StrictlyVC: April 27, 2016

Halfway there! Hope you have a great Wednesday, everyone.

Top News in the A.M.

Reportedly, the FBI doesn’t plan to tell Apple how it cracked a San Bernardino, Ca., terrorist’s phone, leaving Apple in the dark on a security vulnerability on some iPhone models. The WSJ has more here.

In separate news, Apple‘s streak of 51 consecutive quarters of uninterrupted sales growth is over — and its expansion may not resume until late this year. Bloomberg has more here.

Twitter now has revenue problems, it revealed yesterday during an earnings call (after which its stock tanked). Recode has more here.


It’s Not Just Uber: Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Dean on the School’s Poaching Problem

Andrew Moore was a professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University for a dozen years when Google hired him away in 2006 to lead some of its efforts around ad targeting and fraud prevention.

CMU lured Moore back in 2014, making him the dean of its computer science school. But he still understands well what goes through his colleagues’ minds when industry comes calling, and he says the battle to keep them in academia grows fiercer by the year.

Earlier today, we talked with Moore about Uber, which famously raided the school’s robotics department a year ago, poaching 40 of its researchers and scientists. We also talked about how Moore entices people to stay, and the newest new thing his 2,000-student school is focused on right now. Our chat has been edited for length.

Sorry to start with a question you’re surely asked too often, but just how big a hit did the school take when Uber recruited away some of your professors and researchers?

This kind of thing happens from time to time, especially in fast-growing areas where academia and industry are advancing things all the time. In January 2015, Uber hired away four faculty and about 35 technical staff to start its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. By the school’s standards, this is one of many examples where our faculty disappear for a while into industry. It happened to me. Usually, every year, between five and 15 faculty members take a leave of absence for one or two or up to four years. Some never come back. Most do.

The perception was that this was a significant wave, though.

And that public perception is what really hurts. The truth is we have about 40 faculty and four took a leave of absence for a while to work for Uber. Meanwhile, this is such a growth industry that we’ve hired 17 new faculty in the past year, about half in robotics and half in machine learning. It’s frustrating. We’re trying to find space for new robotics people, not suffering from a lack of them.

What’s the school’s relationship with Uber like today? Is there one?

More here.


New Fundings

BitFlyer, a two-year-old, Japan-based bitcoin exchange, has raised $27 million in Series C funding led by SBI Investment, with participation from earlier backer Venture Labo Investments. Coindesk has more here.

BlueVine, a nearly three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company providing fast financing to small businesses, has raised an undisclosed amount of capital from Citi Ventures. More here.

CareOnGo, a nine-month-old, New Delhi, India-based chain of co-branded online pharmacies, has raised an undisclosed amount in pre-Series funding from Farooq Oomerbhoy of FAO Ventures and a group of other investors. VCCircle has more here.

ClearTax, a five-year-old, New Delhi, India-based startup that helps customers file their income tax returns electronically in India, has raised $1.3 million in seed funding, including from Max Levchin (this is the PayPal co-founder’s first investment in India), Scott Banister, Neeraj Arora, Naval Ravikant, and Ruchi Sanghvi. TechCrunch has more here.

Desktop Metal, a year-old, Lexington, Ma.-based commercial metal 3D printing startup led by A123 founder Ric Fulop, has raised $33.8 million in new funding per an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. Fortune says the round values the company at more than $100 million and involves earlier backers Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Data Collective, and Founder Collective. More here.

Disruptive Technologies, a 2.5-year-old, Bergen, Norway-based developer of wireless sensors, has raised roughly $6.2 million in funding from Ubon Partners. More here.

Global Fashion Group, a five-year-old, Berlin-based online fashion business, has raised at least €300 million ($340 million) in new funding, including  €100 million from Rocket Internet, which incubated the business. Other investors include Kinnevik and Access Industries. It’s a significant down round, notes TechCrunch, which says the company is now valued at roughly $1.1 billion, compared with its $3.45 billion valuation last year. More here.

Immunio, a three-year-old, Montreal-based company that aims to protect its customers’ web applications against attackers, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by White Star Capital. More here.

RayVio, a four-year-old, Hayward, Ca.-based company that makes ultraviolet LED technology for point-of-use water disinfection and other health and hygiene applications, has raised $26 million in new funding co-led by IPV Capital andTsing Capital. More here.

Relevant e-solutions, a nearly two-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based company that operates the fashion discovery app Roposo, has raised $5 million in additional Series B funding from Bertelsmann India Investments. Earlier investors in the now $20 million round include Tiger Global Management. The Hindu has more here.

Seclore, a five-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company focused on enterprise digital rights management, has raised $12 million in Series B funding from Helion Ventures, VentureEast, Sistema Asia Fund, and India Alternatives. FinSMEs has more here.

SnappyData, a year-old, Portland, Ore.-based real-time analytics platform, has raised $3.7 million in Series A funding from Pivotal Software, GE Digital andGTD Capital. More here.

TaskEasy, a 4.5-year-old, Salt Lake City-based online, on-demand services company aiming to make it easy to price, order and manage exterior maintenance anywhere in the U.S., has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Delta Electronics Capital. Other participants include Moderne Ventures, MTD Products, and earlier backers Grotech Ventures, Access Venture Partners and Kickstart Fund. More here.

Vivint, a 19-year-old, Provo, Ut.-based home security, home automation, and energy management services company, has raised $100 million in strategic funding co-led by Peter Thiel and Solamere Capital, a venture firm cofounded by Mitt and Tagg Romney. (Vivint has long used what’s today considered an unusual sales technique; it puts to work former Mormon missionaries, who go door-to-door selling its solar and home automation products.) Note that the Blackstone Group purchased Vivint in 2012 for $2 billion and still owns the company. TechCrunch has more here.

Wongnai, a nearly six-year-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based restaurant and beauty business review site, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding from Intouch Holdings. Tech in Asia has more here.



The well-funded online lending company Affirm has acquired Sweep, an app-based personal finance tool that had raised an undisclosed amount of funding, including from Kapor Capital. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

Comcast is reportedly in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation SKG for more than $3 billion in a deal that could make the cable giant a rival to Walt Disney. The WSJ has the story here.

Spotify, the streaming media platform, has acquired CrowdAlbum, a company that aggregates photos and videos from music events that have been shared on social media. Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed. CrowdAlbum had raised just $100,000. TechCrunch has more here.



Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post co-founder, is joining the board of Uber to bring “emotional intelligence” to the the San Francisco-based transportation network. CNN has more here.

Someone is giving venture capitalist Vinod Khosla bad advice.

Chris Price, formerly a senior vice president iwth the healthcare advisory firm ADVI Health, has joined Oak HC/FT as a venture partner.  More here.

Yahoo has reached a deal with the activist hedge fund Starboard Value to give it four seats on the Yahoo board, including one for Starboard CEO, Jeffrey Smith. Other appointees include an investment banker, a media executive, and the CEO of a patent troll. TechCrunch explains why here.


Essential Reads

Witness the VC firms sitting on the biggest paper gains, care of Pitchbook.

All new mobile phones sold in India will need to have a panic button that enables users to make emergency calls from 2017. Mashable has more here.

Better sprint outside. Now Uber can ditch you if you’re just two minutes late for your ride. TechCrunch has more here.



Anthony Weiner practices apologizing in a new documentary about his doomed mayoral run.

Inside the downfall of Tinsley Mortimer.

“Snowden,” the official trailer.


Retail Therapy

Dyson invested four years and $71 million to create its newest product, and it’s . . . a hair dryer.

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