August 14, 2019

And it is Wednesday!

Top News

WeWork filed its financial paperwork today and Bloomberg sums it up best, describing everything about the company as “over the top: its growth, losses, potential conflicts of interest, and financial gymnastics.” In one brow-raising tidbit flagged by reporter Ellen Huet, the paperwork reveals that when WeWork rebranded as The We Company back in January, it bought trademarks for “we” from none other than We Holdings, an entity controlled by WeWork CEO Adam Neumann. The price paid “based on a valuation determined by a third-party appraisal” was $5.9 million(!). Danny Crichton at TechCrunch also asks some smart questions about key points the paperwork doesn’t answer.  The global economy had a very bad day, as fears grow that the U.S. and other countries are headed for a financial reckoning.

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Massive Fundings  

EnergyVault, a two-year-old, Lugano, Switzerland-based modular energy storage company that has massive storage capacity and is a spin-out of the Pasadena, Ca.-based incubator Idealab, has raised $110 million in funding. SoftBank Vision Fund led the round; others of its backers include Neotribe Ventures and Cemex Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

Landos Biopharma, a two-year-old, Blacksburg, Va.-based biotech focused on autoimmune diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, has raised $60 million in Series B funding from RTW InvestmentsOsage University PartnersPBM Capital, and Perceptive Advisors. FierceBiotech has more here

Scoop, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based enterprise carpooling company, has raised $60 million in funding. Activate Capital led the round, joined by NGP CapitalBNP ParibasTotal VenturesIndex VenturesSignia Venture PartnersWorkday Ventures, and G2VP. The company has now raised $106 million altogether; TechCrunch has more here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

Flatfair, a three-year-old, London-based fintech arranges for tenants to pay a membership fee instead of a deposit on a property (in exchange, landlords get up to double the protection they would with a deposit), has raised $11 million in Series A funding. Index Ventures led the round, with participation from Revolt VenturesAdevinta, and numerous individual investors, including TransferWise cofounder Taavet Hinrikus. TechCrunch has more here

GNA Biosolutions, a nine-year-old, Munich, Germany-based molecular diagnostics company, has raised $13.5 million in Series C funding. Investors in the deal include GreyBird VenturesOccidentWachtumsfonds BayernSHS Gesellschaft für BeteiligungsmanagementRobert Bosch Venture CapitalUVC PartnersMey Capital MatrixKfW and btov PartnersMore here

Kasten, a 2.5-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based cloud-native data management startup, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Insight Partners. VentureBeat has more here.

Kobo360, a 3.5-year-old, Lagos, Nigeria-based freight logistics startup, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Goldman Sachs. It separately has secured $10 million in working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks. TechCrunch has more here

Mason, a nearly four-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based startup that uses smartphones and tablets to connect traditional products to the internet, has raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Coatue Management, with participation from GGV Capital and Base10More here

Museum of Ice Cream, a three-year-old, New York-based company that’s trying to build a next-generation Walt Disney Co. (it currently builds what it  calls “experiums,” for experience museums, along with a line of ice cream), has raised $40 million in funding at a post-money valuation of $200 million. Elizabeth Street Ventures and Maywic Select Investment co-led the round, joined by OCV Partners. The WSJ has the story here

Mux, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based video tech and analytics startup, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Evolution Media (the early-stage arm of TPG Growth), with participation from Accel and Y Combinator. The company has now raised a little more than $30 million altogether, says VentureBeat

Schedulicity, a 15-year-old, Bozeman, Mt.-based online platform for consumers to schedule appointments, classes and workshops, has raised $22 million in funding from unnamed investors. More here

Systum, a four-year-old, Plano, Tx.-based maker of wholesale inventory management software for small and mid-size businesses, just raised $10.7 million led by Octopus Ventures. The Dallas Morning News has more here

Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings  

Secretlab, a five-year-old, Singapore-based maker of chairs for e-gamers, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from a unit of Temasek. Bloomberg has more here.

New Funds 

Energy Impact Partners, a five-year-old, New York-based growth equity firm focused on companies that are “shaping the energy landscape of the future,” has so far closed on $405 million in capital commitments for its second fund, though it’s targeting up to $750 million, according to an SEC filingMore here.


VMware today confirmed that it is in talks to acquire software development platform Pivotal Software, the service best known for commercializing the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. The proposed transaction would see VMware acquire all outstanding Pivotal Class A stock for $15 per share, a significant markup over the current price of Pivotal’s shares, which have struggled since the company’s April 2018 IPO. TechCrunch has more here.


Years after serving jail time, Jeffrey Epstein found a way to meet in New York with Microsoft’s Bill Gates to discuss philanthropy, reports CNBC. The outlet notes that there were other philanthropic leaders in attendance at the same meeting, but the story is one of many that underscore Epstein’s baffling ability to permeate wealthy and influential circles.  

Villi Iltchev has joined Two Sigma Ventures as a partner. Iltchev was most recently a general partner with August Capital and an SVP with Box before that. August, founded back in 1995, “imploded” earlier this year after irritating some of its limited partners, Axios reported back in January. More on Two Sigma here

BuzzFeed Chief Marketing Officer and commerce leader Ben Kaufman is stepping down from his position at the end of the year, a move that “comes at a delicate time for the digital media company as it seeks to boost revenue and return to profit,” reports The Information. Kaufman has his own “family experience” store in New York called Camp, and with Camp expected to open four more stores in the U.S., including in Dallas, he has decided to spend more time on that business, says the outlet. 

Automattic’s Matt Mullenweg talks Tumblr, which his company just acquired (though he’s not confirming for how much): “One of the things that really surprised me is I thought — as probably many do — that Tumblr had kind of died under its variety of corporate parents. And then actually being able to see some of the numbers, including some the numbers post-when they changed the adult content policy. I was like, ‘Wow, this has still got a ton going on.’” The Verge talked with him here.

Essential Reads 

Uber is looking for ways to cut more costs, including awarding employees stickers instead of helium balloons on their work anniversaries.  

Amazon wants its third-party sellers to make better use of their unsold or unwanted products that often get dumped — by giving them away to charity. Until now, Amazon has routinely discarded and destroyed unsold inventory.  

Because AI technology is complex and loosely defined, nonexperts are finding it hard to discern when it is being deployed, and some startups are getting away with exaggerated claims as a result.


What was lost when humans moved to cities

Harvard streamlines admission process by directly growing new students from DNA of top donors.

Retail Therapy 

When you really want to leave an impression.

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