September 18, 2019

Wednesday! Before we jump into things, a note that our November 13 event at NextWorld Capital in San Francisco is starting to come together and it’s going to be great. Among our featured guests, Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer of Facebook and currently an adjunct professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, is joining the program to share his unique perspective on what to expect as we approach this next U.S. presidential election next year — as well how the backlash against tech could play out (and what the implications are for startups).  

We’re also thrilled that Sheera Frenkel, cybersecurity correspondent for the New York Times, can join us to conduct this particular interview. Frenkel knows her stuff and will get some interesting answers out of Stamos, no doubt. It should be a great conversation. 

We’ll have more for you soon on the event in the coming weeks. Thanks again to KCPR, the boutique public relations and strategy firm with a growing number of venture capital and startup clients, for its generous support in the evening. If you’re also interested in sponsoring this event or others, please contact Alex at

More soon.:)

Top News

AB5, a bill that aims to give full employee status to gig economy workers, was signed into law today by California Governor Gavin Newsom, who had signaled his earlier support for it. More here.

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Netflix Cofounder Marc Randolph on the Company’s Earliest Days, the Streaming Wars, and Moving On

Netflix is today a company whose valuation hovers around $130 billion, but it was, of course, once a little startup, and in his new book “That Will Never Work,” Netflix’s cofounder and its first CEO Marc Randolph takes readers on a fun and surprisingly vivid journey through the streaming giant’s earliest days. 

It’s also instructive, though this is more memoir than business book, and Randolph, who is the great nephew of Edward Bernays — a public relations pioneer — turns out to be a very compelling writer, explaining in sometimes humbling detail how and why the company eventually outgrew him, and the reason he doesn’t regret stepping away when he did. 

In fact, rather than lament past decisions, Randolph seems to relish his longtime work as a startup advisor, one who often has no financial ties to the companies he helps. As he explains it, there is a “role for someone in a founder’s life who isn’t a board member or an investor or an employee. The role of a founder-CEO is extremely lonely. You can’t always be fully forthcoming with your board or investors or employees. And if you go to your peers and you bring them an issue, they don’t really understand. So it’s very valuable for a founder who doesn’t have an ulterior motive but also understands a problem well enough that they can give really good advice.” 

We had a chance to catch up with Randolph earlier today to discuss the book and his current relationship with his Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings, who he met when the company that Hastings began running in 1991, Pure Atria, acquired Randolph’s company, Integrity QA Software, (They both found themselves searching out the next big thing when Pure Atria was itself acquired.) 

Randolph also shared why it took him 16 years to tell his story about what has become one of the most impactful companies in the history of television. 

We’re still zipping through the book, but there is a lot of great storytelling here, from scenes with you and Reed carpooling to the office together, to other startup ideas you ran past him and he didn’t think much of, including customized baseball bats. Did you write this alone? 

Of course, I had help; you can’t write about something as important as Netflix by yourself. Over the course of one-and-a-half years, I spent tons of time on the phone and [engaged in] email correspondence and in meetings with everyone I could track down, because I wanted to hear all those stories again. But this isn’t a ghostwritten book and it’s not an as-told-to book. I did write it with the help of a great editor. In fact, the book was originally conceived a more of a self-help book, but my editor came back and said, “You shouldn’t do this as a ‘you’ book. Make it a ‘me’ book. Make the lessons you’ve learn over your career implicit instead of explicit.” But I’ve been writing all my life. I was a direct marketing guy [before founding Netflix]. I had to restrain myself from writing things like, “Frankly, I’m puzzled,” and “But wait! There’s more!” 

You left Netflix in 2003. Why not write a book sooner? 

I needed to wait all that time. Even though I needed to tell the story, I didn’t really understand the lessons. It has taken me working with other early-stage companies and mentoring them and investing in them to make these connections. Why did Netflix work? What were my failings? What could I have done better? 

You’re pretty candid in the book about not being punctual and not having great attention to detail, but these are minor offenses.  

Yes, and Netflix was my sixth startup so I’d figured out how to address those things by relying on the people I work with. But there’s a part of the book where we’re raising our Series B and the pitches aren’t going well. Reed, at that time, was my largest investor and the chairman of the company [having written the company its first check], and he was coming with me on these pitch meetings and reviewing the financials, but he wasn’t actively involved in the company. Then, one evening, while I’m sitting at my desk, he pops his head in and delivers those words that no one wants to hear. “Marc, we need to talk.” 

