StrictlyVC: June 29, 2015

Hi, everyone, welcome back and happy Monday!

A quick note for readers who may missed the news last week: We are super excited to be hosting our next event in San Francisco on Wednesday evening, September 16, at the Autodesk Gallery on Market Street, thanks to some finagling by our friends at Bolt. We’re just as excited about who will be speaking, including DFJ cofounder Steve Jurvetson; Social+Capital Partnership founder Chamath Palihapitiya; True Ventures partner and CEO Tony Conrad; Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic; Bolt managing director Ben Einstein; and Haystack founder Semil Shah. You can find more information about the event right here. Tickets, which are going fast, are here.


Top News in the A.M.

The French police aren’t messing around. Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal and Uber Europe GM Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty were both taken into custody today in Paris and charged with running an illegal taxi company. More here from TechCrunch.

This morning, the Supreme Court opted not to review a 2014 ruling on copyright law that held Google‘s Android operating system infringed copyrights relating to Oracle‘s Java platform. This is a disaster for the software industry, argues Vox. Here’s why.

Owing to investor demand, it now looks like the China-based ride-sharing company Didi Kuaidi is targeting around $2 billion (up from $1.5 billion) for its newest fundraise. The WSJ has more here.


Piazza, Backed by Sequoia and Others, Looks to Next Round

You might not be familiar with the 25-person, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup Piazza, but plenty of engineering and other STEM students are aware of it.

The online platform where students and instructors come together to learn and teach was first conceived by founder and CEO Pooja Sankar, who as a first-year student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, felt isolated at times in her learning experience. It reminded her of her undergraduate experience at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the engineering school in India, where there were 400 boys and 20 girls in the computer science department.

Says Sankar, “I felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t have a support group to master concepts, classes, career, or how you choose a company or a startup.”

Sankar felt alone in having so many unanswered questions, but it turns out she was far from it. Today, says Sankar, roughly 1 million students around the world are posting questions to their particular course pages on Piazza, to which their peers and instructors are responding. In fact, she says, 50 percent of computer science and STEM majors at the top 20 U.S. schools — as well as at elite schools in Iran; Pakistan; Israel; Ontario, Canada and elsewhere — spend between two and three hours on the platform each day. (Altogether, says Sanker, students and educators at 1,000 universities in 60 countries are now using the platform, including at such prestigious schools as Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and the Imperial College of London.)

Now Piazza is cultivating a new fan base – company recruiters. Explains Sankar: Up until now, executives have been setting their recruiting strategies in the dark,” says Sankar. “It’s, ‘We’re going to fly our guy to [Carnegie Mellon],’ and they literally send their VP of engineering around” with the hope of connecting with the right people.

Where Piazza can help them: the troves of data it’s collecting on students, including what courses they are taking and the types of questions and answers they are contributing to the platform, all of which companies are now using to run targeted searches and to send personalized messages to students who opt in to its recruiting service.

Currently, there are nearly 250 companies using Piazza in their recruiting efforts, up from 40 when the service officially launched in February of last year.

Sankar characterizes their range as “broad – from 10-person startups to 100,000-person companies” and Piazza charges them for yearly subscriptions to the service accordingly, with prices ranging from $2,000 to “six-figures.”

Things are going so well, says Sankar, that Piazza — which has so far raised $15.5 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, SV Angel and Kapor Capital – will be in the market for more funding soon.

“We’re at a stage where we’re doing what we wanted to do with our last fundraising,” she says. (It closed 16 months ago.)

“Now we want to throw fuel onto the fire.”

For a new survey from Piazza about the companies where students most want to work, check out our related TechCrunch piece this morning.


New Fundings

Airtable, a three-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based database company that makes it easier for people to collaborate via its grid-based desktop web interface, has raised $7.6 million in funding led by CRV, with participation from Caffeinated Capital, Crunchfund, Data Collective, Founder Collective and Freestyle Capital, as well as numerous individual investors. The company has now raised $10.6 million altogether. More here.

Blue Medora, an eight-year-old, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based maker of a cloud systems management platform, raised $4.6 million in Series A funding led by Michigan eLab, with participation from earlier backers Start Garden, Grand Angels and others. The company has now raised $6 million altogether. More here.

CreditMantri, a three-year-old, Chennai, India-based startup that aims to help consumers better understand their credit health, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from IDG Ventures India, Elevar Equity and Accion Venture Lab. More here.

CyMedica Orthopedics, two-year-old, Scottsdale, Az.-based company whose medical device is used to treat quadriceps muscle atrophy and that received clearance from the FDA in April to market in the U.S., has raised $11.5 million in Series A funding led by Research Corporation TechnologiesTechnology Ventures, and Aphelion Capital. Phoenix Business Journal has more here.

