StrictlyVC: August 13, 2014

Good Wednesday morning, everyone. Semil Shah here, filling in for Connie while she takes a little time off. If you want to chat about today’s column or anything else, you can always find me on Twitter at @semil.


Top News in the A.M.

Tech giants are at odds over how the government should protect users in the era of big data, with Microsoft among those calling for new federal standards, and FacebookGoogle, and Yahoo arguing for self-regulation. The Hill has more here.


Chatting with Tommy Leep of Rothenberg Ventures

Earlier this year, Tommy Leep joined San Francisco-based Rothenberg Ventures as a partner after spending more than two years at Floodgate as its “chief connector,” helping entrepreneurs get their startups off the ground. We recently chatted with Leep — who was once a product manager at Intuit — about the move, as well as the role that serendipity often plays in the career of the investor.

You recently finished up a tour of duty with Floodgate to join Rothenberg Ventures. Walk us through your transition, what you learned, and why you ended up where you did.

At Floodgate I learned that I love being a “connector.” I love connecting startup founders with people who can resolve their needs. The problem is that no one focuses on recruiting connectors. It doesn’t sound tangible enough. So I had to figure out how I could keep doing this thing I love.

At first, I thought it may be a big tech company. I considered a corporate development role with one company and a community role with another, both of which excited me but [were] too focused on [each] company’s outcome. Those conversations helped me realize that I work best with a broad set of constituents that includes founders, investors, big companies and startup supporters. Then I realized that the best opportunity for me was right under my nose [with] my roommate and Stanford friend Mike Rothenberg, [who] had founded Rothenberg Ventures.

Can you retell the story of how you fell into the venture world? I think it could be instructive for younger folks out there, given how random it is and how much of it is driven via personal relationships.

I met Mike Maples at the Orange Bowl in Miami in January 2011. Before the game there was a rumor going around that Bon Jovi was performing at a private tailgate in a big tent. A friend who had been the Stanford Tree band mascot somehow got wristbands to this tailgate, so we went in. (I was also a Stanford Tree.) We were grabbing burgers when I ran into Weston McBride, a Sigma Nu fraternity friend from undergrad. Weston had pitched Mike a couple weeks earlier, and he offered to introduce me to him there.

We connected over Sigma Nu, which Mike helped restart when he was at Stanford. We talked about Stanford football and this shirt I was wearing that said “I Believe in Stanford Football” . . .[and] Mike asked for one and he emailed me a reminder on the spot. . . A month later we met for breakfast at Hobee’s at Town & Country in Palo Alto for the shirt hand-off, and after that he interviewed me to become Floodgate’s first associate.

Mike and Ann from Floodgate have legendary reputations in the world of early-stage investing. You had a front-row seat. Briefly, what sticks out in your mind about what makes them so good?

Mike and Ann stick to first principles. They do right by the founders they work with. They have deep expertise in giving founders strategic guidance to build their businesses. They measure and learn from their investments and misses. And supporting founders is authentic to their personal missions.

At Rothenberg Ventures, how is the fund and platform set up? How do you work to attract the best founders to your firm?

At Rothenberg Ventures, we are very different from most other firms. We don’t spend Mondays in meetings and we don’t sit on boards. . . We offer on-call advisory to our founders, connect with almost all of them each month, and help connect our founders to the people they need to meet to help build their businesses. We believe in extreme giving . . . Our capital comes from a hundred founders and investors who also love giving back to founders and the venture community. We facilitate interactions through dozens of tech talks, dinners, small gatherings, and events like [a recent event for founders at AT&T Park in San Francisco]. . . For example, one of our recent initiatives is a co-working space in SOMA where we work side by side with 60 entrepreneurs. Our founders identify with us because we look like them — we’re a startup investing in other startups.


New Fundings

360fly, a 16-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company that makes a single-lens camera and software platform that captures stitchless 360-degree video, has raised $17.8 million in Series B funding led by Qualcomm VenturesCattertonVoxx International and Steve Altman, former president and vice chairman of Qualcomm.

Acupera, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of analytics and workflow management software for medical teams, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with Whittemore Collection participating.

