StrictlyVC: June 3, 2015

Happy Wednesday, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

Pinterest, the richly valued visual bookmarking site, said yesterday that it’s launching a “buyable pin,” a feature that will turn some of the 50 billion images posted by users into a shopping catalog. The WSJ has much more hereThe New York Times goes on to note that Pinterest won’t take a cut from each sale but rather make money selling promoted-pins advertisements to retailers, who can then insert buyable pins into those ads.

Amazon is now offering free shipping on small items to all of its customers, without requiring a minimum order. (Delivery will take four to eight days.)

Amazon has also been trying to join the mobile pay party, reports The Information. (Subscription required.) The service would potentially allow people to pay for things in physical stores by using mobile devices.


A French VC Shows Off a New Fund — and Growing Interest in Europe

Frédéric Court has been a venture capitalist for about 15 years, but it was only recently that he hit the fundraising trail for the first time.

The experience went well, apparently. This morning, Court, a longtime partner with the European venture firm Advent Venture Partners, is taking the wraps off his own, London-based venture fund, Felix Capital, which he says raised $120 million in just a few months.

That might not be terribly uncommon in Silicon Valley, but it doesn’t happen very often in Europe. More unusual, Court is the sole managing partner, though he has enlisted longtime Advent colleague Less Gabb as his finance partner and Antoine Nussenbaum – formerly of Atlas Global – as principal.

Earlier this week, we talked with Court about why he has struck out on his own, and whether his debut fund says anything more broadly about what’s happening in Europe.

Why leave Advent after all these years? 

Our last fund is doing extremely well, but Advent is now a life sciences fund [which closed its newest, life sciences fund last fall with $235 million]. It’s a bit like what happened at Atlas Venture. The tech partners were going to raise a tech fund from scratch and I decided instead to start something quite new and have a sector-focused and thematic approach.

Your new theme is “operating at the intersection of technology and creativity.” What does that mean? 

It means investing in more creative businesses like digital brands, especially in markets like commerce and media, in sectors like fashion, and beauty and wellness more generally. Some fantastic global brands have been built in Europe, and we think there’s a generation of new companies to be built that are digital first – companies like FarFetch [an e-commerce site featuring designer apparel from hundreds of boutiques], which we backed at Advent and is in our portfolio now at Felix, as well.

Are you looking to fund European companies alone?

They’ll either be in Europe or have a European angle. We have one [still-undisclosed] investment in New York where we’ve been helping them expand across the pond. We did that at Avent with companies like [the mobile payment company] Zong, which we helped move from Switzerland to Palo Alto [where the company was acquired in 2011 by eBay], and [social media marketing company] Vitrue, which is based in Atlanta and we helped expand into Europe.

What size checks will you be writing?

We have the flexibility to invest from $100,000 up to $10 million in a later-stage round, though our sweet spot will be $2 million to $4 million in Series A and B rounds.

You’re announcing three companies as part of the launch. For curious readers, what are they?

There’s FarFetch. We’ve also funded the Business of Fashion, which started pretty much like your newsletter and over the last seven or eight years has become one of the most authoritative media brands in the online fashion industry. Along with [coinvestors] Index Ventures and LVMH, we’re helping the founder turn it into a platform. Our third investment is in Rad, a Paris-based online street wear brand that’s a bit like Urban Outfitters and is expanding across Europe.

This new fund closed with $40 million more than you were targeting. Are LPs loosening their purse strings in Europe more broadly?

There is capital in Europe, but the delta between the opportunity and available capital is significant. It’s still a fraction of the available capital in the U.S.

But you’re also seeing more U.S. firms like Insight Venture Partners enter Europe and take stakes in high-growth companies.

They typically come in much, much later. What we’ve seen in the past two or three years is a reduction in competition from U.S. firms because the market is so competitive in the U.S.; firms just don’t have the bandwidth to fly to Europe unless one of their trusted friends mentions a deal to them. Also, when you’re talking about Insight and [Technology Crossover Ventures] and DST [Global], they’re looking to write checks of $50 million to $70 million, and the number of companies that can take that much capital is much lower here than in the U.S.

