StrictlyVC: April 9, 2015

Hi, happy Thursday, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

LinkedIn is spending $1.5 billion in cash and stock to acquire, a 20-year-old, Carpinteria, Ca.-based online learning company that teaches business, technology and creative skills to aspiring professionals. It’s LinkedIn’s biggest deal to date, and the company explains the tie-up here. Lynda had raised roughly $290 million across two rounds fromSpectrum Equity, Meritech Capital Partners, and Accel Partners.


Joya Raises $5 Million to Make Messaging More Fun

Three years ago, Michal and Vlada Bortnik, former Microsoft employees who met on a soccer field in Seattle, had a host of problems every time they gathered up their two young daughters and tried communicating online with far-flung family members.

The couple decided to do something about it, founding Joya, a mobile video communications company whose two newest messaging apps allow users to record playful messages of up to 30 seconds in length. One app, FlipLip, allows users to play with their voice and insert their face in a variety of county-fair-like digital cut-outs; the other, Cleo, invites people to make video selfies using filters designed to make them appear more attractive.

Whether the apps take off remains to be seen, but Facebook certainly thinks they’re promising. The couple was among 39 other developers to work with the company in advance of the rollout last month of its Messenger Platform, for which it hopes developers will build apps that integrate with Facebook Messenger.

Facebook’s apparent endorsement could prove especially meaningful as it attempts to turn Messenger into its own ecosystem. (Yesterday, as you likely read, Facebook launched a standalone Messenger app for the web with the hope that people will use Messenger both inside and outside of the social network.)

Certainly, Joya’s traction caught the attention of Battery Ventures and Altos Ventures, which have just provided the now seven-person company with $5 million in Series A funding.

As for what’s next, the pair — now based in Palo Alto, Ca. — say to expect more apps this year that will continue their focus on making quick, online messaging easier and more enjoyable.

They add that for now, they plan to make their existing (free) apps better and more tightly integrated with Messenger.

“It’s very rare that platforms like this come out with such large audience,” says Michal Bortnik, noting that according to Facebook, Facebook Messenger now has more than 600 million monthly active users.

“We’ve developed many concepts that never saw the light of day,” he says, “but we now have a clear product and a clear story: How can we make communications more personal and fun . . . We have something that’s growing.”


New Fundings

Annapurna Microfinance, a six-year-old, Bhubaneswar, India-based microfinance venture, has raised $4.2 million in Series C funding from earlier investor Samridhi Fund. VCCircle has more here.

ApplePie Capital, a year-old, San Francisco-based online loan business focused on franchise financing, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Signia Venture Partners, with participation from Freestyle Capitaland QED Investors. (All three had backed the company last July, when it raised $3.7 million in seed funding.) Ron Suber, president of the lending marketplace Prosper, also invested in the new round. StrictlyVC talked ApplePie CEO Denise Thomas last November about how the company works.

CliQr, a five-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based hybrid cloud management vendor, just raised $20 million in Series C funding from Polaris Partners, along with earlier backers Foundation Capital, Google Ventures andTransLink Capital. The company has now raised $38 million altogether.More here from Forbes.

Conversion Logic, a year-old, L.A.-based company whose software helps advertisers track the effectiveness of their ads across devices and channels, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Rincon Venture Partners, with participation from Crosscut Ventures, Founder Collective, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Raptor Ventures and TenOneTen. The company previously raised $1.1 million in seed funding.

DiabetOmics, a seven-year-old, Beaverton, Or.-based diagnostics company that makes a saliva-based glucose monitoring test for diabetes patients and an early detection test for gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, has raised $4 million in funding led by Ventureast. Crunchbase shows the company has now raised $10 million altogether, including fromRogue Venture Partners. More here.

