StrictlyVC: September 19, 2017

Hello! We’re at TechCrunch’s Disrupt event in San Francisco again today; we just wrapped up a lively discussion with Elizabeth Iorns of Science Exchange, Jen Rubio of Away, and Rachel Carlson of Guild Education — three acutely interesting founders in different phases of their companies’ lifecycles. More on that this week.

We’ll also looking forward to talking a little later today with Sam Altman of Y Combinator. More on that soon, too. In the meantime, happy Tuesday.:)

Top News in the A.M.

The National Venture Capital Association has launched a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming it took illegal steps to prevent an immigration policy that would have helped foreign-born founders stay in the U.S. to build startups. The WSJ has the story here.

Sponsored By . . .

StrictlyVC is being brought to you this week by 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.

Steve Jurvetson on Why He Couldn’t Join the Board of Secretive Zoox

On stage yesterday in San Francisco, we had the chance to catch up with investor Steve Jurvetson about a wide number of things that are sweeping across the startup landscape (and might fundamentally change it), from ICOs to Softbank’s giant Vision Fund to AI to Elon Musk’s new Boring Company.

Jurvetson had plenty of interesting insights about all, unsurprisingly. He somewhat famously graduated from Stanford in 2.5 years, at the top of his class, and has led early investments in many pioneering companies, from Hotmail to SpaceX and Tesla. (He sits on the boards of the last two, alongside Musk.)

Another board seat Jurvetson planned to take but didn’t, he said today, was with Zoox, the three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based startup that’s building self-driving cars from the ground up with an eye toward picking up passengers as a service.

A year ago, Zoox raised what Jurvetson characterized as the biggest round of Series A funding ever when it closed on $240 million, including from DFJ, Lux Capital, Blackbird Ventures and others.

So much money makes sense, argued Jurvetson. “It’s a capital-intensive business. If you’re going to operate a fully autonomous driving service in an urban environment – imagine an Uber- or Lyft-like service without humans in the loop — that is a big innovation stream.”

What Jurvetson didn’t anticipate when his firm, DFJ, wrote a check to Zoox — this was “before they had a board, before they really had any structure whatsoever, before the Series A” —  was that Musk would make plans to jump into the car-as-a-service business, too.

Though “[t]here was no whisper of Tesla being competitive” early on, said Jurvetson, that changed abruptly on a Tesla shareholder call last October.

More here.

New Fundings

Aqua Security, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based container security platform provider, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Microsoft VenturesTLV Ventures and Shlomo Kramer. Altogether, the company has now raised $38.5 million. More here.

Capsule8, a two-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based threat prevention and response platform for cloud-native environments, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. The company has now raised $8.5 million altogether. More here.

DouxMatok, a 3.5-year-old, Israel-based startup claiming to have found a way to make sugar more efficient and potent so people can eat less of it and still get the same effect, has raised $8.1 million in funding led by Pitango Venture CapitalMore here.

Funnel, a three-year-old, Stockholm Sweden-based startup whose software-as-a-service helps companies analyze the effectiveness of online marketing spend across multiple channels, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Balderton Capital led the round, with participation from earlier investors, including Industrifonden and Zobito. TechCrunch has more here.

JingChi, a months-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based autonomous driving start-up founded by Wang Jing, the former head of Baidu’s autonomous driving unit, has raised $30 million in seed funding and is now poised to raise $100 million in Series A funding, says the company. Backers so far include Aplus Capital, an investment firm started by Yu Minhong, the founder of New Oriental Education & Technology Group (which went public in 2006 and minted many gazillionaires). China Money Network has more here.

Loftium, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based company that provides users with a down payment in exchange for splitting Airbnb income on a spare room for 12 to 36 months, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by DFJ. The company, which had previously raised funding from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, closed the round in April.  The New York Times has more here.

Luno, a four-year-old, Singapore-based bitcoin wallet and exchange, has raised $9 million in Series B funding led by Balderton Capital, with participation from earlier backer Digital Currency Group. TechCrunch has more here.

MealPal, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based subscription service that provides its customers with daily lunch options from restaurants near where they live or work, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Menlo Ventures. Prior to this round, the company had raised $15 million from Bessemer Venture PartnersComcast VenturesHaystack and NextView. TechCrunch has more here.

