StrictlyVC: June 10, 2016

Friday! Hope you have an outstanding weekend, everyone!


Top New in the A.M.

Apple has quietly become an energy company, one looking to sell excess electricity into the grid and maybe more. 9to5Mac has the story here.


Propeller, a New Venture Outfit, Tries a Different Fundraising Approach

There’s been no shortage of disruption in the venture industry over the last decade of so, yet someone is always trying to introduce a new way of doing things.

Among the latest is Propeller, a six-month-old outfit that’s hoping to entice family offices and sovereign wealth funds to invest in four new but distinct funds at once. One will focus on IoT investments; a second will focus on insurance-related investments; a third fund will focus on fin tech more broadly; and a fourth intends to invest in women-led businesses.

Each of the funds is a standalone entity in terms of their economics. Carried interest, or the fund managers’ share in future profits, will not be shared across the funds. Management fees will mostly accrue to each fund, too, though every fund manager will pay into parent company Propeller to cover their shared resources, including marketing and back office support.

None of the people leading the funds has extensive venture capital experience, though they do have relevant operational experience.

Propeller’s insurance fund, for example, is being managed by Antonio Derossi, who has spent time as a senior VP at Allianz Group and been COO of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Its IoT fund is headed up by Eitan Bienstock, who has worked in telecommunications, for a tech incubator in Australia, and briefly, for a corporate venture unit. The women-focused fund, called Shatter, is being led by Shelly Kapoor Collins, who’s long run her own boutique advisory firm in Silicon Valley and who served as vice chair of a public service project at the Wilson Center in Washington that had her advocating for STEM education and women’s entrepreneurship around the world.

Of Propeller’s structure, founder Cam Yuill says simply that the “data shows that funds that are highly specialized in sectors provide the best returns, and that underlines our thesis.”

Maybe. Specialized funds have certainly been an emerging trend over the last five to 10 years, with hundreds of so-called micro VC funds springing into existence. But many have had to specialize in order to attract capital as the field has grown crowded; the jury is still largely out regarding their performance.

As for why Propeller is raising four funds simultaneously instead of serially, Yuill — who worked briefly as a VC at the seed-stage fund Structure Capital, is an angel investor, and who has been an operator at a variety of tech companies since the late ‘90s – says to “think of it like a fund of funds, except that we aren’t charging [our limited partners] double the fees.”

More here.


New Fundings

ABA English (American & British Academy), a nine-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based startup whose video platform is designed to get students to mimic how English is spoken by native speakers, has raised €12 million ($13.5 million) in funding led by Kennet Partners. GeekTime has more here.

Liberty SBF, a five-year-old, New York-based commercial real estate lending company, has raised $75 million in Series B funding led by Exigent Capital and Mainline Investment Partners, among other, unnamed investors. The company also secured an expanded but undisclosed amount of credit from Capital One Bank. More here.

Lux, a year-old, San Francisco-based mobile shopping app for home décor, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding from IDG Capital Partners and FREES Fund. More here.

ProGlove, a 1.5-year-old, Munich, Germany-based industrial IoT startup, has raised $2.2 million in Series A funding led by Intel Capital, with participation from Gettylab and Bayern Kapital. GeekTime has more here.

Tonsser, a three-year-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based social football platform for young players, has raised €1.8 million ($2 million) in seed funding from Wellington Partners, Seed Capital Denmark, and unnamed angel investors. More here.


New Funds

Garrett Van Wagoner is back. Van Wagoner famously led an actively managed, emerging tech stock fund beginning in the early 1990s. (By 2008, it was the worst-performing actively managed fund over the preceding 10-year period, prompting him to step down.) Now, Van Wagoner is looking to raise up to $250 million for a socially responsible venture fund. He’ll start marketing it in the Bay Area next week. More here.



Two years after the first reports of an IPO emerged, Japan’s Line — the company behind the popular messaging app Line — has announced plans to go public on the NYSE in the U.S. and the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan. TechCrunch has more here.



Science Exchange, a Cambridge, Ma.-based online marketplace for scientific research, has acquired OnDeckBiotech, a four-year-old, Cambridge-based community and marketplace that connects biopharma companies with contract service providers. Terms weren’t disclosed. OnDeckBiotech appears to have been bootstrapped. According to CrunchBase, Science Exchange has raised $30.5 million in funding, including from Maverick Capital, Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. More here.


People founder Billy Chasen is back with a new app that’s kind of like Turntable.

She may not wind up being worth billions of dollars after all, but Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will reportedly see herself played by Jennifer Lawrence in an upcoming movie about her life and company. (That’s something, right? Not exactly?)

Longtime venture capitalist Tom Perkins, cofounder of the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has passed away at age 84.

Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt wishes scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk would stop freaking everyone out about artificial intelligence. Said Schmidt at a conference in Stockholm yesterday, ”In the case of Stephen Hawking, although a brilliant man, he’s not a computer scientist. Elon is also a brilliant man, though he too is a physicist, not a computer scientist.” Regarding computers so smart they might want to destroy us, Schmidt added, “Don’t you think the humans would notice this and start turning off the computers?”

Howard Sherman, the CEO of five-year-old Inventure Holdings, has just sold the house that he and actress wife Sela Ward own to super-performer Jennifer Lopez for $28 million. (We don’t care, but we thought you might find this interesting.)


Essential Reads

Facebook now lets users comment with a video.

Tesla Motors is under scrutiny from federal regulators over suspension failures attributed to its biggest-selling model — along with reports that it had asked owners not to disclose the problem.



How HBO’s “Silicon Valley” nails Silicon Valley.

Today’s significant digits.


Retail Therapy

$16 cup of coffee. Oof.

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