StrictlyVC: May 11, 2016

It is Wednesday and we are done interviewing people on stage! (Phew. It’s always a little nerve-wracking.)

If of interest, can check out our sit-down here with legendary Wall Street exec Sallie Krawcheck, who just took the wraps off her new financial advisory firm Ellevest. You can also check out our interview with Honest Company cofounder Jessica Alba and her chief marketing officer, Chris Thorne, right here. We covered a lot of ground, from the lawsuits facing the company, to the company’s IPO plans, to a new line of products coming this fall that are centered around hair products.

Note: We’ll be on a flight back to SF early tomorrow so won’t be able to write SVC, but we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming on Friday.:)


Top News in the A.M.

Google announced today that it will no longer allow payday lenders to advertise on its systems because the loans often come with high interest rates and quick repayment requirements that push borrowers into debt. More here.

Instagram has a new look today.


Naspers Plants a Flag in the U.S. with New Venture Group

Naspers, the 101-year-old, internet and entertainment group, is finally planting a flag in the U.S., establishing a Naspers Ventures unit that will operate largely out of San Francisco.

The 30,000-person company, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa and tends to focus on less developed markets, including Latin America, Africa, India and even Russia, said its decision to come to the U.S., owes to a few factors.

The first is organizational. Though Naspers is one of the most active investors in the world – it committed $1.5 billion to companies last year, including Avito, an online classified ads company in Moscow — the company has created smaller operating companies around certain sectors where it has a wealth of bets. Some of those sectors and bets include e-commerce (Flipkart), online retail (Allegro), online classifieds (including and OLX), social networking (Tencent), and payments (PayU).

“We’ve gotten well-represented in those areas,” says Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk. “But we also realized that to prepare for our next phase of growth, we want to be focused on other, new consumer needs that are being transformed by tech.” And to do it via a dedicated ventures unit.

Indeed, this morning, Naspers Ventures is announcing it has led a $15 million Series B investment in the social learning network Brainly — a deal that represents the first ed tech investment for Naspers. (Seven-year-old Brainly was founded in Kraków, Poland and now has a second office in New York.)

More here.


New Fundings

ConnXus, a six-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based company whose tech platform helps connect large corporations with minority- and women-owned suppliers, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Techstars Ventures, Serious Change and Impact America Fund. has more here.

Drayson Technologies, a nine-year-old, London-based startup whose technology harvests energy from radio frequency signals to potentially power a range of low-consumption devices, has raised £8 million ($11.6 million) in Series B funding led by earlier backers Lansdowne Partners and Woodford Investment Management, with participation from new, unnamed investors and the company’s staff. TechCrunch has more here.

Orderbird, a five-year-old, Berlin-based company that claims to be the leading iPad point-of-sale solution in German-speaking markets, has raised €20 million ($22.8 million) in Series C funding co-led by Digital+ Partners and Metro Group. The European payment-provider Concardis, an earlier backer, also participated again but via a secondary listing. TechCrunch has more here.

Soracom, a 1.5-year-old, Tokyo-based startup that provides a communication platform for developers of connected devices, announced today that it has raised a 2.4 billion yen (about $22 million) Series B from World Innovation Lab, Infinity Venture Partners, and other investors. The money will be used to enter the United States and other markets. TechCrunch has more here.

Weaveworks, a 1.5-year-old, London-based startup that’s creating open source tools for managing, monitoring and securing containers, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by GV, with participation from earlier backer Accel Partners. The company has now raised $20 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

Cherry Ventures, a Berlin-based venture firm, has raised a new €150 million early-stage fund, its second. Cherry focuses on seed and early-stage startups, with a particular focus on Berlin’s tech hub and companies in the consumer space. TechCrunch has more here.



Elon Musk‘s Hyperloop dream is about to have its first public demo.

This Peter Thiel business is more serious than we thought.


Essential Reads

Venture-backed uBeam could be vaporware, according to a blogger claiming to be uBeam’s former VP of Engineering.

Uber’s latest attempt to ease concerns about its labor model establishes benefits for drivers but stops short of unionization.

The most audacious part of Alphabet? Google Fiber, says Recode. Here’s why.



Why the world’s richest airlines can’t get enough hand-me-down jets.


Retail Therapy

Hotel Jerome. (H/T: Uncrate.)

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