StrictlyVC: October 12, 2015

Happy Monday, everyone! Welcome back.


Top News in the A.M.

Company-wide layoffs are coming to Twitter this week, reports Recode.


VC Jeff Clavier on Getting to the Promised Land

Last month, we talked with Jon Callaghan of True Ventures and marveled at the billion-dollar-plus return that his firm is poised to reap from leading the seed round of the wearable fitness company Fitbit.

But True isn’t the only venture firm for which Fitbit is a giant home run. During a recent sit-down with Jeff Clavier, founder of the venture firm SoftTech VC in San Francisco, he joked that as another investor in Fitbit’s seed round, he finds it hard not to take a daily interest in the share price of the company, which went public in June and is now valued at more than $7 billion. (Its lock-up period ends in December.)

More from that recent chat follows, edited for length.

You moved up to San Francisco from Palo Alto a couple of years ago. How’s it going? How many companies do you have up here now?

We have several dozen portfolio companies in San Francisco and three more in [nearby] Oakland. We started out in Palo Alto 11 years ago, then three years ago we started hanging out at [the San Francisco workspace collective] Founders Den and having weekly meetings there. By the time AOL kicked us out of its buiding in Palo Alto two years ago, there was no point in looking elsewhere because freaking Palantir [the private data analytics company] had killed the startup activity.


More here.


New Fundings

Boostinsider, a year-old, San Francisco-based online platform company that lets brands pay influencers for shares on social media,  has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Fine Charm Ventures and Kyline Fortune, a new Silicon Valley fund led by ex-Twitter employees. TechCrunch has more here.

Cabify, a four-year-old, Madrid, Spain-based Uber competitor whose app enables users to request a high-end car with chauffeur or hail a taxi, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led Rakuten, with participation from previous investor Seaya Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Opsonix, a new, Cambridge, Ma. based company with technology to remove infectious microbes and toxins from circulating blood in a bid to treat sepsis and other infectious diseases, has launched with $8 million in Series A funding led by Baxter Ventures, with participation from Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. Xconomy has more here., a four-year-old, Beijing, China-based financial products search and recommendation engine, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series D funding, according to Chinese media reports. The company, founded by former PayPal China general manager Ye Daqing, has reportedly raised roughly $97 million previously, including from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital, Zero2IPO Venture and Pavilion Capital, which is a subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.

Symphony, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based secure messaging platform backed by major Wall Street firms, announced today that it has raised $100 million round from a list of investors that includes Google. Google’s part in the investment was first reported last week, but now we know it was also joined by Lakestar, Natixis, Societe Generale, UBS and earlier backer Merus Capital. The company actually went looking for $50 million, but the demand was so great, it ended up doubling its original request, Symphony CEO David Gurle tells TechCrunch., a six-year-old, Beijing, China-based online grocery store that’s backed by the state-owned food conglomerate COFCO, has raised a fresh $200 million in Series C funding led by Taikang Life Insurance Company and Baidu, according to China Money Network. The company had reportedly raised more than $100 million in funding previously, including from SAIF Partners and IDG Capital.

Wynd, a two-year-old, Paris, France-based startup that offers its software-as-a-service to restaurants to help them digitize their ordering, payment, and rewards programs, has raised $7.8 million in Series A funding (€7 million) led by Alven Capital, with Orange Digital Ventures also participating. TechCrunch has more here.

Xpenditure, a four-year-old, Brussels-based startup that sells an expense management platform aimed at enterprises, SMEs and sole traders  has closed $5.7 million in Series A funding from a long line of individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Yunmake, a two-year-old, Hangzhou-based smart bike maker, has raised “tens of millions of RMB” (a seed amount in U.S. dollars) in Series A funding led by return investor Shunwei Capital, the investment firm led by Xiaomi chief executive officer Lei Jun. Other participants include Foxconn, QualcommZhenFund, Yinxinggu Capital and earlier backer Ricebank. TechNode has more here.


New Funds

AngelList has a fresh, $400 million to invest in startups on its platform, care of one of China’s largest private equity firms. TechCrunch has much more here.



In the largest tech deal in history by far, Dell and partners MSD Partners and Silver Lake agreed to buy EMC today for $67 billion, or $33.15 a share. Much more here.

Marvel, a U.K.-based startup that lets users turn sketches into mobile and web app “prototypes”, has acquired design and animation tool Plexi. Terms of the acquisition remain undisclosed but it sounds like an acqui-hire. TechCrunch has more here.



Keith Krach, who has been the chairman and CEO of the electronic signature company Docusign since January 2010, is stepping down as CEO, though he says he’ll remain chairman for three more years after a new CEO is brought aboard. DocuSign was most recently valued at $3 billion. Recode has the skinny here.

LinkedIn will soon give its employees “unlimited” vacation, plus 17 paid holidays, joining a reported 2 percent of companies that offer the same kind of alternative-vacation model. Business Insider has more here.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s new CEO under the company’s Alphabet restructuring, has made his first major wave of executive shuffles as CEO, promoting three top lieutenants on the critical ads and Android units. Recode has more here.



Before March, getting drone exemptions for commercial purposes from the FAA was much harder. Then things changed. Silk breaks out what’s happened over time and by sector here.


Essential Reads

Computer science has for the first time become the most popular major for female students at Stanford University.

How WeWork, which saw $4.2 million in operating profit last year, convinced investors that it’s worth $10 billion. (Great reporting here, if you didn’t read this over the weekend.)

The traditional car market is as hot as ever. In California, though, where electric cars outpace electric plugs, sparks are flying.



Searching for Bel Air’s biggest water waster. (We’re guessing it’s not resident Elon Musk.)

Five things in the new Steve Jobs movie that are completely made up.

Teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai may be heading to Stanford to study politics.


Retail Therapy

snow helmet that’s more wearable computer than headgear.

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