StrictlyVC: October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween, everyone! We hope you have a positively ghoulish Friday. [Cue the maniacal laughter.]

Web visitors, you can find an easier-to-read version of this, today’s newsletter, here.


Top News in the A.M.

The details about that funding round for Slack just came out and they’re stunning. According to a new report by the WSJ, Slack — which is less than two years old — has raised $120 million in a mega-round of financing that values the company at $1.2 billion. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures led the deal.


The NVCA’s Newest Weapon: Bobby Franklin

Last year, Bobby Franklin became president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, over croque-monsieurs in San Francisco, we talked about the battles he’s been trying to win since for VCs and, increasingly, he says, entrepreneurs.

To say that Franklin’s job is complicated is kind of understating things. Still, we gather that Franklin — formerly executive VP of a wireless communications lobbying group — is up to the challenge. Our chat with him has been edited for length.

You officially started the job in August of last year. What was first on your agenda?

My priority in coming into an association that’s been around for 40 years has been to take it to the next level, including moving our office up to Capitol Hill to be more engaged with policymakers. As close as we’ll be, I can imagine inviting entrepreneurs to our office as well as congressional staff who can come by and meet some of [these founders] so they can better understand who they’re working for.

Part of the vision that we talk about as I’ve taken over is directing all the focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. If policies that we’re working on with policymakers are explained to them in terms of how they can help the entrepreneurial ecosystem [versus how they can help wealthy venture capitalists], we’ll obviously have a more receptive audience.

We’re guessing most entrepreneurs aren’t aware or have time for the NVCA. How do you get them involved?

I don’t think you manufacture this. I think you have to earn the right to speak for them. An important issue to our members is immigration. But really, that’s most important to the entrepreneurs [at risk of being turned away from the U.S.], so we’re working on policies that benefit those entrepreneurs. You do a really good job of representing them and over time I think you earn the right to engage them more. If they see that you’re actually doing something for them, it draws them into ecosystem.

What are your next steps regarding immigration? Less than a month ago, President Obama announced he’d delay using his executive authority to reform immigration laws.

In a mid-term election year, it’s not surprising that it wouldn’t be able to make it across the goal line. They talked about doing it before the end of the summer, then [the administration] said, “Folks on our side of the aisle don’t want us to do anything before the midterm election and we respect that,” so part of what we’re looking for in a lame-duck session is what could be accomplished. Obviously you’re not going to get comprehensive immigration reform passed, but if the White House could make progress and help push this issue along, it’s not a bad place to be.

There are ways [the administration] can mess things up, too, if they do it the wrong way [as through executive order] and they further alienate both sides. Let’s say the Republicans make gains next week in the election and the Senate flips and goes Republican, which, right now, oddsmakers believe will happen; Republicans will clearly have an interest in putting their stamp on something bigger in the next couple of years.

What we do is ensure the White House, as well as Congress, understands the importance to the entrepreneurial ecosystem [of immigrants]. If we want this golden goose here in our country to keep producing new companies and creating new jobs and positively contributing to the economy, we have to recognize what’s important to it, and immigration is one of those things. Almost half of the companies that are founded have foreign-born entrepreneurs.

There will be a lot of investors reading this interview. Is there more they could be doing to help you?

Once there’s a clear path to getting immigration reform across the goal line, I think there will be opportunities for us to reach out to the broader VC communities to say, “Now is the time to write letters, to have portfolio companies reach out, to maybe reach out to VCs in other districts like Texas, Arizona, and Florida,” where there may be resistance to comprehensive reform. There’s often these two groups that talk past each other. We’re talking about the benefits of legal immigration; they’re talking about the downside of illegal immigration. They aren’t two sides of the same coin; they’re totally different coins.

What’s the second biggest priority for the NVCA right now after immigration reform?

Members are very interested in seeing patent reform moved forward because they’ve experienced the so-called troll problem. However, we have a very diverse membership. Some say, “Why do we even need a patent to begin with?” And there are others who, but for the patent, there wouldn’t be a company. So we have this diversity of interests and views, and ones of our roles, working in policy, is to find the right voice from a startup perspective and say to policymakers, “It isn’t just about this bill or nothing: you have to understand the implications of what you’re considering on the young, very small startup companies.”

If your own constituents can’t agree on how to move forward, what do you propose to Congress? Does that recent Supreme court ruling make your job any easier? I’m talking about the ruling that made it such that if a big company sues a little company over a broadly worded patent, the little company can stand up to its claims, because there’s a much better chance now that it can recoup its legal fees.

If you’re a small company trying to protect yourself against a large company, you may want to avail yourself of the tools at your disposal so you go after a large company But cases are not slam dunks, and you’ve put yourself in the position of having to pay somebody else’s legal fees that you can’t afford. Some of these things that sound like solutions to a part of the problem create unintended consequences.

A lot of times in Washington, [lawmakers] are very busy and focused on lots of different issues and when someone talks about the patent issue, a particular member of Congress or a Senator knows that they’ll be “for” patent reform, but they don’t know much else. And they know there’s a patent troll problem and they want to be a part of passing legislation that solves that problem. Our job is to say, “We understand this is the issue and this is your position, but you need to understand that what’s on the table could have an [unintended] impact on other parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and that they have to take a second [try] at this — that the first solution is from someone who doesn’t care about these small startup companies.”


New Fundings

Cytovance Biologics, an 11-year-old, Oklahoma City, Ok.-based biopharmaceutical contract manufacturer that specializes in the production of therapeutic proteins and antibodies from mammalian cell culture and microbial cell cultures, has secured a $20 million credit facility from Monroe Capital.

