StrictlyVC: September 15, 2015

Hi, happy Tuesday morning, everyone. We’re racing off to watch an interview with Bill Gurley this morning but we’ll see you back here tomorrow!


Top News in the A.M.

Salesforce is diving into the Internet of Things, it announced this morning.


Ben Narasin Joins Canvas Venture Fund as a GP

Ben Narasin was, until recently, president of TriplePoint Ventures, the seed equity practice of TriplePoint Capital. As of this morning, he’s instead the fifth general partner with Canvas Venture Fund, which spun out of Morgenthaler Ventures two years ago.

Given Narasin’s background — he founded the e-commerce site during the last tech boom; he has also made 75 seed-stage investments using his own personal capital —  he brings some very specific ideas to the job. We talked with him about them yesterday.

Why Canvas?

It was one off a handful of firms that had spent time talking with me over the last year and I’d known all the partners here for between six and eight years. [General Partner] Paul Hsiao and I had worked on things together, starting with the very first deal I’d looked at, a wind turbine company. He was at [the firm New Enterprise Associates] at the time and didn’t do it. I did, and it went to zero, but the second investment I made, Lending Club, is now a public traded company that’s worth billions of dollars. And I fortunately invested a lot more in Lending Club.

You’ve made a lot of smart seed bets, including on Dropcam [sold to Nest Labs for $555 million last year] and [the highly valued HR software company] Zenefits. But you seem to have a particular penchant for financial tech. In addition to Lending Club, I see [the still private held lending company] Kabbage and [the mobile payment startup] Check [sold to Intuit for $360 million last year] in your portfolio.

I don’t focus primarily on fintech, but it’s a big part of what I’ve done. It’s only now that I’m moving from seed to Series A that I’ll be [adopting] a more refined focus on narrower areas.

What I really want, as you might guess, is to back technologies that are world-changingly cool. When I invested in Dropcam, there was no such thing as the “Internet of Things.” When I invested in Lending Club, there was no such thing as fintech.

Do you feel daunted by the size of the checks you’ll be writing? You were investing between $50,000 and $100,000 in these companies. Now you’ll be writing checks of between $5 million and $15 million.

More here.


New Fundings

Adara, a six-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based marketing company that caters to travel companies, has raised $23 million in Series C funding led by World Innovation, with participation from earlier backers August CapitalMorgenthaler VenturesONSET Ventures and QuestMark PartnersMore here.

AnswerDash, a three-year-old, Seattle-based Q&A platform for business customers, has raised $2.9 million in funding led by Voyager Capital, with participation from Arnold Venture GroupSummit CapitalW Fund and WRF Capital. Geekwire has more here.

Bux, a year-old, Amsterdam-based casual trading app that invites traders to start with virtual currency before investing with real money, has raised $1.9 million in new funding from Initial Capital (which has also backed Glu Mobile, Playfish and Supercell in the past). TechCrunch has more here.

Compass, a three-year-old, New York-based real estate platform, has raised $50 million at an $800 million valuation led by Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from earlier backers Thrive Capital, Founders Fund, .406 Ventures, Advance Publications, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. The company has now raised $123 million altogether. More here.

Conichi, a 1.5-year-old, Berlin-based travel startup that simplifies check-in and check-out at hotels by using Beacon technology to display guests’ personal preferences, has raised $7.9 million in seed funding from the hotel portal HRS. TechCrunch has more here.

Crossbar, a seven-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based company that develops and licenses memory storage flash technology devices, has raised $35 million in Series D funding from Tyche Partners, Oriza Holdings and Cheerful Link, with participation from earlier backers SAIF Partners, Korea Investment Partners, CBC-Capital, Tao Venture Capital Partners, Artiman VenturesKleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Northern Light Venture Capital and the University of Michigan.

Datos IO, a 15-month-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company trying to make it easier to recover corrupted data from big data services like Data Domain, Veritas and IBM, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding co-led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and True Ventures, with participation from CrunchFund and numerous angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Mechio, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based micro-wearables startup that used to be called Motiv, has raised more than $8.6 million in Series A funding, according to a regulatory filing flagged by Fortune. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was joined by return backer Granite Ventures.

Moviepilot, a two-year-old, Venice, Ca.0-based startup geared around fan-generated Hollywood coverage aimed at millennials, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by the French digital publishing conglomerate Webedia. The company has now raised $22 million altogether. Variety has more here.

Ola, the five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based mobile cab booking application, is raising more than $500 million, at a valuation that TechCrunch is pegging at roughly $5 billion mark, with $225 million committed so far. It has the scoop here.

Plexxi, a five-year-old, Nashua, N.H.-based stealth converged networking company, has raised $35 million in Series D funding. An unnamed new investor was joined by earlier backers Lightspeed Venture PartnersMatrix Partners and North Bridge Venture PartnersMore here.

WebAction, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based platform for end-to-end streaming data integration and streaming analytics, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from Summit Partners, Panorama Point Partners, Frank Caufield and Regis McKennaMore here.


New Funds

The San Diego life sciences and tech investment firm Avalon Ventures is targeting $300 million for its eleventh fund, suggests a new SEC filing that shows the firm has so far raised $103.5 million from 26 investors. MedCity News has more here.

Three-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based Blackbird Ventures has raised $200 million for its second fund — an enormous jump up from its inaugural $30 million fund. Blackbird primarily backs Australian entrepreneurs in Australia, though firm cofounder Niki Scevak tells us that a third of its portfolio companies have relocated to San Francisco.

Shiv Nadar, the billionaire chairman of HCL Technologies — India’s fourth-largest IT services provider — has launched a $500 million fund to invest in U.S. startups focused on healthcare technologies. Nadar has teamed up with Sanjay Kalra, a former chief executive of Indian IT outsourcing provider Tech Mahindra, to set up a new firm, SNSK Associates. The International Business Times has more here.


Qualcomm has acquired Capsule Technologies, an Andover, Ma.-based health-tech systems company founded in 1997 and owned, since 2012, by JMI Equity and Bulger Capital Partners. Xconomy has more here.



Things aren’t looking good for Kevin Halpern, who filed a billion-dollar lawsuit against Uber cofounders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp earlier this year, claiming they stole his idea. His attorney just withdrew from the case.

“If you mixed the personality of a laid-back surfer, the refined style of a fashion designer, the pizazz of a Hollywood producer and the self-confidence of an entrepreneur, you’d have Matt Jacobson,” Facebook’s 8th employee — and the longest lasting, after Mark Zuckerberg.

Kima Ventures, the highly active, five-year-old Paris-based seed-stage fund cofounded by French telco and media entrepreneur Xavier Niel, has two new partners, reports TechCrunchJean De La Rochebrochard is leaving French startup accelerator TheFamily to join the firm, and existing Kima team memberVincent Jacobs is becoming a partner based in London.

Adrian Wong, the former Google Glass lead electrical engineer who left the company last year to join Facebook-owned virtual reality startup Oculus, has quietly rejoined Google to work for parent company Alphabet, cryptically stating of his new role on LinkedIn: “G is for Gadgets, Glasses, and Goggles.” Business Insider has more here.


Essential Reads

Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference in San Francisco, is now so gigantic that the company had to dock a cruise ship as a floating hotel for 1,000 attendees.

How Facebook is preparing for the video boom.

The “sharing economy” is dead, and we killed it.



The college campus danger you didn’t know about.

The mansion on Belvedere Island in the San Francisco Bay that just broke local sales records.


Retail Therapy

A portable wood-burning stove. For serious foodie-hipster campers.

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