StrictlyVC: February 24, 2016

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Top News in the A.M.

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Travel Platform KimKim Brings Back the Travel Agent

Sometimes, there can be a little too much disruption. So goes the thesis of Joost Schreve, the former head of mobile for TripAdvisor, who left the company last November and started his own startup, KimKim, in December.

The nascent company — newly seed-funded with $1 million from investors, including NFX Guild — is catering to the presumably many people who no long want to plan their next vacation by scouring the web. Its simple, secret weapon? Good old-fashioned travel agents, who talk online with customers via a conversational interface.

We talked with Schreve earlier this morning to learn more about what he’s developing at his four-person, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length.

You left TripAdvisor — where you worked after selling it your startup in 2011 — expressly to start this new thing. What wasn’t TripAdvisor doing that you think you can?

TripAdvisor and many sites like it have a lot of information, so users have to do a lot of filtering and comparing and it becomes a very painful process, especially for trips that are complex or longer. The average consumer goes to 38 different sites, according to an Expedia study, and they spend more than 10 hours [researching these more involved trips].

The difference between this painful process and a nice process is one person who is unbiased and can help you.

We are talking, of course, of the long-maligned travel agent. But how do you convince people that these online agents are unbiased and not getting kickbacks for their recommendations? Wasn’t that part of the problem to begin with?

More here.


New Fundings

AppilyEverAfter, a months-old, Hyderabad, India-based wedding services app, has raised $400,000 from a group of angel investors. The Economic Times has more here.

Captain401, a year-old, San Francisco-based company whose tech allows employers to quickly set up 401(k) retirement savings plans for employees, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by SoftTech VC, with participation from SV Angel, CrunchFund, Slow Ventures, Susa Ventures, FundersClub, former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, and others. VentureBeat has more here.

ClearMetal, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based predictive logistics startup, has raised $3 million in seed funding from New Enterprise AssociatesSkyview and Innovation Endeavors. FinSMEs has more here.

Deliv, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca-based crowdsourced same-day delivery startup, has raised $28 million in new funding from UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, with participation from earlier backers Upfront Ventures, RPM Ventures, PivotNorth Capital, General Growth Properties, The Macerich Company, Simon Venture Group, Taubman Centers and Westfield Corp. We talked with the company about its business model back in November.

Forty Seven, a young, Palo Alto, Ca.- based immuno-oncology startup started by a group of Stanford professors, has raised $75 million in Series A funding co-led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures, with participation from Clarus Ventures and Google Ventures. More here.

Loanzen, a six-month-old, Bangalore, India-based peer-to-peer lending marketplace, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Tracxn Labs, angel investors through Tracxn Syndicate, and others. Inc 42 has more here.

MakeSpace, a three-year-old, New York-based self-storage business, has raised $17.5 million in funding led by Harmony Venture Partners and Upfront Ventures, with participation from its Series A and seed investors. (These include Founders Fund, Carmelo Anthony’s Melo7Tech, and Gary Vaynerchuk.) TechCrunch has more here.

NICO, a nine-year-old, Indianapolis, In.-based company that makes “corridor” surgical instruments that provide access to difficult-to-reach places in the body through smaller openings, has raised $15 million in new funding from earlier backers River Cities Capital Funds and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. FierceMedicalDevices has more here.

NoBroker, a 1.5-year-old, Bangalore, India-based person-to-person property rental site, has raised $10 million in Series B funding co-led by Beenext and Digital Garage, with participation from Qualgro, Asuka Holdings and return backer SAIF Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Pocketin, a year-old, Noida, India-based real-time restaurant deal startup, has raised $150,000 in seed funding from the ill-named, Hong Kong-based Swastika Company. Inc 42 has more here.

PolyPid, an eight-year-old, Israel-based developer of post-surgical anti-infection drugs, has raised $22 million in new funding co-led by Shavit Capitaland earlier investor Aurum Ventures. More here.

Quantifind, a seven-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based on-demand insights platform for brands, has raised $30 million in funding led by Cathay Innovation. Previous investors Redpoint Ventures, U.S. Venture PartnersComcast Ventures, Iris Capital and AME Cloud Ventures also joined the round. More here.

RealityShares, a  nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based online real estate investment marketplace, has raised $20 million in fresh funding from Union Square Ventures, along with previous investors Menlo Ventures and General Catalyst Partners. The company has now raised roughly $130 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Spruce Finance, a San Francisco-based company that was formed last month through a merger between Clean Power Finance and Kilowatt Financial, has hired Investec to arrange for roughly $130 million in debt for rooftop solar assets, according to Bloomberg. The outlet suggests the deal shows growing interest in rooftop power. More here.

TodayTix, a three-year-old, New York-based company that provides on-demand access to last-minute theater tickets, has raised $9 million in Series B funding co-led by Walden Venture Capital and TYLT Ventures. The New York Times has more here.

Real, a three-year-old, Houston-based online real estate broker service, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Magma Venture Partners. VentureBeat has more here.

ReSec Technologies, a nearly four-year-old, Yokneam, Israel and New York-based maker of cyber protection software, has raised $5 million in Series A funding co-led by PICO Venture Partners and Founders Group. The Globes has more here.

YouAppi, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based, data-driven mobile customer acquisition startup, has raised $13.1 million in Series B funding from Hawk Ventures, Global Brain, Click Ventures, Digital Future, Emery CapitalAltair Capital, and earlier backers Glilot Capital Partners, 2B Angels and Flint Capital. DealStreetAsia has more here.


New Funds

Andrew Chung, who has worked as an investor at Lightspeed Venture Partners and Khosla Ventures, has launched his own venture firm, 1955 Capital, with an impressive $200 million in LP commitments. The firm plans to invest in energy, food, agriculture, health and education. Chung also hopes to help Western entrepreneurs bring their technology to China. Forbes has more here.

TLV Partners, founded by Rona Segev and Eitan Bek, two veterans of the Israeli VC scene, has closed its debut fund with $115 million, it announced this morning. The firm says most of the funding came from “top U.S. investors.” Segev was previously a general partner with Pitango and Evergreen; Bek was a GP with Pitango and had led Pitango’s Silicon Valley activity since 2007. More here.



Oracle is acquiring Ravello Systems, a four-year-old Palo Alto, Ca.-based cloud company that helps move workloads from one environment to another. Terms of the deal aren’t being shared, but a VentureBeat source pegs the deal at $500 million. According to CrunchBase, Ravello had raised $54 million from investors, including SanDisk Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Qualcomm Ventures.



Jack Levy, former co-chair of global M&A at Goldman Sachs, is joining the boutique investment bankCenterview Partners as a partner.

Brian Murphy, former VP of engineering at the New York Times, has joined Tumblr as its new chief technology officer.

Elon Musk wants you to know SpaceX’s rocket will probably crash this afternoon.


Essential Reads

Apple plans to use its next major release of the Mac operating system to continue to expand Siri across its product lines.

A Hollywood legal battle has erupted over facial animation technology.


Audi yesterday topped the annual ranking of new vehicles by Consumer Reports, which dropped the best overall vehicle award that Tesla Motors’s Model S had won in 2014 and 2015. More here.

Why it matters what time your kids take important tests.


Retail Therapy

New York City, inside your desk.

Peacock-feather wallpaper, made with “sustainable, renewable feathers”(!).

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