Minio, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based provider of open source object storage for cloud-native and containerized applications, has raised $20 million in Series A funding jointly led by Dell Technologies CapitalGeneral Catalyst Partners and Nexus Venture Partners, with additional participation by Intel CapitalAME Cloud and Steve Singh. TechCrunch has more here.

Patreon, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based membership platform that makes it easier for artists and creators to get paid, has officially closed on $60 million in new funding. (TechCrunch reported last week that this deal was in the works.) Earlier investor Thrive Capital led the Series B round, with participation from earlier backers CRV and Freestyle, as well as new investor DFJ. The company has now raised $107 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Resolute Innovation, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that’s building a searchable R&D database to speed along the the university tech transfer process, is raising $3.3 million in Series A funding led by Revolution Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Ushr, a three-year-old, Livonia, Mi.-based company working on high-definition mapping technology and software for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Forté Ventures led the investment round, and was joined by investors that include EnerTech CapitalEmerald Technology Ventures, and GM Ventures. has more here.

Younited Credit, an eight-year-old, Paris, France company that’s building a crowdlending platform in continental Europe, has raised $47.8 million led by earlier investors EurazeoCrédit Mutuel ArkéaAG2R La Mondiale and Weber Investissements. Other participants include new investors Matmut InnovationZencap Asset Management, and Bpifrance. TechCrunch has more here.

The Zebra, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based auto insurance comparison marketplace, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Accel Partners. Other participants in the round include Silverton PartnersFloodgateBallast Point VenturesMark CubanDaher Capital, and Birchmere LabsMore here.

New Funds

The Engine, based out of MIT and Cambridge, has raised a $200 million fund to back and help incubate startups working on “tough tech” — new challenges in areas like aerospace, advanced materials, biotech, genetic engineering and renewable energy. According to Katie Rae,  CEO and managing partner of The Engine, about $25 million of the capital commitments comes from MIT, with the rest from family offices and other fund. TechCrunch has more here.

Thailand’s retail giant Central Group and China’s second-largest online shopping site operator have signed a deal to set up a $500 million e-commerce and fintech joint venture in Thailand, with an eye toward funding Thailand’s developing e-commerce market. The outfits are each chipping in exactly half the funding. The Nikkei has more here.


ZhongAn, a four-year-old, Shanghai, China-based company that became China’s first online-only insurer, said yesterday that plans to raise up to $1.5 billion in an IPO that could value the company at around $10 billion. Softbank Group will be a cornerstorne investor in the offering.

Restoration Robotics, a 15-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that’s developing a robotic device that assists doctors during a part of a hair restoration procedure, is planning to go public, offering 3.125 million share priced at between $7 and $9 a share. The company’s biggest outside investors include Sutter Hill VenturesClarus LifesciencesAlloy Ventures, and InterWest Partners. MarketWatch has slightly more here.

Roku just more than doubled its IPO target.


Toys ‘R’ Us could file for bankruptcy as soon as the next few weeks, as nervous suppliers have tightened terms for the retailer ahead of the crucial holiday selling season, according to the WSJ. More here.


Google SVP John Giannandrea spoke at Disrupt today, calling talk by tech leaders about the potentially alarming consequences of artificial intelligence both “unwarranted and borderline irresponsible.” More here.

Highland Europe has brought aboard as a growth investor Gajan Rajanathan, who will join the team in September. Rajanathan joins as a VP with the M&A advisory services firm Qatalyst Partners, where he has spent recent years building up its European operations. Earlier, he worked in Credit Suisse’s M&A group in New York.


New numbers show how rarely Twitter takes action against abusive behavior reports.

Essential Reads

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus reviewed.

Entrepreneurs are exploring new ways to list companies on exchanges — and placate stock-holding Silicon Valley employees — while avoiding the pitfalls of initial public offerings.

Skully, the AR helmet company, is attempting a comeback.


Uber is sorry for its “wife appreciation day” promo.

Survival of the prettiest.


Retail Therapy

Now that’s how to salvage a barn.

Filed Under:

Don’t Miss Out!

Sign up today to receive a free daily email with everything you need to start your day. Plus, keep track of the companies and personalities that will shape the industry in the months and years to come. Let StrictlyVC be your very own venture capital concierge.

StrictlyVC on Twitter