StrictlyVC: March 13, 2018

Tuesday! Hi, everyone.


Top News


Perhaps you’ve heard? U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired today. On Twitter. Shortly afterward, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Steve Goldstein, who’d tweeted that Tillerson “did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason” for his firing today, was himself fired today. “It was chaos . . . it was a ‘W.T.F.’ moment,” a current state department staffer tells Vanity Fair of the episode.


Trump is separately seeking to impose tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese imports and will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, a source who discussed the issue with the White House told Reuters earlier today. More here.


Sponsored By . . .


Today’s sponsor, the Financial Solutions Lab, knows that when it comes to fintech, finding solutions that reflect the diversity of populations who need them most is easier said than done. This virtual accelerator program — where selected companies receive $250K plus access to unparalleled resources — strives to remove selection bias from its process of identifying solutions that can help improve Americans’ financial health. Apply now and share with all the fintechs you know!


Snoop Dogg’s Venture Firm Just Closed Its Debut Fund with $45 Million


Snoop Dogg, the rapper, entertainer, and businessman, can claim another small victory in a long string of career highlights. The venture firm that he cofounded a couple of years ago, Casa Verde Capital, has closed its debut fund with $45 million.


The money was raised in earnest last year, says managing partner Karan Wadhera, an alum of both Goldman Sachs and Nomura Securities who joined the outfit in the summer of 2016 to take over the process of securing capital — as well as investing it along with fellow managing director Evan Eneman.


We talked with Wadhera yesterday to get a better handle on the firm, which makes seed and Series A bets on ancillary businesses in the cannabis industry. Our chat has been edited for length.


You have what seems like a pretty traditional banking background. How did you wind up at Snoop Dogg’s venture firm?


I did have a traditional path, joining Goldman out of school and working in San Francisco, Hong Kong and later India for 11 years, where I ran trading desks [for numerous investment firms]. But I’m also an avid musician and fan. In college [at Babson in Wellesley, Ma.], I worked on a site and radio show about U2 that kind of got me connected to U2’s management and label and I soon started coming out to L.A. as a consultant working on projects for artists and labels. And Snoop was one of the first people I started working with. I was helping out on the new media side and helping a small team of people sort of run the Snoop show — not just his label but his clothing line, film, TV projects…


That sounds very entrepreneurial for a college student. Did you head to Goldman to make your family happy?


Exactly. [Laughs.] But that career path did take me around the world, which was super exciting. In India, too, I was able to dig into some of those interests. I helped start the sort of Us Weekly of India called Miss Malini. I kept on doing entertainment stuff. In 2008, I helped put Snoop in a big Bollywood movie. So we kept our relationship going.


Then you moved to L.A. to run this fund.


When I left the institutional finance world, I knew I wanted to focus more on the private end of things. And as I started to dig in and understand the work that Snoop and [firm partner Ted Chung] and Evan — who I’ve known for 20 years — were laying out for the cannabis industry, I realized it was a huge white space and that not enough people were focusing on it. Of course, that’s changing.


How many investments has the firm made so far?


We’ve made eight, with a couple of new investments to be announced in the next few weeks. We’re very active. If we aren’t leading a deal, then we’re co-leading and taking board seats or board advisory roles. we have a lot of access and touch points into this industry.


But you aren’t investing in just any cannabis startup, correct? Explain what you’re looking to fund and what size checks you’re writing.


We’re writing seed-stage to Series A-size checks, so $1 million plus, with roughly half our fund reserved for follow-on investments, where we can write another $3 million to $5 million [to a limited number of breakout companies]. And we’re only focused on the ancillary part of the cannabis industry, so we won’t invest in companies that touch the plants.


More here.


New Fundings


Airspace Systems, a three-year-old, Bay Area-based counter drone technology company, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Singtel Innov8 withs28 Capital, Shasta Ventures and Granite Hill Capital Partners also participating. The startup has now raised $25 million to date. TechCrunch has the story here.


Artland, a 1.5-year-old, Copenhagen-based mobile art app that connects art collectors and galleries worldwide, has raised $1 million in seed funding from individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.


Blast, a year-old, Newport Beach, Ca.-based fintech app that employs gamification to help users save money, has raised $5 million in seed funding from the Forbesand Roth families, Core Innovation CapitalGreat Oaks Venture CapitalSnowmass Private Equity and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & RosatiMore here.


Carbon Lighthouse, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based company that sells software and strategies to help buildings reshape their energy supply-and-demand profile, has raised $27 million in growth equity funding led by GRC SinoGreen, with participation from JCI VenturesUlupono InitiativeWV Tech Ventures,Radicle Impact Partners and Ekistic VenturesMore here.


