StrictlyVC: February 28, 2018

Last night was so fun! We loved seeing everyone who came (nice landscape shothere). Thanks again to our fantastic guest speakers Marten Mickos, Ryan Williams, Caterina Fake, Tina Sharkey, Vlad Tenev, Medha Agarwal and Kate Conger. Thanks to our brilliant volunteers from UC Berkeley: Sahar Afrakhan, Sahar Yousef, and Davey Bloom. Thanks to very generous staff at NEA who helped make the night possible, and thank you, Morrison Foerster and Anduin, for your much-appreciated support as sponsors.


We’re still playing catch-up but we’ll have coverage and photos for you soon. In the meantime, because we usually run out of StrictlyVC T-shirts at these things, we doubled the order and have about 20 sitting in a box at our feet. If you’d like one, let us know and we’ll ship it your way. (U.S. readers only please, unless you don’t mind paying for international shipping, in which case, we’re happy to send you a shirt, too.) First come, first served; just write us back at this address.:)



Top News


Amazon is buying the Santa Monica, Ca.-based smart doorbell company Ring for more than $1 billion in its continuing effort to make inroads into our homes. Here’s more on the deal and what motivated it. Meanwhile, here’s who is “ringing” the register this morning, thanks to the tie-up. (Had to.)


Grail, a two-year-old Menlo Park, Ca-based cancer detection startup that’s very well-funded and competing against a number of other, similarly well-funded rivals, may seek an IPO of up to $500 million in Hong Kong, says Bloomberg. The outlet observes that Grail could become one of the first companies to benefit from proposed new listing rules aimed at attracting early stage biotechnology firms to the Hong Kong bourse.


Music streaming service Spotify is going public, and it just revealed its S-1. Here’s much more about what it tells us.



Sponsored By . . .


Fintech startups, how does $250K sound? What about unparalleled access to the banking, financial services, and nonprofit areas where your customers are? Yes? Then be sure to apply for the next class of the Financial Solutions Lab. This highly influential virtual accelerator has helped the likes of Digit, Even, EarnUp, Nova Credit and more to scale their products and navigate the complicated side of fintech. Apply now (or before April 11, 2018).


Triplebyte Just Raised $10 Million for its “Background Blind” Tech Recruiting Platform


Triplebyte is a three-year-old, 25-person, San Francisco-based hiring platform that says it makes recruiting and technical screening for tech companies more efficient. It’s hardly alone in making this claim, of course. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a tech recruiting platform that claims to improve on the ways that companies identify and recruit talented engineers. Still, Triplebyte  makes a persuasive case for why hiring companies should give it a shot.


One of its biggest differentiators, it says, is that its process is “background blind,” meaning it’s ostensibly able to get engineers in front of companies that might not otherwise be interested in them based on their past employers or education. How? By operating like an applied research company, insists cofounder and CEO Harj Taggar — who, before launching Triplebyte, spent the previous five years as a partner with Y Combinator.


Triplebyte’s first steps involved extensively interviewing engineers in the YC alumni network, capturing every data point possible before applying machine learning to better understand both automated assessment tests and human technical reviews (which typically involve an engineer interviewing an engineering candidate).


Because it was limited to Y Combinator companies, that data set was fairly small to start, but it was enough to create an adaptive multiple-choice automated assessment test that began producing results. Over time, companies that aren’t affiliated with YC — including Apple, Stripe, Dropbox and Instacart — began trying out Triplebyte for their hiring needs.


Triplebyte smartly used the development to entice a broader pool of engineers to the platform, which broadened the data points it was collecting, making the platform smarter still. Now,  Taggar says, the company’s automated assessment test is so good that Triplebyte makes companies agree that the Triplebyte candidates with whom they engage will be fast-tracked through the application process and not given further phone screens or coding challenges.


It’s a bold demand and one that could presumably backfire on Triplebyte should it rack up enough unhappy customers.


More here.


New Fundings


Aurora, the nearly two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based self-driving startup cofounded by Chris Urmson (formerly the chief technology officer of Alphabet’s self-driving arm), has raised a whopping $90 million in Series A funding co-led by Greylock Partners and Index Ventures. Indeed, Urmson tells TechCrunch the most crucial part of the deal are the two, high-profile new board members now joining Aurora’s board: Greylock’s Reid Hoffman, who formerly foundedLinkedIn, and Index’s Mike Volpi, who previously ran Cisco’s routing business. More here.


ByteCubed, a 7.5-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based tech consultancy for commercial and federal government customers, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Enlightenment CapitalMore here.

Collective Health, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of a workforce health management system, has raised $110 million in new funding from Sun Life FinancialMubadala Ventures and earlier investors NEAFounders FundGV and Maverick Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


Edgybees, a nearly two-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based startup whose technology enables augmented reality on high-speed platforms like drones and cars, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding, including from Motorola Solutions Venture CapitalVerizon Ventures8VCNFXAspect Ventures and Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd. TechCrunch has more here.


