StrictlyVC: March 14, 2016

Hi, everyone, happy Monday — hope you had a wonderful weekend!

(We’re shooting off SVC a little earlier this a.m. as we have somewhere to be.)


Top News in the A.M.

While the Justice Department wages a public fight with Apple over access to a locked iPhone, government officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with another technology company, WhatsApp, over access to its popular instant messaging application. The New York Times has more here.


VC Michael Goguen Hit with Explosive Lawsuit

Michael Goguen, a longtime partner at Sequoia Capital who joined the tony Sand Hill Road firm roughly 20 years ago, has been named in an extraordinary breach of contract lawsuit that accuses him of sexually mistreating a woman he met in 2001, then refusing to honor a financial arrangement they made in more recent years to keep her from suing him.

Filed in San Mateo County court on Tuesday of last week, Goguen is accused of having abused the plaintiff, named Amber Laurel Baptiste, “sexually, physically and emotionally for over 13 years.” More centrally, states the complaint: When Baptiste “could no longer tolerate his behavior,” Goguen signed a contract to pay her $40 million “as compensation for the horrors she suffered at his hands.” But “after paying her $10 million, Mr. Goguen refused to honor the rest of his agreement.”

Baptiste could not be reached for comment Friday night. Her attorney, Patricia Glaser of the L.A.-based litigation firm GlaserWeil, is traveling in Israel, according to her office; she has not responded to an emailed request for comment.

Goguen’s attorney, Diane Doolittle, the co-chair of the national trial practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, meanwhile wrote us a statement Friday night, saying: “On Monday, we will be filing a legal cross-complaint against [Baptiste] alleging extortion. The cross complaint will include an enormous amount of evidence, and cite contemporaneous emails and texts, that will help paint a full and complete picture of this entire matter. We will rely on all of this evidence to mount the most vigorous defense possible in court.”

Either way, Goguen looks to be out of a job suddenly. Reached Friday night for more information, a Sequoia spokesman wrote us that, “We first learned of these claims yesterday. We understand that these allegations of serious improprieties are unproven and unrelated to Sequoia. Nevertheless, we decided that Mike’s departure was the appropriate course of action.”

In Baptiste’s complaint, she is described as a “victim of human trafficking since she was 15.” It says that she was “brought to America in 2001,” “sold as a dancer to a strip club,” and that shortly after her arrival, she met Goguen at a Texas strip club and was soon submitting to his “constant sexual abuse” and “relying on his promise that he would help her break free of the human traffickers who held her in perpetual debt.”

Continues the complaint, “Unbeknownst to Ms. Baptiste, Mr. Goguen was a worse predator than the human traffickers who were keeping her in bondage.”

More here.


New Fundings

Alooma, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that helps companies process and work with big data in real time delivered as a cloud service, has raised $11.2 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Future Finance, a nearly two-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based startup that provides loans to students using big data algorithms to assess their credit-worthiness, has raised £119 million ($171 million) — £19 million in equity and £100 million toward future loans made through the platform. Future Finance’s equity investors include QED Investors (a major VC in U.S. fintech), Blackstone Strategic Opportunity Fund, Colchis Capital, Invus Opportunities, KCK, DW Partners, Fenway Summer Ventures, Ridge Road Partners and 1/0 Capital. Goldman Sachs has also been backing the company, providing funds for the £25 million ($35.8 million) in loans paid out on on the platform to date. TechCrunch has more here.

LendInvest, a 2.5-year-old, U.K.-based online marketplace for property finance, has raised £17 million ($25 million) in Series B funding from Atomico. It’s the company’s second round in nine months; last June, LendInvest raised £22 million ($33 million) in Series A funding from Beijing Kunlun, a listed Chinese technology company. LendInvest has now raised $285 million altogether. More here., a new, San Francisco-based data science company incubated by TPG Growth and led by previous executives from MicrosStrategy, Infosys, GE Digital and IBM Watson, has raised a Series A round. The amount isn’t being disclosed. More here.


New Funds

Cherubic Ventures, a 5.5-year-old, early-stage venture firm with offices in Beijing, Taipei, San Francisco, and Shanghai, is looking to raise up to $120 million for its newest fund, reports the outlet e27. The firm, which focuses on SaaS, virtual reality, robotics, machine Learning, and cross-border e-commerce across the U.S., China and Southeast Asia, has already closed on more than $70 million, it says.



The app data and insights platform App Annie continues a shopping spree with the acquisition of AppScotch, an app marketing data company. Terms of the deal aren’t being announced, but the roughly 10 employees of AppScotch — which launched two years ago and raised roughly $1 million in seed funding from Eastern European angel investors — have already joined App Annie at its downtown San Francisco headquarters. More here.

The New York Times is expanding its native ad studio with the acquisition of HelloSociety, a digital marketing agency owned by Science in an all-cash deal whose price isn’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.



Napster cofounder and early Facebook exec Sean Parker on whether Twitter survives (in conversation with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang):  “Twitter is a victim of their own success in so many ways. They are a company that—had it not been for the media’s infatuation with Twitter—Twitter never would have built an enormous user base. But that came at a cost. And the cost was the lack of deep, close-knit community between its users. Twitter was never an accurate reflection of your real social network. It didn’t have the same level of intimate interaction. I don’t think Twitter would’ve existed had it not been for its relationship with celebrity and media. But at the same time, I think its relationship with celebrity and media is its biggest weakness.”

Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt had dinner with the Telegraph and the question arose of whether AI will replace people in roles beyond board game champions. His answer:  “There’s no question that as [AI] becomes more pervasive, people doing routine, repetitive tasks will be at risk . . .  I understand the economic arguments, but this technology benefits everyone on the planet, from the rich to the poor, the educated to uneducated, high IQ to low IQ, every conceivable human being. It genuinely makes us all smarter, so this is a natural next step.”

A whistleblower has sued Volkswagen, saying he was fired for trying to stop the company from deleting evidence for weeks after U.S. authorities began their investigation into excess emissions by its cars.



Correlation Ventures is hiring a pre-MBA associate. The job is in Palo Alto, Ca.


Essential Reads

How gut bacteria are shaking up cancer research.



Super recognizers.

Introducing “The Nobby.”


Retail Therapy

Polaroll. (A step too far, perhaps.)

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