StrictlyVC: August 20, 2015

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Really nice seeing some of you yesterday at Y Combinator‘s second Demo Day. For those of you who missed it or else maybe spaced out occasionally, here’s a list of the 52 startups that pitched investors.


Top News in the A.M.

Snapchat lost $128 million and generated only $3 million in revenue between January and November of 2014, according to leaked financials published yesterday by Gawker.

JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are teaming up to create a company that will pull together and clean reams of data used to determine pricing and transaction costs. The WSJ has the story here.


Amazon Softens Blow of Times Piece, But Attorneys Warn of Celebrating Too Soon

In recent days, Amazon has worked to soften the blow of a blistering piece about its culture in Sunday’s New York Times. In the article’s immediate aftermath, Jeff Bezos wrote a memo to employees, saying the account “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” He further pointed employees to a newer piece by current Amazon engineer Nick Ciubotariu that praises the company’s workplace environment.

The moves helped push the story in a positive direction for the company, as did the Times’s own public editor’s assessment of the story, which, she wrote yesterday, should have provided more balance and context. (The Times’s executive editor, Dean Banquet, later let her know that he disagreed entirely with her assessment.)

Still, employment attorneys suggest it may be a little soon for Amazon to break out the bubbly. They think there could well be a class-action lawsuit in the many anecdotes cited by the Times of employees who were treated poorly — particularly those who appear to have they lost their jobs owing to health issues and other demands outside of Amazon.

Says Wilma Liebman, a visiting scholar at Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, who spent three terms as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (including, most recently, as its chair): “Being a very tough boss, not being nice, not being sympathetic – that isn’t illegal in itself.” Violating overtime law and discriminating against women because they are pregnant is, however.

More here.


New Fundings

Grand Rounds, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based service that connects patients with highly specialized care, has raised $55 million in new funding, including from Facebook CFO David Ebersman and Venrock. The company has now raised $106 million to date. The New York Times has more here.

Payoneer, a 10-year-old, New York-based financial services company that enables users to transfer and receive money through re-loadable MasterCards, has raised $50 million in Series E funding led by Wellington Management Company, with participation from earlier backer Susquehanna Growth Equity. Shares were purchased from existing investors, though all major shareholders in the company retained their holdings, says the company. More here.

Ring, a four-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based smart doorbell maker that aims to reduce crime by enabling homeowners, no matter where they are, to see and speak with visitors over their smartphones, has raised $28 million in Series B funding led by Sir Richard Branson, Shea Ventures and American Family Insurance. Other participants in the round included True Ventures, Upfront Ventures and angel investor Sky Dayton.Siklu, an 8.5-year-old, Petah Tiqva, Israel-based millimeter wave technology company, has raised $18 million in Series D funding from investors, including Sercomm Corporation, Argonaut Private Equity, Evergreen Venture Partners, DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, The Tamares Group and Amiti Ventures.

SmackHigh, a nearly two-year-old, Boston-based startup that aggregates submissions from high school students via social media and its own website and distributes them across thousands of high schools across the U.S., has raised $1.65 million in seed funding led by Flybridge Capital Partners, with participation from an AngelList syndicate led by Twitter exec Wayne Chang, and Boston Seed Capital. Several prominent angel investors from the Boston area also joined the round. BetaBoston has more here.

Solexel, a 10-year-old, Milpitas, Ca.-based solar cell and module maker backed by solar panel maker SunPower and semiconductor company Spirox, has seemingly closed a Series D round with $95 million in funding from investors, including King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, through its venture arm, Riyadh Valley Company. Other investors in the round include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures, Gentry Ventures, GSV Capital, Gentry Ventures, and Jasper Ridge Partners. Global University Venturing has more here.

Sovrn Holdings, a 20-month-old, Boulder, Co.-based programmatic advertising and publisher platform company, has raised $18 million in funding led byFoundry Group, with participation from Oak Investment Partners, Archer Venture Acquisitions and entrepreneur John Battelle. More here.

Yoogaia, a two-year-old, Espoo, Finland-based startup that charges monthly subscriptions to users wanting to watch live yoga classes and other fitness instruction via its web platform, has raised $3 million in seed funding from Nokia Growth Partners, Inventure, Sanoma Ventures and Point Nine Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Zynergy, a four-year-old, Singapore-based renewable energy company, has raised an undisclosed “multi-million dollar” amount of funding from Kohli Ventures. More here.



Freshdesk, a three-year-old provider of SaaS customer support software, has acquired the three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based live video chat and co-browsing platform 1CLICK for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition follows a $50 million Series E funding that Freshdesk closed in April, led by Tiger Global Management. (The company has raised $95 million altogether.) Meanwhile, had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Blume Ventures.

Viki, the five-year-old, Seoul-based video site owned by Japan’s Rakuten, has acquired Soompi, an English-language news and fan site dedicated to Korean cinema and dramas, for “less than $10 million.” Interestingly, as TechCrunch notes, Soompi was a property of rival Crunchyroll, an anime video distribution company that Chernin Group had acquired for undisclosed terms last year.



SoftBank’s Nikesh Arora — the man who Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son is backing as his replacement at the Japanese company — is doubling down on his employer after he agreed to buy $483 million in company shares from his own pocket. As tweeted investor Hunter Walk about the news yesterday, “Wow. Kinda beats that Twitter insider buying news from last week, eh?”

Colin Bryar, a former Amazon vice president, has joined the Singapore-based online grocery-delivery service RedMart as COO. Venture Capital Dispatch hasmore here.

Cecile Lal, a former Yahoo employee sued by the company in May for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, has agreed in a settlement to pay the company an undisclosed sum and to cooperate with its ongoing investigation of confidential information leaked to journalist Nicholas Carlson. Carlson published a book about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in January. More here.

Serial entrepreneur Alex Rampell, who most recently cofounded the e-commerce payment and advertising company TrialPay (sold to Visa earlier this year), is the newest general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Rampell, who will be focused on fin tech startups, is longtime friends with fellow Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon. One of Rampell’s earlier companies, FraudEliminator, merged into a company of Dixon’s called SiteAdvisor. SiteAdvisor was later acquired (in 2006) by McAfee. The New York Times has more here.



Uber is looking to hire a business operations and corporate development associate to primarily cover UberChina. The job is in San Francisco.


Essential Reads

YouTube is opening a production studio in Mumbai, India. TechCrunch has more here.

California regulators said they have evidence that Uber has failed to screen out 25 drivers with criminal records, including convictions for kidnapping and murder. The WSJ has more here.

Microsoft is reportedly interested in acquiring the cloud-computing software startup Mesosphere, valued by bankers at more than $1 billion. Mesosphere has raised roughly $50 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Khosla VenturesAndreessen HorowitzCenter ElectricFuel Capital, SV Angel, and Data Collective. The Information has the story here.



Black arts: the $800 million family selling art degrees and false hopes.

Forty old high-school yearbook photos of Wall Street’s titans.


Retail Therapy

The Embassy Gardens sky pool, coming soon to London.

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