Eko Devices, a 4.5-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based maker of an “intelligent” digital stethoscope that was cleared by the FDA nine months ago, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Artis Ventures, with participation from Strategic PartnersDreamlt Ventures1812 Ventures and Founder.orgMore here.


Gaana, a Noida, India-based music streaming app, has raised $115 million from Tencent and controlling shareholder Times Internet. (Tencent also backed India-based Flipkart and Ola last year.) Bloomberg has more here.


Inscripta, a three-year-old, Boulder, Colo.-based gene editing technology company, has raised $55.5 million in Series C funding co-led by Mérieux Développement and Paladin Capital Group. The Denver Post has more here on the company, which raised $23 million in Series B funding just last year.


Mist, a nearly four-year-old, Cupertino, Ca-based startup that’s designing self-learning wireless networks, has raised $46 million in Series C funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Other participants in the round include Lightspeed Venture PartnersNorwest Venture PartnersGVNTT DOCOMO Ventures and Dimension Data. SiliconAngle has more here.


Nomad Health, a three-year-old, New York-based online marketplace for healthcare jobs, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Polaris Partners, with participation from First Round CapitalRRE Ventures and .406 VenturesMore here.


Quentis Therapeutics, a two-year-old, New York-based biotech company that focuses on treating cancer patients, has raised $48 million in Series A funding, including from Versant VenturesPolaris PartnersAbbVie VenturesTaiho PharmaceuticalYonghua CapitalAlexandria Venture Investments and New York Ventures, the investment arm of Empire State Development. More here.


Viela Bio, a new Gaithersburg, Md.-based AstraZeneca spin-out that’s focused on inflammation and autoimmune diseases, has raised $250 million in Series A funding from Boyu Capital6 Dimensions CapitalHillhouse CapitalTemasek and Sirona Capital. FierceBiotech has more here.



New Funds


Heuristic Capital, a 1.5-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based early-stage, hardware-focused venture firm, has raised $34 million for its debut fund, shows an SEC filing.


Kindred Capital, a new European-focused venture capital firm, has closed one of Europe’s largest-ever seed funds with £80 million ($110 million). Kindred is also operating what it’s calling an “equitable venture” model, in which every entrepreneur in its portfolio will also receive a stake in the fund. (It’s the same model or very similar to that employed in the U.S. by the venture firm Upside Partnership, which gives every founding team that it backs a piece of its own carry.) More here.


Sante Ventures, a 12-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based venture firm that invests in early-stage life sciences and healthcare companies, is looking to raise up to $200 million for its third fund, shows an SEC filingMore here.




Chorus, a year-old, San Francisco-based social fitness startup founded by former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, is shutting down. It had raised $9 million in venture funding, including from Index Ventures, where Costolo serves as a mentor. Business Insider talked with Costolo about what went wrong.





iQiyi, a nearly eight-year-old, Netflix-style service in China that was created and is still largely owned (70 percent) by Baidu, has filed for a $1.5 billion IPO. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker IQ. Variety has more here.


NIO, the Shanghai, China-based electric car maker formerly known as NextEv, has hired eight banks, including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, to work on a planned U.S. stock market listing this year worth up to $2 billion, reports Reuters.





Gun-control activists are demanding that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos do something he has carefully avoided: pick a side in a hot-button political debate


Frances Frei, who was hired to fix what ailed Uber’s broken culture and put its controversial CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick on the right path, is leaving the company, says Recode.


Asif Giga has joined Ericsson Ventures as an investment director. Giga was previously a director with Experian Ventures and, before that, an investor with Singtel.


Lindsey Maule, who became the head of cryptocurrency research at Precursor Ventures back in August, has left to focus full time on Luna Capital, a cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund where her title is CEO and general partner. Before joining Precursor, Maule was a growth strategist at the custom apparel startup Teespring.


Nick Nash is leaving his role as group president of Sea, the Singapore-based games and e-commerce company that went public in the U.S. last year, to start his own startup fund. Sea announced that Nash will exit the company at the end of 2018, giving it plenty of time to transition and find a replacement. TechCrunch has the story here.


Rodolfo Rosini, a U.K.-based serial entrepreneur, is becoming a venture capitalist, having joined the Hong Kong-based AI and machine learning-focused accelerator as a partner, says TechCrunch.



Essential Reads


Google has brought Hangouts Chat, its Slack competitor, out of beta.


Twitter is finally rolling out a “save for later” feature called Bookmarks.


LinkedIn wasn’t built for low-skilled job seekers, so Facebook is barging in.




Everything you never knew about “Sesame Street.”


This real-life Ray Donovan protects spurned lovers in high-profile divorces.


My Own Way,” sung by a teenage Amy Winehouse.


Retail Therapy


Transparent Speaker(s).


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