StrictlyVC: April 25, 2016

Hi, everyone! Hope you had a terrific weekend.

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Top News in the A.M.

Apple is reportedly working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor to its next-generation Watch. The WSJ has more here.

Google is forming a startup incubator within Google dubbed “Area 120” that will be overseen by long-time Google executives Don Harrison and Bradley Horowitz, according to The Information. More here.

Chinese search giant Baidu has formed a team dedicated to its self-driving car efforts in Silicon Valley, taking its autonomous car ambitions to Google’s home turf. The Verge has more here.


The Next New Thing: Women VCs

The venture landscape changes fast. Ten years ago, few would have predicted the ubiquity of micro funds or the rise of Andreessen Horowitz or the very existence of a platform like AngelList that enables people with enough connections to become pop-up VCs.

Few — though not most — see what’s coming next, too, and that’s women VCs, taking their place alongside men, in equal, or nearly equal, numbers. In fact, we’d argue that the shift will represent the biggest opportunity over the next decade.

It may be hard to believe, given the wealth of attention paid to the low numbers of women in the industry and the obstacles they’re having to overcome. But the signs of change are everywhere if you’re paying close enough attention.

Women now make up 60 percent of college graduates, and many more of them are graduating with tech-friendly degrees. (Women are exceeding at elite institutions particularly, and now account for one-third of Stanford’s undergraduate engineering students, as well as one-third of Stanford’s graduate engineering students.)

Though women are making slow inroads at venture firms — according to CrunchBase data published last week,  just 7 percent of the partners are women at the top 100 venture firms —  women are increasingly finding paths around today’s guard.

They represent 12 percent of investing partners at corporate venture firms — a percentage likely to grow because of heightened interest in how tech companies fare when it comes to diversity. “We believe it’s a missed opportunity if we aren’t an active participant” in funding women- and minority-led companies and funds,” says Janey Hoe, VP of Cisco’s 40-person investments unit.

More, over the last three years, 16 percent of newly launched venture and micro-venture firms had at least one female founder, shows CrunchBase data.


So what’s happening? As VC Jon Callaghan of True Ventures noted during a panel discussion in San Francisco last week, Moore’s law has played a starring role. As costs have fallen and made entrepreneurship accessible globally, more people are coming into venture capital.

Monique Woodard, a longtime entrepreneur and more newly a venture partner at 500 Startups, credits her own path to the democratization of information brought about by social media platforms, as well as the many public insights into the industry that VCs like Fred Wilson and Brad Feld have contributed over time. “You suddenly have this library around venture capital and thought leadership that didn’t exist before,” said Woodard, speaking on the same panel.

It’s also the case that women — an expanding number of whom are founding startups, as well as rising through the ranks of other companies — have more role models in VC than they did a decade ago.

Of course, none of these trends is brand-spanking new. So why, you may be wondering, is now suddenly the tipping point? Because the ethical, business and financial reasons for change are finally poised to overtake the industry’s inertia.

More here.


New Fundings

Aerojet Rocketdyne, a Sacramento, Ca.-based aerospace company, has landed a $67 million contract from NASA to develop an advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system for future deep-space missions. The propulsion system could be used on robotic missions to an asteroid and in other missions related to NASA’s Journey to Mars program. TechCrunch has more here.

Augmedix, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based Google Glass startup whose platform enables doctors to collect, enter and recall patient data in real-time, has raised $17 million in funding from five of the biggest healthcare providers in the U.S.: Sutter Health, Dignity Health, Catholic Health InitiativesTriHealth and a fifth company that’s going unnamed for now.The company has now raised $40 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

Enjoy, two-year-old, Beijing, China-based mobile app for dining deals at high-end restaurants, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by the private equity firm China Media Capital, with participation from Costone Venture Capital. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Helium, a three-year-old San Francisco-based smart sensor startup, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by GV, with participation from Khosla Ventures, FirstMark Capital and Munich RE/Hartford Steam Boiler Ventures. Forbes has more here.

Kamcord, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile game live streaming platform, has raised $10 million in Series C funding led by Time Warner, with participation from earlier backers Tencent, TransLink Capital, XG VenturesPlug & Play Ventures and Wargaming. TechCrunch has more here.

Sirin Labs, a three-year-old, Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based high-end, ultra secure smartphone manufacturer, has raised a $72 million round of funding from Singulariteam founder Moshe Hogeg, Kazakh businessman Kenges Rakishev, and the Chinese social networking service Renren. TechCrunch has more here.

