StrictlyVC: October 5, 2017

Hello and happy Thursday!

Did we mention that StrictlyVC now has a little white mascot? He’s very cute as you can see below, but he is slowly and very surely killing us. Why didn’t anyone warn us that puppies are like babies? (Okay, yes, virtually  every pet owner we know warned us that puppies are like babies. Did we listen? We did not.)

Top News in the A.M.

A new breach, considered the most serious in years, could enable Russia to evade NSA surveillance and more easily infiltrate U.S. networks. The WSJ has the story here.

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Startups Say This Fintech ‘Lab’ is Giving Them Needed Access to Wall Street and Regulator

Banks want to know what around the corner is trying to put them out of business, so it’s no surprise that a spate of fintech-focused accelerator programs has sprung into existence in recent years. For example, Deutsche Bank just opened is fourth innovation lab in New York this year, after opening outposts in Silicon Valley, Berlin, and London. Barclays, which initially opened its accelerator program in London, is now in the U.S., too, having partnered last year with TechStars. Wells Fargo also provides money and mentoring to companies that enter into its semi-annual accelerator program in San Francisco.

Another program that gets high marks from founders is the Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab), an offshoot of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, a 13-year-old nonprofit focused on serving unbanked and underbanked customers.

What is FinLab and what’s the appeal to founders? Broadly speaking, it’s a 2.5-year-old program that aims to find and nurture fintech startups that are helping Americans save, access credit and build assets, and it is itself fueled by a $30 million, five-year grant from JPMorgan. Startups are under no obligation to transact with the bank or sell it a stake of their business. As far as JPMorgan is concerned, FinLab’s mission is a solid one. Plus, it can gather useful intelligence about what startups are cooking up, and it’s a good look for JPMorgan, given that banks are not on most Americans’ list of most-loved companies. (A recent Gallup poll shows that a meager 27 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institutions.)

FinLab is fairly small and mostly virtual, but it seems to have a knack for sifting through applicants to find interesting companies. Among those startups it has worked with so far is Propel, a startup that helps people who receive food stamps manage their benefits. (It raised $4 million in seed venture funding after joining the program, including from Andreessen Horowitz and Omidyar Network.)

Another company that’s currently a part of the program is Dave, an app that alerts consumers ahead of an upcoming overdraft and can advance them money. Though its founders have created several companies previously and they’d already raised $3 million in seed funding — including from Mark Cuban and The Chernin Group — the team still applied to be a part of FinLab.

The two are now among 26 companies that have either graduated or are working currently with FinLab, whose nine-month-long program features some of the typical one-on-one engagement with mentors that are a feature of most accelerators. FinLab’s strongest enticement, however, are six day-long meetings that it organizes for its companies — meetings that can mean the difference between these companies thriving and wilting on the vine.

More here.

New Fundings

3T Biosciences, a young, Palo Alto, Ca.-based stealthy oncology startup, has raised more than $12 million in seed funding from backers that include Peter Thiel and Sean Parker. CNBC has more here.

21Buttons, a 1.5-year-old, Barcelona-based social commerce app dedicated to fashion, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Kibo Ventures, with participation from JME VC and earlier backers Samaipata Ventures, Breega Capital360 Capital PartnersBanc Sabadell Venture CapitalSputnik and Mediaset. TechCrunch has more here.

Cardiologs, a three-year-old, Paris-based ECG analysis platform, has raised $6.4 million in new funding from IdinvestISAIKurma PartnersPartech Ventures and earlier backer Bpifrance. The company has now raised $10 million. More here.

Energage, an 11-year-old, Exton, Pa.-based maker of employee engagement software, has raised $10 million in new funding led by NewSpring GrowthMore here.

Featurespace, a 12-year-old, Cambridge, England-based adaptive behavioral analytics startup, has raised £16.5 million ($21.6 million) in funding led by Highland Europe, with participation from WorldpayInvoke Capital and earlier backer Touchstone Innocations. The University of Cambridge has more here.

FlyHomes, a two-year-old, Seattle-based tech-enabled real estate brokerage, has raised $4 million in funding e-commerce pioneer Mark Vadon, with participation from Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Avant CEO Al Goldstein. It has also secured $2 million in debt funding. GeekWire has more here.

