StrictlyVC: August 7, 2017

Hi, everyone, happy Monday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Softbank’s Masayoshi Son sent a pretty clear warning to Uber this morning — that if its shareholders don’t sell him shares on his terms, his next stop is Lyft.

WeWork just raised another $500 million, bringing its total funding to more than more than $2 billion from investors this year alone.

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On Managing Outrage in Silicon Valley

I hate sexism; it can’t be eradicated fast enough. I’m frustrated that there’s still far too little diversity in Silicon Valley.

Yet a newer form of discrimination is starting to greatly alarm me, and that’s discrimination against anyone with a point of view that’s deemed offensive to the tech majority.

You know already what I’m talking about: people are angry about a Google engineer who wrote an overly long memo, arguing that the fact that there are fewer women engineers than men is a natural state.

I have no interest in trying to deconstruct what this person wrote.  I don’t think it made much sense, and what I did understand of it seemed very poorly argued. For what it’s worth, I’ll note that like the vast majority of people who have read this memo — and that’s now roughly one million people, including Google employees — I strongly disagree with this person’s views about gender and race.

But let’s stop for a minute and think about exactly what has happened here. The author is a junior to mid-level engineer. He is one individual in a company that employs more than 72,000 people. Why has Silicon Valley spent the weekend talking about him, railing against him, bashing Google?

Quartz wrote a smart piece earlier, saying that the real problem with this person’s viral anti-diversity memo “is bigger than Silicon Valley,” and it tied this engineer’s leanings to Trumpism, which has emboldened a subset of Trump supporters to be more public about their repulsive views.

I understand the temptation to draw a line from one to the other, but I don’t think it’s right or fair. I will admit that the tech industry’s swift response to real scandals has led to outcomes that I secretly hoped to see. It also makes a certain kind of sense to feel anger toward Google given that it has been accused by the U.S. Department of Labor of “extreme” gender pay discrimination.

But this groupthink terrifies me when it’s used to bully people for exercising their right to free speech. How will we know what people are truly thinking if we rush to silence them?

Contrary to what some people have written, this engineer was not violating anti-discrimination laws by writing his memo. (If he were a manager and put this kind of thinking into practice, he would be, and I’d have my pitchfork out, too.)

More here.

New Fundings

Banza, a three-year-old, Detroit, Mi.-based producer of wholesale chickpea pastas, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding led by Beechwood Capital, with participation from Strand Equity Partners and RSE VenturesMore here.

Fatherly, a two-year-old, New York-based media startup focused on millennial men, has raised $4 million in venture funding from BDMI (which is the investment arm of media company Bertelsman) and talent agency UTA. Fortune has more here.

Gu Sheng Tang, a seven-year-old, Guangzhou, China-based traditional Chinese medicine clinic franchise, has raised $150 million in Series D funding that comprises both equity and debt. Investors including China State-owned Capital Risk Investment FundChina Life Insurance Co.CMB International, China Orient Asset Management Co., and two unnamed government “guidance” funds. China Money Network has more here.

iflix, a 3.5-year-old, Kuala Lumpur-based Netflix-like service that covers Southeast Asia and other emerging markets, has raised $133 million in funding led by Hearst, with participation from EDBIBDS private bank clients, and earlier backers Evolution MediaSky PLCCatcha GroupLiberty GlobalJungle Ventures and PLDT. The round follows another sizable round — of $90 million — that closed in March. Dealbook has more here.

Karius, a three-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based life sciences company focused on infectious diseases, has raised $50 million in Series A funding. Data Collective and Lightspeed Venture Partners co-led the round, and were joined by Tencent, Khosla Ventures, and earlier backers Innovation Endeavors, and Spectrum 28. CNBC has more here.

LevitasBio, a two-month-old, San Francisco-based cellular analysis startup launched by former Stanford professors and focused around  a proprietary magnetic levitation technology that they hope will enable them to identify, isolate and characterize cells from a wide range of biological samples, has raised $8 million in funding, shows an SEC filingMore here.

Rothy’s, a months-old, San Francisco-based e-commerce startup that makes fashionable women’s flats from recycled plastic water bottles, has raised just more than $5 million in funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, shows a new SEC filingMore here.

Tokyo Smoke, a two-year-old, Toronto-based cannabis lifestyle and retail brand, has raised C$4 million ($3.15 million) in the first close of its Series B financing. The found was led by Aphria, a Canadian medical cannabis producer, and Green Acre Capital, a Canadian cannabis-focused private investment firm. More here.

Werk, a year-old, New York-based job board platform focused on flexible work, raised $2.9 million in seed funding led by Rethink Impact, with participation from SoGal Ventures, TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque, and earlier investors Halogen VenturesPrecursor VC, and Better VenturesMore here.

Wickr, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based secure messaging app has raised $8.7 million as part of a targeted $13 million round, shows a new SEC filing. According to Crunchbase, Wickr had previously raised roughly $73 million, including from Breyer Capital and Alsop Louie PartnersMore here.

Winky Lux, a two-year-old, New York-based cosmetics brand that sells (for now) online only, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Female Founders Fund, with participation from BBG VenturesGGV CapitalSoGal Ventures and TGZ CapitalMore here.

New Funds

March Capital Partners, cofounded by renowned investment banker Jamie Montgomery, is looking to raise up to $150 million for its second early-stage venture fund, shows an SEC filing. It is separately raising $150 million for an opportunity fund, presumably to back its breakaway companies as they mature and need more capital. We talked with the outfit last year when it closed on a $240 million debut fund.


Netflix just made its first-ever acquisition, paying an undisclosed sum for Millarworld, a comic book publishing company. Netflix wants to turn its franchises into films. TechCrunch has more here.

Publicly traded ad tech company Tremor Video is selling its “demand-side platform” to Israel-based mobile advertising firm Taptica for an enterprise value of $50 million, continuing a raft of consolidation in a sector facing stiff online competition from Google and Facebook. The WSJ has more here.


Uber quietly unsealed the deposition of former CEO Travis Kalanick in the Uber-Waymo case over the weekend, and one interesting tidbit it reveals is that Kalanick regrets not firing Anthony Levandowski — who has been accused of stealing from Waymo to benefit Uber —  sooner. Asked why he didn’t, Kalanick said that Levandowski denied that the files he’d downloaded while at Google were used to build Uber’s technology. As time passed, says Kalanick, “You know, I just — I felt that [Levandowski] had done something that was f’ing stupid . . . I — I didn’t feel like he had stolen anything. I knew that it hadn’t gotten over to Uber. I felt a little bullied by Google generally with how the initial complaint was and where it — where the facts actually were. You know, if I were to do it over again, I probably would have immediately. It took a little more time, but I eventually got there.” Buzzfeed has more here.

Lisa Marrone has joined August Capital as a principal. Marrone previously spent three years with Bain & Co. and enjoyed short stints at the White House (working with the National Economic Council), and as a director of strategic marketing at Lydra, a biotech company in Massachusetts.


Eniac Ventures is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in San Francisco.

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Essential Reads

Apple is working on a new version of its smartwatch that works with cellular networks, untethering it from the iPhone for the first time.

Apparently the iPhone 8 will be capable of scanning your face, even if your phone is on a table.


Watch the spine-chilling, season three trailer for “Mr. Robot.”

Steve-O versus hot wings.

And this is why I’ve decided not to become a spear fisherman.

Retail Therapy

Just a little summer home on Corfu.

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