StrictlyVC: January 19, 2018

Happy Friday! [Biceps curls.] Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone.


Also, for those of you who were wondering, we have an event site that you can share, at long last(!). Thank you again NEAMoFo, and Anduin for your generous help with the evening, coming up Feb. 27.


More soon. . .


Top News


Trump just signed into law a measure that reauthorizes powerful electronic surveillance tools for another six years.


Amazon is increasing the monthly price for Prime from $10.99 to $12.99.


Twitter revealed today that trolls tied to the Russian government spread far more disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election than the company first reported.


Sponsored By …


Today’s StrictlyVC is sponsored by Siftery Track. As a reader, get free early access to track and easily optimize your team’s software expenditures. Simply sync your credit card or accounting system, and Siftery Track will automatically create beautiful visualizations of your historic and forecasted spend. You’ll also get alerts for new products, duplicate charges, unexpected increases in spend, and more.


Moritz Sabotages Sequoia, Again


Michael Moritz is legendary for many of the investments he has led throughout his long career with the venture firm Sequoia Capital. Among his biggest hits: Paypal, Zappos and Google.


Moritz stepped away from managing the firm some time ago (now partner Roelof Botha is its primary steward) but continues to invest in startups and sit on boards. He’s a director at Instacart, Klarna, and Stripe, for example.


Sequoia’s limited partners must be exceedingly happy that Moritz continues to play an active role in the firm, which is considered among the most successful in Silicon Valley. His mere presence on a board is a signaling event.


Still, we’re beginning to wonder if Sequoia’s investment team might wish Moritz would also keep his mouth shut.


Two years ago, Moritz attracted unwanted attention to Sequoia during a Bloomberg interview in which he was asked why Sequoia’s U.S. partnership hadn’t yet hired a female partner. Moritz told interviewer Emily Chang that the firm was looking for the right candidate but that it didn’t want to “lower its standards” simply to satisfy outsiders unhappy with its all-male team of investors.


The answer quickly created a shit storm of negative criticism; smartly, less than a year later, the firm announced its first female U.S. investing partner, Jess Lee.


Now Moritz, a skilled former journalist for Time who clearly still enjoys writing, has placed a target on Sequoia’s back once again by publishing a controversial opinion piece in the Financial Times, comparing Silicon Valley unfavorably to China. (That China is a de facto dictatorship doesn’t come up in his editorial.)


To say it is extreme is an understatement.


While Silicon Valley technology companies increasingly complain about striking the right work-life balance, Moritz notes approvingly that in China, top managers show up for work at 8 a.m. and frequently don’t leave until 10 p.m., sometimes seven days a week. In fact, he writes that it is “quite usual for the management of 10 and 15-year-old [China-based] companies to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings. If a Chinese company schedules tasks for the weekend, nobody complains about missing a Little League game or skipping a basketball outing with friends. Little wonder it is a common sight at a Chinese company to see many people with their heads resting on their desks taking a nap in the early afternoon.”


Moritz (alas) continues on: “Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.”


Then there’s this: “There is also a deep-rooted sense of frugality. You don’t see $700 office chairs or large flat panel computer screens at most of the leading technology companies. Instead, the furniture tends to be spartan and everyone works on laptop.”


While I agree that Silicon Valley is changing in ways that are concerning (I’m particularly worried that people can no longer speak freely here), Moritz’s disdain for U.S. tech workers is not only shocking but impossibly out of touch.


I’m sure my colleagues and many of you reading know of high numbers of startup employees who work their brains out, answering calls at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, routinely taking two weeks of vacation or less, and receiving a large portion of their pay in the form of equity that will never be worth anything. They are living hand to mouth, often with more roommates than they would like, simply to be within commuting distance of the companies where they work.


When was the last time Moritz spent 12 hours coding? How many family dinners did he have to miss? How many weekends did he have to give up to work on a new product release?


More here.



New Fundings


Bolt Threads, a nine-year-old Portland, Ore.-based company that’s focused on producing spider silk on a large scale, secured $123 million in Series D funding led by the Scotland-based investment firm Baillie Gifford. The notable deal was announced the week before last (before SVC returned from vacation). More here.


