StrictlyVC: November 18, 2014

Hi, good Tuesday morning, everyone! Hope it’s off to a good start. (Web visitors, here’s an easier-to-read version of this morning’s email.)


Top News in the A.M.

Uber’s senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, has dragged the company into what could be its biggest public relations disaster yet. According to Buzzfeed, Michael suggested at a recent gathering in New York that Uber splash out on opposition research in an effort to muzzle journalists who’ve been critical of the company. Michael, whose comments were overheard and reported on by Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith, went on to suggest that Uber should — and could — expose the personal business of one female tech reporter in particular. Much more here.


A Custom Apparel Company with Big Ambitions Raises $35 Million

Into ironic T-shirts? You aren’t alone. In fact, the market is so robust that Teespring, a two-year-old company that helps anyone turn their idea for a T-shirt (or hoodie) into a real product, has just raised $35 million in Series B financing from Khosla Ventures. Andreessen Horowitz, which had plugged $20 million into the company earlier this year, also participated in the round.

It seems like an awful lot of money for a simple apparel business, but Providence, R.I.-based Teespring says it has big ambitions to move into numerous verticals. “T-shirts are to Teespring as books were to Amazon,” says the company’s co-founder and CEO, Walker Williams, a Brown University grad who originally started the company to help save a college bar.

Indeed, the general idea is to help anyone with the inclination become an entrepreneur with as little effort as possible.

Here’s how it works today: Users simply download a picture of their design; Teespring handles the rest, from manufacturing to fulfillment to customer service. Teespring outsources some pieces of the process right now but going forward, it plans to manage more of it internally. For example, it already has its own customer service department; to further support its ambitions, the company is building out a 105,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Kentucky that it says should significantly increase its manufacturing and logistics capabilities.

Teespring is still keeping its revenue close to the vest, but it claims that it has already shipped six million products to more than 80 countries and that 1 in 75 people in the U.S. have purchased a Teespring tee in the past year.

Williams also says that of the “thousands” of vendors and individuals using the service to make their products, “hundreds” of them are “making six figures” and that more than 10 are making in the millions of dollars a year.

On average, he adds, users pay Teespring between $8 and $10 per T-shirt, and between $14 and $18 per hoodie depending on the print design, the fabric, and the number of ink colors the unit requires. (That includes Teespring’s margin.) From there, users can sell the goods for whatever they want.

Today, Teespring employs 170 employees. Once it gets its new facility in Kentucky up and running, says Williams, it will be adding 300 more jobs to the payroll.


(Other) New Fundings

Alfred, a year-old, New York-based company that charges users $100 per month for an assistant (or “Alfred”) to visit their homes twice weekly to handle everything from groceries to shoe repair, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from SV Angel andCrunchFund.

Bipsync, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose platform aims to simplify the process of gathering, retrieving, and analyzing information about investment opportunities, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from a mix of investors, including Russell Siegelman, a partner emeritus at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Steadfast Venture Capital.

Blockstream, a two-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to enhance bitcoin’s blockchain and turn it into a universal platform for bitcoin 2.0 applications, has raised $21 million in seed funding led by LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, Khosla Ventures, and Real Ventures. Other participants in the crowded round include Innovation Endeavors and AME Ventures. The WSJ has much more here.

Breezeworks, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose mobile app makes it easier for small business owners to do scheduling, invoicing, and more, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led byObvious Ventures. Other investors in the round included Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, James Murdoch of 21st Century Fox, former eBay president Jeff Skoll, and investor-entrepreneurs David Sacks, Max Levchin, and Peter Thiel. TechCrunch has more here.

CompStak, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based real estate data firm that crowdsources commercial real estate information for investors, brokers, asset managers and appraisers, has raised $4.4 million in new funding led by Canaan Partners. Other investors in the funding round include investment firm dmgi, Expansion VC, and real estate investment firm Rubenstein Partners. The Real Deal has more here.

Eyeview, a seven-year-old, New York-based company that provides marketers with a personalized video advertising platform, has raised $15 million in financing from earlier backer Marker. The company has now raised $35.4 million altogether, including from Nauta Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Gemini Israel Ventures, and Innovation Endeavors, shows Crunchbase.

Indico, a year-old, Needham, Ma.-based machine learning data science startup, has raised $3 million in initial funding from General Catalyst Partners, .406 Ventures, Two Sigma, Boston Seed and angel investors.

Intellia Therapeutics, a months-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that aims to treat disease through the new science of genome editing, has raised $15 million from Atlas Venture and Novartis. The company was created by Atlas Venture and Caribou Biosciences, a Berkeley, Ca.-based biotech company.

Obillex, a three-year-old, U.K.-based payments platform that matches small businesses in need of good rates with investors looking for modest, low-risk returns, has raised has secured £3 million ($4.7 million) in funding led by Dawn Capital, with participation from MMC Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Oppex, a two-year-old, Helsinki, Finland-based company that operates a search engine for public sector bidding contests, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from the media company Alma Media, startup acceleratorVeturi, the Finnish fund Tekes, and numerous angel investors.

OrderWithMe, a 3.5-year-old, Las Vegas-based company that lands discounts for small businesses by aggregating their orders with other small business, has raised $28 million in new funding led by earlier investors, including Vegas Tech Fund, SOSVentures, BaseVC and Tony Hsieh, with additional participation from Silicon Valley Bank, Pentland GroupAdvantage Capital and several others. The company has now raised roughly $37 million to date. Tech Cocktail has more here.

Pingboard, a 1.5-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based office management software maker, has raised $2.2 million of a planned $2.5 million financing per a filing with the SEC. Silverton Partners is among the companies investors. Austin Business Journal has more here.

