StrictlyVC: May 26, 2016

Hey there, it’s Thursday already! Woop, woop!


Top News in the A.M.

Intel Capital has announced that it’s restructuring its investment team and expects some departures. But the unit has decided not to sell part of its venture-capital portfolio after evaluating its holdings. The WSJ has more here.


A Lending Case Involving Top VCs Moves Toward a Trial

Elevate, a venture-backed company that uses big data to assess loan applications from people with low credit scores, has been called out as a predatory lender, including in Fortune last year. One reason among others is that the APR on some of its loans is a stunning 349 percent.

Yet the company’s predecessor, Think Finance, which was founded in 2001 and quietly spun out Elevate into a new entity in 2014, is no hero to those with so-called non-prime credit, either, suggests a new lawsuit that is now moving toward a trial.

According to the suit, plaintiffs are seeking financial relief against a particular payday lender that partnered with Think Finance to avoid state anti-usury laws and that has “taken advantage of people who are struggling financially by charging extortionate interest rates and engaging in illegal lending practices,” it states.

Among the specific claims against Think Finance — as well as its venture backers Sequoia Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures — are that they engaged in racketeering and the collection of unlawful debt.

The payday lender is Plain Green, which calls itself a “tribal lending entity wholly owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.”

But Matthew Byrne, the Burlington, Vermont-based attorney who has filed the complaint, writes in it that “Plain Green was created after existing payday lenders approached the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation . . . and requested that the Tribe become involved in a payday lending scheme.”

In the U.S., he writes in the complaint, “stringent laws have been enacted to prescribe how loans can be made and to prevent lenders from preying on indigent people. By involving the Tribe in the payday lending scheme, the lenders hoped to circumvent these laws and take advantage of legal doctrines, such as tribal immunity, to avoid liability for their actions.”

All defendants had filed motions to either dismiss the case or compel arbitration. Late last week, a judge ruled instead that the case can proceed to trial.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe isn’t the only Indian reservation with which Think Finance has partnered.

More here.


New Fundings

7shifts, a three-year-old, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company that makes employee scheduling software for restaurants, has raised C$1.2 million (roughly $924,000) in seed funding by Relay Ventures, with participation from Globalive Capital and earlier backers Boost VC and Tim Draper. More here.

AmpMe, a year-old, Montreal-based music-syncing app that allows users to play music across multiple devices to create a kind of portable sound system, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Relay Ventures, with participation from Investissement Québec, Slaight Music, OMERS Ventures, Townsgate Media, Anges Québec and Real Ventures. The company has now raised $10 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Buddybuild, an eight-month-old, Vancouver-based company focused on continuous integration and delivery for mobile applications, has raised $7.6 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and with participation from earlier backers Amplify Partners, Bloomberg Beta and First Round Capital. More here. BetaKit has more here.

Contentful, a five-year-old, Berlin and San Francisco-based API-driven content management developer platform, has raised $13 million in Series B funding led by Benchmark, with participation from Trinity Ventures and earlier backers Balderton Capital and Point Nine Capital. The company has now raised $16.8 million altogether. has more here.

Front App, a 2.5-year-old, Paris-based email platform that aims to make it easier to work with teams, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Social Capital, with participation from Slack cofounder Stewart Butterfield and numerous others. TechCrunch has more here.

Lightbend, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s backing the Scala programming language, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Intel Capital. The company has now raised $42 million to date. Fortune hasmore here.

Seismic, a five-year-old, Solana Beach, Ca.-based company that sells software that automating updates to corporate sales and marketing collateral, has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by General Atlantic. The company has now raised around $64.5 million altogether. Fortune has more here.

Snapchat, the five-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based messaging company, has raised $1.8 billion in new funding according to a new SEC filing flagged by TechCrunch. According to its sources, investors in the new round include General AtlanticSequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price, Lone Pine, Glade Brook Capital,Institutional Venture Partners, Coatue Management and Fidelity, among others. More here.

Skillshare, a 5.5-year-old, New York-based ed tech startup that makes short, self-paced courses for so-called creators, has raised $12 million in Series B funding co-led by Amasia and Omidyar Network, with participation fromUnion Square Ventures and Spark Capital. The company has now raised $22 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

EQT Ventures, the new venture firm launched by the large, European private equity group EQT, has closed on €566 million ($632.6 million) of investor capital for its debut fund. More here.



Twilio, the cloud communications platform company, just filed for a $100 million IPO. VentureBeat has more here.



Qualtrics, a Provo, Utah, company whose online survey research platform is used by thousands of enterprise customers, has made its first acquisition, picking up four-year-old, Seattle-based Statwing. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but Statwing’s three-person team is relocating and will be absorbed into Qualtrics. Statwing had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Y Combinator and angel investors. More here.



Yesterday, we speculated that billionaire Peter Thiel may have secretly financed a lawsuit against Gawker Media owing to a series of antagonistic stories about him written by Gawker’s now defunct Valleywag site nearly a decade ago. Thiel has since talked with the New York Times and confirmed that not only has he provided Hulk Hogan (legally Terry Bollea) with $10 million to battle Gawker over a sex tape it released of the former wrestling star, but Thiel long ago decided he’d do what he could to put Gawker out of business. More here.

Whoops. An Uber driver charged with attempted murder had an “extensive criminal record.”


Essential Reads

Theranos has been hit with its first class action suit from lawyers representing patients who were subjected to treatments by Edison, the proprietary blood testing technology that’s since been exposed as faulty. The Verge has more here.

Top Apple executive Eddy Cue reportedly raised the prospect of the iPhone maker buying Time Warner at a meeting late last year, says the Financial Times. It begs the question (from Bloomberg): Does Apple have Hollywood ambitions?

Time to push against yet another unicorn: this time it’s Domo. Business Insider has more here.



America’s most well-read cities.

A don’t ask, don’t tell guide to trading on inside information.

The 8,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom home in Washington where President Obama and his family will live after he leaves office next year.


Retail Therapy

New (free) tools for newsletter curators from Nuzzel.

“Ophelia” polycarbonate chairs, ideal for small spaces. (They’re on sale here, by the way.)

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