StrictlyVC: December 3, 2014

Hi, everyone, hope your Wednesday is off to a stellar start. Great seeing some of you yesterday. (Psst, web visitors, read this version of today’s email if you don’t want to strain your eyes.)


Top News in the A.M.

Twitter is rolling out the first of several changes to its service to combat online harassment, the company announced yesterday.

Senator Al Franken, who raised a series of privacy questions in a letter to Uber last month, decided to write Lyft a letter, too. More here.


Pretty Funny: Peter Thiel

Silicon Valley’s denizens are famously brainy. But many are also perceived as taking themselves too seriously. Peter Thiel, the investor and entrepreneur, has long been relegated to the latter camp, partly because of his controversial views on the merits of dropping out of college, and partly owing to what are often characterized as his extreme libertarian views. But in many appearances that Thiel has made this fall while promoting his new book, “Zero to One,” he has shown another side of himself: talented raconteur.

Yesterday, in conversation with longtime reporter Bambi Francisco at an event co-sponsored by her media company, Thiel – who is among Francisco’s investors – seemed especially at ease, effortlessly making one funny observation after another.

Of party rounds, for example, where startups may raise $1 million from 10 investors, Thiel said he’d guess that they’ve typically underperformed relative to startups that raise capital from fewer investors. “The reality is when you have two [backers], they’ve really thought about it, versus 20 [investors, where] it turns out nobody has.” Pushed back by Francisco on the topic (Thiel has himself written $250,000 checks, she noted), Thiel added, to laughter from the crowd, “I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with it. People have the right to invest their money. They have the right to invest their money badly.”

Thiel also offered an amusing analogy to explain why people are uncomfortable with the idea of pursuing a monopoly, though he thinks it’s stupid to do otherwise. “If you have a company that’s aiming for monopoly, there’s no one else doing it and you don’t get validation from other people. If you’re doing something that’s really competitive, there are lots of other people doing it and it ends up being validating though it may be a dumb idea.

“The autobiographical version I always tell is that I was hyper-tracked as a kid. In my eighth-grade junior high school yearbook, one of my friends wrote, ‘I know you’re going to get into Stanford in four years.’ I got into Stanford four years later. I went to Stanford Law School. I got good grades; I ended up at a top New York law firm. From the outside, it was a place that everybody wanted to get in; from the inside, it was a place that everybody wanted to get out. [Audience laughter.] Seven months and three days later [when I was leaving], somebody down the hall from me said, ‘I didn’t realize it was possible to escape from Alcatraz.’ [I said], ‘All you have to do is go out the front door and not come back.’”

Thiel has certainly had plenty of opportunities in recent months to perfect his act, which he acknowledged. Asked about the car service Uber, for example, Thiel noted that as an investor in Uber competitor Lyft, he’s “extremely biased.” He then gleefully added, “I’m on record as saying I think Uber is the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley, and I’m willing to repeat that every single time at one of these events.”

Thiel was even charming in recounting missteps along his current book tour, including a September appearance on CNBC, where Thiel said of Twitter: “Twitter is hard to evaluate. They have a lot of potential. It’s a horribly mismanaged company—probably a lot of pot-smoking going on there. But it’s such a solid franchise it may even work with all that.”

Thiel reiterated yesterday that he thinks Twitter could be better run, calling LinkedIn, which enjoys the same valuation, “much better managed.” But Thiel said his televised comment was largely a “pro Twitter comment. The larger context was that if you have a monopoly, you can screw up everything else.”

Media outlets are “always trying to get you to say controversial things,” said Thiel, who says he realized pretty quickly that he’d gone further than intended on CNBC when he saw a beaming executive waiting in the wings.

“As I left the studio, the CEO of CNBC was smiling, and he was like, ‘You did a great job, Peter. We’d love to have you back any time you want to be back here.’ I thought, Wow, have I said too much?”


New Funds

Ad2games, a seven-year-old, Berlin-based online games marketing platform, has raised $9 million in Series A funding from the accelerator HitFox Group and venture investor 3TS Capital Partners, along with members of the Ad2games management team.

Apellis Pharmaceuticals, a nearly seven-year-old, Louisville, Ky.-based developer of immunotherapies, has raised $33 million in Series C funding led by Morningside Ventures and AJU IB Investment, with participation from earlier investor Epidarex Ventures. The company has now raised $55.5 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Ather, a 1.5-year-old, Chennai, India-based startup that makes electric scooters, has raised $1 million in funding led by Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (who are unrelated). Other participants in the round include Raju Venkatraman, the CEO of healthcare company Medall. Ather had raised a previous, undisclosed amount of funding in February of this year, including from the Indian government.

