• 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.

    Sponsored By …  

    Fun fact: Amazon went public in 1997 with $16 million in revenue and a market cap of $438 million. #ThoseWereTheDays. Unless you can write a $1 million check, it’s almost impossible to get exposure to early stage tech. Enter EquityZen. EquityZen allows accredited investors to access proven pre-IPO tech firms like Impossible Foods, SpaceX, Stripe, Rivian Automotive and Epic Games through its pooled funds. Explore EquityZen’s secondary market today.

    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.

    Sponsored By … 

    Fintech Harness Wealth has built a process to help clients, on average, identify $100K+ in potential untapped financial value over time. They help you see whether you are missing out on maximizing your wealth and find the best financial advisers, tax professionals and/or trust & estate attorneys to help you capture it. Learn more at Harness Wealth


    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.

  • October 16, 2019


    Top News 

    Huh. Shares of Netflix soared more than 10 percent in extended trading today after the company reported mixed results, with earnings that beat expectations, a miss on domestic subscriber adds, and revenue that slightly missed analysts’ expectations. CNBC has more here

    OGs, take note: Yahoo announced today that it will stop allowing users to post new content to any Yahoo Group this coming Monday and that it’s deleting all Yahoo Groups content in December.

    Sponsored By …  

    Fun fact: Amazon went public in 1997 with $16 million in revenue and a market cap of $438 million. #ThoseWereTheDays. Unless you can write a $1 million check, it’s almost impossible to get exposure to early stage tech. Enter EquityZen. EquityZen allows accredited investors to access proven pre-IPO tech firms like Impossible Foods, SpaceX, Stripe, Rivian Automotive and Epic Games through its pooled funds. Explore EquityZen’s secondary market today.

    Shoe Companies Rothy’s and Steve Madden Are At Each Other’s Throats 

    In August, after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the venture-backed shoe startup Rothy’s, shoe giant Steven Madden filed a pre-emptive lawsuit asking a federal court to rule that its Rosy Flat shoes don’t copy design elements of the Point ballet flat that Rothy’s began selling soon after its 2015 launch. 

    More, it asked that seven related patents that Rothy’s has been issued — and that Rothy’s has accused Madden of infringing — be declared invalid. 

    Now, Rothy’s is batting back again, today filing counterclaims of design patent and trade dress infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition, while also managing to get in a sick burn, writing in its filing that instead of “pursuing independent product development, Madden has chosen to slavishly copy Rothy’s product design in violation of Rothy’s valuable intellectual property rights.” 

    It’s hard to argue they aren’t copycats once you see both shoes. Nearly as galling to Rothy’s, Steve Madden’s shoes retail for half the price.  

    Steve Madden — now a 29-year-old company that’s publicly traded, valued by investors at $3 billion and largely still run by Steve Madden himself (he’s its creative and design chief) — is known for finding inspiration in the work of other brands that wish it would not. Among a handful of companies to tangle legally with the shoe titan in recent years is venture-backed Allbirds,  which accused Steve Madden of copying its wool trainer in 2017. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Healx, a five-year-old, Cambridge, England-based drug discovery platform for rare diseases, has raised $56 million in Series B funding led by Atomico, with participation from Intel CapitalGlobal BrainBtov Partners and earlier backers Balderton CapitalAmadeus Capital Partners, and entrepreneur-investor  Jonathan Milner. FierceBiotech has more here

    MyGate, a three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based startup that offers security management and convenience service for guard-gated premises, has raised $56 million in Series B funding from internet giant TencentTiger Global ManagementJS Capital, and earlier investor Prime Venture Partners. MyGate has now raised $67.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Pensando Systems, a year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based end-to-end edge software-defined services platform created by by top former Cisco execs Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani, emerged from stealth mode today with $145 million in Series C funding led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company, which had quietly raised $71 million in Series A funding and $62 million in Series B funding, has already amassed $278 million altogether. VentureBeat has more here.

    Provivi, a six-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based startup that produces pesticide alternatives for farmers based on insect pheromones, has raised $85 million in Series C funding. Pontifax and an undisclosed fund co-led the round, joined by Tybourne Capital Management and earlier investors Kairos VenturesSpruce CapitalLanx Capital, and BASF. AgFunder News has more here

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Building Engines, a 19-year-old, Boston-based SaaS-driven operations platform for commercial real estate, just raised $12.7 million led by Wavecrest Growth Partners, with participation from River Cities Capital FundsMassMutual Ventures, and Camber Creek VenturesMore here

    Lively, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that provides what it’s pitching as better Health Savings Accounts, has raised $27 million in Series B funding. Costanoa Ventures led the round, joined by Ally VenturesLiquid 2 VenturesPJCTeamworthy VenturesStreamlined Ventures, and Y CombinatorMore here

    McMakler, a four-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based real estate platform, has raised $20 million in funding from Balderton Capital and GR CapitalMore here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Autify, a three-year-old, Tokyo-based platform that makes testing web application as easy as clicking a few buttons, has raised a $2.5 million seed round from Global BrainSalesforce VenturesArchetype Ventures and several angels. TechCrunch has more here

    Mable, a 10-month-old, Boston-based wholesale commerce platform that helps small food and grocery businesses stock their shelves with local and emerging brands (it was founded by Arik Keller, whose last company was acquired by Facebook), has raised $3.1 million in seed funding. Investors in the round include VenrockAccomplice, and Founder CollectiveMore here

    SharpCloud Software, a seven-year-old, London-based company that makes business collaboration software, just raised £4.5 million from YFM Equity Partners and British Smaller Companies VCTMore here.

    New Funds 

    Clean Energy Ventures, a two-year-old, Boston-based venture firm that’s investing in early-stage companies looking to commercialize more advanced energy technologies, says it has closed its debut fund with $110 million in capital commitments. More here

    Insignia Ventures Partners, a two-year-old, Singapore-based venture capital group, has closed its second fund with $200 million in capital commitments, The Business Times reports. More here.


    Quentin Clark resigned a couple of weeks ago as the CTO of Dropbox at the same time that the storage company announced two other execs — Bharat Mediratta and Tim Young — were joining its leadership team in Clark’s stead. Now we know where Clark was headed — into the world of venture capital and, more specifically, into a role as a managing director with the 19-year-old venture firm General Catalyst. We talked with him to learn a bit more

    The Boston Retirement System is the latest pension plan to pull its money from Ken Fisher’s investment firm after the billionaire made off-color comments at a conference last week. He’s down about $1 billion so far, reports CNBC. 

    Big news from New York Times writer Mike Isaac. “Billions” creators and show runners will serve as writers and executive producers on a new limited series for Showtime based on Isaac’s book “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.” Isaac will serve as co-executive producer on the project. Variety has more here

    When Elon Musk smoked weed on YouTube host Joe Rogan’s show, it may have inadvertently cost taxpayers $5 million

    On November 6, when Uber‘s lockup period expires, drivers for the company are reportedly planning to demonstrate outside at least three investors’ homes and offices, including Bill Gurley in Silicon Valley and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp in L.A.

    Sponsored By … 

    Fintech Harness Wealth has built a process to help clients, on average, identify $100K+ in potential untapped financial value over time. They help you see whether you are missing out on maximizing your wealth and find the best financial advisers, tax professionals and/or trust & estate attorneys to help you capture it. Learn more at Harness Wealth


    Samsung NEXT Ventures is hiring a principal. The job is based in Mountain View, Ca.

    Essential Reads 

    Inside Facebook’s botched attempt to start a new cryptocurrency. 

    Current machine learning models aren’t yet up to the task of distinguishing false news reports,  new MIT research shows. 

    Instagram will give you more power over your third party apps . . . in about six months

    Those bailout proposals for WeWork are almost definitely coming


    A look at the best in this year’s nature photography

    Understanding the low-key jewelry on “Succession.” 

    That is some terrible fan.

    Retail Therapy 

    The Vatican is hoping to attract tech-savvy youngsters to the Catholic Church with the launch of a “Click to Pray” e-rosary. What’s next: bitcoin in the collection basket? (We worked on that one.)

  • October 15, 2019

    Tuesday! Happy birthday to our beloved first subscriber! Also, thanks to those of you who let us know that Russell Wilson is very much the current, not former, Seattle Seahawks quarterback. We really *fumbled* that one. (You collectively know about a million times more about the NFL than we do, and we appreciate the help.)  

    Also! Carta, the seven-year-old ownership and equity management platform company that helps investors, startups, and startup employees manage their shares, has joined us as a sponsor in our November 13th event. Partnerships make it possible for us to pull these evenings together, so giant thanks, Carta. 

    More tomorrow.

    Top News 

    Google held its annual “Made By Google” hardware event this morning in New York, where it launched all sorts of new gear. Here’s everything you might have missed

    Holy moly, WeWork’s cash position is depleting so quickly that the company could be out of money within a month, say CNBC sources. It reports that SoftBank and J.P. Morgan Chase are still discussing a plan to provide a combination of equity and debt to keep the beleaguered company afloat.

    Sponsored By …

    Reality check … you’re not a VC! You can’t get access to the same private companies as Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel. Enter EquityZen. EquityZen gives accredited investors access to pre-IPO tech companies through its pooled funds. Explore companies like Stripe, Rivian Automotive and SpaceX today. Learn more.

    David Sacks’s Craft Ventures Just Closed Its Second Fund with $500 Million 

    Craft Ventures, the venture firm launched in 2017 by serial entrepreneur David Sacks, has closed its second fund with $500 million in capital commitments, an amount the firm was said to begin targeting roughly a year ago. 

    Craft’s debut fund had closed with $350 million. 

    The outfit — which Sacks runs with other serial entrepreneurs Bill Lee (Remarq, Social Concepts), Jeff Fluhr (StubHub, Spreecast), and Sky Dayton (who has founded and cofounded a lot of companies) — invests in series seed, A, and B rounds, in a wide range of companies that neatly fit into each investor’s wheelhouse. 

    For his part, Sacks, who was the COO of PayPal before founding the genealogy website Geni.com, then Yammer, is focused on both consumer and enterprise startups as long as they can go viral. 

    His signature bet at Craft is Bird, the e-scooter company whose Series A round Craft had led. (Bird more recently closed its Series D round.) 

