StrictlyVC: September 11, 2017

Hi, happy Monday, all!

We’re so sorry for those of you who suffered through Irma this past weekend (and whose friends and family did). For those of you wanting to help, GlobalGiving’s Irma Relief Fund is accepting donations here. It vets the local organizations it helps fund and is reportedly well-regarded by charity watchdogs.

Top News in the A.M.

Chinese authorities are ordering domestic bitcoin exchanges to shut down, delivering a heavy blow to once-thriving trading hubs that helped popularize the virtual currency pushing it to recent record highs. The currency went into a freefall on Friday on reports that this move was coming.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is brought to you this week by the Future Labs AI Summit, a two-day conference comprising trainings, talks, and discussions with leading AI technologists, investors, academics, and entrepreneurs in New York City on October 30 – 31.

From deep dives into key areas animating AI conversations from leading technical experts to introductory courses in machine learning and game theory for AI, the Future Labs AI Summit features offerings for scholars, technologists, and investors alike. Attendees will also get a first look at demos from the second cohort of startups in the AI NexusLab, the accelerator program run by Future Labs, NYU Tandon, and ff Venture Capital. Get tickets here.

The Downside of Covering Demo Days

Tech writers are invited to a lot of demo days, as you might imagine. Sometimes, these presentations are very long, with many startup teams taking the stage to pitch to investors and the media. Sometimes, they’re shorter, featuring a more concentrated group of founders. But always, the pitches are concise. In fact, most incubators or accelerators take their cue from one of the original incubators, Y Combinator, which gives each of its startups less than three minutes to dazzle the crowd.

As a result, what makes it into TechCrunch (and other outlets) on the heels of these demonstrations are very much first impressions of companies —  vague outlines of what’s interesting about them. Perhaps naturally, too, these first impressions are often appropriated by the companies themselves and turned into endorsements to gain traction with early customers.

Such is the case with Vacayo, a startup that recently passed through the 500 Startups accelerator program and which last month presented to a crowd at the Computer History Museum in San Jose, Ca., alongside 28 other startups.

On the heels of the event, we included Vacayo in our coverage of the event, explaining its proposal to become a kind of property manager to homeowners who have extra space (or extra homes) on their hands, property that the startup says it can furnish and find tenants to fill.

Vacayo has since used that coverage, including linking to it on Facebook, to solicit customers. The problem, as reported in a recent CNBC story, is that Vacayo is being highly deceptive in how it’s landing some those listings.

New Fundings

Ampt, a 10-year-old, Fort Collins, Co.-based developer of power conversion technology for solar power plant optimization, has raised $15 million in funding from founder and chairman Doug Schatz, as well as Bohemian Investments. Th company has now raised more than $50 million altogether. More here.

BigBasket, a nearly six-year-old, Mumbai, India-based online grocery firm, is reportedly raising a whopping $280 million in Series E funding led by Paytmand Alibaba Group. Earlier investors Sands Capital and The Abraaj Groupare also participating in the round, which could value the company at upwards of $900 million, say local media reports. More here.

InfoSum, a two-year-old, Basingstoke, U.K.-based data security firm, has raised $5 million in seed funding from LocalGlobe and Mosaic Ventures. The company has now raised $8 million altogether, including from Upfront Ventures and IA VenturesMore here.

Linxo, an eight-year-old, Paris-based maker of personal financial management software, has $24 million in funding from financial institutions Crédit AgricoleCrédit Mutuel Arkéa and MAIF. More on the company, which is building a sort of Mint for the French market, here.

SoftIron, a five-year-old, London and Newark, Ca.-based company that designs, builds, and sells storage appliances to customers’ specifications, has raised $7 million in funding led by Earth Capital PartnersMore here.

Typeform, a five-year-old, Barcelona-based cloud-based application that’s trying to make surveys and other types of forms more user friendly for both creators and end users, has raised $35 million in Series B funding led by General Atlantic. The company has now raised more than $52 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Vemo Education, a two-year-old Vienna, Va.-based startup that’s helping colleges and universities offer flexible and personalized financing to students and families, has raised $7.4 million in seed funding co-led by University Ventures and NextGen Venture Partners, with participation from Route 66 VenturesThird Kind Venture CapitalHaystack Partners, and Task Force X CapitalMore here.

