StrictlyVC: May 17, 2016

Hi, everyone. It is Tuesday!


Top News in the A.M.

According to a new New York Times report, Chinese authorities are “quietly scrutinizing technology products sold in China by Apple and other big foreign companies, focusing on whether they pose potential security threats to the country and its consumers and opening up a new front in an already tense relationship with Washington over digital security.” More here.


Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET, Joins Twitter’s Board

Debra Lee, who has been CEO of Viacom’s Black Entertainment Television (BET) since 2005 and its chairman since 2006, has joined the board of Twitter. She tweeted out the news yesterday afternoon, writing, “Thrilled to be joining the @twitter board. It’s transformed the media and the world like few other things in history (and continues to)!!”

Lee has been with BET for most of her career, joining in 1986 as a VP and the company’s general counsel. She has also been the company’s chief operating officer and served as its president in the ensuing years. Prior to joining BET, she spent five years as an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Steptoe & Johnson.

She joins two other women on the board of Twitter. British businesswoman Martha Lane Fox was appointed to the board last month, along with Hugh Johnston, vice chairman and CFO of PepsiCo.

In late 2013, the company also appointed former publishing executive Marjorie Scardino to its board. Indeed, following the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 25, Scardino will preside over meetings of Twitter’s independent directors, approve proposed meeting agendas and schedules, and call meetings of the board or independent directors.

More here.


New Fundings

Allurion, a six-year-old, Wellesley, Ma.-based startup that makes a non-invasive gastric balloon that can be swallowed and expands in the stomach, has raised $6 million in new funding from Romulus Capital, bringing its total funding to date to $11 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Agenovir Corporation, a year-old, South San Francisco, Ca.-based company that’s using computationally engineered nuclease technology to develop antiviral therapeutics, has raised $10.6 million in Series A funding led by Data Collective, with participation from Celgene Corporation, Lightspeed Venture Partners and individual investors. More here.

Avanan, a two-year-old, New York City-based cloud security platform company, has raised $14.9 million in Series A funding led by Greenfield Cities Holdings, with participation from earlier backers Magma VC and StageOne Ventures. The company has now raised $16.4 million altogether. More here.

Bark & Co, a four-year-old, New York-based e-commerce startup focused around dog products, has raised a whopping $60 million in funding led byAugust Capital, with participation from earlier backers RRE Ventures and Resolute Ventures. The company has now raised $77 million to date. The WSJ has more here.

BigPanda, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based data science platform, has raised an additional $5 million in Series B financing, bringing its newest round to $21 million. Pelion Venture Partners is the newest investor of the group; earlier backers include Sequoia Capital, Battery Ventures, and Mayfield. The company has now raised $30 million altogether. More here.

Embroker, a year-old, San Francisco-based risk and insurance management platform that helps businesses select and purchase commercial insurance, has raised $12.2 million in Series A funding led by Canaan Partners, with participation from Nyca Partners and XL Innovate, as well as a new debt facility from Silicon Valley Bank. Earlier backers Bee Partners, FinTech Collective, Vertical Venture Partners, and 500 Startups also joined the round. More here.

Hundredrooms, a two-year-old, Palma, Mallorca-based vacation rental search engine, has raised €4.1 million ($4.7 million) in Series A funding led by Seaya Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Inveready, Bankinter, and Media Digital Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Mitochon Pharmaceuticals, a two-year-old, Blue Bell, Pa.-based biotech company that focuses on developing drugs which target the mitochondria for a host of serious diseases, has raised $1.6 million in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners and private investors. More here.

Nift, a year-old, Boston-based invitation-only network for neighborhood businesses, has raised $3 million in funding co-led by Spark Capital and Accomplice. More here.

PerfectlySoft, a year-old, Ontario, Canada-based creator of a server-side Swift development framework, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Impression Ventures. More here.

Purigen Biosystems, a four-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based company that’s developing a platform for the extraction and purification of nucleic acids from biological samples, has raised $18.2 million in Series A funding from 5AM Ventures, Roche Venture Fund and earlier backers Stanford-Startx Fund and Western Investments Capital. More here.

Q4, a nine-year-old, Toronto, Canada-based market intelligence and investor engagement platform (it manages investor websites and earnings webcasting, among other things), has raised $22 million in Series B funding from OpenText Enterprise Apps Fund, Information Venture Partners, HarbourVest Partners, Emerillon Capital, Kensington Capital Partners, Plaza Ventures and Accomplice. More here.

Teckst, a 1.5-year-pld, New York-based service that enables two-way text messaging for customer service teams, has raised $2.5 million in new funding from Composite Capital, Gaingels, Kernel Capital and Zelkova Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

True Anthem, an 8.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes real-time analytics and social publishing software for the media industry, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from WorldQuant Ventures, an angel investment firm. More here.


New Funds

Breakout Ventures, which looks to be a new venture firm associated with Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs (which provides grants to nascent science companies) is raising a debut fund, shows an SEC filing. No target is listed, but the form lists as the managing partner Lindy Fishburne, the executive director of Breakout Labs.



In the latest sign of Facebook’s prestige and influence, the social network has lured tech-savvy U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal away from the bench and into the company as an in-house lawyer. Fortune has more here.

A legal battle between the managers of Xfund has entered a newly intense and bitter phase, with Hugo Van Vuuren, co-founder and general partner of Xfund, suing his partner, Patrick Chung, for breach of fiduciary duty, defamation and fraud. More here.

Inside the elite startup retreat where Satya Nadella and Condoleezza Rice just spent their weekend.

Watch out, Invisalign. College student Amos Dudley just 3D printed his own braces for $60.



LPs continue to enjoy robust returns from both PE and VC, receiving $342 billion and $46.4 billion in distributions, respectively, in the first three quarters of last year, according to Pitchbook’s latest benchmarking and fund performance report. For venture capital, 2015 remains on pace to be the biggest year ever for venture measured by cash flows.


Essential Reads

FindFace, launched two months ago and currently taking Russia by storm, allows users to photograph people in a crowd and work out their identities, with 70 percent reliability.

Snapchat isn’t investing in developing regions. Its approach to growth is to only focus on users of value to advertisers in regions with good Internet services, reports The Information.

Twitter will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, reports Bloomberg.

Want a self-driving car? Big-rig trucks may come first.



Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class.

Foods you should stop refrigerating already.


Retail Therapy

The Hoxton, Amsterdam. (H/T: Uncrate.)

What better way to say, “Bon voyage!”

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