StrictlyVC: September 29, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

Amazon is building its own Postmates. It’s called Amazon Flex. More here.

At Apple, your trust means everything, the company reminds in an informational update to its privacy policy. The Washington Post breaks down what’s behind the update here.


Early-Stage Investors Apply the Brakes

In June, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures penned a widely read post using data from the law firm Cooley that showed, in Wilson’s words, that seed and Series A deals were “more or less healthy” while Series B deals were “getting overheated” and Series C and later deals had “gone crazy.”

Something appears to be changing, suggests new data from the market research company Pitchbook. Seed and Series A deals aren’t just healthy. They’re slowing down. A lot.

Based on Pitchbook’s numbers, investors poured $1.95 billion into early-stage startups across 115 deals in the second quarter. As of Friday, we’ve seen just $300 million invested across 66 deals in the third quarter, and there isn’t much time left. The quarter ends tomorrow.

There could be numerous factors leading investors to taper off their deal-making. The Federal Reserve will probably raise interest rates before year end, which could spur newer startup investors to look for more certain returns in fixed income or dividend-paying stocks and turn them off to riskier private-market investing.

China’s rocky market — which unexpectedly if briefly dragged U.S. markets down, too, in late August — could be playing a role, too.

As VC Brian O’Malley of Accel Partners told us in the immediate aftermath of that frightening nosedive, the current market has grown “scary. We have a lot of investments in companies that are going to need to raise money, and I think there are starting to be enough signals from the global markets that, at some point, it has to impact the private side.”

More here, including Pitchbook’s new spreadsheet.


New Fundings

Acquia, an eight-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company whose software helps customers build and operate websites based on Drupal, an open-source software program  created by Acquia’s CTO, Dries Buytaert, has raised $55 million from undisclosed investors. The company has now raised $189 million altogether. BetaBoston has more here.

Apitope, a 13-year-old, Cardiff, England-based drug discovery and development company focused on treating the underlying cause of autoimmune diseases, has raised €12 million ($13.5 million) in Series B funding led by new investor Wales Life Sciences Fund. Earlier backers Vesalius BiocapitalLRM, PMV and Wyvern also participated in the round. More here.

Civitas Learning, a 4.5-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company that makes analytic software and services for universities to help them better engage with students and graduate more students, has raised $60 million in Series D funding led by Warburg Pincus. Other investors in the round include Austin Ventures, Gera Venture Capital, Emergence Capital Partners, Rethink Education and SJF Ventures. Silicon Hills has more here.

Corvus Pharmaceuticals, a 1.5-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based immuno-oncology startup, has raised $75 million in Series B funding, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Silicon Valley Business Journal. Prior to this round, the company had raised $33.5 million in Series A funding led by OrbiMed Advisors, with participation from Adams Street Partners and Novo Ventures. More here.

Exabeam, a two-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that specializes in user behavior analytics for security, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Icon Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Aspect Ventures, investor Shlomo Kramer, and Norwest Venture Partners. The company has now raised $35 million altogether. More here.

Madison Reed, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that delivers hair care products and helps users maintain their color without going to the salon, has raised $16.1 million in Series C funding from Comcast Ventures and Shea Ventures, along earlier backers Norwest Venture Partners and True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Medium, the four-year-old, San Francisco-based publishing platform started by Twitter cofounders Ev Williams and Biz Stone, has raised $57 million in new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Google Ventures, Greylock Partners, Obvious Ventures, The Chernin Group, and numerous angel investors. Recode has more here.

Paytm, a five-year-old, Noida, India-based mobile payments and e-commerce business, has reportedly sold a 20 percent stake in its business to Alibaba and Ant Financial, the Chinese firm’s financial services affiliate, for $680 million. The stake adds to an existing position in the company held by Ant Financial, which reportedly purchased 25 percent of the company for $575 million back in February. The Economic Times has more here.