AYOXXA Biosystems, a five-year-old, Cologne, Germany-based biotech company at work on a tech platform for multiplex protein analysis, has raised $14.1 million in Series B funding, including from BioMedPartners and Grazia Equity.

Blab, a 2.5-year-old, Seattle-based social intelligence startup, has raised $8.8 million of an $11.6 million Series B round from Blue Focus Communications Group and Shoreline Venture Management, with participation from Operative Capital. The company has now raised more than $15 million altogether. Geekwire has more here.

ChangeTip, a year-old, San Francisco-based bitcoin-enabled social media tipping platform, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Pantera Capital, with participation from Bold Start Ventures, DCG,CryptoCurrency Partners, 500 Startups and others. The company has now raised $4.3 million altogether.

ClientSuccess, a 10-month-old, Lehi, Ut.-based maker of customer management software, has raised $1 million in new funding led by Peak Ventures, with participation from Josh James and Scott Dorsey. Earlier backers also participated, including Plus550, Techstars Bullet Time Ventures and Robb Kunz.

Cognitive Networks, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose software aims to provide viewers of smart TVs with things to do while they watch their shows, has raised $14.5 million in Series B funding from Hearst Ventures and two other, undisclosed lead investors. Earlier backers DCM and Rogers Venture Partners also joined the round.

Conventus Orthopaedics, a six-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based company that provides a range of orthopaedic and sports medicine services, has raised $24 million in Series AA funding from Deerfield Management Company, Ally Bridge Group, Sightline Partners, Spray Fund, Blue Stem Capital, BioStar Ventures and Blue Sky Fund. The company has now raised $50.9 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Ecrebo, a 4.5-year-old, Berkshire, England-based customer engagement platform used by retailers, has raised $6.3 million in Series A funding from Octopus Investments.

Eloquii Design, a year-old, New York-based fashion brand focused on plus-sized, trend-conscious women, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Greycroft Partners, with participation from Daher CapitalBassett Investment Group, Western Technology Investment, Female Founders Fund and individuals including Fabrice Grinda, Jose Marin and Ben Sun. The company, relaunched last year following a liquidation sale, has now raised $9 million in new funding. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

GI View, a 10-year-old, Ramat Gan, Israel-based company whose joystick-controlled colonoscopy device recently received U.S. regulatory clearance, has raised $13 million round of funding from Israel HealthCare Ventures, Ziegler Meditech Equity Partners, Kemper Insurance and individual investors. According to Crunchbase, GI View had previously raised roughly $20 million., a nearly seven-year-old, New Delhi, India-based real estate property advisor, is raising $50 million from earlier investors New Enterprise Associates and Foundation Capital, reports the Economic Times. More here.

Kaminario, a six-year-old, Newton, Ma.-based enterprise flash storage company, has raised $53 million in funding from previous backers Sequoia Capital, Pitango Venture Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, Tenaya Capital, and Mitsui, along with new investors Silicon Valley Bank, Lazarus Hedge Fund, and an unnamed public company. The company has now raised roughly $128 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Misfit Wearables, a three-year-old, Redwood City, Calif.-company that makes a wearable activity tracker called Shine, has raised $40 million in Series C funding from investors, including the Beijing-based smartphone giant Xiaomi, Shunwei Capital Partners and Earlier investor GGV Capital led the round, which brings Misfit’s total funding to $63 million. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Naurex, a six-year-old, Evanston, Il.-based biopharmaceutical company at work on a drug to treat major depressive disorder, has raised $80 million from Cowen Group, EcoR1 Capital, Goudy Park Capital, Portola Capital Partners and Sabby Capital, along with earlier investors. Naurex had previously raised $82 million over several rounds from a long list of investors, including Druid BioVentures, Genesys Capital, PathoCapitalLatterell Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners, and Savitr Capital. The Chicago Tribune has more here.

Optimatics, an 18-year-old, Overland Park, Ks.-based software company that makes infrastructure planning software used by water and wastewater utilities, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Emerald Technology Ventures.

PMV Pharmaceuticals, a Doylestown, Penn.-based company that’s developing small molecule drugs for the treatment of cancer, has raised $30 million in Series A funding led by OrbiMed, with participation from Osage University Partners and earlier backer InterWest Partners.

