StrictlyVC: June 14, 2017

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Top News in the A.M.

David Bonderman, an Uber board member and partner at private equity firm TPG, resigned from the board of the company last night, hours after he made a remark at an Uber meeting, insinuating that adding more women to a company’s board results in “more talking.” TPG, a major stakeholder in the company, is already looking for his replacement. The New York Times has the story here.

Element AI, a year-old, Montreal-based platform and incubator that wants to help companies of all sizes that are building or want to include AI solutions in their businesses but lack the resources to get started, has raised a mammoth Series A round of $102 million. In fact, the company says it’s the biggest round to date for a pure AI company. Data Collective led the round. TechCrunch has more here.

No Active CEO at Uber, No Problem?

Uber has bucked convention from the outset, so it wasn’t entirely surprising when yesterday, company cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick announced that he’s taking a leave of absence from his San Francisco-based ride-hailing juggernaut —  without naming an interim CEO or disclosing a return date.

Instead, Kalanick told employees, the company will be run by his direct reports. Meanwhile, owing to the results of a probe led by former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder — who was hired to look into allegations of harassment, bullying, and discrimination at the company — some of Kalanick’s responsibilities will be shared or given outright to other senior executives when he does return.

Of course, it all begs the question of how long a 12,000-person company that’s valued at between $60 billion and $70 billion can operate without an active CEO.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a renowned professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business who has written extensively about organization theory, suggests the answer is, pretty long, particularly given that Kalanick will still have his hand in executive decision-making.

“My sense is that most of what Uber has done is to ‘signal’ that they are changing,” says Pfeffer. “Whether they are [truly implementing change] is another matter.”

Consider: If there are disagreements between sales and operations, who will settle them? If one of Kalanick’s direct reports threatens to quit or takes another job, who has the authority to fill that role? Assuming Uber’s COO search continues, who is doing the interviewing? If it’s Kalanick — who said yesterday that he’ll “still be available as needed for the most strategic decisions ” — then he’s not really taking a leave.

Still, Uber had to do something, says one well-known crisis communications expert who asked not to be named. “As long as Travis was in the CEO role, the company would continue to be the focus of media attention and would be likely the focus of criticism. I think this maneuver puts an end to it, because the focus of all that media criticism is now gone.”

Uber’s move isn’t entirely unprecedented — though it comes close. Pfeffer notes, for example, that it’s not uncommon for CEOs to take a leave of absence, pointing to Oscar Munoz of United Airlines, who took a leave of absence in 2015 to have a heart transplant, and who returned to the role in 2016.

Another CEO who recently took a leave of absence: Ron Wainshal, the CEO of the commercial aircraft leasing company Aircastle, who was granted time away in January to focus on his health (and who announced yesterday that he’s now resigning entirely to “focus on a speedy recovery”).

Of course, both Munoz and Wainshal stepped aside for medical reasons. Jeff Cohn — a succession planning expert at the New York-based leadership development firm Elevate Partners —  says he has never before seen a CEO step aside when there wasn’t a medical reason for it.

“Perhaps it has happened,” says Cohn. “But I can’t think of any high-profile situations where a board has encouraged its CEO to step aside in the context of becoming a better leader.”

There’s a reason for that, says Cohn, who claims it “doesn’t work.”

More here.

New Fundings

AEye, a four-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based robotic vision startup, has raised $16 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and an unnamed investor, with participation from Airbus Ventures, Intel Capital, and Tyche Partners. The WSJ has more here.

Art Medical, an eight-year-old, Netanya, Israel-based developers of smart intubation devices for use in intensive care, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Advanced Medical Technologies. Mobi Health News has more here.

CognitiveScale, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based developer of industry-specific machine intelligence software, has raised $15 million in funding Norwest Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Microsoft Ventures, The Westly Group and USAA. The company has now raised $50 million altogether. Silicon Hills has more here.

Fortanix, a Menlo Park, Ca.-based cybersecurity company, raised $8 million in Series A funding from Foundation Capital and NeoTribe. More here.

Fusion Risk Management, a nine-year-old, Chicago-based company that makes subscription-based disaster recovery software, has raised $41 million in new funding led by Catalyst Investors. Crain’s Chicago Business has more here.

Futu Securities, a five-year-old, Hong Kong-based online brokerage, has raised $145.5 million in Series C funding led by Tencent Holdings, with participation from earlier investors Matrix Partners China and Sequoia Capital China. China Money Network has more here.

GeoQuant, a year-old, San Francisco-based platform for measuring political risk in real time, raised $4 million in seed funding, including from Aleph and XL Innovate. More here.

G.Network, a London-based startup that provides ultra-fast fibre connectivity to businesses, has raised roughly $5.9 million from Albion Capital. More here.

Grainful, a eight-year-old, Ithaca, N.Y.-based food company that makes frozen entrees and meal kits that are centered around steel cut oats, has raised $3.3 million in funding from Advantage Capital, Rand Capital and CircleUp. More here.

Humm Kombucha, an eight-year-old, Bend, Ore.-based maker of kombucha drinks, has raised $10 million in funding led by Velocity Made Good Partners. BevNet has more here.

Hurdl, a year-old, L.A.- and Nashville, Tn.-based experiential marketing company, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from a long list of angel investors that includes athletes and executives across the NBA, NHL, CBS, 300 Entertainment, LaCorte Ventures, Turner Sports, and CNBC, among other places. More here.

Inturn, a four-year-old, New York-based B2B retail marketplace that helps brands buy and sell excess inventory, has raised $22.5 million in Series B funding led by B Capital Group. TechCrunch has more here.