FogHorn Systems, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based maker of edge software for industrial and commercial IoT applications, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Intel Capital and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures. Other participants in the round include Honeywell Ventures and earlier investors March Capital PartnersGEDell Technologies CapitalRobert Bosch Venture Capital, Yokogawa Electric CorporationDarling Ventures and The Hive. CRN has more here.

Home61, a three-year-old, Miami-based end-to-end real estate platform, has raised $4 million in funding, including from FF Angel and FJ Labs. The Real Deal has more here.

Palleon Pharmaceuticals, a 1.5-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based developer of cancer checkpoint drugs, has raised $47.6 million in Series A funding from SR One, Pfizer VenturesVertex Ventures HCTakeda Ventures and AbbVie Ventures. Xconomy has more here.

PartySlate, a two-year-old, Chicago-based digital platform for party hosts, has raised $1.9 million in seed funding led by Hyde Park Venture Partners, with participation from Hyde Park AngelsInvestHER VenturesJump InvestorsWavemaker Partners and Halogen Ventures. Nibletz has more here.

PremFina, a 3.5-year-old, London-based startup that makes software for insurance brokers, has raised $36 million in funding co-led by Rakuten and Draper Esprit, with participation from Thomvest VenturesEmery CapitalRubicon Venture Capital and Talis Capital. Business Insider has more here.

Seasoned, a new, San Francisco-based foodservice-centric community, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by TPG GrowthMore here.

Secret Escapes, a seven-year-old, London-based members-only luxury travel club, is closing in on a £52 million ($66 million) Series D round led by Temasek, says TechCrunch. More here.

Wala, a two-year-old, Cape Town, South Africa-based blockchain-powered financial services platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Newton PartnersMore here.

Zefo, a two-year-old, Bangalore, India-based used furniture and appliances marketplace, has raised $9 million in Series B funding from Sequoia Capital IndiaHelion Venture Partners and Beenext. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds

Reach Capital, a 2.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture capital firm that’s focused on early-stage edtech startups, is looking to raise $75 million for its second fund, shows a new SEC filing. Reach had spun out of NewSchools Venture Fund in 2015 and closed its debut fund with $53 million later that year. More here.

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Navient, one of the largest U.S. companies that collects payments on student debt, jumped into the lending business yesterday by agreeing to acquire financial-technology startup Earnest for $155 million in cash. Navient plans to maintain the Earnest brand as a separate unit, which will be led by its co-founders, Louis Beryl and Ben Hutchinson, says the WSJ. Earnest had raised a ton of equity and debt funding — at least $320 million by our count. More here.


Nick D’Aloisio, who previously founded news summary app Summly (which he famously sold to Yahoo at age 17 for a reported $30 million), has raised funding for a new stealthy startup that promises to help users find and instantly chat to an expert on a range of topics. (Yes, this same idea has tried and failed a million times, but let’s stay tuned.) TechCrunch has more here.

How Apple CEO Tim Cook is remembering Steve Jobs on the sixth anniversary of his death.

Rapper and Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah has cofounded a new cryptocurrency firm — Cream Capitol — that hopes to raise $30 million in funding through a digital coin sale. Rolling Stone has more here.

Aymerik Renard has joined the hardware-focused fund Hardware Club as a general partner. Renard was most recently a director with Western Digital Capital and, before that, a director with SanDisk Ventures.

FirstMark Capital, the New York-based venture firm, has brought aboard Catherine Ulrich as a managing director. Ulrich was previously the chief product officer at Shutterstock and, before that, Weight Watchers. She is the firm’s first senior female investing partner. TechCrunch has more here.


Venture capital has hit an all-time high in India—and a quarter of it came from one investor.

Meanwhile, dealmaking in China is slowing.

Essential Reads

Amazon is testing its own delivery service to rival UPS and FedEx.

Netflix is raising some prices starting today.

Baidu just opened a second R&D lab in Silicon Valley to work on autonomous driving, among other things.

A list of everything that Magic Leap has released so far.


Screw you, sports bottles.

A bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein.

Hostile Takeover High.

Retail Therapy

The Quiet Punch, for when those deals go south.

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