StrictlyVC: March 9, 2017

Thursday?! (Where did this week go?)

Top News in the A.M.

Airbnb, the fast-growing accommodations marketplace, has officially closed off its Series F round with $1 billion. The company is now worth $31 billion. Much more here.

Google is turning Hangouts into a Slack competitor.

Facebook now has its own “stories” feature, too.

A New, Affordable Naming Startup for Startups

A few years ago, I launched a daily email newsletter, and I was ecstatic to be striking out on my own for the first time. Alas, just a few weeks after filing to secure a trademark, an officious-sounding note appeared in my inbox, and soon after, I found myself shelling out $10,000 in lawyer’s fees over a short-lived trademark dispute. It wasn’t nearly as painful as it might have been, but it was a rude realization that figuring out the right brand can be both time-consuming and have implications that founders might not foresee.

Of course, my experience is hardly rare. Most founders are typically left to either conduct trademark searches on their own via the USPTO site, or else pay top dollar for law firms or branding agencies to do it for them. Often they do both.

Thankfully, affordably eliminating risky name choices is exactly the opportunity that a two-year-old Bay Area company, Naming Matters, is chasing, and the company’s founder is very familiar with the market. S.B. Master previously co-founded Master-McNeil, a 29-year-old corporate naming and branding firm in Berkeley, Ca., whose past clients include Apple, General Motors, Disney and PayPal.

Now Master sees an opportunity to cater not just to deep-pocketed corporate customers but also startups on shoestring budgets. Indeed, 18 months ago, she decided to take everything she has learned over the years about linguistic analysis, trademark searching and domain name acquisition and pour it into a self-service software product that also incorporates search and data visualization. I talked with her earlier today to learn more.

You’ve already run a naming company for decades. Why start this new thing?

SM: Naming is hard, and we tend to work with companies that can afford us to do deep preliminary availability screening. I grew frustrated with how slow and antiquated that searching step is [for companies that can’t afford such a service]. I mean, if you have 100 names, how do you figure out which are most likely to get you into trouble, and which are your stronger candidates that you should focus on? There are legacy providers, but their model is to charge users for every name they look up. If you’re looking for a name in every country and every class, it adds up. You have to be very skilled to [keep your costs down].

More here.

New Fundings

Astro, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based AI company focused on improving workplace communication, including via more intelligent email software, has raised $8.3 million in Series A funding from Redpoint Ventures, Harrison Metal, Aspect Ventures and Upside Partnership. More here.

Chairish, the 3.5-year-old, San Francisco, Ca.-based parent company of Chairish and Decaso (Chairish is an online marketplace for vintage furniture and decor; Decase is an online platform for antiques and art dealers), has raised $8 million in funding. The round was led by Altos Ventures, with participation from return investors OATV and Azure Capital Partners. More here.

Chowbotics, a 2.5-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based maker of robots for the food service industry, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Techstars Ventures, Foundry Group, Galvanize Ventures and the Geekdom Fund. More on the company, formerly known as Casabots, here.

Cradlepoint, an 11-year-old Boise, Id.-based cloud-based network management company, has raised $89 million in Series C funding from TCV. The round marks the largest recorded venture investment for an Idaho-based company, according to Crunchbase. TechCrunch has more here.

Currencycloud, a five-year-old, London-based company that builds tools for payment companies to use by way of an API, has raised £20 million ($24.3 million) in Series D funding led by GV. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Notion Capital, Sapphire Ventures, Rakuten FinTech Fund, and Anthemis. TechCrunch has more here.

Fluxx, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based software company catering to grantmaking professionals, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. Canvas Ventures led the round, with participation from Kresge Foundation and Felicis Ventures. More here.

Kidizen, a six-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based marketplace for secondhand children’s apparel, has raised $3.2 million in Series A funding led by Chicago-based Origin Ventures. Other participants in the round include Royal Street Ventures, Corigin Ventures, Mergelane, and earlier investors Sofia Fund and Gopher Angels. TechCrunch has more here.

Kinsa, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of smart thermometers, raised $17 million in funding from GSR Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, FirstMark Capital and others. More here.