Digital Lumens, a six-year-old, Boston-based maker of “intelligent” LED lighting solutions, has raised $23 million in Series C funding from Nokia Growth Partners, Aster Capital, and Goldman Sachs, with participation from earlier investors Flybridge Capital Partners, Black Coral Capital, and Stata Ventures. The company has now raised $49.3 million, shows Crunchbase.

Gogoro, a three-year-old, Taiwan-based energy management startup founded by former HTC executive Horace Luke, is raising $100 million in new venture funding, Luke tells Recode. The company had previously raised $50 million from HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang and Samuel Yin, the Taiwanese billionaire founder of Ruentex Group.

Jongla, a five-year-old, Helsinki, Finland-based cross-platform instant messaging app, has raised the equivalent of $4.3 million in Series B funding from JSH Capital, Ingman Finance, Kontino Invest and Holdington. The company has now raised $7.7 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Minted, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based e-commerce design startup that helps users create storefronts, has raised $38 million in Series D funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Technology Crossover Ventures. The company has now raised $89.1 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. Others of its backers include Benchmark, Allen & Co., Menlo Ventures, IDG Ventures and high-wattage angels, including Julia Hartz, Marissa Mayer, and Jeremy Stoppelman.

NerVve Technologies, a two-year-old, Buffalo, N.Y.-based whose technology help users gather information from videos and images by quickly searching pixels as if they were text, has raised $5 million in Series A-1 funding from the publicly traded company HC2 Holdings. The company had raised an undisclosed amount of funding prior, including from In-Q-Tel.

Print Syndicate, a two-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based e-commerce company turns turns social media trends into designs on printed objects like tee shirts and other apparel, phone cases, pillows, tote bags, and blankets, has raised $4.3 million in Series A funding led by Data Point Capital, with participation from Lightbank, Vegas Tech Fund, CNF Investments and TechColumbus.

Valooto, a year-old, Jerusalem, Israel-based maker of collaborative sales engagement software, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from JVP Media Labs.

VivaReal, a five-year-old, Brazilian real estate portal, has raised $41.7 million in Series C funding led by Spark Capital — the firm’s first investment in Brazil. The company has now raised $70.9 million altogether, including from Monashees Capital, Kaszek Ventures, Valiant Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group.

VytronUS, an eight-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company that makes medical devices that treat cardiac arrhythmias, has raised $31.6 million in Series B funding led by Apple Tree Partners, with participation fromBioStar Ventures, Windham Venture Partners, Abbott Labs and earlier investor New Enterprise Associates. The company has now raised $66.4 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

uBeam, a nearly three-year-old, L.A.-based company that beams electricity through the air to charge portable electronics wirelessly, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Upfront Ventures. The company has now raised $13.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. Its other investors include Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz,CrunchFund, Ludlow Ventures, and numerous high-profile individuals, including Marissa Mayer, Tony Hsieh, Troy Carter, Shawn Fanning and Mark Cuban.

Zoomcar, a 1.5-year-old, Bangalore, India-based vehicle-rental startup, has raised $8 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital. Other participants in the round included earlier backers Empire Angels, FundersClub,Basset Investment Group, funds advised by Triangle Growth Partners, and a number of prominent angel investors. The company had previously raised $2 million, including from former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Venture Capital Dispatch has more on the company — and broader opportunities around urban transportation that VCs see in emerging markets — here.


New Funds

Montage Ventures, a year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based seed-stage firm, has raised $11.3 million toward its first fund, according to an SEC filing that shows a target of $17.5 million. Montage has already begun investing the fund. Two of its recent investments include Glamsquad, a 10-month-old, New York-based on-demand beauty services business that raised $7 million in Series A funding last week led by SoftBank Capital; and Olset, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based hotel-booking service for business users that raised $1.1 million in seed funding led by Montage back in May.



Metalogix International, a six-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based company that makes software management tools, is being acquired by the U.K. private equity firm Permira for undisclosed terms. Metalogix was backed by Insight Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, which are fully exiting their stakes.

Topera, a four-year-old, San Diego-based company that makes diagnostic catheter and electrophysiological mapping software for use in ablation procedures, is being acquired by Abbott Laboratories for $250 million in upfront cash and further milestone-based payments. According to Crunchbase, Topera had raised at least $31.5 million in funding, including from New Enterprise Associates.



Ha. Actor Seth Rogen is set to portray Steve Wozniak opposite Christian Bale as Steve Jobs in Sony’s Steve Jobs biopic. Variety has the details here.

Longtime Google executive and former Android boss Andy Rubin is leaving Google, The Information reported late yesterday. Its sources say his departure may have owed to the structure of his team, which he was seeking to change. Google says Rubin will be starting a incubator for hardware startups and that James Kuffner will run the robotics unit that Rubin has been overseeing. “I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement. “With Android he created something truly remarkable— with a billion-plus happy users. Thank you.” The WSJ has much more here.


Job Listings

American Express is looking to hire a director for its corporate development and mergers and acquisitions team. The job is in New York.


Essential Reads

Amazon exec: We priced the Fire phone wrong.

Uber’s data could be a treasure trove for cites. But they’re wasting the chance to get it, argues the Washington Post.

Business Insider on the main difference between Harvard and Stanford.



What your zip code says about you.

Frank Bourassa became the most prolific counterfeiter in U.S. history, with $200 million in fake bills. How he got away with it all is even crazier.

Ten hours of walking as a man in New York City.


Retail Therapy

Pigeon Mask. (Maybe next year, though we love that it’s recommended for “even a formal, official working day!”)

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