AdStage, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based ad management platform, has raised $6.25 million in Series A funding from Verizon VenturesDigital GarageNewbury VenturesFreestyle Capital, and Chris Noble and Neal Dempsey of Bay Partners. The company has now raised $8.75 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Electric Imp, a three-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based company whose chip, “imp,” provides WiFi and cloud-based internet connectivity services to any electrical device, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from new investors Foxconn Technology GroupPTI Ventures and Rampart Capital. Earlier investors Redpoint Ventures and Hugo Fiennes, chief executive and co-founder of Electric Imp, also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $22.9 million.

GetTaxi, a four-year-old, Tel Aviv-based, Uber-like mobile app that operates in 24 cities in Israel, has raised $150 million in new funding, reports Globes. One-sixth of the funding comes from the Swedish fund manager Vostok Nafta Investment, which tells Globes that “[a]lthough competition is ripe everywhere, we think a conservative scenario is that GetTaxi becomes the leading player in Russia and Israel,” giving GetTaxi a potential valuation of more than $2 billion in “a couple of years.”

Lookout, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based security software maker for mobile devices, has raised $150 million in Series F funding, led by T. Rowe Price, which was joined by new investors Morgan StanleyGoldman SachsBezos Expeditions and Wellington Management Company. Earlier backers Andreessen HorowitzAccel PartnersIndex VenturesMithril Capital Management and Khosla Ventures also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to roughly $282 million.

Niveus Medical, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose medical device uses electrodes to keep muscle groups strong during patient recovery, is raising $3.6 million in new funding, shows an SEC filing that was first flagged by MedCity News. The company had previously raised $2 million from a syndicate that included Band of AngelsLife Science AngelsSand Hill Angels and others.

RelayRides, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace, has raised $10 million in new funding just six weeks after initially closing a $25 million Series B round. The new capital comes from Trinity Ventures; earlier investors in the Series B included Canaan PartnersAugust CapitalGoogle Ventures and Shasta Ventures. The company has raised at least $43.2 million to date, according to Crunchbase, which lists at least one round that included an unknown amount of funding.

Seventh Sense Biosystems, a six-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company behind a new type of blood collection and diagnostics platform, has raised $16 million in Series B financing from new investors, including Siemens Venture CapitalNovartis, and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings. Earlier investors Flagship Ventures and Polaris Partners also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $26 million, shows Crunchbase.



The WSJ looks at the public offering of Israeli drug development company Vascular Biogenics, calling it “one of the most creatively botched IPOs in memory.”



Onswipe, a four-year-old, New York-based startup that allows publishers to create tablet- and smartphone-optimized versions of their websites, has been acquired by the ad tech company Beanstock Media for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock. Beanstock is self-funded. Onswipe had raised $6 million from investors, including Lerer Hippeau VenturesSV AngelMorado Venture PartnersEniac VenturesThrive Capital, and Spark Capital.

Zofari, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based local recommendation app that helps match users with places they’re likely to enjoy visiting, has been acquired by Yahoo. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but Zofari’s four employees are joining Yahoo, reports TechCrunch.



Edward Snowden gives NSA whistleblower James Bamford the most extensive interview about his story to date, saying he intended to make it fairly clear to the NSA which documents he took and copied, so he would be seen as a whistle-blower and not a spy for a foreign government. “I figured [the NSA] would have a hard time” finding his trail of digital bread crumbs, Snowden says. “I didn’t figure they would be completely incapable.”

According to BuzzFeed, a standoff between the Winklevoss twins and debtholders killed the discount-tracking app they’d invested in, HukksterMore here.


Job Listings

Amazon is looking for a director of corporate development to focus on Amazon Web Services. The job is in Seattle.


Essential Reads

Amazon has unveiled its own mobile card readers and — surprise — it “savagely” undercuts both Square and PayPal on price.

LinkedIn expects to create a new billion-dollar business in three years. Business Insider has the details.



Chinese scientists have used x-rays to image the blood vessels in a heart with unprecedented detail. The trick? Injecting it with liquid gallium.

Why it’s probably best to avoid antibacterial soaps.

Audrey Hepburn’s granddaughter, photographed by Richard Avedon’s grandson.


Retail Therapy

handy wind-up shredder, for, you know, orgami art, destroying documents on the fly, etc.

Now you can fly private, on the cheap.


To sign up for StrictlyVC, click here. To advertise, click here.

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