October 3, 2019

Is it Thursday (still, we think)! Hope yours has gone well. 🙂

Top News 

The vaping illness outbreak just surpassed 1,000 cases and 18 deaths, with no sign of slowing, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 578 cases where doctors know what patients were using, roughly 78 percent of the patients said they vaped THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, reports CNBC.

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GV is Weighing the Sale of Its Stake in Uber When Its Lockup Period Expires Next Month 

Today at TC’s Disrupt show in San Francisco, we took the stage with David Krane, a longtime veteran of Google who took the reins as the CEO of its venture arm, GV,  three years ago but hasn’t spoken publicly since. We asked him why he’s been in hiding before diving into some questions about Uber — one of GV’s  most lucrative bets to date — and trying to understand better how GV is organized under his leadership. 

Krane, who earlier in his career was Google’s global head of PR, is accustomed to deflecting reporters’ questions and he was circumspect about some things, but he did let drop some interesting information. For example, he told us that GV has plugged a whopping $5 billion into startups since it was formed 10 years ago. Krane also joked that Alphabet’s famous founders don’t steer entirely clear of the organization. And he suggested that GV — which sold a meaningful part of its Uber  stake to SoftBank last year — might sell the rest of its Uber stake when the ride-share company’s lock-up period expires in November. (His team has a “decision to make,” he said.) 

Following is some of our chat, edited lightly for length and clarity: 

It’s been three years since you took the role of CEO. Why has it taken you so long to come out of hiding? Well, I haven’t been in hiding. I’ll tell you that we’ve been really busy. When you have a second act at Google, which is remarkably different from your first act, you actually kind of have to stay focused on that. So we’ve been busy building an extremely large scale venture firm, which this year is celebrating our 10th birthday. And I’ve been doing that [from its outset]. 

There’s a lot to chat about. Let’s talk quickly about one of your highest-profile deals, which was investing in Uber. I’ve long heard that you are the one who was agitating to lead this $250 million dollar Series C round, which, at the time, was a very big deal. It was also a brilliant investment. Do you think Uber is also a good investment now for public shareholders? This is a special company. This company has an unmistakable brand. It operates in hundreds of cities around the world. It has scale, it has a moat around it that’s touched by almost no one in the category. So honestly, we’re long term. We’re bullish on this. And I think it is an interesting investment opportunity. And it happens to be on sale today. 

It’s obviously getting into new business lines, which is interesting. But you’d also told me that GV had sold part of its stake to SoftBank last year, when the conglomerate came in and wanted to buy up a substantial percentage of the company. Can you say how much of your stake you sold? It’s probably best not to, but I’d say it was a great transaction. Working with SoftBank was quite pleasant. And I think there were a number of shareholders that did quite well. 

Uber’s lockup period is coming up quickly. Will you sell the rest of your stake?  I think it’s not clear yet, to be honest with you. We’re paying attention to the market, which is a bit unstable, to say the least. But yeah, in about a month, we’re going to have a decision to make.

When you invested in Uber in 2013, you were investing in a different founder: Travis Kalanick, who was pressured to resign in 2017. It’s a little bit reminiscent of what happened with Adam Neumann of WeWork, who had grown the company over the last nine years and was last week pressured to resign. Are we in agreement that maybe the investors could have done something sooner? These are two founders whose management styles were very well-known. Why suddenly was it problematic? And why didn’t someone do something sooner? Well, probably the best advice that I could offer there is it would have been prudent to curb some of Adam’s creativity little bit sooner …

More here.

Massive Fundings  

Adicet Bio, a five-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based allogenic immunotherapy company, has raised an $80 million Series B round. Backers include Johnson & Johnson InnovationaMoon2 FundSamsung Venture Investment Corp., and earlier backers Orbimed Israel PartnersNovartis Venture Fund, and Pontifax. Calcalist has more here

Bird, the three-year-old, L.A.-based e-scooter startup, has closed a $275 million Series D round led by CDPQ and earlier backer Sequoia Capital, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden announced at TechCrunch Disrupt today. The round values Bird at a $2.5 billion pre-money valuation. TC has more here

IronSource, a nine-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that has built a video ad network and user acquisition technology for mobile app publishers, just raised between $400 million and $450 million in funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion, says TechCrunch. The money is coming from investment giant CVCMore here

Udaan, a three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based business-to-business e-commerce platform, has raised $585 million in Series D funding, including from TencentAltimeterFootpath VenturesHillhouseGGV CapitalCiti VenturesLightspeed Venture Partners, and DST Global. Livemint has more here

Unqork, a two-year-old New York-based software company that’s developing a no-code platform for enterprise insurance and financial services, has raised $80 million in Series B funding led by CapitalG. Funds and accounts under management by BlackRock also participated in the round, along with other undisclosed existing investors. VentureBeat has more here.  

