August 30, 2019

Friday! We’re about to blow this popsicle stand, but before we go, a quick mention that TechCrunch is hosting a couple of things in which we’re involved and hope to see you. Coming up first, next Thursday, TC’s very first enterprise event at Yerba Buena. (We are emceeing this one; we’re also sitting down with VCs Maha Ibrahim, Rebecca Lynn, and Jason Green to talk about related investing trends.) You can find tickets here. Also, TC’s big annual Disrupt show is coming up October 2nd through October 4th. We’re mentioning this now because pricing goes up after today, so if you’re planning to come anyway, why pay more? It’d be lunacy, pure and simple. 

We hope you have a terrific, relaxing long weekend, everyone! Note that we’re not publishing Monday in observance of Labor Day but we’ll see you again Tuesday.

Top News

Stocks snapped a four-week losing streak today to end August just a few percentage points below their all-time high

VW Group of America said today it has reached a $96.5 million  settlement agreement with thousands of U.S. customers over alleged inflated fuel economy information on about 98,000 gas-powered vehicles from its four brands, Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Volkswagen. It isn’t admitting wrongdoing, either. 

Google has agreed to pay between $150 million and $200 million to resolve an FTC investigation into YouTube over alleged violations of a children’s privacy law, according to Politico.  As the outlet notes, the settlement is the latest move from the FTC meant to crack down on Silicon Valley privacy violations. 

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Bear Robotics is Raising Big Bucks for Robots That Deliver Food to Restaurant Patrons 

Some days, it feels like there’s almost no end to the number of jobs that might be replaced altogether or in some part by smart machines, from radiologists to truck drivers to, gulp, journalists. You might be tempted to sob about it to your friendly restaurant server, but wait! It’s a robot, too! 

So it may be if the 25-person, Redwood City, Ca.,-based startup, Bear Robotics, has its way. The two-year-old company makes “robots that help,” and specifically, it makes robots that help deliver food to restaurant customers. 

It’s a market that’s seemingly poised for disruption. As Bear says in its own literature about the company, it was founded to address the “increased pressure faced by the food service industry around wages, labor supply, and cost efficiencies.” 

CEO John Ha, a former Intel research scientist turned longtime technical lead at Google who also opened, then closed, his own restaurant, witnessed the struggle firsthand. As the product of two generations of restaurateurs, we can also attest that owning and operating restaurants is a tricky proposition, given the expenses and — even more plaguing oftentimes — the turnover that goes with it. 

Investors are apparently on board with the idea with robot servers. According to a new SEC filing, Bear has so far locked down at least $10.2 million from a dozen investors on its way to closing a $35.8 million round. That’s not a huge sum for many startups today, but it’s notable for a food service robot startup, one whose first model, “Penny,” spins around R2D2-like, gliding between the kitchen and dining tables with customers’ food as it is prepared. 

More here.

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

Baton Systems, a three-year-old Fremont, Ca.-based provider of bank-to-bank payments infrastructure modeled on blockchain technology, just raised $12 million in Series A funding from Trinity Ventures, with participation from Alsop Louie and Commerce Ventures. VentureBeat has more here

Credit Sesame, a nine-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based company that invites consumers to check their credit scores and evaluate options to rebalance their existing debts and loans to improve that score, has raised $43 million in debt and equity. ATW Partners led the round, with participation from the company’s earlier backers. The company has now raised $110 million in funding altogether. TechCrunch has more here

Playful Studios, a six-year-old, McKinney, Tex.-based studio making spectator-enabled games, has raised $23 million in fresh funding from a wide variety of individual investors. VentureBeat has the story here

Vedantu, a five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based startup that operates an online tutoring service, has raised $42 million in Series C funding co-led by Tiger Global Management and WestBridge Capital, with earlier investors AccelOmidyar IndiaTAL Education and Vedantu co-founders also participating. The startup has raised $58 million to date.​ TechCrunch has more here

