StrictlyVC: June 12, 2014

Hi, good morning, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

Twitter COO Ali Rogwani has left Twittertweeting this morning, “Goodbye Twitter. It’s been an amazing ride, and I will cherish the memories.” CEO Dick Costolo then tweeted, “Thank you for being an incredible executive & partner. Twitter could not have succeeded without you.” (Eric Hippeau of Lerer Ventures tweeted in reaction to the news: “Twitter COO has resigned: when things go bad, COO usually the first to take the blame. COO usually not a viable role and position.”) Re/code had reported yesterday that Rogwani was slowly being stripped of some of his authority over the company’s slow growth. More here and more to come; this story is breaking.


What is Amazon Thinking?

Back in October, when the bestselling book about Amazon, “The Everything Store” was first published, I talked about Jeff Bezos with Michael Maccoby, a psychoanalyst who writes about business executives and teaches leadership at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. His impression of Bezos, he told me, was that Bezos needed a strong right-hand man, something that Bezos – unlike Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others – hasn’t seemingly had or wanted. Maccoby then veered into what sounded slightly absurd to me at the time, even if it made for provocative copy; he compared Bezos to Napoleon.

In recent weeks, the analogy has begun to seem a little less outlandish.

As I noted in my interview with Maccoby, both Bezos and Napoleon enjoyed success at a young age, both rejected the established wisdom, and both took on seemingly invincible enemies and defeated them.

Napoleon also pushed his luck eventually, ignoring repeated advice not to invade Russia. And however stretched, it’s hard not to see some comparisons to Amazon’s recent assault on suppliers that have fallen out of the company’s favor. Yesterday, it was Warner Home Video, whose popular movies Amazon is refusing to pre-sell or market, much to the chagrin of its customers.

Two weeks ago, it was the German publishing company Bonnier Media Group, the delivery of whose books Amazon has slowed dramatically because Bonnier seemingly refuses to give Amazon a bigger cut of the earnings of its electronic books.

Meanwhile, the publishing house Hachette and Amazon have been at odds for months, reportedly over deep discounts on Hachette’s electronic books that Amazon wants to impose. While publishers are rooting for Hachette’s CEO, no one is expecting a quick fix, and Hachette, its authors, and consumers are being made to suffer in the meantime. Said one author to CNN Money this week, “I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back by a company I supported.”

Are its tactics going to stir up a tsunami of congressional subcommittees and political investigations and give ammunition to Walmart and Target, which sorely want to take back the ground that Amazon has stolen from them? Will they embolden Alibaba, which just opened its first online storefront for U.S. customers? We don’t know yet, but what’s worse, it doesn’t seem like anyone at Amazon is asking these questions.

Back in October, Maccoby noted that “Napoleon was very successful as long as he had Talleyrand as his foreign minister.” When he lost Talleyrand, he spun out of control. “The danger with someone like Bezos is the same danger that Napoleon had,” Maccoby had added. Without enough pushback, “you can go too far.”


New Fundings

Aduro BioTech, a 14-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based immuno-oncology company focused on early-stage cancer therapies, has raised $55 million in Series C funding led by Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. Earlier investor Morningside Group and other, undisclosed investors also participated in the round. Aduro has raised at least $92 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Breakout Labs, a year-old, San Francisco-based program of the Thiel Foundation that invests in early-stage science startups, has staked three biotech companies that are at work on early-stage therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders and bone surgery, respectively. FierceBiotech has much more here.

Declara, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based social learning platform that connects large numbers of people to massive amounts of content, has raised $9 million from Linden Venture Fund and the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board. The funding adds to the $16 million in Series A funding the company announced in April led by GSV Capital, with Data CollectiveFounders Fund and Catamount Ventures participating.

FightMe, a three-year-old, U.K.-based collaborative social video network, has raised $1.35 million from HTG Ventures and individual investors. The company had previously raised $500,000. TechCrunch has more here.

Fitbay, a year-old, New York-based social commerce startup that helps customers discover clothes that fit their unique shape and size, has raised $2 million in seed funding from Steadfast Venture Capital and Scandinavian Spotify investor Creandum. The company had previously raised $400,000, shows Crunchbase. Fortune has much more here.

Freshdesk, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based customer service software company, has raised $31 million led by earlier investor Tiger Global Management, with Google Capital and Accel Partners — which has also invested in the company previously — participating. The company has raised $45.1 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Hybrent, a two-year-old, Chicago, Il.-based hospital supply chain software developer, has raised $500,000 in seed funding from undisclosed management and health care supply chain experts.

