StrictlyVC: February 6, 2015

It’s Friday, the most glorious weekday of all. Have a great weekend, everyone! (Web visitors, here’s an easier-to-read version of today’s newsletter.)


Top News in the A.M.

Twitter‘s user base barely grew at all in the fourth quarter, the company revealed yesterday. But on a brighter note, its revenue nearly doubled to $479 million. The WSJ has more here.


At StartX Demo Day, a Wide Variety of Startups

Little about the accelerator program StartX is conventional. On the one hand, the 5.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based outfit is a nonprofit that helps founders affiliated with Stanford University to build peer groups, as well as their confidence. Specifically, it provides companies with 10 weeks of free educational programming about everything from setting goals to launching products.

But StartX is also becoming a power player, owing largely to a deal it struck in September 2013 with Stanford University and Stanford Health Care, which asked it to manage a for-profit vehicle on their behalf — uncapped capital that StartX now uses to invest in up to 10 percent of its founders’ rounds.

You can actually see StartX’s growing influence. Not only does the 16-person outfit now operate out of 13,000 square feet of office space, but at a demo day yesterday, on the heels of one of StartX’s three yearly sessions, roughly 200 investors stood elbow-to-elbow in a nook of that space to hear 20 of its companies ask them for funding.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the companies were a tad unconventional, too.

One presenting company, Summer Technologies, a sustainable agriculture startup, is hoping to transform the cattle industry by bringing analytics to grazing management. Currently, says CEO Christine Su, farmers aren’t making the most of their land. They allow their cows to graze too long in one place, when moving them around more frequently would keep the grass and soil healthier. Summer’s software, currently being piloted at 30 ranches across five states, pulls in rain, soil and other data that can help those farmers boost their productivity.

Another company, Payjoy, aims to bring consumer finance to hundreds of millions of people in India and elsewhere by embedding technology in smartphones and TVs that allows them to pay for the products as they’re used, instead of in up-front cash. Striking the right relationships would seem to be a big hurdle for Payjoy, but founder Doug Ricket, a former Google engineer, has spent the last six years selling technologies into the developing world; presumably, he has a network to leverage.

Vouch, a third startup, also has an unusual approach to what’s an increasingly crowded space. It intends to use the creditworthiness of a borrower’s personal network, as well as their own individual data, to tailor personal loans for its users. Think friends, uncles, cousins. It sounds a little out there, but online lending is obviously a huge and growing market, and the team includes former alums of PayPal and Prosper, among other companies.

How far these companies will go is anyone’s guess. But the portfolio of StartX appears to hold promise. Since launching its fund with Stanford’s capital — it’s called the Stanford-StartX Fund — StartX has invested $31.4 million across 82 companies, 9.2 percent of which have already been acquired.

At least one company, six-year-old, San Francisco-based Life360, looks like a breakout success story, too. Right now, two million families are signing up for its family communication app each month — traction that investors have noticed. (The company has raised $76 million to date.)

Of course, the organization has also seen its flops. Though 88.5 percent of its companies are still up and running, StartX readily admits that another 11.4 percent have gone out of business.

If press reports are to be believed, one of its highest-profile portfolio companies – the payment startup Clinkle – may be headed in the same direction.

For a full list of the companies that presented yesterday/are looking for funding, click here.


New Fundings

Airtame, a 1.5-year-old, Copenhagen-based startup whose wireless dongle allows users to broadcast their computer of phone screen to a TV or projector, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding led by the Danish firm SEED Capital, along with Tommy Andersen, founder of the wireless speaker company Libratone. The company had previously raised $1.3 million through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

Armetheon, a four-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based biopharmaceutical company at work on an anticoagulant, has raised $24.3 million in Series B funding from a syndicate including Hercules Bioventure Partners and Capital TEN II. The company has now raised $31.3 million altogether. FierceBiotech has more here.

Culture Machine, a two-year-old, Mumbai-based digital video startup that enables its users to create, promote and monetize their videos on YouTube, has raised $18 million in Series B funding from Tiger Global Management, along with earlier backers Zodius Capital and Times Internet Limited. The company has raised at least $21.5 million to date. DealCurry has more here.

Delivery Hero, a four-year-old, Berlin-based food delivery company, has raised $586 million from publicly traded Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based e-commerce group, which now holds a 30 percent stake in Delivery Hero’s business. Rocket’s earlier food delivery business, FoodPanda, has meanwhile snapped up stakes in six other rival sites across seven countries. The company is stuffing all the assets into a new subsidiary called its Global Online Takeaway Group.TechCrunch has much morehere.