More here.

Massive Fundings

Acronis, a 16-year-old, Switzerland-based maker of cybersecurity software, has raised $147 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs. The company isn’t disclosing its precise post-money valuation, but founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov tells TechCrunch that it’s between $1 billion and $2 billion. More here

GitLab, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based popular DevOps platform, has raised $268 million in Series E funding that brings its post-money valuation to $2.75 billion. Investors include Adage Capital ManagementAlkeon CapitalAltimeter CapitalCapital GroupCoatue ManagementD1 Capital PartnersFranklin TempletonLight Street CapitalTiger Management Corp. and Two Sigma Investments. The company has long stated that it plans to go public on November 18, 2020, which is the 100th birthday of the CEO’s grandfather. More here

Ironclad, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to make it easier for legal teams to manage their contracts workflow, just raised $50 million in Series C funding.Y Combinator Continuity led the round, with participation from Emergence Capital and earlier investors, including Accel and Sequoia Capital. This round brings the company’s total funding to $83 million, according to Crunchbase. TechCrunch has more here

PlayVS, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based platform that allows high school students to compete on varsity esports teams through their school, has closed on $50 million in Series C funding led by earlier investor NEA. Other investors in the round, which brings the young company’s funding to $96 million, include Battery Ventures, Dick Costolo and Adam Bain of 01 AdvisorsSapphire SportMichael ZeisserDennis Phelps of IVP and CAA cofounder Michael Ovitz. TechCrunch has more here.

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

Dental Intelligence, a seven-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based company that makes workflow automation software for dental practices, has raised $34 million in Series A funding from K1 Investment ManagementMore here

Linnaeus Therapeutics, a three-year-old, Philadelphia, Pa..-based developer on oncology therapeutics, has raised $12 million in Series B funding led by Kairos Ventures, with participation from the Penn Medicine Co-Investment FundMore here

Simple Feast, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of plant-based fast food, has raised $33 million in Series B funding led by 14W,  with participation from numerous early backers, including Balderton Capital. TechCrunch has more here

Themis Bioscience, a 10-year-old, Vienna, Austria-based developer of immunomodulation therapies, has raised €40 million in Series D funding co-led by Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. Other investors in the round include MSDAdjuvant Capital and earlier investors Global Health Investment Fundaws GruenderfondsOmnes CapitalVentech, and Wellington Partners. FierceBiotech has more here

Wanderjaunt, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based vacation property management company, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Founders Fund, with participation from Tribe Capital among others. More here.

Smaller Fundings

Celona, a months-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based 5G enterprise company that says it’s focused on enabling the next generation of AI-powered business critical apps in the enterprise, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Investors include Norwest Venture PartnersLightspeed Venture Partners, and Cervin VenturesMore here

Cortilia, an eight-year-old, Milan, Italy-based e-commerce business delivering fresh food products, has raised €8.5 million ($9.4 million) from investors, including Five Seasons Ventures and Indaco Venture PartnersMore here

Idelic, a three-year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based data analytics startup focused on improving safety in the commercial and industrial transportation market, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Origin Ventures, with participation from TDF VenturesBirchmere VenturesBain Capital Ventures, and SaaS VC. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette has more here, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based construction software company using computer vision to analyze construction project performance in real time, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Millennium New Horizons led the round, with participation from FoundamentalGroundbreak VenturesSpero VenturesUP2398, and Bootstrap Labs. VentureBeat has more here

Julo, a two-year-old, Jakarta, Indonesia-based startup that says it offers affordable unsecured personal loans, has raised $10 million in funding led by Quona Capital, with participation from SkystarEast VenturesProvidentGobi Partners and Convergence. TechCrunch has more here

Kaia Health, a 3.5-year-old, Munich, Germany-based digital therapeutics company for patients with chronic diseases, has raised $8 million in funding led by Optum Ventures. The company had separately closed on $10 million in funding in January of this year. VentureBeat has more here

Lunchclub, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that’s looking to help users navigate finding new connections inside specific industries, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from individual investors, including Robinhood’s cofounders and Flexport’s cofounders. TechCrunch has more here

Normative, a 4.5-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based startup that helps companies automate their carbon use reporting, just raised $2.1 million in seed funding from ByFoundersLuminar Ventures, and Wave Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

Picterra, a three-year-old, Switzerland-based company that’s trying to bring together satellite, drone, and aerial data to produce optimized geo-information for industry users and public sectors, has raised $3.3 million in funding. Investors include Space CapitalOmidyar Network, and Atlantic LabsMore here.

