October 2, 2019

Wednesday! (Oops, it’s actually now Thursday, technically.) It’s been a great, if very long, day. Among other highlights, getting to see actor Will Smith up close was embarrassingly fun for us. (He really turned on the charm at TechCrunch Disrupt today.) 

Top News 

The Dow dropped more than 800 points in two days — here’s what’s going on, according to CNBC. 

Uber has a new money-making scheme up its sleeve, reports the Financial Times. It says Uber is launching a new app on Friday in Chicago that will match temporary workers looking for shift work with businesses looking to fill gaps in their rosters. More here.

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In a New Filing, the Venture Firm Mithril Capital Says It Has Been Under Assault By Its Former General Counsel 

It’s been a strange year for Mithril Capital Management, the venture firm cofounded in 2012 by Peter Thiel and his longtime associate Ajay Royan. Though Mithril enjoyed its biggest exit to date in February, when Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $3.4 billion — plus another potential $2.35 billion in payments  — for the surgical robotics company Auris Robotics, the firm has been characterized in news reports by Recode as in a complete state of disarray and, more recently, for reportedly being investigated by the FBI for financial misconduct. 

Mithril is now drawing a line from those stories to former employee Crystal McKellar, who’d joined Mithril from the outset as its general counsel though she also long held the title of managing director. 

According to a new legal petition filed in Texas, where Mithril moved its headquarters from San Francisco earlier this year, McKellar has, over many months, staged a multi-pronged campaign to disparage Mithril and Royan specifically, possibly to attract its investors to a new, separate venture firm that she has founded called Anathem Ventures. (That’s implied in the filing, anyway.) 

Certainly, the petition makes for strange reading. 

Among its assertions is that McKellar, who has told friends she was fired from the firm earlier this year, signed a separation agreement with Mithril that included “substantial severance,” a “courtesy title” that it says she asked for, and a consulting agreement. But it goes on to say that “almost immediately” after signing these, “Ms. McKellar began to materially breach these agreements.” 

As one example, it says, she promised not to engage in any business that’s competitive with Mithril, including any business relating to any portfolio investments that Mithril has ever considered, yet she “completed her signature pages, completing her investment” of $50,000 in one of these companies “mere minutes” after emailing Royan to tell him she planned to invest and offering him the right of first refusal. 

It also accuses her of accepting consulting fees from Mithril while taking on jobs that put her in direct competition with the firm, including becoming a managing partner at a hedge fund, Signum, as well as launching her own new venture, Anathen Ventures, in July. 

Still, the document — technically an “application for temporary and permanent injunctive relief” — most surprisingly says McKellar stirred “discord” with Mithril’s relationships with its investors, financial partners, and service providers. 

In one instance, Mithril says,  its auditor was sent a letter from a “nameless investor” that “disparaged Mr. Royan and the firm” by “falsely accusing Mr. Royan of ‘lying’” publicly about whether he had ever waived some of the firm’s management fees. It further accuses her of authoring “false letters” to senior executives at a major Mithril company in New England, saying it determined she had authored the letters through “expert forensic analysis.” 

Why McKellar was forced out of the firm isn’t clear, though Recode has reported that numerous members of Mithril’s investment staff have been shown the door over the years, and that this downsizing has troubled cofounder, Thiel, who tends to work collaboratively with others and who has engendered loyalty as a result. 

Indeed, Royan was previously a managing director at Thiel’s earlier hedge fund, Clarium Capital, as were a handful of early Mithril employees. Today, Mithril is largely run by Royan; his sister Anuja Royan, who is the firm’s CFO; and Paul Leggett, a managing director who handles much of the firm’s day-to-day operations while Royan is seemingly more focused on the bigger picture. The firm has also hired several more junior people since moving to Austin. 

Asked for comment on the filing, Royan suggested he will let the document speak for itself. 

Meanwhile, reached via email, McKellar writes that she has not “been served with the suit so I haven’t seen the actual allegations, but those sound pretty loony.” More here.

Massive Fundings  

Brightfield, a 13-year-old, New York- and Washington, D.C.-based analytics company that optimizes contract labor spend and program performance for employers and staffing firms, has raised $53 million in Series A funding. Sapphire Ventures led the round, joined by MissionOGCapitalOne Growth Ventures and Telescope PartnersMore here

SnapLogic, a 10-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based integration platform that aims to make it fast and easy for users to connect, manage, and analyze enterprise data, has raised $72 million in growth financing led by Arrowroot Capital, with participation from Golub CapitalMore here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

CareStack, a seven-year-old, Mumbai, India- based cloud-based technology platform for the dental industry, has raised $28 million in funding co-led by Steadview Capital and Delta Dental of California, with participation from earlier backers F Prime CapitalEight Roads Ventures and Accel Partners. LiveMint has more here

Chronometriq, a seven-year-old, Quebec, Canada-based company that sells access-to-care and patient engagement tools, has raised roughly $15 million in Series B funding led by Full In PartnersMore here

Elicio Therapeutics, a seven-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based immuno-oncology company that’s developing a pipeline of lymph node targeted immuno-therapies, has raised $33 million in Series B funding from undisclosed investors. More here

Everledger, a four-year-old, London-based blockchain supply chain startup, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Internet giant Tencent, with participation from Graphene VenturesBloomberg BetaRakutenFidelity, and Vickers Venture Partners. VentureBeat has more here

Meditrina, a three-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based company that has developed a system for office- or clinic-based hysteroscopies and resections in procedures such as myomectomies, polypectomies, and biopsies, has raised $13 million in funding co-led by ShangBay Capital and Aethan CapitalMore here

SaaSOptics, a 10-year-old, Peachtree, Ga.-based business-to-business subscription management platform, has raised $12 million in Series B funding (equity and debt) led by Fulcrum Equity PartnersSilicon Valley Bank provided the line of credit. More here.

