StrictlyVC: October 3, 2016

Good morning! Hope you had a super weekend, everyone, and that many of you are enjoying a happy Rosh Hashanah.:)

Thanks to those of you again who came last week to our most recent SVC event! Attendees, here are some pictures you might enjoy.

Also, for those who missed it, here’s video of our interview with Marc Andreessen who had a lot of instructive things to say about the industry and his firm in particular. We broke down where he answers what so you can speed through. (Reporter friends, we’re hoping this might be helpful when it comes to future stories.) Numerous outlets covered our first questions about Twitter if you want to skip past those.


Top News in the A.M.

Good news for depressed tech investors (and their frustrated LPs): Nutanix, the cloud data-storage firm that made its market debut Friday morning, has seemingly jammed open the window for IPOs. More here.


SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie: IPO, Yes; 2017, Not Likely

On Thursday night, at a StrictlyVC event at SurveyMonkey in Palo Alto, this editor sat down with CEO Zander Lurie to learn more about the direction of the 17-year-old company, known for the roughly 90 million surveys that the outfit and its customers create for their various constituents each month (and whose average order volume is $300, says Lurie).

I was particularly interested in Lurie, a former GoPro, CBS, and CNET executive, given his relatively quiet tenure as chief executive — a role he accepted in January after the passing of longtime CEO Dave Goldberg last year (and following a brief stint by a more immediate precedessor, tech veteran Ben Veghte).

We wound up chatting about the company’s valuation, polling accuracy, and whether and when the company will go public, among other things. Part of that chat, edited for length, follows.

You’ve been a CEO for nine months. What do you now appreciate much more about every CEO you’ve ever known?

I always had a boss or somebody who was there for constant feedback, and it’s different when you’re CEO. We have an amazing board of directors . . . but as CEO, you’re in charge of the script: What’s the strategy, who are the teams you’re entrusting to build the company, then all the comms and the motivation and accountability associated with delivering on the company’s promise. It’s on you to be that great storyteller. And I love it, but that’s what has struck out for me. There’s no one to ask: Am I doing a good job?

You inherited a unicorn company – valued at $2 billion at its last financing in late 2014. You also inherited the company under unique circumstances. Do you feel extra pressure owing to those circumstances?

We’re fortunate to have one of the most profitable businesses on the internet. You couldn’t really do a survey until SurveyMonkey and its founder really invented this new online survey platform. The company in 2009 had about 12 employees and $25 million in profits, then beloved Dave Goldberg became CEO in a buyout and in six years hired about 600 people, and today we’ll do about $200 million in revenue, with EBITDA margins in the mid 30s. So sure, the circumstances under which I became CEO were awful. Dave was one of my best friends in the whole world. But the culture he built, and his ability to recruit a team of world-class people across product and engineering and marketing, amazes me still. So while it’s a lot of pressure, it’s also super fun and a great honor.

How many people are using your surveys?

There are 15 million who are sending [surveys] on an annual basis and interacting with our products in different ways. The vast majority are responding to surveys from people they trust, increasingly on a mobile device.

We have a very detailed cohort analysis whereby people who try [the service] on a monthly basis tend to come on a somewhat transactional basis, and those who sign up for an annual plan — the longer they stay, the less likely they are to churn, and those are obviously our most profitable companies.

Uber is one of your many corporate customers, correct? Are they responsible for those five-star ratings we’re asked to give drivers at the end of each ride?

Uber is using a variety of [our] products, though I can’t say exactly which. I think the largest survey company in the world today is Uber. Today, every time you take an Uber, you take a .2-second survey where you’re rating your driver, and obviously those data points are helping inform them about which drivers are doing a great job, as well as [informing Uber about] the customers who drivers like. It’s using what we call people-powered data in a really refreshing way to drive their product forward.

I always give drivers five stars out of some paranoid fear that if I don’t, there will be ramifications. Other people game surveys for their own reasons. How do you ensure these surveys are actually useful to your customers?

 More here.


New Fundings

Aire, a 2.5-year-old, London-based fintech startup that aims to give people a new credit score to help them qualify for financial products, has raised $2 million in funding led by White Star Capital. has more here.

