October 17, 2019

Hope you’ve had a happy Thursday, all. 🙂

Top News 

Facebook doesn’t believe in stopping misinformation, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested today in a 35-minute-long speech at Georgetown University that evoked Martin Luther King Jr., to the apparent chagrin of King’s daughter.

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Zubale, Founded in Mexico by Two HBS Grads, Just Raised $4.4 Million to Put Locals to Work Via Smartphone 

A year ago, at a demo day south of San Francisco, we watched a number of recently formed startups pitch investors on their companies. One that stood out to us at the time was Zubale, a Mexico City-based outfit whose founders were looking to connect big corporations with Latin Americans eager to address tasks on their behalf. A person could conduct on-the-ground market research for a brand, for example, then earn mobile phone credits or other redeemable digital rewards. 

Fast forward and Zubale, which had 10 employees at the time, now has 40 full time employees, and it has completed 170,000 tasks on behalf of the consumer brands on which it is squarely focused — and for two reasons. 

First, according to Zubale cofounder Allison Campbell, the retail industry across Latin America is a generating $2 trillion per year, but companies are also shelling out $40 billion on “super painful and high spend” that includes employees who complete in-store tasks like stocking shelves, checking prices, and building displays. 

Campbell says Zubale can save — even make — these companies money by crowdsourcing the same tasks to independent contractors who can choose from an inventory of similar jobs near to them. 

Campell and her cofounder, Sebastian Monroy, also know a few things about retail in emerging markets. Before heading to HBS, Campbell spent nearly eight years with Walmart, as a merchandise manager, then as a  director of international strategic initiatives, roles that placed her in Gurgaon India, then Shanghai and Shenzhen, China. Monroy’s path has been a similar one; he spent more than seven years working in a variety of sales roles for Proctor & Gamble in Mexico before heading to Harvard, where he met Campbell on their first day of business school. 

“We realized we were wearing the same exactly glasses and took a picture together,” she says with a laugh. They decided to team up on Zubale a a year later. 

More here.

Massive Fundings  

Canva, a seven-year-old, Surry Hills, Australia-based design software company, just raised $85 million at a $3.2 billion valuation from BondGeneral CatalystBessemer Venture PartnersBlackbird, and Sequoia China. TechCrunch has more here.  

Corelight, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based company that sells real-time data that organizations use to understand, detect, and prevent cyber attacks, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Insight Partners, with participation from Accel, among others. VentureBeat has more here

Galileo Financial, a 19-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based maker of payment processing software, just raised $77 million — all from Accel. TechCrunch has more here

Invoca, an 11-year-old, Santa Barbara, Ca.-based maker of call tracking and conversational analytics software, just raised $56 million co-led by H.I.G. Growth and earlier investor Upfront Ventures, with participation from Accel and Morgan Stanley. VentureBeat has more here

Motiv Power Systems, a 10-year-old, Foster City, Ca.-based company converts medium-duty truck chassis that use gasoline so that they run on electricity from batteries, has raised $60 million in Series B funding led by a Denver-based holding company called GMAG Holdings and from Winnebago Industries, the publicly traded RV maker. FreightWaves has more here.

Pendo, a six-year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based customer analytics platform, has raised $100 million in Series E funding at a $1 billion valuation. Sapphire Ventures led the round, joined by General AtlanticTiger Global Management and earlier investors Battery VenturesMeritech CapitalFirstMark CapitalGeodesic Capital, and Cross Creek. TechCrunch has more here

Sisu, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based diagnostic platform for structured data, has raised $52.5 million in Series B funding. NEA led the round, joined by Andreessen Horowitz, the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund, and Green Bay Ventures. The company has now raised $66.7 million altogether. More here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

Adroit Worldwide Media, a 3.5-year-old Aliso Viejo, Ca.-based company that’s focused on frictionless shopping and uses small, high-def cameras that combine computer vision algorithms and AI to keep track of what people purchase (it also does in-store branding and advertising via digital smart displays), has raised $11 million in financing. Impact Venture Capital led the round. The Spoon had written about the company back in April, when it raised a separate $10 million from investors. 

