StrictlyVC: July 20, 2018

Friday! [Prepares chilled martini pitcher.]

Hope you have a great weekend in store. If you’re looking for a podcast at any point over the next couple of days, we were over at TechCrunch yesterday, recording its “Equity” show with the charming Matthew Lynley of TC, Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase News, and Lux Capital Partner Renata Quintini, who was a great guest, not least because we talked about a Lux-backed company, Zoox, the autonomous driving company that somewhat audaciously thinks everyone else — Uber, General Motors, Tesla — is doing it wrong. (It just raised a ton of money to prove its thesis, too.) You can listen here.
Top News
Senate Republicans have dropped their attempt to reimpose U.S. sanctions on the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, lawmakers said this afternoon, a victory for Donald Trump as congressional Republicans abandoned a rare effort to thwart his agenda. The Washington Post has more here.
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Public Shareholders are High on Tilray, the First Cannabis Company to IPO on Nasdaq
Tilray, a five-year-old, British Columbia-based medical cannabis company that sells its products to patients, researchers, pharmacies and even governments, saw its shares get high (sorry) on the Nasdaq yesterday, after the company priced 9 million shares at $17 apiece and watched them soar, closing at $22.39, a jump of slightly more than 32 percent.  They climbed even higher today, closing above $29 per share.

Tilray is the first cannabis company to conduct a U.S. IPO, and it will reportedly use in part to fuel its marijuana growing and processing facilities in Ontario.

The momentum behind Tilray is a huge win for the cannabis industry, which has been growing like a weed (sorry again). Related startups attracted $593 million in funding last year, twice what they raised in 2016 and a meaningful jump from the $121 million invested in related startups in 2014, according to CB Insights. Among the different types of companies to garner investor dollars, shows CB Insights’ research, are: startups focused on research or distribution of medical marijuana products (as with Tilray); tools for ensuring compliance with state and federal marijuana laws; startups focused on payments for marijuana companies; startups collecting data and producing marketing insights about the industry; and companies creating novel strains and types of marijuana using new farming techniques.

Tilray’s performance today is also a very positive signal for Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that owned 100 percent of the startup as it headed into its offering. In fact, Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, is also the CEO of Tilray. (Cannabis companies are weird.)

Privateer has itself raised more than $200 million since its founding in 2010, including from Founders Fund and Subversive Capital, and it has used that money to finance, acquire and incubate companies. While it incubated Tilray, for example, it also owns Leafly, a large cannabis information resource that it acquired in 2011. Another of its portfolio companies is Marley Natural, a Bob Marley-branded cannabis line that it launched in partnership with Marley’s estate and that sells a line of cannabis strains, smoking accessories and even body care products.

It isn’t exactly clear how much Privateer had sunk into Tilray. 

More here.
New Fundings
AnyVision, three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based designer of face, body and object recognition tech and the underlying system infrastructure to help companies deploy smart cameras for various purposes, has raised $28 million in Series A. 

Bosch, the German multinational technology group, led the round, with the participation of two prominent (but unnamed) U.S. private equity groups. TechCrunch has more here

Blavity, a four-year-old, L.A.-based digital lifestyle media company geared toward black millennials, has closed on $6.5 million in Series A funding led by GV, with participation from Comcast VenturesPlexo Capital and Baron Davis Enterprises. TechCrunch has more here

Culture Amp, an eight-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based employee feedback platform, has raised $40 million in Series D funding led by Blackbird Ventures, with participation from Felicis VenturesIndex VenturesSapphire Ventures, Skip Capital and Grok Ventures. Business Insider has more here

Diveplane, a months-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based startup that aims to make artificial intelligence more understandable, accurate, and safer (and was launched by former Epic Games president Mike Capps), has raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Investors include Steve NelsonAnna Spangler Nelson, and Lee Roberts. VentureBeat has more here

Galvanize, the six-year-old, Denver, Co.-based computer coding training school, has raised $32 million in Series C funding led by Catalyst Investors, with participation from New Markets Venture PartnersABS Capital Partners,University Ventures and the Colorado Impact Fund. In related news, Galvanize is acquiring Hack Reactor, a San Francisco-based operator of immersive coding programs. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Hack Reactor had raised less than $1 million in funding from investors, including Mobile Makers Academy and MakerSquare. Reuters has more here

LoanSnap, a months-old, San Francisco-based mortgage startup that was co-founded by serial entrepreneur Karl Jacob and aims to make getting a mortgage faster and easier while also helping customers to make better financial decisions during the application process, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. True Ventures led the round; other participants include Baseline VenturesVirgin GroupCore Innovation PartnersLiquid 2 VenturesOVO Fund and Transmedia Ventures. Bloomberg has more here

Points, a year-old, Singapore-based startup looking to build a credit scoring protocol integrating AI with blockchain, has raised $8 million in seed funding from a number of traditional and blockchain venture capital firms. These include: DHVC,Cherubic VenturesCe YuanOntology FoundationNest.Bio Ventures, and Zhong Cheng Xin Credit Technology. DealStreetAsia has more here

SenseTime, a four-year-old, Hong Kong-based developer of facial recognition technologies, is in talks to raise around $1 billion in fresh funding from SoftBank Vision Fund, says Bloomberg. More here

Ursa Space Systems, a 3.5-year-old, Ithaca, N.Y.-based maker of geospatial intelligence software, has raised $5.7 million in funding led by RRE Ventures, with participation from S&P Global and Paladin Capital Group. Forbes has more here.
New Funds
The Westly Group, an 11-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture firm, has raised $130 million toward its third fund, which will focus on clean energy and mobility. The outfit’s second fund closed with $160 million in 2011, according to Thomson Reuters data. More here.
China’s hottest new online bazaar has had a whirlwind year, but it just hit a snag, reports the New York Times. From its report: “The number of people shopping on the app, Pinduoduo, has grown more than fivefold since the beginning of 2017, and its parent company is preparing to list shares on the Nasdaq, one of a wave of Chinese tech companies tapping international capital markets this year. But by taking its business global, Pinduoduo has exposed itself to a new kind of stumbling block: a trademark infringement lawsuit in the United States.” More on the suit, filed yesterday, here.
Nan Li has been promoted to managing director at Obvious Ventures. Before joining Obvious in 2015, Li helped manage the early-stage investments of Alphabet’s former executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, through his Innovation Endeavors fund. 

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is reportedly weighing different strategies in order to tap the fast-growing, and increasingly innovative, Chinese tech market. It’s a reversal for Thiel, says Bloomberg, noting that in Thiel’s 2014 book “Zero to One,” he wrote that the “easiest way for China to grow is to relentlessly copy what has already worked in the West. And that’s exactly what it’s doing.” 
Salesforce Ventures is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in San Francisco.
Essential Reads
As part of its “ongoing mission to close the barn doors after the cows have got out,” Facebook has suspended the accounts of British data analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over concerns that it may be improperly handling user data

Uber just lost a “precedential” victory, as some New York state drivers win “employee” status

Fortnite has now made more than $1 billion from in-game purchases. 

Shared electric scooters from Bird and others probably won’t return to San Francisco until August.
A look at the FT’s “unashamedly ostentatious luxury magazine.” 

Confessions of a celebrity spray tan artist. “They just close their eyes, and I spray.”
Retail Therapy
The Tesla Model 3 Performance model, with dual motors. It’s a “thrilling, modern marvel,” gushes the WSJ. 

Nike Vaporflys. No kidding, they may actually make you faster, says the New York Times.

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