StrictlyVC: December 12, 2016

Hi, happy Monday, everyone! Sorry today’s edition is coming to you a bit later in the day. We’re at home sick with a sick kid and, well, you get the idea.:)

In better news, we now have a site up and running for our February event! Thanks to those of you who reached out late last week and this morning about sponsorships, as well as volunteer opportunities. We promise we’ll get back to you today or tomorrow.

Top News in the A.M.

Whoops. Five former Uber employees say access to the company’s “God View” — an overview of all Ubers in a city, as well as waiting Uber users — was broad, even after news of the stalker-like tech broke in 2014 and Uber paid a fine in a related settlement. More here.

At Founders Den, a Private Club Relying on the Powers of Persuasion

If you live in San Francisco and know much about tech startups, you’ve likely heard of Founders Den, a shared office space and private club for startups and investors that leases 85,000 square feet on a nondescript block in San Francisco.

Founders Den accommodates between 12 and 15 startups at a time, each of them with six or fewer employees. The startups must be invited into the fold, and they must agree to stay no longer than six months. They’re also asked to pay market rates for the space they occupy.

“It’s a terrible business,” jokes Jason Johnson, an entrepreneur who decided six years ago to establish Founders Den with three friends: Jonathan Abrams, Zack Bogue, and Michael Levit. The four work to break even each month, owing to additional office perks that they provide, like a full-time office manager. “If we wanted to make money on [the space], we’d lease it out to many more companies and charge a premium,” Johnson says. “But that isn’t of interest to any of the four of us.”

What is of interest is forming a “curated” community of founders who help one another and provide each other with investment opportunities, and on that front, Founders Den is proving very successful, especially for its creators.

Johnson says he has invested in several startups to get their start inside of Founders Den, including Docker, the six-year-old company behind the Docker open source platform space (it has gone on to raise $180 million from investors), and the mobile app company SocialCam, acquired by Autodesk for $60 million in 2012.

A founder doesn’t have to make room for anyone at Founders Den on his or her cap table.

More here.

New Fundings

ApplePie Capital, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based online lender that’s solely dedicated to the franchise industry, has raised $16.5 million in Series B funding co-led by QED Investors and Fifth Third Capital. The company also entered into a $180 million loan purchase agreement with TowerBrook Capital Partners to purchase franchise loans originated by ApplePie over a two-year period. StrictlyVC talked with ApplePie CEO Denise Thomas a couple of years ago; it’s a pretty interesting startup.

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, a year-old, Bozeman, Mt.-based startup that’s building Lidar systems that can help vehicles see more details about what’s in front of them, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding led by Next Frontier Capital, with participation from Millennium Technology Value Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Dynamic Signal, a six-year-old, San Bruno, Ca.-based maker of workplace communication tools, has raised $25 million in new funding from Akkadian Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, Focus Ventures, Trinity Ventures, Venrock, Rembrandt Venture Partners, and Time Warner. TechCrunch has more here.

Element AI, a months-old, Montreal-based artificial intelligence incubator, announced today an investment by Microsoft Ventures. More here.

Houseparty, a five-year-old, San Francisco and Tel Aviv-based maker of a group video chat app, has raised $50 million in new funding led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from earlier backers Aleph, Comcast Ventures and Greylock Partners. The WSJ has more here.

Investoo, a newly formed, London-based online education company that offers forex, binary options and CFD courses, has raised $2 million in funding from Optimizer Invest, Kinetic Investments and Right Casino’s Sam Miranda. More here.

JetSmarter, a four-year-old, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based marketplace for private jet services, has raised $105 million in Series C funding at a $1.5 billion pre-money valuation from an Abu Dhabi-based equity fund; JetEdge, a global private aviation company; KZ Capital in London; an unnamed Qatar-based private equity fund; and other, unnamed strategic backers. Earlier backers Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and members of the Saudi royal family also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Mojio, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based open platform providing aftermarket connected car services to enterprise customers, has raised $7 million in Series B funding from earlier backers BC Tech Fund. Others of the companies earlier investors include Deutsche Telekom, Relay Ventures, and AOL co-founder Steve Case. TechCrunch has more here.

