October 29, 2019


Top News

WhatsApp sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group today, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. Reuters has more here

A former Juul executive is reportedly suing the fast-growing company, saying he was retaliated against for raising concerns when Juul allegedly shipped out one million contaminated e-cigarette pods earlier this year but didn’t tell customers or issue a recall. The plaintiff,  Siddharth Breja, a former senior vice president of global finance, says he complained to then-CEO Kevin Burns, urging the company to at least include “best by” date or a date of manufacture on the packaging. According to the lawsuit, Burns responded, “Half our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fos, who the f*ck is going to notice the quality of our pods.” Buzzfeed has the scoop here.

 The city of Los Angeles wants a peek at the location data collected by the Uber scooters in its city, but Uber doesn’t want to give up the information. In fact, CNet reports that Uber just filed a lawsuit against L.A., saying the city is going too far. (We can’t wait to see how this plays out with autonomous cars.)

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This Former Uber Exec Wants to Design and Furnish Your Next Pad

Chan Park feels like “an eternal nomad.” He has since age 12, when he moved from Korea to the U.S., where he attended middle school in Minnesota, followed by high school in New Jersey, followed by college in New Hampshire. Then he really began to bounce around. Park worked as a trader in New York out of college, embraced the ski-bum life in Utah, then headed to Asia for Uber, where he spent six years, running its expansion team, then managing its entire Southeast Asia business out of Singapore. 

More specifically, he was responsible for eight countries across the region, and 350 people, which didn’t give him a lot of time to organize his home. But he wasn’t overwhelmed by the chaos. Instead, he says that in Singapore, something unusual happened. “There’s this huge culture of landlords furnishing space to attract expats,” explains Park. “The furnishings aren’t super high-end, but they’re well-designed and well put together, and it enabled me to be basically moved in as soon as I put my clothes in the closet.” Suddenly, coming home was a treat — a new sensation for him. “For the first time, I was proud to host friends for dinners and barbecues and to just open the door and relax.” 

Park knew his U.S. friends could benefit from the same experience, and before long, he was talking with his Dartmouth classmate turned product and industrial designer Christian Talmage about forming their own company. Enter Oliver Space, which provides a lot of what that Singaporean landlord delivered to Park. It furnishes places for busy professionals, making moving into a new home as easy as hanging up their clothes. 

The now year-old service is available in the Bay Area only. And Oliver Space employs just a dozen people so far. But the company has already gained enough traction to attract $6.8 million in seed funding from an interesting array of investors, including Mayfield, Abstract Ventures, investors Jana Messerschmidt and April Underwood, Opendoor founder Eric Wu, and Kevin and Julia Hartz of Eventbrite, among others. 

Now, Oliver Space just has to grow as quickly, or more so, than other furniture-as-service startups to recently attract funding. 

More here.

Massive Fundings

Greensill, an eight-year-old, London-based provider of working capital and supply chain finance, has raised $655 million in new funding from earlier backer SoftBank Vision Fund. The company had raised $250 million from General Atlantic in its first round of institutional financing last year, followed by a separate, $800 million infusion from the Vision Fund just five months ago. Crunchbase News has more here

MX Player, a two-year-old, India-based, increasingly popular video app that offers both local playback and streaming services, says it has raised $110.8 million in Series A(!) funding led by Chinese internet giant TencentTimes Internet, which acquired a majority stake in MX Player in late 2017 for $140 million, also participated in the round, which values the company at $500 million, according to TechCrunch. More here

Nuvation, a year-old, New York-based cancer drug startup led David Hung, has raised $275 million in Series A funding. Omega Funds led the round, joined by Aisling CapitalAltitude Life Science VenturesBaupost GroupBoxer CapitalEDBIECOR1 CapitalFidelityPavilion CapitalPerceptive AdvisorsRedmile Group, and Surveyor Capital. Hung founded Medivation, later selling it to Pfizer in a $14 billion deal. He more recently headed to the biotech startup Axovant, where things “went very wrong,” notes FierceBiotech. More here

PeerStreet, a six-year-old, L.A.-based platform for investing in real estate-backed loans, just raised $60 million in Series C funding. Colchis Capital led the round, joined by earlier backers Andreessen HorowitzWorld Innovation Lab, and Thomvest Ventures. Forbes has more here

Robinhood, the six-year-old, San Francisco-based company behind a popular commission-free stock-trading app, tells Axios it has raised $50 million in new Series E funding from DST Global, closing out a $373 million Series E round at a $7.6 billion valuation that was announced in July (then as a $323 million round led by DST). Don’t be surprised to see that extra money spent on ads to compete with Charles Schwab, ETrade, and TD America. Here’s why.