Domo, a 4.5-year-old, American Fork, Ut.-based SaaS business founded by Josh James of Omniture fame, has raised $200 million in Series D funding at a $2 billion valuation led by BlackRock, with participation fromCapital Group and Glynn Capital. Earlier backer GGV Capital also reportedly contributed five times its pro rata. Domo previously raised $259 million from investors, including TPG Growth, Salesforce, T. Rowe Price,Fidelity Investments, Morgan Stanley, Viking Ventures, Dragoneer Investment Group, Greylock Partners, Institutional Venture Partners and Mercato Partners. The WSJ has the new funding details.

Engagio, a new, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that’s building an account-based marketing automation platform, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital, with participation from Storm Ventures and First Round Capital. Its cofounder, Jon Miller, founded Marketo, which went public in May of 2013 and currently has a market cap of more than $1 billion.

Brainbees Solutions, a five-year-old, Pune, India-based company that operates the baby- and kids-focused e-commerce site FirstCry, has added $10 million to its Series D round from New Enterprise Associates. Last month, it had closed the round with $26 million led by Valiant Capital Partners, with participation from earlier backers IDG Ventures India, Temasek’s VC arm Vertex and SAIF Partners. FirstCry has now raised nearly $70 million altogether. VCCIrcle has the story here.

Global Fashion Group, a four-year-old, Luxembourg-based cluster of five of its Rocket Internet’s emerging market fashion sites that consolidated into one bigger operation last year, has raised $35 million at a $3 billion post-money valuation led by Tengelmann Ventures and Verlinvest. The company has also recruited as CEO Romain Voog, the former head of Amazon France. TechCrunch has more here.

Lili & Beauty, an eight-year-old, Shanghai, China-based cosmetics e-commerce platform, has raised $100 million in Series B funding led by Crescent HydePark, with participation from Milestone Capital and New Access Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Meican, a four-year-old, Beijing, China-based online food ordering platform, has raised $23 million in Series C funding led by the Yelp-like review site, with participation from earlier backers KPCB China, Nokia Growth Partners, and Trustbridge Partners, reports China Money Network.

Nabriva Therapeutics, a 14-year-old, Vienna-based biotechnology company focused on a new class of antibiotics for the treatment of serious bacterial infections that cause pneumonia, has raised $120 million in Series B led by Vivo Capital and OrbiMed, and with participation fromEcoR1 Capital, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Life Sciences, and earlier investor HBM. MedCity News has more here.

Opendorse, a 2.5-year-old, Lincoln, Ne.-based company that pairs athletes and brands seeking social media endorsements, has raised $1.75 million in funding led by Flyover Capital. Altogether, the company has raised $2.1 million from investors since its launch, it says. Forbes hasmore here.

Pixability, a seven-year-old, Boston-based video advertising startup, has raised $18.2 million in Series C funding from undisclosed investors. The company has now raised $28.2 million altogether. BetaBoston has more here.

Prosper, the nine-year-old, San Francisco-based peer-to-peer lending marketplace, has raised $165 million in Series D funding led by Credit Suisse NEXT Investors, part of Credit Suisse Asset Management. Additional participants included J.P. Morgan Asset ManagementSunTrust Banks, a subsidiary of USAA, BBVA Ventures, Neuberger Berman Private Equity Funds, Passport Capital, Breyer Capital, and others. According to Crunchbase, the company has now raised $355 million from investors. Dealbook has more here.

Qingchifan, a year-old, Beijing, China-based dating app for meeting up with strangers for dinner dates, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding led by Vertex Ventures, with participation from Sequoia Capital. Tech in Asia has more here.

Seismos, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company whose data analytics software focuses on real-time subsurface fluid flow for oil and gas production monitoring, has raised $4 million in funding led by Javelin Venture Partners, with participation from Osage University Partners and other oil and gas technology-focused investors, including Kemal Farid, founder of Merrick Systems; Donald Kendall, CEO of Blue Earth Capital; and Geoff Hicks, founder of Hicks Oilfield.

Testlio, a 2.5-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based community of expert test engineers that test mobile apps, has raised $1 million in seed funding fromTechstars Ventures, Galvanize, Geekdom Fund and individual investors.

