StrictlyVC: August 29, 3014

Good morning, and happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! We’ll see you back here next week, where, among other things, we’ll be featuring renowned serial entrepreneur and investor Ariel Poler and former Tiger Global Management director Nazar Yasin.

(Web visitors, you can find an easier-to-read version of today’s email here.)


Top News in the A.M.

The White House has picked Washington, D.C. attorney Danny Marti to be its next “IP czar.”

To compete against Alibaba, Wanda has just joined forces with Baidu and Tencent.


NEA Partner Dayna Grayson on Turning Designers Into Founders

New Enterprise Associates is growing more serious about young design talent. On Wednesday, the 36-year-old venture firm announced the third of an ongoing series of two-week-long design mentorship programs that aim to transform more designers into founders. Among the big names who’ve signed on to help with the initiative are Albert Lee, the founder of the New York-based product studio All Tomorrows; and Liz Danzico, founding chair of the MFA in Interaction Design program at New York’s School of Visual Arts.

To better understand why NEA — which manages billions of dollars — is bothering with the whole enterprise, I spoke yesterday with Dayna Grayson, the Washington, D.C.-based NEA partner who is herself a former product designer and who helped launch the program last summer.

NEA and Kleiner Perkins are among a growing number of venture firms that are trying to close the gap between design and technology. Why do startups need investors to play that role?

There are different flavors of these programs. But the reality is that for any startup – consumer or enterprise – great, intuitive design has become table stakes. Ten years ago, you could have clunky design and enterprise salespeople would explain it and get the technology into the hands of users. Today, technologies have to suit users from day one, so we asked ourselves last year: What if we could mentor and push more designers to become founders to ensure that that [design] DNA is there from the beginning rather than a bolt-on later?

Kleiner’s program aims to get more and better designers into its portfolio companies, whereas NEA’s is designed to help designers start their own companies. Where are your applicants coming from, and how far along must they be to gain admittance into NEA’s program?

Some are coming straight out of design schools. Some have held agency jobs but want to own and commercialize a product themselves.

We now have two types of sessions on a rolling basis. For the [upcoming] “go-to-market” session, you have to have a product that’s ready to be taken live imminently. We’ve also [organized two-week] “vision” sessions, where we take applicants that have nothing.

So you’re first helping people create a vision, then inviting them back to hone it.

We’ll have some teams back, though we’ll also select new teams.

Many accelerator programs go on for months. What convinced you that two weeks of intense mentoring is enough?

We want [these designers] to take what they’ve learned and ruminate on it and decide if it’s right for them. These aren’t necessarily people who are founders above all else. You have to let their entrepreneurial ability sort itself out. Also, frankly, I think it’s more true to life. With entrepreneurship, you have these intense periods of advice and ideation followed by intense periods of executing and scaling.

What sorts of companies are people coming up with?

We had one team come up Shortwave, an app that allows customers to easily exchange files via Bluetooth with others who are within 100 feet. Another, Factory, is a mobile application that features a stream of fascinating facts in short form. It’s like an ingestible Wikipedia. A third project, Booya Fitness, features high intensity workouts [online] for people who don’t have an hour-and-a-half to exercise.

Have you funded any of the teams to pass through the program? Also, how much of your time is focused on it?

We’re in the process of funding one startup now. Because we encourage some to come with nothing — they’re pre-seed — we expect more to [evolve into] seed-stage and Series A [type opportunities] over time.

I’m an investor first and I have five portfolio companies, so the [NEA Design Studio] is a project that probably accounts for 10 to 20 percent of what I do. But it’s an important project of mine.


New Fundings

Armetheon, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing mid- to late-stage cardiovascular drug candidates, has raised $7 million in Series A funding co-led by AshHill Biomedical Investments and Hercules Bioventures. Other participants in the round included Atheneos Capital and Larry Hsu, the founder of Impax Laboratories.

Attero Recycling, a seven-year-old, Noida, India-based e-waste disposal and management company, has raised $16.5 million in Series C funding led by Forum Synergies. The company has now raised at least $28.6 million altogether, shows Crunchbase, including from earlier investors DFJGranite Hill India Opportunity Ventures and Kalaari Capital.