Skyroam, an 11-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based provider of personal WiFi hotspots, just raised $20 million in C-2 funding. Mesh Ventures and Phi Ventures co-led the round, joined by Premier Ventures and earlier backers Vickers Venture PartnersJafco Ventures, and GSR Ventures. The company had originally closed its Series C with a separate $20 million last year. More here

XMOS, a 14-year-old, U.K.-based voice processing technology company, has raised $19 million in funding including from Harbert European Growth Capital. EE Times has more here

Smaller Fundings  

Autify, a young, San Francisco- and Tokyo-based software testing automation startup, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Global BrainSalesForce Ventures, and Archetype VenturesMore here

BurstIQ, a three-year-old, Denver, Co.-based maker of blockchain software for the healthcare industry, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from Elsewhere PartnersMore here

Edify Labs, a 10-month-old, Carmel, In.-based software company focused on customer engagement and cross-team collaboration, has raised $10 million in seed funding led by First Round Capital, with participation from Anorak VenturesPathbreaker VenturesMorado Venture PartnersBling CapitalBonfire VenturesSeaLane Ventures, and Liquid 2 VenturesMore here

Flockjay, a year-old, San Francisco-based online sales academy, raised $3 million in funding, including from Lightspeed Venture PartnersCoatueY Combinator,F7SV AngelIndex VenturesSerena Williams and Will Smith. Fast Company has more here

Geneoscopy, a four-year-old, St. Louis, Mo.-based life sciences company focused on the development of diagnostic tests for gastrointestinal  health, has raised $6.9 million in Series A funding led by Cultivation Capital and NT InvestmentsLightchain Capital, the family office of Scottrade founder Rodger Riney, was also a significant investor in the round. More here

LEX, a New York-based commercial real estate securities marketplace available to retail investors, raised $4 million in seed funding. Greycroft and Thor Equities co-led the round. More here

NOCD, a five-year-old, Chicago-based digital behavioral health startup focused on OCD, raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Chicago Ventures, with participation from 7Wire VenturesMeridian Street Capital, and Hyde Park AngelsMore here

IOTAS, a five-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based IOT-as-a-service platform for smart apartments, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. Telus Ventures led the round, joined by Liberty Global and earlier backer Intel CapitalMore here

Rune, a 16-month-old, New York-based startup that wants to use AI to help people find right people to play multiplayer games with, then connect them via voice chat, has raised $2 million in seed finding. The gaming-focused firm Makers Fund led the round, joined by byFoundersE14 FundVentureSouq, and Gmail creator Paul Buchheit. TechCrunch has more here

SEngine Precision Medicine, a four-year-old, Seattle-based oncology company that wants to commercialize a platform that can match cancer patients to the right drug and aid in drug discovery, has raised $5.1 million in Series A  funding led by the Bangarang Group along with other unnamed investors. The company spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2015. GeekWire has more here.

Sleep Data, a 24-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company that provides sleep aphnea care, has raised $6 million in funding from HCAP PartnersMore here

Streamlit, a year-old, San Francisco-based machine learning app development platform, has raised $6 million in seed funding led by Gradient Ventures, with participation from Bloomberg Beta. TechCrunch has more here

Strigo​, a nearly three-year-old, Israel-based customer training management company, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Hanaco Ventures, with participation from GreycroftMore here

Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings  

nCino, an eight-year-old, Wilmington, N.C.-based cloud banking company, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, with participation from earlier investor Salesforce VenturesMore here.

New Funds 

Grand Ventures, a two-year-old, Grand Rapids, Mi.-based early-stage venture firm, has raised $28 million for its debut fund. More here

Super{set}, a new, San Francisco based startup studio and investment firm, has raised $65 million in funding to pour into startups who want to give up an outsize-piece of equity in exchange for an execution playbook and building blocks that ostensibly guide the strategy and eliminate redundant work. One of the outfit’s cofounders is Tom Chavez, who sold his own company, Krux Digital, to Salesforce in 2016 for $700 million. TechCrunch has more here.

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Essential Reads 

A look at the top Y Combinator companies of all time, based on valuation. 

Everything that Microsoft announced at today’s Surface event. 

Watch out, Robinhood? Over the last two days, the biggest players in online stock trading have announced they are removing their fees for stock and ETF trading, including Charles Schwab, Ameritrade, and E*Trade. Their stocks have all dropped since their respective announcements. TechCrunch has more here.


Detours Quentin Tarantino details his new book in conversation with Martin Scorsese.

Retail Therapy 

The Taj Ma Garaj Collection.

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