Scopely, an eight-year-old, L.A.-based free-to-play mobile gaming company, has raised $200 million in Series D funding at a $1.7 billion valuation. NewView Capital led the round, joined by CPPIBBaillie Gifford, and earlier backers GreycroftRevolution Growth and Sands Capital Ventures. The money will go towards M&A, reports Variety. More here

Tiqets, a six-year-old, Amsterdam-based ticketing platform for museums, shows and attractions, has raised $60 million in Series C funding led by Airbnb, with participation from earlier backers HPE Growth and Investion. TechCrunch has more here.

Vacasa, the 10-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based vacation rental management company that this summer spent $162 million to buy a similar business run by vacation industry giant Wyndham Destinations, has raised a fresh $319 million led by Silver Lake at a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skift has more here.

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

Burst Oral Care, a 2.5-year-old, Venice, Ca.-based maker of sonic toothbrushes, has raised more than $20 million led by Volition Capital, with participation from a small group of seed investors. More here

Candy.com, a 10-year-old, Braintree, Ma.-based online candy retailer, has raised $31 million in funding for a new supply chain business called Green Rabbit that it built to manage its own temperature-sensitive confectionary products. The capital comes from Guidepost Growth Equity, a growth equity firm. More here.

CelLink, a seven-year-old, San Carlos, Ca.-based maker of flexible electric circuit tech for auto and energy applications, has raised $22.5 million in Series B funding from RBVCFord Motor Co., and BMW i-VenturesMore here

ESS, a seven-year-old, Wilsonville, Ore.-based maker of energy storage systems, has raised $30 million in Series C funding. Breakthrough Energy Ventures and SoftBank Group’s SB Energy co-led the round, joined by Energy Ventures, PTT Global ChemicalBASF Venture CapitalCycle Capital ManagementPresidio Partners Investment ManagementIPM Group, and Pangaea Ventures. GreenTechMedia has more here

Fountain, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based automated gig and hourly hiring platform, has raised $23 million in Series B funding led by DCM. The round also included the Chinese recruitment site 51jobOrigin Ventures and Uncork Capital. The company has now raised $34 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.

IDNow, a five-year-old, Munich, Germany-based identity verification company that enables consumers to verify their identity online, using their smartphone, tablet or webcam, has raised $40 million from Corsair Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

PierianDx, a five-year-old, St. Louis, Mo.-based clinical genomics informatics startup, has raised $27 million in Series B funding. ATW Partners and SJF Ventures co-led the round, joined by earlier backers Health Catalyst CapitalInova Health SystemsRTI International, and ARUP LabsMore here

Ribbon, a two-year-old, New York- and Charlotte, N.C.-based company that empowers buyers to make all-cash offers on homes, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Greylock Partners, along with an additional $300 million in debt from Goldman Sachs (an amount that may be increased by $220 million, says the company). The round brings Ribbon’s total equity and debt funding to $555 million. Last year, it raised a $225 million in Series A round from Greylock, Bain Capital VenturesNFX, and Nyca Partners, all of which just re-upped. The RealDeal has more here

Scratchpay, a three-year-old, L.A.-based lending company focused around veterinary care, has raised $15 million in Series B funding and another $50 million in debt. Companion Fund led the equity piece, with participation from TTV CapitalFJ Labs and Struck Capital. The $50 million warehouse facility comes from Credit SuisseMore here

Twistle, an eight-year-old, Seattle-based mobile-health platform that helps clinical teams streamline care pathways by automating follow-up and surveillance, has raised $16 million in Series A funding co-led by Health Enterprise Partners and Memorial Care Innovation FundMore here

WeFarm, a four-year-old, London-headquartered marketplace and networking site for small-holder farmers in Kenya and Uganda, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by earlier investor True Ventures, with participation from AgFunderJune Fund and other earlier investors LocalGlobeADV and Norrsken Foundation. TechCrunch has more here.

Smaller Fundings

ALICE, a six-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based simulation platform for construction that leveraging AI to analyze a project’s building requirements and generate more efficient construction plans, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Merus Capital, with participation from FoundamentalBlackhorn Ventures and Lightspeed Venture PartnersMore here

Become, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based business lending marketplace that caters to small and mid-size businesses, has raised $10 million in Series A  funding, along with $2.5 million in venture debt. The equity piece was co-led by Benson Oak Ventures and Magenta Venture Partners, with participation from RIO Ventures HoldingsiAngels and Entrée Capital. The debt funding was provided by Viola Credit. TechCrunch has more here

Fireflies.AI, a five-year-old, San Francisco based meeting transcription and collaboration tool, has raised $4.6 million in seed funding led by Canaan. Other investors in the round include F7 Ventures and angel investors April Underwood, Slack CMO Bill Macaitis, and Salesforce director of search Susan Kimberlin. VentureBeat has more here

