StrictlyVC: January 20, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Welcome back. (Web visitors, you might want to click here for an easier-to-read version of this morning’s emailed newsletter.)


Top News in the A.M.

Coinbase, the 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based bitcoin wallet provider, has just raised $75 million in Series C funding, which is being billed as the largest round for a bitcoin company to date. DFJ led the funding, joined by earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. Other new backers notably include the New York Stock Exchange, the financial services firm USAA, the Spanish bank BBVA, and former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. Dealbook has more here.

Google is close to investing in SpaceX in a round that would value the rocket maker at more than $10 billion, reports The Information. You can read much more here about the potential tie-up and what appears to be driving it.


Distelli Skips the Seed Round, Raising $2.8 Million in Series A Funding Instead

In recent years, there’s been no shortage of chatter about seed funding, from the alleged benefits of seed rounds to their ballooning size. (Clinkle, anyone?)

Distelli, a two-year-old infrastructure automation company that simplifies code deployment and server management for developers, decided to skip past it all to raise $2.8 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, a round that sees general partner Scott Weiss joining Distelli’s board.

The decision makes sense given the broader context. Distelli was founded by Rahul Singh, the fourth engineer on the Amazon Web Services team. He spent nine years building the platform services and infrastructure that powers the cloud computing platform, and he’s accustomed to finding ways to move things forward as quickly as possible.

In fact, Singh — who says Amazon’s developers push out new code every 11 seconds – not only credits Amazon’s growth with its own “move fast” culture, but he says Amazon inspired him to make it easy for any developer to iterate just as quickly. Toward that end, Distelli enables engineers to communicate with every server in their environment to learn what’s running on each of them, as well as update their code or roll it back, and track every change in the process.

It isn’t a brand-new concept. Distelli, which is based in Seattle and employs six people (including two other former Amazon engineers), is going up against a number of competitors. Among them are Chef, a company that allows its users to automate how they build, deploy, and manage their infrastructure, and Puppet Labs, which also develops IT automation software. Both have raised many tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, too.

Singh argues that Distelli has a much bigger vision than other startups and that Distelli’s biggest competition at the moment are the many software teams still building their own infrastructure automation systems internally.

Still, says Singh, it was important to have someone like Weiss – who cofounded the email security company IronPort Systems back in 2001 – in Distelli’s camp as soon as possible.

Indeed, skipping over seed funding had “little to do with equity and valuation,” he explains. “The real significance of doing an A round was that angel rounds often don’t include board seats and I want a great partner to execute because the opportunity is so huge.”

As for the size of the round, which is modest by recent standards, Singh observes that “just as raising too little can be a problem, raising too much can be a problem, too. I wanted to ensure we raised enough money to reach our next set of goals and to achieve what we want in next 18 months — without getting complacent.”


(Other) New Fundings

Aoliday, a months-old, Shanghai, China-based travel site and mobile app that helps Chinese tourists arrange oversea trips, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Gobi Partners.

Apus Group, a six-month-old, Beijing-based Android app development firm, has raised a whopping $100 million in Series B funding from the Chinese venture firms Chengwei Ventures, SIG Ventures, and Qiming Venture Partners, according to China Money Network. Earlier backersNorthern Light Venture Capital and Redpoint Ventures also participated in the round. The company had previously raised $16 million, says the report.

Avalara, an 11-year-old, Bainbridge Island, Wa.-based provider of cloud-based software for sales tax and other transactional tax compliance, has raised $42 million in Series D-1 funding from Technology Crossover Ventures. The company has now raised $223.6 million to date.

Car Throttle, a six-year-old, London-based viral content startup, has raised $1.6 million in new funding from Redalpine, with participation from Facebook’s VP of Global Partnerships, Blake Chandlee, along with earlier investor Passion Capital. The company has now raised $2.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Citelighter, a four-year-old, New York-based company whose software platform helps students save, organize and cite information while writing their papers, has raised $2 million in Series Seed-2 funding led by Propel Baltimore Fund, with participation from Maryland Venture Fund, Gulf Ventures, New York Angels, Baltimore Angels and Blu Ventures. The company has now raised $4.5 million altogether.

Dataiku, a two-year-old, Paris, France-based startup whose software helps data scientists and analysts perform machine learning on data, has raised $3.6 million in Series A funding led by Alven Capital and Serena Capital.

EarlySense, a 10-year-old, Ramat Gan, Israel-based company that makes sensors that track vital signs and movement for medical purposes, has raised $20 million in Series F funding led by Samsung Ventures. Earlier backers JK&B Capital, Pitango Venture Capital, ProSeed and Welch Allyn also participated in the round. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

eMoov, a four-year-old, London-based online real estate service, has raised $2.3 million in funding led by the London firm Episode 1.

