StrictlyVC: February 4, 2016

Thursday! So tantalizingly close to Friday, you know?


Top News in the A.M.

Remember that WSJ story about Amazon opening up several hundred brick and mortar stores? Hundreds might have been overstating things a skosh, sources now tell Recode. Also, Amazon has plans for retail stores other than simply bookstores. More here.


Now You Can Swipe for a Notary, Too

On-demand services have taken off, much to the delight of pretty much everyone who uses them.

Now we can add notary services to the list of conveniences we can call up with a tap on our iPhones thanks to Notarize, a months-old startup with offices in Alexandria, Va., and in Boston. It offers a 24-hour service that enables people in all 50 states to have their documents notarized remotely. [Yay.]

If you’ve experienced the ridiculousness of having to track down a notary, this may all sound too good to be true. And it would have been until very recently. But in 2011, Virginia passed a bill allowing documents to be notarized remotely, using audio-video technology.

Founder and CEO  Pat Kinsel discovered this law soon after learning on, while on vacation, that a brokerage couldn’t accept a document that he’d given to a notary who lost track of it.

Kinsel — who cofounded an earlier company called Spindle that sold to Twitter and who is today also a venture partner with Polaris Partners — says that out of his own “intellectual curiosity, I started researching this in my spare time.”

One of the things Kinsel learned? That there’s a $30 billion potential market opportunity to chase, given that an estimated one billion documents get notarized annually in the U.S. (Many are these are done for free, we should mention, but Notarize is charging $25 per document for its ease of use.)

More here.


New Funding

Admedo, a 3.5-year-old, London-based programmatic ad tech company, has raised $6 million in fresh funding led by MMC Ventures. More here., a year-old, San Diego-based company that’s developing remote assistance technology to bring greater independence to the blind and visually impaired, has raised more than $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Lux Capital and ARCH Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Felicis Ventures, Larry Bock, Scott Belsky, and several other well-known angel investors. More here.

Blockstream, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based company behind bitcoin-like ledgers that operate independently of, but are pegged to, bitcoin, has raised $55 million in Series A funding from Horizons Ventures, AXA Strategic Ventures and Digital Garage. Earlier backers AME Cloud Ventures, Blockchain Capital, Future\Perfect Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Mosaic Ventures and Seven Seas Venture Partners also joined the round. The WSJ has the story here., an eight-year-old, Shanghai, China-based pet e-commerce company, has reportedly raised $102 million in Series C funding led by China Merchants Bank, with participation from Goldman Sachs and other investors. China Money Network has more here.

The Bouqs, a three-year-old, L.A.-based cut-to-order online flower delivery company, has raised $12 million in Series B funding from Quest Venture Partners, Azure Capital Partners, KEC Ventures, Enspire Capital and Draper Associates. The company has now raised just less than $20 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

BioDirection, a five-year-old, Boston-based medical device company developing rapid point-of-care products designed to manage concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, has raised more than $4 million in Series B funding, including from Provident Healthcare Capital, an unnamed healthcare focused growth-equity fund, and other (also unnamed) investors. More here.

Chatbooks, a 1.5-year-old, Provo, Utah-based subscription service that turns digital photos into photo books, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Signal Peak Ventures, with participation from Kickstart Seed FundPeterson Ventures and BYU Cougar Capital. More here.

EpiBiome, a 2.5-year-old, South San Francisco-based microbiome engineering company, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Viking Global Investors, Matrix Capital Management, Alexandria Venture Investments, SV Tech Ventures and China Rock Capital ManagementMore here.

Handshake, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based college career network built to improve the recruiting experience for students, career centers and employers, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from True Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Lowercase Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

Hortau, a 14-year-old, Saint-Romuald, Quebec-based company that specializes in wireless and web-based irrigation management, has raised $10 million in funding led by Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners, with participation from BDC Capital and earlier investors Avrio Ventures and Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins. More here.

OwnBackup, a nearly four-year-old, cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery vendor that has offices in Fort Lee, N.J. and Herzliya Pituach, Israel, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding led by Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, with participation from Oryzn Capital. More here.

