StrictlyVC: March 20, 2018

Tuesday! (Also, hello.)


Top News


Amazon just passed Alphabet in market value.


Facebook has meanwhile lost $60 billion in market value over the last two days.


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Billionaire Larry Ellison Has a New Consumer Wellness Company Called Sensei


It’s not every day that Oracle’s billionaire founder, chairman and CTO Larry Ellison launches a new business, but such is the case today. That new company? Sensei, a new L.A.-based wellness brand that will focus first on developing hydroponic farms and later . . . well, details are scant, but they’re coming soon, we’re told.


Ellison, who we presume is funding the effort, co-founded the company with his longtime friend, David Agus, a prolific author and professor of medicine at USC where he is, notably, the founding director of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine.


According to Sensei’s president, Dan Gruneberg, Ellison and Agus came up with the idea of starting a wellness company when a close mutual friend of the two was dying and they were spending more time together. In fact, as they watched their friend’s health deteriorate, they decided there was more they could, and should, do about it.


Step one, apparently, involves building a hydroponic farm of undisclosed size on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which Ellison acquired for $300 million back in 2012.  There, says Gruneberg, the Sensei team will be focusing not on yield per acre but nutrition per acre, a selling point for the fruits and vegetables it plans to hawk to restaurants and retailers under the brand Sensei Farms.


Hydroponic farms — in which plants are grown in water rather than soil —  aren’t necessarily known for cultivating fruits and vegetables that are any less nutritious than their conventional counterparts. But by increasing the concentration of nutrients, growers can increase the nutritional content of their vegetables. That seems to be the strategy here.


Another aspect of the business that Sensei will undoubtedly be marketing is sustainability.


More here.


New Fundings


CaliberMind, a two-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based maker of B2B marketing software, has raised $3.2 million in seed funding co-led by Newark Venture Partners and Buran VCMore here.


Cheddar, a two-year-old, New York-based live video news network, has raised $22 million in Series D financing led by Raine Ventures, with participation from Liberty GlobalGoldman SachsAntenna Group7 Global CapitalDentsu Venturesand the family office of Kelly Loeffler and Jeff Sprecher. Earlier investors also participated, including AT&TAmazonAltice USA, the NYSE, Lorne Michaels’Broadway VideoComcast VenturesLightspeed Venture Partners and Ribbit Capital. Variety has more here.


Desktop Metal, a three-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company at work on 3D tech that can print products in stainless steel and other metals, has raised yet more funding: $65 million led by the Ford Motor Company. (The company closed a Series D round last summer.) The WSJ has more here.


Digital Reasoning, an 18-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based cognitive computing platform that tries to surface what’s valuable and what’s not in the data of its enterprise clients, has raised raised $30 million in new funding led by the European bank BNP Paribas. Other participants in the round include BarclaysSquare Capital and previous investors Goldman SachsNasdaqLemhi VenturesHCA, and the Partnership Fund for New York CityMore here.


Green Tank Technologies, a two-year-old, Toronto, Canada-based maker of “high-performance” vaporization hardware, has raised $3.35 million in seed funding led by Green Acre Capital and Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital, along withAlan and Lorne Gertner, founders of Canadian lifestyle brand Tokyo Smoke (now HIKU Brands). More here.


KeepTruckin, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based electronic logs and fleet management platform for the trucking industry, has raised $50 million in Series C financing led by IVP. Other participants in the round — which brings the company’s total funding to $78 million — include Scale Venture PartnersIndex Ventures, and Google Ventures. More here., an eight-year-old, London-based online furniture shopping site, has raised $56 million in new funding. An undisclosed investor led the round, with participation from earlier backers Partech VenturesLevel Equity and Eight Roads Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.


Mark43, a six-year-old, New York-based company that makes cloud-based software for law enforcement agencies around the country, has raised $38 million in Series C funding led by General Catalyst and Breyer Capital. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Spark CapitalSound VenturesBezos Expeditions,Goldman SachsGeneral David PetraeusAmploInnovation Endeavors, and Govtech Fund. The company has now raised $77.8 million altogether. More here.


Mythic, a six-year-old,  Austin, Tex.-based AI chip company, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by SoftBank Ventures, with participation from DFJLux CapitalData CollectiveAME Cloud VenturesLockheed Martin Ventures and Andy Bechtolsheim. The Austin American-Statesman has more here.


N26, a three-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based startup that’s building a retail bank from scratch, has raised $160 million in Series C Funding round co-led by Allianz X, the digital investment unit of Allianz Group, and Tencent Holdings. The funding represents the largest non-IPO equity financing round in Germany, says the company, which has now raised $215 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.


Neurotrack, a six-year-old, Richmond, Va.-based maker of non-invasive cognitive health assessment tools, has raised $13.7 million in Series B funding led by Sozo Ventures, with participation from Salesforce CEO Marc BenioffKhosla VenturesFounders FundSocial CapitalAME Cloud Partners and Rethink ImpactMore here.


Oxford Nanopore Technologies, a 13-year-old, U.K.-based developer of nanopore-based electronic systems for analysis of single molecules, has raised $140 million from investors, including GICChina Construction Bank International, and Hostplus. The company is a spin-out of the University of Oxford and has been credited with potentially revolutionizing the way we’re able to sequence entire genomes. More here.