FreeCharge, a 4.5-year-old, Mumbai, India-based mobile commerce platform that gives users coupons and other rewards when they pay their phone, TV, and utility bills, has raised $80 million in Series C funding from new investors Valiant Capital Management and Tybourne Capital Management. Earlier backers Sequoia Capital, RuNet, and Sofina also joined the round. The company has now raised $115 million altogether.

Greenlight Planet, a 6.5-year-old, Riverside, Il.-based company that designs and distributes solar-powered lanterns to villages in rural India and Africa, has raised $10 million in new funding led by Fidelity Growth Partners India. The company has raised $14 million to date, shows Crunchbase.

Lineage Labs, a months-old, Boston-based company whose first product, Bevy, aims to make it easier to store, organize, and share digital photos and videos, has raised $4 million from Blade, The Kraft GroupCommonAngels Ventures, and Windspeed Ventures.

Newshunt, a six-year-old, Bangalore-based mobile news aggregation service, has raised $19.4 million in Series C funding led by the New York-based hedge fund Falcon Edge Capital. Earlier backers Matrix Partners India, Sequoia Capital India and Omidyar Network also participated. The company has now raised $40.4 million altogether. The outlet e27 has more here.

Orig3n, an eight-month-old, Boston-based company that’s creating a bank of pluripotent stem cells that can be used to better understand genetic diseases, has raised $3.1 million from Harris & Harris Group, Hatteras Venture Partners, KTB, and Mountain Group Capital. BetaBoston has much more here.

Picsart, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile photo editing app and community that claims 60 million monthly users, has raised $10 million in funding from Sequoia Capital. The capital is the first outside funding the company has taken.

Sight Machine, a nearly four-year-old, San Francisco-based manufacturing analytics platform, has raised $5 million in new funding led by Mercury Fund, with participation from Michigan eLab, Huron River Ventures, Orfin Ventures and Funders Club. Earlier backers IA Ventures and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures also joined the round, which brings the company’s funding to $11 million. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

TrialReach, a six-year-old, London-based company whose technology connects patients to clinical trials of new medical treatments, has raised $13.5 million in Series B funding led by new investor Smedvig Capital, with participation from earlier backers Amadeus Capital Partners and Octopus Investments. The company has raised $17.9 million to date, shows Crunchbase.



Wowo, a three-year-old, Beijing, China-based company that operates the Groupon-like, Chinese group-buying site, set terms for its IPO yesterday, revealing plans to raise up to $66 million by selling 6 million shares at between $9 and $11 per share. The company, which filed paperwork to list its American Depository Shares on the Nasdaq las month, was originally seeking around $40 million.



Fancy That, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based retail technology start-up, has been acquired by Palantir Technologies for undisclosed terms. Fancy That never publicly disclosed how much funding it had raised; it was part of the inaugural class at Pejman Mar Ventures’ Garage, a summer program that invites students to work out of the firm’s Palo Alto offices and meet with mentors. (StrictlyVC had swung by to meet with some of the startups last fall.)

The publicly traded ad network Marin Software has acquired SocialMoov, a nearly three-year-old, Paris-based Facebook marketing platform, for $18.75 million in cash and stock, with up to $2 million more in equity after the deal closes. According to Crunchbase, SocialMoov had raised less than $1 million in seed funding.



This week, investor Chris Sacca, who owns “a bunch” of Uber stock, wrote about why he’d never want to compete with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, revealing in his post that among Kalanick’s other accomplishments, he was once quietly tied for 2nd place on the Wii Tennis global leaderboard. Bonobos cofounder Andy Dunn took to Twitter afterward to suggest he’s not impressed.

Omid Kordestani, Google‘s 11th employee, was awarded $123 million in restricted stock last year after he replaced Nikesh Arora as the company’s chief business officer. Bloomberg has the story here.



We’re less than a week away from StrictlyVC’s first INSIDER event! Thanks to our generous sponsors Next World Capital, Ballou PR andStandish Management for making the whole thing possible. We’re looking forward to seeing our featured guests, including Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, Strava CEO Mark Gainey, Sigma West cofounder Greg Gretsch, and Haystack founder Semil Shah. We’re super excited to see many of you, too. (The event is sold out, but we’re working on two events this spring, so stay tuned.)



Who are the biggest bitcoin backers, and what companies have they funded to date? CoinReport breaks it down here.


Essential Reads

Why Google Glass broke.

Y Combinator is seeing so many hardware startups nowadays that it announced plans yesterday to partner with Bolt, an early-stage fund that profiled on Monday.)

Tesla Motors has hired at least 150 former Apple employees, more than from any other company, even carmakers.



Nobody seems to be talking bout how difficult it is for men, in every day life, to not seem like creeps.”

Teaching in the age of Minecraft.

Ride the subway? Don’t read this.


Retail Therapy

Mercedes motoring.

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