StrictlyVC: January 13, 2015

Hi, good morning, everyone!  The newsletter is a little abbreviated today; we were working on today’s story and are now running out the door. See you back here tomorrow!


Top News in the A.M.

Big deal: Google just opened a Virtual Reality Division.


The Unicorns Hiring, and Losing Employees, the Fastest

Every day, we in the media are starting to hear about startups laying off employees – sizable percentages of them, too. Last week, it was MixpanelMaker Media, and SOLS.

A recruiter who asked not to be named separately tells us that Instacart has parted ways with numerous recruiters in anticipation of a hiring slowdown.

Instacart’s VP of People, Matt Caldwell, confirms that the company is no longer using contract recruiters and is slowing down its total number of full-time hires, but says that’s a reflection of the company’s earlier and aggressive growth plans. He notes that company grew from 91 full-time employees in January 2015 to 300 full-time employees today.

Either way, not everyone sees major changes up ahead. Josh Withers, cofounder of the nationwide startup search firm True, tells us that it’s business as usual as far as he can tell. “Burn rates are being closely scrutinized. We haven’t seen a pull back in terms of hiring, though.” Though Withers half expected to return to work after the holiday to find companies wanting to do more with less, he says that instead, “We came back from break and got a ton of inbounds from private equity firms, VCs looking for help with their startups, and other companies of all stages.”It could be that companies have “already raised the money and need to put it to work,” he observes. “Maybe [what we’re seeing] lags the macro markets because the way the money was raised. But it doesn’t feel at all like 2009.”

Because it’s so hard to know what’s really going on right now, we worked earlier this week with a set of data scientists with fancy degrees, poring over publicly available data to come up with a list of which U.S.-based, privately held, non-biotech-related “unicorn” companies are hiring the fastest, and which are seeing the most employees leave.

More here.


New Fundings

CarTrade, a six-year-old, Mumbai, India-based classified site for car dealers in India, has raised $145 million in new funding led by the Singapore-based investment firm Temasek and March Capital, with participation from returning investor Warburg Pincus.

Envelop VR, a 1.5-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based virtual reality software company that aims to bring businesses and consumers to immersive computing, has raised Series A funding from GV that brings its total round to $5.5 million. The company had raised earlier Series A funding, back in October, from Madrona Venture Group.

Moltin, a 2.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that helps developers build customizable e-commerce solutions using its API, has raised $2 million in seed funding from Frontline Ventures, venture capitalist Gil Dibner’s AngelList Syndicate, Y Combinator, and Funders Club. VentureBeat has more here.

Moneybox, a seven-month-old, U.K.-based, yet-to-launch startup that wants to encourage millennials to save and invest, has raised $3 million in funding from Samos Investments and numerous unnamed angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

mParticle, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that helps mobile app-makers consolidate their data, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Social + Capital, with participation from earlier backers Bowery CapitalEniac Ventures and Golden Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Shape Security, a four-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company whose technology defend websites against attacks from malware, botnets, and scripts, has raised $25 million in Series D funding led by Baseline Ventures. Beijing-based Northern Light Venture Capital also joined the round, alongside earlier investors GV, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Norwest Venture Partners, Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures and others. The company has raised $91 million in funding to date. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

SmashFly, an eight-year-old, Concord, Ma.-based startup that manages inbound interest from potential recruits and keeps them engaged with a company with the aim of converting them to an employee, has raised $22 million in Series B funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Zerto, a 6.5-year-old, Boston-based maker of disaster recovery software, has raised $50 million in Series E funding led by Institutional Venture Partners. Other investors in the deal include Access Industries and earlier backers 83North, Battery VenturesHarmony Partners, RTP Ventures,U.S. Venture Partners, and Mark Leslie.


New Funds

Leaders Fund, a new venture firm with offices in Toronto and Atlanta, Ga., has taken the wraps off a $100 million evergreen fund that it intends to invest in enterprise startups. We talked with the founders yesterday.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took to Facebook yesteday to announce that he would be personally funding a new $100 million philanthropic fund, focusing exclusively on education-related projects and organizations. TechCrunch has more here.

TrueBridge Capital Partners, the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based investment firm, has closed its fourth venture capital fund-of-funds, TrueBridge-Kauffman Fellows Endowment Fund IV, L.P., with $400 million in commitments. It says it had targeted $325 million. More here.



Threadflip, an online consignment marketplace for women’s clothing, is no more; it announced to users yesterday that it’s shutting down operations and rolling into the clothing rental startup, Le Tote as of midnight tonight. Threadflip had raised more than $20 million in funding, including from Norwest Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures and Lowercase Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


Essential Reads

Udacity, the massive open online course pioneer led by former Google executive Sebastian Thrun, announced today that it will refund students who don’t find employment within six months of completing one of four so-called Nanodegrees. USA Today has the story here.

Google‘s self-driving cars aren’t as good as humans (yet). Wired on why not.



The best way for committed couples to argue.

How well do you handle uncertainty?


Retail Therapy

Buy your own Banksy. (It comes with a house in Cheltenham.)

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