StrictlyVC: January 21, 2015

Hi, everyone! Hope your Wednesday is off to a great start. (Web visitors, you might click here for an easier to read version of this newsletter.)


Top News in the A.M.

This morning, Microsoft is detailing how its Windows 10 will run across PCs, phones, tablets, and even its Xbox One gaming console. The Verge has more here.

Users of third-party WhatsApp clients have reportedly been banned from the service for 24 hours. “The company is apparently cracking down [on them] as a breach of the terms of service, and is justifying their actions under the premise of protecting user safety,” says the outlet 9to5.


AngelPad Elbows 13 Young Startups Into the World

The demo days of five-year-old AngelPad — an accelerator program run by married founders Thomas Korte and Carine Magescas – have become a hot ticket both in New York and San Francisco. Yesterday afternoon was no different. In downtown San Francisco, in a crowded co-working office space, 13 companies that had been groomed over the preceding four months pitched select investors, and they appeared to like what they heard.

No doubt the investors were expecting big things. AngelPad works with two batches of roughly 12 companies twice a year – one on each coast—and nearly all of them have snagged seed funding from investors, with a handful of startups going on to raise tens of millions of dollars, including Vungle, Crittercism, and Postmates.

AngelPad — which takes a 7 percent stake in each startup in exchange for $50,000 (plus another $4,000 per founder) — has even come close to a billion-dollar exit in MoPub, a mobile advertising startup that Twitter acquired for $350 million in stock in September 2013; the company was worth roughly $800 million when Twitter went public two months later.

Whether AngelPad’s newest batch — its eighth — will prove as promising remains to be seen. But at least a handful of companies looked like strong contenders for follow-on funding.

One of our favorites, for example, was CstorePro, a SaaS application that promises to help convenience store owners more easily track their sundry, disparate products, as well as assist them in buying what they need, in the right amounts, from the cheapest wholesalers.

The company isn’t alone in the space. StoreTender and Retalix are just two other vendors trying to help owners streamline their store operations. The world of convenience stores is also highly fractured. According to the research group IBISWorld, roughly 68.2 percent of convenience-store operators employ less than five people. Still, there’s seemingly money to be made. According to IBIS, as of 2012, the U.S. convenience store and truck stop industry included about 120,000 stores with combined annual revenue of about $355 billion.

A second company that piqued our interest is Allay, an easy-to-use online HR and benefits platform for the country’s 500,000 insurance brokers — many of whom are getting knocked around by the fast-growing health insurance broker Zenefits. Given those brokers stand to lose $32.5 billion in yearly commissions, you can bet there’s a big opportunity in helping them figure out a better way to pair buyers and sellers of health care, and quickly.

We also really liked HelloSponsor, an online platform that helps brand advertisers find, buy, and track sponsorships at scale. Roughly $3 billion is spent yearly on consumer events, and anyone who has tried to raise money for one can tell you that it’s a pain in the neck. The big question is whether sponsors will be as eager to scour opportunities on the platform – including by industry and geography – as event organizers will be eager to be found.

Of course, you’re the investors! If you’d like to take a look at the full list of companies that presented yesterday to form an opinion for yourself, you can find a tear sheet here. AngelPad has also made it simple to meet with any or all of them. Just click here.


New Fundings

AppsFlyer, a nearly four-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based mobile ad analytics company, has raised $20 million in a Series B funding led by Fidelity Growth Partners Europe, with participation from earlier investors Magma Venture Partners and Pitango Venture Capital. The company has now raised $28 million to date.

The Black Tux, a three-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based tuxedo and suit rental service, has raised roughly $10 million in new funding led by First Round Capital, reports Dealbook. The company had previously raised $2.6 million in seed funding from a long list of investors, including RRE Ventures, Founder Collective, and Menlo Ventures.

Bloom Energy, the 14-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based maker of fuel cells, is raising $160 million in the form of convertible notes, reports Venture Capital Dispatch, which says $130 million had been raised as of one month ago (though it isn’t clear from whom). The company has already attracted more than $1.2 billion in equity from investors since it was founded.

Dig Inn, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based company that has developed an online ordering platform for restaurants, has raised $15 million in Series C funding led by Wexford Capital.

Farm Hill, a 1.5-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based healthy meal delivery service, has raised $1 million in seed financing led by Eagle Cliff Partners, with participation from Liberty City Ventures and Stanford StartX Fund.

Jibo, a 2.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company behind a “social” robot for the home that features two high-resolution cameras, a 360-degree microphone, and the capacity to personalize experiences based on the identity of a user, has raised $25.3 million in Series A funding led byRRE Ventures, with participation from Flybridge Capital Partners, Two Sigma Investments, Formation 8 and Samsung Ventures. Earlier backers CRV, Fairhaven Capital Partners and Osage Venture Partners also joined the round. The company has now raised $33.9 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

LendingRobot, a 2.5-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based automated investment service for online lending, has raised $3 million in Series A funding led by the European venture firm Runa Capital. The company had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. TechCrunch has more on how the company works here.

Pillow Homes (formerly Airenvy), a year-old, San Francisco-based online property management system that focuses on short-term rentals, has raised $2.65 million in seed financing led by Homebrew, with participation from Sherpa Ventures and Tim Draper.

Ravello Systems, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose SaaS-based application enables developers to use “the public cloud” to develop and test their applications, has raised $28 million in fresh funding led by Qualcomm Ventures and SanDisk Ventures. Earlier and new investors Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Vintage Investment Partners also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $54 million.

