StrictlyVC: September 27, 2016



Top News in the A.M.

Facebook at Work is reportedly launching next month.


Gusto Rushes to Release New Features Ahead of Rival Zenefits

In the world of HR and payment software, things are heating up this fall.

In the one corner: Zenefits, the high-flying software company that admitted to having an array of compliance issues and that asked its cofounder to resign as CEO earlier this year. The company has been heavily promoting an all-new, fully complaint, next-generation version of its offerings that it plans to unveil on October 18. These offerings come complete with superstar operator David Sacks, who’d joined the company as COO in late 2014 and took over as CEO of the company back in February. (We sat down with Sacks to talk about that transition earlier this month.)

Meanwhile, Gusto, formerly known as ZenPayroll, is taking the wraps off some new, human resources features of its own, including paperless employee records that are centralized online so HR admins can navigate that information all in one place; a 401(k) solution that allows employees to more easily enroll in retirement plans and update their contributions; and a new “welcome wall,” where teammates can leave greetings for a new hire before their first day.

Gusto is also touting its nearly 40,000 customers – which is twice the number of customers that Zenefits has said it has — and noting that it has amassed them with 314 employees to Zenefits’s 900-person staff. Gusto CEO Josh Reeves, who isn’t shy about throwing his elbows, further notes that Gusto has raised $150 million from investors to date and was last valued at $1 billion, compared with Zenefits, which has raised roughly $580 million from investors and halved its valuation to $2 billion in June.

Last week, to learn more, we caught up briefly with Reeves. Our chat has been edited for length.

More here.


New Fundings

Color Genomics, a three-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based personalized genomics startup aiming to detect cancer risk, has raised $45 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst Partners, with participation from entertainer-investor Bono and earlier investors Susan Wagner, 8VC, Khosla Ventures and Emerson Collective. TechCrunch has more here.

Deepgram, a year-old, Menlo Park, Calif.-based audio search startup, has raised $1.8 million in funding co-led by Metamorphic Ventures and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.

NS1, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based company that makes DNS and network traffic management software, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, with participation from Two Sigma Ventures and return backers Flybridge Capital Partners and Sigma Prime Ventures. More here.

Ofo, a 2.5-year-old, Beijing, China-based bicycle-sharing platform, has raised “tens of millions of U.S. dollars” from Didi Chuxing, says VentureBeat. More here.

Propeller Aero, a two-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based platform for drone flyers to upload their data and see it presented visually (creating things such as 3D maps for industrial companies), has raised $4 million in funding from Costanoa Ventures and Accel Partners. Australia’s Financial Review has more here.

ProsperWorks, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based cross-platform customer relationship management  service that plugs into the Google for Work platform, has raised $24 million in Series B funding funding led by Next World Capital, with participation from Storm Ventures, True Ventures, Industry VenturesDevoteam, and a consortium of strategic angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Qrvey, a year-old, McLean, Va.-based customer feedback platform, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by the Center for Innovative Technology. DCInno has more here.

Red Points, a five-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based company that offers brand protection, copyright protection, and removal of content services, has raised roughly $2.2 million in funding from Mangrove Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

The Luxury Closet, a four-year-old, Dubai-based online marketplace that buys, sells, and consigns personal luxury goods that are mostly pre-owned, has raised $7.8 million in Series B funding led by Wamda Capital and Middle East Venture Partners, with participation from Equitrust, Saned Partners, Arzan Venture Capital and a few other regional investors. Arabian Gazette has more here.

Zenly, a six-year-old, Paris-based smartphone app that allows family and friends to follow each other’s tracks on a private map, has raised $22.5 million from Benchmark, with participation from earlier backers Idinvest, Xavier Niel and Insight Venture Partners co-founder Jerry Murdock. TechCrunch has more here.

Zuoyebang, a year-old, China-based K-12 online education startup that spun out of Baidu last year, has raised $60 million in Series B funding co-led by GGV Capital and Xianghe Capital, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia Capital and Legend Capital. China Money Network has more here.



Sequoia Capital just shut down a dedicated investment fund for Israeli startups, according to local news site Calacist (via news aggregator No Camels) and multiple sources. More here.



Bill Gates’s investment firm, Cascade Investment, is joining a private equity venture to take stakes in retailers, restaurant chains and consumer-branded companies that are in need of a turnaround. Bloomberg has more here.

Watch Elon Musk reveal his plan for colonizing Mars right here at 2:30 p.m. PST.

“We’re in a constant state of argument over this,” investor-entrepreneur Reid Hoffman told Bloomberg TV yesterday of his friend, Peter Thiel, who is very publicly supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hoffman adds that he thinks Thiel is actually “inventing policies for Trump that Trump doesn’t actually have.” More here.


Essential Reads

Elon Musk’s SolarCity is being accused of intellectual property theft by Cogenra Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of SunPower Corporation, and Khosla Ventures. Reuters has more on the lawsuit here.

The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday filed an administrative lawsuit against Palantir, alleging the secretive data analytics and security company systematically discriminates against Asian job applicants. Reuters has more here.

The Verge went to China’s Silicon Valley to see the front lines of the robot wars.



Power poses might not work after all.

What. The first “three person” baby was just born in Mexico.


Retail Therapy

Leather touchscreen gloves. Because sometimes, when someone texts you, you’re riding your motorcycle.

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