Floyd, a 3.5-year-old, Farmington Hills, Mi.-based online furniture company, has raised $5.6 million in Series A funding led by Beringea. Crain’s Detroit Business has more here.


Highsnobiety, a 13-year-old, Berlin-based multimedia brand that caters to style-conscious men, has raised $8.5 million in funding led by Felix Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


Pandion Therapeutics, a 1.5-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based developer of targeted immune modulator drugs, has raised $58 million in Series A funding fromPolaris PartnersRoche Venture Fund and Versant Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.


Defi Solutions, a five-year-old, Grapevine, Tex.-based loan origination software platform, has raised $55 million in Series C funding from Bain Capital VenturesMore here.

Omni, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand storage company, has raised $25 million from Highland Capital Partners and Ripple execs Stefan Thomas and Chris Larsen. The WSJ has more here.


Pandion Therapeutics, a newish, Cambridge, Ma.-based developer of targeted immune modulator drugs (it just emerged from stealth mode), has raised $58 million in Series A funding from Polaris PartnersRoche Venture Fund and Versant Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.


Restaurant365, a seven-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based maker of restaurant-specific accounting, back office, and reporting software, has raised $20 million in Series A funding, including from Bessemer Venture PartnersMore here.



New Funds


Ring Capital, a brand-new VC firm based in Paris, has managed to close on $170 million in capital commitments for its debut fund (and might still be raising another $10 million or so, says TechCrunch). More here.


Sponsored By . . .


StrictlyVC is sponsored this week by Meld Valuation, a premiere independent valuation firm. We care about understanding the unique risk profile of your situation and most importantly making the quantitative reflect the qualitative story. Contact us today to learn about our services and how we can help you with everything from cap table management to complex valuation engagements.




Apple has made a quiet but interesting move in its longer-term strategy around courting more business from enterprises, reports TechCrunch. The company has hired the tech team — at least 18 people, including at least two co-founders, one of whom is the CEO — from a Mountain View, Ca.-based data science consulting firm called Silicon Valley Data Science. More here.


TPG Growth, the middle market and growth equity firm, says it’s acquiring a majority stake in TRACE, a 15-year-old, multi-platform media and entertainment company centered around afro-urban music and entertainment. Evolution Mediaand Satya Capital also joined the round. The remaining stake will be owned by TRACE’s co-founder and management team. TechCrunch has more here.




Matt Galligan, who previously co-founded of Circa, SimpleGeo, & Socialthing, announced on Product Hunt today a new startup called Interchange, which he describes as an institutional-grade cryptocurrency portfolio management for funds and professionals. More here.


Sapphire Ventures has promoted three employees — Rajeev DhamKevin Diestel and Anders Ranum — to partner. It also promoted Winter Mead to principal. More here.


Tile, one of the best known item-tracking gadgets out there, has laid off some 30 people and reportedly froze the potential hires of another 10, TechCrunch has learned. The layoffs are reportedly due to disappointing sales over the holidays.


Mark Zuckerberg did not buy a yacht, insists Facebook. However, you should still check out this yacht because it is amazing.




Roku, the streaming TV company that went public last year, is looking to hire a VP of corporate development. The job is in Los Gatos, Ca.


Essential Reads


Whole Foods is facing a crush of food shortages that’s leading to empty shelves and furious customers, but frustrated employees say it’s not the fault of new owner Amazon.


SoftBank still hasn’t committed to an investment in Wag, the app that helps people find dog walkers and was reported in talks last year to raise $100 million. If it eventually decides to pass, Wag will have to start looking for funding again reports The Information and worse, SoftBank may end up investing in a rival.


The SEC sounded the alarm again yesterday about the safety of bitcoin-themed investments, telling the fund industry it wants answers to its concerns before endorsing more than a dozen proposed products based on cryptocurrencies.




Your emotional support duck is not welcome in seat 15C.


What you (probably) don’t know about Versailles.



Retail Therapy


BuddyRider. For when your buddy is 30 pounds or less.


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