    Fluhr focuses on marketplaces and e-commerce startups and the firm cites as one of his more prominent deals the Series A round of the nursing marketplace Trusted Health. Lee is focused on breakthrough technologies and counts among his investments the esports company Cloud9, a company that went on to raise $50 million in Series B funding last year (and is probably due to announce yet another round soon). 

    Meanwhile, Dayton — who is very notably a cofounder with Travis Kalanick in CloudKitchens, the dark kitchen company that’s literally trying to take over the world —  focuses on so-called hard tech, drawing on his experience in launching the dial-up pioneer EarthLink, along with the WiFi service provider Boingo Wireless. 

    All four have impressive portfolios as angel investors, including bets on Affirm, Airbnb, Facebook, Houzz, and Slack, though naturally, they’ve also backed startups that haven’t proved winners. An investment in the HR payroll startup Zenefits proved particularly trying for Sacks, who acquired a sizable stake in the company and — when its founding CEO, Parker Conrad, was ousted amid a regulatory scandal — stepped in to try and fix its errant ways. (He left after less than a year at the helm.) 

    It’s too soon to know if they’ll have as much success as a team. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Algolia, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s one in a group of startups that provides search as a service for websites and apps as an alternative to Google and other search engines, has raised $110 million in Series C funding. Accel led the round, joined by Salesforce Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Level Home, a three-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based startup that was founded by Apple veterans and that promises to transform any deadbolt into a connected lock, has raised $71 million from WalmartHut 8 Ventures, and Lennar. VentureBeat has more here

    Revolut, the four-year-old, U.K.-based challenger bank, is reportedly looking to raise $1.5 billion with the help of JPMorgan. The funding could take the form of $500 million in equity and a $1 billion convertible loan and would give the startup a valuation of between $5 to $10 billion, says Business Insider. Neither Revolut nor JPMorgan is commenting, More here

    Wheels, a year-old, San Francisco-based dockless e-bike rental company startup founded by Wag founders Jonathan and Joshua Viner, has raised $50 million led by DBL Partners. The company has now raised $87 million altogether. More here.  

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Abalos Therapeutics, a new Essen, Germany-based developer of oncologic immuno-virotherapies, has raised €12 million in Series A financing co-led by BIVF and Gruenderfonds RuhrMore here

    Azitra, a five-year-old, Farmington, Ct.-based medical dermatology startup, has raised $14 million in Series A funding co-led by KdT Ventures and Bios Partners, with participation from Connecticut Innovations and Godfrey CapitalMore here

    CleverTap, a six-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based user retention platform, has raised $35 million in Series C funding co-led by Tiger Global Management and Sequoia India in a deal that values the firm at $385 million. VentureBeat has more here

    Cyteir Therapeutics, a nearly two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based cancer therapy startup, just raised $40.2 million in new Series B funding, bringing the total round to $75.2 million. Novo Holdings led the round, joined by VenrockDROIA Oncology VenturesOsage University PartnersLightstone Ventures and CelgeneMore here

    Flowhub, a four-year-old, Denver-based cannabis retail management software vendor, has raised $23 million from a consortium of investors including e.venturesEvolv Ventures (the Kraft Heinz-backed venture capital fund) and Poseidon Asset Management. TechCrunch has more here.  

    Havenly, a five-year-old, Denver-based home interior decorating design and e-commerce company, has raised $32 million in Series C funding from Foundry GroupLerer HippeauKickstart Ventures, and Gingerbread Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Herow, a 12-year-old, Paris- and New York-based contextual marketing platform focused on mobile applications, has raised $18.6 million in Series B funding, including from Xerys FundSiparex, and Calao FinanceMore here

    Mathpresso, a four-year-old, Seoul, South Korea-based math homework app, has raised $14.5 million in Series B funding from Legend CapitalInterVestNP Investments, and Mirae Asset Venture Investment. TechCrunch has more here.

    Thimble, a year-old, Chicago-based company that sells short-term insurance to small businesses and freelancers, has raised $22 million in Series A funding. IAC led the round, joined by earlier investors Slow VenturesAXA Venture Partners, and Open Ocean. Note that until today, the company was known as Verifly. TechCrunch has more here

    True Balance, a five-year-old, Seoul, South Korea-based payments app for small cities and towns in India, has raised $23 million in Series C funding from NH Investment & SecuritiesIBK CapitalD3 Jubilee PartnersSB PartnersShinhan Capital, and earlier investors IMM Investment and HB Investment. TechCrunch has more here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Cashforce, a six-year-old, Belgium-based cash forecasting and working capital management startup, has raised €5 million in Series A funding co-led by INKEF Capital and Citi Ventures, with participation from Pamica and Volta Ventures. Tech.eu has more here

    Relative Insight, a seven-year-old, London-based market research tool that began by helping law enforcement monitor social platforms, has raised $5 million from Maven Capital PartnersMore here

    Rho Business, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based digital banking platform for high-growth startups that’s hoping to compete with the very well-funded startup Brex, has raised $4.9 million in seed funding led by Inspired Capital. Crunchbase News has more here

    Sofant Technologies, a seven-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based company that’s making radio-frequency microelectromechanical systems, has raised roughly $2.3 million in funding led by Kelvin Capital, with participation from EMV Capital among others. More here

    Strapi, a three-year-old, Paris, France-based “headless” content management system, has raised $4 million in seed funding co- led by Accel and Stride.vc. TechCrunch does a nice job of explaining better what the company does here

    ZitSticka, a two-year-old, New York-based skincare brand, raised $5 million in Series A funding led by BFG VenturesMore here.

    New Funds 

    M13, a three-year-old, L.A.-based venture firm that’s focused on consumer tech and participated in early rounds in Pinterest, Lyft, Ring, and Bird, says it has closed its new fund with $175 million in capital commitments. Crunchbase News has more here.


    Intel has agreed to purchase a software business from Toronto-based Pivot Technology Solutions for $27 million, the U.S. chipmaker said today. Intel said it would buy Smart Edge, a computing platform that helps split up data and store it closer to users to make computing devices respond faster. More here.


    Neil Woodford ’s investment empire imploded on Tuesday as the U.K.’s best-known fund manager was fired from his flagship fund and he walked away from his remaining two investment vehicles. The Financial Times has more here

    Facebook software engineer told CNBC today that he was fired by the company for speaking out about his colleague’s suicide last month. A Facebook spokesperson has a different story, though, telling the outlet: “This employee was not fired for joining a protest or talking about the recent tragedy on our campus. He was here for a matter of weeks, and showed poor judgement in a string of policy violations. We won’t stand for our employees intimidating one another.” More here.

    Sponsored By …

    Fintech Harness Wealth has built a process to help clients, on average, identify $100K+ in potential untapped financial value over time. They help you see whether you are missing out on maximizing your wealth and find the best financial advisers, tax professionals and/or trust & estate attorneys to help you capture it. Learn more at Harness Wealth

    Essential Reads 

    Well, it’s better than a kick in the pants: Twitter said today it will restrict how users can interact with tweets from world leaders who break its rules. Twitter said it won’t allow users to like, reply, share, or retweet the offending tweets but instead let users “quote-tweet” to allow users to express their opinions. 

    Epic has wiped the slate clean, rebooting its “Fortnite” game with an all-new Chapter 2, which introduces a brand-new location to explore. The company is clearly hoping it can revive its fortunes. The Verge has more here

    Applications to some of America’s elite business schools is falling fast as universities struggle to attract international students amid changes to immigration policies and political tensions between the U.S. and China.


    Fifty suggestions that will make you feel good. (H/T: Tim Ferriss)  

    Inside Palazzo Colonna

    “Fight Club” 20 years later.

    Retail Therapy 

    A 2,900-square-foot DIY log cabin is available on Amazon. (Additional materials —  like, a lot of them — required.)

  • October 11, 2019

    Friday! [Backs out of driveway.] Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone! See you in a few days.:)

    Top News 

    EBay, Stripe, Mastercard and Visa are all dropping out of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project, the companies announced Friday. The news comes one week after PayPal announced its withdrawal as government regulators continue to scrutinize the plans. CNBC has more here

    The SEC today says it has obtained a legal order to halt Telegram from distributing its crypto asset, known as gram. Telegram developed a messaging app that is popular with cryptocurrency traders and developers but the SEC order seeks to block it from distributing an asset that regulators say can’t legally be traded in the country. “Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold,” said Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, earlier today. The WSJ has more here.

    Sponsored By …

    Tired of supporting institutions and companies that haven’t supported you? Unlike most financial services companies, the Ellevest team is majority women. That means we do business differently — including ways to support women while seeking competitive investment returns. (And we’ll never, ever ask to talk to your husband.) Find your team at Ellevest Private Wealth.

    VC Brad Feld on WeWork, SoftBank, and Why Venture Firms May Have to Slow Their Pacing in 2020 

    Yesterday, we had a chance to talk with longtime venture investor Brad Feld of Foundry Group, whose book “Venture Deals” was recently republished for the fourth time and for good reason. It’s a storehouse of knowledge, from how venture funds really work to term sheet terms, from negotiation tactics to how to choose (and pay for) the right investment banker. 

    Feld was generous with his time and his advice to founders, many dozens of whom had dialed in, conference-call style. (You can find a full transcript of our conversation here if you’re a member of TechCrunch’s Extra Crunch.) 

    In the meantime, we thought we’d highlight some of our favorite parts of the conversation. One of these touches on SoftBank, an organization that Feld knows a little better than many other investors. We also discussed what happened at WeWork and specifically the difference between a cult-like leader and a visionary — and why it’s not always clear right away whether a founder is one or the other.  These excerpts have been edited for length and clarity. 

