StrictlyVC: July 25, 2017

Hi, happy Tuesday, everyone!

As some of you know, we’ve begun quietly planning our next StrictlyVC event, coming up Wednesday evening, September 27, at the beautiful Autodesk Gallery in downtown San Francisco.

We’re already very excited to be hearing from institutional investors Michael Kim and Beezer Clarkson on a range of topical issues, including the role that limited partners do and perhaps should be playing in determining whether bad actors get bounced from the venture industry sooner.

In response to popular demand for an ICO discussion, we’re also very happy to announce one of our newest guest speakers: banker Stan Miroshnik, who after a decade with Morgan Stanley is focusing exclusively on cryptocurrency- and token-based capital markets at his L.A.-based bank, Element Group. (You may have seen Miroshnik’s name popping up increasingly in Forbes and CNBC and in other reporting about ICOs.) He managed the crowdsale of the Blockchain Capital Fund and the ICO of distributed storage company Storj, and has six other things in the pipeline. Miroshnik, a UC Berkeley and MIT grad, has been ahead of this wave for some time, he speaks plain English (which we appreciate), and we’re going to be talking about a whole range of issues facing VCs in particular; you won’t want to miss this.

More announcements to come. As always, we’ll also have great food, delicious drinks, and plenty of networking.:)

Seats are available here. About a third of them vanished the previous time we mentioned this event, so don’t wait too long to get yours.

Endless thanks to our partners in the evening: Europe-based Ballou PR, which has long helped firms and funds navigate the European media landscape; Rosebud Communications, an L.A.-based firm helping tech startups up and down the California coast; and Bolt, a hardware-focused venture firm that counts longtime Sequoia investor Greg McAdoo among its newest partners.

Top News in the A.M.

SoftBank is already a big investor in Asian ride-hailing companies Grab, Ola and Didi Chuxing. Now the WSJ confirms an earlier report that SoftBank wants to buy a huge stake in Uber, too.

Slack is in talks to raise a large, new round co-led by SoftBank and its longtime backer Accel Partners, says Axios. Seemingly, this new round has been in the works since June.

Sponsored By . . .

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This Modular Construction Company Just Assembled a $4.2 Million Round of Funding

Building blocks are a fascination that most people eventually outgrow. Not Noel Maxam, an Emmy-award-winning producer, director and writer who more recently leapt into the world of modular construction with Emagispace, a company that’s looking to give stick-frame construction the brush.

Because the LA outfit just raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led by Alpha Edison — with participation from Circle Ventures, United Talent Agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer, 54 Madison and others — we thought we should talk with Maxam about his interesting career arc, and what he’s planning to build with Emagispace. Our conversation has been edited for length.

You’d gone to film school and were producing daytime soap operas when the idea of Emagispace came to you. What happened?

One of the things I was doing in my job was looking at line items: how much it takes to build and install and store sets, which is an incredibly difficult process. You’re moving around irregular sizes and weights. At some point, I decided to apply for a patent. After that, things just snowballed. I partnered with an MIT engineer to create this building product with a life cycle. I wanted it to be sustainable and regular-sized. I wanted to be able to configure a wall that could be taken down by one person and that would never need to be “broken” or thrown out entirely. I wanted to be able to apply a different “skin” or wall covering that was separate from the blocks themselves.

Basically, I wanted something that was sustainable, reusable, could be repurposed and that could be recycled, once someone is done with it.

What are these modules made of?

The product is medium-density fiberboard panels that are made of sawdust, wood chips and recycled newspaper, and we use lightweight ABS plastic interlocking blocks to connect them.

I understand that Sony and Maker Studios are using them for their movie and show sets. What are some of the other ways that customers are using them?

They’re being used in office build-outs, commercial retail, trade shows, rock concerts, college theaters, convention halls, in living spaces, for disaster relief by NGOs that are using them for shelter. There’s really no difference between our product and a standard wall, and because you can build it up and take it down and re-use it, the cost savings multiply over time.

More here.

New Fundings

B-Secur, a 14-year-old, Northern Ireland-base company whose biometric authentication technology uses an individual’s unique heartbeat pattern, has raised roughly $4.5 million in seed funding from Accelerated Digital VenturesKernel CapitalWoodford Investment Management, and British Business BankMore here.

Convoy, a two-year-old, Seattle-based tech-enabled trucking network, has raised $62 million in Series B funding led by the YC Continuity Fund (the fund’s first investment not involving a YC alum). Other participants in the round include Cascade Investments (Bill Gates’s private vehicle), Mosaic Ventures, and Barry Diller, along with earlier backers Reid HoffmanSimon Rothmanof Greylock Partners; Salesforce CEO Marc BenioffBezos Expeditions; investor-twins Hadi and Ali Partovi; former Starbucks president Howard Behar; and others. We have more on this round here.

Duolingo, a six-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based popular language learning service, has raised a $25 million in Series E funding led by Drive Capital. The round assigns the company a post-money valuation of $700 million, it says. TechCrunch has more here.

