StrictlyVC: February 17, 2017

FRIDAY. Sweet, tender Friday.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone! We won’t be be publishing on Monday in honor of President’s Day (i.e., our kids will be home with us) but we’ll see you back here on Tuesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Facebook has changed its mission.

One of the largest U.S. apartment landlords just filed civil lawsuits in California and Florida against Airbnb.

Social Finance is reportedly close to raising about $500 million in funding led by the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners. Bloomberg has more here.

How to Build a Brand in 2017: Tips from Glossier’s Emily Weiss

There’s no shortage of women’s beauty brands, yet for many millennial women in particular, one young outfit — the cosmetics company Glossier  — seems to stand out. Having products that customers like is undoubtedly one large reason why. The company’s “boy brow,” a kind of mascara meant to thicken and tame eyebrows, is particularly popular. But Glossier has also found a way to establish a kind of cult following because of the numerous ways it keeps communication channels to its consumers wide open.

At a StrictlyVC event in San Francisco last week, Glossier’s founder, Emily Weiss, talked about focusing on ways to engage customers that more traditional brands have neglected. Weiss, a former beauty editor who launched Glossier several years after creating Into the Gloss — a site about women’s grooming routines that now attracts 1.5 million unique visitors monthly — also talked about the role of content in growing her business.

You can catch part of that talk by clicking through to TechCrunch below. Her interviewer is venture capitalist Eric Liaw of IVP, which recently wrote led Glossier’s $24 million Series B round. In the meantime, here are some other interesting — and instructive — outtakes from that conversation.

On why Weiss launched Glossier in 2013, after creating Into the Gloss out of her apartment in 2010:

Here, Weiss talked about the many influential people she’d come to interview for Into the Gloss, including J.Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons, serial entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, and professional celebrity Kim Kardashian. “I’d be sitting on their bathroom floors and squeezing tubes of creams and … discussing the big wide world of beauty, and I realized there was a disconnect” between the leading beauty conglomerates and their customers, said Weiss. Though many women seemed to have an affinity for certain products, they didn’t necessarily know anything about those brands’ values or communicate with them in any way. Weiss spied an opportunity to rectify that by “building a company around what women want, not just from a product perspective but from an engagement perspective, from a distribution perspective, and from a values perspective.”

Could she have built Glossier if Into the Gloss hadn’t attracted a following first? Could she have launched the two in reverse order?

As a “content-first” company, it’s a question that Weiss receives a lot, evidently. But she doesn’t see the two businesses — the blog and the cosmetics line — as distinct. “Sure,” she’d said, “we could be a like a lot of consumer brands that start blogs after they start their business. But in our case, I think Glossier is still very much a content company. I think about our products themselves as pieces of content.” How, exactly? Because many of its customers purchase its products, photograph them, then upload them to social media — often knowing Glossier will re-post them to its own accounts. In fact, she likened Glossier’s products to “crayons” for its customers.

On how the brand has stayed “authentic” versus become seen as more commercial:

Weiss noted that in 2017, not only is the customer always right, but thanks to social media — whether it’s a product review on Amazon or an Instagram post, that customer “has a microphone and she’s reaching 50, 500, 5,000 or 500,000 of her nearest and dearest friends and is able to talk about her preferences.”

To ensure she is saying only positive things about Glossier, the company focuses, of course, on maintaining product quality. “Ultimately we’re making and selling a consumer good that needs to work and that need to make customers happy.”

But the company is also very focused on transparency and “voice,” Weiss explained. “We like to think that whenever we talk to [our customer] through captions on Instagram or through email or through copy on the site, that we’re writing text messages to a friend.” For Glossier, “staying true to that voice has created a lot of loyalty and trust with our customer,” she said.

Other reasons that Glossier has struck a chord with its customer base:

One point we found particularly interesting during Weiss’s talk was about Glossier’s willingness to acknowledge and support other brands.

More here.

New Fundings

Conductor Technologies, a 2.5-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based company behind a cloud rendering platform that was used in 2016’s blockbuster movies “Deadpool” and “Star Trek Beyond,” has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by Walden Venture Capital, with participation from Autodesk. Automation World Network has more here.

HemoSonics, a nearly 13-year-old, Charlottesville, Va.-based point-of-care blood diagnostics platform developer, has raised $15 million in a funding, according to an SEC filing posted this week that shows the entire round came from one investor. More here.

