StrictlyVC: May 19, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Apologies if you couldn’t find your issue of StrictlyVC yesterday. Google flagged it as spam for some reason that probably has nothing to do with our featuring a former Google exec who left for Uber, though we are not above planting that seed.:)

If you were looking for it, it’s here.


Top News in the A.M.

Jawbone, the San Francisco-based wearable technology company, recently landed a $300 million investment from BlackRock, the asset management giant. But the investment wasn’t a $300 million cash infusion, reports BloombergView; it was a loan that offers BlackRock many protections, as well as gives it power over hiring, firing, and dealmaking. More here.

A survey released this morning shows many drivers aren’t just texting; they’re using Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, taking selfies, and even shooting videos. The New York Times has more here.


AOL President Luke Beatty on What Happens Now

Luke Beatty has had a busy couple of weeks. As President of Media Brands at AOL, Beatty manages an assortment of online media properties, including Techcrunch, Engadget, and MapQuest from his home base in Denver, Colorado. And he’s been spending a good amount of time helping his teams make sense of Verizon’s acquisition offer. (Verizon’s plan to buy AOL for $4.4 billion has yet to formally close.)

Beatty’s ties to AOL run deep. He roomed with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong during and after college; installed Armstrong on the board of his content platform, Associated Content, which sold to Yahoo in 2010; and joined AOL as an executive in August 2013.

We asked Beatty if he could explain Armstrong’s thinking around the deal to our readers. Parts of that chat follow, edited for length.

You oversee nine different properties. How did people react to the news that Verizon is buying AOL?

When you have a big mixed group like that, and a big announcement like [we had], to try to bundle everybody’s perspective into a common theme is difficult. The majority of my brands have come to AOL by way of acquisition, so I think they already understand what it’s like to be part of a publicly traded company.

I think a lot care about the decision and they’re interested to see how it affects them both personally and professionally, particularly brands like TechCrunch and Engadget that are engaged in that world and are interested in knowing: Am I going to maintain my editorial independence? Meanwhile, with MapQuest, the implications of being owned by Verizon are very different and can present new opportunities that can be very exciting for them.

What is going to happen to the content sites? Reports suggest Tim Armstrong is leaving the door open to numerous possibilities.

I can firmly say there is zero intention on Verizon’s part to spin off the brands or sell them or to find a new home for them. They’re very focused on our media brands and there’s zero interest in divesting any of the brand outfits.

Does anyone’s role change? Does yours?

I don’t see any of our roles changing. We’re operating as an independent company within Verizon, run by Tim, and we plan to operate as we do now.

What about acquisitions? Will your pacing change as a subsidiary of Verizon?

We’re going to stay as active or more active than we’ve ever been [relating to] all three parts of AOL. I think that Verizon expects [it].

One of the secrets to our success: We have a very unique strategy in the sense that when we acquire brands like TechCrunch or [the web ad platform] Adaptv on the platform side, we keep the teams and offices and culture together. We’re not great at everything, but that’s something AOL is great at – retaining expertise and talent.

Given the beating that ad tech valuations have taken, might Verizon look to add even more pieces to its new ad tech business? Are there gaps it will look to fill?

As the market evolves and new publisher services are needed, I expect the platform side to continue to add where they need to. If you look at acquisitions that [AOL Platforms CEO] Bob Lord and the [digital advertising] platform side have made over time, it’s been a steady drumbeat of acquisitions, including, recently, with Vidible [bought by AOL in December for a reported $50 million]. We also build internally.

What part of the deal do you think people don’t fully appreciate or understand?

[The acquisition] is huge opportunity for a lot of the brands at AOL, many of which are rooted in blogging and are now very popular brands that are moving to video. For example, “Crunch Report ” – a daily show on TechCrunch —  [you’ll see] that stuff happening more and more. The move to video is extremely exciting, and to have a partner like Verizon that has a big [over-the-top] audience and video distribution [reach] is a huge advantage for us.

AOL made a big push into video last fall. What have you learned about what consumers want and don’t want, and what percentage of content are you shifting to video?

