September 19, 2019

Thursday! We’ve been buried up to our *eyeballs* in news today. So much happened; let’s zip through it.

Top News

Donald Trump met Mark Zuckerberg in the White House today, in an apparent effort to address lawmakers’ concerns over everything from privacy to Facebook’s plans to launch a cryptocurrency, and the meeting was, er,  “constructive,” according to a Facebook spokesperson. More here.

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An Explosive Breach-of-Contract Lawsuit Against Former Sequoia Partner Michael Goguen Has Been Dropped

Three-and-a-half years ago, a lawsuit hit the San Mateo, Ca. county courthouse that briefly attracted the attention of the worldwide venture capital community given its salacious nature. The defendant: longtime VC Michael Goguen, who’d spent 20 years with Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, Ca. The plaintiff: a former intimate who described him through the filing as a “worse predator than the human traffickers.” She said in the filing that she would know, having become a “victim of human trafficking” at age 15 when she was “brought to America in 2001,” then “sold as a dancer to a strip club” in Texas, which is where she says first encountered Goguen.

What she wanted from the lawsuit was money that she said was owed to her by Goguen: $40 million over four installments that the lawsuit stated were for “compensation for the sexual abuse and [a sexual] infection she contracted from him.” According to her suit, Goguen agreed to these terms, paying Baptiste a first installment of $10 million before refusing to make further payments.

At the time, Goguen called the allegations “horrific” and suggested Baptiste was a spurned lover, saying they’d had a “10+ year romantic relationship that ended badly.” He also filed a cross complaint alleging extortion.

Today, that cross complaint lives on, but Baptiste’s case against Goguen was just dismissed by arbitrator Read Ambler, a retired judge who served 20 years with the Santa Clara County Superior Court and who wrote in a ruling filed yesterday in San Mateo that Baptiste’s failures to undergo medical examinations doomed her case, as did her failure to produce documents necessary in the discovery process.

“The record presented further establishes that Baptiste’s’ failures were willful,” Ambler writes. “Baptiste appears to believe that the information responsive to the discovery at issue is either not relevant, or with respect to the medical examinations, not permitted by law. While Baptiste is free to believe what she wants to believe, the orders are binding on Baptiste, and her failure to comply with the orders is unacceptable.”

More here.

Massive Fundings

Automattic, the 14-year-old, San Francisco-headquartered company behind WordPress and now Tumblr, has raised $300 million at a $3 billion post-money valuation, and all of it is from Salesforce Ventures. TechCrunch has much more here

Checkr, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based background check platform that sells its services to companies of all sizes, has raised $160 million in fresh funding led by T. Rowe Price, with participation from BondCoatue and earlier backers AccelIVP and Y Combinator. The company, which has raised roughly $325 million altogether, per Crunchbase, is now valued at $2.2 billion. Forbes has more here

CircleUp, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based venture-backed investment platform, has secured more than $200 million in additional financing to back startups, with the money coming from investors including Michigan’s state pension fund and Pacific Life. CircleUp’s loans business has so far originated more than $300 million in loans since its 2017 launch, says Forbes. More on the company here

Ginkgo Bioworks, an 11-year-old, Boston, Ma.-based organism company that’s designing custom microbes for customers across multiple markets, has raised $290 million in Series E funding. The money came from T. Rowe Price Associates and earlier backers Cascade InvestmentViking Global InvestorsGeneral Atlantic and Y Combinator. Forbes has more here

Petal, a three-year-old, New York-based startup that offers a Visa rewards card to people with little to no credit history, has closed on $300 million in debt funding from Jefferies. CNBC has the story here

Postmates, the eight-year-old, San Francisco-based popular food delivery service, has raised another $225 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion led by the private equity firm GPI Capital. Postmates has now raised nearly $1 billion altogether. The company, which is expected to go public soon, still plans to test the public waters, sources tell TechCrunch. More here

Stripe, the nine-year-old, San Francisco-based payment processing company, is raising another giant round of funding — $250 million —  and at a pre-money valuation of $35 billion(!). Stripe says General CatalystAndreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital are all part of the syndicate. TechCrunch has more here.

Wunder Mobility, a five-year-old, Hamburg, Germany-based carpooling platform, has raised $60 million in Series B funding from earlier investors Blumberg Capital and KCKMore here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

128 Technology, a five-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based company that says its software teaches routers the language of applications and services, letting them understand the requirements of individual services and segments, has raised $30 million in Series D funding. The capital comes from executive management and current employees of 128 TechnologyG20 VenturesThe Perkins Fund and other unnamed individual investors. More here

AppLearn, an eight-year-old, London-based software adoption platform, just raised $25 million in new funding led by K1 Investment ManagementMore here.

Boundless Bio, a new, San Diego-based oncology drug startup focused on extrachromosomal DNA, has raised $46 million in Series A funding co-led by Arch Venture Partners and City Hill Ventures, with participation from Vertex VenturesGT Healthcare Capital PartnersBoxer Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments. FierceBiotech has more here

Darkstore, a two-year-old, San Francisco startup that turns excess capacity in storage facilities, malls, and bodegas into mini-fulfillment centers for e-commerce companies wanting to offer same-day delivery, just raised $21 million in Series B funding led by EQT Ventures. The company has now raised $30 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

Groww, a two-year-old, Bangalore-based startup behind an investment app for millennials in India, has raised $21.4 million in Series B funding led by Ribbit Capital. Earlier investors Sequoia India and Y Combinator also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to roughly $29 million. TechCrunch has more here

HappyOrNot, a 10-year-old, Finland-based company that makes software, as well as hardware to record whether customers are satisfied with an experience on their way out of a location, usually by tapping a face on a screen, has raised $25 million in funding led by Verdane, with participation from earlier backer Northzone. The company has now raised $40 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

Neuvoo, an eight-year-old, Montreal-based jobs site, has sold a minority stake in its business for C$53 million ($40 million) to Canada’s second-largest pension fund, Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec. Bloomberg has more here.