    We were just talking about startups raising too much money, and speaking of which, you were involved with SoftBank long ago. Your software company had raised capital from SoftBank, then you later worked for the company as an investor. This way predates the Vision Fund, but you did know Masayoshi Son, which makes me wonder: what do you think of how they’ve been investing their capital? Just for factual reference, I was initially affiliated with SoftBank with a couple of other VCs; Fred Wilson, Rich Levandov and at the time Jerry Colonna, who now runs a company called Reboot. During that period of time, a subset of us ended up starting a fund that eventually became called Mobius Venture Capital, but it was originally called SoftBank Venture Capital or SoftBank Technology Ventures. We were essentially a fund sponsored by SoftBank, so we had SoftBank money. The partners ran the fund, but we were a central part of the SoftBank ecosystem at the time. I’d say that was probably ’95, ’96 to ’99, 2000. We changed the name of the firm to Mobius in 2001 because it was endlessly getting confused with the other [SoftBank] fund activity. I do know a handful of the senior principals at SoftBank today very well, and I have enormous respect for them. Ron Fisher [the vice chairman of SoftBank Group] is the person I’m closest to. I have enormous respect for Ron. He’s one of my mentors and somebody I have enormous affection for. There are endless piles of ink spilled on SoftBank, and there are loads of perspectives on Masa and about the Vision Fund. I would make the observation that the biggest dissonance in everything that’s talked about is timeframe, because even in the 1990s, Masa was talking about a 300-year vision. Whether you take it literally or figuratively, one of Masa’s powers is this incredible long arc that he operates on. Yet the analysis that we have on a continual basis externally is very short term — it’s days, weeks, months. What Masa and the Vision Fund conceptually are playing is a very, very long-term game. Is the strategy an effective strategy? I have no idea . . .  but when you start being a VC, it takes a long time to know whether you’re any good at it out or not. It takes maybe a decade really before you actually know. You get a signal in five or six years. The Vision Fund is very young . . . It’s [also] a different strategy than any strategy that’s ever been executed before at that magnitude, so it will take a while to know whether it’s a success or not. One of the things that could cause that success to be inhibited would be having too short a view on it. If a brand-new VC or a brand new fund is measured two years in in terms of its performance, and investors look at that and that’s how they decide what to do with the VC going forward, there would be no VCs. They’d all be out of business because the first two years of a brand-new VC, with very few exceptions, is usually a time period that it’s completely indeterminate as to whether or not they’re going to be successful. 

    So many funds — not just the Vision Fund — are deploying their funds in two years, where it used to be four or five years, that it’s a bit harder. When you deploy all your capital, you then need to raise funding and it’s [too soon] to know how your bets are going to play out. One comment on that, Connie, because I think it’s a really good one: When I started, in the ’90s, it used to be a five-year fund cycle, which is why most LP docs have a five-year commitment period for VC funds. You literally have five years to commit the capital. In the internet bubble, it’s shortened to about three years, and in some cases it shortened to 12 months. At Mobius, we raised a fund in 1999 and a fund in 2000, so we had the experience of that compression. When we set out the raise Foundry, we decided that our fund cycle would be three years and we would be really disciplined about that. We had a model for how we were going to deploy capital from each of our funds over that period of time. It turned out that when we look back in hindsight, we raised a new fund every three years and eventually we lost a year in that cycle. We have a 2016 vintage and a 2018 vintage and it’s because we really deployed the capital over 2.75 to three years . . . It eventually caught up with us. I think the discipline of trying to have time diversity against the capital that you have is super important. If you talk to LPs today, there is a lot of anxiety about the increased pace at which funds have been deployed, and there has been a two year cycle in the last kind of two iterations of this. I think you’re going to start seeing that stretch back out to three years. From a time diversity perspective three years is plenty [of time] against portfolio construction. When it gets shorter, you actually don’t get enough time diversity in the portfolio and it starts to inhibit you. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Club Factory, a six-year-old, China-based cross-border e-commerce company, has reportedly raised a $100 million in Series D funding led by Qiming Venture Partners, with participation from Frees FundBertelsmann Asia InvestmentsBertelsmannIDG Capital and “Fortune 500 companies in Asia and the United States,” according to the Economic Times. The company has now raised at least $220 million, according to Crunchbase data. Crunchbase News has more here

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Citrine, a six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based data platform that says it ingests and analyzes technical data on materials, chemicals, and devices for any organization that produces a physical product, just raised $20 million in Series B funding. Prelude Ventures and Innovation Endeavors co-led the round, joined by Moore Strategic Ventures and Next47More here

    Descartes Labs, a five-year-old, Sante Fe, N.M.-based satellite imagery analytics startup, has raised $20 million in new funding led by Union Grove Venture Partners, with participation from Ajax StrategiesCrosslink Capital, and March Capital Partners. TechCrunch has more here

    Exploding Kittens, a four-year-old, L.A.-based company whose card game “combines whimsical drawings of felines with cutthroat strategy,” has raised $30 million led by The Chernin Group, says the WSJ. More here.

    Future Meat Technologies, a year-old, Jerusalem-based producer of GMO-free meat derived from animal cells, has raised $14 million in Series A funding co-led by S2G Ventures and Emerald Technology Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Polte, a three-year-old, Richardson, Tex.-based company that’s building a service that leverages 4G signal to track things for commercial and industrial use cases (it apparently uses less battery than acquiring GPS location and transmitting that over cellular), has raised $12.5 million in fresh funding in what it says is an extension of its Series A round. The company is not disclosing its investors. TechCrunch has more here

    XTransfer, a 2.5-year-old, Shanghai, China-based provider of cross-border financial services for China-based foreign trade enterprises, just raised $15 million in Series B-1 funding. eWTP Fund led the round, joined by China Merchants Venture Capital01VCYunqi Partners, and Gaorong Capital. Tech Startups has more here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Blue Canoe, a three-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based spoken language improvement platform for non-native English speakers, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Tsingyuan Ventures, with participation from Qualcomm Ventures and Fantail VenturesMore here

    Florence, a five-year-old,  Atlanta, Ga.-based company that makes clinical trials software, has raised $7.1 million in Series B funding led by Fulcrum Equity Partners, with participation from Atrium Health and Bee PartnersMore here

    Jones, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based startup that automates insurance compliance for property managers, has raised $4.6 million in funding led by Hertz Ventures, with participation from JLL SparkWeWorkMetaProp VenturesGround Up Ventures and 500 Startups. The Real Deal has more here

    Phitonex, a two-year-old, Durham, N.C.-based developer of fluorescent labels for life science research and biomarker detection, has raised $2 million in seed funding from unnamed investors. More here

    Remote Year, a 4.5-year-old, Chicago-based work-travel platform for professionals who want to live and work in different cities around the world and who pay the company tens of thousands of dollars to arrange their accommodations in different countries, has raised $5 million in new funding from Lightbank. Earlier backer Highland Capital Partners, which had led a $12 million round in the company three years ago, also joined the round. CityBizList has more here.

    StrongSalt, a two-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based encryption platform as-a-service, has raised $3 million from Valley Capital PartnersMore here

    Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings  

    Cornershop, a four-year-old, Chile-based on-demand grocery delivery startup that began life serving the Latin American market and recently shifted to offer service in Toronto, is selling 51 percent of its business to Uber for undisclosed terms in a deal that Uber expects will close early next year, after it receives all the necessary regulatory sign-offs. Cornershop had previously raised $31.7 million from investors including AccelJackson Square Ventures and others. TechCrunch has more here.

    New Funds

    Day One Ventures, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based early-stage venture capital firm that says it specializes in spearheading communications for its portfolio companies, has closed its first fund with nearly $20 million in capital commitments, according to a press release. The firm is led by Masha Drokova, formerly a PR director with Runa Capital and later founder of her own PR outfit. More here

    Ginkgo Bioworks, the Boston-based organism company, has raised $350 million for the Ferment Consortium, a new fund or funding Ginkgo spinout companies that will have full access to Ginkgo’s platform for cell programming. The fund is supported by Ginkgo’s major shareholders: Viking Global InvestorsGeneral Atlantic, and Cascade Investment. Ferment Consortium’s investors include Viking Global InvestorsGeneral Atlantic and Cascade Investment.  

    Trust Ventures, a nearly two-year-old, Austin-based venture firm backed by gazillionaire Charles Koch, is holding a first close on $70 million in capital commitments for what it expects will be a $100 million fund, it tells Crunchbase News. The outfit says it funds startups whose services “will greatly improve society but face significant public policy barriers that stifle growth.” More here.


    Standard Cognition, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based autonomous retail startup that’s hoping to help merchants compete with Amazon Go and its cashier-lees checkout stores and which has raised $86 million in venture funding, has acquired DeepMagic, a two-year-old, New York-based maker of autonomous retail kiosks that enable customers to swipe a payment card when entering a smaller kiosk or store, then simply walk out with their items. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but DeepMagic had raised just $150,000 from angel investors. TechCrunch has more here

    Stratolaunch Systems, a space company founded by late billionaire and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, said today it is continuing operations after transitioning ownership, but did not name the new owner.


    The top antitrust regulator at Federal Trade Commission, Bruce Hoffman, is stepping down after more than two years on the job. Hoffman helped create the Technology Enforcement Division, a small task force that monitors big platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon and that has been looking at the impact of mergers such as Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Hoffman’s departure begs the question: who’s hiring him? 

    Boeing’s board has removed CEO Dennis Muilenburg as chairman so he can focus on running the company after the 737 Max crisis, the company said today. Boeing is facing numerous investigations over its 737 Max planes following two fatal crashes  — one in October of last year, one in March — that killed 346 people. 

    Earlier this year, WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann appeared on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $4.1 billion. Today, Forbes announced it was lowering its estimate of his wealth to a measly $600 million-ish. More here.

    Sponsored By …

    Tired of all those big, splashy IPOs (*cough* WeWork *cough*) that fall short of expectations? Art has outperformed the S&P by 250% since 2000. Masterworks.io is an all new exclusive investing platform that lets you buy shares of blue-chip art by Warhol, Banksy, and more. Sound like your kind of investment? StrictlyVC readers can skip the 5,000+ waitlist by clicking HERE.

    Essential Reads 

    Amazon is firing three delivery firms that will collectively shed 2,000 jobs following recent investigations of Amazon’s fast-growing delivery network by BuzzFeed News and ProPublica, which focused on how the intense financial and deadline pressure Amazon puts on its growing fleet of independent delivery contractors can lead to worker mistreatment and threaten public safety. The news organizations documented deaths linked to each of these three contractors. More here

    According to CNBCWeWork is locked in negotiations this week with its largest shareholder, Softbank Group, over a new $1 billion investment to enable the shared office space company to go through a major restructuring, according to sources familiar with discussions. If the talks are successful, WeWork, which had to abandon an initial public offering last week because of investor concerns about how it was valued and its business model, will seek to negotiate a $3 billion debt deal with JPMorgan, say its the outlet’s sources. 

    “How stupid is Blizzard?” — Everyone


    Master of pumpkins

    Soviet metro stations

    Classic cars turned all-electric luxury rides.


