StrictlyVC: October 31, 2016

Good morning, everyone. We’re running over to a Halloween parade that we know will feature at least one San Francisco 49er and one “infected zombie chimp” so today’s edition is a tad short on funding news, but we’ll have more for you tomorrow. Happy Halloween; enjoy your office costume parties.:)


Top News in the A.M.

Massive telecom merger alert. To expand its fiber optic network and high-speed data services, CenturyLink said this morning it will buy Level 3 Communications in for about $24 billion. Reuters has more here.


In Speech, Peter Thiel Defends Idea of Trump Above Actual Candidate

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel may have been trying to drum up more support for Republican candidate Donald Trump this morning at the National Press Club in Washington. But a 15-minute long speech he delivered sounded more like a plea to Americans to understand what’s so wrong with this country, rather than a case for Trump. His pitch: American is broken, and there’s nothing crazy about supporting change — despite Trump.

He didn’t talk about Trump’s intellect, his command of the issues, or his suitability for the office of president.

Instead, Thiel spoke at length about the condition of the U.S., citing a litany of statistics mean to alarm: 64 percent of people age 55 in the U.S have less than a year’s worth of savings. Healthcare costs are “10 times” the cost of “simple medicines” anywhere else in the world. College tuition has risen faster than the rate of inflation. Millennials expect their lives to be worse than the lives of their parents. Incomes are stagnant, with the median household making less money today than 17 years ago. The government is “wasting trillions of dollars of taxpayer money” on foreign wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.

Trump, argued Thiel, is a vote against the status quo, even while Thiel offered nary a detail about how Trump would address any of these issues.

In many ways, follow-up questions that followed Thiel’s presentation were more interesting than the speech itself.

Asked about Trump’s vulgar, decade-old comments about women that aired earlier this month, Thiel said they were in “extremely poor taste” and “extremely inappropriate” but he argued that Trump wouldn’t make the same comments today.

Asked about his recent,  widely reported $1.25 million donation to Trump’s campaign, Thiel said he “didn’t think about it as much as I should have.” He noted that neither candidate’s campaign has been hugely successful on the fundraising front, adding that Trump specifically hasn’t raised much, so “I didn’t think he needed the money, and I hadn’t donated.”

When the campaign finally asked him for help — apparently after it became clear that none was forthcoming — “I thought I’d go ahead and write a check,” Thiel said.

Thiel was also asked about Trump’s personality traits and whether he is concerned about his temperament. Thiel mostly dodged the question, saying instead that when it comes to president, he’s more concerned with world view than temperament, and that he’s more worried about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, saying he thinks she has the propensity to get the U.S. into “more wars.”

Asked about other government regulations, including around small businesses, Thiel said he thinks Trump “viscerally” understands them.

What about Trump’s track record as a businessman? He has a “huge number of zeros” in his net worth, said Thiel.

Pressed on what he thinks of Trump’s four (or more) bankruptcies, Thiel said he suspects that “real estate is very different than tech. It’s a fairly zero sum business — a very tough industry especially in big cities like Manhattan or San Francisco. I suspect in many ways what [Trump] did was par for the course in that context.”

What about the tax returns that Trump has refused to admit? Here, Thiel suggested that government focuses too much on transparency, suggesting that it’s why we “in some ways have a less talented group running [for office] than 30 or 40 years ago.”

More here.


New Fundings

Everything But The House, an eight-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based startup creating a digital marketplace for estate sales, has raised $41.5 million in new funding led by earlier backer Greenspring Associates, with participation from returning investors Greycroft Partners and Spark Capital. The company has now raised $84.5 million altogether. Fortune has the story here.

Giphy, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based search engine for the short, looping video files, has raised a fresh $72 million in funding led by DFJ, with participation from Institutional Venture Partners, China Media Capital, and earlier backers Betaworks, Lightspeed Venture Partners and GV. The company has now raised roughly $150 million altogether, and is valued at $600 million, says the WSJ. More here.

Riskalyze, a five-year-old, Sacramento, Ca.-based company whose software helps investment advisors assess their client’s risk tolerance and find investments that fit them, has raised $20 million in growth equity led by FTV Capital. More here.


New Funds

Chicago Ventures, a 3.5-year-old early-stage venture firm focused on startups in Chicago and the central U.S., has closed its second fund with $66 million. The firm has also added to its roster of “entrepreneur partners” and advisors, which now includes Signal’s Eric Lunt, OkCupid’s Sam Yagan, Trunk Club’s Brian Spaly, and SteelBrick’s Godard Abel. Chicago Ventures closed its debut fund with $40 million in 2013. The Chicago Tribune has more here.

Third Rock Ventures, the 10-year-old, Boston-based firm focused on fields such as oncology, immunology, neurological disorders, cardiovascular and rare genetic diseases. has closed its fourth fund with $616 million. It’s the firm’s largest fund yet. The Boston Globe has more here.



Starbreeze, an 18-year-old, Stockholm-based game development studio that also makes a VR headset, has purchased Nozon, a Belgium-based visual effects studio for about $7.75 million. More here.



Justin Kan, Y Combinator partner, serial entrepreneur, and one of the internet’s most-loved reality stars, has started another venture called Whale, a video Q&A app. More here.



Cisco‘s corporate development team is looking to hire a senior manager. The job is in San Jose, Ca.

Energy Capital Partners, a year-old early-stage venture firm that’s focused primarily on energy technologies, is looking to hire an associate. The job is in New York.


Essential Reads

Tesla unveiled new solar roof tiles on Friday and they look amazing. No one saw them coming, either.

This past summer, Facebook made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Snow, a Snapchat-like service from Naver, the $25 billion-valued Korean firm behind chat app Line. TechCrunch has more here.

A new study finds discrimination against women and black people by Uber and Lyft drivers.



Apparently, you can be asleep and awake at the same time.

Forget bomb-sniffing dogs, we can now use spinach to detect explosives.

A New York man just returned a book that was 42 years overdue.


Retail Therapy

Even if you have more money than you know what to do with, this seems wrong.

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