August 26, 2019

Monday! Hello there!:) 

Also: Save the date. We’re starting to organize our last INSIDER event of 2019 on Wednesday evening, November 13, at NextWorld Capital‘s beautiful Jackson Square space and gallery in San Francisco, with the generous support of our first sponsor KCPR, the boutique public relations firm for both startups and venture firms. 

More on this coming, but we hope to see you there.:)

Top News

France and the United States have reached a deal to end a standoff over a French tax on big internet companies, French President Emmanuel Macron said today. Donald Trump had threatened to hit back with tariff action after France passed a law earlier this year that would impose a 3 percent tax on revenues earned on digital services in France. Reuters has more here

Some Wall Street strategists are warning clients about elevated recession risks and market dangers after the U.S. and China escalated their trade war last week. More in CNBC.

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Ford Says Its Autonomous Cars Will Last Just Four Years 

The automotive industry has been promoting self-driving cars as a kind of panacea that will solve numerous problems that modern society is grappling with right now, from congestion to safety to productivity (you can work while riding!). 

Unfortunately, a very big question that has been almost entirely overlooked is: how long will these cars last? 

The answer might surprise you. In an interview with The Telegraph in London, John Rich, who is the operations chief of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, reveals that the “thing that worries me least in this world is decreasing demand for cars,” because “we will exhaust and crush a car every four years in this business.” 

Four years! That’s not a very long lifespan, even compared with cars that undergo a lot of wear and tear, like New York City cabs, which were an average of 3.8 years old in 2017, meaning some were brand new and others had been in service for more than seven years. 

It’s more surprising compared with the nearly 12 years that the average U.S. car owner hangs on to a vehicle. In fact, Americans are maintaining their cars longer in part because the technology used to make and operate them has advanced meaningfully. In 2002, according to the London-based research firm IHS Markit, the average age of a car in operation was 9.6 years. 

So what’s the story with autonomous cars, into which many billions of investment capital is being poured? We first turned to Argo AI, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based startup that raised $1 billion investment in funding from Ford three years ago and refueled this summer with $2.6 billion in capital and assets from Volkswagen as part of a broader alliance between VW Group and Ford. Argo is developing cars for Ford that it’s testing right now in five cities. 

We’d hoped Argo could help us put that four-year number into context, including how Ford arrived at it and whether it could be lengthened. But because Ford will be operating the cars, and Argo isn’t involved in the parts of the business that build, maintain or operate its vehicles, Argo pointed us right back to Ford’s Rich, who answered some our questions via email while on the run. 

Asked, for example, how many miles Ford anticipates that the cars will travel each year — we wondered if this number would be more or less than a taxi or full-time Uber driver might traverse — he declined to say, telling us instead that while Ford isn’t sharing miles targets, the “vehicles are being designed for maximum utilization.” 

Explained Rich, “Today’s vehicles spend most of the day parked. To develop a profitable, viable business model for [autonomous vehicles], they need to be running almost the entire day.” 

Indeed, Ford isn’t selling these cars to individuals any time soon. Instead, it plans to use the cars in autonomous fleets that will be used as a service by other companies, including as delivery vehicles. Ford sees the “initial commercialization of AVs to be fleet-centric,” said Rich. 

We also wondered if Rich’s prediction for the lifespan of full self-driving cars ties to his expectation that Ford’s autonomous vehicles will be powered by internal combustion engines. Most carmakers appear to be investing in new combustible engine architectures that promise greater fuel efficiency and fewer emissions but that still require more parts than electric cars. And the more parts that are being stressed, the higher the likelihood that something will break. 

Rich says the idea is to transition to battery-electric vehicles (BEV) eventually, but that Ford also needs to “find the right balance that will help develop a profitable, viable business model. This means launching with hybrids first.” 

More here.

Massive Fundings  

BharatPe, a year-old, New Delhi, India-based startup that says it’s enabling hundreds of thousands of merchants to start accepting digital payments and is also giving them access to working capital, has raised $50 million in new funding. Ribbit Capital and Steadview Capital co-led the Series B round and were joined by earlier backers Sequoia CapitalBeenext Capital, and Insight Partners. TechCrunch has more here.

