StrictlyVC: March 7, 2018

Thursday! Hope yours has been going well. (New York readers, we’re thinking of you. We know it must be a slushy mess over there.)



Top News


Snap CEO Evan Spiegel just told employees in a company-wide directive that he wants the company to work toward break-even this year, an ambitious goal that could require Snap to aggressively cut costs, notes The Information. It reports that Snap last year lost $720 million, before interest, taxes and charges like stock compensation expenses, due mostly to heavy spending on R&D and marketing. More here.


JPMorgan Chase co-president Daniel Pinto warned today that equity markets could fall as much as 40 percent in the next two to three years. Bloomberg has more here.



This Startup Just Raised $5 Million to Automate the Clunky Real Estate Appraisal Process


When Noah Isaacs and John Meadows were best friends, growing up in Berkeley, Ca., they dreamed of remaining friends for life. What they didn’t imagine was living together in New York and starting a company together, yet they have. It’s called Bowery Valuation, and it’s aiming to bring commercial real estate appraisals — currently an $8 billion market — into the modern era at long last.


Investors certainly see the need for an upgrade. The nearly three-year-old outfit just raised $5 million in seed funding, including from Cushman & Wakefield. In fact, the real estate giant is now using the startup’s technology to automate and optimize the entire appraisal process, allowing its appraisers to provide multi-family valuation services (meaning for apartment complexes) for the first time.


For Cushman & Wakefield, that’s a big deal. The valuation and appraisal piece of real estate has remained largely unchanged over time. Appraisers trudge through properties, scribble down details, snap pictures, and complete a painstaking analysis afterward that includes visiting more than a dozen sites to collect information about taxes, zoning, and land use. It’s sufficiently onerous that until Bowery came along, Cushman employees would only appraise bigger commercial buildings — a missed opportunity given that in New York, apartment complexes make up the majority of the buildings.


Yet Isaacs and Meadows say they understood well Cushman’s pain — as well as that of all appraisers. As a University of Pennsylvania undergrad, Meadows knew he wanted to get into real estate development and figured there was no better place to start than by doing appraisals, which is often a building block toward a career in lending or with a brokerage. But when he began work at a large independent appraisal firm in New York, he was horrified by the industry’s antiquated ways of doing things. He plugged along, making mental notes, while Issacs, who’d attended McGill University in Montreal, was working as a statistician for the Toronto Blue Jays. (“Reading the book Moneyball in high school, I thought it would be the coolest job in the world,” says Isaacs. “But it wasn’t all I’d dreamt it would be.”)


Soon, Meadows and Isaacs, whose family worked in real estate, were talking about getting Isaacs to New York.


More here.


New Fundings, a seven-year-old, Beijing, China-based online education platform, has raised $200 million in Series E funding led by Toutiao. DealStreetAsia has more here.


Ancient Nutrition, a 1.5-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based protein supplement and meal replacement brand, has raised $103 million in fresh funding from VMG PartnersHillhouse CapitalICONIQ Capital, among others. More here.


Bandura Systems, a 5.5-year-old, Columbia, Md. and St. Louis, Missouri-based developer of a threat intelligence gateway, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding, including from Blu VenturesGula Tech Adventures, the Maryland Tech Development Corp.Prosper Women EntrepreneursSixThirty, and UMB Financial Corporation. Baltimore has more here.


Camera IQ, a two-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based company whose ambition seems to be helping marketers take advantage of user-generated photos to boost their brands, has raised $4.3 million in seed funding led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from BetaworksHomebrew and WndrCo. A little more here.


Carsome, a three-year-old, Malaysia-based car-trading platform that lets consumers sell their cars to dealers online, has raised $19 million in Series B funding led by Burda Principal Investments. Earlier backers Gobi Partners,InnoVen Capital and Lumia Capital also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.


CryptoMove, a three-year-old, Walnut Creek, Ca.-based security startup that breaks data into pieces and continually moves it around, making it virtually impossible for hackers to do anything with it should they get ahold of one of the pieces, has raised roughly $8 million in new funding.  Social Capital appears to have led the round, judging by an SEC filing. More about the company here.


Eight, a nearly four-year-old, New York-based maker of a “smart” mattress that tracks 15 sleep factors, has raised $14 million in Series B funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator and Yunqi Partners. The company has now raised $27 million altogether. More here.


ELSA, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of a language-learning app, has raised $3.2 million in seed funding led by Monk’s Hill Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


The Fabric, a 5.5-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based startup foundry focused primarily on cloud and IoT infrastructure deals, has raised $15 million for its third funding vehicle. Investors include Verizon Ventures and March Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here.


Netsparker, an 8.5-year-old, London-based developer of web application security scanning software, has raised $40 million in funding led by Turn/River Capital.More here.


Poka, a five-year-old, Quebec-based training and knowledge platform for manufacturers, has raised $10 million in funding from Caisse de dépôt et placement du QuébecRobert Bosch Venture Capital and the Leclerc family, along with earlier backers iNovia Capital and Uncork CapitalMore here.


