StrictlyVC: January 17, 2017

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Top News in the A.M.

Amazon was just awarded a patent for a highway network that controls self-driving cars and trucks. Recode has the story here.

Joe Lonsdale Moves Forward with 8VC’s New Fund and More

Joe Lonsdale has had his fair share of ups and downs in recent years. Investors don’t seem to mind. Nearly a year ago, they quietly provided Lonsdale’s newest, early-stage venture firm, 8VC, with $425 million in funding for its debut fund, along with $50 million for a separate seed fund. The firm, which is run by five partners, has since invested a quarter of that capital in an array of companies, including, most recently, Synthego, a genetic engineering startup that provides scientists with genetic material used in their Crispr research.

Lonsdale declined to comment on 8VC’s fundraising last year. But last week, we spoke with him about the new fund and, to a much lesser extent, about Formation 8 Partners, which Lonsdale famously cofounded in 2011 with Stanford classmate Brian Koo and longtime venture investor Jim Kim before the three abruptly disbanded in 2015. One oft-cited reason for the firm’s demise: differing opinions about strategy.

Koo has since founded another firm: Formation Group, which hews most closely to Formation 8’s mission, which was to bridge the ecosystems between Asian countries and Silicon Valley. Kim has also cofounded a new venture firm called Builders, which we reported on last month. Its big idea: to help nascent companies gets sales and marketing staff involved early.

8VC’s mantra is simply, “The world is broken; let’s fix it.”

That approach helps explain its bet on Synthego. It also accounts for a perhaps more controversial bet on Hyperloop One, an ambitious company aiming to build faster, cleaner long-distance travel through a supersonic transit system that remains largely theoretical for now. (The well-funded company, which recently settled a lawsuit with one of its cofounders and several former employees, is currently engaged in numerous feasibility studies.)

8VC’s mission also underscores what Lonsdale most wants to focus on — the future.

More here.

New Fundings

Ascent360, a three-year-old, Golden, Co.-based customer data platform, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding from Access Venture Partners, Nelnet, Bialla Venture Partners 2, Service Provider Capital, and the Rockies Venture Club. More here.

AppsFlyer, a 5.5-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based marketing technology platform for apps, has raised $56 million in Series C funding led by Qumra Capital, with Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, Pitango Growth and earlier backers participating. Fortune has more here.

Fraugster, a two-year-old, Leeds, U.K.-based cybersecurity company that aims to prevent payment fraud, has raised $5 million in funding led by Earlybird, with participation from Speedinvest and Seedcamp. TechCrunch has more here.

Letgo, a year-old, New York-based online marketplace for used goods that’s looking to steal market share from eBay and Craigslist, has raised $175 million from earlier backer Naspers, along with other previous investors Accel Partners, Insight Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates and 14W. The startup has raised $375 million in total so far. Bloomberg has more here.

Measure, a 2.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based startup that flies drones as a service for businesses that want to do things like conduct inspections, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by the IT services firm Cognizant. Other participants in the round include Hudson Bay Capital and an unnamed sovereign wealth fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Neufund, a six-month-old, Berlin-based outfit that’s building a blockchain-based and investor-directed platform, has raised €2 million ($2.1 million) from Atlantic Labs, Gameforge cofounder Klaas Kersting and a group of angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

OPĀQ Networks, a Herndon, Va.-based network-security-as-a-service company, has raised $21 million in Series A funding from Columbia Capital, Harmony Partners and Zero-G. Glenn Hazard, long a managing partner of Zero-G, has also joined the company as CEO and chairman. More here.

OrderGroove, a six-year-old, New York-based company that helps retailers and brands sell online by building tools for them that are similar to those used by Amazon, has raised $20 million in Series C funding. The money comes from National Holdings Corporation, a New York-based publicly traded financial institution. (It has also backed Lyft, Palantir, and Coursera.) TechCrunch has more here.

Practo, a nine-year-old, Bangalore, Indian-based company whose platform enables patients to find healthcare providers and book appointments, has raised $55 million in Series D funding. The round was led by Tencent Holdings, with participation from ru-Net, RSI Fund (owned by Recruit Holdings), Thrive Capital and earlier backers Sequoia Capital, Capital G, Matrix Partners, Altimeter Capital and the investment holding company Sofina. TechCrunch has more here.

SecureSet Academy, a two-year-old, Denver, Co.-based startup that develops cybersecurity educational programs, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by the Colorado Impact Fund. More here.