Sysdig, a three-year-old, Davis, Ca.-based startup that sells full-suite monitoring, alerting and troubleshooting software designed to support distributed, containerized environments, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Accel Partners and Bain Capital Ventures. Silicon Angle has more here., a seven-year-old, China-based land information database that integrates information like land area, prices and development trends, as well as provides farmers with land-value evaluation services, has raised $23 million in Series B funding led by Shanda Capital,  Foyo Culture & Entertainment, and Matrix Partners. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Unlockd, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based ad startup that serves ads to a phone customer after he or she has unlocked their phone in exchange for discounts on their phone bill, has raised $12 million in Series A funding, including from earlier investors PLC Ventures and Lachlan Murdoch. The company has now raised roughly $17 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

Yahoo Japan and East Ventures, a pan-Asian venture capital firm, are teaming up to create a new accelerator in Tokyo called Code Republic that’s more than a little reminiscent of Y Combinator. Tech In Asia has more here.

Chinese outdoor advertising firm Focus Media is teaming up with Hong Kong-based private equity firm FountainVest Partners to launch a $400 million fund to invest in sports companies in China and overseas. China Money Network has more here.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals, a Amman, Jordan-based pharmaceutical company, is launching Hikma Ventures, a $30 million venture capital fund focused on the digital health tech. The fund’s primary focus is on, but not limited to, startups in Amman. StepFeed has more here.

The Thai government will provide THB20 billion (US$570 million) of funding to startups in the country, it just announced late last week. DealStreetAsia has more here.



Lianjia, a Beijing-based real estate agency service, is reportedly preparing for an IPO in China, Hong Kong or the U.S.;  just two weeks ago, the platform raised a stunning $926 million in Series B funding led by Huasheng Capital. DealStreetAsia has more here. (And, from a story in the WSJ a year ago, a look at China’s deal activity in the property services sector that includes HomeLink, which is another name for Lianjia.)

It’s too early to know if SecureWorks‘s IPO was a success or failure, but it’s worth noting that it closed below its opening price on its first day of trading Friday.



One of the world’s largest children’s mobile app makers, Toca Boca, whose studios have produced apps totaling over 140 million downloads, has been acquired. The company had originally operated like a startup within the 200-year old Swedish publishing firm Bonnier, but has now been bought up by Spin Master, a children’s entertainment company. TechCrunch has more here.

Zalora, the fashion-focused e-commerce site backed by Rocket Internet, is selling its businesses in Thailand and Vietnam to retail giant Central Group, according to multiple TechCrunch sources. More here.



Rapper and record producer Nasir Jones (“Nas”) loves makng venture investments through his fund, QueensBridge Venture Partners,  “But I can’t lie,” he tells the Daily Beast. “That stuff has gotten in the way of my music.” More here.

The New York Times is preparing to lay off a few hundred staffers in the second half of the year, the New York Post is reporting. More here.

PepperTap, a 1.5-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based startup that was aiming to become India’s largest and fastest grocery delivery service, has shut down that business and switched to e-commerce logistics, laying off 150 workers in the process. The company is backed by Sequoia Capital and Snapdeal, among others. TechCrunch has more here.

Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun is stepping down as CEO, the company announced on Friday. Vishal Makhijani, the company’s COO. will be Udacity’s new CEO.Thrun will remain as president and chairman of Udacity and continue to work full-time at the company. Fortune has more here.

LeEco’s billionaire CEO Jia Yueting says Apple is outdated. More here from CNBC.



Microsoft is looking to hire a director of business development. The job is in Palo Alto, Ca.



Esports will generate $500 million in revenue this year, which is a 43 percent increase from 2015, according to a new report by PwC. PwC also conducted a major survey of the esports audience, with surprising results. For example, it found that women were more likely to describe themselves as involved in esports than men —  22 percent of them, compared to 18 percent of men surveyed. The Daily Dot has the story here.


Essential Reads

Inside of the world’s most secretive phone factories.

Why cities aren’t ready for the driverless car.

Yik Yak is attempting a comeback with the launch of private chat.



The Guardian takes a peek into the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art before its long-awaited reopening.


Retail Therapy

Now you can prepare beer from home, without all the jugs and tubes and thermometers and what not.

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