StrictlyVC: October 18, 2017


Top News in the A.M.

SoftBank has been making waves in Silicon Valley since announcing its Vision Fund earlier this year. Now, one of SoftBank’s besties — the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates, called the Mubadala Investment Company — is also making a splashy debut onto the scene. TechCrunch has more here.

Facebook and Google helped an anti-refugee campaign in swing states, reports Bloomberg.

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How More Than 3,000 Tech Workers Are Trying to Turn the Political Tables

There have always been outliers, people in tech who are willing to volunteer to help certain candidates. An even smaller percentage of techies quit their jobs to join campaigns. Still, it’s probably safe to say that most tech employees, who are also U.S. citizens, have long viewed the extent of their obligation as Americans to vote for their preferred candidate — then get back to work.

The surprising rise of Donald Trump has changed that stance in largely liberal Silicon Valley. In fact, more than 3,000 skilled tech workers have now signed on to help a nonprofit called Tech for Campaigns that injects tech talent into the campaigns of centrist and liberal candidates who need advice and tools to better make use of Facebook and Twitter, craft individualized emails for segmented voters, and much more.

More people are signing up to help every day, too, particularly now that the low-flying organization is raising its profile a bit to further that momentum.

It has been writing explainers, for example, including this one in Quartz, on the importance of focusing on so-called down-ballot (non-presidential) state races. Tech for Campaigns also recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $250,000 to hire additional full-time employees who can help its three cofounders — entrepreneurs Jessica Alter, Pete Kazanjy and Ian Ferguson — run the organization. (It has 23 days remaining to reach its goal.)

We talked recently with Alter about that campaign, as well as to get a better understanding of the specific candidates Tech for Campaigns is aiming to help, as well as how. Our chat, following, has been edited for length.

You’d previously started a founder dating company that was sold. How did you end up starting this nonprofit?

Peter and I and our other cofounder, Ian, are all tech founders, and the election last year woke us up. After the inauguration, there was one alarming executive order after another. I like posting on social media, but saying, “I can’t take this anymore” wasn’t helping, and we were seeing the same from many people we know who wanted to do more but weren’t sure how.

“60 Minutes” recently aired a segment with Trump’s digital head, who said Facebook employees embedded themselves with the campaign, trying to provide it expert help. He also said the Clinton campaign was offered some of the same help and declined it. Is your organization trying to get the job done for Democrats that they aren’t getting done themselves?

We’re not saying that tech is coming in to save politics.

More here.

New Fundings

Bespoke Post, a six-year-old, New York-based lifestyle subscription club for men that sends themed boxes to its customers each month, has raised $6 million in Series A funding, including from Walden Venture CapitalScout Ventures, and Kiwi Partners. The company has raised $8 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

Bluevine, a four-year-old, Redwood City Ca.-based fintech company that provides online loans to small and medium-size companies, has raised $130 million in debt funding from Silicon Valley Bank,SunTrust BankBank Leumi and TriplePoint Venture Growth BDC Corp. Globes has more here.

BuddyGuard, a three-year-old, Berlin, Gernany-based startup that makes an AI-powered home security camera, has raised €3.4 million ($4 million) in funding led by Bachmann Group. TechCrunch hasmore here.

Cydan, a four-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based orphan drug accelerator, has raised $34 million in funding from Longitude CapitalNew Enterprise Associates, Pfizer Venture InvestmentsAlexandria Venture Investments andLundbeckfond Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.

Duo Security, a seven-year-old, Ann Arbor, Mi.-based cyber security company, has raised $70 million in Series D funding, at a valuation of $1.17 billion. Meritech Capital Partners and Lead Edge Capital led the round, which also includes Index Ventures,Workday, and earlier backers Redpoint Ventures and True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Feedzai, a six-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based startup whose machine learning tools help banks and merchants spot payment fraud, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by an unnamed venture firm, with additional capital from Sapphire Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Fingerlix, a 1.5-year-old, Mumbai, India-based ready-to-cook food brand that makes a range of products, including batters and parathas, is reportedly raising $7 million in Series B funding fromAccel Partners and Zephyr Peacock. The Economic Times hasmore here.

Gemini Therapeutics, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based precision medicine company focused on genetically-defined, dry age-related macular degeneration, has raised $42.5 million in Series A funding. Atlas VentureLightstone Ventures and OrbiMed led the round. FierceBiotech has more here.

Lightspeed, a 12-year-old, Montreal-based point-of-sale system, has raised roughly $166 million in Series D funding led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, with participation fromInvestissement QuébeciNovia Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank also participated in providing funding. BetaKit has more now.

