StrictlyVC: May 3, 2016

Hi, all! Happy Tuesday.

Quick mention: As most of you know, we also work with TechCrunch, and TechCrunch Disrupt is coming up next week in New York. We’re excited. We’re interviewing former big bank executive (and now startup founder) Sallie Krawcheck; actress and The Honest Company cofounder Jessica Alba; and investors Josh Kopelman, Andy Weissman, and Chris Douvos. (Other featured speakers include Casey Niestat, David Plouffe and B. J. Novak. Woot.)

Just a note that SVC may be a leetle skimpier while we’re traveling/busy with the event. It might also come at unexpected times, as today. (It keeps us pretty tied-up for a bit.) Hope you’ll bear with us.:)


Top News in the A.M.

It’s official: Fiat is partnering with Google to build several dozen self-driving prototypes.

Meanwhile, Tesla Motors is probably looking at a big quarterly loss and a yearly sales miss, say UBS analysts, who issued a note to clients this morning.


Designer Fund Raises $20 Million for Debut Effort

Designer Fund, a San Francisco outfit that looks to invest in seed-stage startups that feature designers on their founding teams, has raised $20 million in funding from unnamed individual investors, most of them successful designers looking to support the next generation.

The four-year-old firm was founded by Enrique Allen and Ben Blumenfeld, who remain its only general partners. Previously, Allen was a designer with 500 Startups and Facebook’s fbFund; Blumenfeld was meanwhile an early design lead at Facebook who spent more than five years with the company. The two met at the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, which studies how computer design can change human behavior; when Blumenfeld left Facebook to take a sabbatical, they decided to form Designer Fund.

“We saw a lack of capital that really understood and valued design at the early stages,” explains Allen, who notes that Airbnb’s founders weren’t taken seriously at first because few understood how two design students could rethink and expand the travel market.

More here.


New Fundings

Age of Learning, a nine-year-old, Glendale, Ca.-based education company behind the popular children’s site and app ABCMouse, has quietly raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation led by Iconiq Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Bench, a four-year-old, Vancouver-based online bookkeeping service for small businesses and independent contractors, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by Bain Capital Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Altos Ventures and Contour Venture Partners. The company has now raised $33 million altogether. More here.

CloudHealth Technologies, a Boston-based cloud service management company, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Scale Venture Partners.406 Ventures and Sigma Prime Ventures. More here.

Digital Reasoning, a 16-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based cognitive computing company, has raised $40 million in Series D funding co-led by Lemhi Ventures and Nasdaq, with participation from earlier backers Goldman Sachs andHCA.

Envera Health, a Richmond, Va.-based company that sells clinical delivery and physician support services, has raised $14 million in new funding co-led by Harbert Venture Partners and Noro-Moseley Partners, with participation from New Richmond Ventures. More here.

Maana, a 3.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based analytics platform, has raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Saudi Armco Energy Ventures, with participation from Shell Technology Ventures and previous backers GE Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Intel Capital, and Frost Data Capital. More here.

MobiKwik, a 6.5-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based mobile wallet company, has raised $50 million in Series C funding co-led by Japan’s GMO and Taiwan’s Mediatek, with participation from Sequoia Capital India and Treeline Asia. TechStory has more here.

Parasail Health, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company that provides term loans to help individuals cover their out of pocket medical expenses, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding round from Peter Thiel and Montage Ventures. More here.

Roam, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based network of communal living spaces around the world, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding led by CRV, with participation from Collaborative Fund, NextView Ventures and individual angels. Fortune has more here.

Shine, a seven-month-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based SMS service that sends an inspirational daily text message to users, along with a link to related article, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding led by Flybridge Ventures, with participation from Comcast Ventures and BBG Ventures. More here.

Zooz, a six-year-old, Kfar Sava, Israel-based payments platform designed to reduce the percentage of international credit cards being rejected, has raised $24 million in Series C funding led by Target Global Ventures. Other participants include Fang Fund, iAngelsm, Kreos Capital and earlier backer Blumberg Capital, Lool Ventures, Rhodium, Access Industries, XSeed Capital and CampOne Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

Shenzhen Valley Ventures in Palo Alto, Calif. is launching an incubator for hardware startups in partnership with one of its largest limited partners, Zowee, a factory that works with hardware giants like Xiaomi and Samsung. TechCrunch has more here.

Bowers & Wilkins has been cranking out solid audio gear for the better part of three decades, but it’s being acquired by a company that’s only been around since 2014, Eva Automation, a Silicon Valley startup founded by former Facebook CFO Gideon Yu. Engadget has more here.



Publicly traded Chegg has acquired Imagine Easy Solutions, a 15-year-old, New York-based company whose citation tools  allow students to easily generate bibliographies. Chegg will pay $25 million up front and $17 million in deferred payments, with yet another $18 million of potential payments over the next three years. TechCrunch has more here.

Formlabs, a Somerville, Ma.-based maker of 3D printers that has raised $20 million from investors, has acquired Pinshape, a Vancouver-based online 3D printing community funded by 500 Startups. The move follows an announcement that Pinshape was shutting down. TechCrunch has more here.

Google has acquired Synergyse, a Toronto-based interactive training service for Google Apps for Work that was launched by a group of former Google employees in 2013. CrunchBase doesn’t turn up any funding for Synergyse. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

Microsoft has acquired Solair, an Italy-based IoT service that was founded in 2011. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.



Former venture capitalist Ellen Pao, along with four other prominent Silicon Valley women from companies including Pinterest, Stripe and Slack, have launched a nonprofit called Project Include that aims to collect and share data to help diversify the rank-and-file employees who make up tech companies. The New York Times has much more here.



Route 66 Ventures is looking for a principal. The job is in Alexandria, Va.


Essential Reads

India just thwarted Apple’s plan to import, cheaper refurbished iPhones to the country. Bloomberg has more here.



This disease has killed a million trees in California, and scientists say it’s basically unstoppable.

What cringing at your own voice reveals about you.

Samantha Bee comes to late-night TV.


Retail Therapy

BottleLoft. American ingenuity at its most so-so.

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