StrictlyVC: January 7, 2016

Hi, everyone, happy Thursday!


Top News in the A.M.

Now Amazon has entered the semiconductor business, too, with its own branded chips.

A China stock plunge forced a trading halt this morning, and global markets are still reeling.


Guardant Health Raises Nearly $100M More to Test Blood for Cancer

Guardant Health, a three-year-old, Redwood Shores, Ca.-based company whose non-invasive genomic sequencing test for cancer requires just two vials of blood, has raised nearly $100 million in Series D funding roughly one year after closing on $90 million for its Series C round.

The financing was led by OrbiMed Advisors, with earlier backers participating, including Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Pejman Mar, Formation 8, Heritage Group, and Felicis Ventures.

Guardant, a 135-person company that has now raised almost $200 million altogether, isn’t talking about its valuation. But cofounder and CEO Helmy Eltoukhy, a Ph.D who worked at the Stanford Genome Technology Center before cofounding and quickly selling an earlier company, talked with us yesterday about what Guardant’s investors are funding exactly. Our conversation has been edited for length.

Your test alleviates the need to cut out a piece of tissue and sequence the DNA in that biopsy. Other than being less invasive, why is it better?

You can take a single tumor and every part will have potentially different mutations. Through two teaspoons of blood, we can see the entirety of the disease.

How has your technology changed in the last year? What prompted so much new investment?

The way it works is as these tumors grow rapidly, they are also dying rapidly and shedding their content into the bloodstream, including DNA signature. [Over time] we’ve made our sequencing technology about 1,000 to 10,000 times more accurate in order to see those fragments of DNA. It’s akin to the difference between high-resolution TV and old black-and-white technologies. Because we can see those trace fragments, we can reconstruct the genome.

How accurate is your blood test?

It matches tissue biopsies with 99.3 percent diagnostic accuracy, and we see often more mutations [than doctors can find] in that tissue biopsy. Maybe the patient had a recent biopsy and nothing actionable was found, but now, with the mutations that we detect, that person can be given corresponding drugs that target those mutations.

Have the public woes of another blood-testing company, Theranos, impacted your business?

More here.


New Fundings

7LeKang, a 4.5-year-old, Guangzhou, China-based online pharmacy startup, has raised $100 million in Series B funding from undisclosed investors. China Money Network has more here.

Blinkist, a 3.5-year-old, Berlin-based app that turns insights from nonfiction books into 15-minute text and audio “blinks,” has raised €4 million ($4.3 million) in Series A funding co-led by Greycroft Partners and Earlier backers IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft and MGO Digital Ventures also participated. More here.

C4 Therapeutics, a new, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that’s developing a class of targeted protein degradation (TPD) therapeutics for the treatment of a broad range of diseases, has raised $73 million in funding. Cobro Ventures led the round, with participation from Cormorant Asset ManagementEG Capital GroupNovartisRoche, and the Kraft Group. The company is a spin-out of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Forbes has more here.

Elastagen, a 13-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based company developing next generation medical and cosmetic treatments, has raised A$13 milion ($9.1 million) in Series B funding from Korea Investment PartnersAMOREPACIFIC Ventures, Wellcome Trust, Brandon Capital PartnersGBS Ventures and ATP Innovations.

Exosome Diagnostics, a 7.5-year-old, New York-based company that develops and commercializes blood-based cancer molecular diagnostics for disease monitoring, has raised $60 million in Series B funding from Forbion Capital Partners, NGN Capital, CD Ventures, Qiagen, Arcus Ventures, Tiger Management, and Blue Ridge Capital. More here.

Gem, a two-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based blockchain startup, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Pelion Venture Partners, with participation from Blockchain Capital, Digital Currency Group, KEC Ventures and RRE Ventures. More here.

Holidu, a 1.5-year-old, Munich, Germany-based metasearch engine for European holiday rentals, has raised €5 million ($5.4 million) in Series A funding led by EQT Ventures, with participation from Venture Stars, Senovo, and angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Inke, a Beijing, China-based mobile app allowing users to watch live video broadcast on smartphones, has raised $10 million in funding from the Shenzhen-listed online gaming firm Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. China Money Network has more here.

MMB Networks, a seven-year-old, Toronto, Ontario-based company that makes embedded interoperability software for enabling connected devices, has raised $7 million in Series B funding led by Roadmap Capital, with participation from NXP Semiconductor and previous investors Arctern Ventures and VentureLink Funds.

Nubank, a two-year-old, São Paulo, Brazil-based digital finance company, has raised $52 million in funding led by Founders Fund, with participation from earlier investors Sequoia Capital and Kaszek Ventures, which is based in Buenos Aires. Dealbook has more here.

PushDoctor, a two-year-old, U.K -based marketplace that enables patients to have video consultations with doctors, has raised $8.2 million in funding led by Oxford Capital Partners and Draper Esprit, with Partech Ventures also participating. The company had previously raised $1.2 million in seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.

QuanCheng, a 2.5-year-old, Shanghai, China-based corporate expense management start-up, has raised a Series B round worth a reported “tens of millions of dollars” led by Eight Roads, an investment arm of Fidelity International. ClearVue Partners and Arbor Ventures also participated in the round. China Money Network has more here.

Sisense, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based company whose technology speeds the analysis of large, complex data sets so that businesses can make faster decisions, has raised $50 million in Series D funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Current investors also participated in the round, including Battery Ventures, DFJ, Genesis Partners and Opus Capital. The company has now raised $98 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.


New Funds

Today, Sierra Ventures, the 33-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based early stage technology venture capital firm, is announcing that it has closed its 11th fund with $170 million. We talked yesterday with managing director Ben Yu about its latest effort.



It’s official. Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue and other store chains, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the formerly high-flying flash sales site Gilt Groupe for $250 million in cash. Recode has more here.



DCM Ventures cofounder David Chao talks with us about investing in China — and cannabis.

1776, the incubator and seed fund based in Washington, D.C., has hired Rachel Haot as a managing director. Haot was formerly chief digital officer for New York State and was the first chief digital officer of New York City under Michael Bloomberg.

In a Reddit AMA yesterday, Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey apologized for the confusing messaging around the price of its Rift headset, which is going to cost more than people were anticipating.

Pinterest, the social networking company, has hired Candice Morgan as its first-ever diversity chief, with the goal of ensuring that at least 30 percent of its engineering hires are women and that 8 percent represent ethnic minorities. Morgan previously spent 10 years with Catalyst, a non-profit group that tracks women’s progress in business.

Fresh from laying off 9 percent of its 200 employees and closing down its e-commerce service at the end of 2015, messaging app Tango has made a change at the top, with CTO and co-founder Eric Setton stepping in to replace fellow co-founder Uri Raz as CEO. TechCrunch has the story here.



Facebook is hiring a corporate development manager. The job is in Menlo Park, Ca.


Essential Reads

Yahoo is reportedly preparing to lay off 10 percent or more of its workforce.



Business school is worth $22,000 per year more if you’re white or Asian.

36 hours in Havana.

A lunar theory of Bill Clinton.


Retail Therapy

Sommi wine cellars.

A seascape retreat in New Zealand. (For writing that novel.)

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