StrictlyVC: May 4, 2016

Thursday! We’re so excited to see everyone who’s coming tonight!

We have some last-minute prep to do, so we’re sending out a short edition this morning; we’ll have more for you tomorrow.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Treak out the popcorn. Angered by Apple‘s decision to stop paying it billions of dollars in licensing fees for smartphone chips, Qualcomm is planning to ask a U.S. trade agency to ban the imports of iPhones, says Bloomberg. More here.

Imagination Technologies, a U.K.-based chip designer that Apple plans to ditch in 2019, is gearing up for a fight with the tech giant, too, says Ars Technica.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is sponsored this week by the Bay Area firm Greenbrier. Scandal; injury; breach; litigation; presidential tweet. Crises can damage your corporate brand, personal reputation, employee morale and have lasting financial impacts. That’s why you need Greenbrier. We provide crisis planning, strategic advice and tactical execution to clients facing complex image, marketing, branding, media, legal and political challenges. With more than 30 years experience predicting, mitigating, managing and building resilience against reputational risks, Greenbrier can help.

Despite Setbacks, Soylent Laps Up $50M in New Funding

Soylent, a four-year-old, L.A.-based company that’s centered around what it calls a meal replacement drink, has taken its licks in recent years. But a group of investors is betting Soylent’s best days are ahead of the company; they just provided it with $50 million in fresh funding in a round that brings Soylent’s total funding to $74.5 million.

GV’s Andy Wheeler — who focuses in part on GV’s food and agriculture-related investments — led the round and joins Soylent’s board of directors as part of the deal. Other participants in the new funding include Tao Capital Partners and earlier backers Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

Silicon Valley is notorious for funding companies that are the subject of ridicule. Even still, this new funding may take some industry watchers by surprise.

From the outset, Soylent has been an easy target for people who enjoy food. When Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart appeared on comedian Stephen Colbert’s show a few years ago, Colbert asked, “What was the inspiration for this? Did you see someone in a coma with a feeding tube, and you thought, ‘I’ll have what he’s having‘?”

Customers lost their humor last year when they became violently ill after consuming Soylent’s powder mix and protein bars. The company, which determined the cause was algae-based ingredients, quickly reformulated the powder. It has yet to re-introduce its bars.

Just last week, Soylent received yet more unwanted attention after issuing a voluntary recall. The reason, said the company; it discovered that a small amount of milk product may have slipped into some batches of one of its powders that’s advertised as free of lactose and milk products.

Over the phone with us yesterday, Rhinehart said the company has learned from its mistakes and that it’s “gone a long way in improving our ingredient and supplier diligence.”

More here.

(Other) New Fundings

Crew, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based communications platform for mobile workers, has raised $25 million across two previously unannounced rounds led by Greylock Partners. Forbes has more here., a year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based data processing company that has yet to launch publicly, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, including from Nvidia. More here.

Fuze, an 11-year-old Cambridge, Ma.-based company centered around cloud-based video conferencing, has raised $30 million in funding from an unnamed U.S. public pension fund. Which is pretty unusual standalone news, even in an age of direct co-investments. The company has now reportedly raised $334 milliion altogether. Xconomy has more here.

Go-Jek, a seven-year-old, Jakarta, Indonesia-based motorbike on-demand startup that is battling Uber and Grab in Indonesia, has raised $1.2 billion in funding led by Chinese internet giant Tencent, reports TechCrunch. Its sources say the company now enjoys a post-money valuation of $3 billion. More here.

Heap, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based analytics infrastructure company, has raised $27 million in Series B financing co-led by Menlo Ventures and New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Initialized Capital and Pear VC. The company has now raised $40.2 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

RTX, a 10-year-old, London-based company that provides payment and settlement software and services to telecommunications companies, has raised £6 million ($7.7 million) in funding as part of a round that’s expected to reach £40 million in the second half of this year. The funding comes from Boost&Co. More here.

Taranis, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based precision agriculture intelligence platform, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding co-led by Finistere Ventures and Vertex Ventures. Earlier backers Eshbol Investments, Mindset Ventures, OurCrowd, and angel investor Eyal Gura also joined the round. More here.

Ultrahaptics, a four-year-old, Bristol, England-based company at work on a technology that uses ultrasound waves to construct 3D objects in the air that users can feel(!), has raised $23 million in Series B funding. Dolby Family Ventures, Woodford Investment Management, Cornes and the IP Group participated in the round. The company has now raised nearly $40 million to date. More here.

Vivet Therapeutics, a year-old, Paris, France-based biotechnology company at work on gene therapies for rare, inherited metabolic diseases, has raised €37.5 million ($41 million) in Series A funding. Novartis Venture Fund and Columbus Venture Partners co-led the round, with participation from Roche Venture Fund, HealthCap, Kurma Partners and Ysios Capital. More here.

New Funds

YL Ventures, a 10-year-old, San Francisco and Tel Aviv-based seed-stage venture capital firm that backs Israeli companies looking to enter the U.S. market, just closed its third fund with $75 million in commitments. Current portfolio companies include Twistlock, a virtual container security; Karamba Security, which is focused on protecing autonomous and connected cars from foreign code; and a cybersecurity startup called Hexadite. (Managing partner Yoav Leitersdorf will be at our event tonight, if you want to say congrats.) TechCrunch has more here.


Forbes thinks Craig Newmark is officially a billionaire, one whose stubbornly unsexy company, Craigslist, isn’t going anywhere (still), despite its newest well-funded competitors.

Essential Reads

Tesla has a completely new crossover vehicle in the works. Expect it in late 2019 or 2020, says CEO Elon Musk.

As Europe wrestles with how much tax Silicon Valley companies should pay overseas, Google has agreed to pay Italy $334 million in back taxes.


Prince Philip is retiring.

“Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski  are engaged.

Retail Therapy

Guilt-free ice cream.

Manhattan’s last Gilded Age mansion is for sale.

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