    Therapy South Park Sox (socks).

  • October 10, 2019

    Thursday! Hope yours went very well.:)

    Top News 

    Sheesh. A day after Apple pulled an app associated with Hong Kong’s anti-government protests, Google has removed from its Google Play store a mobile game after it was flagged by Hong Kong authorities. The game allowed players to role-play as a Hong Kong protester. According to the developer, Google said the app, called “The Revolution of Our Times,” violated rules related to “sensitive events.” The WSJ has the story here.

    Sponsored By …

    Pilot, a San Francisco-based startup, recently raised a $40 million Series B from Index Ventures and Stripe to take bookkeeping and tax prep off founders’ plates. See why Lattice, OpenAI, YC Research and hundreds more trust Pilot with their books, and get 20% off your first six months of Pilot Core.

    Upgrade, the Newest Company from Renaud Laplanche, Has a New Credit Card That It Swears is Good for You 

    Three years ago, the founder of LendingClub, Renaud Laplanche, took the wraps off his second act, a consumer lending venture called Upgrade that now employs 350 people, has lent roughly $2 billion to 200,000 people, and has raised $142 million from outside investors. 

    At the time, it was jumping into a crowded market that has only become more frenzied, with a growing number of fintech startups that market themselves as more thoughtful alternatives to established banks and traditional credit card companies. While giants like Visa and MasterCard charge interest and late fees for overdue payments, for example, the Swedish unicorn company Klarna —  which allows shoppers to buy now and pay later — makes money through retailer transaction fees and late fees but doesn’t charge interest fees. Similarly, Max Levchin’s lending company, Affirm, doesn’t charge late fees when its customers rack up big charges, but it does charge interest rates (sometimes as high as 30 percent). 

    Upgrade is slightly different in that that it doesn’t invite customers to defer their payments when they buy something using dollars from Upgrade. But it still largely fits into the same mold in that it markets itself as better for lending customers and more mindful of them. Its flagship personal loans product, for example, is largely used by customers to pay off credit cards and it features credit health tools that ostensibly teach people how to improve their credit scores. 

    It also charges up to 35.89% interest annually to a small percentage of users. 

    A brand-new credit product — the Upgrade Card — takes things even further on the feel-good front. As Laplanche explains it, the card “basically combines the payments capabilities of a credit card with the low cost of a bank loan into one single product.” 

    Adds Laplanche of this hybrid creation: “Lending Club created a $100 billion industry with personal loans 12 years ago; I think this is 10 times bigger — and 10 times cheaper for consumers. 

    We’re inherently skeptical of most lending products being good — or “cheap” — for customers. But here’s how it works: instead of asking a cardholder to pay a minimum amount each month from the balance they owe on their card, Upgrade breaks down the balance into an installment plan with equal monthly payments — plus an interest payment — that can be completed in a year to three years’ time. 

    “It’s like a mortgage or a car loan with a clear payment schedule,” says Laplanche. “You can budget for it and it sort of forces you to pay down the balance over a reasonable period,” unlike credit cards where customers can run a balance for as long as they like —  which can wind up costing them an arm and a leg in interest payments alone over time. 

    There is no prepayment penalty and the card replenishes as it is paid off. More, unlike many credit cards that reward users for spending with cash back and other perks, Upgrade customers receive 1% cash back each time they make a payment toward their balance. 

    Still, there is an annual percentage rate as with most credit cards, and it’s not much kinder than other alternatives, with a span of 6.49% to upwards of 29.99%. (In fairness, the heavily hyped Apple Card comes with a starting APR of 13%.) 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Clari, a seven-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based revenue operations platform, raised $60 million in Series D funding. Sapphire Ventures led the round, joined by Madrona Venture Group and earlier investors Sequoia CapitalBain Capital Ventures, and Tenaya Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Grammarly, a 10-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of writing assistance software, just raised $90 million at a post-money valuation of more than $1 billion led by earlier backers General Catalyst and IVP. TechCrunch has more here

    Lilium, a four-year-old, Bavaria, Germany-based flying e-taxi developer, is looking to raise between $400 million and $500 million in fresh funding, according to TechCrunch. Says one of its sources: “It’s a very large round, at a very large valuation.” More here.  

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Einride, a three-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based autonomous vehicle startup known for its futuristic pods designed to haul freight, has raised $25 million in Series A round funding co-led by EQT Ventures and NordicNinja VC, a fund backed by PanasonicHondaOmron and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Other investors in the deal include Ericsson VenturesNorrsken FoundationPlum Alley Investments and Plug and Play Ventures. The startup has raised $32 million to date. TechCrunch has more here

    Emplify, a three-year-old, Fishers, In.-based mobile-first employee engagement platform, has raised $15 million in new funding led by earlier backer Edison Partners. Other earlier backers also participated in the round, including Allos VenturesCultivation Capital, and numerous individuals. Inside Indiana Business has more here

    Lattice, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that makes an employee performance and engagement management tool, has raised $25 million in Series C funding just six months after closing its B round. Tiger Global Management led the newest round at a post-money valuation of $200 million. The company’s other investors include Thrive Capital, the Slack FundKhosla Ventures and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here

    Nerd Street Gamers, a 10-year-old, Philadelphia-based e-sports infrastructure company that builds the facilities that house leagues, training camps, and tournaments, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Five Below led the round, joined by earlier investors ComcastSeventySix CapitalElevate Capital, and angel investor George Miller. VentureBeat has more here

    Parsley Health, a three-year-old, New York-based membership-only doctor practice that doesn’t take insurance, has raised $26 million Series B funding. White Star Capital led the round, and was joined by FirstMark CapitalAmploAlpha Edison PartnersArkitekt VenturesGalaxy Digital, and individual investors, including One Medical founder Tom Lee and Flatiron Health cofounder Nat Turner. TechCrunch has more here

    Revel, a 1.5-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that rents out electric mopeds in New York and Washington, has raised $27.6 million in Series A funding. Ibex Investors led the round, joined by Toyota, Blue CollectiveLaunch Capital, and Maniv Mobility. TechCrunch has more here

    Vahdam Teas, a 4.5-year-old India-based e-commerce startup that sells fresh tea in international markets, has raised $11 million in Series C funding led by Sixth Sense Ventures, with participation from earlier backer Fireside Ventures, along with numerous family offices and individual investors, including Zomato cofounder Pankaj Chaddah. The company has now raised around $16 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Smaller Fundings  

    New Vector, a two-year-old, London-based startup that’s looking to help businesses and individuals run their own secure communication infrastructure, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding from Notion Capital and Dawn Capital, along with European seed fund Firstminute Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Nexkey, a six-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based company that provides a mobile access control solution for commercial buildings and workspaces (it can turn your smartphone into your door key), has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by earlier investor Upfront Ventures. Other participants include K9 VenturesMark IV Capital and Anand Chandrasekaran, who is the former head of Platform for Messenger at Facebook. The company has now raised $10.8 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Pela, a 12-year-old, British Columbia-based maker of compostable phone cases, has raised C$5 million led by Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners, with participation from Kensington CapitalMore here

    Sentio, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based behavioral health startup offering an emotion-sensing wearable and a connected support app, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding led by Felicis Ventures, with participation from AnthemisExponential Ventures, and SOSV. MobiHealth News has more here

    Sweepr, a year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based smart-home customer service platform, just raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Draper Esprit, with participation from Frontline.vcMore here.

    New Funds 

    BoxGroup, the New York-based seed-stage investment firm led by David Tisch, has raised two separate, same-size funds from outside limited partners for the first time (instead of the firm’s partners). Both — a seed-stage vehicle and an opportunity fund — were closed with $82.5 million in capital commitments. Its outside LPs include Willoughby Capital, TrueBridge and founders from BoxGroup’s portfolio, TJ Parker (PillPack), Jeff Raider (Harry’s) and Nat Turner (Flatiron Health). TechCrunch has the story here.


    C2FO, a Kansas City-based online marketplace for working capital, has acquired Priority Vendor, a Noida, India-based early-payment platform. C2FO has raised more than $400 million from investors, including SoftBank Vision Fund, Temasek, Mithril Capital Management, and Union Square Ventures. Priority Vendor had, in comparison, raised a small amount from Lightspeed Venture Partners. IBS Intelligence has more here

    James Murdoch’s new holding company has agreed to buy a minority stake in Vice Media Group, according to the Financial Times. It reminds readers that the younger Murdoch son created Lupa Systems as an investment vehicle to assemble a new portfolio of media companies, using his $2 billion in proceeds from the $71 billion sale of most of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox empire to Disney. It also notes that he has been on the board of Vice for several years. More here.


    Vir Biotechnology, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that develop treatments for infectious diseases, just raised $143 million after pricing its U.S. IPO at the low end of a marketed range. It sold 7.14 million shares yesterday for $20 each, after offering them at between $20 to $22 each. Vir is backed by the SoftBank Vision Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings among backers. Bloomberg has more here.


    Bebo founders Michael and Xochi Birch are apparently moving to the British Virgin Islands so looking to sell their extravagant San Francisco mansion. If the property sells for its $39 million asking price (they bought it in 2008 for $28 million and spent a fortune on design), it will tie for the most expensive home ever sold in the city. The person who set that record, just last year: venture capitalist Matt Cohler. The WSJ has more here

    Self-described “self-made billionaire” money manager Ken Fisher reportedly stunned a crowd at a private San Francisco conference Tuesday by talking about genitalia and likening winning money-management clients to “trying to get into a girl’s pants.” Fisher told Bloomberg afterward he was surprised by how people reacted, saying he has spoken like that plenty of times in the past. Meanwhile, attendees who typically keep quiet about these fireside chats piped up at risk to their careers, they were so horrified

    SAP today announced that Bill McDermott, its CEO for the last nine years, is  stepping down immediately. The company says he decided not to renew his contract, which McDermott himself has since elaborated on here. Worth noting: activist investor Elliott Management today disclosed a $1.35 billion stake in SAP and reportedly supports the move. More here

    Melanie Strong, a former sports marketing executive with Nike, has joined Lance Armstrong’s months-old venture firm Next Ventures as a managing partner. More here.

