StrictlyVC: November 29, 2016

Hi, everyone, happy Tuesday! We’re running off to another field trip. If we missed anything, we’ll catch you up tomorrow.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Amazon is reportedly developing a premium Echo-like speaker with a screen. Bloomberg has the lowdown here.

A Former I-Banking Star Among Two New Investors to Sue Theranos

Theranos, the 13-year-old, Palo Alto-based health technology company, is being sued by two more investors who say they were lied to about Theranos’s health and its prospects by founder Elizabeth Holmes and former president and COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who was reportedly long one of the Holmes’s closest confidants.

The suit is the third that Theranos has been slapped with in recent months, following a $140 million lawsuit filed earlier this month by Walgreens, a former lab testing partner that’s now seeking the amount of money it invested in Theranos; and a separate suit filed by the San Francisco-based hedge fund Partner Fund Management, which told its backers that Theranos had fraudulently induced it to invest through a web of “lies, material misstatements, and omissions.”

One of the plaintiffs in the newest lawsuit, Hilary Taubman-Dye, is a longtime technical recruiter who now works in investor relations for a TV production company, shows LinkedIn. According to the lawsuit, she purchased Theranos shares on the secondary shares platform SharesPost at $19 per share in August 2015. The suit also describes Taubman-Dye’s failed efforts — along with those of others who’d used SharesPost to buy stock in the company —  to cancel the transaction after the WSJ began publicly questioning its many claims.

The second plaintiff — Robert Colman — is known in some Silicon Valley circles for having cofounded the once-powerful Silicon Valley boutique investment bank Robertson Stephens.

In the suit, Colman says he invested in Theranos in 2013 through Lucas Venture Group, a venture firm founded by a second-generation VC named Donald Lucas whose other bets include the data analytics company Palantir. Indeed, according to the suit, Lucas “directly solicited” Colman’s investment in Theranos’s Series G round “at the invitation of Theranos and Holmes,” an invitation that was “purportedly a favor to Lucas,” whose father, also Donald Lucas, “originally funded Theranos and ‘mentored’ Holmes.”

The younger Lucas, it says, had represented himself to Colman as a strategic advisor to Theranos. His father, Donald Lucas, has been a self-employed venture capitalist since 1960. Now 86 years old, he was at one point the chairman of the board at Theranos. He was also a director on the boards of Oracle and Cadence Design Systems until 2013.

More here.

New Fundings

AudioCure Pharma, a six-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based pharmaceutical R&D company focused on hearing loss, has raised €9 million ($9.6 million) in Series A funding from MED-EL, a provider of hearing implant systems; earlier backer High-Tech Gruenderfonds; and other private investors. More here.

BioMensio, a young, Tampere, Finland-based company whose smart, handheld bio-screening sensor and associated cloud services help determine the presence of specific biomolecules, has raised €2.5 million ($2.66 million) in funding, including from VTT Ventures, Siemens Technology Accelerator and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. More here.

Devialet, a nine-year-old, Paris, France-based developer of high-end speakers, has raised €100 million ($106 million) in Series C funding in one of the biggest rounds to date for a French startup. The financing was led by Ginko Ventures, which is Foxconn’s European investment arm, and also included participation from Foxconn itself, carmaker Groupe Renault, Sharp Corporation (now owned by Foxconn), Playground Global, Jay Z’s Roc Nation, and Korelya Capital. More here.

Fluidic Energy, an eight-year-old Scottsdale, Az.-based spin-out of the University of Arizona whose rechargeable metal-air battery could potentially be used for back-up power, diesel generator replacement, and to optimize electric grids, has raised $20 million in funding from Asia Climate Partners. More here.

HawkEye 360, a year-old Boston, Ma.-based developer of a space-based radio frequency mapping and analytics system, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Razor’s Edge Ventures. Also participating: Allied Minds, which licenses cutting-edge technology from government and academic labs, then creates companies to commercialize that technology. HawkEye 360 is one of its subsidiaries. Boston Business Journal has more here.

