StrictlyVC: January 31, 2018

Wednesday! Hope you’ve been enjoying yours.:)


Top News


Facebook said today that people are spending less time on its social network and that fewer people are coming to the service daily in North America, for the first time ever. Its shares fell.


Meanwhile, Microsoft just beat Wall Street expectations again, as did PayPal.


And Sequoia Capital, an early investor in Google and Apple, among many other tech giants, aims to raise up to $8 billion in its largest-ever fundraising, and it has set its sights on Chinese investors, according to Reuters. As the outlet notes, the capital would help Sequoia more effectively compete in pre-IPO funding rounds (including against Softbank’s massive Vision Fund). More here.


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ICO Rounds are Coming


Last summer, the news came in dribs and drabs about initial coin offerings, the crowd sales of new cryptocurrencies that give entrepreneurs access to funding. A warning here that some coins sold in ICOs could be considered securities. An alert there that celebrity endorsements of ICOs might be unlawful.


Fast forward, and the warnings are starting to come with the kind of velocity that should give founders who are contemplating ICOs some pause. In fact, suggest some in the crypto industry, these founders would be smart to start structuring their ICOs more like traditional venture rounds.


Certainly, it seems like things are headed in that direction.


Just Monday, the SEC announced that it had obtained a court order to freeze the assets of Dallas-based AriseBank, a company that it says used social media, a celebrity endorsement, and other wide dissemination tactics to raise what it claims to be $600 million of its $1 billion goal in just two months. Just two of the many problems with this scenario, says the agency: AriseBank’s so-called offering lacked required SEC registration, and it claimed, untruthfully, that  it could offer investors FDIC-insured accounts.


The SEC also spoke up last week to note that it’s monitoring companies that suddenly incorporate or market cryptocurrencies or blockchain technologies in an attempt to “capitalize on the perceived promise of distributed ledger technology…”


Such actions are certain to have a chilling effect on ICOs, a slowdown of which actually began late last year, according to recent research produced by Ernst & Young.


Element Group founder Stan Miroshnik, whose investment bank is focused on digital token crowd sales and ICOs, calls it the somewhat inevitable bifurcation between “tier one issuers and everybody else,” wherein the “big, quality offerings are drawing the majority of capital.”


(Telegram, a messaging app that is planning to raise a staggering $1.2 billion in an ICO to build and support a payment system on its platform, is evidently among these.)


Now, with the SEC plainly focused on ICOs, there’s reason to the offerings will evolve further still — from one-time financing events that almost anyone can participate in, to the very thing they looked to displace, which is companies that receive funding over a series of rounds, often from accredited investors only.


We’re already partway there.


More here.


New Fundings


Asana, the 10-year-old, San Francisco-based productivity and collaboration service cofounded by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, has raised $75 million new funding led by Generation Investment Management, a London-based firm backed by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. TechCrunch has more here.


Bench, a 5.5-year-old, Vancouver-based bookkeeping service for small and mid-size businesses, has raised $18 million in Series B-1 funding led by iNovia Capital. Earlier investors, including Bain Capital VenturesAltos Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank, also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.


Busbud, a six-year-old, Montreal-based mobile app and platform that connects passengers to bus operators, has raised $11 million in Series B funding led byiNovia Capital. New investors backing the company include TeralysClaridge andPlaza Ventures. Earlier investor Real Ventures also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.


Caffeine, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-basd new social broadcasting platform that was founded by a team of ex-Apple engineers and aims to take on Amazon-owned Twitch and Google’s YouTube, has raised $46 million from Andreessen Horowitzand Greylock Partners. TechCrunch has more here.


Joymode, a 2.5-year-old, L.A.-based company that loans out products to subscribers interested in experiences, like a backyard movie night, has raised $14 million in funding from Naspers. The company was cofounded by Klout cofounder Joe Fernandez. TechCrunch has more here.


Juniper Square, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose software aims to streamline fundraising, investment administration, and investor reporting for the real estate industry, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Felicis Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


Trifacta, a 5.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose tools help businesses structure and analyze their own data, has raised $48 million in fresh funding from Columbia PacificDeutsche BörseEricssonGoogle, and New York Life, along with earlier investors Accel PartnersCathay InnovationGreylock PartnersIgnition Partners, and Ridge Ventures. The company has now raised $124 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.


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New Funds


Polychain Capital, a cryptocurrency hedge fund founded by early Coinbase employee Olaf Carlson-Wee, is raising a traditional venture capital fund, shows an SEC filing processed this week. The company didn’t respond to our requests for more info, but Axios says the fund will be used to purchase equity in blockchain-related companies, as opposed to purchasing tokens. All existing Polychain investors were offered a spot in this fund, it adds.


Speedinvest, the pan-European venture firm, has taken the wraps off a new vertical fund that is targeting €25 million in commitments (and says it has €20.5 million locked down already). The capital will be used to fund marketplace startups exclusively.  TechCrunch has more here.




Fujifilm announced this week that it’s set to take a majority stake in Xerox. More on what the move means here.


Red Hat, known for its enterprise Linux products, has been making a big play for Kubernetes and containerization in recent years with its OpenShift Kubernetes product. Yesterday, the company decided to expand on that by acquiring CoreOS, a container management startup, for $250 million. More here.




CNet cofounder Halsey Minor tells Business Insider that he’s developing a distributed computing project for encoding, storing, and streaming video and that he plans to stage an ICO in March, giving investors a cryptocurrency called VideoCoin in exchange for their support. (You can never count Minor out of the game.)


Streaming music service Pandora is laying off about five percent of its employee base and taking other cost-saving measures in an attempt to save about $45 million annually.


Actress Maisie Williams, best known for her role as the ass-kicking Arya Stark on “Game of Thrones,” is the latest celeb to venture into tech entrepreneurship with the launch of a new company aimed at connecting creatives, called Daisie.




Google is looking to hire a corporate development strategy and scouting manager to help identify potential M&A and investment opportunities. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.


Essential Reads


Uber is launching a bike-sharing service next week in partnership with JUMP, a startup that recently received the first and only permit to operate dockless bike-sharing in San Francisco. (Note: Jump was formerly known as Social Bicycles.) TechCrunch has more here.


Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp looks smarter by the month.


Samsung is making chips for cryptocurrency mining.


South Korea’s finance minister said yesterday the government has no plans to shut down cryptocurrency trading, welcome news for investors who worried it might follow in China’s footsteps and block virtual coin platforms.




This woman wanted to fly with her “emotional support” peacock. United said no.


Orcas can imitate human speech.


Photos of the highly photogenic super blue blood moon.


Retail Therapy


The one gadget that terrible sleepers should always pack.


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