StrictlyVC: October 12, 2016

Happy Wednesday, everyone!


Top News in the A.M.

Geofeedia, a Chicago-based company that says it analyzes social media posts to deliver real-time surveillance information to help 500 law enforcement agencies track and respond to crime, just lost its access to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram after the ACLU alerted the companies about looming public exposure in an extensive report. The Washington Post has more here.


Four Kites Tracks Trucks for Customers Like Staples

FourKites, a two-year-old, Chicago-based company that aims to make sense of the fragmented trucking industry for vendors trying to ship their goods, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Bain Capital Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Hyde Park Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, and Otter.

What the platform is promising more specifically is visibility into where each truck is traveling at any point in time, so that problems — a breakdown, an unforeseen delay — can be addressed quickly.

FourKites planned from the start to share as much data as possible with shippers, brokers, and carriers to boost on-performance time from what it says is in the low 90 percent range to closer to 98 percent. But the company is also taking advantage of a December 2015 ruling by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association that states every professional truck driver and commercial motor carrier need have an electronic logging device (ELD) onboard by the end of next year.

We talked yesterday with cofounder and CEO Mathew Elenjicka about the company’s software, its customers, and how it differs from the many other trucking-related startups to emerge in recent years. Our chat has been edited for length.

There’s no shortage of companies trying to wring efficiencies out of the stodgy trucking business, including TransFix, Cargomatic, Cargo Chief, and Trucker Path. What are you promising that’s different?

The strategy [of those companies is] is, let’s build an app for the drivers and take this community [of drivers] and go to shippers and try to disintermediate brokers, who take a lot of margins and don’t add a lot of value.

The problem with that approach is first, you can only get a subsection of drivers to do download those apps. In the U.S, there are four million truck drivers but just half a million of them are owner-operators; the rest are working for a trucking company, and [those companies] aren’t making them use the apps. They have ELD devices and GPS and are already running a pretty efficient operation.

Instead of starting with the trucking companies and going bottoms up, as do those companies, we’re going top down, building our platform for shipping customers, and they are pushing our app down on the platform, saying to trucking companies, “If you want our business, you have to use our platform.”

What’s the advantage of working with FourKites versus working directly with the trucking companies themselves?

The shippers in the country are working with a lot of trucking companies already, and the data is out there, but it’s all siloed. We’ve built integration across all of these ELD devices, so can act as a single data point for shippers, enabling them to see, for example, which shipments are delayed so they can focus on those exceptions. If you’re asking why it has to be a third party, a new player, it’s because existing players can’t build it. If a dispatcher wanted to build what we’re building, they’d have to build integrations with their competitors, and that’s not going to happen.

More here.


New Fundings

Akriveia Therapeutics, a year-old, Thousand Oaks, Ca.-based immune-oncology startup, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding from F-Prime Capital Partners. More here.

Blue Medora, a nine-year-old, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based company that develops plugins for virtualization and cloud monitoring and management, has raised $8.6 million in Series B funding led by Lewis & Clark Ventures, with participation from earlier backers VMWare, eLab Ventures, Start Garden and Grand Angels. Grand Rapids Business Journal has more here.

C1X, a two-year-old, California City, Ca.-based ad tech company, has raised $8.5 million in Series B funding led by the Japanese firm Venture Labo Investment, with participation from earlier investors. TechCrunch has more here.

DTI Management, a four-year-old, Alexandria, Va.-based company that makes inventory software for online marketplaces, has raised $75 million in growth equity funding from CVC Capital Partners and New Amsterdam Growth Capital. FinSMEs has more here.

MEL Science, a 2.5-year-old, London- and St. Petersburg-based company whose standalone educational packages include virtual reality and augmented reality content, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from Sistema Venture Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Mist, a 2.5-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based smart wireless networking company, has raised $28 million in Series B funding led by GV, with additional funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, and Cisco Investments. The company has now raised $43 million altogether. More here.

Nexus Systems, a 17-year-old, Falls Church, Va.-based maker of so-called procure-to-pay software for medium and large businesses, has raised $28 million in growth equity funding from Mainsail Partners. More here.

Noodle, a 6.5-year-old, New York-based education company that’s partnering with schools to create new online certificates and degree programs, has raised $4 million in funding led by the Philadelphia-based venture firm Osage Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include New Markets Venture Partners and 500 Startups. TechCrunch has more here.

Optimus Ride, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based MIT spinoff that’s working on a fully autonomous driving technology (that it’s not disclosing in much detail yet), has raised $5.25 million in seed funding led by NextView Ventures and FirstMark Capital. Other participants in the round incude MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, Greycroft Partners, Morado Venture Partners, Haystack, and Uj Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Serverless, a year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based startup whose open source framework allows developers to more easily write applications for platforms like AWS Lambda, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Trinity Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Yi Wei Xing, a Beijing-based car sharing tech platform provider that’s responsible for Feezu, a timeshare rental car service similar to Zipcar, as well as for providing the backend for rental companies looking to provide their own car-sharing service, has raised an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from GM. More here.


New Funds

China’s Baidu said today that it has established a 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) investment fund, Baidu Capital, that will focus on mid- and late-stage deals in the internet sector, in Chinese yuan, U.S. dollars and other currencies, with individual funding amounts ranging from $50 million to $100 million, the company said on its official WeChat mobile messaging account. Fortune has more here.

Three veterans of a number of Silicon Valley companies, including Samsung, Cisco, and SGI have formed a Los Altos, Ca.-based venture firm called Immersive Capital and raised $21.4 million for their debut fund, shows an SEC filing.



Google has acquired FameBit, a marketplace that connects video creators with marketers who want to sponsor their content. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. FameBit was backed by the L.A. startup studio Science. More here.



Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, is launching a new virtual reality company called Modal VR. More here.

Among the tech tidbits buried in the trove of Clinton campaign emails published by WikiLeaks on Monday was a request from Apple CEO Tim Cook for a one-on-one meeting with Hillary Clinton last year. Wrote a campaign aide, “Tim’s office requested a 1:1 meeting today, which was a nice way of saying ‘no staff.’ I think this is one [where] we should proceed cautiously. He’s supportive but new to this so I think we shouldn’t come on too strong.” More here.

President Obama talks AI with Wired: “One of the challenges that we’ll have to think about is, where and when is it appropriate for us to have things work exactly the way they’re supposed to, without surprises?” More here.

Might Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg be the next U.S. Treasury Secretary? Asked during a fireside yesterday about whether she’d accept the post if asked by Hillary Clinton, Sandberg insisted that she’s staying put. “I really am staying at Facebook. I’m very happy.” More here.


Essential Reads

Would you pay a few extra bucks a month to turn your smart home speaker into an intelligent, unlimited jukebox?  Amazon is betting people will.

Bed Bath & Beyond paid just $11.78 million to acquire online retailer One Kings Lane earlier this year, according to regulatory documents turned up by Fortune. The company had raised more than $200 million from investors and was once valued at more than $900 million.

Elon Musk‘s wild ride. (Biographer Ashlee Vance examines troubles at SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity.)

Why does Siri still seem so dumb (and what does it mean for Apple)?



Painstaking, heartfelt and misunderstood gifts for professional tennis players.

The 10 best Ken Bone memes on the internet.


Retail Therapy

BMW’s new motorcycle concept. So smart, you won’t need a helmet. (You should probably wear one anyway.)

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