October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween!

Also, apologies for the very short edition today. It was a day full of calls, and we have to now escort an alien and emergency medical technician around the neighborhood, work for which we will be paid in Mars bars later. (Shh. They don’t know. They must never know.) 

Much more tomorrow.:)

Top News

Pinterest had some good news today . . .and some bad. Its shares dropped 19 percent in extended trading after it reported disappointing third-quarter results. (It was spending to make the site “more intuitive,” said CEO Ben Silbermann in a statement.) At the same time, notes CNBC Pinterest is growing at a faster clip than online ad rivals Google and Facebook and picking up some market share. Sales grew 47 percent in the latest quarter from a year earlier.

Sponsored By . . .

Quiz Time! How many years does it take the average US tech company to IPO? If you guessed 11 years – congrats! If you work at private tech company, you may not want to wait a decade to get liquidity. Enter EquityZen. EquityZen helps you sell your private stock – on your time and at your price. List your shares today.

Utah’s Startup Scene Gets Another Boost as Album VC Closes a $75 Million Fund

Album VC, a Lehi, Utah-based early-stage venture firm that’s been known until now as Peak Ventures, just gathered up $75 million in capital commitments for its third early-stage fund. 

The development shows investor confidence in Album’s young team, which came together in 2014 after the founder of Zinch — a site connecting colleges and students that sold to the ed-tech company Chegg in 2011 — decided to try his hand at investing in other startups. 

As that founder, Sid Krommenhoek — who stayed on with Chegg for several years, running its international efforts — explains it, “I thought I’d do another startup. But I also knew from our own experience in struggling to raise money the need for more capital in Utah, and I thought having that operator-entrepreneur perspective could be useful.” 

A first fund, like many in the industry, was more of an experiment, though it was a decent $23 million, thanks largely to the support of Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig, who was early to commit capital to the fund. A second ($56 million) fund followed when Krommenhoek and John Mayfield — a friend who joined him from a marketing role at Qualtrics — began investing more seriously in their backyard and beyond. 

They were soon joined by a third investor, Diogo Myrrha, who began as a principal with the firm and is now a general partner. Explains Krommenhoek of one of the many things that binds the three Brigham Young University grads, “We all came into Utah’s orbit when it wasn’t necessarily a place where you could live out your career, but that’s changed.”

 More here.

Massive Fundings

Arranta Bio, a months-old, Watertown, Ma.-based contract development manufacturing organization focused on the biotech industry, has raised $82 million in funding, including from Ampersand Capital Partners and Thermo FisherMore here

B8ta, a four-year-old, San Francisco- and New York-based operator of an experiential retail-as-a-service platform, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Evolution Ventures, with participation from Macy’s, Khosla Ventures, and Peak State Ventures. Retail Touchpoints has more here

Tmunity Therapeutics, a four-year-old, Philadelphia, Pa.-based biotherapeutics company trying to propel a series of cancer-fighting cellular therapies through clinical trials, has raised $75 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in the round include Kleiner PerkinsWestlake Village BioPartnersGilead SciencesThe University of PennsylvaniaBe The Match BioTherapies and BrightEdge Venture FundMore here and here

Vindex, a months-old, New York-based esports infrastructure platform founded by a former Activision Blizzard vice president, has raised $60 million in Series A funding from unnamed investors. ESPN has more here

Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

Crunchbase, a 12-year-old, Bay Area-based private company information database that spun out of TechCrunch in 2015, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by OMERS Ventures. Earlier investors also participated in the round, including Emergence CapitalMayfieldCowboy Ventures, and Verizon Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

CytoVale, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based med-tech startup focused on re-imagining diagnostics using cell mechanics and machine learning and applying this first to sepsis, just raised $15 million in funding. Breakout Ventures and Blackhorn Ventures led the round. More here

dotData, a year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based data science automation platform, has raised $23 million in Series A funding led by JAFCO, with participation from Goldman Sachs and NEC Corp. VentureBeat has more here

Freetrade, a four-year-old, London-based startup offering a mobile app for zero-commission trades and professional advice, has raised $15 million in Series A funding, including from Draper Esprit. TechCrunch has more here.