Tenaya Therapeutics, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of therapies that target the underlying causes of heart disease, has raised $92 million Series B funding including from Casdin CapitalGV, and earlier backer The Column GroupMore here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

ControlRad, a four-year-old, Philadelphia, Pa.-based medtech company that’s developing products that reduce the risk of radiation exposure from fluoroscopically guided interventional procedures, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Questa Capital led the round, joined by Rapha Capital ManagementMore here

NS1, a six-year-old, New York-based developer of a cloud-first DNS traffic management platform, has raised $33 million in Series C funding. Dell Technologies Capital led the round, joined by Deutsche Telekom Capital PartnersEntrée CapitalFlybridge Capital PartnersGGV CapitalMango CapitalSalesforce VenturesSigma Prime VenturesTelstra Ventures, and Two Sigma VenturesMore here

Smaller Fundings  

Amped Innovation, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based designer and manufacturer of solar-powered appliances and solar energy generation and management equipment, has raised more than $3.3 million in Series A funding. ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies led the round, joined by Schneider Electric Ventures and FINCA VenturesMore here

Diligent Robotics, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based developer of hospital service robots, has raised $3 million in seed funding co-led by True Ventures and Ubiquity Ventures. The Robot Report has more here

Fyle, a three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based expense management platform, has raised $4.5 million in funding, including from Steadview CapitalTiger Global Managment, Freshworks, and Pravega VenturesMore here

Mon Ami, a nearly two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company focused on social isolation in aging, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding co-led by Freestyle Ventures and Cowboy Ventures, with participation from Maverick VenturesFelicis Ventures, and Benchmark’s Bruce Dunlevie. MobiHealth News has more here

Orbit Fab, a year-old, Silicon Valley-based startup that’s developing a space-based robotic refueling technology, has raised $3 million in seed funding from Type 1 VenturesTechStars and others. TechCrunch has more here

ReFirm Labs, a two-year-old, Fulton, Md.-based maker of IoT and firmware security software, raised $2 million in funding co-led by DataTribe and New Dominion Angels, with participation from TEDCO and Tysons Angel InvestorsMore here

Verisart, a 4.5-year-old, L.A.-based startup that uses decentralized technologies to help artists certify and document their work, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Galaxy Digital EOS VC Fund, with participation from earlier backers Sinai Ventures and Rhodium. TechCrunch has more here

Waycare, a three-year-old, L.A.-based, AI-based connected mobility platform for transportation agencies, has raised $7.25 million in Series A funding. SJF Ventures led the round, joined by UpWestNext Gear VenturesInnogySpider CapitalGoldbell, Zymestic Solutions, and Janom.

New Funds 

Notion Capital, a 10-year-old, London-based seed- and early-stage venture firm, has taken the wraps off a new, $150 million fund that it aims to invest in European business-to-business startups. TechCrunch has more here.


Apple may have recently acquired the U.K-based motion capture company IKinema, based on evidence from company filings and information shared by a MacRumors reader. IKinema offers animation technology that’s used for games, virtual reality, and more. More here

Vice Media Group has acquired the women’s lifestyle publisher Refinery29 for a reported $400 million, including mostly stock with some cash. Refinery29 had raised roughly $133 million from investors, including Turner Broadcasting, the Stripes GroupScripps NetworksWPP VenturesFloodgate, and Hearst Communications. The New York Times has more here

Salesforce has completed its $1.35 billion acquisition of a 41-year-old, Israel-based workforce management software company called Clicksoftware Technologies, the former announced yesterday. The company first disclosed the acquisition in August. Calcalist has more here

Taboola and Outbrain, rivals that both operate advertising-based content recommendation engines for publishers, are forming a single company, says TechCrunch. The two companies, both founded out of Israel but headquartered in New York, describe the deal as a merger but the combined entity will be called Taboola, with Taboola’s founder Adam Singolda securing the CEO slot. Further, Taboola is paying Outbrain investors $250 million in cash plus a 30 percent share of the combined companies. More here.


Alphabet cofounder Sergey Brin has secretly been married to his girlfriend Nicole Shanahan since 2018, if you should care. More hereHewlett Packard says it’s cutting between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs—13 percent to 16 percent of its workforce. More hereWeWork’s leaders told staff today that job cuts are coming as soon as this month. Bloomberg has more here.

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Essential Reads 

Already under fire for advancing Chinese foreign policy by censoring topics like Hong Kong’s protests and pro-LGBT content, the Beijing-based video app TikTok is now further distancing itself from U.S. social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with a ban on political ads on its app. TechCrunch has more here. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, along with officials from the United Kingdom and Australia, is set to publish an open letter tomorrow to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking the company to delay plans for end-to-end encryption across its messaging services until it can guarantee the added privacy does not reduce public safety. BuzzFeed has more here. Tech’s most controversial startup — Anduril — now makes drone-killing robots.


Graffiti artist Banksy has launched his own merchandise line, with items on sale for as little as £10, to protect his brand against a greeting-card company that he says it trying to seize legal custody of his name. Birds are vanishing from North America. Give this one a minute.

Retail Therapy 

Who is the target market for this, exactly?

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