Imply, a three-year-old, Millbrae, Ca.-based event analytics platform, has raised $13.3 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Khosla Ventures, among others. More here.


Moogsoft, a nearly six-year-old, San Francisco-based tech startup whose machine learning algorithms aim to help developer teams quickly remediate issues, has raised $40 million in Series D funding. Goldman Sachs Growth Equity led the round, with participation from earlier backers HCLNorthgate CapitalRedpoint VenturesSingtel Innov8STTelemedia and Wing VCMore here.


Ofo, the 3.5-year-old, Beijing-based bike-sharing startup, has raised $866 million in new financing led by Alibaba Group to fuel its expensive competition with Mobike, which is backed by Alibaba rival Tencent. TechCrunch has more here.


RapidAPI, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that currently offers a directory of some 8,000 APIs, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led byAndreessen Horowitz, which also led the startup’s $3.5 million seed round. Other participants in the round include SV Angel,  Green Bay Capital and Tony Jamous, the co-founder and CEO of Nexmo. TechCrunch has more here.


TAE Life Sciences, a year-old, Foothill Ranch, Ca.-based med tech company that’s dedicated to advancing the potential of Boron Neutron Capture Therapy, has raised $40 million in Series A funding led by ARTIS VenturesMore here.


Wefarm, a three-year-old, London- and San Francisco-based startup whose mobile-phone platform connects rural farmers, including in Africa and Latin America, so they can ask and answer questions about agriculture, has raised $5 million in fresh funding. True Ventures led the round, with participation from Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, Blue Bottle Coffee CEO Bryan Meehan, and the Norrsken Foundation, as well as earlier backers LocalGlobe and Accelerated Digital VenturesMore here.


Yogome, a nearly six-year-old, Mexico-based company that makes educational digital games for children, has raised $26.9 million in Series B funding led byExceed Capital Partners, with participation from Seeya VenturesInsight Venture Partners and Variv CapitalMore here.


New Funds


Not a new fund exactly, but payments company Ripple says it plans to invest in startups and technology companies to develop more uses for XRP, its cryptocurrency that is currently the third largest digital token behind bitcoin and Ethereum based on total market cap. TechCrunch has the story here.




Publicly traded MindBody, a maker of business management software for wellness companies, is paying $150 million in cash to acquire Booker Software, a seven-year-old, New York-based business management platform for salons and spas. According to Crunchbase, Booker had raised $77 million from investors, including Medina CapitalRevolution, and Bain Capital Ventures. The San Luis Obispo Tribune has more here.


Salesforce is set to buy CloudCraze, a nine-year-old, Chicago-based enterprise e-commerce software company that’s built on its cloud-based customer relationship management platform. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. TechCrunch has more here.


Tandem, a London-based challenger bank co-founded by fintech veteran Ricky Knox, is on a shopping spree. After purchasing Harrods Bank, the banking arm of the famous luxury British department store, the company is now acquiring Pariti, a 3.5-year-old, London-based money management app that has garnered 95,000 users and looks to have raised less than $1 million from investors. Pariti’s CEO and CTO are joining Tandem as part of the deal. TechCrunch has more here.




Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, long a favorite in tech circles, is reportedly still under armed guard after being abducted along with 200 other people last November and seemingly fleeced as part of an anti-corruption campaign. The prince, who was released in January, also no longer has final say over how his investment firm, Kingdom Holding — which has backed Twitter, Lyft, and many other companies — puts its capital to work.


Women at Microsoft, working in U.S.-based technical jobs, filed 238 internal complaints about gender discrimination or sexual harassment between 2010 and 2016, according to court filings made public yesterday. The figure was cited by plaintiffs suing Microsoft, says Reuters, adding that their attorneys are pushing to proceed as a class-action lawsuit.


The Winklevoss twins have a new plan to police cryptocurrency trading.




Point72 Ventures, the early-stage venture capital firm funded exclusively by hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, is looking to hire a VP of operations. The job is in Palo Alto, Ca.


Essential Reads


Per SEC filings, WeWork has raised more than $400 million to buy its own properties, reports Crunchbase. (Our sources say it’s much more.)


Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk has finally taken the wraps off its Cora aircraft, a hybrid vertical take-off and landing design that can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane. (Maybe we’re impossible, but we were expecting . . . more.)


Qualcomm, national security, and patents: an explainer.


The valuation of Apple — which today announced the dates for its annual developers conference — could reach $1 trillion, soon.




Tom Brady eats a strawberry at long last.


No! We were just about to figure out who these two people are.


Boaty McBoatface is back from its most perilous mission yet.


Retail Therapy


Mirrored shades, knee-high socks, embroidered mocknecks: bad jock style is secretly high fashion, says GQ. Take note!


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