StrictlyVC: September 21, 2015

Hi, everyone, welcome back! Hope you had a terrific weekend.

Quick warning: We’ll be pretty busy this week with TechCrunch Disrupt, which kicks off this morning in San Francisco. Apologies in advance if StrictlyVC is a little streamlined (read: stinks) this week.

For what it’s worth, we’ll be leading an investor panel around 11:40 a.m. PST, with investors Dana Settle, Aileen Lee, Jeremy Liew, and Bill McGlashan. Tune in if you have time, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow!


Top News in the A.M.

Apple‘s iOS App Store suffered its first major attack last night. So far about 40 apps with malicious code have made it into the App Store, said researchers at Palo Alto Networks who think the breach could potentially affect hundreds of millions of users.

Er, maybe this isn’t the best time to announce it, but the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus will hit Apple retail stores this coming Friday at 8 a.m. local time. Walk-in customers are “encouraged to arrive early.”

Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population is still offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said this morning.


Move Over Slack? Automattic Mulls Commercializing Its Over Internal Messaging Product

Last week, at our StrictlyVC event in San Francisco, Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg answered a wide range of questions in conversation with one of the earliest investors in the company, Tony Conrad of True Ventures. (Conrad is also the cofounder and CEO of the self-expression

One of the most interesting aspects of the talk (in our view) touched on the future of an internal messaging system that Automattic’s far-flung workforce of 400-plus employees relies on, and that Automattic is considering commercializing, according to Mullenweg.

Given Automattic’s funding (it raised $160 million last year alone), and its reach (Automattic is the parent company of, which claims to power 24 percent of all sites), that’s news. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine an Automattic product becoming a strong competitor to both Slack and even to Facebook, which is planning to release its own workplace communications app by year end.

More from the evening’s conversation, edited for length, right here.


New Fundings

Alignable, a 3.5-year-old, Boston-based social network for local small businesses looking to network or market their businesses alone or together, has raised $8 million in Series B funding led by Mayfield, with participation from earlier backers Lead Edge Capital, NextView Ventures and Saturn Partners. The company has now raised $12 million altogether. The WSJ has more here.

Just Biotherapeutics, a 1.5-year-old Seattle-based integrated design company focused on the technology of biotherapeutics, from molecule to manufacturing plant, has raised $15 million in Series A financing from Merck, Lilly Asia Ventures, and ARCH Venture Partners. More here.

Phasiq, a three-year-old, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based healthcare company whose technology helps scientists to measure protein levels in a multiplex and cross-reaction free manner, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from backers that include The Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, in collaboration with the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan.


New Funds

Innogest SGR, a nine-year-old, Milan, Italy-based venture capital firm, has reportedly closed its second fund at approx. €85 miillion ($95.6 million), from limited partners that include Fondo Italiano d’Investimento. Innogest invests in both medical devices and other, digital sectors. More here.



Dialog Semiconductor in the U.K. has announced a $4.6 billion cash-and-stock deal to buy 31-year-old Atmel Corp., the latest sign that chip makers are betting on a technology trend called the Internet of Things. The WSJ has more here.

Payments giant First Data Corporation has acquired Spree Commerce, an open source storefront platform. Spree had raised $6.5 million from investors, including AOL, Thrive, True Ventures, Vegas Tech Fund and others. First Data is backed by KKR but has filed for an IPO, which some estimate could be the biggest of 2015. TechCrunch has more here.



Snapchat has fired its chief talent officer, Simmi Singh, just seven months after she joined, a source told The Information late Friday afternoon. Snapchat confirmed to the outlet that Singh had departed but declined to comment further.

This morning, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn apologized for breaking “the trust of our customers and the public.” His statement came days after the EPA said the carmaker purposefully rigged its diesel cars to pass emissions tests. Investors promptly knocked off a quarter of the company’s market value.

Last Thursday, Y Combinator quietly announced three, new, and very high-powered part-time partners: Anne Wojcicki, cofounder and CEO of 23andMe; Ben Silbermann, the cofounder and CEO of Pinterest (and a two-time YC alumni); and Joe Gebbia, the cofounder and CPO of Airbnb, which also passed through Y Combinator, back in 2009. More here.



Stripe is looking to fill some business development positions. The jobs are in San Francisco.


Essential Reads

Following Apple’s lead, Samsung is planning its own phone leasing program, cutting out carriers in the process.

A small, easy, and, likely impactful way to pull more women into tech (and tech investing).



The dangers of filming “Everest” at 15,000 feet.

The secrets of living to 200 years old. (H/T: NB)


Retail Therapy

The Devon Works Star Wars watch, for the superrich superdork. (You can also order limited-edition Tie Fighter cufflinks.)

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