KOIO, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based direct-to-consumer Italian leather sneaker label, just raised $6 million in funding. Founders Fund led the round, joined by Acton Capital Partners and Brand Foundry. The company has now raised $9 million altogether. More here

Manime, a two-year-old, a Palo Alto, Ca.-based company making custom-fit gel nail adhesives, has raised $2.6 million in seed funding led by Canaan, with participation from Trinity VenturesTechstars and NFX. TechCrunch has more here.  

mPower Technology, a four-year-old, Albuquerque, N.M.-based solar cell startup, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from Sun Mountain CapitalMore here

Quill, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based no-frills enterprise messaging startup led by Stripe’s former creative director, has quietly raised two rounds of funding, reports TechCrunch. It closed a $2 million seed round led by Sam Altman, with participation from General Catalyst, followed by a $12.5 million Series A round at a $62.5 million post-money valuation led by Index VenturesMore here

Recount Media, a months-old, Bay Area-based video venture that was founded by journalists John Heilemann and John Battelle and says it will deliver bite-size “remixes” of the day’s biggest political stories, has raised $10 million in funding. Backers include Union Square Ventures, Jay-Z’s Arrive venture fund, Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures, Robert Wolf’s 32 VenturesTrue VenturesSV Angel, and a couple of individual angel investors. Vanity Fair has more here

Searchable.ai, a three-month-old, San Francisco-based stealthy search startup focused on the enterprise, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Defy Partners. Other investors in the round include Paul English, co-founder of Kayak; Wayne Chang, co-founder of Crashlytics; Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot; Jonathan Kraft, president and COO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots; MIT professor Edward RobertsEric Dobkin, founder and chairman emeritus of Goldman Sachs Global Equity Capital Markets; and Susquehanna International Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Socially Determined, a nearly three-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based healthcare data analytics startup, has raised $7.3 million in Series A funding from Ziegler Link-Age FundsProMedica3MOSF HealthCare, and LRVHealthMore here.

New Funds

Bigbang Angels, a seven-year-old, South Korea-based seed-stage venture firm, is raising $20 million for a fund focused on early-stage, “deep tech” startups in Southeast Asia, says DealStreetAsia. More here

KKR has gathered more than $2 billion for a second growth-equity fund focused on technology, media and telecommunications, according to Bloomberg. The fund, which is expected to close by year’s end, is about triple the size of its debut vehicle, the KKR Next Generation Technology Growth Fund, which closed with $714 million in 2016. More here.


More China-based companies are listing on U.S. exchanges. Among them, Canaan, a Chinese cryptocurrency mining equipment maker, just filed for a $400 million U.S. IPOLIZHI, a Chinese podcasting platform that has filed for a $100 million IPO; and Phoenix Tree Holdings, a Chinese online marketplace for apartment rentals that this week filed for a $100 million IPO

Meanwhile, MLU, a Russian ride-hail joint venture between Yandex and Uber, is reportedly in talks with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs about an IPO that would be dual-listed in Russia and the U.S. Bloomberg has the story here. More here.


Fortinet, the publicly traded cybersecurity software company, has acquired five-year-old enSilo, an endpoint security company, for undisclosed terms. According to Crunchbase, the Sunnyvale-based company had raised $57.5 million from investors, including Rembrandt Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners. ZDNet has more here

IAC/Interactive is exploring a sale of its CH Media business, the parent company of CollegeHumor and other digital brands, according to Bloomberg. It notes that a potential sale would be the latest corporate move IAC has taken to streamline its portfolio, which is also moving forward to plans to spin off one of its biggest money-makers: Match Group. More here.


Angus Davis, who cofounded TellMe in 1999 (and later helped sell it to Microsoft) and more recently founded Upserve, a maker of point-of-sale and management software for restaurants, has joined Foundation Capital as its newest full-time partner.  

New Enterprise Associates has promoted Ed Mathers to general partner and Blake Wu to partner. Mathers had joined NEA back in 2008. Wu joined the firm in 2014. Both focus on healthcare investments. 

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Essential Reads

This the gig worker ballot initiative UberLyftDoorDash and Instacart are backing. 

Amazon is turning up the heat on the world of grocery deliveries, making Amazon Fresh free for Prime members after previously charing $14.99 per month for the service. 

A look at Josh Hawley‘s war on big tech. (“Hawley is looking to make a name for himself on Capitol Hill. And he’s going through Facebook and Google to do it.”)


Why L.A.’s Getty Museum may never burn down

An unlikely ally for elephants. 

What going full-size candy bar at Halloween says about you

Retail Therapy

Gifts for tennis lovers.

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