StrictlyVC: August 8, 2014

Happy Friday, everyone. So, my first week filling in for Connie (if that’s actually possible!) is coming to an end. Three interviews spread across four days, now in the books. Today, and then again on Friday next week, I’ll write the column here for the newsletter. If you’d like to chat about it or anything else, you can find me on Twitter at @semil.

In the meantime, stay tuned for some more great interviews next week, including with Ryan Sarver of Redpoint Ventures and entrepreneur and investor Elad Gil.


Top News in the A.M.

The Apple versus Samsung patent-battle may have ended overseas, but it’s still going strong in the U.S., reports CNET.


Four Ways to Break Into Investing

Last night, I asked the crowd on Twitter what they’d like to hear about in today’s column. Entrepreneur John Petersen wrote back asking questions about what it’s like to get into early-stage investing, as more people want to get into the game on some level (and I believe they will, particularly if there are more liquidity options available in the future).

Regarding my own investing experience, I’m making it up as I go along, but here’s what I believe someone has to think through before diving into this kind of investing:

First, is the person able and willing to see an investment nosedive to zero? There are reasons that regulations require that potential investors have a certain level of income before investing like this. It’s hard to get money back from early-stage investments, and even if money does come back, it may take a long, long time. This is obvious to most, but not all — so it bears repeating.

Second, assuming a person is able to lose the money earmarked for investing, does that person want to invest directly into startups or as a limited partner via someone else’s fund, or start a fund (or a syndicate)?

Option 1: Direct investing may appear to be the most fun, but it’s hard to gain direct access to these early-stage opportunities, and founders are savvy, seeking to partner with people who can help them. It’s also possible to use AngelList or other crowdfunding platforms to directly invest, but often there’s a charge on carry associated with it, and not everyone is allowed into each syndicate to which they apply.

Option 2: Many others put their money to work by investing in a fund that will deploy that money across a portfolio, spreading out their risk. Generally, the individual LP pays the fund a fee to invest the money but stays at arm’s length. In some situations, though, LPs will strike agreements with a fund’s GPs to co-invest alongside them and pay a bit in that carry but save on fees. This sounds good in theory but often in the most competitive deals, even the GPs are fighting for their allocations. (AngelList has also started to create industry-specific syndicate funds that investors can back, in addition to applying to back other funds on the platform.)

Option 3: Creating a new fund is a third option. It’s costly and time-consuming, though, requiring intricate tax and accounting setup, fundraising activities to recruit LPs, and a strategy to deploy and manage the funds invested.

Option 4: Creating an AngelList syndicate is a bit easier but not easy, either. Typically, the individual needs to be investing his or her own funds, building a syndicate against his/her reputation, and then harnessing the syndicate to move in step with each check, enjoying financial leverage with carry along the way.

So much of investing depends on the individual, including how much access they have to great founders and how much they want to work to find investments and manage money (and relationships). But for those who are really serious about the topic, it’s worth reading, and bookmarking, and reading again this short but insightful 2012 post by Andy Rachleff, who cofounded both Benchmark and Wealthfront and teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Today, I tried to lay out some options for folks who are interested in dabbling; in Andy’s post, he soberly tells it like it really is based on years of experience. It is required reading.


New Fundings

Casper Sleep, a 10-month-old, New York-based online mattress retailer, has raised $13.1 million in Series A funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with A­-Grade InvestmentsQueensbridge Venture PartnersSlow VenturesLerer Hippeau VenturesSV Angel and numerous others participating.

Movile, a 16-year-old, São Paulo, Brazil-based mobile commerce platform, has raised $35 million in Series D funding led by Innova Capital, with earlier investor Naspers participating. The company has also landed $20 million in long-term financing through FINEP — Brazil’s Funding Authority for Studies and Projects within the Ministry of Technology. TechCrunch has more here about the company, whose best-known app is PlayKids, a subscription-based mobile and tablet only children’s entertainment platform.

Plated, a two-year-old, New York-based company that home-delivers 30-minute gourmet recipes and ingredients, has raised $15 million in fresh funding, shows an SEC filing. The round brings the company’s total funding roughly $21 million; its backers include Great Oaks Venture CapitalFounder CollectiveLerer Ventures, and ff Venture Capital.

SmartNews, a two-year-old, Tokyo-based news aggregation app, has raised $36 million in new funding led by Atomico and the mobile-social gaming company Gree. The company has now raised $40.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. Recode has more here.



CardSmith, an 11-year-old, Doylestown, Pa-based company that provides campus cards and card program management services to hundreds of institutions, has been acquired by the education software giant Blackboard for undisclosed terms.



Marc Andreessen agrees to an interview via Twitter, revealing, among other things, that if Andreessen Horowitz ever breaks its “‘one office” rule, it’s pretty likely office #2 would be in Israel.”

Serial entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield is back on top with his newest business, Slack. Its ambition, he says: “Be the next Microsoft.”

Matt Melymuka has joined Greycroft Partners as a senior associate in its New York office. Melymuka previously worked as an associate at Investor Growth Capital, a growth-stage venture capital firm. He also worked earlier as an investment banking analyst at Piper Jaffray.


Job Listings

Starbucks is looking for a senior financial analyst to work in its corporate development group. The job is in Seattle.


Essential Reads

Silicon Valley arrogance is good, writes BusinessWeek.



The plot thickens as 900 writers battle Amazon.

Restoration Hardware’s mail-order extravagance.

What fish does to the brain.


Retail Therapy

Will it waffle? You might be surprised.

Filed Under:

Don’t Miss Out!

Sign up today to receive a free daily email with everything you need to start your day. Plus, keep track of the companies and personalities that will shape the industry in the months and years to come. Let StrictlyVC be your very own venture capital concierge.

StrictlyVC on Twitter