OncoResponse, a two-year-old, Houston, Tex.–based immuno-oncology antibody discovery company, has closed its Series A round with $22.5 million in funding from HT Family Office, Arch Venture Partners, Canaan Partners, MD Anderson, Marsh Rice University, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Baxalta, GreatPoint Ventures and the Helsinn Investment Fund. The company has now raised $28.6 million altogether. More here.

Prevedere, a five-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based company whose predictive analytics software aims to help enterprises improve their sales numbers, has raised $10 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Microsoft Ventures and earlier backers PointGuard Ventures and Rev1 Ventures. More here.

RealConnex, a four-year-old, Miami and New York-based platform connecting real estate professionals to capital, investments, and services, has raised $3.5 million in strategic funding led by Silver Portal Capital, a San Diego-based real estate investment and merchant banking firm. The company has now raised $10.2 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

RiskSense, a year-old Albuquerque, N.M.-based company that makes cyber risk management software, has closed its Series A round with $14 million, including some new funding from Jump Capital. Earlier investors in the round include Paladin Capital Group, Sun Mountain Capital, EPIC Ventures, and CenturyLink. In addition, Silicon Valley Bank has also provided the company with a debt facility. More here.

ScyllaDB, a nearly two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that produces a NoSQL database that’s compatible with Apache Cassandra but has much faster throughout (it says), has raised $16 million in Series B funding. Investors include Western Digital Capital, Samsung Ventures, Magma Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, and Bessemer Venture Partners. More here.

TurnKey, a 4.5-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based vacation rental management company, has raised $21 million in Series C funding led by Adams Street Partners, with participation from earlier backers Altos Ventures, Silverton Partners and other unnamed angel investors. The company has now raised $41 million altogether. More here.

Tushy, a new New York-based startup whose attachment turns any toilet into a bidet, has raised $500,000 in seed funding led by Propulsion Capital, with participation from numerous angel investors. More here.

VATBox, a nearly four-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based company that helps its corporate customers maximize their foreign and domestic VAT (value-added tax) returns and ensure governance, has raised $20 million in funding led by Target Global Fund. Earlier backers Viola Private Equity and others also joined the round. The company has now raised $50 million altogether. Globes has more here.

Vertiflex, a 12-year-old, Carlsbad, Ca.-based company that makes a minimally invasive implant for spinal stenosis, has raised $40 million in funding co-led by Endeavour Vision and H.I.G. BioHealth Partners, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Thomas, McNerney & Partners, and Alta Partners. More here.

New Funds

Blumberg Capital, a 26-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm, has raised $200 million for its fourth fund, up from the $150 million the firm raised for its third fund. Most of that capital was secured by early last year. TechCrunch has more here.

Rethink Impact, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based impact investing venture capital fund that looks to fund gender-diverse, tech-enabled companies, has raised $110 million for new fund. It partnered with UBS Wealth Management Americas toward that end, with more than half the capital commitments coming from UBS clients, including high net worth individuals, family offices, private foundations, and universities. More here.


Pinterest, the San Francisco-based visual discovery tool and social network, has acquired Jelly, a San Francisco question-and-answer app started by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone for undisclosed terms. Jelly had raised an undisclosed amount in  funding from Greylock Partners, Spark Capital, and SV Angel. In a post yesterday, Stone said he didn’t know  details of the acquisition, including whether Jelly will remain a standalone property or be integrated into Pinterest.


Dropbox CEO Drew Houston had a birthday party last weekend in San Francisco, and some well-known faces came to celebrate.

Gary Marcus, a research scientist who joined Uber four months ago as director of its AI labs, is leaving the company, according to Axios. More here.

Trevor Oelschig has joined General Catalyst Partners as a managing director working from its Palo Alto and San Francisco offices. Oelschig had spent the last nine years with Bessemer Venture Partners; he’ll initially be focused on application layer technologies.

Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan are having another baby girl, he announced on Facebook this morning. (Babies! Happiness.)

Zuckerberg is also giving the commencement speech at Harvard this year (and getting an honorary degree in the process). Here, he asks another Harvard dropout for some advice on what to say to students.

Essential Reads

Fitbit‘s VCs have paid a price for not selling their shares earlier.


With Trump, planning has become “virtually impossible,” say late show execs.

Essential Reads

When you can’t stop, won’t stop (playing hoops).

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