StrictlyVC: December 8, 2017

We definitely know yesterday was Thursday and not Wednesday; we were just testing you.


Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone!:)


Top News


Bitcoin is still going crazy. Bloomberg take a look at the Bitcoin whales: 1,000 people who own 40 percent of the market.


Maybe it’s no surprise that in Medium post, the CEO of Coinbase, one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges, is urging users to be responsible about their investments. “Digital currencies are volatile and the prices can go up and down,” CEO Brian Armstrong wrote earlier today. TechCrunch has more here.



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In the World of VC, Harassment Claims Aren’t Necessarily a Deal Killer


A storm fueled by greater awareness about sexual assault and harassment has been gaining momentum in the U.S., ever since a former Uber engineer named Susan Fowler hit “publish” on a post about her jarring experience inside the high-flying ride-share company. So many man have been swept up – and out – of their respective businesses for behaving badly that Time magazine pronounced the powerful social campaign #metoo and the women behind it as “Person of the Year.”


Silicon Valley has hardly been immune. In the world of venture capital, two of the highest-profile poster boys for this uprising (as of this writing) are venture capitalists Steve Jurvetson, formerly of the venture firm DFJ, and Shervin Pishevar, who cofounded the firm Sherpa Capital and has, in recent days, taken a leave of absence from the outfit.


While seemingly devastating body blows for their respective firms, institutional investors with whom we’ve spoken and who asked not to be named in this story say they remain interested in superstars like Jurvetson if they’re able to repair their reputations.


If not, they say, plenty of family offices will rush to fill the void.


“I’m a bright line person,” says one investor (or limited partner, in industry parlance), who isn’t an investor in either DFJ or Sherpa Capital. “If you’re legally accused of a crime, that’s one thing.”  But “I’m not doing [my job as an institutional investor] for social justice,” adds this person. “I do that in my philanthropy.”


Says another LP who, like the first, has stakes in a wide number of venture firms but not in DFJ or Sherpa: “Are some of these VCs forever unbackable, or unbackable until the dust settles? As an LP, it’s easier to say right now, ‘I have a fiduciary duty to my investors’ [and pass]. But a family office doesn’t have to answer to anyone, and if they think Steve is a great investor, shit, they’ll give him money. They understand he hasn’t [assaulted] anyone.”


Indeed, while there’s no shortage of outrage in Silicon Valley about powerful men who wittingly take advantage of younger founders, behind the scenes there is growing concern – on the part of returns-seeking LPs, in any case – that every situation involving a VC and a founder is being painted, perhaps unfairly, in black and white.


Step aside


From the outside looking in, Pishevar’s situation may make it far harder for institutional investors to bet on him in the future. Last week, Bloomberg published a piece featuring five unnamed women who say Pishevar has used his position of power to pursue romantic relationships and unwanted sexual encounters.


Yesterday, a sixth woman, speaking with Axios, said Pishevar misled her into being alone with him in an elevator in December 2011 after a charity event; there, says the entrepreneur, Laura Fitton, he aggressively kissed her. She also said she followed him to his room, having been told a group of attendees were reconvening there in the late hours, but she found the two of them alone, where he made further unwanted advances before she fled.


These accusations follow Pishevar’s arrest in May, at a hotel in London, after a woman accused him of raping her. Police said Pishevar was “released under investigation” and never charged.


Pishevar didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story. His attorney, Randa Osman of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, has told media outlets that he “unequivocally and categorically denies any improper behavior toward Ms. Fitton.” Pishevar has also filed suit against a GOP political opposition research group that he alleges was conducting a smear campaign against him.


More here.



New Fundings


Blockstack, a four-year-old, New York-based decentralized Internet and developer platform, has raised $50 million in its initial coin offering (ICO). The Blockstack ICO sold 440 million of “Stacks” tokens from more than 8,000 investors. Investors who participated in the ICO include Union Square VenturesFoundation CapitalLux CapitalWinklevoss CapitalBlockchain CapitalDigital Currency Group, Y Combinator partner Qasar Younis, Techcrunch founder Mike Arrington and Digg cofounder Kevin Rose. (We’re still deciding how to cover ICOs but given the investors in this one, it seemed important to include.) More here.


MishiPay, a two-year-old, London-based startup that has built mobile self-checkout technology that promises to put an end to queuing to pay, has raised £1.65 million in seed funding led by the European venture firm Nauta Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


PhoneWagon, a months-old, New York-based maker of call-tracking software, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by Birchmere Ventures, with participation from Active CapitalMore here.


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Denali Therapeutics has raised more than $248 million in its stock market debut, marking the largest biotech IPO of the year. The San Francisco-based company, which is working on experimental drugs for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, had priced its offering of 13.8 million shares at $18 apiece late yesterday. They closed their first day of trading today at $21.45. Xconomy has more here.





Apple is making a stepping up its game in music services. Sources tell TechCrunch the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advertisement in seconds by listening to an audio clip. More here.


Drugmaker Gilead Sciences is acquiring privately-held Cell Design Labs for up to $567 million, giving it access to new technology platforms that would help in the development of cancer drugs. Gilead said it would make an initial upfront payment to two-year-old, San Francisco-based Cell Design of about $175 million and additional payments of up to $322 million upon meeting certain milestones. The company had raised roughly $34 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its backers include Osage University Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Reuters has more here.


Uber has agreed to sell a majority stake in its Singapore-based car rental business to the country’s largest taxi company, ComfortDelGro. TechCrunch has more here.




Serial entrepreneur Samir Arora is back, this time with a company called Sage Digital.


Matt O’Connell, a former CEO of OneWeb and GeoEye, has become a partner with London-based Seraphim Capital, which runs thematically focused venture funds in the space tech sector.


Jony Ive is leading Apple’s design team again.


At a private party yesterday, Elon Musk reportedly spoke boldly about Tesla’s upcoming custom artificial intelligence hardware.


In a win for the early-stage financial services startup Tala, Uber‘s former data chief,Kevin Novak, has agreed to join the company as its chief data officer. Novak’s achievements at Uber include inventing dynamic pricing and creating the UberFreight business, says TechCrunch. More here.


Twitter’s M&A boss Jessica Verrilli is leaving the company after a nine-year run. Her next move is TBD, says Recode.


Essential Reads


Spotify and Tencent are swapping stakes in each other’s music businesses.


Now you can buy that second-hand couch with cryptocurrency.




When it comes to boring tasks, kids apparently perform better dressed as Batman.


The dos and don’ts of dim sum.


A former Massachusetts state senator was charged today with using his position to collect $1 million in bribes, as well as — no kidding — hundreds of pounds of free Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. (Said the former senator, “Worth it!”)



Retail Therapy


Twenty-one eco-friendly gifts to give this year.


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