StrictlyVC: May 6, 2016

Hi, everyone, we made it! Happy Friday from beautiful, rainy, hectic New York City. Hope you’re in for a terrific weekend. We’ll see you Monday, after we finish an onstage interview at Disrupt with Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, Andy Weissman of Union Square Ventures, and Chris Douvos of Venture Investment Associates.


Top News in the A.M.

Lyft says it’s rolling out self-driving taxis — next year.

Square reported first quarter earnings yesterday that beat analysts expectations. Still, its shares fell as much as 20 percent on concerns about financing for its small-business customer-loan program, a service once viewed as a growth area for the company.


New York’s ff Venture Capital Just Raised a $54 Million Fund, and It’s Targeting Another

New York-based venture firm ff Venture Capital, has raised $53.8 million for its fourth seed-stage venture fund, according to an SEC filing that shows fundraising began in the fall of 2014.

The firm had closed its third seed-stage fund fund in January 2014 with $52 million. Since then, ff Venture Capital has hired two new partners, including Adam Plotkin, who was formerly one of its entrepreneurs-in-residence, and Michael Faber, who’d spent nearly two decades as a general partner with NextPoint VC.

Earlier (and remaining) partners with the firm include its founder, John Frankel; Alex Katz, who does double duty as the firm’s CFO; and David Teten, who previously cofounded a short-lived data mining and analytics company called Navon Partners.

Some of ff Venture’s biggest exits in recent years include the learning software maker Cornerstone OnDemand, which went public in 2011; ThinkNear, a hyper-local mobile ad company that sold to Telenav in 2012 for undisclosed terms; and Omek Interactive, which sold to Intel for $40 million in 2013.

The firm has also seen two of its portfolio companies sell this year. In February, the car service app Whisk sold to the cloud and mobile commerce company Deem, and last week, Livefyre, a portfolio company focused on brand engagement, was acquired by Adobe. Terms of both deals weren’t disclosed publicly.

ff Venture Capital (the “ff” stands for founder friendly) employs 30 people, including recruiting, PR, and investor relations staff to assist its portfolio companies. Some of those that remain privately held are Indiegogo, Plated, Distil Networks, Ionic Security, and Skycatch.

Indeed, according to a source familiar with the firm’s plans, ff Venture Capital is still in the fundraising market, with plans to raise a separate “opportunities” fund to invest in the best-performing companies in its existing portfolio. The idea is to invest in 15 of the roughly 85 startups the firm has funded to date across its four early-stage funds.


New Fundings

360fly, a 16-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company behind a single-lens camera that captures 360-degree video, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by L Catterton Backers, with participation from Hydra Ventures, which is the corporate venture arm of Adidas Group. Earlier investor Qualcomm Ventures also joined the round. More here.

ACT Genomics, a two-year-old, Taipei, Taiwan-based integrated cancer molecular information company, has raised $12.5 million in Series B funding led by Hotung Group and CDIB Capital Management, with participation from earlier investors Eminent II VC, Hua Nan Venture Capital, President International Development and UMC Capital. More here.

DigiExam, a 4.5-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based startup that sells software-as-a-service for academic testing and grading, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding, including from Joen Bonnier of the Bonnier family, owner of the largest media group in Sweden. TechCrunch has more here.

Drawbridge, a 5.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based ad tech company, has raised $25 million in Series C funding from Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Northgate Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Omni, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand storage startup, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Highland Capital Partners, with participation from Bolt, Formation 8 and individual investors, including Drake and Scooter Braun. The company had previously raised $3 million in seed funding. Fortune has more here.

Pivotal, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based software company that helps its customers build up their own software development capabilities, has raised $253 million in Series C funding at a $2.8 billion valuation from FordMicrosoft, EMC, VMware and GE. Recode has more here.

Sirqul, a four-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based company behind an IoT platform, has raised $3 million in additional Series A funding led by Miteno USA. The round, closed now with $9 million, also includes Compal Electronics and numerous angel investors. More here.

Via, a four-year-old, New York-based on-demand rideshare app operating in New York City and Chicago, has raised $100 million in Series C funding led byPitango Growth, with participation from numerous other VCs and family offices including Poalim Capital Markets and C4 Ventures. TechCrunch hasmore here.

VTS, a five-old, New York-based commercial real estate management and leasing platform, has raised $55 million in Series C funding led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investors OpenView and Trinity Ventures. The company has now raised $84 million to date. The Real Deal has more here.


New Funds

venBio Partners, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based life sciences investment firm, closed its second venture capital fund, with approximately $315 million. More here.



Airtime, Sean Parker’s live mobile video chat platform, has acquired vLine, a  video chat infrastructure startup. No financial terms were disclosed. According to CrunchBase, vLine had raised $1.5 million from Harrison Metal and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. TechCrunch has more here.

Blackjet, a four-year-old, Florida-based on-demand jet service created by Uber co-founder and chairman Garrett Camp, has informed members that it is “abruptly” ceasing operations. Fortune has more here.

eBay is acquiring Expertmaker, a 10-year-old, Malmo, Sweden-based company that specializes in analysis of big data with a machine-learning twist. Terms aren’t being disclosed. Expertmaker appears to have been bootstrapped. TechCrunch has more here.



Brad Bernstein to managing partner at FTV Capital, which he joined in 2003 from Oak Hill Capital Management.

Famed broadcaster Katie Couric is reportedly eyeing an exit from Yahoo amid its sale to a yet-to-be-named buyer.

Venky Ganesan, a managing director at Menlo Ventures, was just named chairman of the National Venture Capital Association. Ganesan says that highlighting VC communities outside of centers in New York, Boston and the Bay Area will be his first priority. The WSJ has more here.

Villi Iltchev, the former head of strategy and corporate development at Box and, before that, VP of corporate development and strategy at Salesforce, has joined August Capital as its newest partner. More here.

Mary Lou Jepsen, a key figure in Facebook’s virtual reality ambitions, is leaving the company after a little more than a year on the job. She says she’s turning her attention instead to curing diseases using MRI images in the form of a consumer wearable.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says he’s so busy that he has a “sleeping bag in a conference room next to the production line that I use quite frequently.”

Mark Paris, the former co-head of debt capital markets atCitbank, has joined Urban.Us, a Miami-based seed-stage venture firm, as a venture partner. Paris is based in New York. (Strange sounding but true.) More here.

Michelle Peluso, the Gilt Groupe CEO who was hired to try and turnaround the discount shopping site, is joining Technology Crossover Ventures as a venture partner in New York City. Recode has more here.



Courtesy of CB Insights: 95 tech startups that are reshaping residential real estate.


Essential Reads

The dehumanization of Facebook Messenger.

How Tesla is shaking up the metals market.



Harvard is taking action against its single-gender final clubs.

Donald Trump, Nate Silver, and the value of data journalism.

The building of SFMOMA (a time-lapse video).


Retail Therapy

Avanti, avanti!

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