StrictlyVC: August 29, 2017

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Here’s where to donate to victims of Harvey, a storm we now know is like no other in U.S. history.

Top News in the A.M.

Uber is ending its post-trip tracking of riders, as part of a new public relations privacy push.

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The Rise of Iranian-Americans in Tech is No Surprise

Longtime Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has put Iranians and Iranian-Americans in the spotlight. In part, that’s because the 48-year-old, just elected to become Uber’s new CEO, fled Iran with his family at age 9 to escape the Iranian Revolution. In part, his ties to other people of Iranian descent in the U.S. tech world are, well, extensive.

As The Washington Post noted in an article earlier today, Khosrowshahi’s brother, Kaveh Khosrowshahi, is a managing director with Allen & Co. His cousin, Amir Khosrowshahi, co-founded Nervana, an artificial intelligence company that Intel acquired last year for more than $400 million. He is also cousins with Hadi and Ali Partovi, high-powered twins who are both founders and tech investors.

As if that’s not enough, the Post says two other family members include Farzad “Fuzzy” Khosrowshahi, who played a role in creating Google spreadsheets, and Avid Larizadeh Duggan, a London-based general partner at GV.

Venture capitalist Pejman Nozad, who was practically penniless and unable to speak English when he moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1992, says that neither Khosrowshahi’s success, nor that of his extended network, should come as a shock to anyone who knows how Iranian families tend to operate — putting family and friends first, followed closely by a dedication to study, particularly of math and science.

“Math and science are so rooted in Iranian culture,” says Nozad, who today co-manages the venture firm Pear, which he co-founded roughly four years ago with friend and fellow investor Mar Hershenson.

Nozad points to Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman and first Iranian to win the Fields Medal, often described as the rough equivalent of a Nobel Prize for mathematicians. (Sadly, Mirzakhani, who was most recently a professor at Stanford, passed away last month at age 40, a victim of aggressive breast cancer.)

Nozad also evokes Sharif University of Technology in Iran, which has produced large numbers of PhD students for Stanford, as Newsweek once noted. In fact, the report praised Sharif as having “one of the best undergraduate electrical-engineering programs in the world.”

More here.

New Fundings

Akeso Biopharma, a five-year-old, Zhongshan, China-based contract research organization that provides services to domestic and international pharmaceutical companies, has raised $45 million in Series B funding led by GTJA Investment Group, with participation from Shenzhen Capital GroupQianhai Fund of Funds and TriWise Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Amplero, a year-old, Seattle-based company behind an AI-driven marketing platform, has raised $17.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Greycroft Partners and Ignition Partners. Earlier backers Wildcat Venture PartnersSeven Peaks Ventures, and Trilogy Equity Partners also participated in the round, which has brought Amplero’s total funding to more than $25 million. More here.

Anonyome Labs, a three-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based startup that runs a cyberprivacy platform for consumers, has raised $20.4 million in Series B funding from Hanna Ventures and a long list of individual investors, including LifeLock founder Todd Davis, Ariba cofounder Ken Eldred, and earlier backers, such as Crosspoint Ventures cofounder John Mumford and Symatec CEO Greg Clark. SiliconAngle has more here.

Arrail Dental, a 19-year-old, China-based private dental service provider with nearly 100 private clinics in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, among other cities, has raised $90 million in Series D round funding from Goldman Sachs and the Chinese private equity firm Hillhouse Capital Group. China Money Network has more here.

Bestow, a year-old, Dallas-based on-demand life insurance platform, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Core Innovation CapitalMorpheus Ventures and 8VCMore here.

Gigster, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that does software development on demand, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Redpoint Ventures, with participation from original investors Andreessen HorowitzY Combinator, and Sound VenturesMichael JordanMarc Benioff and former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo also participated in the round. More here.

Herb, a two-year-old, Toronto-based digital media business focused on cannabis-related news, has raised $4.1 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures, with participation from Slow VenturesLiquid 2 Ventures, and numerous individual investors, including Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke and Buddy Media co-founder Michael Lazerow.  TechCrunch has more here.

Hotelchamp, a two-year-old, Amsterdam-based marketing and sales platform that aims to help hoteliers drive more direct bookings on their sites, has raised €2.25 million ($2.7 million) in seed funding, including from popular Dutch blogger Nalden, and Phillippe de Knijff and Jolanda Degen of WorldTicketCenter.  The company has now raised €4 million ($4.8 million) altogether. More here.

LevaData, a four-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based software company that aims to help its enterprise customers improve their gross margins by reducing supply chain costs, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Tola CapitalMore here.

LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, an eight-year-old, Reston, Va.-based cybersecurity company, has raised $26.3 million in debt and equity, including from new investors Eastward Capital and Triangle Peak Partners. Earlier backers Alsop Louie PartnersNeuberger Berman, and New Spring Capital also joined the round. More here.

Next Caller, a five-year-old, New York-based phone fraud detection service, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Crystal Towers. TechCrunch has more here.

Qiniuyun, a six-year-old, Shanghai, China-based  enterprise cloud services company, has raised $140 million in new funding from Alibaba Group and Yunfeng Capital. The company is expected to support the development of Alibaba’s cloud computing unit, Alibaba Cloud. China Money Network has more here.

Recvue, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.- based recurring revenue and billing management platform, has raised $2 million in funding led by Cota CapitalMore here.

Wise Apple, a year-old, Chicago-based meal delivery service whose hook is that it helps involve kids in meal planning, has raised $3.6 million in seed funding. Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Levy Family Partners led the round, with participation from Chicago VenturesGreycroft PartnersBoxGroup and Irish AngelsMore here.

Zūm, a nearly three-year-old, Belmont, Ca.-based start focused on providing on-demand rides for kids aged 5 through 15, has raised $5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

DSG Consumer Partners, a four-year-old, Singapore-based investment firm focused on (mostly) privately held consumer businesses, has closed its second fund with $50 million in capital commitments, putting the amount of money it’s now managing at $74 million. LiveMint has more here.

Joy Capital, a China-based venture capital firm founded a couple of years ago by former Legend Capital managing director Liu Erhai, is seeking to raise $300 million for its second fund, according to an SEC filing. The firm closed on a $200 million debut fund just last year.


Meltwater, a 16-year-old, San Francisco-based company that provides data to more than 25,000 businesses to track where and how they are mentioned in media and other public platforms, has acquired Algo, a 12-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based startup that has built a data analytics platform for real-time searches around topics and specific keywords. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Algo had raised an undisclosed amount of funding, says TechCrunch, including from Matt Michelsen, an angel investor and Algo’s cofounder. More here.

Western Digital Corp., known for storage hardware,  said yesterday that it has acquired the assets of startup Upthere, an app-based cloud-storage offering meant to challenge services like Dropbox. Terms of the deal were not announced, but UpThere had raised $77 million in venture funding last year led by Western Digital’s venture investment arm, along with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Marketwatch has the story here.


Ryan Hoover, founder of popular tech leaderboard Product Hunt, is raising a small venture capital fund called Weekend Fund that has secured just over $3 million, per an SEC filing first flagged by Axios. The fund isn’t a complete surprise; as we reported in May, a number of investors are raising small venture funds that are managed by AngelList, including Hoover. Axios notes, however, that Hoover’s fund appears to have raised more money than most Angel Funds to date, which are investing less than $1 million. AngelList had acquired Product Hunt last December for a reported $20 million. More here.

Dara Khosrowshahi may need to divest his shares in freight startup Convoy if he accepts the CEO role at Uber, reports Recode. In May, the company launched a competing freight service called UberFreight that matched truckers with payloads through an app. Uber cofounder Garrett Camp, also an early investor in Convoy, divested his shares in the company in June, says the report. More here.

The top two executives of Mozido, a financial technology company that has raised some $300 million to develop a mobile payments business, have quietly left the company, reports Forbes. More here.

Facebook hired Michael Sayman for an internship when he was 17 years old, and gave him a full-time engineering job at 18. Now, the wunderkind, who turned 21 last week, is leaving for Google. More in Bloomberg.

Heavyweight tech investor and FDA-critic Peter Thiel is among conservative funders and American researchers backing an offshore herpes vaccine trial that blatantly flouts US safety regulations, according to a report yesterday in Kaiser Health News. Ars Technica has more here.


Verizon is looking to hire a venture development manager. The job is in San Francisco.


Basically, every problem in the U.S. economy is because companies have too much power, new research argues.

Essential Reads

In case there was any doubt, the Apple iPhone event is, in fact, taking place September 12. The company is aiming to use its new 1,000-seat Steve Jobs theater, on its new headquarters, for the spectacle.


The Library of Congress has put the papers of Alexander Hamilton online for the first time in their original format. Zoom in and read them here.

Why Yale owns a forest.

The stars of “The Crown” on what British people say versus what they really mean.

Retail Therapy

Skyroam Solis. So WiFi, so much puck-like. (We want one.)

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