StrictlyVC: June 1, 2016

Hi, all, happy Wednesday!

Just a mention that we’ve been hard hit by a virus that’s winding its way around San Francisco right now. We’re also single parenting for a few days, a combination that led us to this site by yesterday evening. (Truthfully, we would have had that beer either way.) If you’ve emailed and we’ve gone dark on you in recent days, now you know why.:)


Top News in the A.M.

Tragedy at UCLA‘s engineering complex today.


Clear Ventures, Run by Veteran Investors, Closes $120 Million Debut Fund

With institutional investors being approached regularly for fresh capital from the venture firms with which they work, it’s harder than ever for a new fund to secure the commitments it needs to get off the ground.

There is one major exception to the rule, however: institutional investors are much more willing to consider a new fund with known investors who’ve established a record of working together successfully.

That’s largely why serial entrepreneur and longtime angel investor Rajeev Madhavan, and Christopher Rust, formerly of Sequoia Capital and U.S. Venture Partners, decided long ago to start backing more deals together. They were laying the groundwork for Clear Ventures, a new firm that is today announcing a $120 million debut fund.

Indeed, Rust says that while he and Madhavan –who have known each other since 1998 — began fundraising in earnest about six months ago, the duo began collaborating back in January 2014 “to lay out a plan to prove to ourselves –and later, for others – that we have a strong team synergy and do great work together and align on strategy.”

With blowups by other teams that have less experience in working together, you can see why.

Clear Ventures already has eight companies in its portfolio, including six that the two invested in together as angel investors and have since folded into Clear’s portfolio. Some of those companies include Swift Navigation, a San Francisco-based company at work on an ultra-precise GPS technology; Vera, a Palo Alto-based cyber security company; Paysa, a Palo Alto-based online career platform; and Robin Systems, an infrastructure software company in San Jose.

More here.


New Fundings

Cognical, a four-year-old, New York-based company that uses its own algorithms to produce a lease-to-own payment option for in-store and online shopping, has raised $12.5 million in Series B funding led by Victory Park Capital, with participation from earlier backers Blumberg Capital and Tribeca Venture Partners. More here.

Mediachain, a months-old, New York-based digital media startup that’s using blockchain to create a global rights database, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, with participation from RRE Ventures, Digital Currency Group, LDV Capital, and numerous angel investors. CoinDesk has more here.

SevenFifty, a four-year-old, New York-based online platform working to make it easier for retailers to see what distributors have to offer, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding led by Formation 8, with participation from Pritzker Group Venture Capital and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Signals, a seven-year-old, Netanya, Israel-based big data and business intelligence platform, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Israel-based Qumra Capital, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia Capital and TPY Capital. GeekTime has more here.

Vendini, a 15-year-old, San Francisco-based ticketing business, has raised its first outside capital via a $20 million investment from the New York-based private equity firm Level Equity. More here.


New Fundings

Singapore-based Jungle Ventures, a venture that launched a $100 million fund last year, has a new initiative focused on seed-stage investments in the region. TechCrunch has more here.

Romulus Capital, an eight-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based seed-stage venture firm, has raised $75 million for its third, and largest, fund. General partners Neil Chheda and Krishna Gupta plan to invest in between 15 and 20 companies with the capital. TechCrunch has more here.



Salesforce is spending $2.8 billion to acquire Demandware, a cloud-based provider of e-commerce services to businesses big and small that went public in 2012. More here.



Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos insists that Amazon isn’t trying to kill UPS.

Bezos also says that Alexa could be the fourth financial pillar of Amazon.

The Gates Foundation is trying to stop Zika by giving mosquitos a sexually transmitted disease.

Speaking of the Gateses, Bill Gates has landed a few new billionaires for his “Giving Pledge.” The latest to sign up includes Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff; the three cofounders of Airbnb (Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk); Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal; and Intuit founder Scott Cook.

First Round Capital founder Josh Kopelman will succeed Gerry Lenfest as chairman of Philadelphia Media Network, which operates the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and More here.

Six years ago, Google backed out of China, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai now says, “We want to be in China serving Chinese users.”


Essential Reads

Banking star turned VC Mary Meeker just gave her annual internet trends presentation at Recode’s Code conference this morning; here are the slides and some analysis to boot.



Can anyone save the New York Times from itself?

Oops. A kid just broke a $15,000 Lego statue one hour after an exhibit opened in Ningbo, China.

Instagram secrets of the “sexiest doctor” alive. (What? There are useful tips in here, people.)


Retail Therapy

The life-size Pong table you never knew you needed.

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