Smaller Fundings  

Atoms, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based direct-to-consumer shoe brand that sells shoes in quarter sizes and separate left and right measurements, has raised $8.1 million in funding led by Initialized Capital. Other investors in the round include Kleiner Perkins, Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novograts, and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, among others. TechCrunch has more here

Baze, a five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based direct-to-consumer supplements company that promises customers it can determine a plan for them based on a blood sample taken at home, has raised $6 million in funding from the 51-year-old supplement maker Nature’s Way. TechCrunch has more here

Interface Fluidics, a four-year-old, Calgary, Alberta-based startup that’s selling reservoir fluid analysis services to the petroleum industry, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding from the multinational energy company Equinor and the accelerator TechstarsMore here

Ready, a three-year-old, New York-based “hyper-casual” e-sports tournament platform (hyper-casual, we are learning, means players can control gameplay with just one to two tap gestures), has raised $5 million in funding. Bitkraft Esports Ventures led the round, with participation from Comcast Ventures and Eldridge Industries. VentureBeat has the story here

Urbvan, a three-year-old, Mexico-based startup providing private, high-end transportation shuttles (a la Chariot), has raised $9 million from Kaszek VenturesAngel Ventures, and earlier investor Mountain Nazca. TechCrunch has more here.

New Funds 

From Axios’s Dan Primack: “New firm alert: Four co-founders of consumer product ‘unicorns’ are forming a venture capital fund . . . The quartet is Neil Blumenthal (Warby Parker), Dave Gilboa (Warby Parker), Jeff Raider (Harry’s), and Joey Zwillinger (Allbirds).” Primack says that each will keep their day job. No word yet on the brand they’ll be operating under or how much they plan to raise from outside investors. 

F2 Capital, an Israel-based, early-stage venture firm that’s focused on big data and artificial intelligence primarily, has raised $55 million in commitments for its second fund, which is targeting up to $75 million, shows an SEC filing. The firm had closed its debut fund with $60 million in capital commitments in 2017 and has reportedly invested in 15 companies to date, including indoor GPS startup Oriient New Media and the Tel Aviv-based data warehousing startup Varada. Calcalist has more here

Half Court Ventures, a three-year-old, Boston-based seed stage venture fund, is looking to raise $10 million for its second fund, shows an SEC filingMore here.


The publicly traded business performance management company Anaplan has agreed to buy the 10-year-old, Israeli predictive analytics company Mintigo. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. According to Crunchbase, Mintigo had raised roughly $50 million, including from Sequoia Capital Israel and Glilot Capital Partners. Calcalist has more here

Spiceworks, a 13-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based social network for IT professionals that had raised $111 million over the years, roughly half of which came in 2014 led by Goldman Sachs, is selling to Ziff Davis B2B, a division of J2 Global. Spiceworks CEO Jay Hallberg announced the news in a blog post last week. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Silicon Hills has more here.


Blued, a seven-year-old, China-based gay-dating app, is planning a U.S. IPO for next year that could raise around $200 million at a $1 billion valuation, says Bloomberg. The company has so far raised at least $130 million in venture capital, including from CDH Investments and UG Capital PartnersMore here

Viela Bio, a two-year-old, Gaithersburg, Md.-based inflammation and autoimmune biotech that spun out of publicly traded AztraZeneca, has filed for a $150 million IPO. The young company raised $250 million in Series A funding at its outset early last year, from 6 Dimensions CapitalBoyu CapitalHillhouse CapitalTemasek, and Sirona Capital. FierceBiotech has more here.


Shriram Bhashyam, co-founder of the secondary marketplace EquityZen, has joined Citi Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence, he tells us, adding: “I’ll be focused on fintech strategy, trends, and new business, so will be keeping a pulse on the usual stuff!” 

Even the Twitter account of Jack (Dorseyis vulnerable to hackers.

Essential Reads 

Google can now tell your coworkers you’re on vacation before they email you. (Not that this will stop them.)


The power dress is gaining ground.

Retail Therapy 

Puff-N-Fluff, an inflatable full body dryer for wet dogs. Also doubles as a Halloween costume.

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