StrictlyVC: January 12, 2017

Hi, and good morning/afternoon, all, happy Thursday. We’re racing out the door; please excuse any and all typos, as you do.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Apple is reportedly planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies, a move that could make it a bigger player in Hollywood and offset slowing sales of iPhones and iPads. The WSJ has the story here.

Bitcoin Booster Pantera Capital Stays the Course, Targeting a $25M New Fund

The digital currency bitcoin began 2017 with a bang, soaring to its highest level in more than three years to reach $1,150 – a record high.

Since then, its price has more fallen more the 30 percent as nervous Chinese authorities put local bitcoin exchanges on notice that more regulations may be coming.

To Dan Morehead — a former head of macro trading at Tiger Global who today runs his own San Francisco-based investment firm — such zigs and zags are hardly a surprise. His shop, Pantera Capital, has been exclusively focused on bitcoin and other digital currencies since 2011, and he argues that its price is “actually very predictable.” We talked with him late last week to learn more.

Bitcoin has been going bananas lately. Why?

With the exception of a bubble in 2013, the price is actually very predictable and has been rising along with the actual use of bitcoin. It was [trending up] slowly for a while because Ethereum [an open source public blockchain-based distributed computing platform] was supposed to be taking over – bitcoin was facing questions over its governance structure – but then Ethereum faded and bitcoin surged back.

That it reached another digit – into a thousand dollars – has gotten people excited, but its price has been grinding up for two years.

How many bitcoins are currently in circulation?

There are 16.09 million bitcoins now, with a roughly $14.4 billion market cap. In a hundred years, there will be 21 million bitcoins. So more than two-thirds of bitcoins have already been issued.

Early on, 50 bitcoins were issued every 10 minutes, then it was 25 bitcoins every 10 minutes, now it’s 12.5 and in another four years it’ll go to 6.25. So as their value is appreciating, the number of bitcoins that are being issued is being cut in half. The total value is going up fast as a result.

Where do those 16 million bitcoins mostly reside?

There’s no solid data on this, but anecdotally, it’s extremely popular in China because a lot of the transaction processors – or bitcoin miners — are there as chip manufacturing is there and electricity is inexpensive because of big hydro plans. Also, with Chinese currency devaluing and speculation that the country’s banking system is suspect or bankrupt, it’s a great way for citizens to store their wealth; some see it as a safer depository institution than their bank.

Why would anyone ever use the currency, versus merely hold it?

It’s definitely enticing for an investor to hold bitcoin, because they can buy more assets in the future. We have a fund where we’re investing in digital currency startups, but we have another where we invest in the currency and just hold it because we think it’ll be more valuable in the future.

How much bitcoin has that second fund of yours amassed?

More here.

New Fundings

Campanda, a 3.5-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based online booking site for recreational vehicles like camper vans and motor homes, has raised €10 million ($10.6 million) in Series B funding. Investors include Michelin Travel Partner, Accel Partners, Idinvest Partners, Ecomobility Ventures, Groupe Arnault, Ringier Digital Ventures, b-to-v Partners, and Atlantic Labs.The company has now raised €17 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Clearwater Clinical, a 12-year-old, Ottawa, Canada-based company whose mobile medical devices and cloud-based data management software are designed for the hearing health industry, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Whitecap Venture Partners, with participation from BDC Capital Healthcare Venture Fund. More here.

Funding Circle, the 6.5-year-old, London-based peer-to-peer lending platform that lets small businesses connect with investors willing to lend them money, has raised another $100 million in Series F funding, led by Accel Partners. Previous investors also joined the round, including Baillie Gifford, DST Global, Index Ventures, Ribbit Capital, Rocket Internet, Sands Capital Ventures, Temasek and Union Square Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Iguama, a 2.5-year-old, Miami, Fl.-based cross-border e-commerce platform that provides consumers in Latin America access to U.S. retail brands that aren’t typically available for purchase in local malls, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Kibo Ventures and PeopleFund. More here.

Kasisto, a 3.5-year-old startup that helps companies engages and transact with their customers via smart bots and virtual assistants, has raised $9.2 million in Series A funding led by Propel Venture Partners, with participation from Mastercard, Commerce Ventures and earlier investors Two Sigma Ventures, DBS Bank, Partnership Fund for New York City, New York Angels and Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of New York. More here.

Kayrros, a year-old, Paris-based predictive analytics company for the energy markets, has raised €9 million ($9.6 million) in Series A funding led by Index Ventures. More here.