Riveter, a two-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based co-working office space that’s “female forward” but not limited to women, has raised $4.75 million in seed funding. Madrona Venture Group led the round, and was joined by investors including X Factor VenturesBrilliant VenturesThe HelmPLG VenturesPortland Seed FundFounders’ Co-Op, and Start It LabsMore here.


Skycision, a three-year-old, Watsonville, Ca.-based data platform that takes aerial imagery from drones and determines what part of a farmer’s fields need extra attention, has raised $1.1 million in seed funding. Innova Memphis led the round, with participation from Scurich Berry Farms and AgLaunch. Forbes has more here.


Unity Biotechnology, a nine-year-old, Brisbane, Ca.-based developer of treatments that focus on diseases of aging, has raised $55 million in Series C funding. Investors include EcoR1 Capital Fund6 Dimensions CapitalAltitude Life Science VenturesFidelity Management & Research CompanyBaillie GiffordPartner Fund ManagementPivotal Alpha LimitedInvus OpportunitiesARCH Venture PartnersVenrockFounders Fund and the Longevity FundMore here.


UpKeep Maintenance Management, a four-year-old, Encino, Ca.-based group collaboration and maintenance application for facility management teams, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Emergence Capital. The company also counts Bain CapitalBattery Ventures and Y Combinator as investors. Forbes has more here.


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New Funds


Eight Roads, an arm of Fidelity Growth Partners, has raised $375 million to fund late-stage startups in Europe. The fund is Eight Roads’s biggest yet. TechCrunch has more here.


S Capital, an Israeli VC firm led by former Sequoia Capital partner Haim Sadger, has raised $94 million from 31 investors for its debut fund, shows an SEC filing. We can’t find a site, but the filing and Sadger’s LinkedIn suggest the firm was formed recently.




Fuel-cell company Bloom Energy, founded 17 years ago, has “jump-started its idled plan” to go public, according to the WSJ, which says Bloom may attempt a listing as soon as May. The company was last known to be valued at $2.9 billion in 2011. It has also raised $2 billion in debt and equity. More here.


DocuSign, the 15-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s largely credited with pioneering the e-signature, is finally gearing up to go public, sources tell TechCrunch. Indeed, the company has already filed confidentially, says TC. More here.




Looking beyond its offerings in customer relationship management software,Salesforce is acquiring the publicly traded software maker MuleSoft for $6.5 billion in stock and cash. The deal marks Salesforce’s biggest acquisition to date. Axios has a bit more here.


DataSift, a London-based company that pulls data from conversations across social, news and blog platforms, anonymizes it, and then parses it for insights for third party organizations, is being acquired by Meltwater, a company that sells business intelligence services like media monitoring and AI analytics about internal business communications. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but DataSift had raised roughly $72 million from investors. TechCrunch has more here.




Sunny Balwani was the president of Theranos and the boyfriend of founder Elizabeth Holmes. He’s also a virtual ghost, reports STAT in a fascinating new piece.


Michael Ferro, a renowned Chicago entrepreneur and non-executive chair of Tronc, the third largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., stepped down abruptly yesterday. A spokesman for the company says Ferro wanted to leave at the top of his game. though we’re thinking this detailed expose published yesterday by Fortune about Ferro’s highly inappropriate behavior with female founders was maybe also a factor.


Andrew Nix, the CEO of the London-based voter profiling company Cambridge Analytica — which harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission to analyze their behavior — has been suspended from his job. In an announcement posted to the company’s cite, the board said the suspension was effective immediately.


Mark Selcow has been named general partner at Costanoa Ventures, where he has spent most of the last three years. Previously, Selcow was a partner with Merced Partners.


Latham & Watkins chairman William Voge abruptly stepped down today over what the law firm said was inappropriate “communication of a sexual nature” with a woman who had no connection to the firm or any client. Voge is retiring from the firm, it said in a statement.


Muzzammil Zaveri has joined Gradient Ventures, Google’s new AI-focused venture capital program, reports Axios. “MZ” as he is known, was previously an investor in the digital practice of Kleiner Perkins. For what it’s worth, we interviewed Anna Patterson, the head of Gradient, last month at a Startup Grind event. We never had a chance to write about it, but you can check it out here if you’re looking to learn more.





GMG Ventures, the Guardian’s new venture fund, is looking to bring aboard an investment analyst. The job is in London.


Essential Reads


Facebook employees gathered today to discuss the widening scandal over the 2016 election. But company chiefs Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were nowhere to be found. Maybe they were focused instead on a new Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether Facebook violated an agreement with the agency over data.


Seeing an opening, Google has separately made a $300 million commitment to supporting news organizations.


Bumble has replied to Match Group‘s lawsuit in a full letter that it ran online and in media outlets today and is pretty clever as press offensives go. “We swipe left on you. We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now, to intimidate us,” it starts. More here.


Police say a video from the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman on Sunday shows her moving in front of it suddenly. “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode,” Tempe, Arizona police chief Sylvia Moir tells the San Francisco Chronicle.




Thirteen reasons to believe in UFOs.


The true story of Gianni Versace’s murder.


How to close a deal using business terms overheard in airports.


Retail Therapy


Sock-like sneakers and where to buy them.


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