Innovent Biologics, a five-year-old, Shanghai, China-based biopharmaceutical company that’s making and commercializing biologics, has raised $260 million in Series D funding led by Future Industry Investment Fund, a private equity fund. Other backers include China Life Private Equity Limited, Milestone, Ping An and Taikang Insurance Group, as well as earlier backers Legend Capital, Temasek and Hillhouse Capital. China Money Network has more here.
OxThera, an 11-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based biopharmaceutical company, has raised €32 million (roughly $34 million) in funding co-led by Life Sciences Partners, Ysios Capital, Sunstone Capital, and Flerie Invest, with participation from earlier investors Kurma Partners, Idinvest Partners, Stiftelsen Industrifonden, and Brohuvudet. More here.
QuantGroup, a two-year-old, China-based online financial services company, has raised $73 million in Series C funding led by China’s Sunshine Insurance Group, with participation from Fosun Capital, Guosen Hongsheng Investment Co.,and other undisclosed investors. China Money Network has more here.
Tetra Discovery Partners, a six-year-old, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based clinical stage biotechnology company whose therapeutic products aim to bring clarity of thought to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders, has raised $5 million in Series A funding co-led by the Apjohn Group and Grand Angels, with participation from Dolby Family Ventures, theAlzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, and other private investors. The company also just announced the receipt of two new grants totaling $5 million from the National Institutes of Health. More here.
Vaadin, a 16-year-old, Turku, Finland-based developer of open source web application development tools, has raised €5 million ($5.3 million) in funding from Verdane Capital, which partly bought secondary shares from another shareholder. More here.

TransPod, a 1.5-year-old, Toronto, Canada–based developer of its own hyperloop system (it competes with Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies), has raised $15 million in seed funding led by the Italian high tech holding group Angelo Investments. More here.

New Funds

WI Harper Group, a cross-border early-stage venture capital firm, has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Luxin Venture Capital Group and Shandong Leader Equity Investment Fund to launch a cross-border fund that will back startups across a range of industries in both the U.S. and greater China. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Another day, another space-focused venture fund. This time, it’s San Francisco-based Starburst Ventures, which says it has raised a $200 million debut fund to invest in early-stage aerospace startups over the next three years. The fund is an extension of the Starburst Accelerator, which was founded in 2012 to help aviation and aerospace tech startups raise seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.


Edwards Lifesciences, a publicly traded medical equipment company in California, is buying Valtech Cardio, an Israeli medical device company, in a deal valued at $990 million. According to the terms of the deal, Valtech will receive an initial $340 million in cash and stock, with Edwards agreeing to pay out up to $350 million as the team reaches a series of milestones. GeekTime has more here.


Goldman Sachs’s longtime president and CEO, Gary Cohn, is meeting with The Donald today, though it isn’t clear if he’s offering up advice or talking about a possible position in the incoming administration.

Even Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt just struggled to answer one of Google’s famously tricky interview questions.

The cofounders of Stripe joined the ranks of the world’s youngest billionaires(on paper) after the online payments company announced a new round of funding last week that valued the company at $9.2 billion.

The White House has partnered up with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Stanford to host an invite-only event today that’s focused on the ways that technology can tackle issues like poverty, inequality, and economic immobility. It runs through tomorrow.


This Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day, ever. ZDNet has the stats here.

Essential Reads

Rupert Murdoch, owner of the WSJ — which essentially stopped Theranos in its tracks with its reporting — had quietly poured $100 million into Theranos before the WSJ launched its series of investigative pieces. (You cannot make this stuff up.)

Uber is defending its business model as a digital platform, not a transportation service, in landmark case in EU’s highest court. The New York Times has more here.

The California Department of Insurance has fined human resources and health benefits company Zenefits $7 million for “multiple license violations,” the department announced yesterday. We sat down with CEO David Sacks to talk about this investigation and much more in September. TechCrunch has more on its outcome here.


Come Together,” a new commercial directed by Wes Anderson, and starring Adrien Brody.

Capitalism camp for kindergartners.

A gorgeous Porsche 718 Cayman (that happens to be racing a pack of drones).

Retail Therapy

Micro Luggage Scooter. Ideal for when the airport is nearly devoid of other people. Oh. Wait.

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