StrictlyVC: September 13, 2017

Hi, all, happy Wednesday!

Top News in the A.M.

Here are all the videos from Apple‘s event yesterday, courtesy of TechCrunch.

Uber‘s attempt to move its high-profile trade secrets dispute with Waymo to private arbitration was denied again this morning by a U.S. federal appeals court. Reuters has more here.

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 Organic Baby Food Wars Heat Up

It’s a good time to be a baby. It’s also a great time to be a parent who wants to ensure that his or her baby is consuming healthy foods but doesn’t necessarily have the wherewithal to prepare homemade baby food or delicately seasoned purées.

While some established names in the business have increasingly focused on improving their prepared baby foods — including by using pouches, employing more attractive packaging, and listing the specific percentage of each ingredient in its products — a spate of new startups is now aggressively competing for their pint-size end users.

On Monday, John Foraker, the former CEO of organic food brand Annie’s Homegrown, officially joined one of them as its CEO: two-year-old Once Upon a Farm, a maker of cold-pressed baby food that’s headquartered in San Diego.

The company — which reportedly generates less than $1 million in annual sales right now — is also teaming up with actress Jennifer Garner to help market its pouches, which are currently sold through its site, as well as at some Wegmans, Kroger’s, and Whole Foods Market stores.

Foraker has said he expects Once Upon a Farm to grow “big and fast into a highly disruptive force in the organic food space.”

Still, not only is the outfit going up against a number of bigger brands like Plum Organics, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best, and Ella’s Kitchen, but all are facing competition from startups that are making organic baby food and delivering it to users’ doorsteps.

We know of at least a dozen subscription-based companies to emerge in recent years with an eye toward taking a bite out of baby food market, which is sizable. According to recent statistics out of the research consultancy Zion Market Research, the global baby food market could reach as much as $76 billion by 2021.

Just some of the upstarts include Nurture Life, a two-year-old, Chicago-based, food delivery service that prepares organic meals for kids ages six months to 18 years; Yumi, a two-year-old, L.A.-based “science-based” early childhood meal delivery program that launched recently; Raised Real, a year-old, San Francisco-based subscription service that says its meals are similarly “optimized to support developmental functions”; Pure Spoon, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company that says it pasteurizes its organic fruits and veggies without the use of chemicals or nutrient-depleting heat; and Little Spoon, a three-year-old, New York-based baby food delivery startup that launched earlier this year and touts as unique its high-pressure processing technique.

New Fundings

Apttus, an 11-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based lifecycle management tech company, has raised a fresh $55 million in funding led by Premji, the private equity arm of Wipro, the Indian systems integrator. Earlier backers SalesforceK1 and Iconiq also joined the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $329 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Cybrary, a 2.5-year-old, Greenbelt, Md.-based open-source IT learning and certification prep platform for those looking to start or advance a cyber security career, has raised $3.5 million in funding.  Arthur Ventures led the round, with participation from Ron Gula, the founder of Tenable Network Security, among other earlier investors. More here.

Ennovabio, a 10-month-old, Shanghai, China-based drug developer at work on a treatment for certain brain tumors, has raised $10 million in “pre-A” funding from HighLight Capital and a second investment firm called Zhangkelingyi. China Money Network has more here.

FreshMarket, a five-year-old, Shanghai-based company that operates a food online-to-offline platform, allowing customers to buy vegetables, meat, milk and fruit via its mobile app — food that’s then delivered to freezers near their residential buildings — has raised $44 million in new funding led by Tiantu Capital. China Money Network has more here.

Heptio, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based startup that offers training and support for enterprises that want to adopt Kubernetes, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by earlier investor Madrona Venture partners, with participation from Accel Partners (another earlier backer) and Lightspeed Venture Partners, which is new to the deal. TechCrunch has more here.

Ieso Digital Health, a 17-year-old, Cambridge, U.K.-based startup that provides mental health care services via a secure, digital, written conversation platform for private individuals, health providers and companies, has raised $24 million in funding, including from Draper Esprit and Touchstone Innovations. More here.

Paragon Genomics, a 2.5-year-old, South San Francisco, Ca.-based life science company that says its technology enables its customers to develop targeted sequencing assays that are five to ten times faster than existing methods, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Cowin Venture Capital and Fosun Industrial Co. led the round, with participation from Cloudstone VentureHEDA Ventures, and Wisemont Capital. More here.