RealMatch, an eight-year-old, New York-based maker of recruitment advertising and job-board software, has raised $8 million in Series C-1 funding led by Edison Partners, with participation from Carmel Ventures and Orix Ventures. The company has now raised $22.7 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Motif Investing, a 4.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company whose site allows users to create, share and invest in baskets of stocks around common themes, has raised $40 million from the Beijing-based social media giant Renren. The company has now raised more than $120 million from investors, including Ignition Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Foundation Capital. The WSJ has more on Renren’s interest in Motif and in backing financial tech startups more broadly here.

Regenxbio, a six-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based gene therapy company, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Venrock and Brookside Capital, with participation from Deerfield Management and an unnamed new investor. The company’s earlier backers, FoxKiser and Fidelity BioSciences, also participated in the round.

Ringly, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based maker of smart jewelry for women, including high-tech rings that alert wearers when someone phones or texts them, has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Highline Ventures and Silas Capital. Earlier backers First Round Capital, The Social+Capital Partnership, Mesa+, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures and PCH International also joined the round, which brings Ringly’s total funding to $6.1 million.

Shazam Entertainment, the 13-year-old, New York-based music discovery company that uses audio-recognition technology to help people identify songs on the radio or television, has raised $30 million from investors in a round that values the company at $1 billion. The investors’ names aren’t being disclosed, but Shazam’s prior backers include billionaire Carlos Slim, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Institutional Venture Partners and DN Capital. Bloomberg has more here.

SpaceX, the 13-year-old, Hawthorne, Ca.-based space exploration startup, has confirmed that it has raised $1 billion in new funding in a round that includes Google, Fidelity, and earlier backers Founders FundDFJ, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn Venture Partners. Google and Fidelity reportedly get an ownership stake of just less than 10 percent in exchange for their investment.

Stack Exchange, a 6.5-year-old, New York-based network of community-driven question-and-answer sites (the company says it now has the world’s largest online repository of programming knowledge), has raised $40 million in new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from earlier backers Bezos Expeditions, Index Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. The company has now raised $70 million altogether.

Taykey, a six-year-old, New York-based maker of advertising software, just raised $15 million in fresh funding from Innovation Endeavors, MSR Capital and earlier backers, including Marker, Sequoia CapitalSoftBank Capital and Tenaya Capital. The company has now raised $32 million altogether.

VMTurbo, a 4.5-year-old, Boston-based intelligent workload management software company, has raised $50 million in Series D funding led byICONIQ Capital, with participation from earlier backers Bain CapitalGlobespan Capital Partners and Highland Capital Partners. The company had previously raised a $10 million round, and another, undisclosed round of funding.

Work Market, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based marketplace for managing contractors and freelancers, has raised $20 million from earlier backers led by Union Square Ventures, with participation from Spark CapitalSoftBank Capital, Industry Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.



On the eve of Box‘s Wall Street debut, tech analysts debate its post-IPO future.



CloudOn, a 5.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based maker of mobile productivity tools, with an engineering hub in Herzliya, Israel, has just been acquired for undisclosed terms by the cloud-storage giant Dropbox, which is reportedly turning its new Israeli office into a base from which to aggressively hire in the region. CloudOn had raised $26 million from investors including The Social+Capital Partnership, TransLink CapitalFoundation Capital and Rembrandt Venture Partners. The WSJ has the story here.

Equivio, a 10-year-old, Rockville, Md.-based text analytics service for legal e-discovery and other things, has been acquired by Microsoft. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but WSJ sources pegged the price at around $200 million back in October.

Kosei, a 10-month-old, San Francisco-based still-stealth startup that specializes in personalized recommendation systems that match mobile advertisements with the right consumers, has been acquired by Pinterest for undisclosed terms. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Semetric, a 6.5-year-old, London-based whose software provides analytics, recommendations, and targeting services to entertainment businesses, has been acquired by Apple as part of its plans to relaunch its Beats Music streaming music service this year, reports the Guardian, which notes the acquisition appears to have taken place last fall. Semetric had raised £3m of funding in January 2013 from Imperial Innovations Group and Pentech Ventures.



Longtime FTV Capital partners Ben Cukier and Eric Byunn have left the firm to launch their own growth-stage, financial-services focused, New York-based firm, called Centana Growth Partners. The outlet peHUB has more here.

Jeremy Gordon, a former engineering VP with Twitter, has joinedRedpoint Ventures as the firm’s newest entrepreneur-in-residence, reports Re/code. Before leaving Twitter in October, Gordon led engineering for all of Twitter’s consumer products.

Mike Randall, recruited from Facebook in June to join Snapchat as its vice president of business and marketing partnerships, has left the company, reports Recode. No word on why he’s out the door, but Randall isn’t the first Snapchat executive to leave after a brief stay, notes Recode. Last summer, the company also lost its VP of engineering, Peter Magnusson, just six months after he’d joined the company.

Dharmesh Thakker, a former Intel Capital managing director, has joined Battery Ventures as a general partner. Thakker had joined Intel Capital in 2011 after working as an enterprise-focused venture capitalist at Advanced Technology Ventures.



3i is looking to hire an associate in New York.

Visa is looking to add a VP to its Innovation and Strategic Partnerships organization. The job is in San Francisco.


Essential Reads

A new Oxfam study has found that by next year, 1 percent of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99 percent, based on current trends.

Apple is stepping up its lobbying efforts in Washington.



Before and after GIFs that show just how fake ad photography can be.

A designer’s war on misleading parking signs.

Closing your eyes helps you remember stuff.


Retail Therapy

Wine Yoke. It’s no joke.

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