Grabr, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace enabling consumers to buy unique or hard-to-find international goods, has raised $2.7 million in funding led by SignalFire, with participation from Founders FundNFX GuildGlobal Founders Capital and numerous angel investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Leesa, a three-year-old, Virginia Beach, Va.-based direct-to-consumer online luxury mattress retailer,  has raised $23 million in Series B funding led by One Better Ventures, an investment company led by Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle. More here.

Maven, a three-year-old, New York-based digital clinic for women, has raised $10.8 million in Series A funding led by Spring Mountain Capital, with participation from 14W, DGNL, and Colle Capital. Earlier backers 8VCGreat Oaks Venture CapitalThe Box Group, and F3 also joined the round. Fortune has more here.

Node, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based platform that uses artificial intelligence to help its customers find sales leads, has raised $10.8 million in funding led by Avalon Ventures, with participation from Mark CubanNew Enterprise Associates, and Canaan Partners. The company has now raised $15.8 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

PerimeterX, a 2.5-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based provider of behavior-based threat protection technology, has raised $23 million in Series B funding led by Canaan Partners, with participation from earlier backers Vertex Venturesand Data CollectiveMore here.

Iguazio, a three-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based company that has built an “edge data” analytics platform targeting IoT, finance and other services that require real-time processing, just raised $33 million in Series B funding. Pitango Venture Capital led the round, with participation from Verizon VenturesRobert Bosch Venture CapitalCME Ventures and Dell Technologies Capital, along with earlier backers Magma Venture Partnersand Jerusalem Venture Partners. The company has now raised $48 million altogether. More here.

Prospera, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv-based startup that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to help farmers analyze data gathered from their fields, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Qualcomm Ventures, with participation from Cisco InvestmentsICV, and returning investor Bessemer Venture Partners. The company has now raised $22 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

SimilarWeb, a 10-year-old, Tel Aviv-based company that sells analytics and insights about the performance of websites and apps, as well as competitive intelligence about how other apps and sites are doing, has raised $47 million in new funding. Viola Growth led the round, with participation from Saban VenturesCE Ventures, and other unnamed investors. The company has now raised $112 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Urbanbase, a three-year-old, Seoul-based startup that makes virtual reality tools for interior planning and design, has raised $1.8 million in Series A funding from CKD Venture CapitalMagellan Technology and Capstone Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

Draper University, a residential entrepreneurship bootcamp founded by Tim Draper, is accepting applications for its Fall Hero Training Class, a seven-week residential program located in downtown San Mateo that allows students to develop a product and pitch to 80+ investors. Our next class kicks off September 11th; two blockchain companies, and, have pledged to give crypto tokens to those who apply, as well as those who attend the program.

The program looks for entrepreneurially minded founders who run pre-seed companies who are between the ages of 18 and 28. Draper University has launched 280+ startups that have raised $50M+, and a number of them have since been acquired. Apply by August 11th at

New Funds

The venture firm Canaan Partners just closed its eleventh fund with $800 million in commitments — the largest in its 30-year-history. Rich Boyle, a formerly operating partner at Khosla Ventures who joined Canaan last year, becomes a general partner with this newest fund. More here.


Facebook has acquired three-year-old, New York-based based content rights management startup Source3, including its team and technology, for undisclosed terms. Source3 had raised more than $4 million in funding, including from Contour Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Publicly traded HubSpot is announcing that it has acquired Kemvi, a two-person startup applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to help sales teams.The financial terms of the acquisition haven’t been disclosed. Kemvi previously raised $1 million in funding from Seabed VCNeotribe VenturesKepha Partners and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Michael Kors has agreed to buy shoemaker Jimmy Choo for a little more than $1.2 billion in an effort to recover some of its lost cachet. It’s the fifth time that Jimmy Choo has changed hands since it was founded in the East End of London in 1996 by Choo and Tamara Mellon. Fortune has more here.

Synthesio, an 11-year-old, New York-based social intelligence platform company, has acquired Social Karma, a five-year-old, Belgium-based company that uses social data to help marketers understand consumers. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.


Julie Bornstein, who spent the last two years as COO of Stitch Fix, an online retailer that’s widely expected to go public, quietly left the company last week. Recode wants to know: why.

Elon Musk just fired back at Mark Zuckerberg over his grasp of the future of AI, claiming that the Facebook CEO’s “understanding of the subject is limited.” The apparent dig comes roughly a week after Rodney Brooks, the founding director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and the cofounder of both iRobot and Rethink Robotics, made very similar comments to us about Musk.


Comet Labs, a young venture fund focused on robotics and AI startups, is looking to hire an investment associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Inside Hampton Creek‘s empty boardroom.

Facebook is reportedly building its own smart speaker.

Lyft‘s business is now growing faster than Uber’s.


The inventor of Monopoly was trying to warn us.

Justin Bieber is reportedly “just over it.” (We feel you, Biebs.)

Retail Therapy

The Effeffe Berlinetta. Viva l’Italia!

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