Zoox, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based Silicon Valley startup that’s trying to build a completely self-driving car, has held preliminary discussions with Softbank Group about a new funding round that could value the company at between $3 billion and $4 billion, says Axios. More here.

New Funds

Entrepreneur First, the London headquartered company builder that invests in individuals (pre-team, pre-idea) to help create new technology startups, has raised $12.4 million in new funding led by Greylock Partners. Other investors joining the round include Mosaic VenturesFounders FundLakestar Capital, and Deep Mind founders Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman. TechCrunch has the story here.

The early-stage, London-based venture capital firm Forward Partners raised £60 million earlier this year to invest in one of the hottest areas in tech — artificial intelligence. Forward never revealed who’d backed the fund, though; now Business Insider is reporting that it has one institutional investor: BlackrockMore here.

Also Sponsored By . . .

South of Market, The Musical” is back for v2!  The annual tech parody is running Oct 12-22nd in San Francisco and features an entirely new script, cast and score! This year’s show follows an aspiring tech journalist as she attempts to get the scoop on the too-good-to-be-true hottest startup of the year –  With songs likes “Self Driving,” “Boulder Moves, Bolder You,” and “Tech Issues,” this year’s show highlights the perks and perils of startup scene hype machine.

Tickets go on sale on Wednesday but StrictlyVC readers can access a limited pre-sale here. Use “strictlyvc” as both the access code and the promo code for a 10 percent discount.


Rackspace today announced its intention to acquire Datapipe, one of its largest competitors in the managed public and private cloud services business. Rackspace expects the acquisition, which is its largest one yet, to close in the next quarter. The two privately held companies aren’t disclosing terms of the deal, but Datapipe has raised roughly $310 million in funding since its 1998 founding. TechCrunch has more here.


Gary Cohn, the former Goldman president turned White House advisor, is on the thinnest of ice, reportedly. “The calculus has shifted for Gary. He’s gone, essentially, from untouchable to possibly being bounced out,” one source tells Reuters.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the recently named CEO of Uber, is leaving the New York Times Company’s board of directors to focus on his new gig (and presumably owing to potential or perceived conflicts of interest, too). Khosrowshahi had joined the board in 2015.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik sat down with The Information and talked, among other things, about why Wall Street doesn’t value car companies more highly. The full transcript is here.

YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie, used a racial slur again during one of his popular livestreams. What YouTube will do about it isn’t yet clear.

Uber’s Advanced Technology Group has hired Jon Thomason, who most recently acted as Head of Mobile and Product at Facebook’s Oculus. Thomason will lead ATG software teams across Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, working on autonomous driving and trucking, among other advanced software projects. More here.

HPE exec Meg Whitman is joining Dropbox’s board.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify on the witness stand later this month — a rare and high-profile courtroom appearance as his company defends a controversial plan to give shareholders non-voting stock.


Dropbox is looking to hire a business strategy associate. The job is in San Francisco.

Stripe is looking to add someone to its business operations team. The job is in San Francisco.


Investors and founders take note: The U.S. Asian population is growing faster than any other U.S. racial or ethnic group, climbing 72 percent between 2000 and 2015, says new Pew Research data. Asians Americans are projected to become the largest immigrant group in the country by 2055. More here.

And Sponsored By  . . .

Two MIT grads walked into a bar . . .and they created a wine club. Bright Cellars is the personalized subscription service founded by two MIT grads with a passion for wine. Their custom algorithm matches you to wines you’ll love based on your specific tastes. Take the quiz today to see your results and receive 50 percent off your first box.

Essential Reads

What to expect from the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, all of which are being unveiled tomorrow.

For good or bad, Twitter has built but not-yet-launched feature for easily composing “tweetstorms.”

Forget Equifax. Facebook and Google have the data that should really worry you.


How it feels to drop a kid off at college.

Friends are genetically similar.

Retail Therapy

A chair that only a golf fanatic could love.

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