    Sponsored By …

    Tired of all those big, splashy IPOs (*cough* WeWork *cough*) that fall short of expectations? Art has outperformed the S&P by 250% since 2000. Masterworks.io is an all new exclusive investing platform that lets you buy shares of blue-chip art by Warhol, Banksy, and more. Sound like your kind of investment? StrictlyVC readers can skip the 5,000+ waitlist by clicking HERE.

    Essential Reads 

    Is Amazon unstoppable

    Apple CEO Tim Cook today defended the company’s decision to remove a mapping app in Hong Kong, but few are buying what he’s selling


    How to get your worn-out AirPods replaced without paying $138. 

    Nike just bought the most expensive building on Paris’ Champs Elysées for a whopping €613 million. 

    Change your diet, change your mood?

    Retail Therapy 

    Cut your own vinyl records with this $1,100 machine.

  • October 9, 2019

    Hi, all! Hope you’ve had a stellar Wednesday. 🙂 Ours flew by, though a definite highlight was a visit earlier in the day with renowned investor and hip hop connoisseur Ben Horowitz. More on our chat soon.

    Top News 

    Ugh. Apple has just removed an app, HKmap.live, that crowdsources the location of police and anti-government protesters in Hong Kong and that was approved by Apple late last week after it reversed an earlier decision to reject the submission. The company succumbed to pressure from Chinese state media, which had accused the company of endorsing and protecting “rioters” in Hong Kong’s increasingly violent protests by listing the app.  

    Though CNN has refused to air an advertisement released last week by the Trump campaign that accuses former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of trying to bribe officials in Ukraine, Facebook has given it the green-light, foreshadowing a continuing fight over misinformation on the service during the 2020 election. The New York Times has more here.

    Sponsored By …

    Seasons change. So should your socks. Snag a pair of Bombas made from ultra-soft fabrics that are designed to keep you warm, cozy, and comfortable all fall long. Give your sock drawer the update it needs this season. And for every pair you purchase, we’ll donate a pair to someone in need.

    SmileDirectClub’s Former CEO is Back with a New Dental Startup Called Tend 

    A growing number of newer dental brands has been attracting money from venture investors who are still kicking themselves for missing some runaway hits. Most notable among these breakout companies is newly public SmileDirectClub, which sells teeth-straightening products directly to consumers and is beloved by analysts even though its shares have slipped since its September IPO. 

    Among the many teeth-related startups to more recently attract private funding is Swift Health Systems, a five-year-old company that makes invisible braces under the brand INBRACE and just raised $45 million from VCs; Henry the Dentist, a two-year-old, mobile dental clinic that raised $10 million earlier this year; and Quip, a five-year-old maker of electric toothbrushes and oral care products that has garnered roughly $62 million from investors. 

    Still, a new company called Tend is especially notable, and not because it just raised $36 million in seed and Series A funding — which it did, led by Redpoint Ventures. 

    First and foremost, Tend sees an opportunity to reinvent the dentist’s office. How? Through tech-heavy dental “studios” that “prioritize” your comfort by featuring sleek waiting areas that it promises you’ll almost never need to use and by offering “Netflix in your chair” that you will enjoy while wearing the latest and greatest Bose headphones. (Tend says it will get your favorite show queued up before you arrive for your appointment, which you will breezily book online, and whose prices you can learn in advance, so you don’t suffer sticker shock later.) 

    A Fast Company reporter who visited the startup’s newly opened flagship space in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood was even offered a selection of only the finest toothpastes, including that of Marvis, an Italian brand that comes in such distinct flavors as Amarelli licorice, cinnamon, ginger and jasmine — not to mention “classic strong,” “whitening,” and “aquatic.” 

    It all sounds faintly ridiculous, but also fairly nice, especially contrasted with traditional dentist offices, which tend to be both highly antiseptic and astonishingly vague about pricing. 

    There’s also a kind of precedent for what it’s doing. Specifically, improving on the patient experience has worked out well for One Medical, a venture-backed, tech-driven chain of 70 clinics that has become one of the largest independent groups in the U.S. (It’s also reportedly prepping an IPO.) 

    Little wonder that one individual participant in Tend’s new funding is Tom Lee, the physician who created One Medical in 2007 and led it as CEO until 2017. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Adicet Bio, a five-year-old, New York-based biopharmaceutical company that’s developing novel “off the shelf” cell therapies based on gamma delta T cells, just raised $80 million in Series B funding. Investors include aMoon2 FundRegeneron PharmaceuticalsJohnson & Johnson InnovationOCI EnterprisesKB Investment Co., Consensus Business GroupSBI JI Innovation FundSamsung Venture Investment CorporationHandok, and DSC Investment. Reuters has more here

    Casavo, a two-year-old, Milan, Italy-based startup that says it makes it possible to sell a house online with only few clicks (à la Opendoor in the U.S.), has raised €50 million in Series B funding led by GreenoaksMore here

    Kandou, an eight-year-old, Lausanne, Switzerland-based developer of connectivity IP and a related standalone chip designed for the consumer market, has raised $56 million from Bessemer Venture PartnersColumbia Lake PartnersDigital Transformation FundFayerweather Capital PartnersForestay CapitalKreos CapitalRaging CapitalSwisscom Ventures, and Walden International. Venture Kick has more here

    RigUp, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based company that connects independent contractors like heavy equipment operators, maintenance workers and solar panel installers with jobs in different energy sectors (renewables, oil and gas), has raised $300 million in Series D funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, using its recently formed late stage fund. Other investors include Baillie GiffordBrookfield Growth Partners, and earlier backers Founders FundBedrock Capital, and Quantum Energy Partners. According to the WSJ, RigUp is now valued at $1.9 billion. More here

    Sonovate, a seven-year-old, London-based company that makes invoicing software for the recruiting and other industries, has raised £110 million of venture capital and debt funding from M&G InvestmentsMXB HoldingsDawn Capital and Rocket InternetMore here

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    AnotherBrain, a 2.5-year-old, Paris, France-based startup that’s creating software and microchips for what it calls “organic AI,” meaning its tech will require less computing power (ostensibly) and be less reliant on large training sets, has raised roughly $21 million in venture funding. The round was led by Alpha Intelligence Capital and Paris-based investor Daphni, with participation from SEB Alliance and Robinson Technologies. Sifted.eu has more here

    CorneaGen, a three-year-old, Seattle-based cornea care company at work on numerous products, including a treatment that involves culturing human eye endothelial cells and injecting them into the anterior chamber of a corneal blind patient’s eye, has raised $37 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Flying L Partners, in collaboration with Falcon Vision, a platform formed by KKR. Petrichor Healthcare Capital Management also chipped into the round, providing a separate, $25 million credit facility to the company. More here

    Critizr, a seven-year-old, Lille, France-based company feedback management system that aims to better allow retailers and brands to connect with their customers, has raised €15 million in funding led by 83North, with participation from Point NineCaphorn, and Runa. Tech.eu has more here

    FAZUA, a six-year-old, Munich, Germany-based startup that develops drive systems for e-bikes, has closed on €15 million in funding led by UVC Partners. The European Investment Bank separately loaned the startup €12 million in venture debt. Tech.eu has more here

    Iziwork, a year-old, Paris-based temp staffing marketplace, has raised €12 million in Series A funding led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from Global Founders CapitalMore here

    Melorra, a four-year-old, Bangalore, India-based online jewelry store that predominantly sells lightweight gold pieces to women, has raised $12 million in funding from LightboxBlackSoil Capital, and several family offices. The company has now raised $24 million altogether. Business Standard has more here

    Osaro, a four-year-old, San Francisco startup developing machine-learning algorithms that help industrial robots recognize, sort, pack, and assemble objects, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by King River Capital, with participation from Alpha Intelligence CapitalFounders FundPegasus Tech Ventures, and GiTV Fund, among others. The round brings the startup’s total funding to date to $29.3 million. VentureBeat has more here.  

    Remarkable, a six-year-old, Oslo, Norway-based startup behind a digital paper tablet of the same name, has raised $15 million in Series A funding from Spark Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

    Satelles, an 11-year-old, Reston, Va.-based company that sells its own ostensibly hack-proof location services to high frequency traders and others, has raised $26 million in Series C funding led by C5 Capital, with participation from Iridium CommunicationsMore here.

    Wild Type, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based cultured salmon startup (meaning it’s growing fish from cells outside the animal), has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding led by Maven Ventures, with participation from Spark Capital and Root Ventures. The Spoon has more here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Augmenta, a two-year-old, Paris-based precision agriculture company, raised $2.5 million in seed funding co-led by Hardware Club and Marathon Venture Capital of Athens. More here

    Doorstead, a months-old, San Francisco-based rental property management startup, just raised $3.3 million in seed funding co-led by M13 and Silicon Valley Data Capital, with participation from Venture Reality Fund and SOMA Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Middesk, an 11-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that offers business verifications, legal and regulatory checks, and industry classification products for companies selling to businesses, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Accel, with participation from Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator. Forbes has more here

    ImmunoMolecular Therapeutics, a four-year-old, Woburn, Ma.-based clinical stage company that’s developing personalized therapies for autoimmune diseases, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. JDRF T1D Fund and Morningside Ventures co-led the round, joined by the Colorado University Healthcare Innovation FundMore here

    Papa, a three-year-old, Miami, Fla.-based startup that connects college and nursing students, known as “Papa Pals,” to older adults who need assistance with transportation, house chores, technology and other services, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Canaan. Other investors include Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates, Initialized CapitalY Combinator, and Sound Ventures. Refresh Miami has more here.

    New Funds 

    Bessemer Venture Partners has raised $525 million for its first-ever later-stage fund, from which partners can write a check of up to $250 million, according to the Financial Times. The idea, says partner Byron Deeter, is to enable Bessemer to fund “every round of a cloud company’s existence”, in case “late-stage investors pull out of the market or IPO windows shut.” 

    Voyager Capital, a 22-year-old, Seattle-based early-stage venture firm, has closed its fifth fund with $100 million in capital commitments. It plans to fund companies almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest. GeekWire has more here.


