StrictlyVC: October 21, 2015

Hi, everyone, hope your Wednesday is off to an auspicious start!

We’re racing out the door a little early for an interview; please send any and all complaints to


Top News in the A.M.

JP Morgan is about to make it easier for retail investors to gain access at the IPO price. The bank is announcing today that it will partner with Motif Investing to give ordinary investors the option to purchase shares in IPOs that it manages.

Morgan Stanley downgraded Twitter stock to “underweight” this morning, with a price target of just $24 — down from the roughly $30 at which it was trading. (As of this writing it has fallen just 4 percent to $29.50.)

Apple and Dropbox said yesterday that they do not support a controversial cybersecurity bill that critics say would give the government new powers to spy on Americans.


Howdy Raises $1.5 Million from Top VCs to Build Apps for Slack

Despite a checkered history with online platforms, developers are always looking for the next big distribution model and a small but growing number is betting Slack, the popular group-messaging platform, is the way to go.

One such startup, Austin-based Howdy, may be the first to nab venture funding based largely on that vision. Specifically, the company, which has developed a customizable chat bot application that runs automated tasks for teams on Slack, has just nabbed $1.5 million in venture funding from Bloomberg Beta, True Ventures, a small angel group called Outlier and numerous individual investors.

Howdy is first and foremost a time saver for now, especially when it comes to meetings. For example, after connecting to Slack, the app can simultaneously message each member of a team, collecting status updates that can be archived and viewed by everyone. The idea: to keep meetings from turning into one long catch-up session and enabling attendees to focus on decision-making instead. (Worth noting: Howdy can also be used to collect everyone’s lunch orders. It’s up to the team using it.)

Howdy co-founder Ben Brown says the still-in-beta company will eventually charge customers on a monthly basis but that it’s a “little early to know the details.” What he says he does know is that providing applications, content and services via messaging applications is becoming a “huge opportunity.”

More here.


New Fundings

Adjust, a 3.5-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based mobile app intelligence and analytics company, has raised $17 million in new funding led by Highland Europe. The company has now raised $30 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Cielo24, a three-year-old, Santa Barbara, Ca.-based company that delivers searchable captions for large media platform partners in the online education, enterprise, and entertainment markets, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by ff Venture Capital, with participation from North Base Media, Pereg Ventures, Indicator Ventures and Wavemaker Partners. More here.

Citus Data, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based real-time big data company that’s helping drive advanced uses of Postgres, has raised $9.5 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Data Collective and Vaizra Investments. More here.

Collective Health, a two-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based enterprise health insurance services platform, has raised $81 million in Series C funding from Google Ventures, along with earlier backers New Enterprise AssociatesFounders Fund, Maverick Capital, Red Point Ventures and RRE Ventures. The company has now raised $119 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

 Conversocial, a six-year-old, New York and London-based customer relationship management software company that integrates with social media so support teams can answer question about brand products directly, has raised $11 million in new funding led by Dawn Capital, with participation from earlier backers Octopus Ventures and Draper Espirit. The company has now raised $22 million altogether. More here.

Betabrand, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based online clothing company known for its limited batch clothing and bags, has raised $15 million in fresh capital co-led by Morgan Stanley and earlier backer Foundry Group. The company has now raised $29 million altogether. More here.

Frontline Aerospace, an eight-year-old, Broomfield, Co.-based company focused on gas turbine engine efficiency technologies, has raised $2 million in new venture funding from undisclosed investors. More here.

Gritstone Oncology, a months-old, San Francisco-based company that’s planning to develop personalized cancer therapeutics, has raised $102 million in Series A funding co-led by Versant Ventures and The Column Group, with participation from Clarus Ventures, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Redmile Group, and Casdin Capital. The Boston Globe has more here.

Humacyte, an 11-year-old, Morrisville, N.C.-based developer of human tissue-based products for uses in regenerative medicine and vascular surgery, has raised $150 million in Series B funding from a long list of investors, including Access Industries, Bangkok Bank Public Company, Brady DouganPacific Eagle Asset Management, Reignwood Group and Gavril Yushvaev. Xconomy has more here.