Prevail Therapeutics, a year-old, New York-based company that was launched last year by OrbiMed’s co-head of private equity and is developing a general therapy for Parkinson’s disease, has closed on $75 million in first-round funding. OrbiMed participated, as you might imagine. So did Pontifax FundRA Capital ManagementEcoR1 CapitalOmega FundsBVF PartnersBoxer Capital,Adage Capital Management and Alexandria Venture Investments. FierceBiotech has more here.


Revolution Foods, a 12-year-old, Oakland Ca.-based company that delivers ready-to-eat meal kits for school children and families, just raised roughly $46 million in fresh capital, shows an SEC filing that lists earlier investor Steve Case as a director. More here.


Senic, a 5.5-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based smart home technology startup whose products include a smart home device controller and an Alexa-enabled light that includes speech control, has raised $4 million in seed funding. Investors include Birchmere VenturesTarget Partners, and the home appliance maker GiraMore here.


SolarisBank, a two-year-old, Berlin-based banking platform that lets companies offer their own financial products, has raised €56.6 million ($69.7 million) in Series B funding from investors that include the Spanish bank BBVA (which just yesterday upped its investment in the U.K. challenger bank Atom Bank), VisaLakestarABN AMRO and earlier backers Arvato Financial Solutions and SBI Group. TechCrunch has more here.


Starsky Robotics, a year-old, San Francisco-based autonomous trucking company, has raised $16.5 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


ViewPoint Therapeutics, a nearly four-year-old, San Francisco-based biotech company that’s developing crystallin stabilizers to prevent and treat cataracts and presbyopia, has raised $35 million in Series B funding led by The Rise Fund, with participation from Novo Holdings A/S and other investors. More here.


Wingly, a three-year-old, Paris-based flight sharing platform connecting pilots and passengers, has raised €2m in seed funding, including from Howzat Partners and angel investors Philipp Rösler and Stephane Mayer. has more here.


New Funds


Lavrock Ventures, a 1.5-year-old, McLean, Va.-based venture capital firm, raised $25 million for its first fund. It expects to invest more than $50 million, however, through the help of special purpose vehicles. VentureBeat has more here.


Prime Venture Partners, a seven-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based seed-stage venture firm, has closed its third fund with roughly $60 million. Started by three serial entrepreneurs – Sanjay Swamy, Shripati Acharya and Amit Somani — the firm’s newest fund is its largest. It closed its previous fund with $46 million in 2015. TechCrunch has more here.


Turn/River Capital, a nearly six-year-old, San Francisco-based growth equity and buyout firm, raised $168 million for its third fund, according to a new press release that says the vehicle was raised in less than 90 days. More here.




Fantasy sports site FanDuel is reportedly in advanced talks to go public via a reverse merger with Platinum Eagle Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company formed earlier this year by veteran media executive Jeff Sagansky. Axios has the story here.




Publicly traded health insurer Cigna has agreed to buy the publicly traded pharmacy benefit giant Express Scripts for $52 billion in cash and stock, or $96.03 per share — a 30 percent premium to yesterday’s closing price. Axios has more here on the deal.


Rolling Stone magazine owner Penske Media has acquired SheKnows Media, a network of female-focused sites and the BlogHer conference business. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but SheKnows is profitable and grew its revenue by 30 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to its CEO. The company was owned by the private equity firm Great Hill Partners. The WSJ has more here.


Stripe, the $9 billion payments processing startup, has purchased Index, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup provides software for in-store payments systems, like the PIN pads that you probably already use to pay with a debit or credit card at your local Target or pharmacy. According to Business Insider, the company’s biggest claim-to-fame is that its software for PIN pads can read a chip card in under a second, making for faster checkouts. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed but Crunchbase shows that Index had raised $26 million from investors, including General Catalyst Partners and Innovation Endeavors.




Airbnb has poached Greg Greeley, formerly Amazon’s VP of Prime & Delivery Experience, Greeley will head up company’s Homes unit, as well as Airbnb Collections. TechCrunch has more here.


Joining the number of early Facebook execs who’ve been publicly acknowledging the platform’s serious downsides, cofounder Chris Hughes acknowledged before a small audience in San Francisco today that Facebook has played a “negative role” in politics. Its “algorithms are not neutral,” he said.


Travis Kalanick, the cofounder and longtime CEO of Uber, is launching a new investment fund called the 10100 Fund. According to an announcement on his Twitter account, the new fund will focus on “large-scale job creation.”


Uber has hired Assaf Ronen, a top Amazon voice exec, as its new head of product. Recode has more here.


Coinbase, the cryptocurrency trading platform, has hired Eric Scro as its VP of finance. Scro joins the company from the NYSE, which he was the head of finance. Business Insider has more here.





Wells Fargo is looking to hire a venture capital associate to work with its healthcare and tech divisions. The job is in Palo Alto, Ca.




A comprehensive new study from MIT looks at a decade of tweets, and finds that not only is the truth slower to spread, but that the threat of bots and the natural network effects of social media are no excuse: we’re doing it to ourselves.


Essential Reads


Some early owners of Tesla’s Model 3 are reporting quality problems (though they seem willing to look past these).


The fringe idea of universal basic income could be going mainstream.




New York Times have long been dominated by white men. Now, it’s adding the stories of 15 remarkable women.


The massive prize luring miners to the stars.




Retail Therapy


Please no one show this to our eight-year-old.


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