Boll & Branch, a 6.5-year-old, Summit, N.J.-based bedding designer and retailer that sells sustainably sourced sheets, pillows, towels and even mattresses, just raised $100 million from L Catterton. TechCrunch has more here

CRED, a nine-month-old, Bangalore-based startup behind a credit card bill payment app, has raised $120 million in Series B funding at a post-money valuation of between $430 million to $450 million, TechCrunch is told. According to a regulatory filing, earlier investors Sequoia CapitalRibbit Capital and DST Global’s Gemini Investments led the round, with participation from Tiger Global ManagementHillhouse CapitalGeneral CatalystGreenoaks Capital and DragoneerMore here

Groups360, a five-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based booking engine for meeting space founded by a few former Gaylord Entertainment executives, will receive a $50 million investment from Marriott InternationalInterContinental Hotels GroupAccor, and Hilton. Skift has more here

Procore, a 16-year-old, Carpinteria, Ca.-based developer of cloud-based construction management software, is looking to raise up to $112.5 million in Series H1 funding, according to PitchBook, which says the company’s post-money valuation would be roughly $3.3 billion. Read more

ThoughtSpot, a seven-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based business intelligence analytics software company, has filed a stock authorization to sell upwards of $248 million shares at a $1 billion valuation, according to Prime Unicorn Index. Its earlier backers include General CatalystKhosla VenturesLightspeed Venture Partners, and Sapphire VenturesMore here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

FreshToHome, a four-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based e-commerce platform for fresh produce and meats, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Iron Pillar. The company had announced $11 million in Series A funding just three months ago. TechCrunch has more here.  

Mux, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based API-first video platform that aims to make really good video streaming and analytics possible for every development team, raised $20 million in Series B funding. Evolution Media led the round, and was joined by Accel and Y Combinator. VentureBeat has more here

Stylitics, a seven-year-old, New York-based startup powering outfit-based shopping recommendations for online retailers, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by PeakSpan Capital. TechCrunch has more here

Smaller Fundings  

Enable My Child, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that’s providing tele-therapy for children, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding led by CMI Ventures. Vator has more here.

New Funds 

JP Gan, who ranked No. 5 on the 2019 Forbes Midas List, left Shanghai-based Qiming Ventures last month after 13 years in order to start his own business, and his newly formed company, INCE Capital, has already raised $165 million in capital commitments, reports Forbes. More on the fund, which will invest in early-stage consumer-related technology companies in China, here

The cloud-security company CrowdStrike and the venture firm Accel today announced Falcon Fund, a $20 million early-stage investment fund for security startups. CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz tells Business Insider that the fund will look at startups that could benefit from CrowdStrike’s cloud architecture and massive data set for machine-learning and artificial-intelligence applications. More here

Presight Capital, the international venture arm of Apeiron Investment Group, says it has closed its first fund with $80 million in capital commitments. Apeiron is the family office of German entrepreneur Christian Angermayer, who previously co-founded the pharmaceutical company Ribopharma, now publicly traded as Alnylam. TechCrunch has more here.


Datadog, a nine-year-old, New York-based cloud monitoring company is going public, having filed a prospectus with the SEC on Friday that shows the company doubled its revenue last year. The nine-year-old company has raised nearly $150 million in funding from investors that include Index VenturesOpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq. Forbes has more here


Sorry [spits out coffee], did you say that Hasbro has acquired Death Row Records?


Online education startup Udacity has hired former LendingTree exec Gabriel Dalporto as its new CEO, an appointment that follows months of layoffs and a restructuring directed by the company’s co-founder and executive chairman Sebastian Thrun. TechCrunch has more here

Mark Dixon, CEO of International Workplace Group — better known as the parent company of the office space provider Regus (and five other businesses) — is reportedly considering spinning off the company’s U.S. arm as a public company, just as richly priced rival WeWork gets its IPO ducks in a row. The company’s valuation would be a small fraction of what WeWork is trying to fetch despite that it has many more offices in far more cities; that could prompt some potential investors who don’t want two co-working companies in their portfolio to wait for it. (More upside.) In another interesting aside, the company reportedly won’t hire bankers connected to the WeWork IPO.  

AT&T executive John Donovan will retire Oct. 1, leaving a sudden opening atop the company’s core business — its communication division.


F-Prime Capital is seeking an associate for its tech fund. The job is in the firm’s Boston office. You can find out more and apply​ right here.


Everyone is buying smart speakers, with Amazon moving the most units, followed by Baidu (even though it only serves the China market), and Google trailing in third. TechCrunch has more here.

Essential Reads 

Instagram is working on another Snapchat clone.


The serious work of keeping Tesla Roadsters alive

Golf balls that always find the hole (shhh). 

“I’m Tom Cruise, and I’m running for president of the United States.”

Retail Therapy 

Make that pitch a meeting they’ll never forget.

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