StrictlyVC: February 16, 2016

Happy Tuesday, everyone, and welcome back!


Top News in the A.M.

Apple Pay debuts in China this week. Reuters has more here.

DoorDash is close to completing a round of investment valuing the food-delivery startup at around $700 million, a steep discount to the $1 billion valuation it sought when it began fundraising last fall, according to people familiar with the deal. The WSJ has more here.

SoftBank yesterday moved to bolster its share price beaten down by worries about its subsidiary, Sprint, saying it would buy back up to  $4.4 billion in shares, its biggest repurchase ever. The WSJ has more here.

Yahoo just announced it will be live-streaming the annual shareholders meeting of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway on April 30. CNBC has more here.


Venture-Backed Fundrise Fires CFO, Citing Extortion Scheme

It’s strange days for Fundrise, a Washington, D.C.-based, venture-backed crowdfunding platform that allows a range of investors to fund commercial real estate projects.

Yesterday, The Real Deal, an outlet that covers New York real estate news, turned upan SEC filing which states that Fundrise has fired its mortgage REIT’s chief financial officer and treasurer Michael McCord, citing an attempt by McCord to extort more than $1 million from the company.

“Exhibit one” listed in the filing is a letter to Fundrise’s backers that reads: “Strategic Investors & Advisors, I am saddened to have to inform you that an employee of our company has engaged in what we believe to be an attempt to extort over $1M from the company. As part of this, he claims the company acted inappropriately concerning two real estate deals. Though we believe there is no merit to his claims, we take any allegation with the utmost seriousness.

As a result, we have engaged a third-party financial audit firm to conduct a thorough investigation concerning his allegations. We are pursuing all appropriate and precautionary steps to protect our investors and our organization.

Furthermore, we are contacting the appropriate law enforcement agency to report what we believe to be his criminal behavior.”

The letter was presumably authored by Fundrise cofounder and CEO Benjamin Miller, who, according to the same SEC filing, is taking on the role of interim CFO and treasurer in addition to his other responsibilities.

Miller did not respond to requests for comment today.

Miller’s brother, Daniel Miller, who cofounded Fundrise and formerly served as its president, wrote us on LinkedIn, saying he has “moved on to pursue other independent opportunities, which will be announced shortly. Since my departure in October 2015, I have not been involved in corporate governance or the day-to-day operations that may relate to this matter.”

Asked about the accusation, McCord told us last night that the “current narrative” is “baseless and a pathetic deflection attempt from the real story by Fundrise.” He declined to comment further.

More here.


New Fundings

Akarna Therapeutics, a 1.5-year-old, San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company at work on a drug for a progressive form of fatty liver disease, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Forbion Capital Partners, with participation from earlier backers New Science Ventures and Third Point Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.

EnTouch Controls, a seven-year-old, Richardson, Tex.-based company that makes facility asset and energy management software, has raised $8 million in Series C funding led by Egis Capital Partners, with participation from Traverse Venture Partners, Aster Capital, Calvert Investments, and earlier backers SJF Ventures and Trailblazer Capital. More here.

Giphy, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that provides a search engine for a vast library of GIFs, has raised $55 million in Series C funding at a post-money valuation of $300 million. The deal was led by earlier investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from General Catalyst Partners, RRE Ventures, Betaworks, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, CAA and other existing Giphy investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Knewton, an eight-year-old, New York-based adaptive learning technology company, has closed on $52 million in fresh capital led by Belgium-based Sofina and London-based Atomico. Other participants in the round include EDBI, the dedicated corporate-investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board; TAL Education Group, a China-based K-12 education company; and earlier backers Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture PartnersFirstMark Capital, and Founders Fund. FinSMEs has more here.

LiveAction, an eight-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based enterprise IT network visibility software platform, has raised $36 million in Series B funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from prior investors Accelerate-IT Ventures and Cisco Investments. More here.

Mondo, a year-old, London-based fully digital bank, is raising £6 million ($8.6 million) in funding at a reported has been valued at £30 million ($42.9 million) valuation, despite that it has yet to fully launch to the public or secure a banking licence. Mondo has raised £5 million from the London-based firm Passion Capital, which invested £2 million in the company last year. The startup is also launching a £1 million crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube. Business Insider has more here.

