StrictlyVC: July 27, 2015

Good Monday morning, everyone! Investor-writer Semil Shah is largely steering the ship the next few weeks. If you want to reach out to him about a column, you can find him on Twitter at @semil. (If you have any complaints about anything, you can always yell at Connie when she’s back online.)


Top News in the A.M.

In addition to high-end boutiques and department stores, Apple will begin selling Apple Watch at Best Buy next month. Apple has declined to break out sales of the watch so far. The WSJ has more here.

Yikes. According to mobile security experts at the firm Zimperium, a gaping hole in Android software would let hackers take over someone’s phone, just by knowing its phone number.

In other (not great) news: The Future Of Life Institute, a Boston-based research organization, just published an open letter warning that artificially intelligent weapons could be in use within a decade and could have devastating effects on humanity. Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, and Noam Chomsky have endorsed the letter. More here.


Quick Chat with Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt

By Semil Shah

Though not quite two years old, Product Hunt has become a highly popular platform for an expanding community of users who vote on and discuss tech tools. VCs clearly like it, too. The company has already raised $7.5 million from some notable investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Slow Ventures, and investor-entrepeneur Alexis Ohanian. Recently, we caught up with the company’s founder, Ryan Hoover, to ask how things are going.

Almost overnight, you became “Internet famous” in tech circles. What’s that like?

My life has changed a lot in the past 12 months, professionally and personally.  Since the beginning, I’ve been a very public and approachable “face” of the company.  As a result, my following has grown and inbox has become unmanageable with people asking for feedback on their product, advice on how to market their product, and other requests. The flood of outreach can make me anxious because I genuinely want to help but I simply can’t without deprioritizing what’s most important — my family, friends, team, and health.

I’ve also become more self-aware in public as it’s not uncommon for someone to recognize me and introduce themselves as I’m walking down Market Street [in San Francisco] or grabbing food with friends at a restaurant. It’s flattering and I sincerely enjoy meeting Product Hunt fans, but we all want to escape work sometimes.

What’s the most-cited critique of Product Hunt?

When I invited the first few dozen people to contribute to the Product Hunt “MPV” — an email list highlighting new products — I reached out to startup folks I knew and respected.  We quickly expanded beyond these initial curators by referral from others in the community and since then it’s grown far beyond my relatively tiny network to a global audience, with half the community outside the U.S. Still, not everyone can post and comment on Product Hunt — you have to receive an invite from someone else in the community – and understandably, this frustrates some people. Eventually, Product Hunt will be open to all, but right now we’re focusing on slowly building the community.

Product Hunt recently launched Games. 

Last year, after Product Hunt gained early traction within the startup community, I thought hard about what it could become and what I wanted to build.  Our longer-term vision is build a platform and communities around all types of products.  Games was toward the top of that list.

How do you balance your taste and instincts versus pleasing the crowd?

The truth is, all of the products on Product Hunt are submitted by those in the community, with the exception of those that I and my teammates personally hunt.  Once posted, products rise or fall based on the number of legitimate upvotes they receives, discounting voting rings or fraudulent votes from those trying to game the system.

s the community has grown, we’ve already begun to see bifurcation in the types of products people gravitate toward. For example, people have been posting and upvoting games on Product Hunt since the beginning. While appealing to the general Product Hunt community, an enthusiastic subset was particularly attracted to this category and asked for their own place to share and discuss games. That was part of the inspiration to expand into gaming; as we expand to other categories, we’ll create new, autonomous communities that adopt and grow their own taste and culture. [Editor’s note: the newest of these channels focuses on books. You can learn more here.]


New Fundings

AdAgility, a three-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based marketing technology company, has raised $1.6 million in funding led by twin investors Tim and Todd McSweeney, with participation from existing investor Boston Seed Capital.

BroEx, a year-old, Gurgaon, India-based app that helps real estate brokers find inventory outside of their networks, has raised $1 million in seed funding round from Lightspeed India. More here.

DraftKings, a four-year-old, Boston-based daily fantasy sports site, has raised $300 million in new funding led by 21st Century Fox’s Fox Sports unit, in a deal that reportedly values the company at $1.2 billion. Other investors in the round include Atlas Ventures, the Raine Group, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and the Kraft Group. Recode explains the deal here.

E27, a nine-year-old, Singapore-based tech blog and events business, has closed a $650,000 bridge round ahead of a planned larger raise (in the neighborhood of $3 million) before year end. In 2013, the company raised $615,000 in funding from numerous Southeast Asian investors, including 8capita Partners, Ardent Capital, B Dash Ventures, and Pinehurst Advisors. TechCrunch has the story here.

Hometeam, a two-year-old, New York-based company that has built software to match caregivers with senior citizens in need of in-home care, has emerged from stealth mode with $11 million in funding from Lux Capital, Iowa Ventures and Recruit Strategic Partners. More here.

