StrictlyVC: June 21, 2016

Hi, everyone, happy Tuesday!

Great news: We’re hosting another INSIDER event for readers on September 29, a Thursday evening. It’s going to be pretty great, too. We’re working on the final agenda, but we’re super excited to announce that investor Marc Andreessen will be joining us for a fireside chat. We’ll also be talking with SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie, who’s going to catch us up on the company and share some fun election season survey results. In fact, we’ll all be meeting on the top floor of SurveyMonkey’s very cool building in Palo Alto (conveniently across the street from the Caltrain station). Space is limited and tickets will go fast, so grab your seat here.

Much thanks to our friends and partners in the evening: Bolt, the hardware-focused venture firm, and Ballou PR, another previous sponsor that has helped many a U.S. startup get established in Europe. If you’re interested in getting involved as a sponsor, too, please do let us know.


Top News in the A.M.

In surprising news, SoftBank today announced the departure of President and COO Nikesh Arora; he’d been primed to take the top spot from SoftBank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. More here.


Spaceflight Industries Just Raised $25 Million, Led by Mithril

Spaceflight Industries, a startup whose overarching goal is providing affordable, high-resolution images of earth, just raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Mithril Capital Management.

Previous investors RRE Venture Capital, Vulcan Capital and Razor’s Edge Ventures also joined the round; it brings total funding for the seven-year-old, Seattle-based company to $53.5 million.

Spaceflight joins a small but growing number of outfits turning geospatial data culled from satellite imagery into actionable, and lucrative, insights. Ambitiously, it has a three-pronged business strategy, too.

First, working with companies like Planet Labs, Spire, and Planetary Resources, among others, Spaceflight helps organize these customers’ payloads, ensuring that their satellites get into space as seamlessly as possible. (It essentially arranges for ride-share launches for dozens of small satellites at a time.)

According to the company, it has already organized the launch of 81 satellites, including by buying excess capacity on SpaceX rockets, along with Soyuz, PSLV, Dnepr, and Antares rockets. And Spaceflight has another 135 satellites scheduled to take space flights through 2018 via partnerships with a wide range of companies, Virgin Galactic and Orbital ATK among them.

Spaceflight takes the business seriously enough that it purchased an entire SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and plans to expand its services beyond ride-share launches, beginning late next year.

But there’s more. In addition to getting other companies’ satellites into space, Spaceflight’s much bigger business — called BlackSky —  involves selling the satellite imagery of its customers to anyone willing to pay for it. A government might want to see whether an opposing army is beyond a hill, for example, or a humanitarian organization might want to measure the effects of deforestation. Unlike Orbital Insight, which uses machine learning to make sense of satellite imagery (then publishes its findings for customers), BlackSky largely wants to provide easy access to the images at unprecedented price points.

More here.


(Other) New Fundings

Airobotics, a two-year-old, Israel-based maker of automated industrial drones, has raised $28.5 million in combined Series A and B funding, including from investors BlueRun Ventures, CRV, Israel Chief Scientists, UpWest Labs, and individual backers like Waze CEO Noam Bardin. TechCrunch has more here.

Blueprint Bio, a year-old, Newport Beach, Ca.-based biomarker discovery and licensing startup, has raised $7.5 million in funding from Forentis PartnersMore here.

InVision, a 23-year-old, New York-based company that sells collaborative prototyping and design tool software and services, has raised $55 million in Series D funding led by Iconiq Capital, with participation from earlier backers Accel Partners and FirstMark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Juniqe, a two-year-old, Berlin-based online marketplace for curated art, has raised €14 million ($15.8 million) in Series B funding led by Highland Europe, with participation from earlier backers Vorwerk Ventures, High-Tech Gründerfonds, and Redalpine. TechCrunch has more here.

Number26, a three-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based retail bank without a brick-and-mortar presence, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Horizons VenturesBattery Ventures, Robert Gentz, David Schneider and Rubin Ritter also participated in the round, along with earlier backers Valar Ventures, Earlybird Ventures and Redalpine Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Piper, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based Minecraft toolbox for budding engineers, has raised $2.1 million in funding from Princeton University, 500 Startups and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Zerto, a seven-year-old, Boston and Israel-based company that makes disaster recovery and data management software, has raised $20 million in Series E-1 funding led by CRV. Globes has more here.


New Funds

Trae Vassallo, a longtime partner at Kleiner Perkins who left the firm in 2014, and Neil Sequeria, a longtime partner at General Catalyst Partners who left the firm last fall, have banded together to create a new early-stage venture firm called, reports Fortune’s Dan Primack. The firm is targeting $150 million for its debut fund, he says; its focus will be on connected software. Vassallo led Kleiner’s invesment in Dropcam; we’d talked with her about her passion for connected devices here. Meanwhile, Sequeria had told the WSJ in October that he’d be starting a new venture fund.



Tencent Holdings and its partners are paying $8.6 billion to buy the Finnish maker of the “Clash of Clans” mobile game, a deal that will catapult the Chinese internet giant to the global top of the fast-growing mobile game industry. The deal for Finland’s Supercell Oy is Tencent’s biggest-ever acquisition. The WSJ has more here.



Apple may be down on Donald Trump but that doesn’t extend to the rest of the Republican party. According to Politico, Apple CEO Tim Cook plans to host a fundraiser for House Speaker Paul Ryan later this month in Menlo Park.

Former Postmates COO Peter Hazlehurst is back with his own, seed-funded startup. We have more here.

David Morgenthaler, one of the industry’s earliest venture capitalists, passed away Friday in Cleveland, Oh., at age 96. Morgenthaler founded the firm Morgenthaler Ventures in 1968, well before venture capital could yet be considered an industry. More here.

A high-profile artificial intelligence research group backed by Elon Musk is developing an “off-the-shelf” robot that others can manufacture. The idea is to speed innovation without a financial motive. More here.



The venture capital arm of Sanofi, the global healthcare company, is looking for a senior director of investments. The job is in Cambridge, Ma.


Essential Reads

Why Uber keeps raising billions.

The FAA just grounded delivery drones.



When Trump meets Clinton, no TV record in America will be safe.

Legendary artist Christo’s newest project was nearly 50 years (and $17 million) in the making.

LeBron feeds entire city of Cleveland with loaves and fishes.


Retail Therapy

Another beautiful San Francisco home comes on the market — at a $2 million discount to its earlier asking price.

Rocking Pacman bench. Neat design. (Not for sitting long, looks like.)

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