November 1, 2019

Friday! [Performs 12-ounce curl.]  

We’re so excited to see a bunch of you in less than two weeks at our last event of 2019. We have an amazing line-up of speakers, including Facebook‘s former chief security officer Alex StamosKitchen United founder Jim CollinsCyan Banister of Founders FundSteve Jurvetson and Maryanna Saenko of Future Ventures,and Silicon Valley’s most prominent banker, Michael Grimes of Morgan Stanley

Thanks in advance to Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times and CNBC’s Lora Kolodny, who will be helping with interviews. Special thanks, too, to the early-stage enterprise-focused venture firm NextWorld Capital for hosting us at all its gorgeous space in San Francisco. Thanks to Carta, which helps companies and investors manage their cap tables, valuations, investments, and equity plans. And thanks to KCPR, the boutique tech PR and strategy firm that raised its hand early on to partner with us on this one. 

We’re pretty much out of seats at the point, though we can squeeze in a few more of you before closing up ticket sales. If you miss it, don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of coverage for you afterward.:) 

Hope you have a stellar weekend, everyone. See you Monday.

Top News

It’s official: Google will pay $7.35 per share for publicly traded Fitbit in an all-cash deal that values Fitbit at $2.1 billion. This is a big win for Fitbit. As of August — before reports of Google’s interest in the company first surfaced — the company’s shares were trading at just $2.81, down from their high in the summer of 2015 of $51.90 per share. The move amps up the wearables race. It’s also causing some consternation over Google collecting even more data about us. Then again, who wears their Fitbit for more than a few weeks before relegating it the drawer full of Post-It notes and unused phrase books? (Facebook was reportedly interested in the company at half the price Google is paying.)

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This Startup is Making Customizable Sexual Harassment Training That It Says Employees Won’t Hate (or Forget)

If you work for someone else, you likely know the drill: in comes that annual email reminding you that it’s time for unconscious bias or sexual harassment training, and if you could please finish up this mandatory module by this date, that would be terrific

The email — not to mention the programming itself — is straight out of “Office Space.” Little surprise that when Anne Solmssen, a Harvard-trained computer scientist, happened to call a friend recently who was clicking through his own company-sponsored training program, his answer to how it was going was, “It’s more interesting when I have baseball on.” 

Solmssen has some other ideas about how to make sexual harassment training far more interesting and less “cringe-worthy.” Indeed, she recently joined forces with Roxanne Petraeus, another Harvard grad, to create Ethena, a software-as-a-service startup that’s promising customizable training delivered in bite-size segments that caters to individuals based on how much they already know about sexual harassment in the workplace. The software will also be sector-specific when it’s released more widely in the first quarter of next year. 

The company first came together this past summer led by Petraeus, who joined the U.S. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to help defray the cost of her Ivy League education and wound up spending seven years in the U.S. Army, including as a civil affairs officer, before co-founding an online meals marketplace, then spending a year with McKinsey & Co. to get a better handle on how businesses are run. 

Petraeus says that across her experience, and particularly in the Army, she had “great leaders” who were “thoughtful about their [reports’] development goals and what was happening in their personal lives, and brought out the best in their people, rather than making them feel less than or marginalized.” 

Still, she was aware that from an institutional standpoint, most harassment training is not thoughtful, that it’s a matter of checking boxes on an annual basis to ensure compliance with different state laws, depending on where an organization is headquartered. She marveled that so much of the content employees are consuming seems “designed for a 1980s law firm.” 

More here.

Massive Fundings

Casstime, a four-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based auto aftermarket procurement platform, has raised $80 million in Series C-1 funding co-led by Sequoia Capital China and Source Code Capital, with participation from earlier backer Hua Partners. DealStreetAsia has more here.

Paidy, a five-year-old, Tokyo, Japan-based company that provides instant credit to consumers, has raised $83 million in Series C funding from PayPal VenturesSoros Capital ManagementJS Capital Management and Tybourne Capital Management. The company also secured $60 million in new debt financing. TechCrunch has more here.

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

Kira Biotech, a months-old, Brisbane, Australia-based startup developing therapeutics that target difficult-to-treat immune system disorders, has raised $13.8 million (U.S.) in funding led by OneVenturesIP Group, and the Advance Queensland Business Development FundMore here

OZY Media, a six-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based media and entertainment company, just raised $35 million in Series C funding led by famed hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, with participation from Interlock PartnersLionTreeAtinum InvestmentGSV CapitalAxel SpringerEmerson Collective, and several individual investors. Axios has more here.