PepperTap, a nine-month-old, Gurgaon, India-based grocery delivery service in India, has raised $36 million in new funding led by Snapdeal, the India-based Amazon rival that is backed by Alibaba. Other participants in the round include Sequoia India, SAIF Partners, Ru-net, JAFCO, and BeeNext. According to TechCrunch, PepperTap, which has now raised roughly $47 million over three rounds altogether, is looking to expand this new financing by an additional $20 million. More here.

Simppler, a 10-month-old, Bay Area-based social intranet for employee communications that’s built entirely on the Salesforce platform, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Greylock Partners, Correlation Ventures and zParks Capital. Vator has the story here.

Tanium, an eight-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based cyber security startup that can detect and fix enterprise threats in seconds, has raised another $30 million in funding from Franklin Templeton and Geodesic Partners. The company, which was funded exclusively by Andreessen Horowitz for a while, has now raised a total of $301.5 million. Fortune has the scoop here.

Thumbtack, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based company that handles marketing and job listings for professionals like yoga instructors and electricians, has raised $125 million in new funding led by the Scottish money management firm Baillie Gifford. Earlier backers Tiger Global ManagementGoogle Capital and Sequoia Capital also participated in the round, which reportedly valued company at about $1.3 billion. The New York Times has the story here. (If you missed it, Thumbtack founder and CEO Marcos Zappacosta spoke at a StrictlyVC event back in May and had some interesting things to say about his market.)

UBeam, the four-year-old, L.A.-based wireless power startup whose technology employs ultrasound transmitters to transfer electric charges to multiple devices over a distance of up to around 15 feet, has raised $10 million in funding via an uncapped convertible note from current and new strategic investors, reports TechCrunch. Investors include L.A. lawyer and dealmaker Ken Hertz, Twitter VP of global media Katie Jacobs Stanton, former lead partner of General Atlantic Pat Hedley, and Ari Emanuel’s WME Ventures. Much more here., a two-year-old, Sterling, Va.-based on-demand roadside assistance app, has raised $7 million in funding from Allianz Digital Corporate Ventures, Verizon Ventures and Forte Ventures. More here.



MyoKardia, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that uses genetic targeting to treat rare forms of heart failure known as heritable cardiomyopathies, has filed an S-1. The company has raised roughly $100 million from investors; its biggest shareholders include Third Rock Ventures, which owns 52.7 percent of the company; Fidelity, which owns 13.2 percent; and Aventis, which owns 11.2 percent.

China might have closed its equity market to IPOs, but the shutdown has helped sustain dealmaking between Chinese companies, observes the Financial Times. So far this year, China has accounted for more than half of all M&A in the Asia-Pacific region — a record $496 billion worth of deals out of Asia-Pacific’s $905 billion total.



German media giant Axel Springer is acquiring the online business news publication Business Insider, spending some $343 million for 88 per cent of BI’s shares. Axel Springer already had a stake of around 9 percent in the business, notes TechCrunch. BI had raised roughly $55 million from investors. CrunchBase breaks down who bought in and when here.



Momentum is reportedly growing for Jack Dorsey to become Twitter‘s permanent CEO. Yesterday, Justin Dini, a spokesman for Rizvi Traverse Management (once Twitter’s largest single shareholder), said Rizvi is “highly confident in Jack’s ability to serve as C.E.O. of both” Twitter and Square, the payments company that Dorsey cofounded and is also leading. The New York Times has the story here.

Pierre Omidyar, who co-founded online giant eBay, has just given 10 percent of his stock in the online auction company, worth an estimated $269 million, to undisclosed charities, according to an S.E.C. filing. Pacific Business News has more here.


Essential Reads

Airbnb is expected to double its nightly bookings this year, investors familiar with the company’s performance tell Reuters, with 80 million nights booked this year, up from about 40 million in 2014.

Google is trying to make its cars drive more like humans. (Of course, it’d have to install a middle finger if it really wants the cars to drive humanistically.)



When schools overlook introverts.

It pays to be a programmer, especially in these six U.S. cities.

Inside the Tesla factory.


Retail Therapy

The Sonos Play:5 and Trueplay, shipping later this year.

Emory Motorsports Porsches. Rawrr.

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