    Fangdd Network Group, a China-based online real estate marketplace, has filed for an IPO in the U.S., and it has turned to Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, UBS, China International Capital Corporation and AMTD for help in the endeavor. DealStreetAsia has more here

    Megvii, a China-based tech firm focused on AI said to be seeking an IPO in Hong Kong, was placed on the Trump administration’s blacklist along with handful of other companies with surveillance capabilities. Goldman Sachs said immediately afterward of its involvement in the planned IPO that it’s “evaluating in light of the recent developments.” Reuters has more here

    When PayPal reports its newest financial results in a couple of weeks, one dark spot will be a $228-million loss on investments before taxes in the third quarter driven in large part by a bad bet on Uber just before it went public. The investment, for $500 million at Uber’s IPO, has fallen 34 percent. Bloomberg has more here.


    U.S. Venture Partners, the Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture capital firm, has promoted Dafina Toncheva to general partner. Toncheva, who invests in emerging tech in the enterprise space, joined the firm in 2012 following a two-year stint with Venrock. She previously worked as a program manager at Microsoft. More here

    Julie Yoo has joined the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner focused on health-tech investments. Yoo spent the last eight years as a co-founder and chief product officer of Kyruus, a venture-backed healthcare provider matching tool. She joins as the firm’s 17th GP. It had firm hired David George, who focuses on late-stage deals, and Anish Acharya, who specializes in fintech deals, earlier this year. TechCrunch has more here.

    Sponsored By …

    Tired of all those big, splashy IPOs (*cough* WeWork *cough*) that fall short of expectations? Art has outperformed the S&P by 250% since 2000. Masterworks.io is an all new exclusive investing platform that lets you buy shares of blue-chip art by Warhol, Banksy, and more. Sound like your kind of investment? StrictlyVC readers can skip the 5,000+ waitlist by clicking HERE.

    Essential Reads 

    Silicon Valley is trying out a new mantra: Make a profit

    The future teen stars of America live on TikTok

    GitHub leadership, including CEO Nat Friedman, oppose the child separation policy of the U.S. Immigrations and Enforcement agency. But an internal email suggests GitHub won’t stop ICE from renewing a contract with the tech company, which is owned by Microsoft. Vice has the story here.


    Some NBA fans supporting the Hong Kong protests are getting kicked out of games and seeing their signs confiscated. 

    Can the “Succession” theme revive the custom ringtone


    Retail Therapy 

    Wait. Aston Martin residences?

  • October 8, 2019

    Tuesday! No column today (we have a post-event plague). More tomorrow. 🙂

    Top News 

    Kiss your perishables goodbye, local readers. PG&E, the California utility giant forced into bankruptcy by two years of devastating wildfires, is “orchestrating the biggest planned blackout yet to keep power lines from sparking more blazes,” as notes Bloomberg. The plan is to cut electricity to almost 800,000 customers across Northern California, including parts of Napa Valley, Oakland and Berkeley, beginning just after midnight local time tonight. More here

    U.S.-China relations continue to fast deteriorate. The latest? China’s Ministry of Commerce said today that  the country “strongly urges” the U.S. to stay clear of its domestic issues, after the White House blacklisted tens of Chinese companies due to alleged human rights violations against Muslim minorities in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. “We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang” and to “stop interfering” in “China’s internal affairs, and remove relevant Chinese entities from the list of entities as soon as possible,” a spokesperson from the ministry said in a statement, translated in CNBC.

    Sponsored By . . . 

    Pilot, a San Francisco-based startup, recently raised a $40 million Series B from Index Ventures and Stripe to take bookkeeping and tax prep off founders’ plates. See why Lattice, OpenAI, YC Research and hundreds more trust Pilot with their books and get 20% off your first six months of Pilot Core.

    Massive Fundings  

    Cowell Health, a Beijing, China-headquartered chain of drugstore businesses backed by the regional private equity firm Hillhouse Capital Group, is reportedly on the cusp of raising $500 million from Tencent Holdings as the internet giant makes a bigger push beyond its core business of online games and into healthcare. The Information, which has the scoop here, paints the broader picture, writing that the “deal comes amid Chinese government efforts to reform and liberalize its tight controls over prescription drugs, most of which are still sold through hospitals. Sales are expected to shift to retailers as Chinese regulators aim to increase access to prescription drugs, especially for China’s aging population.” 

    Cygnal Therapeutics, a two-year-old, Cambridge, Ma-based oncology drug startup focused on the peripheral nervous system, has raised $65 million, including from Flagship Pioneering, which helped incubate the company. FierceBiotech has more here.  

    Genor Biopharma, a 12-year-old, Shanghai, China-based biopharma company that, like Cowell Health, is backed by Hillhouse Capital, is reportedly in talks to raise $100 million at a $1 billion valuation. Bloomberg has more here

    SparkCognition, a six-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based start-up that builds artificial intelligence technology for the industrial sectors and counts Boeing among its investors, has raised $100 million in Series C funding led by March Capital Partners. Numerous high-profile angel investors also joined the round, including former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former Cisco CEO John Chambers. Reuters has more here

    Tier Mobility, a 1.5-year-old, Berlin-based startup that operates a fleet of 20,000 scooters across 40 cities in 12 countries, has raised $60 million in Series B funding co-led by Mubadala Capital and Goodwater Capital. Others in the round include insurance giant Axa GermanyEvli Growth PartnersWhite Star CapitalNorthzoneSpeedinvestPoint9IndicoKibo VenturesMarket One Capital and Formula One racing champion Nico Rosberg. TechCrunch has more here

    Zomato, the 11-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based food delivery company, is reportedly in talks to raise $600 million in new funding from the Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial. The Financial Times has the story here, explaining the interest this way: “The Zomato deal may help [Ant] build an ecosystem of services for Indian consumers, similar to its Alipay app in China, where users can shop, order food, book taxis or bicycles, pay bills, and invest their money all from a single screen.” 

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Contentstack, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based enterprise content management system platform, has raised $31.5 million in Series A funding led by Insight Partners, with participation from earlier backers Illuminate Ventures and GingerBread Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Forward Networks, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company that helps enterprises map, track and predict their networks’ behavior, just raised $35 million in Series C funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from Andreessen HorowitzThreshold Ventures and A. Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Lyte, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based event ticketing platform has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Jackson Square Ventures, with participation from Industry VenturesAccomplice Ventures, and Correlation VenturesMore here

    RapidSOS, a seven-year-old, New York-based startup whose software platform automatically transmits data from 911 callers to emergency responders, has raised $25 million in new funding led by Energy Impact Partners. GovTech has more here

    Swift Health Systems, a five-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based company that makes invisible braces under the brand INBRACE, has raised $45 million in Series C funding co-led by Vivo CapitalNovo Holdings and venBio Partners. The company has now raised $70 million altogether. More here

    Viola, a seven-year-old, L.A.-based cannabis products company founded by former NBA player Al Harrington, has raised $16 million in funding led by Gotham Green PartnersMore here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Razberi Technologies, an eight-year-old, Farmers Branch, Tex.-based intelligent video surveillance startup, has raised $5.8 million in funding led by LiveOak Venture Partners of Austin, with participation from Chartline Capital Partners and at least two family offices. More here

    Shujinko, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based startup that makes cloud compliance software that helps companies automate IT audits to ensure their organization is compliant with security best practices and regulations, has raised $7.5 million in funding. Unusual Ventures led the round with participation from Defy. GeekWire has more here

    Tenfold, an Austin, Tex.-based CRM and voice platform integration startup, has raised $7.5 million in Series C funding led by Next Coast Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Andreessen HorowitzGeekdom Fund and Salesforce Ventures. Built in Austin has more here

    Umbo Computer Vision, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s building autonomous video security systems for businesses and organizations, has raised $8 million in funding.  Translink Capital and Susquehanna International Group co-led the round, joined by Shin-Kong Capital and Shin-Kong Security, among other existing investors. VentureBeat has more here.

    New Funds 

    Brooklyn Bridge Ventures is raising $20 million for its third fund, according to an SEC filing first flagged by Axios. The Brooklyn-based seed-stage venture firm currently manages $23 million across its first two funds. More here.


    Neighborly, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that once sought to upend the way securities are sold in the $3.8 trillion municipal-bond market, has “idled its employees after an unsuccessful effort to raise money to stay afloat,” says Bloomberg. The company’s CEO, Jase Wilson, told employees on Sunday that its funding did not close last week and to stop working. Neighborly has raised $30.7 million over the years, including from 8VC, Emerson Collective, and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures. (We wrote about the company last year. We thought, and still think, the opportunity it was chasing is an interesting one.)


    One Medical, a chain of now 70 primary care clinics that was founded 12 years ago by internal medicine physician Tom Lee, has hired JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley to lead an IPO, says CNBC. The company has raised more than $500 million in venture funding over the years, including from Benchmark and GV. More here

    Postmates, the food-delivery startup valued at over $2 billion that was expected to go public in 2019, recently told its IPO advisers that it is delaying its initial public offering due to market conditions, say Vox. Founder and CEO Bastian Lehmann suggested as much publicly last week, calling the markets “choppy.”


    WeWork expects to shed about 500 of the roughly 1,500 software engineers, product managers and data scientists employed in the company’s technology division as a result of layoffs and selling businesses, says The Information. The job cuts could further dilute WeWork’s identity as a tech company, it notes. 

    Joe Zadeh, Airbnb’s ninth employee and its VP of Experiences since late 2016, will shift to a position overseeing new initiatives related to the company’s plans to go public next year, reports The Information. He will remain in his current role until his successor is found, says the report

    Essential and Android co-founder Andy Rubin just tweeted pics of a crazy tall mystery phone.

    Sponsored By …

    Tired of all those big, splashy IPOs (*cough* WeWork *cough*) that fall short of expectations? Art has outperformed the S&P by 250% since 2000. Masterworks.io is an all new exclusive investing platform that lets you buy shares of blue-chip art by Warhol, Banksy, and more. Sound like your kind of investment? StrictlyVC readers can skip the 5,000+ waitlist by clicking HERE.

    Essential Reads 

    Oof, not a good lookBlizzard

    Twitter disclosed today that it “unintentionally” used some mail address and phone numbers for advertising even though the information was provided for account security.


    Why I’m waiting until marriage to replace the Brita filter. 

    What happens to your body on no sleep (a concerned reader sent this one to us!). 

    How to tell a recruiter about yourself

    Billionaires can’t stop buying superyachts. (We would buy one, too, candidly.)

    Retail Therapy 

    One-on-one personal training, in your Mirror.

  • October 7, 2019

    Monday! Hope yours was a fine one. 

