August 13, 2019

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Reunited and it feels so good . . . to Shari Redstone.

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Darren Bechtel (Yes, of Those Bechtels), Just Closed on Roughly $100 Million for a Construction-Focused VC Fund 

Brick & Mortar Ventures, a young, San Francisco-based venture firm that’s focused on startups innovating in or around architecture, engineering, construction, and facilities management, has closed with $97.2 million in capital commitments. 

The fund is one in a sea or debut funds that have swung open their doors in recent years, though it’s also interesting for numerous reasons, beginning with its founder, Darren Bechtel,  who knows a thing or two about the building industry. He’s a scion of the family that built the 120-year-old, privately held company Bechtel into one of the largest construction and engineering firms in the world. In fact, his brother, Brendan, who was named CEO in 2016, represents the fifth generation of Bechtels to lead the company. (Their sister, Katherine, is a project controls manager with the powerhouse outfit.) 

Brick & Mortar’s investors are just as notable. They aren’t the typical pension funds and university endowments that many VCs try hard to lock down. Instead, they comprise a long list of companies that are part of the “construction value chain” and so have an interest in the latest and greatest developments in their respective industries. Among the firm’s backers, for example, is the special materials maker Ardex; the software giant Autodesk;  the building materials company CEMEX; Ferguson Ventures, which is the venture arm of a huge U.S distributor of plumbing supplies; FMI, a management consulting company to the engineering and construction industry; Obayashi, a major Japanese construction company; Sidewalk Labs, which is Alphabet’s urban innovation organization; and United Rentals, one of the world’s largest equipment rental companies. 

Brick & Mortar isn’t the first venture firm to focus on the so-called built world. Other firms that focus largely, if not exclusively, around the same themes include Fifth Wall Ventures, Navitas Capital, Corigin Ventures, Camber Creek, Metaprop, Starwood Capital, and Tamarisc Ventures. 

In fact, Darren Bechtel has ties to and is an individual investor in Fifth Wall, an L.A.-based firm that stormed onto the scene in 2017 with an equally impressive, and very different, roster of limited partners in the real estate industry from which it has already amassed more than $700 million in capital commitments across two funds. 

As Bechtel told us on a call late last week, he was going to go into business with Fifth Wall’s founders initially, but they wanted to raise a lot of money, and Bechtel was thinking more conservatively — for a reason.  

More here.

Massive Fundings  

Clumio, a two-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based company that wants to modernize enterprise data protection by eliminating on-premise hardware in favor of flexible, cloud-based, software as a service, says it has quietly raised $51 million to date across an A and B round. Among the backers in those two rounds are Sutter Hill VenturesIndex Ventures, Veritas Technologies founder Mark Leslie, and Microsoft Chairman John Thompson. TechCrunch has more here

Uniphore, an 11-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based conversational AI startup for call centers, has raised $51 million in Series C funding, including from March Capital Partners and Chiratae Ventures. Bloomberg has more here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

Cinq Music, a seven-year-old, L.A.-based tech-driven record label, distributor and rights management company, has raised $40 million in Series C funding from its parent company, GoDigital Media Group, a media and tech investor focused on intellectual property rights management. Billboard has more here

Dostavista, a seven-year-old, Moscow, Russia-based same-day crowdsourced delivery service (it’s powered by its network of “trusted couriers”), has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Vostok New Ventures led the round, joined by earlier investors Flashpoint and Addventure. TechCrunch has more here

GNA Biosolutions, a nine-year-old, Munich, Germany-based developer of point-of-care molecular diagnostics, has raised $13.5 million in Series C funding. GreyBird Ventures led the round, joined by Occident and Wachtumsfonds Bayern. FierceBiotech has more here

OpenSpace, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based AI-powered construction tech company, raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Lux Capital, with participation from JLL SparkNavitas CapitalSuffolk ConstructionTishman SpeyerWeWork and Zigg Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

QFPay, a seven-year-old, Beijing, China-based digital payments startup, has raised $20 million co-led by insiders Sequoia Capital China and Matrix Partners. Other participants in the round include MDI VenturesRakuten Capital, and VentureSouq. TechCrunch has more here

