StrictlyVC: June 22, 2017

Hi, everyone! Another day, another dramatic turn (actually two). In unrelated developments, Benchmark’s Bill Gurley has resigned from his role as a director at Uber. More on this below.

The morning, The Information also published a shocking piece about investor Justin Caldbeck, a former Lightspeed Venture Partners investor who in more recent years cofounded his own venture firm, Binary Capital, with Jonathan Teo (formerly of General Catalyst). The piece reports that at least six women have fended off unwanted advances from Caldbeck, all in meetings that they say they believed to be business discussions. Binary responded to the accusations, telling The information that while the outlet had  “found a few examples which show that Justin has in the past occasionally dated or flirted with women he met in a professional capacity, let’s be clear: there is no evidence that Justin did anything illegal and there is no evidence that any of his investing decisions were affected by his social interests.”

Top News in the A.M.

Imagination Technologies, the British firm that lost 70 percent of its value after being ditched by its biggest customer Apple, put itself up for sale this morning in a disappointing end to a once-great European tech success story. Reuters has more here.

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Kalanick is Out, But Uber’s VCs Screwed Up Royally, Too, Industry Watchers

Travis Kalanick, who last night resigned from his post as CEO of ride-share giant Uber, has taken the blame for the company’s very long list of problems, from allowing a culture of sexual harassment to thrive, to skirting the law with its Greyball program, to mishandling the medical files of a customer raped by one of the company’s drivers (for starters).

But many view the VCs who pushed Kalanick from his role are nearly as culpable for what’s gone wrong. Indeed, while Benchmark, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, Menlo Ventures and Fidelity Investments all reportedly pressed Kalanick to quit last night, it was also their fault the company drove into trouble, say industry observers.

“The investors were really caught with their pants down here,” says Jeff Cohn, a succession planning expert at the New York-based leadership development firm Elevate Partners, who’d immediately predicted that the leave of absence taken last week by Kalanick wouldn’t work.

“The fact that Uber is right now being led by 14 internal people is absolutely insane,” says Cohn of the company’s current status as without a CEO, CFO, COO or general counsel, among other executive openings. “It’s not uncommon for leaders to suddenly depart for whatever reason; that [the company and its board] weren’t developing any viable candidates in recent years in case Kalanick were hit by a bus … for a company with 14,000 employees and a $70 billion market cap, that’s nuts.”

There have been changes since Kalanick announced to employees late yesterday that he was relinquishing his role. The New York Times is reporting tonight that longtime director Bill Gurley of the venture firm Benchmark is leaving the board; Gurley’s colleague, Matt Cohler, will replace him. David Trujillo, a partner at the private equity firm TPG Capital, also is joining the board, as Bloomberg reported earlier today; Trujillo is replacing colleague David Bonderman, who resigned as a director last week after making a sexist remark at a company presentation.

That’s perhaps as it should be.

More here.

New Fundings

Aproplan, a five-year-old, Brussels-based company that bills itself as the “Salesforce for construction,” has raised €5 million ($5.6 million) in Series A funding. The round was led by Fortino Capital, with participation from earlier backers, including Inventures, Matexi, and the co-founders of a company called Showpad. TechCrunch has more here.

Blockchain, a nearly six-year-old, Luxembourg-based bitcoin currency service provider, has raised $40 million in funding led by Lakestar, with participation from GV and earlier backers Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sir Richard Branson. Bloomberg has more here.

Celta, an 11-year-old, Boston-based management platform for digital advertising, has raised $15 million in funding led by Unilever Ventures and WPP. Ad Exchanger has more here.

Cloudbeds, a 4.5-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based maker of hospitality management software, has raised roughly $9 million in Series B funding led by PeakSpan Capital. Other investors in the round include Nashville Capital, Cultivation Capital, ClearVision Equity, and TTCER Partners. The company has now raised $20 million altogether. More here.

Dafengshou, a three-year-old, China-based agriculture e-commerce platform that sells pesticides, fertilizer and other tools to farmers across the country, has raised $29 million in Series B funding co-led by Orchid Asia Group and China Growth Capital, with participation from Matrix Partners China. China Money Network has more here.

