StrictlyVC: February 19, 2018

Hello! Greetings from Bear Valley, Ca., a ski resort that we highly recommend if you enjoy little towns with few frills. (In the ’70s, it was apparently a favorite of Hollywood actors Robert Conrad, Lloyd Bridges and Clint Eastwood.) It’s also a lot less crowded than Tahoe, and this place, on the outskirts, is fantastic.


We’re heading back now so have to jump offline for a bit, but more tomorrow. Hope you’re enjoying a day off if you’re here in the states.:)


Top News


Someone just bought $400 million worth of Bitcoin.


Jolted by the global investment craze over bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, U.S. lawmakers are moving to consider new rules that could impose stricter federal oversight on the emerging asset class, several top lawmakers tell Reuters.


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.



Pebble Founder Eric Migicovsky Has Joined Y Combinator as a Partner


If you follow the startup industry, you likely know the story of smartwatch maker Pebble, including that famous Kickstarter campaign in 2012 that sought $100,000 but wound up raising more than $10 million instead. You might also remember thinking that Pebble’s fate was sealed once Apple launched its own now-ubiquitous smartwatch in 2014. You were right if so. By late 2016, Pebble was forced to sell its software and intellectual property to another wearable giant, Fitbit, for less than $40 million — an amount that reportedly barely covered Pebble’s debt.


What you probably don’t know was that behind the scenes, Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky was frequently seeking advice from Y Combinator. Pebble had passed through the accelerator’s program in the winter of 2011 and like many alums, Migicovsky had formed strong bonds with both his fellow founders and with YC execs, including its president, Sam Altman. “Seven years later . . . I was still phoning Sam at 11 p.m. to get help in that deal” to Fitbit, says Migicovsky with a laugh.


Now, Migicovsky will be sharing lessons learned with future YC startups, having quietly joined YC last month as one of its now 18 full-time partners. His role: to work with incoming teams, including those whose companies have a hardware component. We talked with Migicovsky late last week about his wild ride to date and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role. Our chat has been edited for length.


Your relationship with YC dates back some time.


I was in Waterloo, Ontario [studying engineering and starting up Pebble] and [YC founders] Paul [Graham] and Jessica [Livingston] wound up investing and I ended up moving the company the California. YC was really the first [outfit] to believe in us. We did the winter 2011 batch and did our Kickstarter a year later  — before it was even a thing — because we couldn’t raise money. It was hard days for hardware back then.


YC played an amazing role through the sale to Fitbit, and after I sold the company, I took some time off, but because I’d been part of YC, I began working last summer as part-time partner. It was a great chance to start mentoring companies and to spend one-on-one time with the founders, and [YC CEO] Michael [Seibel] and Sam said I should jump on board.


You’ve now joined full-time. What is your role exactly?


I’m definitely covering the hardware desk. About 15 percent of companies going through YC have some connection to hardware, be it enterprise hardware, software with an enterprise component . . . So I’ll be a main point of contact for many of those companies.


Have you done any investing in the past?


I’ve done some but I didn’t have much time outside of Pebble, so the opportunity to take some of the anecdotes and experiences I’ve gathered and help apply them at other companies is really exciting to me.


What are some of the lessons learned that you’re likely to share with these startups?


More here.


New Fundings


BruVue, a 1.5-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based beverage data company, says it has closed on $1 million in seed funding from undisclosed sources. More here.


CounterFlow AI, a year-old, Crozet, Va.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $2.7 million in seed funding from Osage University Partners, the Charlottesville Angel Network, and several individual investors. More here.


Imax Program, a seven-year-old, Hyderabad, India- and New York-based personalized education startup that serves schools across India, has raised $13.5 million in funding, including from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, LGT Impact, and Aspada. The Economic Times has more here.


LumiGrow, a nine-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based smart horticultural lighting company, has raised $5.1 million in bridge financing led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund, with participation from ValueAct Spring Master Fund and Greenhouse CapitalMore here.


Morphisec, a 3.5-year-old, Be’er Sheva, Israel-based company that makes an endpoint threat prevention product, has raised $12 million in Series B funding, including from Orange Digital Ventures, along with earlier backers Jerusalem Venture PartnersGE and Deutsche TelekomMore here.


Re:infer, a three-year-old, London-based company that turns unstructured communications data (emails, calls, messaging, logs, reviews, social) into structured, annotated data, has raised $3.5 million in funding led by Touchstone Innovations, with participation from Crane VenturesSeedcamp and AI investor Jason KingdonMore here.


Vydia, a nearly five-year-old, Holmdel, N.J.-based video tech startup, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Vocap Investment Partners, with participation from Newark Venture PartnersMore here.


New Funds


Deciens Capital, a 5.5-year-old, San Francisco-based seed-stage venture firm that focuses on fintech startups, is looking to raise up to $80 million for a new fund, shows an SEC filingMore here.





Zscaler, a nearly 11-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that sells integrated, cloud-delivered enterprise security services, filed an S-1 on Friday, revealing plans to raise up to $100 million in an IPO. The company has raised roughly $150 million from investors, according to Crunchbase. One of its biggest outside shareholders is TPG. Nasdaq has a bit more here.




Car maker SEAT has acquired Respiro, a nearly eight-year-old, Madrid, Spain-based car-sharing company. The amount of the deal wasn’t disclosed, but according to Crunchbase, Respiro had only raised a tiny bit of seed funding. More here.




Apple employees keep smacking into their new headquarters’ glass walls.


Billionaire Richard Branson, who invested last year in Hyperloop One (now called Virgin Hyperloop One), is proposing to build a super-fast transportation system in India that would connect the city of Pune with the planned new airport in Mumbai in 25 minutes, saving about three hours.


Facebook is under fire after one of its execs — its VP of ads Rob Goldman — railed against the Russia coverage in a tweet that Donald Trump then cited to discredit U.S. media institutions.


Washington, D.C. has given Elon Musk and his Boring Company a permit to do a little digging.


Snap CEO Evan Spiegel sold 2,675,600 shares of Snap last week at a price of $18.71 per share, a transaction netting him just over $50 million. It’s Spiegel’s first official public stock sale since Snap’s IPO last March. He previously promised not to sell any of his stock during 2017.





Waymo is looking to hire a corporate development and finance manager. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.



Essential Reads


At WeWork, revenue is expected to top $2.3 billion this year.


Messaging app Telegram has already raised $850 million for its billion-dollar-plus ICO.


Russian operatives using social media to manipulate the U.S. election bought their Facebook ads in a sophisticated manner: stealing the identities of Americans and opening accounts at PayPal.




The 22nd-largest team at the Olympics: Zamboni drivers.


Comic Amy Schumer was voted “Teacher’s Worst Nightmare” in high school.


FAQ: Your new cursed instant pot.


Retail Therapy


Three acres in Antigua for $25 million. Reportedly “several very high-profile tech titans” have already looked at the property.


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