StrictlyVC: December 12, 2014

Hi, good morning, everyone. No column today. (We had some power outage issues yesterday.) Hope you have a terrific weekend, and we will see you Monday! (Psst, web visitors, here’s an easier-to-read version of what you see below.)


Top News in the A.M.

Google is shutting down its Russian engineering office, a move “likely related to the Russian government’s decision to require Web companies, starting in 2016, to keep data related to its citizens within Russia as opposed to data centers outside the country,” says The Information.

Facebook has just rolled out a new feature that will let visitors click a single button on a Facebook page to book reservations, use an app, go to a company’s non-Facebook website or sign up for a subscription service, among other things.


New Fundings

CellTrust, an eight-year-old, Scottsdale, Az.-based secure mobile messaging platform for enterprises, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding from Kayne Partners.

Dolly, a year-old, Seattle-based peer-to-peer moving and delivery service that specializes in bulky, heavy stuff, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding, including from Hyde Park Venture Partners, KGC Capital and angel investors.

Drivemode, a year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company whose Android app enables users to easily control their phones without looking at them while driving, has raised $2 million in seed funding from Tokyo-basedIncubate Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Exco InTouch, a 10-year-old, U.K.-based company that makes patient-engagement software for health-care providers and pharmaceutical researchers, has raised roughly $5 million in funding led by Albion Ventures, with earlier investor Scottish Equity Partners participating.

Framed Data, a year-old, San Francisco-based predictive analytics company, has raised $2 million in seed funding, including from Google Ventures, Innovation Works, Jotter, NYU Innovation Fund and angel investors.

Happn, a months-old, Paris-based mobile dating app, has raised $8 million in funding from Alven Capital, DN Capital, and angel investors, including Fabrice Grinda. TechCrunch has more here.

Kinsa, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based maker of a smartphone-connected thermometer, has raised $9.6 million in Series A funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, FirstMark Capital, and serial entrepreneur Andy Palmer among others. The company has now raised $12.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Soasta, an eight-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based cloud testing vendor, has raised $15 million in debt from Hercules Technology Growth Capital, reports Venture Capital Dispatch. The company has now raised $78 million altogether, including from Macquarie Capital, Roth CapitalFormative Ventures, and Pelion Venture Partners.

Uber, the five-year-old, San Francisco-based car-booking company, is set to receive cash and non-cash assets worth up to $600 million from China’s biggest Internet search engine company, Baidu, reports Bloomberg. The deal would give Uber a much stronger foothold in China, where competing services Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, backed respectively by Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, are gaining widespread traction. Earlier this month, Uber completed a round of funding that valued it at $40 billion; to date, it has raised $2.5 billion altogether.

VideoAmp, a nine-month-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based programmatic video-advertising platform, has raised $2.2 million in funding, including from Anthem Venture Partners, Simon Equity Partners, Third Wave Ventures, Wavemaker Partners and ZenShin Capital.

Woven Digital, a four-year-old, L.A.-based digital media publisher whose news and entertainment sites include Brobible, has raised $18 million in Series A funding led by Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from Advancit Capital, The San Francisco 49ers, United Talent Agency, MySpace and SGN co-founder Chris DeWolfe, Buddy Media co-founder Mike Lazerow, and others. The company has now raised $23.5 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.


New Funds

The renowned accelerator Techstars is launching a new program in Detroit to help startups that are focused on transportation and mobility issues. The initiative, created in partnership with Ford Motor Co., Magna International, and Verizon Telematics, is called Techstars MobilityMore here.

DCM, the 18-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based firm, is raising a second, $100 million fund to back Android startups, according to an SEC filing. Its predecessor fund, the $100 million A-Fund, was developed in partnership with the China-based Internet giant Tencent; KDDI, one of Japan’s largest mobile phone operators; and NHN, which owns one of the largest search engines in South Korea. As DCM general partner Jason Krikorian told us back in March, that side fund has “been really great and given us a lot of flexibility to do deals where we put in a few million dollars at a valuation in the high, double-figure millions, including [South Korean messaging company] Kakao, which now has something like 95 percent penetration of the [regional] population.” (At the time, Kirkorian told us there was “interest” from those same backers in another fund but that DCM didn’t have “any definite plans” to do a second one. Kakao has also since merged with the South Korean Internet portal Daum and is now publicly traded in Korea with a $7 billion market cap, notes TechCrunch.)