MedGenome Labs, a two-year-old, Bangalore, India-based high-end diagnostics services company  has raised $20 million in Series B funding led bySequoia CapitalMore here.

Procurify, a three-year-old, Richmond, British Columbia-based maker of cloud-based procurement software, has raised $4 million in funding from earlier backer Nexus Venture Partners, along with Point Nine Capital and Business Development Bank of Canada. According to Crunchbase, the company has now raised $5.2 million altogether. More here.

Ra Pharmaceuticals, a seven-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that has developed a drug for a rare condition known as paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, has raised $58.5 million in Series B funding led by Lightstone Ventures, Novo Ventures and RA Capital Management, with participation from Limulus Venture Partners and Rock Springs Capital. All existing investors, including Amgen Ventures, Morgenthaler Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Novartis Venture Fund, also participated. Xconomy has more here.

SalesWarp, a six-year-old, Baltimore-based commerce management system designed to help retailers manage all of their retail and e-commerce operation, has raised $3.2 million in a $4 million round of funding from an undisclosed group of investors. Baltimore Business Journal has more here.

SutroVax, a two-year-old, South San Francisco, Ca.-based vaccines startup spun off from venture-backed Sutro Biopharma, has raised $22 million in Series A financing led by Abingworth, with participation from CTI Life SciencesLongitude Capital and Roche Venture Fund. More here.

Symphony, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based instant-messaging software company backed by many of Wall Street’s biggest firms, is seeking another investment round that may value the startup at as much as $1 billion, according to the WSJ. The company previously raised $66 million from 14 firms, includingGoldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase, and BlackRock.

Terbium Labs, a two-year-old, Baltimore, Md.-based cyber security startup that alerts clients the instant their stolen data appears on the dark web, has raised $3.7 million in funding from an undisclosed group of investors. More here.


New Funds

Boldstart Ventures, a five-year-old, New York-based venture firm focused primarily on business-to-business startups, has closed on $20 million toward its third fund, which already moves it past the size of its second, $16.9 million, fund, closed in 2013. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

GSR Ventures, an 11-year-old Hong Kong-based venture-capital firm that invests primarily in early and growth stage technology companies with most of their operations in China, is raising a $5 billion fund to buy overseas assets, according to the WSJ. It plans to acquire companies in technology, Internet and biotechnology industries globally where the Chinese market is key to growth prospects. Much more here.

Village Capital, a six-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based venture firm, is rolling out what it calls the world’s “largest peer-selected venture capital fund,” with $13.2 million in commitments. The fund aims to make 100 investments in 75 companies that its network of entrepreneurs identify as promising. TechCabal has more here.



Square has reportedly filed confidentially to go public, leading many to wonder what this means for Twitter, being led currently by Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

Vizio, a 13-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based that makes low-priced televisions, audio systems and other consumer electronics, has filed to go public, disclosing in the process plans to raise up to $172.5 million. The WSJ has more here.



Technicolor SA has agreed to buy Cisco‘s TV set-top business for about $600 million. The WSJ explains why here.



Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin confirmed over the weekend that he was married last month to Elaine Andriejanssen, a Tufts grad who has long worked as a quantitative research analyst at Franklin Templeton Investments (per LinkedIn). In a message posted on Facebook, natch, Saverin wrote: “I am incredibly happy and thankful to have married the love of my life. I look forward to building a family together and to contributing our time and resources to make the world a better place . . . I will wake up every single day of my life with an ingrained smile because of my beautiful, intelligent and caring wife Elaine.” (Oh.) The Singapore-based outlet Today has more here.

Ryan Smith, cofounder and CEO of the enterprise survey company Qualtrics, says his company’s success owes in large part to transparency, down to making employees’ vacation time, expense reports, and to-do lists public information.

Investors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss last week filed paperwork to operate a bitcoin exchange called Gemini for both individual and institutional investors in New York state, reports Reuters.

“According to HP, men should avoid turning up to the office in T-shirts with no collars, faded or torn jeans, shorts, baseball caps and other headwear, sportswear, and sandals and other open shoes. Women are advised not to wear short skirts, faded or torn jeans, low-cut dresses, sandals, crazy high heels, and too much jewelry,” says the Register. More here.



Salesforce is looking to add a senior associate to its corporate development group. The job is in San Francisco.


Essential Reads

Under government pressure, Fiat Chrysler agreed Friday to recall 1.4 million vehicles that can be cyber-hacked remotely. USA Today has more here.

Amazon is reportedly planning drive-up grocery stores. More here.



How time impacts the laws of attraction.

Seven science-backed ways to get over your fear of public speaking.

Bill Murray stories too ridiculous to believe (yet true!).


Retail Therapy

The Keezel “online freedom device.”

This Samsung monitor can wirelessly charge your phone.

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