Naritiv, a 1.5-year-old L.A.-based platform that connects brands and advertisers with influencers on Snapchat, has raised $3 million in Series A funding from FreeForm, Third Wave Capital, Luminary Capital, and Disney, among others. Naritiv launched out of the Disney Accelerator, powered by TechStars, in 2015. TechCrunch has more here.

Waterline Data, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based data mining company, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by Partech Ventures, with participation from Infosys and earlier backers include Menlo Ventures and Jackson Square Ventures. The company has now raised $23 million altogether. More here.

SchoolMint, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes mobile and online-enrollment software for K-12 public, charter and private schools, has raised $5.6 million in Series A funding led by Runa Capital, with participation from Reach Capital, Fresco Capital, Govtech Fund, Kapor Capital, Crosslink Capital, Maiden Lane Ventures and CSC Upshot, as well as individual investors from human resources solutions company Gusto. The company has now raised just less than $8 million altogether. More here.

Understory, a 3.5-year-old, Somerville, Ma.-based weather data and analytics company that provides real-time, surface-level data generated by grids of proprietary weather stations, has raised $7.5 million in fresh funding, shows anSEC filing. The company is an alum of Bolt‘s hardware accelerator program. More here. (Disclosure: Bolt is a sponsor of our upcoming StrictlyVC event.)

Zoomdata, a 3.5-year-old, Reston, Va.-based data visualization and analytics system optimized for real-time and historical big data backends, has raised $25 million in Series C funding led by Goldman Sachs’ Principal Strategic Investments Group. New investor Comcast Ventures also participated, along with prior investors Accel Partners, Columbus Nova Technology Partnersand New Enterprise Associates. Zoomdata has now raised a little more than $47 million, according to CrunchBase. TechCrunch has more here.



YouTube has acquired BandPage, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that helps artists show off and sell concert tickets, merchandise, and exclusive fan experiences, for a reported $8 million, or slightly less than a third of the $27.6 million in funding that BandPage had raised from investors. TechCrunch has more here.

The ADT Corporation, which provides home and business security systems for 6.5 million customers, is being acquired by the private equity firm Apollo Global Management for $6.9 billion in the largest leveraged buyout so far this year. Dealbook has more here.



Early-stage venture firm First Round Capital has brought aboard Birchbox cofounder and former co-CEO Hayley Barna as a venture partner. We have more here.

Reddit has hired Mark Luckie, the former news manager at Twitter and the person behind Today in Black Twitter, as its first-ever head of journalism and media.

Elon Musk’s little brother Kimbal Musk is facing off against Wolfgang Puck over the name of brand “The Kitchen.” Musk owns restaurants in Colorado by the same name (and the concept has since moved to Chicago). Meanwhile, Puck has opened a restaurant of the same name in Grand Rapids, Mi. Musk, who owns some related trademarks, said he’s willing to take Puck to court if a formal protest, and a burgeoning Twitter campaign, don’t work first.

Schwark Satyavolu has joined Trinity Ventures as a general partner. Satyavolu was the co-founder and CTO of Yodlee, along with Trinity-backed Truaxis (formerly known as BillShrink). His latest post was as EVP of product and technology at the publicly traded company LifeLock. Satyavolu will be focusing on financial tech and services, consumer apps and marketplaces. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.

Entertainer Kanye West appeared to have an epic meltdown over the weekend, telling the world that he’s $53 million in debt and asking Silicon Valley billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, then Larry Page, to bail him out. “Mark Zuckerberg I know it’s your bday but can you please call me,” he tweeted, before adding: “All you dudes in San Fran play rap music in your homes but never help the real artists.”



National Australia Bank has launched a $50 million fund and it’s looking for an investment analyst and an investment manager to help lead it. The jobs are in Sydney.


Essential Reads

Google‘s internet balloons are arriving in Sri Lanka. More here.

Flubbing Kanye West’s album release is just the newest misstep for digital music service Tidal. More here.



A way to prevent jet lag while you sleep.

The parmesan cheese you sprinkle on your penne could be wood.

Nineteen things keeping you from becoming rich — rich, I say!


Retail Therapy

Because why shouldn’t your kids have their own Tesla Model S?


Filed Under:

Don’t Miss Out!

Sign up today to receive a free daily email with everything you need to start your day. Plus, keep track of the companies and personalities that will shape the industry in the months and years to come. Let StrictlyVC be your very own venture capital concierge.

StrictlyVC on Twitter