The RealReal, the four-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based online luxury consignment site, has raised $40 million in Series D funding led by Industry Ventures, with participation from Greycroft Growth, Growth, DBL Partners and earlier backers Canaan Partners and InterWest Partners. The company has now raised $83 million to date. StrictlyVC visited one of the company’s warehouses last summer.


New Funds

Kalaari Capital, the three-year-old, India-based venture capital fund, is planning to raise $300 million for its second tech-focused fund, reports DealCurry. Kalaari was created in 2012 by the partners behind Indo US Venture Partners (IUVP, also known as IndosUS). Its portfolio consists of numerous fast-growing e-commerce companies, including SnapdealFlipkart, and Urban Ladder.



Adaptimmune Therapeutics, a U.K.-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on cancer immunotherapy products, has filed to go public in the U.S., following on the heels of other IPOs in the field, including Juno Therapeutics, Bellicum Pharmaceuticals, and Kite Pharma. Investors Business Daily has more here.

aTyr Pharma, a 10-year-old, San Diego-based biotherapeutics company that discovers and develops protein biologics for human therapeutics, and which just announced $76 million in Series E funding nine days ago, has filed to go public. Major shareholders include Fidelity Investments, which owns 13.5 percent of the company, Domain Associates (10.5 percent),Polaris Partners (10.5 percent), Alta Partners (10.3 percent), Cardinal Partners (10.1 percent), Sofinnova Ventures (8.9 percent), and Baker Brothers Life Sciences (8.9 percent). Xconomy has more here.



Apple quietly bought Dryft, a startup that develops keyboard apps, last year, reports TechCrunch.

Coinsetter, a New York-based bitcoin exchange that targets institutional and professional traders, acquired Canadian Virtual Exchange, a bitcoin trading platform that recently shut down due to security breaches. The deal was valued at $2 million, reports Reuters.



Hillary Rodham Clinton has hired longtime Google executive Stephanie Hannon to oversee her likely presidential campaign’s technology development and build new ways for Clinton to engage with voters, reports the Washington Post.

Golden Venture Partners, a Toronto-based mobile-focused seed and early stage venture capital fund, has hired Ameet Shah as a partner and Bert Amato as a venture partner. In 2011, Shah cofounded Tira Wireless alongside Matt Golden, Golden Venture’s founder; he then sold his next startup, Five Mobile, to Zynga. Amato, cofounded Delrina, which was acquired by Symantec. More here.

Less than two years after Don Mattrick was installed as CEO of the online games company Zynga, he’s abruptly out the door and founding CEO Mark Pincus is back. No outside word yet about what happened, though the New York Times notes notes the a “long-running turnaround plan that [Mattrick] set in motion at Zynga had yet to take flight.” Mattrick, a longtime Electronic Arts executive who later ran Microsoft’s Xbox business, walks away roughly $15 million richer for leaving the company, notes VentureBeat. Meanwhile, the market doesn’t love the news of Pincus’s return.

The institutional investor HarvourVest Partners is opening an office in Toronto, and it just hired Senia Rapisarda, a former vice president at BDC, as a principal to help run it. The firm notes that it has a long history of investing in Canadian companies through primary and secondary investments; this is its first Canadian office, though.

Anthony Watson, the former CIO of Nike, has joined the San Francisco-based fiat-to-bitcoin exchange BitReserve as president and COO. Bitreserve was founded last year by CNET cofounder Halsey Minor. Fortune has much more here.


Job Listings

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is looking to hire an associate of venture capital coverage for its Palo Alto, Ca.-based tech investment banking division.


Essential Reads

Yahoo is planning a big reorganization that will bring Tumblr more closely into the company. More here.

Google is planning a service to connect users with plumbers, electricians, roofers and other home-service providers, reports the WSJ. The development comes eight months after Google Capital led a $100 million investment in the local services site Thumbtack. (Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta is speaking at our event next month. We’ll ask him about it!)

Genius (formerly Rap Genius) now enables users to annotate any web page. More here.



Futuristic subway stations.

The return of sad sack “Louie.”

What’s going on with Tiger Woods?


Retail Therapy


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