StrictlyVC: August 25, 2016

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Naval Ravikant on China Money Coming into Silicon Valley: This Trickle Could Become a Tsunami

AngelList, the online platform that matches startups with early-stage investors, has grown by leaps and bounds since its 2010 founding — and so have its ambitions. In fact, the company, which already bills itself as both the biggest seed-stage firm in the world, and the world’s largest hiring platform for startups, also aims to become the biggest venture fund in the world.

Earlier this week, we sat down with cofounder Naval Ravikant at the firm’s swanky new, three-story digs in San Francisco’s Jackson Square, and as workmen shifted planks around the nearly completed ground-floor level, Ravikant caught us up to speed on a many aspects of what’s happening at AngelList.

We’ll have more on his overarching vision tomorrow. Today, we’re publishing a part of our conversation that centered one of the biggest drivers of AngelList’s current growth: the $400 million that CSC Group — one of the biggest private equity funds in China — committed to invest through AngelList roughly 10 months ago. (The WSJ billed it as the “largest single pool of funds devoted to early-stage startups—ever.”)

Ravikant shared how that relationship is evolving, and why he thinks CSC’s money is just the tip of the iceberg for both AngelList and Silicon Valley more broadly. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: Let’s start at the beginning. Who is managing this $400 million from CSC?

NR: It’s a fund called CSC Upshot that’s managed by CSC’s Veronica Wu, who used to be a VP at Tesla Motors in Beijing; Ming Yeh, who’d spent the previous six years or so as a managing director at [Silicon Valley Bank] in Shanghai; and Tom Cole, a former partner at Trinity Ventures.

TC: How much have they invested in startups on AngelList so far?

NR: They’re on track to invest between $25 million and $40 million this year, with an average check size of $100,000.

TC: Wow, that’s quite a pace. How does the decision-making process work?

NR: We’ve built a dashboard for fund management, and all these managers [have signed nondisclosure agreements] so they get to see literally hundreds and hundreds of deals on AngelList. And they chat with each other and [with the lead investor’s approval], if enough people vote yes, the deal gets done.

Much more here.


New Fundings

Arcadia Power, a two-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based startup whose direct-to-consumer platform that allows customers to better manage their home energy use, has raised $3.5 million in funding led by BoxGroup and Wonder Ventures. More here.

Curology, a two-year-old, San Diego-based startup that provides acne and anti-aging treatment and prescriptions through a visual diagnosis made via users’ phones, has raised $15 million in funding led by Advance Vixeid Partners, with participation from Forerunner Ventures and Sherpa Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Gobiquity, a five-year-old, Scottsdale, Az.-based company that provides mobile applications for the early detection and tracking of eye diseases in the U.S., has raised $6 million in Series B funding from InterWest Partners. More here.

Grabr, a year-old, San Francisco-based peer-to-peer shopping and delivery platform, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding from RBV Capital, N-Trans Group, and numerous individuals. TechCrunch has more here.

Mint Solutions, a six-year-old, Amsterdam-based company whose medicine scanning technology, MedEye, aims to reduce errors when medicines are given to patients (think wrong tablets or dosage), has raised roughly $5.6 million in Series B funding led by Brabant Development Agency (BOM Capital). Earlier backers LSP (Life Sciences Partners), Seventure Partners, NSA Ventures and others also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Navisens, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based software-based location platform that can locate mobile devices indoors, outdoors, and underground, has raised $2.6 million in seed funding led by Resolute Ventures, with participation from KEC Ventures, Amicus Capital, Arba Seed Investment Group, and angel investor Gokul Rajaram. TechCrunch has more here.

Panopto, a nine-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based software company with a video platform used for recording and live streaming in the academic and business worlds, has raised $42.8 million led by Sterling Partners. More here.

Symphony Commerce, a 5.5-year-old, San Francisco-based cloud technology for e-commerce platforms (it helps them handle a variety of wholesale and retail business requirements), has raised $11 million from CRV, Bain Capital Ventures, Blue Cloud Ventures and FirstMark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Zoomcar, four-year-old, Bangalore, India-based Zipcar-like company that operates in India, has raised $24 million in Series B funding led by Ford Smart Mobility, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Nokia Growth Partners and Empire Angels. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

The 11-year-old, early-stage firm True Ventures, with offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto, has closed its fifth fund with $310 million. That’s slightly more than the $290 million that the firm raised for its fourth fund, which closed in 2014. More here.



New York-based Citymaps, a social mapping application that had raised $12 million from investors, is being acquired by publicly traded TripAdvisor for undisclosed terms. The service, which serves both as a mapping and navigational tool and a travel guide of sorts, will continue on as a standalone business. TechCrunch has more here.

Private equity likes software and hardware, looks like. Mill Road Capital just agreed to acquire Skullcandy, the pubilcly traded, Park City, Utah-based headphones maker, for $196.6 million. The WSJ has more here.

ScribbleLive, an eight-old, Toronto, Ontario-based content marketing company, has acquired Linkdex, an SEO platform for in-house teams and their agencies. Terms of the deal aren’t being shared. ScribbleLive has raised roughly$60 million from investors, shows CrunchBase. Linkdex, founded seven years ago in London, had raised $9 million, including from Oxford Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here.



Nextworld Capital has made two new hires: Elisa Russo joins the firm from Greenhill as a business development associate in its London office; Sunil Chhaya has joined as a senior associate in its San Francisco office, focusing on early-stage enterprise tech. Chhaya was previously an associate with Tenaya Capital.


Essential Reads

MIT spinout NuTonomy just beat Uber to launch the world’s first self-driving taxis. They hit the roads of Singapore this morning.

Not so fast, Snapchat? Apple is developing a video sharing and editing app in an apparent bid to steal market share from popular social networks.

LinkedIn is getting in on the gig-economy, too; yesterday, it launched a marketplace that connects employers with writers, designers, and others willing to provide them with a quote.

Best Buy will sell the Oculus Rift VR headset at 500 stores this holiday season, despite that few computers have the graphics capabilities needed to run virtual reality.



For this photographer and new mom, nap time has turned into a very funny creative outlet.

A look at the not-so-new but still-popular sport of choice for VCs: cycling.

Why fewer Americans die during economic downturns.


Retail Therapy

Impossible Burgers. (Truly delish.)

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