.3 percent, says Pitchbook.


Essential Reads

Even credit card companies think plastic’s days are numbered.



The people who can’t not run.

An S.O.S. in a Saks bag.

Fifty-four old films that are not to be missed.


Retail Therapy

The Killerspin Throw II Robot, when you’re deadly serious about your tennis game.

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