Is Europe seeing more corporate investors? They’ve sort of filled a hole in the U.S., especially when it comes to Series B rounds.

We see some corporate money, though much less than in the U.S.. We’re more seeing local sovereign funds step in, where governments have realized that a lack of capital [to startups is a disadvantage]. One of the biggest backers is [the French government’s] Bpifrance.

Are things fairly collegial among traditional early-stage investors then?

There are firms that we know well – Accel, Index – and they were very helpful to me in raising my new fund, and in introducing me to their LPs. In the early stages in Europe, there isn’t the kind of competition you see in the U.S., while in parallel, we’re seeing the quality of talent rise in both founders and people joining startups. These will be very interesting years to invest.


New Fundings

Anthem Vault, a four-year-old, Las Vegas, Nv.-based provider of retail gold and silver bullion and vaulting services, has raised $3.2 million in funding from unnamed investors. The company says it will use the capital to launch HayekGold, an open digital gold payment platform. More here.

Arkin, a two-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based operations platform for converged infrastructure and software-defined data centers, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from earlier backers Nexus Venture Partners and other strategic investors. The company has now raised $22 million altogether.

Atomwise, a three-year-old, New York-based drug discovery platform, has raised $6 million in seed funding led by Data Collective, with participation from Khosla Ventures, DFJ, AME Cloud Ventures and OS Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

CounterTack, an eight-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based real-time endpoint threat detection company, has raised $15 million in Series C funding led TenEleven Ventures, with participation from EDBI, Mitsui & Co., and unspecified earlier investors. The company has now raised roughly $50 million altogether, including from Razor’s Edge Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Siemens Venture Capital and Fairhaven Capital.

DataScience, a year-old, Culver City, Ca.-based company that analyzes corporate data using a mix of technology and human expertise, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Greycroft Partners, with participation from earlier investors Pelion Ventures Partners, Crosscut Ventures andTenOneTen. The company has now raised $6 million altogether. Fortune has more here.

Doorman, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand package delivery company that schedules drop-offs after office hours, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Motus Ventures, with participation from Western Technology Investment, MicroVentures, and VGO Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Entropix, a months-old, L.A.-based computational imaging company developing super-resolution video surveillance technology for enterprise customers, has raised $1 million in seed funding from undisclosed backers. More here.

FullStory, a three-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based platform that enables businesses to visualize, search, analyze, and react to their users’ online experiences via a script that records all interactions during a visit, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from Google Ventures and Atlanta investor Tom Noonan. The company — founded by former Google engineers — has now raised $10.6 million altogether. The Atlanta Business Chronicle has more here.

HWTrek, a 1.5-year-old, Taipei-based platform that pairs manufacturing experts with project creators to help deliver high-quality products quickly, has raised $4 million in Series funding led by WI Harper and ITIC. Legend Star Capital,, and the Tokyo-based venture firm Global Brain also participated.

LawnStarter, a nearly two-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based online platform for homeowners to schedule lawn mowing, fertilization, bush trimming and other lawn care services, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Binary Capital. The company has now raised $7.25 million altogether, including from Gary Vaynerchuk and other angel investors. Silicon Hills News has more here.

Mic, a four-year-old, New York-based media company focused on news for millennials (and formerly known as PolicyMic), has raised $17 million in Series B funding led by previous investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from media giant Axel Springer, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Netscape cofounder Jim Clark, Advancit Capital, Red Swan Ventures and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The company has now raised more than $32 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Mirror, a four-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based online bitcoin exchange, has raised $8.8 million in Series A funding led by Route 66 Ventures, with participation from existing investors including RRE Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Battery Ventures and Tim Draper. The company has raised $12.8 million altogether.

Mishi, a six-month-old, Hangzhou, China-based mobile app that pairs foodies with in-house chefs (it has been compared to EatWith), has raised $15 million in Series B financing round led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from earlier backer Morningside Ventures. China Money Network has more here.

