StrictlyVC: August 31, 2016

Hey, hey, happy Wednesday!


Top News in the A.M.

It’s a happenin’: Google is taking on Uber with a new ride-sharing service that’s opening to all San Francisco Waze users this fall.

Twitter jumped as much as 5.8 percent this morning, the biggest gain in two weeks, after co-founder Ev Williams said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that the company has to weigh all options amid ongoing speculation that it’s a takeover target. More here.


Underwhelmed By Your CEO? Good Luck with That

Every day, some tech startups are surpassing their numbers while others are struggling to keep going. Washio, an on-demand laundry service that abruptly shut down yesterday, is just the latest startup to lose its momentum.

There’s no shortage of ways things go wrong. Markets change. Companies underestimate the cost of doing business. Sometimes, too, the CEO isn’t getting the job done. In fact, you might feel very certain that your CEO is one of these people, and you may be tempted to complain to your company’s board members about it.

You might be disappointed if you do. However well-intentioned they may be, most board members won’t push a CEO out the door unless they have no other choice. Though VCs in particular talk up the help they provide to startups, when it comes to trouble within a company’s executive ranks, it’s, well, complicated.

“I think broadly the default is to back the CEO,” admits one investor who asked not to be named. “The CEO has far more access to the board than anyone else, and like it or not, his or her point of view tends to influence how you as a board member perceive the company’s situation. It’s sort of like, ‘Do I want to take a one-off comment, even a thoughtful one, and [give it more credence than] the interactions I’ve had with this [executive] over their tenure as CEO?’”

“Startups are hard,” says SoftTech VC founder Jeff Clavier. “The thing that no one talks about are the personal aspects of running a startup and the relationships between investors and entrepreneurs. We’re coaches and mentors, but sometimes, we’re psychiatrists, too.”

Slow down

If it’s any consolation, frustration at startups – anecdotally, at least – is playing out across the landscape as a growing number of aging startups confront an uncertain future. According to the company Mattermark, which collects and analyzes data on private market funding, late-stage deal volume in the first quarter was down substantially, with 23 deals accounting for $4.2 billion in capital, compared with 32 deals totaling $6.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015.

Venky Ganesan, a managing director at the early-stage firm Menlo Ventures, says that over the last 18 months he has received “five or six calls” from high-level startup employees who’ve grown unhappy with their CEOs.

The precise issue typically dictates what happens next. Strange as it may seem, the easy things are financial fraud or gross mismanagement, says Ganesan. Harassment is a deal breaker, too. “If someone is calling me about personal harassment or integrity around accounting, it’s immediate. You ring the alarm and get out the fire trucks.”

More here.


New Funding

Compass, a four-year-old, New York-based real estate startup, has raised $75 million in fresh funding at a valuation “above $1 billion,” says TechCrunch.Wellington Management Capital led the round, with participation from earlier backers Institutional Venture Partners, Thrive Capital and Founders Fund. Compass has now raised $210 million altogether. More here.

Cozy, a 4.5-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based platform to streamline interactions between property managers and renters, has raised $8.5 million in Series B funding led by American Family Ventures, with participation from Social Capital, General Catalyst Partners and numerous others. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Pusher, a five-year-old, London-based cloud-based service that allows developers to quickly and easily add realtime functionality to their web apps, has raised $2.5 million from SaaS Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Steel Wool Studios, a four-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based gaming studio made up of Pixar veterans, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from HTC, the manufacturer of the Vive virtual reality headset. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

Hyde Park Venture Partners, the five-year-old, Chicago-based early-stage venture firm, has closed its second fund with $65 million — capital it plans to invest in Midwestern tech startups. The firm closed its debut fund with $25 million. The Chicago Tribune has more here.



Private equity firm KKR is buying the nine-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based, mostly bootstrapped call-center software maker Calabrio for what the WSJ says is a $200 million all-equity transaction. More here.



Nest Labs, the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors, is parting ways with a few dozen employees who work on its Internet of Things platform. Their destination: Google. More here.

Bill Nye is getting a new TV show, thanks to Netflix.

President Obama is set to guest-edit Wired magazine this fall.

Esther Wojcicki on raising three superstar daughters: “My theory has always been: ‘The more you do for your kids, the less they do for themselves.’”


Essential Reads

For UPS and FedEx, Amazon’s been great for business. Now, it might just kill them both.

A Dropbox breach dating back to 2012 was a lot worse than first understood. Motherboard has more here.



Making house: Notes on domesticity.

How Airbnb rentals can play havoc with your mortgage.


Retail Therapy

Good news for more intense “Silicon Valley” fans; Erlich’s Aviato-branded Ford Escape is now available to rent.

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