August 28, 2019

Happy Wednesday! 

Top News

Facebook said today that it will tighten some of its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 presidential election, requiring those who purchase ads touting candidates or promoting hot-button issues to provide more information about who actually paid for them. The Washington Post has more here

Speaking of advertising on Facebook: the cost of reaching Democratic-leaning voters and donors is skyrocketing as presidential candidates try to qualify for spots in coming presidential debates, reports the WSJ. It says candidates have been trying to boost their number of donors to 130,000 by today — a threshold they must meet to appear in Democratic presidential debates in September and October. 

An 8,000-mile undersea cable connecting Los Angeles to Hong Kong is at risk of being abandoned over national-security threats, says the WSJ. U.S. officials are seeking to block the cable backed by Google, Facebook and a Chinese partner, in a national security review that could rewrite the rules of internet connectivity between the U.S. and China, its sources say.

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Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, Comes Under the Spotlight Following New Allegations About His Personal Conduct 

Alphabet Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is at the center of a media firestorm today, following a new Medium post authored by a former Google employee who was engaged in a years-long relationship with Drummond more than 10 years ago. 

Though the extramarital affair was originally reported on last fall by the New York Times in the broader context of Google’s permissive workplace culture, the former employee, Jennifer Blakely, says in a new and far more detailed account of their relationship that Drummond was a serial philanderer, leaving his wife for Blakely, then leaving Blakely and the son that he fathered with her for another now-former Google employee. 

She adds that Drummond also had “an affair with his ‘personal assistant’ who he moved into one of his new homes.” 

We reached out to Google, asking for comment either from the company or Drummond, and have yet to hear back. 

It’s an enormously unflattering portrait and it comes at a delicate time for Google, which found itself at the center of the #metoo movement last year, after the Times revealed that another former executive, Andy Rubin, had been awarded a handsome exit package following a sexual misconduct claim that the company reportedly found credible. 

In addition to accusing Drummond of neglecting her, Blakely also accuses him of being an absentee parent to a son who she says was very much planned by the couple, writing that “[m]onths or years would go by where he wouldn’t see [their son] or respond to my calls or texts with updates and pictures of him or even ask how he was doing, let alone how he might help out, knowing full well I was alone and in desperate need.” 

Elsewhere in her post, Blakely says that following a custody battle over the boy that she won when he was four-and-a-half-years old, “David began providing ample child support.” 

According to several sources familiar with the situation, it’s more nuanced than Blakely describes and was not a particularly happy union, though these same individuals acknowledge that much of her account is true. 

More here.

Massive Fundings  

Bboxx, a nine-year-old, London-based energy firm that’s lighting up homes in Africa with pay-as-you-go solar power, has raised $50 million in Series D funding from Japan’s Mitsubishi, with participation from Bamboo Capital Partners, a Luxembourg-based impact investor; DOEN Participaties, a Dutch impact investment fund; and the Canadian growth equity firm MacKinnon, Bennett & Company. The Guardian has more here

Fair, a 3.5-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based vehicle subscription app, has secured a $100 million credit facility led by Ally Financial to help finance its existing business and acquire cars for its users. You might recall that back in December, Fair closed a $385 million Series B round led by Softbank Group. The L.A. Business Journal has more here

Groups360, a four-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based platform that helps business plan out real-world meetings and events, has raised $50 million from Accor,HiltonInterContinental Hotels Group, and Marriott InternationalMore here.

HiFiBio Therapeutics, a six-year-old, Paris, France-based developer of a single-cell analytics platform for immune profiling, has raised $67 million in Series C funding led by IDG Capital. Other investors in the round include Delian CapitalHanne CapitalKite and earlier backers Sequoia Capital ChinaVI VenturesLegend Star Capital, and LYFE CapitalMore here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

Bestmile, a 5.5-year-old, Lausanne, Switzerland-based fleet orchestration platform, just raised $16.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Blue Lagoon Capital and TransLink Capital. Other participants in the round include Road VenturesPartechGroupe ADPAirbus Ventures, and Serena Capital. TechCrunch has more here

Chargebee, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based subscription management platform, has raised $14 million in Series D funding led by Steadview Capital. VentureBeat has more here.

CodeCombat, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based multiplayer programming game for learning how to code, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Hone Capital. Other investors in the round include Andreessen HorowitzExtol Capital, and OceanOne Capital. EdSurge has more here

Smaller Fundings  

AgroSpheres, a year-old, Charlottesville, Va.-based startup that says it’s developing a delivery mechanism for biological and synthetic crop protectants, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Ospraie Ag Science, with participation from Cavallo Ventures among others. More here

EBR Systems, a 16-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based developer of a wireless cardiac pacing system for heart failure, has raised $30 million in funding co-led by Brandon Capital Partners and M.H. Carnegie & Co. Mass Device has more here.

Orbion Space Technology, a three-year-old, Houghton, Mi.-based maker of small-sat propulsion systems, has raised $9.2 million in Series A funding led by Material Impact, with participation from Invest MichiganInvest DetroitWakestream VenturesAnn Arbor SPARK, and Boomerang CatapultMore here

Salaryo, a two-year-old, New York-based digital lending service for entrepreneurs and freelancers (who it plans to reach through coworking spaces), has raised $5.5 million in new funding from Ruby Ventures and Michael Ullmann‘s investment group. The company has now raised $6.3 million altogether. More here

SmartWitness, an 11-year-old, Schaumburg, Il.-based designer, manufacturer, and supplier of in-vehicle cameras, recorders, and software, has raised $4 million in funding from First AnalysisMore here.

ReadMe, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that helps companies customize their API documentation, has raised a $9 million Series A round led by Accel, with participation from Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds 

Rainfall Ventures, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based “founder-focused” venture firm founded by Ron Rofe, who’d spent the previous eight-plus years as a managing partner with Vaizra Investments, and Yitzhak Mirilashvili, a co-founder of, Russia’s biggest social network, is raising a $10 million fund. So shows an SEC filingMore here.


Whole Foods cofounder CEO John Mackey on the plant-based meat boom, which Whole Foods helped launch: “If you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods . . .” and “I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy.”

Essential Reads 

Ahead of the official announcement of an FTC settlement, which could force YouTube to direct under-13-year-old users to a separate experience for YouTube’s kid-friendly content, the company has quietly announced plans to launch its YouTube Kids service on the web. Previously, parents would have to download the YouTube Kids app to a mobile device in order to access the filtered version of YouTube. TechCrunch explains here

Also, Apple is really sorry it’s been eavesdropping on you and it promises that, by default, it will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. P.S., the contractors who were listening to and grading Siri recordings have been canned.


Sad news: Jessi Combs, the ‘fastest woman on four wheels,’ was killed in a land-speed record crash yesterday; she was attempting to break her own record while piloting her jet-powered land-speed car. 

The fear in Dave Chappelle’s new special.

Retail Therapy 

A (pretty expensive) biodegradable T-shirt. Buy it for the environment!

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