Drippler, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based iOS and Android app that delivers news about users’ smartphones and recommends new apps, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Titanium Investments, with participation from TMT Investments, iAngels, and a long list of individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Fullbridge, a nearly five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based accelerated business education program, has raised $15.4 million in funding led by its earlier investor GSV Capital. The company has now raised roughly $28 million altogether, including from high-net worth individuals and family offices. More here.

Inmix, a five-year-old, China-based company that sells eyeglasses at an average price of $20 a pair, emulating the low-price formula of U.S. e-retailer Warby Parker, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by venture capital firm IDG Capital Partners and Legend Capital. Internet Retailer has more here.

Onefinestay, a five year-old, London-based online platform focused on renting out private luxury homes, has raised $40 million in Series D funding from a long list of backers, including Hyatt Hotels, Intel Capital and individual investors, including from Mark Dempster, former marketing partner Sequoia Capital. The company has now raised $80 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Playbasis, a three-year-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based gamification platform that aims to help large organizations increase employee engagement, retention, and loyalty, has raised $1.8 million in Series A funding led by Thailand’sInVent, with participation from earlier backers Cherubic Ventures and 500 Startups. The outlet e27 has more here.

Snips, a three-year-old, Paris-based company that aims to embed artificial intelligence in connected devices like smartphones and smart watches to help them better anticipate their owners’ intentions, has raised $6.3 million in seed funding led by The Hive, with participation from Eniac Ventures, 500 Startups, Bpifrance and invidivual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

UrbanClap, a 10-month-old, Gurgaon, India-based mobile-based local services marketplace, has raised $10 million in funding from earlier backers SAIF Partners and Accel Partners. Times of India has more here.

Velocity, a year-old, London-based lifestyle app that enables diners to use their phones to pay and earn rewards at restaurants, bars, and clubs, has raised $12 million in Series A funding, including from former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer. More here.

Verodin, a year-old, Mclean, Va.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $2 million of a targeted $2.6 million round, according to an SEC filing that lists Palidin Capital Group partner Matt Bigge and inventor Benito Cianciaruso. DCInno has the story here.

Zinka Logistics, a year-old, Bangalore, India-based online freight-booking service formerly called Blackbuck, has raised roughly $6 million from Flipkart and Accel Partners. The Economic Times has more here.


New Funds

FKA Atlas Ventures has finally announced its new name: Accomplice. Xconomy has more here.

U.K- based gambling operator William Hill will be opening startup accelerators in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, as well as in Tel Aviv, Israel. The WSJ has the story here. The idea: to offer eight companies in both places an investment of £25,000 ($39,000) and office space for the duration of a 12-week program.



Fifteen-year-old Digicel Group, the largest telecom company in the Caribbean, is planning an IPO and, according to an SEC filing, it want to raise $200 million. The Irish Examiner has more here.


Lyft has acqui-hired the team behind Leo, a disappearing messaging app for one-on-one or group conversations, for an undisclosed amount. Leo had raised $1.5 million from investors, including SV Angel, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Freestyle Capital, among others. The deal marks Lyft’s fourth acquisition. TechCrunch has more here.



Rishi Garg, Twitter‘s VP of corporate development, is leaving the company roughly one year after joining it from Square, where he was head of corporate development. He announced the news on Twitter on Friday; Business Insider adds a bit more color here. Garg closed roughly a dozen deals during his tenure, including Periscope, Twitter’s live video product. Garg tweeted that he was off to “pursue some exciting new projects.” Rumor has it that Twitter’s corporate development team will be a bit hamstrung until a permanent CEO is appointed; Garg didn’t respond to our press request on Friday.

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has acquired a 28,100-acre property “boasting trout streams, woodlands and a maple-syrup operation in New York’s Adirondacks,” reports the WSJ. Ma paid $23 million for the property, which he reportedly bought for conservation purposes, but that he also plans to use as an occasional personal retreat.

Andy Puddicombe, a 42-year-old British meditation teacher trained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, has been making waves with his iPhone app, Headspace, which teaches meditation and mindfulness techniques and claims Richard Branson among its three million users. The New Yorker looks at what the fuss is all about here.



Salesforce is looking to add a senior associate to its corporate development team.


Essential Reads

The strange death of the tech IPO.

Startups are now allowed post a Twitter message about their stock or debt offering to gauge interest among potential investors.

Silicon Valley reportedly needs three World Trade Centers worth of new office space this year.

A timeline of Uber, from idea to $50 billion valuation.



Test-drive that new home.

Why teenagers can be especially susceptible to addictions, including drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices.

A new, $4 million bar just opened in Twitter’s Market Street building in San Francisco.

How to go undercover.


Retail Therapy

The fastest road bike ever.

CanopyStair. Your kid will never again get stuck in a tree (hopefully).

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