StrictlyVC: December 7, 2015

Hello and happy Monday, everyone! Slightly abbreviated version this a.m. We were busy earlier today moderating a couple of panels at TechCrunch Disrupt in London. Here’s one of them, with VCs David Hornik, Andy McLoughlin, and Thomas Korte; you can check out the rest of the conference coverage right here.


Top News in the A.M.

Although Google Ventures only opened its London office in July 2014 — setting aside an initial $100 million to invest in startups “across Europe” — it’s now abandoning the idea of running separate funds, says CEO Bill Maris. More here.


Venrock’s Bryan Roberts on What’s Up with Health Tech IPOs

Bryan Roberts has seen plenty of market swings in his 18 years as a venture capitalist with Venrock, the venture firm that started as the venture arm of the Rockefeller family and has historically invested in early-stage technology and — Roberts’s specialty — health care start-ups.

Roberts also has a thorough understanding of what’s happening on the U.S. public markets as the chairman of three Venrock portfolio companies that now trade on Nasdaq: Castlight Health, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, and Achaogen.

Given his background, we asked him recently what he’s expecting to see happen in the health care market next year. Our chat has been edited for length.

Several months ago, the IPO market for health care companies suddenly tightened after a long run. What’s happening?

Health care has tightened, but we could probably talk broadly about the financing market tightening. With the later-stage stuff getting dicier, I’ve been hearing about more IPOs getting pulled. People are either “risk on” or “risk off,” and we’re beginning to back off from full-throttle risk-on environment. I guess I feel like the last four or five months in both biotech and tech more broadly have been akin to what you might have considered “last licks” in a stickball game as the sun was going down, and that shift predates the mutual fund valuation stuff that came out.

I don’t know that I have a good reason as to why biotech pulled back specifically other than pricing concerns mentioned by presidential candidates, some high-profile price gouging, and some clinical trials that read out negatively, though that always happens.

What are you expecting in 2016 and how might it impact your approach?

Well, for one thing, the changing environment may make me feel less out of step with everyone else. We don’t tend to focus on sectors or stages. I invest really broadly across health care, from genomics to diagnostics to therapeutics, so from a fundamental perspective, we don’t tend to follow the herd. In this bullish market environment, we haven’t been doing growth equity investing. We tend to avoid the party seed rounds done by 15 different people.

[All that said,] in health care IT, we’ve moved to earlier stage. We’ve started a couple of companies. We’ve moved to pre-product market fit, which is different than how we’d invested in the space 10 years ago. When we invested in Athenahealth [the now publicly traded company that offers a suite of administrative services for medical practices], they had product market fit, but no one wanted to invest in that space. Now, once something has traction, it’s priced very fully. So earlier this year we started a business with [former Facebook CFO] David Ebersman called Lyra Health. We did the same with [former U.S. CTO], Todd Park at Castlight. We’ll continue doing that for some time.

What does someone need to get a meeting with you?

More here.


New Fundings

Aslan Pharmaceuticals, a five-year-old, Singapore-based biotech company focused on the development of immunotherapies, has raised $34 million in Series C funding led by Accuron Technologies, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings. Other participants in the round include Tianda Pharmaceuticals,Haitong International and earlier backers Morningside, Bioveda, Cenova and Sagamore Bioventures. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Gigster, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand software development service, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Y Combinator Continuity Fund I, SV Angel, Sound Ventures and Launch Fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Shoes of Prey, a six-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based company that makes hand-made shoes on demand, has raised $15.5 million led by the Australian firm Blue Sky Capital, with participation from Greycroft Partners, the retail giant Nordstrom, and previous investor Khosla Ventures. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Zenatix, a two-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based  Internet of things (IoT)-focused energy data analytics company, has raised an undisclosed amount from funding from Blume Ventures Advisors. DealStreetAsia has more here.


New Funds

CSIRO and Sydney University have joined the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales to raise $50 million for a new Uniseed fund. The fund will be the third for Brisbane, Australia-based Uniseed, which was set up by the three founding universities in 2000 with $10 million in capital. Australia’s Financial Review has more here.

China’s APUS Group has launched an APUS Fund in India with $45 million. Some of the capital comes from Northern Light Venture Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Chengwei Ventures, SIG Global and Qiming Venture Partners. DealStreetAsia has more here.



Paytm, which claims to be India’s leading mobile payment platform, has acquired year-old, local services startup for $2 million to strengthen its online-to-offline commerce strategy. TechCrunch has more here.



When it comes to threats to humanity, VC Vinod Khosla is more concerned about technologies used to remove genes in embryos than about artificial intelligence.

How Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wins big even if she’s canned.



ARM Holdings, the British semiconductor designer, is looking to hire acorporate development associate. The job is in San Jose, Ca.

American Family Ventures, the venture capital branch of American Family Insurance, is looking to bring on a paid intern. The job (which doesn’t start until next summer) is in Madison, Wi.


Essential Reads

With a crucial deadline looming next week, Yahoo shareholders still do not know how — or if — the board plans to restructure the technology giant.

Google Ventures is backing out of seed stage investing, two years after Andreessen Horowitz did the same.

The business of Silicon Valley Bank has been booming, but there’s risk looming on the horizon.



China’s airpocalypse is now so bad, it’s banning half the cars in Beijing.

The 10 best movies of 2015.

Existential riddles.


Retail Therapy

The highlighter cannabis vapor pen. Arrives in 100 percent recyclable packaging, too.

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