StrictlyVC: July 1, 2016

Wowsa. It has been a comically busy day over here, but we did not forget about you! Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone — see you back here Tuesday.:)


Top News in the A.M.

Zenefits, the HR software startup that replaced founder and CEO Parker Conrad last February over regulatory improprieties, has publicly announced a deal with its investors that gives some of them more of the company in exchange for their promise not to sue. The deal also sees the company’s valuation adjusted downward from $4.5 billion to $2 billion. After new CEO, David Sacks, announced the new deal, early investor Marc Andreessen tweeted his support, adding that his firm “did not threaten to sue, nor did we have any intention of suing.”


Silicon Valley’s Favorite Fixer: Bradley Tusk

If the producers of the next “World’s Most Interesting Man in the World” commercial were looking for a Silicon Valley type, a prime candidate might be Bradley Tusk, a 42-year-old New Yorker who advises companies such as FanDuel and Tesla that are disrupting highly regulated industries.

Tusk made his bones in Silicon Valley through advising Uber, which paid him in equity for his services while still a Series A company, dramatically boosting Tusk’s net worth (he says he hasn’t sold any), and in the process, creating a model for his newest firm, Tusk Ventures.

Right now, Tusk Ventures, founded less than a year ago, has a dozen clients. Most of the 30 staffers who work at the company come out of politics at “high levels,” says Tusk, and each helps two clients navigate their respective regulatory waters, such as keeping them up to date with a curated email that they receive by 7 a.m. every morning.

His services come at a steep price: clients pay Tusk Ventures in equity and agree to sell him up to 10 percent of their company. (Tusk is raising a venture fund to ramp up his investing activities, though he declined to speak about any specifics at a dinner with reporters earlier this week. )

Startups make room for Tusk in their cap table because of his connections. Tusk was formerly Michael Bloomberg’s campaign manager, helping him to get elected to an unprecedented third term as the mayor of New York City after convincing the New York City Council to extend the role’s term limits. (Tusk also worked with Bloomberg to explore a bid for the current U.S. presidential campaign. Although he claims he found a way for Bloomberg to win, Bloomberg apparently thought the solution was too complicated.)

Another complementary business, seven-year- old Tusk Strategies, develops and runs political-style media campaigns for a host of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, Walmart, AT&T; media companies like AMC, NBC News, The Weather Channel; and institutions like Stanford.

Somewhat astoundingly, Tusk oversees three other outfits, too: a casino management company called Ivory Gaming Group (it owns one casino in Fresno); Kronos Archives, a custom archives business for companies and individuals; and a family foundation focused on reducing hunger in the U.S.

Did we mention he’s also trying to unseat current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in next year’s Democratic primary?

Oisin Hanrahan, CEO of Handy — an online platform for booking household services, and a client of Tusk Ventures — jokes that the more clients Tusk takes on, the “earlier my morning emails seem to arrive.”

More here.


New Fundings, a seven-year-old, London-based personal data aggregation and exchange platform, has raised $6.1 million in Series A funding led by Swiss Re. TechCrunch has more here.

Everplans, a six-year-old, New York-based end-of-life company that invites users to create, share and store legal, financial and health information in one place so loved ones can later access it, has raised $6.4 million led by Mousse Partners. Other participants include Transamerica Ventures and RGAx, a subsidiary of Reinsurance Group of America. More here.

Index, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that makes retail software, has raised $19 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Revinate, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes guest experience software for the hospitality industry, has raised $13 million, shows an SEC filing that shows a $15 million target. (H/T: Fortune.). Earlier backers include Tenaya Capital, Northgate Capital, Industry VenturesBenchmark, Formation 8 and Tao Capital Partners. More here.

Spirometrix, a four-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based company focused on the development and commercialization of breath analysis devices for applications in disease diagnosis and management, has raised $17.4 million in Series C funding led by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical. Earlier backers NGK Spark Plug Co., South Valley Angels, Iconical, Ohio Innovation Foundation, and Carmen Innovation also joined the round. More here.

Woven Digital, a six-year-old, Culver City, Ca.-based digital media and content company that caters to young men, has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding led by WPP Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Institutional Venture Partners and Advancit Capital. Variety has more here.

Zoox, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup said to be building technology that could compete with Google’s self-driving cars and Cruise Automation, has raised $200 million at a $1 billion valuation, including from Lux Capital and DFJ. TechCrunch has more here.


BioVentus, Durham, N.C.-based company that makes bone stimulation devices, has filed for a $150 million IPO. The company’s investors include Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, Smith & Nephew, Spindletop Healthcare Capital, Pantheon Global, Ampersand Capital and Alta Partners.



Hyperloop One co-founder and CTO Brogan BamBrogan is out at the company and former VP of engineering Josh Geigle will be taking over BamBrogan’s role as CTO. More here.

The SEC is probing a range of transactions linked to Nikesh Arora, the Silicon Valley executive who recently resigned, suddenly, as president of SoftBank. More here.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has lashed out at the tech industry in a new speech railing against consolidation and concentration in the American economy. More here.


Essential Reads

Apple is reportedly in talks to buy music streaming service Tidal.

BMW has announced its first self-driving car  — a day after a fatality involving Tesla‘s Autopilot feature was confirmed.



Ah, Seal.

Why buying organic groceries in Brooklyn can be a serious trial.


Retail Therapy

Office chair by Porsche. (Not a joke, probably?)

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