OYO Sports, a three-year-old, Acton, Ma.-based toymaker that uses advanced manufacturing techniques and social media analytics to create mini figures of famous players while they’re popular with fans, has raised $3 million in new seed funding, reports the WSJ. Atlas Venture and Boston Seed Capital led the investment, bringing the company’s total capital raised to $4.6 million.

Procore Technologies, an 11-year-old, Carpinteria, Ca.-based company that makes construction management software, has raised $15 million in Series D funding, including from Bessemer Venture Partners. The company has raised $19 million altogether, including from Persistence Partners, shows Crunchbase.

ScalingData, a four-month-old, Bay Area-based company that aims to create applications that can run easily on the big data repository Hadoop (and which was founded by veterans of the Hadoop vendor Cloudera), has raised $4.4 million from General Catalyst PartnersGoogle Ventures and Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens. Venture Capital Dispatch has the story here.

SiSense, a nearly four-year-old, Tel Aviv-based big data analytics company focused on business intelligence, has raised $30 million in new financing led by DFJ Growth, with participation from existing investors Battery VenturesGenesis Partners and Opus Capital. The company has raised $44 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

TrackingPoint, a three-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based maker of high-tech weapons, has raised $29 million to broaden into commercial drones and other applications, reports Venture Capital DispatchGenesis Inventions and earlier investor McHale Labs led round, with participation from earlier investor Austin Ventures and new investor GTP Holdings. The company has raised roughly $35 million to date.

Visual Unity, a 23-year-old, Prague-based video infrastructure company, has raised $7.2 million in funding from 3TS Capital Partners in Budapest.

Wut, a months-old, San Francisco-based company whose app lets users send out short, random messages without being identified, has raised seed funding from Foundation Capital. Other investors in the round include Google VenturesSV AngelEniac VenturesLowercase Capital, and Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures. TechCrunch has the story here.


New Funds

Epic Ventures, a 20-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based venture firm, is looking to raise $75 million for its fifth fund. It’s part of the way there, too, thanks to New Mexico’s new State Investment Council, which just approved a commitment to Epic for up to $10 million. (In exchange, Epic, which has an office in New Mexico, has agreed to invest in local companies.) Among Epic’s investments is HG Data, a 3.5-year-old, Santa Barbara, Ca.-based business intelligence company. Epic was formerly known was Wasatch Venture Fund. (It changed names in 2007.)

Generator Ventures, a seed-stage, San Francisco-based firm that launched recently, has graduated an inaugural class of 11 companies from its newly launched accelerator program, the firm tells the WSJ. Generator Ventures is focused entirely on new technologies to serve the country’s aging population. Much more here.



Google cofounder Sergey Brin could be the next space tourist to journey to the International Space Station. Relatedly, Sky News is reporting this morning that Google is in talks with Virgin Galactic about acquiring a stake in the space tourism venture.

LeBron James, the 29-year-old NBA star, reportedly realized a profit of more than $30 million in cash and stock in the Beats sale to Apple, having struck a deal to get a small stake in the company at its inception in 2008 in exchange for promoting its high-end headphones.

Venkat Panchapakesan is Youtube’s new head of engineering, reports Re/code. He previously headed up Google’s Apps group; he’ll report to Susan Wojcicki, who took control of YouTube in February.


Job Listings

Google has just posted a job listing for a corporate development manager to help identify and evaluate both acquisition and investment opportunities. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.



Comscore has released some findings based on a survey of more than 5,800 U.S. online shoppers. Some highlights: When shopping on mobile devices, 41 percent of respondents said they prefer a retailer’s full website versus a mobile website (34 percent) or mobile app (25 percent). Satisfied shoppers who share their thoughts via social media are most likely to post on Facebook (86 percent) followed by Twitter (34 percent), Google + (23 percent), Pinterest (21 percent), and Instagram (19 percent). And despite the glut of new startups that are promising immediate delivery, respondents said that delivery costs and free shipping trump faster delivery. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping, and 83 percent are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free. If you want to check out more stats, the full enchilada is here.


Essential Reads

Path is about to perform a vanishing act on the content of its more than 10 million users.

Amazon has rolled out a streaming music service for its Prime members.



What happens when you combine a banana, clay, and some rap music.

Nowwhat happens when you put a bored person in an empty airport with an iPhone.

The big wheels of “Billionaires’ Lane” in the Hamptons.


Retail Therapy

Go to sleep with a clear conscience.


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