Nantero, a 15-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based nanotechnology company that uses carbon nanotubes to develop semiconductor devices, has raised $31.5 million in Series E funding from CRV, DFJ, Globespan Capital Partners and Harris & Harris Group. The company has now raised $73 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

PillPack, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based pharmaceutical delivery startup, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by CRV, with participation from Accel Partners, Menlo Ventures, Atlas Venture, and Sherpa Ventures. PillPack has now raised a total of $62.75 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Purch, a 12-year-old, Ogden, Ut.-based digital media firm with a suite of technology content and ecommerce websites, has raised $135 million in equity and debt funding led by Canso Investment Counsel. The company has now raised roughly $175 million altogether, including from Village Ventures, ABS Capital Partners, and Highway 12 Ventures. More here.

Urban Massage, an 18-month-old, London-based on-demand mobile massage service, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by Firestartr, with participation from Samos, LCIF, numerous unnamed angel investors, and earlier investor Passion Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Virtual Software Systems, a nine-month-old, Waltham, Ma.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $2 million in seed funding from Bulldog Investors, Sequel Capital Management, and a number of unnamed private investors.


New Funds

Business Growth Fund, a four-year-old, London-based outfit backed by five of the U.K.’s main banking groups, including Barclays, HSBC, and Lloyds, is launching a new £200 million ($307 million) venture capital fund for early-stage tech UK companies. The fund, which will open for business this fall, is being spearheaded by Rory Stirling and Harry Briggs, formerly of MMC Ventures and Balderton Capital, respectively, as well as Simon Calver, former chief executive of LOVEFiLM. More here.

Point Nine Capital, the four-year-old, Berlin-based early stage venture firm, has closed its third fund with $60 million. According to TechCrunch, the capital will be used to invest up to $1 million in roughly 40 startups across Europe and North America. More here.

Revolution, the four-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based investment firm formed by former AOL execs Steve Case, Donn Davis and Ted Leonsis, is raising a $450 million fund — Revolution Growth III — shows an SEC filing. Washington Business Journal has more here.



Nivalis Therapeutics, an eight-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based company that’s developing a complementary small molecule therapy for cystic fibrosis,revealed plans this morning to raise $60 million by offering 4.3 million shares at a price range of $13 to $15. At the midpoint of the proposed range, the company would be valued at $200 million. Some of the company’s biggest outside shareholders include Deerfield ManagementWellington Management CompanyTiger Partners, and RA Capital Management.

Sophos Group, a 30-year-old, Abington, England-based internet security firm, plans to raise about $100 million from a float on the London Stock Exchange, reports the WSJ. More here.



Avalara, an 11-year-old, Bainbridge Island, Wa.-based provider of cloud-based software for sales tax and other transactional tax compliance, has acquiredEZtax, an 18-year-old, Overland Park, Kansas-based company that makes tax compliance software for the telecom industry. No financial terms were disclosed. EZtax doesn’t appear to have raised institutional capital. Avalara has raised roughly $224 million from investors, shows Crunchbase; its backers includeWarburg Pincus and Technology Crossover Ventures.


BuzzFeed has hired longtime PepsiCo marketing executive Frank Cooper as its chief marketing officer and chief creative officer, reports AdAge. Cooper will reportedly oversee BuzzFeed’s creative services team, which makes sponsored content for brands. He’ll also manage BuzzFeed’s market research, business-to-business and consumer marketing, as well as work with marketers and advertising executives on forming partnerships.

Tim CookAppledoesn’t want your data.” The company doesn’t think “you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost.”

RRE Ventures, the New York City-based venture capital firm, has brought aboard Raju Rishi as a general partner. Rishi joins the firm from Sigma Prime Ventures, which he’d joined after cofounding a company called Rave Mobile Security. RRE has also promoted Alice Lloyd George to the role of associate. She joined the firm last year as an analyst.


Essential Reads

The California Senate on Monday approved a bill that requires the University of California to release performance data for 10 funds from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The bill now goes to the state Assembly, where it must win approval before being sent to the governor for his signature. More here.

Let the snooping resume: the Senate just revived Patriot Act surveillance measures.



Wall Street billionaire John Paulson just gave Harvard the biggest gift in its history.

The original selfie.


Retail Therapy

Mark Cuban clothes for the aspirational. We’re definitely buying the “If I Can Do It You Can Do It” T-shirt and wearing it everywhere to be obnoxious. (H/T: Alex Wilhelm)

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