CyanogenMod, a five-year-old, mobile software startup that has “quietly built a dedicated fan base of thousands of developers who contribute code to it” and supporters who believe it’s “poised to become a full-fledged alternative to Google Android” is “looking to raise a big Series C round,” reports The Information. The company, largely a side project for founder Steve Kondik until last year, raised its first institutional funding — two rounds totaling $30 million — last year. Its investors include BenchmarkRedpoint VenturesTencent, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Enevo, a four-year-old, Espoo, Finland-based company that runs a sensor-based system designed to optimize waste collection, has raised $8 million in new funding, including from Draper AssociatesEarlybird Venture CapitalFinnish Industry Investment and Lifeline Ventures. The company has now raised $11 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Green & Grow, a four-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based company focused on developing new, naturally derived agricultural products, has raised $6 million in Series B funding from Otter Capital.

Hipvan, a year-old, Singapore-based e-commerce platform that sells various types of men’s, women’s, and children’s products, has raised $1.4 million in Series A funding from Hong Kong-based LionRock Capital and Toivo Annus, a former head of engineering at Skype.

IFTTT, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that acts as a “giant switchboard to connect disparate services, anything from Facebook to text messages to telephone calls,” as the New York Times describes it, has raised $30 million in funding from Norwest Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. The company has now raised $38.5 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

JustFab, a four-year-old, El Segundo, Ca.-based, subscription-based e-commerce startup that personalizes users’ experiences based on their fashion preferences, has raised $85 million in new funding led byPassport Capital, with participation from earlier investors Shining CapitalMatrix Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures. The round, done at a $1 billion valuation, pushes JustFab’s funding to $250 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has all the details here.

MinuteBuzz, a four-year-old, Paris-based media entertainment site focused around viral stories, has raised $1.3 million in funding from Seventure Partners. Rude Baguette has more here.

OncoPep, a four-year-old, North Andover, Ma.-based developer of targeted immunotherapeutics to prevent the progression of cancer, has raised $6.9 million in Series B funding from new and existing investors, including angel groups, family foundations, individuals and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The company has raised at least $14.4 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Plasticity Labs, a two-year-old, Toronto, Ontario-based company that uses data analytics to measure workplace morale, has raised $2.1 million in seed funding led by Fibernetics Ventures. The company had previously raised $500,000 in seed funding, including from BDV Venture Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Patsnap, a seven-year-old, Singapore-based IP analytic and management platform (it makes finding patents easier by turning search results into a 3D topographical map), has just raised $3.6 million in Series A funding led by Vertex Venture Partners. The company has now raised $5.4 million to date. Tech in Asia has the story here.

ReaLync, a two-year-old, Chicago-based mobile and web platform that enables live virtual tours of real estate, has raised $300,000 in funding from angel investors who’ve come out of GrubHub, Leo Burnett, and ExactTarget, among other companies.

SeatGeek, a five-year-old, New York-based ticket search engine, has raised $35 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners. Other participants in the round included Causeway Media Partners (a firm that StrictlyVC profiled last month); Melo7 Tech Partners, a new fund co-founded by NBA star Carmelo Anthony; and individual angel investors, including football’s Peyton Manning and Eli Manning and the rapper Nas. The company has now raised $41 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.


New Funds

HighLight Capital, a young, Shanghai-based firm looking to back both early-stage and growth-stage healthcare companies in China, has raised two separate funds totaling around $300 million, reports VentureWireAccording to PEDailySequoia Capital is among the firm’s LPs.



The German web fashion retailer Zalando reported a second-quarter profit yesterday — just in time for its IPO.



Mikael Hed, CEO of Finland’s “Angry Birds” maker Rovio Entertainment, is stepping down in January, following plummeting profits at the company. Hed will be replaced by former Nokia executive Pekka Rantala, who joined Rovio is its chief commercial officer in June.

Megan Smith, a longtime executive at Google and most recently a vice president at its secret lab, Google X, is the top candidate for the role of U.S. chief technology officer, according to Bloomberg sources. Smith would become the third person to fill the job.


Job Listings

LinkedIn is looking for a senior manager in its corporate development group. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.


Essential Reads

The next iPhone will feature its own payment platform and it will be a “hallmark feature” of the device, reports Wired.

Apple has also tightened its privacy rules relating to health apps ahead of next month’s product launch.

Did we mention that the iPhone will feature full-screen ads?

Inside Google’s secret drone-delivery program.



Conscious brain-to-brain communication in humans using non-invasive technologies. It is here, for real.

How to tell your French revolutions apart. (H/T: Heidi Moore.)

Paper transformed into stunning works of art.

“Welcome to this voice activated elevator, the Intellivator. Please select language.”


Retail Therapy

Ninety-nine cans of beer in the fridge, 99 cans of beer . . .

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