October 21, 2019

Monday! Hope you had a wonderful weekend. No column today (no time). 

First! Apologies to James Cham of Bloomberg Beta for mucking up his name in Friday’s newsletter.  

We also have news about our November 13th event, where two new additions to the program are investors Maryanna Saenko and Steve Jurvetson of Future Ventures, who are coming in their first appearance together to share where they’re shopping and to answer questions, including around their new firm’s 15-year investing horizon and whether their shoot-the-moon strategy is a money-making one. They join the angel investor and VC Cyan Banister of Founders Fund; Jim Collins of the GV-backed cloud kitchen company Kitchen United; and Alex Stamos, the outspoken former chief security officer of Facebook. With much-appreciated help from journalists Lora Kolodny of CNBC and Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times. It’s going to be a great night (and there may be *one* last development in the works). 

Giant thanks again to NextWorld Capital, KCPR and Carta for their support. More soon . . .

Top News

NordVPN, a virtual private network provider that promises to “protect your privacy online,” confirmed today that it was hacked

Facebook said today that it has recently found and taken down four state-backed disinformation campaigns, a sign of how foreign interference online is increasing ahead of the 2020 presidential election. 

According to Axios, SoftBank will pay former WeWork CEO and current non-executive chairman Adam Neumann around $200 million to leave the board of directors, give up his voting shares, and support SoftBank’s takeover bid, which WeWork’s board is apparently slated to discuss tomorrow. The Japanese conglomerate has already invested many billions of dollars in WeWork. The WSJ says its bid would see it lend WeWork $5 billion more and accelerate a $1.5 billion investment in the troubled company that it was scheduled to make next year. 💸💸In the meantime, notes CNBC, if SoftBank’s deal goes through, JPMorgan, which is WeWork’s third largest external shareholder, will collect nothing for months of work, along with potential hefty losses on its exiting equity and debt investments.

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Massive Fundings

Commercetools, a 13-year-old, Munich, Germany-based company that makes cloud-based e-commerce software, has raised €130 million ($145 million) in funding from Insight Partners. TechCrunch has more here

Instabase, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to help businesses build customizable apps to automate different parts of their business, has raised $105 million in Series B funding led by Index Ventures, reportedly at a post-money valuation of more than $1 billion. The company, whose investors also include Greylock PartnersNew Enterprise AssociatesAndreessen HorowitzSpark CapitalTribe CapitalSC Ventures, and Glynn Capital, has now raised $132 million altogether, according to Crunchbase. Crunchbase News has more here

Zoox, a five-year-old, Foster City, Ca.-based self-driving startup at work on building entire vehicles, has raised $200 million in a convertible note that will folded into an upcoming Series C round, reports Axios. The company had previously raised $800 million, per a 2018 Bloomberg story that dove deep into the company . . . right before cofounder and then-CEO Tim Kentley-Klay was elbowed out. More here.

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

Athena, a two-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based online lending startup focused on home loans,  has raised the equivalent of $48 million from country’s largest industry fund, AustralianSuper, along with earlier backers Square Peg CapitalAirTree Ventures and Hostplus, as well as Salesforce Ventures and NAB Ventures. The country’s Startup Daily has more here

Bayzat, a six-year-old, Abu Dhabi, UAE-based company that makes a free platform for human resources, payroll and employee benefits, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. Point72 Ventures led the round, joined by Mubadala CapitalElmGreyhound CapitalEndeavor Catalyst, and Tech Invest Com. Wamda has more here

Plexium, a year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based biotech focused on protein degradation, just raised $28 million in Series A funding. DCVC and The Column Group co-led the round, joined by M VenturesCRV, and Neotribe Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.  

Thinksurance, a four-year-old, Frankfurt, Germany-based insurance distribution platform, has raised €13 million in Series B funding from Eight Roads VenturesMore here.

Upstream Security, a two-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based cybersecurity startup focused on connected vehicles, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. Renault led the round, joined by VolvoHyundaiHyundai AutoEverNationwide Ventures, and earlier backers CRVGlilot Capital, and Maniv Mobility. VentureBeat has more here.

Smaller Fundings

E.fundamentals, a five-year-old, London-based e-commerce analytics company, has raised $6.9 million in funding led by Maven Capital Partners, with participation from Downing Ventures and Scottish Enterprise. The Herald has more here

GreenPark Sports, a year-old, Calabasas, Ca.-based publisher and developer of fan-forward, digital experiences and mobile games for sports and eSports fans (it has some heavy-hitting cofounders, too, including YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley), has raised $8.5 million in funding. SignalFire led the round, joined by Sapphire Sports and Founders Fund, among others. TechCrunch has more here

Nymbl Science, a five-year-old, Denver, Co.- based startup with an app-based digital balance training program for older adults (to keep them from falling), has raised $2.8 million in seed funding led by Rockies Venture ClubMore here

Speechmatics, a 10-year-old, London-based speech recognition technology engine, has raised $8.25 million in Series A funding. AlbionVC led the round, joined by IQ CapitalMore here.

New Funds

Airtree Ventures, a  five-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based venture firm, has closed its third fund with $275 million in capital commitments. AirTree had closed its second fund with $250 million fund in 2016 and its debut fund with $60 million in 2014. TechCrunch has more here

According to the WSJ, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund is raising nearly $3 billion across two new funds, including its first dedicated fund for late-stage companies, which the firm intends to pour into existing investments like the payments business Stripe and the data-analysis company Palantir Technologies. More here

Neotribe Ventures, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture firm focused on biotech, weather tech, AI, IoT and enterprise infrastructure startups, is in the process of raising $205 million for its second fund, suggests an SEC filing. Among Neotribe’s founders is the serial entrepreneur and longtime NEA investor Kittu Kolluri (he cofounded Healtheon/WebMD and Neoteris). More here.  

Refactor, the three-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based seed-stage investment firm that was cofounded by VCs David Lee and Zal Bilimoria and is now run by Bilimoria alone, has raised $30 million in capital commitments. Crunchbase News has more here.


Apple CEO Tim Cook is the new chairman of the Advisory Board of the School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. 

Nadiem Makarim, the cofounder and CEO of Gojek, Indonesia’s biggest startup, is resigning to join the cabinet of Indonesian president Joko Widodo. Fortune has more here

Jonathan Roosevelt has been promoted to managing director at Industry Ventures. Roosevelt had joined the firm in 2017 as a venture partner. He most recently spent roughly two years as vice president of sales at the lending company SoFi. To take on Microsoft Office, Google has hired former Outlook boss Javier Soltero. Axios has more here

Justin Sunshine has joined General Atlantic as a managing director. He spent the previous decade with the Blackstone Group, where he was also a managing director.

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Essential Reads

The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined.


HBO just released the official full trailer for the 6th and final season of “Silicon Valley,” which begins airing this coming Sunday. 

Netflix has released the trailer for “The Crown: Season 3,” coming November 17th. 

What true friendship looks like.

Retail Therapy

Prices start at $13 at Banksy’s store, if you can answer a simple question.

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