Curiox Biosystems, an 11-year-old, Singapore-based bioinstrumentation startup, has raised $15 million in Series B funding from KB InvestmentIMM InvestmentQuad InvestmentHB InvestmentDAYLI Investment, and SV InvestmentMore here

Winnow, a six-year-old, London-based startup that has developed tracking technology to help commercial kitchens reduce food waste, has raised $12 million in Series B funding from Ingka GroupMustard SeedCircularity CapitalD:Ax, and The Ingenious Group. TechCrunch has more here

Smaller Fundings  

3DSignals, a four-year-old, Kefar Sava, Israel-based maker of asset performance monitoring software for production floors, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. Mercura Capital led, joined by earlier investors SOMV and Grove Ventures. Calcalist has more here

Ekos, a five-year-old, Charlotte, N.C.-based developer of business management software for independent craft beverage companies (a niche market that’s apparently still big enough), just raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Noro-Moseley Partners. TechCrunch has more here

Evervault, a two-year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based company that’s building a data protection solution aimed at developers by way of an API that aims to bake data protection into the app from the start, has raised $3.2 million in seed funding led by Sequoia Capital. It was joined by Kleiner PerkinsFrontline, and SV Angel, and notably, its founder is just 19 years old. TechCrunch has more here.

Rentgrata, a three-year-old, Chicago-based startup that sells renter data to landlords, has raised $1 million in funding from M25Syndicate FundRight Side Capital Management and Nelne. American Inno has more here

TruTag, an eight-year-old, Emeryville, Ca.-based maker of edible barcodes for authenticating food and medical products, has raised $7.5 million in Series C funding co-led by Pangaea Ventures and Happiness Capital. TechCrunch has more here

Versameb, a two-year-old, Basel, Switzerland-based developer of RNA-based drugs, has raised $6.5 million in Series C funding led by Novartis Venture FundMore here.


Atlassian today announced that it has acquired Code Barrel, the makers of Automation for Jira, a low-code tool for easily automating many aspects of Jira that’s also one of the most popular add-ons for Jira Software and Jira Service Desk in Atlassian’s marketplace. The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. Sydney, Australia-based Code Barrel was founded three years ago by two of the first engineers who built Jira at Atlassian. TechCrunch has more here.


Robin Daniels, the CMO of WeWork, is reportedly leaving the company. It’s yet another departure that doesn’t look great for the company but also, he’d joined less than a year ago from LinkedIn, so. 

Trying to get ahead of regulation that could impact his location-based services company, Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck argues in a new New York Times op-ed that, “There are no formal rules for what is ethical — or even legal — in the location data business. That needs to change.” 

Max Levchin, the serial entrepreneur now running the lending company Affirm, said on stage today he does not think big tech should be broken up, lest U.S. companies give Chinese companies a runaway advantage. He apparently didn’t say whether he thinks big tech should be more heavily regulated, but he added that he’s a “big fan of regulation, actually . . . if you’re smart about it, it becomes a competitive advantage.” 

Sean Liu has left a position as an investment director at SoftBank’s Vision Fund to join Legalist as its CFO. Liu had only spent a year with SoftBank. He worked previously as an investor with Vy Capital for two years and, before that, as a strategy lead at Google. We wrote about Legalist last month.

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Microsoft’s 2019 fiscal year was one of its busiest ever for acquisitions, led by its $7.5 billion GitHub deal. The tech giant spent a total of $9.1 billion on 20 acquisitions in its 2019 fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to its newly released annual report. GeekWire research shows that 2019 ranks as Microsoft’s third-biggest year for acquisitions, both in the number of deals and in spending, since 2003. That’s when Microsoft started breaking out M&A information in annual filings. 

According to The Information, Airbnb‘s operating loss more than doubled in the first quarter to $306 million from the year-earlier period, owing to massive spending on marketing to bring in new business. It’s not shocking that it made this decision given that it wants to boost its numbers ahead of an IPO but as the outlet notes, prospective investors who are already wary of money-losing businesses could lose their appetite for its shares if those losses continue.

Essential Reads 

Juul has stopped selling a number of its flavored nicotine products — mango, creme, fruit and cucumber — in the U.S., pending a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Now, the vaping company will only sell the flavors that taste like tobacco, mint or menthol in the U.S., the company announced today. At a StrictlyVC event roughly a year ago, Juul founders Adam Bowen and James Monsees had said this same move was on the table, though they argued at the time that the flavors were helpful in transitioning cigarette smokers to their product. The SEC has held exploratory discussions on alternatives to initial public offerings for companies that want to raise capital and list on the public markets, says the FT. The agency, meanwhile, suggests not to read too much into things. It has an “open door for issuers and their advisers if they have questions in general, and in particular about novel offerings or procedures,” it tells the outlet. 

Google has walked away from a potential Toronto lease with WeWork after months of negotiations, agreeing to sign a multiyear deal with rival co-working firm IWG instead, according to Bloomberg. Presumably, this is happening all over the world right now given WeWork’s uncertain future. More here.


How one tweet turned pro-China trolls against the NBA

Ingenious, bizarre designs meant to outsmart facial recognition tech

Giving everything away on the “Wheel of Fortune.”

Retail Therapy 

cap that only a VC could fully appreciate.

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