OncoImmune, a Rockville, Md.-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by 3E Bioventures Capital. More here.

Roambee, a two-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based asset monitoring business (it tracks shipments and their condition in real time), has raised $3.1 million in funding from Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments. TechCrunch has more here.
Stadium Goods, a nearly two-year-old, New York-based brand that sells “authenticated” sneakers both offline and (increasingly) online, has raised $4.6 million in Series A funding led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from The Chernin Group, Mark Cuban, and other, unnamed investors. TechCrunch has more here.
Staffjoy, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based scheduling tool for workers and managers, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Caffeinated Capital, with participation from Brainchild Holdings and Haystack Fund. VentureBeat has more here.

New Funds

Singapore-based East Ventures, one of Southeast Asia’s first seed-stage investment firms, has closed its fifth fund with $27.5 million. TechCrunch has more here.
A new accelerator program and venture fund called Engage is launching today with $15 million in capital. The fund was established with the help of Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed; the Georgia Institute of Technology; and 10 of Atlanta’s biggest companies, each of which is kicking in $1.5 million in funding. The hope is that 48 startups will graduate from the program in the next three years. More here.

Eclipse Ventures, a Palo Alto, Ca-based early-stage venture firm, has raised $183.8 million for its second fund, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Fortune. Venture geeks might recall that Eclipse was originally part of Formation 8, a firm that has since disbanded but that, before doing so, raised a $125 million fund that was designed to invest exclusively in early-stage hardware companies. (Its original name was F8 Hardware Fund. Among its limited partners is Flex, the publicly traded contract design and manufacturing company formerly known as Flextronics.) Former F8 partner Lior Susan now manages Eclipse; others on the team include longtime Sequoia Capital partner Pierre Lamond, who’d been an F8 advisor earlier, and Greg Reichow, who eft his post as Tesla’s vice president of production last May and joined Eclipse in July.


Lily, the 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of autonomous camera drones that sold a whopping $34 million in preorders, is shutting down and refunding its customers. According to Crunchbase, the company had raised at least $15 million from investors, including Spark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


Amazon said that it will hire 100,000 more full-time employees over the next 18 months to grow its workforce to 280,000. ZDNet has more here. (Donald Trump is taking partial credit for this.)

Dag Kittlaus, the 49-year-old speech recognition expert who is best known for selling Siri to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, says he dodged death recently when a voluntary executive exam showed he had the same pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer that Jobs had developed. Recode talks with Kittlaus about it here.

Madrona Venture Group in Seattle is announcing a couple of new appointments this morning. Hope Cochran has joined as a venture partner. She was previously the CFO of King Digital, maker of the game “Candy Crush,” and CFO of the telecom company Clearwire. Meanwhile, Soma Somasegar has been promoted to managing director. Somasegar had joined Madrona in November 2015 as a venture partner after a 25-year-long career at Microsoft, where he led he company’s developer division. TechCrunch has more here.

Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire and more newly consigliere to Donald Trump, comes off as charming and disarming in an expansive interview with Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, even if his arguments in defense of Trump are surprisingly thin. He says, for example, that “I don’t think these things [like gay rights] will particularly change. It’s like, even if you appointed a whole series of conservative Supreme Court justices, I’m not sure that Roe v. Wade would get overturned, ever. I don’t know if people even care about the Supreme Court.” (People care a lot about the Supreme Court, of course, and we’re certain if you appointed a whole series of conservative judges, much would change.)

VSCO, a five-year-old company behind a popular photo editing app and various other publishing tools, has closed up shop in New York and laid off all its staff there. VSCO, which has raised $70 million from investors, including Accel Partners and Glynn Capital Management, said it’s centralizing staff in Oakland, Ca., where it is headquartered. TechCrunch has more here.


Fontinalis Partners, a venture firm focused on transportation-related technologies, is looking to add a senior analyst to its team. The job is in Detroit.

Essential Reads

According to the Financial Times, Jawbone‘s archrival actually tried to buy it last year. Fitbit offered to acquire Jawbone’s assets and settle any legal battles, but the deal reportedly fell through because the price was too low for Jawbone and its backers. More here.

Xiaomi has decided against revealing how many smartphones it sold in 2016. The annual strategy yielded many headlines for the company in past years, but today its CEO admitted that Xiaomi has been in transition after growing “too fast”. More here.


Funny new Intel ad, starring Tom Brady.

Fourteen incredible underwater sculptures.

Retail Therapy

Muratto wall tiles.

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