StrictlyVC: January 13, 2017

Aaaagh. We’re this close to finishing a column this a.m. but we have to get to a doctor’s appointment, so we’ll save it for next week. Happy Friday the 13th, everyone, and we’ll see you back here Tuesday, following MLK Day.

Quick mention: our StrictlyVC event coming up February 8 in San Francisco is nearly sold out at this point. We have just 20 seats left, so if you were planning to come, make haste. (For those of who can’t make it, we promise we’ll have lots of coverage for you afterward.)

Much thanks again to our partners in the evening, Bolt, Crunchbase, and Rosebud Communications. We greatly appreciate your support!

Top News in the A.M.

LeEco, the cash-starved business run by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, has received 16.8 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in funding and investments from real estate developer Sunac China Holdings and other investors after selling its stakes in its video streaming and movie studio businesses. South China Morning Post has the story here.

New Fundings

Gridtential, a six-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based developer of a battery architecture that it says improves energy density, cycling performance, and battery life, has raised $6 million in funding from East Penn Manufacturing, Crown Battery Manufacturing, Leoch International, and Power-Sonic. More here.

HouseCanary, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based real estate analytics company that forecasts markets and property prices, has raised $33 million in Series A funding from Hillspire (which is Eric Schmidt’s family office), Alpha Edison, ECA Ventures, Raven Ventures, Egon Durban and Nikesh Arora. The company had raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding last year from Basepoint Ventures and Bryant Stibel Investments, the investment outfit formed last August by Kobe Bryant and Jeff Stibel. TechCrunch has more here.

LingoLive, a four-year-old, New York-based company that teaches English communication skills to employees at multinational companies, has raised $5.2 million in funding led by Owl Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Entrepreneurs Expansion Fund, Alpine Meridian Ventures, and Fresco Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Linkem, a 16-year-old, Rome, Italy-based fixed wireless broadband services company, has raised $100 million in funding from funds managed by BlackRock, along with earlier backers Leucadia National Corporation and Cowen Group. The company has now raised more than €500 million to expand its LTE ultrabroadband fixed wireless network across Italy. More here.

MobileMD System, a three-year-old, Zhenjiang, China-based SaaS company whose products include a clinical research data collection system, a drug management system, and a patient reporting system, has raised $14 million in Series C funding led by Genesis Capital, with participation from earlier backers Matrix Partners China, Northern Light Venture Capital and Shenzhen Cowin Venture Capital Investments. China Money Network has more here.

Starship Technologies, a 2.5-year-old, London-based startup that’s commercializing ground drones that can carry packages right to a customer’s door, has raised $17.2 million in fresh funding led by automaker Daimler AG. Other participants include Shasta Ventures, Matrix Partners, ZX Ventures, Morpheus Ventures, Grishin Robotics, Playfair Capital, and HOF Capital. The WSJ has more here.

Yoshi, a nearly year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based gas delivery service that also offers customers services like replacing windshield wiper blades and car washing, has raised $2.1 million led by Zhen Fund, with participation from Liquid 2 Ventures and angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Venture capital firm Balderton Capital is in the process of raising a sixth fund, reports Bloomberg, citing documents filed in Luxembourg in November. The firm isn’t commenting on the fund size or when the new vehicle might be done fundraising. Balderton’s last fund closed with $305 million in April 2014.

Former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, who left the world’s largest burger chain in early 2015, has launched Cleveland Avenue, a Chicago-based venture-capital firm focused on building and growing food, beverage and restaurant ventures. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the new firm recently took over a three-story, 33,000-square-foot building in Chicago’s West Loop, “an amount of space that perhaps signals big intentions.” More here.

Brent Hoberman, co-founder of, has begun gathering commitments for a new London-based tech fund for European startups called Firstminute Capital, and its first investor is Atomico, says Bloomberg. Hoberman isn’t commenting on the target just yet.

Kuang-Chi Group, a Shenzhen, China-based tech conglomerate, has launched a new, $250 million fund called Global Community of Innovation Fund II that it plans to invest in smart city/smart home, internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and artificial reality and robotics companies. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, based in Milwaukee, said yesterday that it’s forming a $50 million venture unit to fund fintech startups. The company said check sizes will range from $500,000 to $3 million. Milwaukee Business News has more here.


Clutch, a four-year-old, Philadelphia-based customer management and marketing analytics company, has acquired Persio, a four-year-old, Chicago-based online multi-channel platform for retail marketers. Persio had raised $5.5 million in funding from investors, including Origin Ventures, OCA Ventures, and Illinois Ventures. Clutch has raised just less than $20 million from investors, including Safeguard Scientifics. ChicagoInno has more here.


Pandora, the publicly traded music streaming service, is laying off around seven percent of its U.S. workforce, excluding Ticketfly, by the end of the first quarter this year, the company said yesterday. More here.


Adobe is looking to add a senior manager to its corporate development team. The job is in San Jose, Ca.

Bad News

Arizona’s attorney general quietly announced his intention to sue Theranos for consumer fraud. This news came out in a solicitation for outside counsel posted on the state’s website. MedCity News has more here.


Megadeals in China helped bring a record $31 billion in venture capital investment into the country last year, despite a sluggish global economy and a sharp drop in the number of new deals. According to KPMG‘s quarterly report on global VC trends, venture investment in China rose 19 pecent last year, representing roughly one quarter of the $127 billion that flowed into startups worldwide. More here. More here.

Essential Reads

Lily Robotics is shutting down. But things could get even worse than that for the failed camera company.

Palantir just partnered with Germany’s Merck in what could become a very lucrative tie-up for the data analytics company.


A virtual reality tour of the entire White House, courtesy of Oculus.

How a secretive Manhattan heiress wound up on Trump’s transition team.

Heading out tonight? Eat food first, have water in between drinks, and take a pain reliever before you hit the sheets.

Retail Therapy

Want to live somewhere between the Obamas and the Kushners in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood? Now it can be so (for $5.75 million).

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