Pavilion Data Systems, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based storage technology company, has raised $25 million in Series C funding, including from Taiwania Capital and RPS Ventures. Earlier backers also joined the round, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersKorea Investment PartnersDAG VenturesArtiman VenturesSK Telecom, and Tyche Partners. VentureBeat has more here

Properly, a 1.5-year-old, Toronto-based startup  that helps homeowners determine what their home would sell for on the open market, with the option to sell directly to Properly, has raised $22 million in Series A funding. Prudence Holdings and FJ Labs co-led the round, and were joined by investors including Golden Ventures. BetaKit has more here

Singularity 6, a year-old, L.A.-based online game developer whose current venture is focused around a “virtual society,” has raised $16.5 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from LVP and FunPlus Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

Smaller Fundings  

Baze, a five-year-old, Boston-based at-home nutritional testing kit, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Nature’s Way. MobiHealth News has more here

Rimeto, a three-year-old San Francisco startup whose web and mobile applications connect employees across teams and locations, has raised $10 million in Series A funding from USVPBow CapitalFloodgate and Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio. TechCrunch has more here

Springlane, a seven-year-old, Düsseldorf, Germany-based direct-to-consumer company focused on cooking and barbecue products, has raised €10 million from Apeiron Investment Group and S-UBGMore here

Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings  

Perceptyx, a 16-year-old, Temecula, Ca.-based employee survey platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from TCVMore here.

(Other) New Funds 

From Fortune’s Polina Marinova: Brian Jacobs, the co-founder of Emergence Capital, has launched a new, seed-stage, focused venture firm with $10 million of his personal wealth. Called Moai Capital, the reported idea is to focus on consumer, IoT, cloud and impact investing opportunities. Jacobs is managing out his investments at Emergence but he isn’t a general partner with the firm’s fifth fund.


Caterwings, a four-year-old, London-based corporate catering marketplace founded by Rocket Internet, has acquired German rival Lemoncat in an all-stock deal. Lemoncat had raised nearly $10 million from Target Global, Point 9 Capital, Northzone Ventures, and notably, Rocket Internet itself. TechCrunch has more here.


Recharge, a startup that tried convincing hotels to let its customers rent their rooms by the hour and even minute, has revamped and rebranded. Now Globe, the company is hoping to convince guests to sign up for short stays instead in people’s homes so that they can kick back between other commitments, and, if the host allows it, to shower and nap. It’s at once crazy sounding and intriguing, which is perhaps why the popular accelerator program Y Combinator  accepted the company into its most recent class of companies. We have more here.


Financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was meeting with Silicon Valley reporters before his arrest and “rambling” about the people he knew in tech in an apparent attempt to raise his profile in the industry. A New York Times writer who Epstein invited to his home last summer writes that when he tried to find the place, he “initially walked past the building, on East 71st Street, because it looked more like an embassy or museum than a private home.” 

Oculus cofounder Nate Mitchell is leaving Facebook, he announced earlier today, calling it “bittersweet news.” Mitchell said that he would take some time off to spend with his family. He also cautioned that while he’s committed to still being involved in VR, he would have “a much smaller role to play.” 

Aaron Rasmussen, co-founder and former creative director of MasterClass, has a new startup called Like MasterClass, Outlier is bringing education online, but with a key difference — these are college classes offering real college credit

Tech gazillionaires continue to prop up the L.A. tech market. Last month, it was Uber cofounder Garret Camp dropping a record-breaking $72.5 million on a Beverly Hills mansion. WeWork vice chairman Michael Gross also spent a bundle last month, spending $28 million on a Brentwood estate. Now, reports variety, it looks like Peter Szulczewski, the CEO of the highly valued mobile shopping app Wish, has also splashed out for swanky new pad. Specifically, says the outlet, he spent $15.3 million for a brand-new “ultra-contemporary” Bel Air mansion in an all-cash deal. More here.

Essential Reads 

Three years of misery inside Google, the happiest company in tech.

Snap is still betting its Spectacles will enable it to build a new computing platform centered on the face.

Et tu, Facebook?


A French fiasco

learning moment for A-Rod (we’re at peak smash-and-grab around here). 

Hidden Europe: the top 20 sights you’ll see traveling with your teen.

Retail Therapy 

Ten great places to eat and sleep in London.

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