Magic Leap, the six-year-old, Dania Beach, Fla.-based augmented reality startup (that has yet to release a product but keeps attracting investor capital in the meantime), has officially closed on a $502 milion Series D round led by Temasek. Other participants in the round include EDBIGrupo GloboJanus HendersonAlibaba GroupFidelity Management and others. TechCrunch has more here.

Prenetics, an eight-year-old, Hong Kong-based genetic testing startup, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Beyond Ventures and Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund. The round also includes capital from Yuantai Investment Partners,mFund and eGarden Ventures, and brings Prenetics’ total funding to $50 million. TechCrunch has more here.

Revelo, a three-year-old, Brazil-based job recruitment marketplace, has raised $4.6 million in funding led by Valor Capital, with participation from the online Australian recruiting company Seek. TechCrunch has more here.

SelfMade, a two-year-old, New York-based professional photo editing service, has raised $11 million in funding, including fromPrimary Venture Partners, FirstMark CapitalBoxGroup,Founder CollectiveCrunchFundSV Angel and GGV. TechCrunch has more here.

Veo Robotics, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based startup that says it’s building a smarter, more intuitive robotics system for industrial applications, has raised $12 million in funding co-led byLux Capital and GV, with participation from existing investor Next 47, which is a venture firm created by Siemens. VentureBeat has more here.

Torch 3D, a months-old, Portland, Ore.-based augmented and virtual reality prototyping platform, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding co-led by The Venture Reality Fund and Silicon Valley Data Capital. Other investors in the round include Seven Peaks VenturesGVR FundPresence CapitalAntipodean VenturesJerome Capital and TWB Investment Partnership. VentureBeat has more here.

XMOS, 12-year-old, Bristol, U.K.-based outfit that earlier this month became the first European chip company to release a qualified Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS) development kit, has raised $15 million in Series E funding led by Infineon Technologies. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Amadeus Capital PartnersDraper EspritFoundation Capital and Robert Bosch Venture CapitalMore here.

Zype, a three-year-old, New York-based cloud video distribution service for OTT that aims to make it easy for content owners to connect directly with audiences on every screen, has raised $4.9 million in Series A funding. Runa Capital led the round; other participants include Revel PartnersPoint Nine CapitalAlpine Meridian Ventures and Entrepreneurs Investment Fund. has more here.

New Funds

Blockchain Capital, one of the first venture firms to specialize in bitcoin and crypto projects, is setting out to raise $150 million in two funds, with plans to invest in companies and emerging cryptocurrencies. The firm, based in San Francisco, said in SEC filings yesterday that each fund is targeting $75 million. CNBC has more here.

Quantopian, a “crowdsourced” hedge fund backed by Point72’sSteven Cohen and Andreessen Horowitz, has launched its first fund for outside investors that want to tap into its community of data scientists and programmers, shows an SEC filing flagged yesterday by The Financial Times. The Boston-based company provides a platform for computer scientists to try their hand at coding trading algorithms, awarding prizes to and licensing the best strategies. More here.

Airbnb’s former head of data science, Riley Newman, has quietly formed a venture firm with David Rosenthal, formerly of Madrona Venture Group, according to Axios. The outfit is reportedly calledWave Capital and is raising between $35 million and $50 million for its debut fund, which will focus on early-stage marketplace startups.

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One small ad company has acquired another for undisclosed terms.AdHawk, incubated at Techstars Boulder, has acquired Y Combinator-backed Automate Ads. Both offer products for running Facebook and Google ad campaigns, but where AdHawk has focused on providing data to optimize existing campaigns, Automate’s tools help advertisers create those campaigns in the first place. TechCrunch has more here.

Adobe today announced that it has acquired, a service that offers digital brushes for Adobe’s Creative Cloud tools, and hired the service’s creator, Kyle Webster. Other financial terms were not disclosed. More here.


The early-stage venture firm Libertus Capital is looking to bring aboard an associate. If you speak Mandarin or a European language, all the better. The job can be based in San Francisco, London, or Shanghai.

Essential Reads

Smartphones are killing Americans, but no one is counting.

General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit, Cruise, is in discussions to launch fully self-driving cars for customers in San Francisco by next year, reports The Information. As readers may recall, GM is also an investor in Uber rival Lyft.

Snap and NBCUniversal are creating a Hollywood studio dedicated to the future of app-centric entertainment, and they’ve already signed their first deal with indie filmmakers, the Duplass brothers.


David Letterman rips Jimmy Fallon again.

Retail Therapy

Surprise! It’s a speaker.

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