StrictlyVC: June 25, 2018

Hi, and happy Monday.:)  

Before we dive into things, we’re very happy to announce that we’ve finally started programming our second and last StrictlyVC event of this year on September 25th, a Tuesday night. (As some of you know, we ran out of time to do an INSIDER event this past spring.)

The first speaker you can look forward to hearing from: David Rogier, the CEO of MasterClass, who three years ago seized on his friendship with Dustin Hoffman’s daughter to begin building an online education business that has since attracted an astonishing number of experts in their fields, from Werner Herzog to Annie Liebovitz to Steve Martin to Steph Curry. We’ll find out just how big an opportunity MasterClass is eyeing, where it goes from here. 

Enormous thanks to Norwest Venture Partners, whose team will be playing host to all of us at their beautiful new space in South Park in San Francisco. Much thanks, too, to our early partner in the evening, KCPR, a boutique public relations and strategy firm specializing in venture capital and startup clients founded by Silicon Valley publicist Kelsey Cullen.

More about this in the coming weeks. . .
Top News
Donald Trump, already embroiled in a trade battle with China, plans to ratchet commercial tensions higher by barring many Chinese companies from investing in U.S. technology firms and by blocking additional technology exports to Beijing, according to the WSJ. More here
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Andreessen Horowitz Has a New Crypto Fund — and Its First Female General Partner is Helping Run It
Silicon Valley powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz  (a16z) has some big, and bigger, news today.

First, it closed a dedicated crypto fund late last week from a subset of its limited partners, who’ve provided the firm with $300 million in capital commitments. The fund had become the worst-kept secret in the venture industry, largely because so many other venture firms are trying to figure out their own related strategies and have been watching closely a16z’s slow but growing number of investments in crypto-related startups over the past five years.

Nine-year-old Andreessen Horowitz has also, at long last, brought aboard its first female general partner: Katie Haun, whose star has quietly been rising in the Bay Area over for the past couple of years. Haun — who is leading Andreessen’s crypto fund with general partner and renowned crypto enthusiast Chris Dixon  — is kind of a big deal, so it’s no surprise that a16z nabbed her. Among her other many accomplishments, Haun spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where she focused on fraud, cybercrime, and corporate compliance no-no’s alongside the SEC, FBI, and Treasury. According to Haun’s bio, she was also the DOJ’s first-ever coordinator for digital assets, and she led investigations into the Mt. Gox hack and the task force that investigated and ultimately took down the online drug marketplace Silk Road.

Haun is also a lecturer at Stanford Business School and she’s a director on the board of the digital exchange Coinbase, which was backed early on by a16z and where Haun got to know Dixon, who is also on the board. (Both are keeping their seats.) 

We talked with Dixon earlier today to learn more about the fund, including how he and Haun are thinking about “exits” in the cryptocurrency world when there haven’t been a whole bunch. Our conversation has been edited lightly for length. 

You’ve raised $300 million from some of the same investors who fund Andreessen Horowitz’s flagship funds. Will this fund in any way impact the next flagship fund? Does the firm intend to spend more time on crypto and less on other, more traditional investments? 

No, we’re still full-speed ahead on all traditional areas. The fund is a way for us to double down on crypto and not in any way reduce our commitment to enterprise, consumer, or bio investing. 

Can this new fund invest in other investors’ crypto funds, as Union Square has been actively doing? 

It could, but we don’t plan to. We invested in Polychain and a few others about one-and-a-half years ago when we were figuring out our new crypto strategy. Now, with the full fund and investing in both early-stage and later-stage in crypto projects, the mandate is to be investing directly, though [we] never say never to anything.

More here.
New Fundings
Akero Therapeutics, a seven-year-old, Portsmouth, N.H.-based biotechnology company focused on treating non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and other serious metabolic diseases, has raised $65 million in Series A financing. Apple Tree PartnersAtlas VenturevenBio Partners and Versant Ventures led the round. BioSpace has more here

BigID, a two-year-old, New York- and Israel-based private customer data identification startup, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Scale Venture Partners, with participation from ClearSky SecurityComcast VenturesBoldstart VenturesInformation Venture Partners and SAP. TechCrunch has more here

Nodthera, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based biotech that’s engaged in innate immune/ inflammasome research, has raised £28 million ($37.2 million) in Series A funding from Epidarex CapitalF-PrimeSofinnova Partners and 5AM Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here

PolicyBazaar, a 10-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based online life insurance and general insurance marketplace, has raised more than $200 million in new funding led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund. TechCrunch has more here, a five-year-old, Redwood City, Ca. -based startup that has been trying to change the way sales people interact with information in CRM systems using voice, has raised $27 million in Series C funding. Backers include Amazon Alexa Fund, Salesforce Ventures and M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures), with additional participation from Comcast VenturesAccel PartnersRedpoint Ventures and Upfront Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

Winnie, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose app has the needs of modern-day parents in mind (they can get advice, write reviews, and find new places to go with their kids, among other things), just raised $4 million in additional seed funding led by Reach Capital. Other investors in the new round includeRethink ImpactHomebrewLudlow VenturesAfore Capital, and BBG Ventures, among others. Winnie has now raised $6.5 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.
New Funds
Highland Capital Partners, the 30-year-old venture firm with offices in Boston and Palo Alto, Ca., is looking to raise upwards of $300 million for its tenth fund, according to an SEC filing that shows it has already secured $170.7 million in capital commitments. More here

RRE Ventures, the 24-year-old, New York-based early stage venture firm, has closed its seventh flagship fund with $265 million in capital commitments. Some of the outfits exits in recent years include Bitly (acquired by Spectrum Equity),Business Insider (acquired by Axel Springer) and TapCommerce (acquired by Twitter). TechCrunch has more here.
AppNexus, the 11-year-old, programmatic ad platform that was forever working toward an IPO (it had filed confidentially for one in late 2016), has been acquired by AT&T for undisclosed terms. AppNexus had raised more than $340 million over the years, including from TCV, Venrock, Fidelity, WPP, News Corp and First Round Capital. AT&T’s ad chief says the acquisition is part of a strategy to build a first-of-its-kind marketplace for television and digital video advertising and give it more firepower against industry juggernauts Google and Facebook. The WSJ has more here. So does TechCrunch.
China’s Meituan Dianping, an online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform, is bringing its IPO to Hong Kong, where it aims to raise over $4 billion, three people tell Reuters. More here.
Founders Circle Capital, a late-stage venture and secondaries firm, is looking to bring aboard an associate to help in sourcing and executing deals. Top-performing associates will be considered for a promotion to senior associate after their second year. The job is in San Francisco. Applicants should write to
Essential Reads
Who will lead Benchmark‘s newest fund? Recode wants to know. (Relatedly, Benchmark is bucking the trend of raising new funds every two years. Will others follow?) 

Apple is about to pump up the volume on its audio-device strategy, planning higher-end AirPods, a new HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones for as early as next year, according to Bloomberg.  

Venmo is officially launching a physical debit card.
The case against low-fat milk

Wall Street’s newest hot commodity: The $185 Wagyu steak sandwich

An affair between a reporter and a security aide rattles Washington media

Comedian John Oliver has apparently gotten HBO’s online content blocked in Chinaafter mocking the company’s president, Xi Jinping.
Retail Therapy
An “official” Dick Tracy watch that works like Chester Gould first imagined it.

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