StrictlyVC: March 2, 2015

Hi, everyone, welcome back. We don’t have a column today — busy morning — but hopefully you’ll find some useful intel below.:)


Top News in the A.M.

Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Investment Trust is poised to become the first publicly traded bitcoin fund, beating the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust to the punch through a backdoor route to public listing. The WSJ has the story here.

Google‘s Sundar Pichai just confirmed that the company will become a wireless provider of sorts in the “coming months.” The Verge has more here.


New Fundings

Airbnb, the 6.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose platform enables travelers to book the rooms and sometimes entire homes of people willing to rent them, is raising up to $1 billion in fresh funding at a $20 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch sources, who say $500,000 has already been raised. Airbnb has already raised roughly $800 million from investors across half a dozen previous rounds. Its backers include TPG Growth, T. Rowe Price, Dragoneer Investment Group, Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, DST Global, Andreessen Horowitz, and General Catalyst Partners.

Atlas Obscura, a 5.5-year-old, Brooklyn-based site where people share images and stories from their travels around the world, has raised $2 million in seed funding from a long list of investors, including New York Times Co., Graham Holding Co., Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, New Atlantic Ventures, Treemark Capital, John BattelleHenry Blodget, Alexis Ohanian, and Kevin Ryan.

Chiasma, a 14-year-old, Newton, Ma.-based biopharma company that has developed an oral treatment for an endocrine disease called acromegaly, just raised $70 million from Rock Springs Capital, Sofinnova Ventures, and an undisclosed public investment fund, along with earlier backers MPM Capital, F2 Capital, 7 Med Health Ventures, Abingworth and ARCH Venture Partners. The company has now raised $176 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

High Fidelity, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose webcam technology creates characters that can interact in virtual worlds, has raised $11 million led by Vulcan Ventures. The company has now raised $17.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more on the funding here. GigaOm talked with High Fidelity’s founder, serial entrepreneur Philip Rosedale, about the company last November. Video here.

Jampp, a 3.5-year-old, London-based mobile marketing company, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Highland Europe, with participation from Endeavor Catalyst, Innova and NXTP Labs. The company has raised $7.6 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Lyric Pharmaceuticals, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of gastrointestinal therapeutics, has raised $20.4 million in Series A funding co-led by Sante Ventures, Third Point Ventures, and earlier investor RiverVest Venture Partners. New investor Aperture Venture Partners also participated in the funding, according to a news release. The St. Louis Business Journal has more here.

Nasty Gal, the 8.5-year-old, L.A.-based fashion company known for its edgy aesthetic, is reportedly raising another $16 million in funding led by retail veteran Ron Johnson, with earlier backer Index Ventures participating. The company has now raised $65 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Outfittery, a nearly three-year-old, Berlin-based e-commerce startup that curates men’s outfits for its users, who pay for what they want to keep and send back the rest, has raised $20 million in new funding led by the Nordic venture firm Northzone. The company has now raised $37.8 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Peoplevox, a 6.5-year-old, London-based maker of warehouse management software for e-commerce companies, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from angel investors. More here.

TrulyMadly, an eight-month-old, New Delhi-based dating platform, has raised $5 million in funding from Helion Venture Partners and Kae Capital, reports DealCurry. The outlet notes that in India, online dating has been slow to gain traction owing to social issues, but it adds that things are changing quickly.

YesGraph, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company whose technology aims to make the process of inviting new users to join an app more intuitive (and less reliant on users’ entire list of contacts), has raised $1 million in seed funding led by Bloomberg Beta. More here.

Yikuaixiu, a 10-month-old, Beijing-based online-to-offline platform for automotive after-sales service like maintenance, has reportedly raised $12 million in Series A funding from Lightspeed China Partners.


New Funds

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is setting aside 10 billion New Taiwan dollars ($316 million) to invest in entrepreneurs from Taiwan who launch and grow their businesses through Alibaba’s online platforms. The move follows Alibaba’s recently announced plans to similarly set aside 1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($129 million) to invest in Hong Kong-based startups. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Finistere Ventures, a 10-year-old, San Diego-based venture firm that invests in food, energy and health-technology companies, has raised a $150 million fund called Finistere II, it announced late last week. The fund will focus on tech startups of various stages that promote food productivity, sustainability, and nutrition.