Spaces, a year-old, L.A.-based virtual- and mixed-reality firm, raised $6.5 million in seed funding led by Songcheng Performance Development Co., with participation from Comcast Ventures and other unnamed venture firms. More here.

Starburst Labs, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based company that operates a platform where individual investors and financial professionals connect (it also operates a CRM solution for financial advisors), has raised $6.25 million in Series A funding. Bel45 Capital Partners contributed $5 million to the round; the rest came from previous seed investors. Starburst has now raised $10.25 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here., a year-old, Washington, D.C.-based website that tries to find discounts for small business travelers by suggesting alternative travel routes and accommodation and bundling flights and hotels together, has raised $50 million in funding. Participants include Red Ventures and the investment firm Leucadia National Corp. Upside was founded by Jay Walker, the founder of has more here.

Zoom, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based cloud video conferencing service, announced a whopping $100 million Series D round this morning, entirely funded by Sequoia Capital. The company now boasts a $1 billion valuation. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Serena Capital, a nine-year-old, Paris-based venture capital firm, has raised nearly €80 million ($85.7 million) for Serena Data Ventures, a fund dedicated to investing in big data and artificial intelligence companies in Europe. More here.

Bunkr, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that hosts presentations in the cloud for professionals wanting to illustrate their work through interactive presentations, has been acquired by Synthesio, an 11-year-old, New York-based social media monitoring and analytics platform. Bunkr looks to have raised just $1.4 million in funding, including from Idinvest Partners. Synthesis has raised at least $30 million, also from Idinvest Partners. Terms aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.

Microsoft has acquired Maluuba, a five-year-old, Montreal-based artificial intelligence startup, for undisclosed terms. The company had raised $11 million from Nautilus Venture Partners and Emerillon Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


South Korean prosecutors yesterday issued a warrant for the arrest of the Samsung group’s de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, in a bribery case related to last month’s impeachment of the country’s president. The L.A. TImes has more here.

Joyable, a small startup focused on helping people overcome social anxiety, has laid off 20 people, or half of its staff, says Fortune. The company is backed by $10 million in funding from Thrive Capital and Harrison Metal. More here.
Tom Loverro has been named principal at IVP. He joined the firm in April 2015 from RRE Ventures to focus on both later-stage consumer and enterprise companies and he currently sits on the board of NerdWallet. He also works actively with a handful of other IVP-backed companies, including Tanium.

Michael Lynton is stepping down as CEO of Sony Entertainment and joining Snap — owner of the disappearing-message app Snapchat — as board chairman. Fortune has more here.

China’s internet giant Baidu has beefed up on its AI talent by hiring former Microsoft executive Qi Lu as group president and COO. Baidu is best known for its search engine, but over the past two years it has poured more resources into developing artificial intelligence, which includes self-driving cars and more. TechCrunch has more here.

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, co-founders of Snap, are expected to hold more than 70 percent of the company’s voting power post its IPO, despite owning roughly 45 percent of the stock. The WSJ has more here.

Balaji Srinivasan—who cofounded the biotech firm Counsyl and worked briefly as a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz — is reportedly Trump’s top pick to lead the FDA. Gizmodo asks if that’s why he recently deleted all but one of his thousands of tweets.

Increasingly controversial investor Peter Thiel is reportedly talking with a small circle of advisors about running for governor of California next year. Politico has the story here.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying in court today in a lawsuit that claims Oculus VR, the startup he acquired for $2 billion, was based on stolen technology. Oculus CTO and former Zenimax employee John Carmack was the first to testify on January 10. Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will take the stand later this week. Business Insider has more here. You can also follow the Twitter account of New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, who is at the trial in Dallas and covering it live.


iNovia, the 10-year-old, early-stage venture firm, is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in Montreal

Bad News

Eight men now control as much wealth as the world’s poorest 3.6 billion people, according to a new report from Oxfam International.


The 30 U.S. tech companies where employees most love to work.

Essential Reads

Eighteen under-the-radar startups to watch this year (good list).

We’ve noted that flying cars are coming. Now Airbus Group says it will have a prototype for its own flying car developed by the end of this year.

Can Snapchat‘s culture of secrecy survive an IPO?


Sven Helbig: Abendglühen

Retail Therapy

A one-of-a-kind Donkey Kong watch. Because ’80s nostalgia.

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