PatternEx, a 2.5-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that uses artificial intelligence to thwart hackers, has raised more than $2 million in seed funding from TriplePoint Capital and individual investors. Network World has more here.

Power Supply, a four-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based meal delivery startup, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Upfront Ventures, with participation from individual angels, including health blogger Mark Sisson, restaurant financier Hanson Li, and former Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen. More here.

Simplex, a nearly two-year-old, Israel-based startup that’s aiming to reduce fraud risk in bitcoin, has raised $7 million in Series A funding, including from the crowdfunding platform FundersClub and several bitcoin startups, including Cumberland and Bitmain. More here.

Snagajob, a 15-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based online marketplace for hourly work, has raised $100 million in funding led by Rho Acceleration, with participation from NewSpring Capital and Invus Group. Forbes has more here.

Sonatype, an eight-year-old, Fulton, Md.-based company that helps customers create automated, policy-driven software component security, announced a $30 million round today led by Goldman Sachs (and more specifically, its Principal Strategic Investments Group, versus its venture arm). TechCrunch has more here.

Watchmaster, a nine-month-old, Berlin, Germany-based platform for pre-owned luxury watches, has raised $8 million in Series B funding led by Cherry Ventures, with participation from Piton Capital and other investors. More here.

Zendrive, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that uses smartphone sensors to measure drivers’ behavior, has raised $13.5 million in Series A funding led by Sherpa Capital, with participation from Nyca PartnersThomvest Ventures, and earlier backers First Round Capital, BMW i Ventures, Fontinalis Partners. Tad Montross, who’s the chairman and CEO of General Re Corporation, also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.



The first two IPOs of 2016 ended in the green yesterday — those of biotech companies BeiGene and Editas Medicine. It remains unclear whether they’ll induce more companies to tap the IPO market, though, notes the WSJ.



Cisco is shelling out $1.4 billion for Jasper Technologies, developer of an Internet of Things cloud platform. The 12-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based company had raised at least $205 million, including from Temasek, Sequoia Capital, DAG Ventures, AllianceBernstein, Bridgescale Partners, Integral Capital Partners, Crescendo Ventures, Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners, Wing Venture Partners, SingTel Innov8, and Benchmark. TechCrunch has more here.

Zillow has acquired a six-year-old, New York-based database of rental listings for $13 million in cash. GeekWire has more here.



Serial entrepreneur Justin Kan is reviving his life-casting channel. The Verge has more here.

Practice Fusion, a 10.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that digitizes electronic health records for hospitals and healthcare facilities, cut a quarter of its workforce yesterday in an effort to turn cash flow positive before a planned 2017 IPO. The company has raised $150 million from investors so far. Roughly 74 people across engineering, product, marketing, and customer service were laid off. TechCrunch has more here.

Former biotech executive Martin Shkreli has lost $40 million since his arrest, it was learned yesterday during a short appearance to discuss the status of his pending criminal case. Vanity Fair has more here. (Here is video from the hearing, where Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment, tweeting after he left the courtroom that Congress is run by “imbeciles.”)

Amit Singhal, Google’s longtime SVP for search, is retiring at the end of this month after a 15-year run at the company. John Giannandrea, the engineering VP who leads Google’s sprawling research and artificial intelligence efforts, is taking his place. Recode has more here.



Origin Ventures is hiring an associate. The job is in Chicago.

Lightbank is hiring an associate, too. That job is also in Chicago.

And Frontline Ventures, an early-stage venture firm with offices in London and Dublin, is looking to hire an associate. You can work in either city.


Essential Reads

Instagram has doubled the length of its video ads to 60 seconds. More here.

Apple has been ordered to pay $625 million to notorious patent troll VirnetX after a U.S. court judged that the iPhone-maker had infringed on patents used in its iMessage and FaceTime services. More here.

In separate news, Walt Mossberg has had it up to here with Apple‘s apps.



Oh, boy. The Kremlin isn’t going to like this.

Britain to foreign workers: If you don’t make $50,000 a year, please leave.

A $20,000 house that’s nicer than yours.


Retail Therapy

Smart mirror.

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