Revelo, a four-year-old, São Paulo, Brazil-based recruiting startup, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by IFCMore here

Robin Healthcare, a two-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based digital assistant for physicians aimed at freeing them from paperwork, has raised $11.5 million in Series A funding led by Norwest Venture PartnersMore here

Scintil Photonics, a year-old, Grenoble, France-based developer of silicon photonic fully integrated circuits, has raised $4.4 million in funding from Supernova InvestInnovacomBpifranceCredit Agricole Alpes Développement and Fund ForeisMore here

Skout Cybersecurity, a six-year-old, New York-based cybersecurity startup focused on small and mid-sized businesses, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by ClearSky, with participation from RSE VenturesMore here

Tethr, a seven-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company that turns unstructured voice data into insights that can be shared with an entire organization, has raised $15 million led by IAG Capital with participation from earlier backers GroTech VenturesMissionOG and Falmouth Ventures. CityBizList has more here

Versantis, a four-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based biotech company focused on rare liver and pediatric diseases, has raised around $16 million in Series B funding led by Swisscanto Invest. FierceBiotech has more here.

Smaller Fundings

Shipper, a year-old, Jakarta, Indonesia-based logistics startup for e-commerce companies, has raised $5 million in seed funding from Lightspeed Venture PartnersFloodgateInsignia Ventures Partners, and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here

Voro, a three-year-old, New York-based healthcare social network that invites users to share doctor recommendations with their friends and neighbors, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Floodgate, with participation from numerous individual investors, including Flatiron Health cofounders Zach Weinberg and Nat Turner. Business Insider has more here.

New Funds 

AgFunder, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based early-stage venture firm focused on funding agriculture and food-tech companies, says it’s aiming to raise $20 million to create what it’s calling an alternative protein fund that will invest more narrowly in animal protein alternatives, including plant-based alternatives, cellular agriculture, and the technology required to enable this industry. More here

Precursor Ventures, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based seed-stage venture fund that last year closed its second fund in March with $31 million in capital commitments, is now raising a $10 million opportunity fund, shows an SEC filing. Crunchbase News first flagged it here

Splunk, a 15-year-old, San Francisco-based, publicly-traded maker of operational intelligence software that monitors, reports, and analyzes real-time machine data, says it’s establishing a venture fund called Splunk Ventures that will invest $150 million in startups. The arm will oversee two discreet pools of capital: a $100 million fund for early-stage tech companies that could benefit from ties to Splunk, and a $50 million social impact fund dedicated to funding startups that use data in favor of public-good initiatives. Business Insider has more here.


Airbnb says it’s going public next year

Datadog, a nine-year-old, New York monitoring service for cloud-scale applications saw its shares soar more than 39 percent today. The IPO priced late yesterday above the expected range of $24 to $26, which was recently raised from a range of $19 to $22. According to Bloomberg, Cisco Systems had approached the company in recent weeks with a takeover offer significantly higher than the $7 billion valuation it was aiming for in its IPO, but Datadog reportedly thinks it could eventually be worth more as a public company. 

Ping, a 17-year-old, Denver, Co.-based identity-focused software company backed by the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, rose in its debut today after raising $188 million in itsIPO. The software company’s shares — it sold 12.5 million —  rose 34 percent to $20.11, giving the company a market value of $1.56 billion. Bloomberg has more here

Uber’s lockup period expires on November 6. Here’s what could happen.


Neil Daswani has joined Trinity Ventures as an executive-in-residence focused on cyber security. Daswani previously sold a company to Twitter, served as chief information security officer at Symantec and at LifeLock, and has held engineering leadership roles at Twitter, Google and Yodlee.  

Jesse Morris, who previously cofounded a services business called Very, has joined Human Ventures as a managing partner. 

Arch Rao, the former head of product at Tesla who was behind the company’s Powerwall home energy storage is system, is back with his own, all-in-one power management system for homes.

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Essential Reads 

Amazon say it’s buying 100,000 electric trucks from the Detroit-based electric-vehicle startup Rivian as part of its effort to eliminate the carbon footprint of the company by 2040. CEO Jeff Bezos announced the news today while helping to unveil the Climate Pledge, which will ask participating business to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years ahead of schedule. Amazon will be its first signatory, pledging to regularly measure and report greenhouse gas emissions while implementing decarbonization strategies through efficiency improvements, renewable energy, and materials reduction. More here and here

Startups still love Slack, but big companies are bailing

Tragic news coming out of Facebook today, where an employee leapt to his death from the fourth floor of one of the company’s buildings in Menlo Park. Facebook said it hopes to provide an update when it has additional information.


The mysterious death of the hacker who turned in Chelsea Manning

Inside famed gossip columnist Cindy Adams’s Park Avenue penthouse

Coming soon: “Alexa, donate [blankety blank] to [favorite presidential candidate].” 

Retail Therapy

Living Vehicle, when you want to get away, then stay away.

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