Deliver, a three-year-old, Moscow-based online freight service company, has raised $8 million in seed funding led by Inventure Partners, with participation from A&NN Group and Singapore-based Amereus Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Farfetch, a nine-year-old, London-based marketplace for luxury brands, has raised $397 million in funding from, itself China’s second-largest e-commerce company after Alibaba. Unsurprisingly, the deal makes one of the company’s biggest shareholders. TechCrunch has more here.

FloQast, a four-year-old, Sherwood Oaks, Ca.-based startup whose software helps accountants close their books faster and more accurately, has raised $25 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from current investors Toba Capital, Polaris Partners and the company’s earliest investor, L.A.-based Amplify. More here.

Nuvolo, a four-year-old, Jersey City, N.J.-based enterprise asset management company, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by GE Ventures, with participation from earlier backers New Enterprise Associates and ServiceNow Ventures. More here.

PingCAP, a two-year-old, Beijing-based commercial entity created by the developers of the open source TiDB database project, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by China Growth Capital. Previous backers Matrix Partners China, Yunqi Partners, FreeS Fund, and K2VC also joined the round. More here.

Samsara, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based fleet tracking management company, has raised $40 million in a round that values the company at more than $530 million, says TechCrunch. The round was led by General Catalyst Partners, with Andreessen Horowitz participating. More here.

Sense, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that sells software as a service to staffing agencies so they can automate communication throughout workers’ job cycles, has raised $10 million. Investors include Accel Partners, GV, and Khosla Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Tantan, a three-year-old, Beijing-based dating app that’s frequently compared to Tinder, has raised $70 million in Series D funding as it looks to monetize its business for the first time and explore overseas expansion options. Genesis Capital and the video social network YY co-led the deal, with participation from SAIF China and Zhongwei Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

Yello, a nine-year-old, Chicago-based talent acquisition platform, has raised $31 million in Series C funding led by JMI Equity, with participation from previous investor First Analysis. Crain’s Chicago Business has more here.

New Funds

The 31-year-old, Paris-based venture firm Iris Capital has closed its newest fund with €250 million in commitments. The vehicle will be used to invest primarily in seed- to growth-stage Europe-based companies, though its founders say they will also make some investments in the U.S. has more here.


Altice climbed in its trading debut yesterday, after raising $1.9 billion in the second-biggest U.S. initial public offering of the year. Bloomberg has more here.


Snapchat’s newest feature, Snap Map, is based on its latest acquisition, a Paris-based social mapping startup called Zenly. According to TechCrunch, Snapchat bought Zenly for between $250 million and $350 million in mostly cash and some stock in a deal that closed in late May. According to Crunchbase, the company had raised roughly $35 million from investors, including Benchmark and Idinvest Partners. More here.

Modern Times Group, a Swedish digital entertainment company, has agreed to buy nine-year-old games publisher and developer Kongregate from its current owner GameStop for $55 million. Broadband TV News has more here.


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly not interested in a job with Uber. Recode is reporting on three other possible CEO candidates to replace Travis Kalanick, including, most interestingly, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. Our own sources have floated Recode’s other two names: Thomas Staggs, the former COO of Walt Disney Co., and Alan Mulally, the former Ford CEO who retired in 2014. (In short, people expect the company to appoint someone from either the tech, hospitality, or automotive industry.)

Syed Zain Gilani, CEO of a fairly new Boston-based ride-share company that’s focused on women’s safety, was reportedly arrested based on a warrant from the Virgin Islands, where he is “wanted for defrauding the government of more than $2 million,” says the Boston Globe. His lawyers say the charges stem from a contract dispute. More here.

As Spotify inches its way to a public listing, the streaming music company has made some significant changes to its board of directors. More here.


Lead Edge Capital, a growth equity firm, is hiring an associate to join its investment team. The job is in Santa Barbara, Ca.

Essential Reads

In the ongoing legal case between Uber and Waymo (formerly the Google self-driving project), a new filing suggests Uber knew that engineer Anthony Levandowski possessed Google information as of last March, before he sold his company to Uber.

Facebook just introduced new group admin tools.


The rise of 56 Leonard in New York.

Mocktail recipes for summer.

A pro athlete workout for lunchtime warriors. (We’ll stick with watching “Late Night with Seth Myers” on the elliptical.)

Retail Therapy

The Porsche Dark Knight 911 Turbo S. Vroom.

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