Hortonworks, the three-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based Hadoop startup that spun out of Yahoo, is making its Wall Street debut today. The company hopes to raise $100 million from 6.25 million shares offered at $16 per share. Underwriters will have the option of purchasing an additional 937,500 shares. Wired has more here.

Lending Club, the seven-year-old, San Francisco-based peer-to-peer lender, surged 56 percent in its Wall Street debut yesterday. Its shares, which began trading at $24.75 — up from the $15-per-share price set the previous night — ended the day at $23.43, giving the company a valuation of $8.5 billion. That’s higher than all but 14 U.S. banks, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Momo, a Chinese social media application backed by Alibaba Group Holding, Matrix Partners China, Yunfeng Capital and Sequoia Capital, shot up 26 percent on its first day of trading in New York after raising $216 million. The shares jumped to $17.02 yesterday after they were sold for $13.50, the middle of the price range. Bloomberg has more here.



Cognilytics, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based, 200-person, predictive analytics company, is being acquired by the telecommunications company CenturyLink for undisclosed terms. VentureBeat has more here.

Fotolia, a nine-year-old, New York-based stock photo site that hosts 34 million images and videos, is being acquired by Adobe for $800 million in cash, reports VentureBeat, which spied the news buried in Adobe’s fourth-quarter earnings report. Adobe says Fotolia will “continue to operate as a standalone stock service,” but intends to integrate it into its Creative Cloud service. Fotolia has raised $225 million in private equity in recent years, from TA Associates and KKR.



Microsoft‘s billionaire cofounder Paul Allen is picking up the tab for a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior. According to the suit, the agency oversees the leasing of public land to coal mining companies yet doesn’t take into account how that coal will contribute to global climate change.

Google is donating $2 million in grants to three San Francisco-based organizations that help the city’s homeless population, the city announced yesterday. Last Friday, Google cofounder Sergey Brin dropped off 50 hoodies to one of those groups, Larkin Street Youth Services, which will receive $500,000 from to roll out a college and career preparation program for homeless youth. Stunningly, the San Francisco Unified School District district estimates there are 2,100 homeless kids in San Francisco public schools.

Angry protesters, holding signs of “Ferguson” and “Black lives matter,” stormed through the doors during a speech by investor Peter Thiel on Wednesday at UC Berkeley. “F–k you!” one man shouted as he walked out of the hall, to which Thiel responded after several beats: “This is really a classic Berkeley event today — this is so cool.” Protesters later took over the stage, by which time Thiel had already skedaddled, reports Business Insider.

Twitter cofounder Evan Williams addresses reports that Instagram now has more users than Twitter: “If you think about the impact Twitter has on the world versus Instagram, it’s pretty significant. It’s at least apples to oranges. Twitter is what we wanted it to be. It’s this real-time information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter—important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter. If that’s happening, I frankly don’t give a sh_t if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures.”

Tesla China President Veronica Wu has resigned from the company just nine months after joining it from Apple, reports Bloomberg, which doesn’t cite a reason for her departure. Tom Zhu, who heads Tesla’s charging network development in China and who had previously co-founded Kaibo International, which provides project and construction management services, will reportedly take over for Wu. Tesla started delivering Model S sedans to China in April and expects to start building them there within three to four years.


Job Listings

Monsanto Growth Ventures, the corporate venture arm of the agricultural products giant, is looking for a portfolio director to lead its $140 million portfolio of investments. The job is in St. Louis.



According to new data out of Cambridge Associates, U.S. private equity and venture capital funds generated positive returns in the second quarter, with PE outperforming VC by a margin of almost two to one. PE also surpassed VC over the six-month period ending June 30, and both surpassed the performance of public equities. More here.


Essential Reads

Google has published a list of most-downloaded apps from Google Play, its online apps storefront, over the past twelve months.

When alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht’s trial begins in January, he’ll face charges of narcotics conspiracy, money laundering, and computer fraud—not murder. But the prosecution and judge in his case have now refused to let him know which witnesses will be testifying against him for fear that he might orchestrate their killing from his jail cell, reports Wired. More here.



A woman whose identity is stolen gets her revenge, and how.

The vanishing American male worker.

Forty examples of stunning aviation photography.


Retail Therapy

Don’t have an iPhone 6 yet? You can buy one right now for $129 at Walmart.

Famous rapper bodysuit onesies. [Throws mic over shoulder.]

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