Pendo, a three-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based platform that helps companies improve their software by providing feedback on about what features customers are using and ignoring, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from earlier investors Battery Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Core Capital Partners, IDEA Fund Partners and Salesforce Ventures.

Tact, a four-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based startup whose software aims to manage customer relationships by syncing email, calendar, tasks, contacts, LinkedIn connections, and CRM, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Upfront Ventures. Microsoft Ventures and earlier backers Accel Partners and Redpoint Ventures also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Wallarm, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based web security startup that means to protect businesses from application level hacker attacks, has raised $2.3 million in funding from Y Combinator (whose program it has passed through), along with Partech Ventures and Gagarin Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Zepl, a five-year-old, Seoul-based data analytics company formerly known as NFLabs, has raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Vertex Ventures, with participation from Translink Capital, Specialized Types, and Big Basin Capital. More here.

New Funds

Bill Gates is leading a more than $1 billion fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation. The Microsoft co-founder and an all-star line-up of fellow investors that includes Alibaba founder Jack Ma, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, and SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner, plan to invest their new Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund over a 20-year period in the commercialization of new tech that reduces greenhouse-gas emissions. Quartz has more here.

LAUNCHub Ventures, a four-year-old, seed-stage venture firm based in Sofia, Bulgaria, has closed its second fund with €18 million in commitments ($19.1 million). The outfit aims to support startups in Bulgaria and the wider Southeastern Europe region. TechCrunch has more here.

Microsoft Ventures announced plans today to pursue investments in AI startups through a special fund dedicated to AI startups that focus on “inclusive growth and positive impact on society.” TechCrunch has more here.

Wing Venture Capital, a Menlo Park, Ca.-based firm focused on early-stage startups, has raised $250 million for its second fund. Current Wing portfolio companies include Cohesity, Moogsoft, and Shape Security, while Palerrawas recently acquired by Oracle. Wing was founded several years ago by longtime VCs Gaurav Garg and Peter Wagner. Wagner writes about the new fund here.


Berlin-based online food takeaway service Delivery Hero, one of Europe’s biggest start-ups, will acquire competitor Foodpanda, a sign of further consolidation to fend of new competition in Europe’s sought after food-delivery business. Reuters has more here.


Tim Cook, Larry Page, Sheryl Sandberg — and maybe even Jeff Bezos — are going to Trump’s tech summit this week. Recode has the story here.

Pete Flint, the cofounder of longtime CEO of the real estate site Trulia, which sold last year to Zillow for $2.5 billion, has become a venture capitalist. His new gig is with NFX Guild. More here.

One-time HP CEO Carly Fiorina is reportedly meeting with Trump today to discuss the job of director of national intelligence. More here.

Remember that health care fund that GV founder Bill Maris was going to launch? He says he has ditched that idea after all to pursue “some other ideas that may be more fun and impactful.” More here.


TripAdvisor is looking to hire a VP of Corporate Development. The job is in Needham, Ma.

Chartboost is hiring a director of corporate development. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Apple has reportedly held talks about investing in a $100 billion fund being raised by SoftBank Group, a move that would put Silicon Valley cash—and cachet—into what looks poised to become the world’s largest tech fund. The WSJ has more here.

Instagram is bringing live video broadcasts to all U.S. users, says TechCrunch.

Step away from the Netgear router (if you still have one).


A look at Suzanne Belperron, the most influential yet least known Parisian jewelry designer of the 20th century.

Why Lamborghini’s intensive driving school is worth the $12,000 you’ll need to shell out for it.

Retail Therapy

When only appliquéd metallic textured-leather roller skates will do. (H/T: LHS)

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