Plum, a nearly eight-year-old, Waterloo, Canada-based talent data platform, has raised $4.2 million in seed funding led by Real Ventures, with participation from and BDC CapitalMore here

Strider, a five-month-old, Washington, D.C.-based risk intelligence platform, has raised $2 million in funding led by DataTribeMore here

XY Gaming, a four-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based esports tournament platform where users compete for cash prizes, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding co-led by KB Partners and Varga CapitalMore here.

New Funds 

Afore Capital, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based venture fund focused exclusively on pre-seed stage startups, has secured $77 in capital commitments for its second fund. TechCrunch has more here

Data Collective, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based venture capital firm also known as DCVC, has raised $725 million for its fifth fund. More here

Revolution Ventures, the now 12-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based venture firm led by AOL cofounder Steve Case, has raised $215 million for its third fund. TechCrunch has more here

Triventures, a healthcare-focused venture capital fund, has launched Triventures ARC, a new seed-stage fund that will focus on digital health and medtech startups and be operated in partnership with the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in the greater Tel Aviv, Israel area. Calcalist has more here.


IGM Biosciences, a Mountain View, Ca.-based cancer drug developer, raised $175 million in its IPO before its shares began trading today on the Nasdaq, and investors apparently liked what they saw; its stock price closing up 51 percent for the day. IGM had raised $120 million in venture funding, including from Haldor Topsøe HoldingBaker BrothersRedmile GroupJanus Henderson Investors, and Vivo CapitalMore here.


Microsoft’s GitHub has acquired Semmle, a code analysis tool that helps developers and security researchers discover potential vulnerabilities in their code. Terms aren’t being disclosed, but Semmle, spun out of research done at Oxford University and incorporated last year, was backed by $31 million in venture funding, including from Accel. TechCrunch has more here

Noodle, a nine-year-old, New York-based education software startup that was founded by Princeton Review founder John Katzman, has acquired Clark, a two-year-old tutor management platform that’s also based in New York and had raised around $3 million from investors, including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Human Ventures. Terms aren’t being disclosed, though it’s a stock deal. TechCrunch has more here


Tracy Britt Cool, one of Warren Buffett’s key lieutenants in recent years, is leaving Berkshire Hathaway to create a mini Berkshire of her own. Britt Cool tell the WSJ: “I want to build a long-term platform and a long-term vehicle to acquire and build businesses . . .There are companies that I think there’s a lot of value in helping them get to the next level, but they’re too small for Berkshire.” 

Steve Dowling, Apple’s top executive in charge of communications, is leaving the company after five years in that role and 16 years at the company. More here

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly visiting Washington this week to discuss the “future of Internet regulation” with members of Congress. It’s his first known visit to the nation’s capital in 10 months and Facebook isn’t offering further details. More here.

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The global firm is looking to bring aboard a full-time business development representative. The job is in San Francisco.

Essential Reads 

How Adam Neumann’s over-the-top style built WeWork.  

Facebook jumps into streaming

Speaking of streaming, and Netflix: Facing wealthy rivals and rising debt, the company is beginning to look vulnerable, observes the Financial Times. Though the streaming giant is predicting 7 million new subscribers in the third quarter, its “dramatic fall in the second quarter — even before the arrival of greater competition from Apple and others later this year — has cast doubt over whether the company that successfully took on the Hollywood hierarchy is as invincible as it previously seemed.”


“This is clearly coming from outside the solar system.” 

A Brooklyn, N.Y. restaurant opens with no chef, and no trash

Flocking patterns.

Retail Therapy

The Mercedes-Benz-branded electric scooter, coming next year.  (But will Jon Hamm do the voiceover is what we want to know.)

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