StrictlyVC: February 10, 2017

Friday! Pheeeew. Everyone, hope you have a wonderful weekend! Stay dry/warm.

For those of you who came out to our event in San Francisco on Wednesday night, we have lots of pictures here. Thank you again for making it a very fun event.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Ford is investing $1 billion into an AI startup, Detroit’s biggest investment yet in self-driving car tech.

Xiaomi is planning to roll out 1,000 retail stores.

Carl Bass on His Surprising Resignation from Autodesk — and What’s Next

Carl Bass is sitting at his desk at Autodesk today, but he’s no longer CEO of the publicly traded design software company. He stepped down earlier this week in a move that some associated — wrongly, notes Bass — with an interview Bass granted to the outlet Pando, wherein he disparaged President Donald Trump.

This morning, we talked with Bass about his resignation, his continuing role as a board member with Autodesk, if he regrets speaking out against the administration as a public company CEO, and whether he thinks more tech CEOs should do the same. The famously straight-shooting Bass had plenty to say about all. He also shared some of what he hopes to work on next. Our conversation has been edited lightly for length.

You stepped down as CEO on Tuesday, and senior VPs Amar Hanspal and Andrew Anagnost have been installed as interim co-CEOs. But you’re helping in the search for your replacement, is that correct? 

Yes, Tuesday was my last day, but I’ll continue working as an employee for three months and am continuing on the board of directors for a while. We started planning this a while ago, because the best way to do [a succession change] is for the current CEO to step down. Otherwise, the best external candidates aren’t sure there’s really a job opening.  You know, sometimes you see the pocket veto, where the CEO has a change of heart and says, “Hey, if you’re going to choose so and so, I’m not leaving.” This is a clean break, and outside candidates take it seriously, and the board takes it seriously. We’ve hired an outside search team who will be talking with both internal and external candidates, so hopefully [we’ll find the right candidate] quickly.

You’ve said that you and Autodesk’s board began succession planning talks 18 months ago, but some people believe an interview wherein you criticized Donald Trump played a role in the timing of your resignation.

There were a lot of rumors this week that couldn’t be further from the truth. To the extent that you take what a company says with a grain of salt [because companies can be so promotional], when it comes to governance, these are real rules. There are real penalties of law. Public companies don’t take that lightly.

Do you at all regret being so public about how you feel about Trump? 

Not, not at all. Not one bit. When you look at Trump, there are three things going on: policies; character and temperament; and executive or administrative functioning. I think on two and three, almost everybody can agree that he’s not qualified, and that’s why I joked [to Pando’s Sarah Lacy] that he’s running the government like someone in between a small businessman and dictator. I watch what’s happening every day, and I’m reminded of my kids when they were four years old and had no awareness of anything outside of themselves. He’s a 70-year-old baby.

On the policy stuff, it’s hard to parse what his is policy is. We’re against the “One China” policy; now we’re for it. We’re going to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jersusalem; now we’re not. Policy seems to be the part of the job that least interests him. These are complicated issues, but they don’t seem to captivate him. He doesn’t seem particularly curious or thoughtful about them. He’s more interested in tweeting out the latest insult that [springs to mind].

Do you think other tech executives should be more vocal, or is too much of a risk?

I think anybody who has a platform should speak out. I’ve had a ton of people reach out to me this week — people much better-known than I am, saying, “That’s awesome, what you said.” And I’m like, “Why don’t you say it? You have a bigger pulpit.”

A lot of people think Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk should step off Trump’s economic advisory council. What do you think?

It’s a complicated issue for Elon. I think many of the things he’s trying to accomplish are really worthy goals but they intersect with regulation: automomuos vehicles, putting things in space. You can’t do that without the government, so from very self-interested point of view, and in the interest of his companies, I understand. On the other hand, he has a very pubic platform and I’m sure he has an opinion and if everybody takes the self-interested view, the world doesn’t get to hear the opinions of its leaders. So I think it’s important but I certainly understand.

I’ve [feel even more strongly about Facebook COO] Sheryl Sandberg. She has gone out of her way to build a brand around the power of women and what they’re capable of, and when it comes to the Women’s March, she was invisible. She seems to have leaned out quite a bit.

More here.

New Fundings, a year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based conversational commerce platform, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Costanoa Ventures, with participation from SV Angel. More here.

Capsule8, a months-old, New York City-based cybersecurity startup that’s focused on container-aware, real-time threat protection for Linux, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding, including from Bessemer Venture Partners, Shardul Shah of Index Ventures and Jay Leek of ClearSky. More here.

Demisto, a 1.5-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based chatbot startup that offers a comprehensive security operations platform, has raised $20 million in funding led by ClearSky. SiliconAngle has more here.

Empow, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $9 million in funding from both private investors and the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy. FinSMEs has more here., a 3.5-year-old Pleasanton, Ca.-based company that offers security services for public cloud infrastructure provider AWS, has raised $22 million in new funding led by GV. Earlier investors Bain Capital, True Ventures, and Venrock also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $49 million. VentureBeat has more here.

HealthReveal, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that uses remote monitoring and data analytics to help payers and providers make sure patients get the treatments that line up with evidentiary guidelines, has raised $10.8 million in first-round funding. The round was led by GE Ventures, with participation from Greycroft Partners, Flare Capital Partners, and Manatt Ventures.

Oncoinvent, a six-year-old, Oslo, Norway-based cancer therapeutics firm, has raised roughly $25 million from corporate investors that include Geveran Trading, Canica, CGS Holding, Helene Sundt, and Must Invest. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News has more here.

New Funds

Nasdaq is planning to set up a venture capital arm to invest in financial technology, according to Reuters. (Guess that’s one way to get listings!) More here.


A Google X engineer has written a bot that turns Donald Trump’s tweets into money for Planned Parenthood.


VC firms backed a record number of cybersecurity startups in 2016. Bloomberg has more here.

Essential Reads

Inside Medium‘s meltdown: How an idealistic Silicon Valley founder raised $134 million to change journalism, then crashed into reality.

The AI threat isn’t Skynet; it’s the end of the middle class.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial announced a surprise deal to acquire international payment service MoneyGram for $880 million last month, but that looks like being just the start of its M&A activities. A source at the company confirmed to TechCrunch that it is close to raising nearly $3 billion in debt financing in order to bankroll further acquisitions. More here.


Cringe your way throught this Breitbart News interview with poor Sean Spicer.

Your dog is judging you for being a jerk.

Life on hold.

Retail Therapy

cat forest climbing tree. It’s not cheap, but whiskers is worth it.

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