Benchling, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based biotech company out of Y Combinator that makes cloud-based software for researchers, has raised $7 million in fresh funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator partner Geoff Ralston, Sequoia partner Matt Huang, Tencent CXO David Wallerstein, and actor Ashton Kutcher. The company has now raised $13 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Carrick Therapeutics, a year-old, Oxford, U.K., and Dublin, Ireland-based cancer treatment company, has raised $95 million in funding led by ARCH Venture Partners and Woodford Investment Management, with  participation from Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Evotec AG, GV, and Lightstone Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.

Payzer, a two-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based maker of a mobile and cloud-based financial tool for specialty trade contractors, has raised $4.25 million in Series B funding from Route 66 Ventures, Grotech Ventures and IDEA Fund Partners. More here.

Roomex, a 10-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based global hotel booking platform for business travel that aims to enable faster booking and single invoicing, has raised £3 million ($3.85 million) led by Frontline Ventures, a B2B enterprise fund in London. The Business Post has more here., a five-year-old, Seattle-based platform for pet sitters and dog walkers, is closing a $40 million Series E round led by Foundry Group and Menlo Ventures. The deal will reportedly value the company at nearly $300 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Simplus, a two-year-old, Sandy, Ut.-based SaaS consulting and development firm that helps businesses integrate and incorporate cloud solutions, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Epic Ventures, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. More here.

Smava, an 11-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based consumer lending platform connecting borrowers to investors, has raised $34 million in fresh funding from Runa Capital, Verdane Capital, and earlier backers, including Earlybird. has more here.

Tout, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based streaming video network that powers programming across a wide number of sites, including the WSJ, Fox Sports, and Bloomberg, has raised $26 million Series C funding led by Melohn Group in New York. Other participants in the round include Terry Semel’s Windsor Media, Pittco Capital Partners, and HL Capital, along with previous investors Seavest Capital, 819 Capital, and the WWE. The company has now raised roughly $40 million altogether. VideoNuze has more here.

Uniphore, an eight-year-old, Taramani, India-based speech recognition company, has raised $2 million in a bridge round led by IDG Ventures, with participation of earlier investors, including Indian Angel Network and YourNest Angel Fund. TechCircle has more here.

Unocoin, a nearly three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based bitcoin startup that runs a trading platform to buy, sell, and store bitcoins for Indian customers, has raised $1.5 million in funding from a mix of Indian and U.S. investors, including Blume Ventures, Mumbai Angelsah! Ventures, Digital Currency Group, Boost VC, Bank to the Future, and FundersClub. More here.


New Funds

Arab Angel Fund, an eight-month-old, Washington, D.C.-based early-stage venture capital firm focused on investments into start ups to support strategic expansion to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Western Asia, has raised $10 million toward a $25 million target for its debut fund, shows an SEC filingMore here.



Carbon Black, a 13-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based endpoint security company, has confidentially filed for an IPO, says the WSJ. According to CrunchBase, company has raised roughly $190 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Highland Capital PartnersMore here.



Shopify, the e-commerce software company, has acquired Waterloo-based Boltmade, bringing the digital consulting and product development firm in-house. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.



Y Combinator President Sam Altman gets the Tad Friend treatment in The New Yorker.

Chris Sacca and Mark Cuban, two of tech’s most voluble entrepreneurs, are bringing their colorful show to San Francisco this week to raise money for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, says Recode.



Shell Technology Ventures is looking to bring aboard a principal. The job is in San Francisco.


Essential Reads

Guess consumers aren’t so worried about Tesla‘s Autopilot feature. The carmaker’s third quarter sales are more than double what they were a year ago.

A federal jury in Texas on Friday night ordered Apple to pay more than $302 million in damages for using VirnetX Holding’s patented internet security technology without permission in features including its FaceTime application. As Reuters notes, the two have been fighting over patents for years.

Facebook is testing Snapchat-like photo and video messages that disappear after 24 hours in its Messenger app.

Craigslist gets yet another new competitor, and this time it’s Facebook.



Where Alec Baldwin stands in the Trump impression ratings.

Robin Williams’s widow discusses his dementia.

Poor parents.


Retail Therapy

Colorful Carolina farmhouse.

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