Video across all our brands has been growing every month but it’s not like there’s a template, [like] we have to get to the point where 25 percent of the content we produce has to be video. It depends on the brand and the topic and categories. Some things in the tech space are sort of short form. HuffPo is getting into more long-form stuff. It’s about finding the right format for the message.

What we are seeing, particularly concerning the tech brands, is that three years ago, they were [tailored] for [more niche audiences]. A brand like TechCrunch was for people who were in the business; Engadget was a site about the newest products, gadgets, and technologies, but it was for people inside tech companies. Now, people everywhere care about technologies and how they’re being funded. They want to see Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg [talk about] what they achieved in the last year. Video is helping that happen. It’s helping [people who don’t work in tech] get up to speed.


New Fundings

Acast, a year-old, Stockholm- and London-based podcasting app and web service, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Bonnier Growth Media and earlier investor Moor. Reuters has more here.

Akosha, a five-year-old, New Delhi, India-based messaging platform that connects customers directly to businesses, including Snapdeal, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Sequoia Capital. The company has now raised $21.6 million altogether, reports TechCrunch.

Bd4travel, a two-year-old, Frankfurt, Germany-based startup that offers a predictive analytics platform to the online travel industry to help profile and target site visitors, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led Hoxton Ventures, with participation from Talis Capital, and Robin Klein of The Accelerator Group. TechCrunch has more here.

BetterCompany, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s been developing a workplace communication platform, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by BlueRun Ventures. The company had previously raised $1.7 million in seed funding from David Sacks, Adam Nash and numerous other angel investors. More here.

DataHero, a 3.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based data analytics startup, has raised $6.1 million in Series A funding led by Foundry Group. The company has now raised $10.3 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. More here.

Dvtel, a 15-year-old, Ridgefield Park, N.J.-based video surveillance software company, has raised $9 million in funding from investors, including Seacoast Capital and EGIS Capital Partners. More here.

eVolution Networks, a 2.5-year-old, Ramat-Gan, Israel-based company whose tech analyzes a mobile network’s traffic needs and adjusts the use of its resources based on real-time demand from subscribers, has raised $22.5 million in funding from IES Holding and GE Ventures.

Exablox, a five-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based cloud storage company has added $7 million to a previously closed round of $16 million in Series C funding. The company’s newest investor is Toshiba America Electronic Components; it joins Dell Ventures in the round. Altogether, Exablox has now raised $45.5 million. More here.

Feedzai, a 3.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based data science company that provides fraud prevention and detection services, has raised $17.5 million in Series B funding from backers, including Oak HC/FT, Sapphire Ventures, and Espirito Santo Ventures. The company has now raised $22 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. American Banker has more here.

Flow Forward Medical, a five-year-old, Olathe, Ks.-based company whose external blood pump product helps quickly establish vascular access for hemodialysis, has raised $1.3 million in funding led by earlier backer the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The company had previously raised $4.4 million. More here.

Hightower, a two-year-old, New York-based company whose enterprise app helps commercial real-estate brokers and owners manage their leasing operations via their mobile phones, has raised $13 million in Series B funding from RRE Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Thrive Capital and Pritzker Venture Capital. The company has now raised $21.7 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Meteor Development Group, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based JavaScript-based open-source platform that aims to make app development simple for developers, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Matrix Partners with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and Trinity Ventures. The company has now raised $31.2 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

MuleSoft, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose software automatically integrates disparate data, applications and application programming interfaces so they can all work together, has raised $128 million at a valuation of $1.5 billion from at least a dozen corporate, public market and venture capital investors, including Salesforce Ventures, which led the deal. The company — which had previously talked of going public soon — has now raised $259 million altogether. The WSJ has more here., an analytics firm that tracks national TV ads and related digital activity in real-time, has raised $21.9 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backer Madrona Venture Group. The company had previously raised $5.9 million across two rounds. MediaPost has more here.

