StrictlyVC: September 27, 2017

Happy Wednesday, everyone! We have to keep it short and sweet today (just back the vet, prepping for tonight’s StrictlyVC event in SF, blah blah), but more tomorrow.:)

Top News in the A.M.

A Texas city’s firefighter pension fund, with the aid of one of the nation’s leading securities class-action firms, is suing Uber and its former CEO, Travis Kalanick, saying both covered up a series of “illicit business tactics” while raising funds, leading to billions of dollars in losses for its investors.

Amazon is unveiling some new gadgets today at an event in Seattle, joining the rush of tech products vying for consumers’ attention before the holidays arrive. Among them: a new, smaller, $99 Echo.

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‘Fast Furniture’ Maker, The Inside, Lands $1.5 Million from Forerunner

Seventeen years ago, Christiane Lemieux created DwellStudio, a popular catalog and e-retailer that built one brick-and-mortar store in SoHo before being acquired for undisclosed terms in 2013 by the online store Wayfair.

Now, she’s back with The Inside, a two-person, New York-based, direct-to-consumer home decor brand that’s creating fashionable made-to-order furniture, and which just raised $1.5 million from renowned e-commerce investor Kirsten Green and her firm, Forerunner Ventures.

The items, which are made of wood and foam and made-to-order printed fabric, are priced around $300 on average and include everything from chairs, couches and beds, to screens, ottomans and benches. (It’s making kids furniture, too.)

As an added enticement, The Inside, which relies on 3D imaging and digital printing, also promises fast delivery. Specifically, it says it can make its furniture in just to six to nine days and ship it directly via UPS from where it’s made in Chicago. (Typically, custom upholstered pieces take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks to create.)

We talked with Lemieux earlier today to understand better what she’s aiming to do. Our exchange has been edited slightly for length.

Why pursue this idea right now?

What consumers have had up until now is a sea of gray product that all looks the same. Anyone in furniture retail knows this formula: inventory plus protracted design cycles plus large minimum order quantities plus long lead times plus and onerous logistics equals big pain points — also known as the traditional supply chain.

Like most retail companies, at DwellStudio, we also followed this cycle: design, sample, manufacture and import. This process typically takes 18 months from start to finish and because of the minimum order quantity from manufacturing partners, the selection becomes narrow quickly to avoid inventory exposure.

I really saw a hole in the market here.

More here.

(Other) New Fundings

Autolus, a three-year-old, London-based developer of CART-T therapies, has raised $80 million in funding from new investors Cormorant Asset Management and Nextech Invest, along with earlier investors SynconaWoodford Investment Management and Arix Bioscience. FierceBiotech has more here.

Banana Culture, a Shanghai-based e-sports company, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Matrix Partners China and eSport Capital, with participation from IDG Capital and Seeinfront Capital. (Interesting aside: the company’s founder, Wang Sicong, is apparently the son of China’s wealthiest man, Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin.) China Money Network has more here.

CallRail, a six-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based call analytics platform, has raised $75 million from investors, including Sageview Capital and Leaders FundMore here.

Chime, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile banking startup, has raised $18 million in Series B funding led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from Northwestern Mutual Future VenturesOmidyar Network, and earlier backers Crosslink CapitalAspect VenturesForerunner Venturesand Homebrew. The company has now raised $36 million altogether. More here.

Cloud9, a five-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based esports startup, has raised $19.7 million of what could be a $25 million round, per an SEC filing first spied by Axios. The company’s investors include Founders FundMore here.

CloudRanger, a four-year-old, Chicago-based maker of SaaS automation and scheduling software for Amazon Web Services (it automates its customers’ backup processes), has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Enterprise Ireland and unnamed private investors. More here.

Distrii, a two-year-old, Shanghai, China-based co-working space company, has raised $30 million in Series A funding from Junzi Capital and CDL China. China Daily has more here.

Eden, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based office management and tech support platform, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Spectrum 28, with participation from Fifth Wall VenturesBessemer Venture PartnersY Combinator Continuity FundCanvas VenturesComcast VenturesEniac Ventures and other earlier backers. TechCrunch has more here.

Engage Therapeutics, a months-old, Summit, N.J.-based developer of a rescue therapy for people who experience uncontrolled epileptic seizures, has raised $23 million in Series A funding led by TPG Biotech, with participation from Adage Capital Management and Lumira CapitalMore here.

Hoop, a 1.5-year-old,  London-based family activity discovery and planning app, has raised £2.4 million ($3.2 million) in funding led by BGF Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Klue, a two-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based competitive intelligence company focused on helping enterprise sales teams, has raised $4 million in funding led by OMERS Ventures, with participation from BDC Venture CapitalVancouver Founder FundSK Ventures and angel investors like Hootsuite CEO Ryan HolmesMore here.

Kyriba, a 17-year-old, New York-based company that sells SaaS-based treasury technology to corporate CFOs and treasurers, has raised $45 million in funding led by Sumeru Equity Partners, with participation from earlier backers BpifranceIris CapitalDaher Capital and HSBCMore here.

Legion Technologies, a 1.5-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based workforce engagement platform, has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from earlier investors First Round CapitalXYZ Ventures, and Webb Investment Network. TechCrunch has more here.

Playbuzz, a five-year-old, New York-based storytelling platform for interactive content, has raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Viola Growth, with participation from earlier backers Disney, Saban Ventures83NorthCarmel VenturesFirstime and Oded Vardi. Variety has more here.

PlayerLync, a six-year-old, Englewood, Co.-based company that makes learning software so mobile workers can more easily train, learn, and collaborate, has landed a $2 million credit line from SaaS Capital, a lender focused exclusively on SaaS companies. More here.

Royole, a four-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based flexible display and sensor maker, has raised $240 million in Series D equity funding from Hanfor Capital ManagementWarmsun Holding GroupShanghai Pudong Development BankZhonghai Shengrong and Tanshi Capital. The company also secured $560 million in new debt financing. China Money Network has more here.

New Funds

Partners for Growth, a 13-year-old, San Francisco-based venture debt firm, has closed its fifth fund with $276 million in capital commitments. More here.

Pi Labs, a three-year-old, London-based seed investment firm that’s focused on property tech and makes “pre-Series A” investments, has raised $10 million for its second fund. TechCrunch has more here.

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Leah Busque, cofounder and executive chairwoman of TaskRabbit, has joined seed investment firm Fuel Capital as a general partner. Recode has more here.

“[Cryptocurrencies] is going to be the largest bubble of our lifetimes,” says hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz, who evidently flamed out at Fortress Investment Group and is now reportedly starting a $500 million he’d fund to invest in cryptocurrencies and ICOs. “Prices are going to get way ahead of where they should be. You can make a whole lot of money on the way up, and we plan on it.”


Uber is looking to hire a senior associate into its corporate development unit. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads

Google will create a standalone unit for its shopping service and require it to bid against rivals for ads shown on the top of its search page, in an effort to satisfy European Union concerns over the display of product results. Bloomberg has more here.

People are dying, but Intercept’s CEO insists his drug-making company is still on track.


Beware the open-plan kitchen.

Jon Snow and Ygritte make it official.

Retail Therapy

An insulated-jacket-slash-drinks-cooler. (We hope this is expressly for awesome tailgate parties.)

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