StrictlyVC: February 24, 2017

Friday! Happiness.

Sorry for neglecting to include a link yesterday so that you could finish reading our central piece (about a new service for founders called Signal). If you were wondering how the story ends, you can read the rest here.

We’ve been on the phone since elbowing our kids out the door this a.m. so no column today, but there’s a wealth of great stuff below worth checking out.

Before we go, one last mention that this week’s sponsor, the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, is now accepting applications for its next class. Selected companies will receive $250,000, plus access to lots of fintech resources. If you’re a fintech innovator with a product or service that can help more Americans achieve financial health (or know someone who is), apply today. Applications are due March 16.

Top News Today

Alphabet’s Waymo is alleging in a new lawsuit that Uber has stolen some of its self-driving secrets. Specifically, Waymo says former employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, formed the self-driving truck startup Otto using those designs and technology, then earned more than $500 million for himself and other Otto employees when Uber soon after acquired his company. More here.

The FCC yesterday weakened a net neutrality rule in a prelude to larger rollbacks.

President Trump’s decision to rescind protections for transgender students has provoked a fresh outcry from Silicon Valley’s tech titans.

New Fundings

AirMap, a two-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based company that’s building software and systems to help drone operators fly only where it’s safe and legal, has raised $26 million in Series B funding. Microsoft Ventures led the round, with other participants that include Airbus Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Rakuten, SonyYuneec and earlier backers General Catalyst Partners and Lux Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Bigscreen, a two-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based company that’s trying to bring personal computing into virtual reality with software that lets users hang out and collaborate in VR, has raised $3 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in the round include True Ventures, Presence Capital, Ludlow Ventures, David Bettner and SV Angel. More here., a 4.5-year-old, New York-based marketing startup that helps physician practices boost their online visibility and reduce “referral leakage,” has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Spring Mountain Capital, with participation from Colle Capital. MedCity News has more here.

Fossa, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose technology aims to help companies understand what’s in the open source code they might be using, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding. Bain Capital Ventures led the round, which also included participation from numerous high-profile angel investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and YouTube cofounder Steve Chen. VentureBeat has more here.

Hiatus, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based startup that helps users identify (and cancel) their monthly reoccurring subscriptions, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from unnamed sources. TechCrunch has more here.

Kinnos, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based start-up healthcare company that develops technologies to prevent surface-transmitted infections, has raised $1 million in seed funding led by the family office Georgica Advisors, with participation from New York Angels, VentureWell, and other strategic angel investors. More here.

Layer, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based messaging platform that helps developers to add messaging, voice and video to any app, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Greycroft Partners. Other participants include Microsoft Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. The startup, which has now raised $23 million altogether, has also acquired a text messaging app called Cola that had raised $1.3 million in seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.

Roku, a 15-year-old, Los Gatos, Ca.-based streaming TV pioneer, is in advanced discussions to raise at least $200 million in new funding at a post-money valuation of around $1.5 billion, says Erin Griffith of Fortune The round will reportedly be led by U.S.-based investors, but “not standard Silicon Valley venture firms.” The total raise could go above $200 million because a portion of the deal may include secondary sales by existing investors. More here.

SoFi, the six-year-old, San Francisco-based online finance startup, has confirmed $500 million in new funding led by Silver Lake. Other participants in the round include SoftBank and GPI Capital. The company has now raised $1.9 billion altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

TravelCar, a four-year-old, Paris, France-based peer-to-peer car sharing platfrom for travelers at airports and train stations, has raised €15 million ($15.8 million) in funding from PSA Group and MAIF. More here.

New Funds

K2 Global, a 1.5.-year-old, San Francisco-based private equity and venture capital firm, has closed on a new, $183 million fund that it intends to invest in early-stage startups with global aspirations. TechCrunch has more here.

Vanedge Capital Partners, a six-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based early-stage venture capital firm, has closed a new fund with $161 million, from limited partners that include HarbourVest Partners, BDC Capital, and Export Development Canada, among others. The Globe and Mail has more here.


Wall Street speaks: The cases for and against investing in Snap‘s fast-approaching IPO.


Airbnb has finalized its deal to buy social payments startup Tilt. According to TechCrunch, investors will be getting back about $12 million in cash, but the deal value is “tens of millions of dollars higher,” including employee retention packages. Tilt had raised more than $60 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and SV Angel. More here.

Amobee, a market technology that was acquired by Singtel in 2012, announced yesterday that it is acquiring the ad tech company Turn for $310 million. Turn had raised more than $150 million from investors, including Fidelity Investments, Norwest Venture Partners, and Shasta Ventures. More here.

Stayzilla, a six-year-old Airbnb for homestays in India, is shuttering its service. The company had raised $34 million from investors, including Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Zalora, the Rocket Internet-backed online fashion store, is continuing its retreat from Asia. The firm sold off its businesses in Vietnam and Thailand last year; now it’s withdrawing from the Philippines and Indonesia. TechCrunch has more here.


It’s not just Susan Fowler Rigetti. Women in engineering roles at Uber told CEO Travis Kalanick this week: “There’s a systemic problem with sexism here.” (Rigetti meanwhile suggests that Uber is already doing opposition research to discredit her.)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk just addressed some harsh claims about working conditions at his company in a staff-wide email. The short version: he says Tesla’s Fremont factory is safe and that Tesla pays more than other automakers. He also notes (in unique Musk fashion) that an electric pod car roller coaster is coming that will allow “fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus.” More here.

Investor Chamath Palihapitiya says that, okay, yes, he wishes he’d invested in Snapchat’s Series A round. But he tells USA Today he isn’t buying into its IPO. “When you look at Snapchat, it doesn’t have governance. It doesn’t have compounding growth in users but it has compounding growth in usage. As a risk manager, I can overlook governance if I have massively compounding users and usage. But if one of those things is not there, I am not going to take the risk.”


For the second year in a row, global technology M&A activity soared to an all-time high in 2016, says a new report from Ernst & Young.

Alexa, the voice control technology in Amazon‘s Echo automation device, now has 10,000 apps, or “skills” in Amazon parlance. Fortune has more here.

An opportunity for startups? The U.S. government spends 0.1 percent of its gross domestic product on helping Americans deal with changes in the workplace like automation. (H/T: FiveThirtyEight). More here.

Essential Reads

Lightspeed Venture Partners is poised to reap more than $1 billion from an early bet on Snap, but the money masks what has long been complicated relationship between the venture firm and Snap, reports the New York Times.

Why one Mountain View, Ca., high school stands to make up to tens of millions of dollars off Snap’s IPO.


Bees are even smarter than we realized.

So, um, how do you, like, stop using filler words?

Inside the surprisingly simple home of Warren Buffett.

Retail Therapy

Ten truly remote places where your boss can’t track you down.

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