Smaller Fundings

Accusonus, a 7.5-year-old, Patras, Greece-based AI startup that helps video creators improve their audio, has raised $3.3 million in Series A funding led by Venture Friends. TechCrunch has more here.  

BuildOps, a 1.5-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based maker of a field service and business process software platform for small and mid-size subcontractors working in commercial real estate, has raised $5.8 million across two tranches of seed funding. Backers in the startup include Fika VenturesMetaProp VCGlobal Founders CapitalCrossCut VenturesTenOneTenIGSB1984 VenturesL2 VenturesGroundUp, NBA veteran Metta World PeaceOberndorf EnterprisesWolfson Group, and Sequoia (via its scouts program). More here

Cervest, a 3.5-year-old, London-based startup that’s using machine learning to generate real-time signals that address questions linked to climate uncertainty, land, and natural resources, has raised £3.7 million in funding co-led by deep-tech investor Future Positive Capital and Astanor Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

Forecast, a three-year-old, Denmark-based project management software startup, raised $5.5 million in funding led by Crane Venture Partners, with participation from Seed Capital and Heartcore. TechCrunch has more here

Mainline, a two-year-old, Houston, Tex.-based maker of e-sports tournament software, has raised $6.8 million in Series A funding led by Work America Capital. Crunchbase News has more here.

New Funds

IA Ventures, the nine-year-old, New York-based early-stage, big-data focused venture firm founded by Roger Ehrenberg, is closing up a fourth fund, judging by an SEC filing that says the firm has raised $150 million in capital commitments. (The listed target is $160 million.) The firm had closed its third fund with $160 million in 2015. More here

Frog Capital, a 10-year-old, London-based venture firm focused on European software companies that are generating at least €5 million in annual revenue, is hoping to raise a new, €150 million fund. With uncertainty around Brexit, the European Investment Fund, which invested in Frog’s first fund, has yet to commit this time around, a Frog cofounder tells; he anticipates that other U.K. institutions will fill the void, however. More here

Unusual Ventures, a nearly two-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based early-stage venture firm, is looking to raise $400 million for its second fund, suggests a new SEC filing. It’s a large target, considering that only firm cofounder John Vrionis is listed on the filing. Jyoti Bansal — who cofounded AppDynamics before teaming up with Vrionis to cofound Unusual — is now mostly focused on his newest startup, Harness, a continuous delivery-as-a-service platform. The pair had announced a $160 million debut fund in the spring of last year. More here

Foresite Capital, a nine-year-old, Bay Area- and New York-based life sciences-focused venture firm, launched an incubator for startups at the intersection of healthcare and data science. FierceBiotech has more here.


Ehang, a China-based maker of recreational and commercial drones that has raised more than $50 million in funding, including from GGV Capital and Zhen Partners, has filed for a $100 million IPO. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq. The company, which has been flying demonstration flights with passengers on board, is gearing up to launch its first commercial service in Guangzhou after getting approval from local and national regulators to deploy its drones in the area, says TechCrunch. More here

Oyster Point Pharma, a Princeton, N.J.-based Phase 3 biotech company that’s developing a nasal spray formulation for dry eye disease, raised $80 million in its IPO yesterday. The pre-revenue company priced 5 million shares at $16, the low end of the range, for an initial market cap of $330 million. Today, its first day of trading on the Nasdaq, its shares rose slightly to close at $17.90 apiece. More here.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says staying out of politics helped the company win that Pentagon cloud contract. In related news that will likely become part of an enormous lawsuit, an upcoming book on James Mattis’ tenure as secretary of Defense claims Donald Trump told Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of that same $10 billion cloud contract.

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Tusk Venture Partners is looking to hire a full-time analyst. The job is in New York.

Essential Reads

According to Reuters, the U.S. government has launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance‘s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app The deal was conducted two years ago, but TikTok reportedly didn’t seek clearance for the acquisition from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which gives the  panel scope to investigate it now.​ 

Uber‘s lawsuit challenging a New York City law that caps the number of ride-hail drivers on its streets has been dismissed, reports The Verge. The law went into effect in August of last year, pausing the issuance of new licenses to drivers for 12 months, but this past August, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to extend the cap another 12 months. More here

Instacart shoppers are, once again, fed up with their venture-backed employer, writing in an open letter that the company has “eviscerated” their pay and “pirated” their tips.


A teenager who invented a solution to blind spots. On the return of funk. LeBron James wins again.

Retail Therapy

Coffee for closers.

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