LabConnect, a 15-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based company that provides laboratory services to biopharmaceutical organizations, has raised $24.5 million in Series A funding from ABS Capital Partners, Pablo Capital, and BroadOak Capital. More here.

Landed, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that offers to pay up to half of the 20 percent down payment on homes for educators with zero interest or monthly payments, recouping its investment when the home is sold or refinanced, has “landed” $5 million in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. TechCrunch has more here.

NowRx, a two-year-old, Mountain View, Calif.-based on-demand pharmacy, has raised $2 million in seed funding from individual investors and via the crowdfunding platform More here.

Osso VR, a year-old, Boston-based virtual reality surgical training technology company, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by SignalFire, with participation from Anorak Ventures. More here.

Peerfit, a six-year-old, Tampa, Fl.-based digital platform for employee health benefits, raised $2.3 million in funding from individual investors. More here.

PingCAP, a two-year-old, Beijing-based company that’s building a NewSQL database, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by China Growth Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners China, Yunqi Partners, Frees Fund and K2VC. China Money Network has more here.

Ponycar, a year-old, Shenzhen-based electric vehicle rental company, has raised $22 million in funding from Chinese smartphone maker OPPO Electronics and investment firm Huiyou Capital, with participation from investment bank China Peakedness. China Money Network has more here.

Proterra, a Greenville, S.C.-based maker of all-electric buses, has raised $55 million in new funding led by Generation Investment Management, with participation from BMW i Ventures. The financing follows a $140 million round that closed in January. Bloomberg has more here.

ROKT, a seven-year-old, Singapore-based digital marketing company, has raised $11 million in additional Series B  from Moelis Australia, Time Inc., Square Peg Capital, and individual investors, including Lachlan Murdoch. The round has now been closed with $26 million. The Australian has more here.

Shadow, a 1.5-year-old, Paris-based cloud computing company, has raised a humongous $57.1 million in Series A funding, and it has reportedly raised the capital from angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Shopmatic, a two-year-old, Singapore-based e-commerce company, has raised $5.7 million in funding led by ACP and Spring Seeds Capital. LiveMint has more here.

SnappCar, a six-year-old, Netherlands-based peer-to-peer carpooling platform, has raised €10 million ($11.2 million) from investors, including Europcar Group, Autobinck Group and Startup Studio Founders. has more here.

Sqrrl, a five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based cyber security company, has raised $12.3 million in Series C funding led by Spring Lake Equity Partners. More here.

Sure, a 2.5-year-old New York-based on-demand personal insurance company, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by IA Capital, with participation from Menlo Ventures, FF Venture Capital, Nationwide Ventures, Assurant and AmTrust. VentureBeat has more here.

Trusona, a two-year-old, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based maker of online identity products, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Microsoft Ventures, with participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. VentureBeat has more here.

WhiteSource, a six-year-old, Woodbury, N.Y.-based maker of security and compliance management software, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by 83North led the round. Other participants in the round include Microsoft Ventures and David Strohm of Greylock Partners. More here.

Wonderschool, a year-old, San Francisco-based network of boutique early childhood programs, has raised $2 million in Series A funding led by First Round Capital, with participation from Cross Culture Ventures, SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, FundersClub, and Edelweiss. More here.

Xealth, a six-month-old, Seattle-based digital prescription service, has raised $8.5 million in funding led by DFJ. VentureBeat has more here.

XG Entertainment, a two-year-old, Shanghai-based TV entertainment production company, has raised $73 million in Series B funding led by the investment banking group China International Capital Co. China Money Network has more here.

ZenIQ, a two-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based company whose software is built for B2B marketers, has raised $4.6 million in funding led by Costanoa Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. More here.

New Funds

Extreme Venture Partners, a 10-year-old, Toronto-based venture capital firm and accelerator, raised closed on a third fund of an undicslosed size, saying it plans to invest the capital  in more than 30 international startups, writing initial checks of between $50,000 and $100,000. More here.

Grove Ventures, a two-year-old, Ramat HaSharon, Israel-based, early-stage venture firm focused on regional startups, has raised $76.8 million for debut fund, according to an SEC filing that lists a $100 million target. More here.


Amazon is in preliminary talks to buy the Indian grocery site BigBasket, as it steps up efforts to gain ground in the fast-growing market, says Bloomberg. BigBasket raised $150 million last year in a funding round led by Dubai’s Abraaj Group, and its backers also include Bessemer Venture Partners and Helion Venture Partners.

Also Sponsored By . . .

Calling all Data scientists! Android engineers! Full stack engineers! Content marketers! StrictlyVC is sponsored today by the Financial Solutions Lab at CFSI, which reminds you that they’re looking for brains, brains, brains. Or actually, the companies they support are — which is why FinLab has a job section where you can see who among the hottest fintech companies is hiring. Check it out.


Dylan Morris has joined venture firm CRV as general partner focused on bioengineering opportunities. (We’d written about the firm’s newfound attention to this ballooning sector here.) Morris was previously on the investment team of Innovation Endeavors.

Who’s in and out at Uber (pretty stark graph).


Propel Venture Partners in San Francisco is looking to bring aboard both an analyst and an associate. Write to

Essential Reads

Google owner Alphabet is finalizing an order to buy 300 modular apartment units from a startup for a building likely to serve as short-term housing for employees.

Instagram is making it clearer when influencer posts are really paid ads.

Box just made it a little easier to access your files while you’re at your computer.


The best of 1950s fashion.

The best 100 restaurants in the U.K.

People will like you more if you ask them questions.

Retail Therapy

Modify Watches. (Fun.)

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