GoBalto, a 6.5-year-old, San Francisco-based clinical-trials software company, has raised $12 million in Series C funding led by new investor Mitsui Global Investment, with participation from Dolby Family Ventures. Earlier backers Aberdare Ventures, Qualcomm Life, West Health Investment Fund and EDBI also participated in the round. The company has now raised $37.6 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Meituan, a four-year-old, Beijing, China-based group discount platform, has raised $700 million in new funding at a valuation of $7 billion, according to a company announcement flagged by China Money Network. Details of the investors are not disclosed. The company had reportedly raised a giant round of $300 million in Series C financing led by General Atlantic just eight months ago. The company, which also counts Alibaba Group Holdings and Northern Light Venture Capital among its backers, raised its first round, a $20 million Series A from Sequoia Capital in 2010. It raised $50 million in Series B funding the following year.

Palantir Technologies, the 11-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based data-mining software company known for being among Silicon Valley’s most secretive, is raising yet another round of funding, according to WSJ sources. Palantir, which sells software to the U.S. government and Wall Street, raised $500 million last year alone and has raised roughly $1 billion altogether from investors, including In-Q-Tel, Founders Fund and Tiger Global Management.

Planet Labs, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that plans to map the entire Earth with a fleet of imaging satellites, has raised $95 million in new funding, including $70 million in Series C funding led by Data Collective, and a $25 million debt facility from Western Technology Investment., a two-year-old, Seattle-based home-improvement startup, has raised $65 million in new funding at a $500 million valuation, reports Venture Capital Dispatch. Valor Equity Partners led the round with participation from new investors Battery Ventures, Founders FundPanorama Point Partners, home improvement expert Ty Pennington and other individual investors. Earlier backers Lowe’s Home Improvement and Capricorn Investment Group also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to roughly $100 million.

PureLiFi, a three-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based company that’s developing Li-Fi (light fidelity) and visible light communications technologies, has raised £1.5 million ($2.3 million) led by the Scotland-based angel group London & Scottish Investment Partners, with additional funding from the Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital, the venture investment arm of the University of Edinburgh, from which the company was spun out. TechCrunch has more here.

Rubikloud, a 1.5-year-old, Toronto-based retail intelligence platform, has raised $7 million in Series A funding from TOM Group, a joint venture between Li’s Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa; and Ule, a Chinese e-commerce platform launched by TOM Group and China Post. Access Industries also participated. The company has raised $8.5 million to date.

ShopClues, a four-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based e-commerce marketplace, has raised $100 million (Rs 620 crore) in Series D funding led by Tiger Global Management, reports VC Circle. The company had previously raised money from Helion Venture Partners, Nexus Partners, and the Japanese investment firm Beenos The company has raised roughly $116 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Sparkcentral, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that aims to help larger companies more efficiently follow up on customer service and engagement over Twitter and Facebook, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Split Rock Partners. The company has now raised $17.6 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Visualead, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that specializes in QR code technology, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding from Alibaba Group Holdings. The round represents Alibaba’s first investment in an Israeli company, notes TechCrunch. Visualead had previously raised a total of $2.4 million., a five-year-old, Munich, Germany-based online shopping site specializing in baby products, has raised €45 million ($52 million) in funding led by Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, with participation from DN Capital.

WorkAngel, a two-year-old, London-based mobile-first employee-reward platform, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from former Tesco CEO Terry Leahy, with participation from other individual investors, including Lord David Alliance.

XueXiBao, an eight-month-old, Beijing, China-based app that helps middle and high school students find quick answers to questions, has raised $20 million in funding from SoftBank China Venture Capital and earlier backer GSR Ventures. TechNode has more here.


New Funds

HV Holtzbrinck Ventures has closed its sixth, early-stage fund with 285 million euros ($329.7 million). The pool was closed in less than four months, says the firm, which closed its last fund with 175 million euros in 2012.



Trophos, a Marseille, France-based biotechnology company, is being acquired by drug maker Roche Holding for up to 470 million euros ($543.2 million) to boost its neuromuscular disease business.

Twitter announced this morning that it has agreed to acquire ZipDial, a Bangalore, India-based mobile business and brand platform, for undisclosed terms. TechCrunch reported a week ago that Twitter was in talks with the company.

Smartphone giant Xiaomi has acquired 2.98 percent of Kingsoft, a maker of security, entertainment and enterprise products, for roughly $68 million, reports TechCrunch.



Prashant Fuloria, a veteran Internet product manager who joined Yahoo last year when it bought his former employer, the mobile analytics startup Flurry, will oversee all ad products at Yahoo, CEO Marissa Mayer announced last week.

Game developer Zoe Quinn made headlines last year as the first target of Gamergate, an online movement of angry video game fans. Now, Quinn has launched an anti-harassment support network.

Roughly 1,700 private jets are flying loads of billionaires and celebrities to Switzerland right now, including Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, and Sheryl Sandberg.


Job Listings

Corigin Ventures in New York is looking for a paid intern.

Signia Venture Partners in Menlo Park, Ca., is also looking for a paid intern.



Fourth-quarter data on venture capital in Europe and Israel, organized and analyzed by Gil Dibner of DFJ Espirit.


Essential Reads

Here’s what helped Sony’s hackers break in: “Zero-Day” vulnerability.



Jeff Greene’s Beverly Hills estate, listed at $195 million, is believed to be the most expensive public listing in the U.S.

The secret to smart groups: women.

Someone in the Dover, Delaware police department is never going to live this one down.


Retail Therapy

Close the deal. Pull up in this.

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