Smaller Fundings

Capital, a year-old, New York-based venture debt lender, has raised $5 million from GreycroftFuture VenturesWavemaker Ventures, and Disruptive. TechCrunch has more here

Inne, a three-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based maker of mini-labs for women to track hormones and fertility, has raised €8 million in Series A funding. Blossom Capital led the round, joined by Monkfish Equity. TechCrunch has more here

Kangarootime, a four-year-old, Buffalo, N.Y.-based maker of early childhood software, just raised $3.5 million in Series A funding, including from Cultivation CapitalMore here

Kubit, a year-old, Fremont, Ca.-based maker of augmented analytics software that aims to help teams meet their objectives, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding from Shasta VenturesModus, a nearly two-year-old, Seattle-based real estate startup focused on title and escrow services, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding co-led by NFX and Felicis VenturesLiquid 2 Ventures and earlier backers Mucker CapitalHustle Fund500 StartupsRambleside and Cascadia Ventures also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.

Tactile Mobility, a seven-year-old, Haifa, Israel-based auto tech firm that sells tactile sensing and data analytics tech for smart and autonomous vehicles, municipalities, and fleet managers, has raised $9 million in funding. Investors include Porsche and Union Tech Ventures. VentureBeat has more here

Techtonic, a 13-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based developer of onshore, product-driven software, has raised $6 million in Series B funding. Camden Partners led the round, joined by University Ventures and Zoma CapitalMore here.


Aaref Hilaly has left Sequoia Capital after seven years to join Wing Venture Capital as a partner. Before joining Sequoia, Hilaly was a VP of engineering at Symantec. 

Scott Painter, the founder of the SoftBank-backed car leasing startup Fair.com, has resigned as CEO following last week’s layoffs and announcement of a planned restructuring, according to The Verge. SoftBank’s Adam Hieber is taking over as interim CEO. Painter will stay on as chairman of Fair. His brother, who was Fair’s CFO, left the company last week. Painter is insisting he’ll remain highly involved and that “different skill sets are needed during different phases of a company’s growth,” but this still looks awfully messy and it certainly comes at a lousy time for SoftBank. In fact . . . 

SoftBank Masayoshi Son has evidently been so overworked of late that he actually fell asleep on stage earlier this week at the Future Investment Initiative conference, held in Saudi Arabia. We get it. Jet lag plus four people on a panel? It’s a lot to take. Business Insider has more here

VC Cack Wilhelm has left her role as a San Francisco-based partner with Accomplice, says Axios, a job she took two years ago after spending three years as a principal with Scale Venture Partners. Axios notes that Wilhelm isn’t talking next steps yet. 

Noah Wintroub, a key figure at in JPMorgan who has been helping break the lock that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have on leading tech IPOs, receives more attention than he might like in a new Business Insider piece. The outlet talked with current and former JPMorgan employees about Wintroub’s rise. While some suggest he’s an “outstanding banker,” he’s also assigned some of the blame for JPMorgan’s overly cozy relationship with WeWork. More here.

Sponsored By . . .

Want to learn why top VCs and business leaders leverage Affinity? Using patent-pending technology, Affinity helps teams manage and grow their networks by unlocking introductions to decision makers and auto-populating pipelines to increase deal flow. In industries where success is contingent upon maintaining high-touch relationships, Affinity allows you to get deeper insights into your network and finally eliminate manual data entry


JetBlue Technology Ventures is looking to hire an investment analyst. The job is in San Carlos, Ca.

Essential Reads

Senior government officials in multiple U.S.-allied countries were targeted earlier this year with hacking software that used Facebook’s WhatsApp to take over users’ phones, according to Reuters sources. More here.


Twenty-seven classic Halloween movies

We love Katie Couric

Get that deep sleep.

Retail Therapy

Timeline clock.

Filed Under:

Don’t Miss Out!

Sign up today to receive a free daily email with everything you need to start your day. Plus, keep track of the companies and personalities that will shape the industry in the months and years to come. Let StrictlyVC be your very own venture capital concierge.

StrictlyVC on Twitter