StrictlyVC: April 19, 2018

Happy Thursday!
Top News
Top News Amazon this morning introduced “Alexa Blueprints,” a new way for any Alexa owner to create their own customized Alexa skills or responses, without needing to know how to code. (“Alexa, never again play the Gummy Bear song, no matter how many times you are asked.”)
Sponsored By . . .
Underwear has finally evolved, and it’s ridiculously comfortable. Mack Weldon‘s Try-On Guarantee promises a full refund, with no return required if you don’t love your first pair. Try a pair today and find out why guys are obsessed with this brand. (You’ve never felt anything like it before.)
The Making of a Hardware Founder
Working in tech, it’s hard to avoid the many stories and congratulatory tweets about the latest company to close a funding round, and little wonder. It’s a milestone worth celebrating before getting back to work. Yet what’s happening in the trenches before those funding announcements roll out is often more instructive. How does one decide to make the leap in the first place? How do you mold a product or service into something that you can present to outsiders? How can you enlist people to help you when everyone you want to meet has more pressing demands on their time? 

These are questions that many new founders wrestle with, including Sarah McDevitt, a college basketball star turned hardware founder whose product she hopes to have in consumers’ hands by this holiday season – even while she’s acutely aware that a lot has to go right first. 

McDevitt didn’t anticipate being in this position five years ago when she was making a generous salary as a product manager at Microsoft, working a stone’s throw from where she’d grown up in Seattle. But like a lot of founders, McDevitt eventually felt compelled to start her now two-year-old company, Core Wellness, which aims to sell meditation experiences. 

We checked in with her this week about how far along she has gotten, the obstacles she wasn’t expecting, and where she goes from here. 

You played college basketball at NYU, where you also studied math and computer science. Which was more fun? 

In high school, I used to walk to a gym that was open at all hours of the night and play until my parents were like, ‘You have to come home.’ But I’ve always loved math and education, too. 

When you graduated, you went home to Seattle to work for Microsoft for five years. How did you get from there to launching a startup that makes it easier for people to meditate? 

More here.
New Fundings
Rare Bits, a year-old, Bay Area-based peer-to-peer marketplace for crypto goods, has raised $6 million in funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from First Round Capital, David Sacks’ Craft Ventures and SV Angel. TechCrunch has more here

Shapeways, the 11-year-old, New York-based 3D printing marketplace company, has raised $30 million in Series E funding led by Lux Capital. The company has now raised more than $100 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

TheWaveVR, a two-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based music and visual art creation VR startup, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by RRE Ventures, with participation from Upfront VenturesKPCBGC VR Gaming Tracker Fund andThe VR Fund. The company has now raised $10 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
New Funds
Dawn Capital, the 11-year-old, London-based early-stage venture firm, just closed its third fund with $235 million in capital commitments. The outfit invests primarily in financial and enterprise startups and, as Business Insider notes in a write-up, Dawn’s portfolio includes cybersecurity firm Mimecast, which IPO’d in 2015 and whose market cap is currently $2.16 billion, and the Swedish graph database firmNeo4jMore here

Russia’s Fort Ross Ventures says it has closed a new, $200 million fund for U.S. startups that are developing products and services in the areas of fintech, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and e-commerce. VentureBeat has more here.
Steel yourselves. The number of 2018 U.S. tech IPOs is going to double over the next 10 days.
Eventbrite has acquired the nine-year-old, Madrid, Spain-based ticketing platform Ticketea for undisclosed terms. The company had raised $5.7 million, including from Seaya Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

Square has acquired elements of 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based corporate catering startup Zesty. Square already owns the on-demand food delivery service Caviar; it reportedly plans to use Zesty’s assets to strengthen Caviar’s corporate ordering business. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but TechCrunch has more here.
Executives at Theranos really don’t like Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Carreyou, whose reporting on the company’s exaggerated claims triggered its ongoing demise. As Business Insider reports, insiders even created a “Space Invaders”-like game where they shoot at floating pictures of him

VC Bill Gurley came out strongly in favor of Uber today, despite leaving the company’s board last summer and later launching a lawsuit (since dropped) against former CEO Travis Kalanick. CNBC has more here

It has been five months since Tesla and SpaceX placed board member Steve Jurvetson on leave, and Elon Musk’s companies have still not said whether or not he will remain on their boards of directors, observes Recode

Uber has denied that its sitting CTO, Thuan Pham, met with Cambridge Analytica — the controversial political consultancy at the center of a Facebook user data misuse scandal. TechCrunch has more here

According to Bloomberg, Uber’s top candidate for CFO is Zane Rowe, who holds the same position at VMWare. Uber needs to fill the position to prepare for what could be the biggest IPO of next year. More here

Reddit, one of the internet’s largest hubs for both traffic and controversy, announced today that it has hired former Time Inc. President of Digital Jen Wong to take on the role of COO. TechCrunch has more here

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will donate $1 million to support relief efforts on Kauai after severe floods hit the island’s North Shore over the weekend. Zuckerberg and wife Pricilla Chan own hundreds of acres of land on Kauai’s North Shore. More here in Pacific Business News.
Essential Reads
Mt. Gox and the surprising redemption of Bitcoin’s biggest villain

Palantir is a creepy 14-year-old that knows everything about you, says Bloomberg. That could be a problem if it tries to go public

New York’s attorney general has demanded an examination into 13 cryptocurrency exchanges, amongst them the Winklevoss twins’ Gemini exchange and Coinbase. AG Eric Schneiderman says move should be seen as a fact-finding mission as opposed to a crackdown.
 The year’s 100 most influential people, according to Time. 

The diary of a settler of Catan. 

Memorial Day getaways.
Retail Therapy
Bah hah

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