Mouth Foods, a five-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based e-commerce startup selling craft foods, wine and spirits, has raised $5.5 million in funding led by KarpReilly, a Greenwich, Cn., investment firm that specializes in e-commerce and food and beverage startups. Earlier backers Vocap Investment Partners and Jason Calacanis also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $8.7 million. Crain’s New York Business has more here.

Ourglass, a 3.5-year-old, Boston-based private social network for sharing with 12 or fewer connections, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from General Catalyst Partners and other, unnamed investors. More here.

Phenom People, a five-year-old, Horsham, Pa.-based service that customizes company job search pages for individuals, has raised $6 million in venture funding led by Sierra Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Pyramid Analytics, a seven-year-old, Seattle-based business intelligence platform for the enterprise, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Viola Private Equity and return backer Sequoia Capital. The Seattle Times hasmore here.

ROOY, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based shoe design platform, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding led by Formation 8, with participation from Korea Investment Partners. More here.

Science 37, a year-old, L.A.-based company that’s trying to bring clinical studies to patients (instead of vice versa), has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Lux Capital and dRx Capital. More here.

Solinea, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based software and services company that helps enterprises design and deploy their private clouds, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Translink Capital, with participation from its angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Vittamed, a Boston-based developer of a non-invasive intracranial pressure monitor, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Xeraya Capital, with participation from return backer Imprimatur Capital. More here.


New Funds

Activant Capital Group, a five-year-old, Greenwich, Cn.-based growth-equity firm, is raising $250 million for two funds that will target retail technology and e-commerce companies, according to Venture Capital Dispatch.

Progress Ventures, a five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based early-stage investor, has raised $20 million for its third venture fund. The capital will be used to fund business-to-business, marketing and media technology companies, says the firm.



It’s official. Western Digital, the storage giant, has agreed to buy SanDisk for about $19 billion. The move follows speculation that SanDisk was shopping for a buyer. TechCrunch has more here.



Jill Hazelbaker, Snapchat’s VP of communications and public policy, is the eighth Snapchat executive to leave this year, notes Business Insider. As Recode reported early yesterday, she’s joining Uber and reporting to her old boss at Google, Rachel Whetstone.

Speaking with Business Insider yesterday, Bill Maris of Google Ventures drove over Theranos, then threw the truck in reverse. Explaining why GV — which has a strong focus on life sciences — didn’t invest in the now-controversy-embroiled diagnostics company, he said, “We looked at it a couple times but there was so much hand-waving — like, Look over here! — that we couldn’t figure it out. So, we just had someone from our life science team go into Walgreens and take the test. And it wasn’t that difficult for anyone to determine that things may not be what they seem here.”

Home services marketplace Thumbtack has hired a new CFO, Servaes Tholen, roughly a month after closing on a fresh $125 million at a $1.3 billionvaluation. Tholen was previously CFO at eBay and Upwork (formerly Elance-oDesk). Thumbtack has also named Mitt Romney’s former general counsel Katie Biber as lead in-house counsel. Recode has the story here.



J&J Innovation, a part of Johnson & Johnson’s family of companies, is looking to a hire a venture investments principal in Menlo Park, Ca.



New data highlights that there’s really no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to the consumer Internet. Even when there’s a dip in usage following bad news, business resumes before too long. The Information has the story here. (Subscribers only.)


Essential Reads

Apple has told a federal judge that it “would be impossible” to access user data on a locked iPhone running one of the newer operating systems.

The New York Times is collaborating on a virtual reality project with Google and planning to distribute more than a million cardboard VR viewers to its print subscribers.



How innovations in biological science may change the fairness, safety and meaning of sports. (Great report.)

An artist transforms her parents’ home into a creepy visage for Halloween.

Tesla owners love their cars, but they may have trouble reselling them.


Retail Therapy


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