Palico, a three-year-old, New York and Paris-based online marketplace for the private equity fund community, has raised $7.3 million in equity funding from six unnamed family offices and private equity executives from Europe and the U.S., says the company, which has now raised $19.2 million altogether.

Polyera, a 10-year-old, Skokie, Il.-based startup that creates flexible electronics platforms to be used in wearables, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things, has just raised $24.5 million in Series C funding led by Chengwei Capital and Tsing Capital. The company originally spun out of Northwestern University. ChicagoInno has more here.

PsiOxus, a five-year-old, Oxford, England-based oncolytic immuno-oncology company, has raised $38.5 million in Series C funding led by earlier backerImperial Innovations, with participation from Woodford Patient Capital Trust and other previous investors Invesco, SROne, Lundbeckfond Ventures and Mercia Technologies. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised at least $73.4 million to date. More here.

Ripple Labs, the three-year-old, San Francisco, CA-based creator of the Ripple payment protocol and exchange network, has raised $28 million in Series A funding from a long list of backers. They include: IDG Capital Partners, the venture arms of CME Group and global data storage company Seagate Technology, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, ChinaRock Capital Management, China Growth Capital, Wicklow Capital,Bitcoin Opportunity Corp., Core Innovation Capital, Route 66 Ventures, RRE Ventures, Vast Ventures, and Venture 51. The company has now raised $37 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Samsara, a months-old, San Francisco-based company that’s developing a simple, affordable sensor system that includes hardware, networking software and data analytics, has raised $25 million in first-round funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Numerous individual investors, as well as the company’s founders — whose previous company, Meraki, was acquired for $1.2 billion by Cisco in late 2012 — also participated. Fortune has more here.

Speakeasy Tech, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based conference calling company, has raised $4.8 million in Series A funding from Bessemer Venture Partners and Salesforce Ventures. More here.

Stox, a 10-month-old, Israel-based online broker cofounded by Yo cofounder Or Arbel, has raised $8 million from the Israeli venture capital firm Singulariteam, an investment firm headed by Yo’s other cofounder, Moshe Hogeg. Business Insider has more here.

Switch Communications, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based cloud-based phone system built for Google App users, has raised $35 million in new funding led by the cross-border VC firm Amasia Associates. Other participants included Felicis Ventures, SoftBank, Work-Bench Ventures, and earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures. The company has now raised $53 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Trafi, a 1.5-year-old, London-based company whose public transport app helps users plan their journeys, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Octopus Investments, with participation from EBRD Venture Capital Investment Programme, BaltCap, and previous investor Practica Capital. TechCrunch has more here., a seven-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based e-commerce platform that sells luxury and fashion products, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Pacific Venture Partners, with participation from the company’s founders and previous investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The company had raised at least one, previous undisclosed round, and another round of $100 million led by Warburg Pincus in 2011, says China Money Network.



Charles Birnbaum is being promoted to vice president at Bessemer Venture Partners, which he joined a couple of years ago as a senior associate. Birnbaum, who is based in New York, previously spent four years as a director of business development at Foursquare. Earlier in his career, he worked as an investment banking analyst, including at Banc of America and Jefferies & Co.

Sara Sperling has joined the local delivery services company DoorDash as HR director, she announced on Facebook yesterday. Sperling was most recently Snapchat’s HR director, leaving in February after a six-month stint owing to personal reasons, Recode reported at the time. She’d previously spent more than four years at Facebook, where she reportedly built internal programs and community groups for employees, as well as headed up its diversity efforts.



5AM Ventures, the life sciences investment firm, is looking to hire a principal. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.


Essential Reads

Inside Google’s secret war against ad fraud.

Apple quietly shelved plans to make a high-definition TV set more than a year ago, according to WSJ sources.

The rebirth of venture capital in France.



Even very young children in the U.S. aren’t active enough, says a new study.

A billionaire makes the case for gap years.

A sub-seven-minute lap around Nurburgring, the famous German motorsports complex.


Retail Therapy

duvet set for the young equestrian in your life.

The Super Gorone desk, otherwise known as the “relationship killer.”

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