StrictlyVC: October 27, 2017

Friday! [Tom Cruise-style-sock slide.] Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.:)

Top News in the A.M.

Whoa. According to the WSJ, CVS is in talks to buy Aetna for more than $66 billion as the drugstore giant scrambles to fortify itself against looming competition from Amazon. (You may have heard: Amazon has quietly received pharmacy-wholesaler licenses in a dozen states.) More here.

Also somewhat shocking: Amazon is now the second-largest U.S. employer after Walmart.

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Peter Thiel Thinks Focus on Self-Driving Misses an Important Shift: Telecommuting

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel doesn’t like investing in trends, he’s fond of saying. It’s a mantra he repeated this week at the Future Investment Initiative, an investment forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he took the stage with journalist Maria Bartiromo.

Asked about where he’s investing, he noted that he’s looking outside of Silicon Valley largely, but he suggested he doesn’t put much stock in “buzzwords” like SaaS software or virtual computing or augmented reality or artificial intelligence. “Even though these trends may or may not happen, as investments, they’re dangerous,” he said. In fact, “when you hear buzzwords, you should run away as fast as you can,” he added. Otherwise, there are “many companies of that kind, and many competitors.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thiel feels the same way about self-driving technologies —  even while his venture firm, Founders Fund, is an investor in the ride-sharing company Lyft, whose future would seem to depend on its ability to become a self-driving company at some point.

Thiel did say, however, that he will make one exception to his own rule; he said that he’s willing to “look at trends that aren’t on anybody’s radar.”

In fact, one trend that he said he thinks merits far more attention that it receives today, perhaps because it doesn’t challenge the mind in the same way as self-driving cars or flying planes might, is good-old telecommuting and how the inevitable rise of it will change the landscape.

Indeed, asked about the future of transportation, Thiel seemed to suggest there might not be much need for it, at least, not by individuals needing to get to the jobs.

More here.

New Fundings

&pizza, a five-year-old, Washington D.C.-based pizza chain, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from RSE VenturesMore here.

Carousell, a five-year-old, Singapore-based mobile listing service for secondhand goods and services, has raised between $70 million and $80 million in Series C funding, including from RakutenSequoia CapitalGolden Gate Ventures and500 Startups. TechCrunch has more here.

City Cloud International, a Hangzhou, China-based cloud computing startup, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Cisco Investments and Country Garden Holdings. DealStreetAsia has more here.

SoundAI, a 1.5-year-old, Beijing, China-based developer of acoustic technologies, has raised $15 million in equity and debt funding, including from BaiduAplus CapitalFrees FundLinekong Interactive Group and the Bank of Beijing. China Money Network has more here.

Templum, a months-old, New York-based blockchain startup, has raised $2.7 million in seed funding, including from Raptor GroupGalaxy Investment PartnersBlockchain Capital and firstminute.capitalMore here.

New Funds

The Hong Kong-based investment firm China Everbright, and the international venture firm Walden International Group, are jointly launching a $500 million fund that will target investments in enterprises along the semiconductor and electronic information supply chain, including microchips and artificial intelligence. China Money Network has more here.


ForeScout Technologies, an Internet of Thing security company, saw its shares spike 16 percent during intraday trading today after going public this morning. After pricing at the top of the range at $22 per share, the stock is hovering above $25. TechCrunch has more here.

Razer, the U.S. and Singapore-based gaming hardware maker that’s backed byIntel and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, plans to launch an IPO on Monday in Hong Kong that could raise up to $550 million. Reuters has more here.

Zscaler, a nine-year-old, San Jose, Calif.-based company, has filed confidentially for an IPO, reports TechCrunch. The cloud security outfit is aiming to go public before the end of the year. More here.


Foundation Capital is adding two new entrepreneurs-in-residence: Natalia Burina, previously a director of product at both Salesforce and Parable, is joining to work with companies focused on enterprise AI, consumer mobile, and marketplaces; Nick Soman, previously a product lead at Gusto, will be working on blockchain-related projects.

John Gaeta, a visual effects supervisor on The Matrix and the creator of Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division ILMxLab, is joining low-flying, Florida-based augmented reality start-up Magic Leap.

Chris Leavy, a former Blackrock executive, is raising one of the biggest marijuana funds yet.

Alibaba Group’s Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai is buying 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in a deal that values the NBA team club at a record $2.3 billion.

The AI ambitions of tech giant Baidu just suffered another blow as Lin Yuanqing, head of its Institution of Deep Learning (IDL), has left the company.


U.S. iPhone users will spend an average of $88 per year on paid apps and in-app purchases by 2020, according to a new forecast out this week from Sensor Tower.More here.

How Americans really feel about FacebookApple, and more (survey).

Essential Reads

The SEC has for the first time taken action against a privately held Silicon Valley “unicorn” startup — Zenefits — for misleading its investors. Buzzfeed has more here.

WhatsApp is finally allowing users to recall messages sent by mistake.

Waymo says it’ll begin testing its self-driving cars in snowy Detroit.

Meet the high schooler shaking up artificial intelligence.


Oh. My. Gourd.

Things that should come with trial periods.

Fair accusation of sexual harassment or witch hunt?

Retail Therapy

A “Stranger Things” Christmas sweater. Buying.

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