RealScout, a two-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based online search engine for local home listings, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by DCM, participation from Formation 8 and numerous individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Shift Technologies, an 11-month-old, San Francisco-based used car marketplace that enables people to buy or sell used cars from their phones with the help of car concierges who schedule test drives and who personally bring the cars to shoppers, has raised $20 million in Series A funding. DFJ and Highland Capital Partners co-led the round. SV Angel and Great Oaks VC also participated, along with individual investors, including Google Maps co-creator Lars Rasmussen, Meraki Networks founder Hans Robertson, Square co-founder Jim McKelvey, and Shazam founder Chris Barton. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Soci, a 2.5-year-old, San Diego-based company behind a social content discovery engine and social media marketing technology, has raised $1.5 million in Series A funding led by angel investor Peter Fisher, with participation from Silicon Valley Growth Syndicate.

Veradocs, a 10-month-old, San Francisco-based company whose technology enables IT departments to track documents, as well as change in real time who can access them, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Battery Ventures. Other participants in the round include Amplify Partners and individual investors, such as Yahoo CIO Mike Kailand Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

V-Key, a 3.5-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based mobile security and cryptographic technology company, has raised $12 million in Series B funding from Ant Financial Services Group (the operating company of Alipay) and earlier backer IPV Capital. The company has now raised $16 million to date, shows Crunchbase.


New Funds

Nigeria has a new, government-backed $50 million fund, its president, Goodluck Jonathan, announced yesterday.

Chicago has a new fund, too. According to Crain’s Chicago BusinessBaird Capital has closed its fourth venture fund with $185 million, substantially more than the $150 million the firm says it had initially targeted. Baird’s investors include the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, Venture Michigan and Shelter Insurance. It closed its last fund with $171 million in 2008, a pool it used to back the 13-year-old babysitting platform Sittercity, among other companies. Baird invests in both IT and health care, diagnostics, and medical device startups.



Juno Therapeutics, a year-old, Seattle-based startup that’s developing immunotherapies for cancer, has filed for an IPO after raising $310 million. The company said it could raise up to $150 million in the offering. Juno was formed by Arch Venture Partners and the Alaska Permanent Fund (the state of Alaska’s oil revenue fund) from technologies spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Its biggest shareholders include Arch, which owns 15.17 percent of the company; CL Alaska and JT Line Partners, which collectively own 34.75 percent of the company; and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which owns 5.17 percent of the company. Xconomy has more here.



GetFeedback, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based online survey startup, has been acquired by the 10-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based email marketing firm Campaign Monitor for undisclosed terms. Campaign Monitor will reportedly use GetFeedback offices as its new North American headquarters. GetFeedback had raised just $2.3 million in Series A funding from Salesforce Ventures. Campaign Monitor raised $250 million earlier this year from Insight Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Rubicon Project, the L.A-based publicly traded advertising automation platform, is acquiring ad tech startups iSocket and Shiny Ads for less than $30 million collectively (and mostly in stock). iSocket, a 5-year-old, San Francisco-based company, had raised roughly $15 million from investors, including Foundry Group, Accelerator Ventures, Quest Venture Partners, Blumberg Capital, and DFJ. Shiny Ads, a five-year-old, Toronto-based startup, had disclosed only $500,000 in seed funding, from Maple Leaf Angels and York Angel Investors.

Swarm Mobile, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based service that sells in-store retail analytics and customer engagement services to small businesses, has been acquired by the deals company Groupon for undisclosed terms. Swarm had raised $4.5 million over two rounds, including from Abundance Partners and Icon Venture Partners.



New York will soon have a floating park above the Hudson River, thanks to billionaire IAC/InterActive chair Barry Diller and his wife, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. They’ve donated $130 million — the largest donation to a public park in New York City’s history — to fund the project, called Pier55, which will feature a mix of green spaces and performance venues. Construction begins in 2016. More here.

Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz has publicly distanced himself from entrepreneur Mahbod Moghadam, after Moghadam authored a lengthy post about how to steal from Whole Foods. Moghadam’s company,Genius, has received much of its venture funding from Andreessen Horowitz, but in the two years since the firm first invested in the company, Moghadam has repeatedly embarrassed his cofounders and investors. He resigned from the company back in May over one bizarre outburst. On Sunday, asked on Twitter to explain “why he backs this awful guy,” Horowitz tweeted, “I don’t back him,” adding in subsequent tweets that, “He is not a nice person for sure,” and, to Moghadam himself: “It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s just a tragedy that you care only about yourself. I wish you only the best.”

Will Rosenzweig, a cofounder of Physic Ventures in San Francisco, is becoming the dean of the Food Business School, a Culinary Institute offshoot that Rosenzweig calls “an alternative to an MBA” for emerging entrepreneurs. Rosenzweig was formerly the CEO of Republic of Tea; he tells StrictlyVC that his work at the school will help inform his investments, which he’s continuing to make via syndications but “not in the conventional fund structure [as] in the past.”


Job Listings

Valor Capital Group is looking to hire a venture analyst for its venture capital division. The job is in New York. The catch: You need to be fluent in Portuguese.


Essential Reads

Yesterday, Snapchat unveiled Snapcash, a new payments feature it’s launching in partnership with Square. Recode has the story here.

Google and Stanford researchers have created image recognition software that teaches itself to identify entire scenes, reports the New York Times.

The U.S. government is planning to auction another 50,000 bitcoin — worth around $19 million. Dealbook has more here.



glowing bike path inspired by Van Gogh.

The coming chocolate crisis. (Eek.)

Ken Block’s latest and greatest, replete with O.J. Simpson chase scene.


Retail Therapy

Amazing animated flip-books.

Black soap, for tough guys.

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