Immuta, a 2.5-year-old, College Park, Md.-based unified data platform that aims to free data science teams to work more freely with highly regulated data, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Drive Capital, with participation from Greycroft Partners and Conversion Capital. The company has now raised $9.5 million to date. More here.

Ms. Paris, a 1.5-year-old, China-based online fashion rental company, has raised $18 million in Series A funding led by Northern Light Venture Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners China and China Growth Capital. More here.

Mylestone, a year-old, Boston-based company that’s experimenting with turning our digital footprints into narratives that help us recall highlights from our lives, has raised $2.5 million in new funding led by True Ventures, with participation from Founder Collective, Boston Seed Capital, Converge Ventures and Mergelane. The company has now raised $4.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Opal, a five-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based collaboration platform for marketing teams, has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners. Earlier investors also participated, including Madrona Venture Group, Seven Peaks Ventures, and MMC Ventures. GeekWire has more here., a new, Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that provides a platform for gamers to record, replay and relive their games, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures. Other participants in the round include the San Francisco 49ers, Jeremy Lin, Accel Partners, Tenaya Capital, DAG Ventures, and Founders Fund.

Soundtrack Your Brand, a three-year-old, Stockholm-based startup that provides (licensed) background music streaming services to businesses, has raised $22 million in funding co-led by Industrifonden and Balderton Capital. Other participants in the round include Telia Company, Northzone, Creandum, HMP, and Jorg Mohaupt. TechCrunch has more here.

Sun Basket, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based meal kit delivery startup focused on recipes and ingredients that are gluten-free, paleo, and otherwise accommodate vegetarian lifestyles, has raised $15 million in Series C funding led by Sapphire Ventures. Other paticipants in the round include Baseline Ventures, PivotNorth Capital, Accolade Partners, Founders Circle Capital, Shea Ventures, Relevance Capital, Vulcan Capital, filter14 and unnamed angel investors. the company has now raised $43 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Upstream, a 16-year-old, London-based mobile commerce platform that enables users to receive and pay for subscription services like cloud storage, language learning courses and apps on their mobile devices, has raised €25 million ($26.6 million) in growth funding from the European Investment Bank. More here.

Xcell Biosciences, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose platform enables propagation and gene editing in hard-to-transfect cell types, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by HBM Genomics, with participation from unnamed earlier investors. More here.

YotaScale, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based cloud computing startup, has raised $3.6 million in funding, including from Engineering Capital, Pelion Ventures, and several angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Longtime VC Kittu Kolluri, who left New Enterprise Associates last year, has filed paperwork with the SEC to raise $90 million for a new fund under the brand Neotribe Ventures. The firm is based in Palo Alto, Ca., and it counts Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang as a special advisor. More here.

New Kid on the Block

Singapore-based investment company Temasek as grown from its initial portfolio of mostly Singapore-based companies to become an active investor in Asia, Europe and the Americas. In fact, the company’s exposure to North America has increased to 10 percent of the portfolio in 2016, so it has decided to open a San Francisco office. The company’s managing director of public affairs, Stephen Foresaw, can let you know more if you have a housewarming gift in mind:


WayUp, a startup that creates job listing sites for college students and recent graduates, is buying a similar startup, Looksharp, for an undisclosed amount of money. Looksharp had raised more than $10 million in funding from investors, including 500 Startups, Artis Ventures, Kapor Capital and Subtraction Capital. WayUp, meanwhile, has raised nearly $9 million. TechCrunch has more here.


The growth of politically-focused mobile apps has been booming since the U.S. president election, with the top five political apps receiving a combined 300,000 downloads across iOS and Android over the past three months, says App Annie. TechCrunch has more here.

The quick and the dead: The on-demand companies that went splat, courtesy of CB Insights.

Essential Reads

Snap is about to embark on its investor roadshow, and a new video gives a glimpse at how it will be trying to persuade Wall Street to buy shares.

Theranos is on the ropes, says the WSJ. The blood-diagnostics firm reportedly told investors that it had $200 million in cash on hand at the end of 2016. That’s less than a quarter of what it had raised from them. Meanwhile, investors were told Theranos didn’t generate any material revenue in 2015 or 2016. More here.

How Silicon Valley is trying to hack its way into a longer life.


Scientists have discovered why your selfies are authentic while everyone else’s are narcissistic.

What the Oscars looked like the year you were born.


Retail Therapy

jaw-dropping penthouse in New York’s tallest residential building is for sale.

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