Signet Accel, a three-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based software company that connects disparate databases across healthcare verticals, ostensibly allowing researchers to identify patterns and trends across large patient populations, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Edison PartnersMore here.

Sophia Genetics, a six-year-old, Paris-based big data analytics platform that aims to enhance genomic diagnostics via AI algorithms, has raised $30 million in Series D funding from Balderton Capital and 360 Capital Partners, along with earlier investors Invoke Capital and Alychlo. TechCrunch has more here.

SPR Therapeutics, an eight-year-old, Cleveland, Oh.-based medical device startup whose tech for chronic and acute pain includes a threadlike wire that’s placed through the skin, then connected to a wearable stimulator to target active nerve fibers and relieve pain, has raised $25 million in Series C funding. A unnamed family office co-led the round with Frontcourt Ventures. The company has now raised $23 million altogether. More here.

The Stable, a two-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based consumer brand agency, has raised $4 million in funding from Gen7 InvestmentsMore here.

Skywire Networks, a four-year-old, New York-based fixed wireless business broadband provider, has raised $23 million in funding from Metropolitan Partners GroupMore here.

New Funds

500 Startups has filed updated Form D documents for several funds without ousted founder Dave McClure‘s name attached, including one focused on the Middle East, one focused on Vietnam and one focused on the financial technology sector. Axios has more here.

Asus, the Taiwanese hardware firm known for its ZenBooks, ZenFones and Zenbo the cute, humanoid robot, is stepping into the VC game with the launch of a $50 million venture capital fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Former Sequoia venture partner Yinglan Tan has closed on $25 million in capital commitments for the debut fund of his new firm, Insignia Venture Partners, shows a new SEC filing. Tan previously spent five years at Sequoia’s Singapore office. Insignia plans to focus on opportunities in Southeast Asia, reports TechCrunch. More here.


Zomato, the nine-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based  restaurant guide and food on-demand service, has completedly a long-rumored deal to acquire the logistics startup Runnr. The companies aren’t disclosing the price but India media had previously pegged the all-stock deal at $40 million, notes TechCrunch. Runnr is the product of a merger between delivery service Roadrunnr and food delivery company TinyOwl, two startups raised $28 million and $27 million from investors, respectively. More 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.

The show will also feature a host of cameo appearances (including by yours truly). Tickets are on sale now, so come see our musical debut if you dare!


WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is leaving the company to start his own non-profit.

Adam Coates, director of Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab, has left the company, reports TechCrunch. Coates hasn’t said where he’s headed, but TC notes that he previously worked alongside Andrew Ng, who left Baidu as its chief scientist earlier this year and more recently launched a new, $150 million AI fund.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said at investors conference in New York yesterday that he’d fire any employee trading bitcoin for being “stupid.” For good measure, he called the cryptocurrency a “fraud.” (He’s not as down on blockchain.)

Dave Parker, a longtime leader in Seattle’s startup and investment community, has joined  Bend, Ore.-based venture firm Seven Peaks Ventures and will open a new Seattle office for the firm. GeekWire has more here.

Tony Scars is back . . . with an internet venture.

Uber’s chief legal officer, Salle Yoo, is expected to leave the company in the near future, says The Information. Her expected departure comes as Uber faces several criminal probes in past practices and an upcoming trial over trade-theft allegations made against the company by Waymo. More here.


The Weill Cornell Medical Center is looking to hire a venture associate to help make venture investments, manage tech transfers and more. The job is in New York.


Stanford is the best college in the U.S., according to a new school ranking by Niche, a 15-year-old, Pittsburgh-based data company that says M.I.T is the second best school. More here.

Essential Reads

Two ex-Googlers want to make mom-and-pop-owned bodega stores obsolete, and the internet hates the idea.

SoFi employees tell all to the New York Times. It was a “frat house,” says one former employee. “You would find people having sex in their cars and in the parking lot. It was a free-for-all.”’

Facebook has been quietly testing a new standalone group video chat app called Bonfire that allows up to eight friends to engage in conversation as well as use special effects, similar to those in apps like Instagram and Snapchat. TechCrunch has more here.

ICOs have barely touched mainstream tech companies. But that all changes this week as Kik begins selling its Kin token in an ICO targeted at raising $125 million. The sale bucks ICO trends, and it could prove to be a seminal event for the tech industry at large. More here.


John Cleese, in conversation.

The women who changed Hollywood.

How the food industry uses “science” to push soda.

Retail Therapy

Allbirds, maker of tech’s favorite shoes for now, is opening its first real world store in New York tomorrow.

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