    Before we dive into things, we are *thrilled* to say that our third and last StrictlyVC event of this yearnow includes Cyan Banister, a partner with Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, as well as one of the most successful angel investors in the U.S., having written early checks to Uber, SpaceX, DeepMind and Niantic, among many other companies. 

    As someone who was homeless as a teenager and taught herself how to code, Banister is unlike virtually every other top investor in the world; she really is the epitome of the American success story and we’re excited to sit down with her to talk about her path, as well as what trends and startups she’s tracking most closely right now and where and why. (We’ll also get her thoughts on the hot topics of the moment, from direct listings to perpetual dual-class shares to the possibility that SoftBank may be slowing down instead of speeding up.) 

    Banister joins a line-up that already features former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos, who is widely considered one of the smartest people in the security space and who will be sitting down with Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times to talk about the Big Tech Storm that’s coming. 

    Banister also joins Jim Collins, the CEO of Pasadena, Ca.-based Kitchen United, one of the fastest-growing “dark” kitchen companies in the U.S. other than CloudKitchens, which is run by Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick. Both rivals look poised for runaway growth; they could also potentially remake neighborhoods around the country in unanticipated ways. Interviewing Collins will be Lora Kolodny, who writes about robotics, transportation and other emerging technology for CNBC.

    We aren’t through programming quite yet, but we’re excited; these are going to be interesting conversations. If you’d like to join us — this is happening Wednesday, November 13th —  you can still nab a spot here

    More tomorrow. 🙂

    Top News 

    The Trump administration said today that it has added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist over concerns about their role in human rights violations, effectively blocking those entities from buying American products. The organizations have been implicated in China’s campaign targeting Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, according to a Commerce Department filing. The New York Times has more here

    California has passed a law meant to prevent doctored videos from influencing elections by making it a crime to distribute audio or video that gives a false, damaging impression of a politician’s words or actions. The law applies to any candidate within 60 days of an election, but includes some exceptions. The Verge has more here.

    Sponsored By …

    Originally formulated for LeBron, now available to everyone, Ladder is the product of four years of meticulous testing for taste, quality, and performance. Premium supplements designed for more stamina, better focus, and faster recovery. Take your workout to the next level; upgrade your workout with Ladder.

    This Startup Just Raised $8 Million to Help Overworked Doctors Assess the Cognitive Health of 50 Million Seniors 

    All over the globe, the population of people who are aged 65 and older is growing faster than every other age group. According to United Nations data, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65, up from one in 11 right now. Meanwhile, in Europe and North America, by 2050, one in four people could be 65 or over. 

    Unsurprisingly, startups increasingly recognize opportunities to cater to this aging population. Some are developing products to sell to individuals and their family members directly; others are coming up with ways to empower those who work directly with older Americans. 

    BrainCheck, a 20-person, Houston-based startup whose cognitive healthcare product aims to help physicians assess and track the mental health of their patients, is among the latter. Investors like what it has put together, too. Today, the startup is announcing $8 million in Series A funding round co-led by S3 Ventures and Tensility Venture Partners. 

    We talked earlier today with BrainCheck cofounder and CEO Yael Katz to better understand what her company has created and why it might be of interest to doctors who don’t know about it. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity. 

    You’re a neuroscientist. You started BrianCheck with David Eagleman, another neuroscientist and the CEO of NeoSensory, a company that develops devices for sensory substitution. Why? What’s the opportunity here? We looked across the landscape, and we realized that most cognitive assessment is [handled by] a subspecialty of clinical psychology called neuropsychology, where patients are given a series a tests and each is designed to probe a different type of brain function — memory, visual attention, reasoning, executive function. They measure speed and accuracy, and based on that, determine whether there’s a deficit in that domain. But the tests were classically done on paper and it was a lengthy process. We digitized them and gamified them and made them accessible to everyone who is upstream of neuropsychology, including neurologists and primary care doctors. We created a tech solution that provides clinical decision support to physicians so they can manage patients’ cognitive health. There are 250,000 primary care physicians in the U.S. and 12,000 neurologists and [they’re confronting] what’s been called a silver tsunami. With so many becoming elderly, it’s not possible for them to address the need of the aging population without tech to help them. 

    How does your product work, and how is it administered?

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    DeepRoute, a months-old, Fremont, Ca.-based self-driving vehicle startup with offices in China and California, just raised $50 million in pre-Series A(!) funding led by Fosun RZ Capital, with participation from GoldenSand CapitalYunqi PartnersVentech China and Green Pine Capital Partners. TechNode has more here

    Next Insurance, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based firm that sells insurance products to small businesses, has raised $250 million in a new funding — all of it from Germany-based Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. The company has raised $381 million altogether. The new round values the company at more than $1 billion, it says. TechCrunch has more here

    OYO, a six-year-old, India-based budget lodging company, says it’s raising $1.5 billion in Series F funding at a $10 billion valuation and that, per a July Economic Times article, will see its swashbuckling 26-year-old founder and CEO, Ritesh Agarwal increase his own stake in the company from 10 percent to 30 percent. To fully cover his part of the round — $700 million — Agarwal is reportedly taking out loans from the Japanese banks Mizuho Financial Group and Nomura. Bloomberg has more here.   

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    AI Medical Service, a two-year-old, Tokyo-based company developing software to help detect gastric cancer, has raised $42.9 million in Series B funding from Globis Capital PartnersWorld Innovation Lab and Sony Innovation Fund. The company has now raised $57 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Celigo, a 14-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based platform that says it can be used to easily and quickly create customized integrations, just raised $20 million in Series B funding led by NewSpring Capital, which was joined by Blossom Street Ventures and earlier investor TVC CapitalMore here.

    CityLift, a 4.5-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based startup that’s trying to change parking by designing and installing automated parking lifts inside commercial garages across the U.S., has raised $22.5 million in Series C funding from Dundon Capital PartnersMore here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Demecan, a two-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based company producing medical cannabis, has raised $7.7 million in Series A funding from btov Partners, a private investor network, and a single, unnamed German family office. TechCrunch has more here

    PayMongo, a month-old, Manila, Philippines-based fintech startup that helps regional businesses accept online payments from multiple channels, has raised $2.7 million from Founders FundPeter Thiel, and Stripe. Other participants in the round include Y CombinatorGlobal Founders CapitalSoma Capital, and Tinder Co-founder Justin Mateen. e27 has more here.

    New Funds 

    83North, a venture firm that invests in European and Israeli startups,  has closed its fifth fund with $300 million in capital commitments. The outfit had closed its fourth fund with $250 million in 2017. TechCrunch has more here

    Accelmed, a U.S.-Israel group of funds investing in medical device and digital health companies, says it plans to raise a new $100 million fund to plug into Israeli and global pre-revenue health tech startups and that Vincent Tchenguiz, a British businessman born in Iran, has committed to invest $15 million in the fund. According to Reuters, this is the fourth fund established by the Accelmed group, which already manages more than $300 million through Accelmed Ventures and private equity fund Accelmed Partners. More here.


    New media firm Group Nine Media is acquiring the women-focused publisher PopSugar in an all-stock deal that values PopSugar at more than $300 million and will give its shareholders more than 30 percent ownership of the combined company, says the WSJ. (Group Nine’s shareholders will own the rest.) More here.


    Dan Gallagher, an SEC commissioner from 2011 to 2015, has joined the board of the online trading platform Robinhood. Gallagher is currently a partner and deputy chair of the securities department at the law firm WilmerHale. Bloomberg has more here

    That British cave rescuer torches Elon Musk in court documents released earlier tonight.

    Sponsored By …

    Tired of all those big, splashy IPOs (*cough* WeWork *cough*) that fall short of expectations? Art has outperformed the S&P by 250% since 2000. Masterworks.io is an all new exclusive investing platform that lets you buy shares of blue-chip art by Warhol, Banksy, and more. Sound like your kind of investment? StrictlyVC readers can skip the 5,000+ waitlist by clicking HERE.

    Essential Reads 

    Instagram is killing its creepy stalking feature, the “Following” tab. 

    For drivers, roads are safer than ever, but for pedestrians, they are getting deadlier by the year.  

    Apple’s hopes of creating a super-bundle of media content for one flat monthly fee have run into early opposition, says the Financial times, with some record labels nervous about the prospect of offering their music for a lower price. Executives particularly fear that margins may be hurt if Apple undercuts the $10 monthly price that Spotify, Apple Music and others charge, says the report.


    The disruptive world of Edward Norton

    Talk about a great return

    Watch all of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hilarious “Saturday Night Live” sketches from this past weekend.

    Retail Therapy 

    Sony has a new high-resolution A7R IV full-frame mirrorless camera that has rivals searching through their camera bags for answers.

  • October 4, 2019

    Friday! Thank God. 

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 

    Quick mentions: If you’re looking for weekend reading, we sat down today at TC Disrupt with Ann Miura-Ko of Floodgate and Theresia Gouw of aCrew Capital to talk about SoftBank, dual-class shares and how to break into VC (among other things). 

    We also talked cannabis with former Pax CEO Bharat Vasan and Keith McCarty (founder of WAYV and Eaze) if you’re keen to better understand what’s happening in that industry. We covered banking regulation, the crisis around vaping-related illnesses, and what VCs are looking for when funding founders in the space. 

    Our favorite quote of the day meanwhile came from Bastian Lehmann of Postmates, who, when asked why rival DoorDash has raised roughly four times more money from investors, joked of DoorDash’s CEO Tony Xu: “You’d have to ask Tony. Maybe he needs a jet.” 

    See you in a few days.:)

    Top News 

    Google has held discussions about acquiring the video-sharing startup Firework to help it counter fast-growing TikTok, according to the WSJ. Firework, based in Redwood City, Calif., was valued at more than $100 million in a fundraising round earlier this year. More here

    FBI Director Christopher Wray said today that Facebook‘s proposal to encrypt its popular messaging program would turn the platform into a “dream come true for predators and child pornographers.” More here

    As you might already imagine, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is struggling to raise money for a second massive technology investment fund in the wake of the scrapped IPO of WeWork and sliding valuations of other major investments, says Reuters.

    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.

    Report: WeWork’s Adam Neumann May Have to Unload Property to Pay for Giant Loan 

    Adam Neumann may be out of the daily flow of WeWork, but he seemingly remains top of mind to some of the company’s bankers. 