Return Path, a 15-year-old, New York-based email data analytics company, has raised $35 million in growth equity funding led by Vista Equity Partners. The company has now raised $97.3 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. Its earlier investors include Union Square VenturesBessemer Venture Partners, Foundry Group, Costanoa Venture Capital, Sapphire Ventures, and Industry Ventures.

Seres Health, a year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based microbiome therapeutics platform, has raised $48 million in Series C funding from earlier backer Flagship Ventures, which conceived of and incubated the company within its VentureLabs program. The company has now raised $68 million altogether. Xconomy has more here.

Sonos, a 12-year-old, Santa Barbara, Ca.-based company that makes wireless multi-room music systems, has raised $130 million in new funding, according to an SEC filing flagged yesterday by TechCrunch. Sonos had previously raised roughly $325 million from investors, including, Redpoint Ventures, KKR, Elevation Partners, and Index Ventures.

Space Ape Games, the two-year-old, London-based mobile games developer behind the popular title “Samurai Siege,” has raised $7 million in Series C funding led by Northzone, with participation from earlier investors Accel Partners, Initial Capital and Connect Ventures. The company has now raised $11 million altogether.

Stripe, the nearly five-year-old, San Francisco-based payments startup, has raised $70 million in a new funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Founders FundKhosla Ventures and General Catalyst Partners. The startup has now raised roughly $200 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Allen & Co., Peter Thiel, Elon Musk and Max Levchin. According to Venture Capital Dispatch, Stripe is now valued at a stunning $3.57 billion.

ThinkingPhones, an eight-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that unifies voice, video, text messaging and collaboration services for businesses, has raised $56.7 million in Series D funding, including from Technology Crossover Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners. The money brings the company’s total funding to date to $89 million. Boston Business Journal has more here.

Veniam, a nearly three-year-old, Porto, Portugal-based developer of citywide WiFi networks of connected vehicles that act like moving hotspots, has raised $4.9 million in Series A funding led by True Ventures, with participation from Union Square Ventures, Cane Investments and individual investors.

Weaveworks, a months-old, London-based company that says it enables customers to build and migrate applications to run on any container technology, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Accel Partners.

Xeltis, an eight-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based company whose implanted medical devices enable the spontaneous growth of heart valves and vessels in the body, has raised 27 million euros ($34 million) in Series B funding led by Kurma Life Science Partners and Life Sciences Partners, with participation from earlier investors VI Partners and others.



Clothes Horse, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based online shopping recommendation tool, has been acquired by London-based competitor for undisclosed terms. Fashionista has more here. Clothes Horse had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from DreamIt Ventures.

Readyforce, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based professional network for college students and new graduates, has been acquired for undisclosed terms by LookSharp, a startup that offers job listings and operates InternMatch. Readyforce had raised more than $14.2 million in funding from investors, including Menlo Ventures, First Round Capital,U.S. Venture Partners, and PivotNorth Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Zenverge, a 10-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based fabless semiconductor company that makes high definition, content-processing integrated circuits, has been acquired by Freescale Semiconductor Corp. for undisclosed terms. According to Crunchbase, Zenverge had raised roughly $100 million from investors, including Woodside Fund, Verizon VenturesNorwest Venture Partners, CID Group, DCM, Battery Ventures, and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital.



According to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — who has never had or seemingly wanted a right-hand man — there is a succession plan in place at the company, though he’s not spilling who might eventually take over the business from him.

Jonathan Christensen, who spent six years at Skype as a general manager, then as a VP, has taken the wraps off his two-year-old company,Wire, and it looks a lot like Skype. Check it out.

Sumo Logic has a new CEO in former VMware exec Ramin Sayerreports Venture Capital Dispatch. The company, whose software helps corporate customers analyze the growing volumes of data generated by machines, has replaced Vance Loiselle, who joined Sumo Logic from BMC Software in 2012 and is now reportedly leaving for family reasons. Sumo Logic has raised $80.5 million from investors, including Accel Partners, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital and Sutter Hill Ventures.


Job Listings

LinkedIn is in the market for an associate or senior associate to join its corporate development team. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.


Essential Reads

Amazon Web Services has an interesting new payment option for companies looking to reserve cloud-computing capacity.



The divorce surge is over.

Your brain is built for kindness.

Fusion gets an unfiltered look at who is making what at Sony (because, hackers).


Retail Therapy

When the alarm clock “sounds off in the morning, grab the gun, point it at the wall and pull the trigger.” Yes! Wait, what?

Selections from Burt Reynolds’s sad-as-hell auction.

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