The Social+Capital Partnership, the four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture firm founded by former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya, is looking to raise a new, $450 million fund, according to a new SEC filing. The firm’s two previous funds were $275 million and $325 million in size, respectively.

A new SolarCity fund that will help finance the installation of residential solar power systems, has raised $300 million from Google. According to both companies, the new fund will cover the upfront cost of solar panel installations for thousands of homeowners in 14 states; homeowners will either pay SolarCity for electricity produced by the solar panels or monthly rent for the panels if they are leasing. The L.A. Times has more here.



The number of IPOs on the AIM, London Stock Exchange’s junior market, reached an eight-year high last year with 75 transactions, a figure said to show that smaller companies are now looking to IPOs to fund growth as an alternative to getting acquired. More here.



The publicly traded networking equipment company Aruba Networks has been acquired by Hewlett-Packard in a deal valued at $3 billion. More here.

Emerging Threats, a 12-year-old, Lafayette, In.-based cyber security research firm, has been acquired by publicly traded Proofpoint for roughly $40 million in cash and stock. The company had raised at least $2.4 million from investors, including HALO Capital Group and Elevate Ventures, shows Crunchbase.

In the latest merger of chip companies, NXP Semiconductors is acquiring its smaller peer, Freescale Semiconductor, in an $11.8 billion deal that creates a chipmaking giant for “industries as varied as automobiles and mobile payments,” reports the New York Times. More here.

TaxiForSure, a nearly four-year-old, Bangalore-based aggregator of car rentals and taxis in India, has been acquired by $200 in cash and stock by its bigger rival, Ola. TaxiForSure had raised $44 million from investors, including Helion Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Accel India Ventures, and Blume Ventures. Like the recent merger of China-based rivals Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, the deal appears designed to create a larger, stronger India-based rival to Uber as the ride-sharing juggernaut looks for growth abroad.

TrialPay, a nine-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based e-commerce payment platform that offers targeted promotions, has been acquired by Visa for undisclosed financial terms. TrialPay had raised $55.8 million from a sizable list of investors, including Battery Ventures, DFJ, Baseline Ventures, Index Ventures, and Atomico.



David Besbris, a longtime VP of engineering at Google who took over as head of the company’s Google+ product less than a year ago, has been replaced by Bradley Horowitz, a longtime VP of product for Google+, reports TechCrunch. Besbris took over Google+ after Vic Gundotra, who’d started and led the initiative, left the company. It isn’t clear if Horowitz is his “long-term or short-term replacement,” says TechCrunch.

Led by Penn State alums Matt Brezina and Adam Smith, who founded the startup Xobni and later sold it to Yahoo, a handful of early Y Combinator alums plans to provide $10,000 this summer to four or five teams from Penn State. They will also host weekly dinners for the startups, a la Y Combinator. TechCrunch has the story here.

Jenny Fielding, a managing director at startup accelerator Techstarstells VentureWire she has been asked to run Barclays Accelerator, a program created by Barclays and Techstars that will welcome financial technology startups for the first time in New York over the summer. Fielding had spent several years at J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley before launching her own mobile-company, Switch-Mobile (acquired by a New York-based company called Via One). More recently, she ran a digital growth fund for BBC Worldwide.

Hyper-entrepreneur Elon Musk‘s Hyperloop will soon move from concept to reality in California, according to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a year-old company that says it will build a functioning test track for the high-speed transport tube in California by 2019. More here.



Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures is looking for an associate vice president. The job is in Cambridge, Ma.



Inspired by investor Semil Shah‘s quick and dirty research last month into which VC firms are best at spotting so-called unicorns early on (in consumer tech), CB Insights has mapped out exactly who backed what when.


Essential Reads

On Friday, Uber revealed that up to 50,000 drivers’ names and license numbers may have been compromised in a data breach. The company has subpoenaed GitHub to find out who hacked its database.



“House of Cards” season three: a binge review. (Read only if you have “binge” watched all 13 episodes!)

Kobe Bryant confronts a long—and possibly painful—goodbye.

Welcome to Caleb’s Humane Meats.


Retail Therapy

A Go Pro-like camera, at a fraction of the price.

Sweet dreams for a young knight.

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