    According to a new Business Insider piece, Neumann is working with JPMorgan, UBS, and Credit Suisse to consider new terms for a $500 million loan that he took out before WeWork filed to go public, and from which Neumann has already drawn down $380 million. Since he can no longer pay the loan with proceeds from selling WeWork shares publicly (it yanked its S-1 filing earlier this week), he may have to put up some of his properties or other assets as collateral for the loan, according to one of BI’s sources. 

    “No terms have been set,” a spokeswoman for Neumann tells the outlet. 

    Per earlier reports, Neumann has plenty to offload if it comes to it, having acquired numerous residential and commercial properties over the years. 

    Among his reported investments is a $10.5 million Greenwich Village townhouse; a farm in Westchester, New York; a home in the Hamptons where he reportedly weathered the storm with his family ahead of resigning as CEO last week; and a $21 million, 13,000-square-foot house in the Bay Area with a guitar-shaped room. 

    According to an earlier WSJ report, Neumann has also bought several commercial properties through investor groups that he had leased back, in some cases, to WeWork. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Icosavax, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based developer of a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, has raised $51 million in Series A funding led by Qiming Venture Partners, with participation from Adams Street PartnersSanofi Ventures, and NanoDimension. FierceBiotech has more here

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Dunzo, a four-year-old, Bangalore, India-based hyper-local delivery service, just raised $45 million in Series D funding from GoogleLightbox VenturesSTIC, and 3L Capital.  The company has now raised $81 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Osaro, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of machine learning software for warehouse robots, has raised $16 million in Series B funding from King River CapitalAlpha Intelligence CapitalFounders FundPegasus Tech Ventures, and GiTV Fund. VentureBeat has more here

    Smaller Fundings  

    AmacaThera, a three-year-old, Ontario, Canada-based developer of injectable hydrogel technology for medical applications, has raised $3.6 million in seed funding. Investors include Sprout BioVenturesViva BiotechGrey Sky Venture Partners and Lumira VenturesMore here

    DayTwo, a four-year-old, Israel- and Walnut Creek, Ca.-based microbiome human discovery platform, has raised $5 million in funding, including from Longliv VenturesCathay Innovation, and Samsung NEXTMore here

    Gradient AI, a year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based software startup for commercial insurers, raised $6 million in Series A funding. Forte Ventures and Sandbox Insurtech Ventures co-led the round, joined by earlier backer MassMutual VenturesMore here

    Oneiro, a two-year-old, Boston-based cryptocurrency platform, has raised $5 million from Cosimo Ventures. CoinTelegraph has more here.


    Bullhorn, a 20-year-old, Boston-based maker of cloud-based customer relationship management software that’s controlled by Insight Partners, has acquired Erecruit, a Boston-based maker of applicant tracking and pay and bill software for the staffing and recruitment industry. According to Crunchbase, Erecruit had raised $35 million in funding, primarily from North Bridge Venture Partners. Financial terms aren’t disclosed. American Inno has more here.


    Former Tinder CEO Greg Blatt has filed a defamation lawsuit against Tinder cofounder Sean Rad and Tinder’s former VP of marketing, Rosette Pambakian. He’s seeking at least $50 million in damages and accusing the two of having “conspired to make false allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault” against Blatt with the “specific intent to damage Blatt’s good name, personal and professional reputation, and credibility.” Rad and Pambakian’s attorney Orin Snyder describes the suit as part of a campaign “to retaliate against and smear a victim of sexual assault and the person who reported it.” More here

    Snap CEO Evan Spiegel isn’t sure whether antitrust activity from the government is going to change the company’s near-term prospects of competing with Instagram. “I mean the history of antitrust would basically say that these investigations last like seven to 10 years or something like that, and that basically nothing happens,” Spiegel said onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. “I think a lot can change in the seven to 10 years that this process will take.” More here.

    Sponsored By …

    In every industry there’s someone building the future, whether it’s technology, architecture, food, cars or space rockets. In clothing it’s Vollebak. Our Graphene Jacket is built with a Nobel Prize winning material. We’ve designed clothing that can store and re-emit sunlight, built t shirts made entirely from plants and algae grown in forests and bioreactors, and created 100 Year clothing designed to outlive you. See the future at Vollebak.

    Essential Reads 

    PayPay is backing out of Facebook’s cryptocurrency project.


    The cheating scandal rocking the poker world.

    Retail Therapy 

    What $3,900 rents you in L.A. right now.

  • October 3, 2019

    Is it Thursday (still, we think)! Hope yours has gone well. 🙂

    Top News 

    The vaping illness outbreak just surpassed 1,000 cases and 18 deaths, with no sign of slowing, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 578 cases where doctors know what patients were using, roughly 78 percent of the patients said they vaped THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, reports CNBC.

    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.

    GV is Weighing the Sale of Its Stake in Uber When Its Lockup Period Expires Next Month 

    Today at TC’s Disrupt show in San Francisco, we took the stage with David Krane, a longtime veteran of Google who took the reins as the CEO of its venture arm, GV,  three years ago but hasn’t spoken publicly since. We asked him why he’s been in hiding before diving into some questions about Uber — one of GV’s  most lucrative bets to date — and trying to understand better how GV is organized under his leadership. 

    Krane, who earlier in his career was Google’s global head of PR, is accustomed to deflecting reporters’ questions and he was circumspect about some things, but he did let drop some interesting information. For example, he told us that GV has plugged a whopping $5 billion into startups since it was formed 10 years ago. Krane also joked that Alphabet’s famous founders don’t steer entirely clear of the organization. And he suggested that GV — which sold a meaningful part of its Uber  stake to SoftBank last year — might sell the rest of its Uber stake when the ride-share company’s lock-up period expires in November. (His team has a “decision to make,” he said.) 

    Following is some of our chat, edited lightly for length and clarity: 

    It’s been three years since you took the role of CEO. Why has it taken you so long to come out of hiding? Well, I haven’t been in hiding. I’ll tell you that we’ve been really busy. When you have a second act at Google, which is remarkably different from your first act, you actually kind of have to stay focused on that. So we’ve been busy building an extremely large scale venture firm, which this year is celebrating our 10th birthday. And I’ve been doing that [from its outset]. 

    There’s a lot to chat about. Let’s talk quickly about one of your highest-profile deals, which was investing in Uber. I’ve long heard that you are the one who was agitating to lead this $250 million dollar Series C round, which, at the time, was a very big deal. It was also a brilliant investment. Do you think Uber is also a good investment now for public shareholders? This is a special company. This company has an unmistakable brand. It operates in hundreds of cities around the world. It has scale, it has a moat around it that’s touched by almost no one in the category. So honestly, we’re long term. We’re bullish on this. And I think it is an interesting investment opportunity. And it happens to be on sale today. 

    It’s obviously getting into new business lines, which is interesting. But you’d also told me that GV had sold part of its stake to SoftBank last year, when the conglomerate came in and wanted to buy up a substantial percentage of the company. Can you say how much of your stake you sold? It’s probably best not to, but I’d say it was a great transaction. Working with SoftBank was quite pleasant. And I think there were a number of shareholders that did quite well. 

    Uber’s lockup period is coming up quickly. Will you sell the rest of your stake?  I think it’s not clear yet, to be honest with you. We’re paying attention to the market, which is a bit unstable, to say the least. But yeah, in about a month, we’re going to have a decision to make.

    When you invested in Uber in 2013, you were investing in a different founder: Travis Kalanick, who was pressured to resign in 2017. It’s a little bit reminiscent of what happened with Adam Neumann of WeWork, who had grown the company over the last nine years and was last week pressured to resign. Are we in agreement that maybe the investors could have done something sooner? These are two founders whose management styles were very well-known. Why suddenly was it problematic? And why didn’t someone do something sooner? Well, probably the best advice that I could offer there is it would have been prudent to curb some of Adam’s creativity little bit sooner …

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    Adicet Bio, a five-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based allogenic immunotherapy company, has raised an $80 million Series B round. Backers include Johnson & Johnson InnovationaMoon2 FundSamsung Venture Investment Corp., and earlier backers Orbimed Israel PartnersNovartis Venture Fund, and Pontifax. Calcalist has more here

    Bird, the three-year-old, L.A.-based e-scooter startup, has closed a $275 million Series D round led by CDPQ and earlier backer Sequoia Capital, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden announced at TechCrunch Disrupt today. The round values Bird at a $2.5 billion pre-money valuation. TC has more here

    IronSource, a nine-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that has built a video ad network and user acquisition technology for mobile app publishers, just raised between $400 million and $450 million in funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion, says TechCrunch. The money is coming from investment giant CVCMore here

    Udaan, a three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based business-to-business e-commerce platform, has raised $585 million in Series D funding, including from TencentAltimeterFootpath VenturesHillhouseGGV CapitalCiti VenturesLightspeed Venture Partners, and DST Global. Livemint has more here

    Unqork, a two-year-old New York-based software company that’s developing a no-code platform for enterprise insurance and financial services, has raised $80 million in Series B funding led by CapitalG. Funds and accounts under management by BlackRock also participated in the round, along with other undisclosed existing investors. VentureBeat has more here.  

    Tenaya Therapeutics, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of therapies that target the underlying causes of heart disease, has raised $92 million Series B funding including from Casdin CapitalGV, and earlier backer The Column GroupMore here

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    ControlRad, a four-year-old, Philadelphia, Pa.-based medtech company that’s developing products that reduce the risk of radiation exposure from fluoroscopically guided interventional procedures, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Questa Capital led the round, joined by Rapha Capital ManagementMore here

    NS1, a six-year-old, New York-based developer of a cloud-first DNS traffic management platform, has raised $33 million in Series C funding. Dell Technologies Capital led the round, joined by Deutsche Telekom Capital PartnersEntrée CapitalFlybridge Capital PartnersGGV CapitalMango CapitalSalesforce VenturesSigma Prime VenturesTelstra Ventures, and Two Sigma VenturesMore here

    Smaller Fundings  

    Amped Innovation, a four-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based designer and manufacturer of solar-powered appliances and solar energy generation and management equipment, has raised more than $3.3 million in Series A funding. ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies led the round, joined by Schneider Electric Ventures and FINCA VenturesMore here

    Diligent Robotics, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based developer of hospital service robots, has raised $3 million in seed funding co-led by True Ventures and Ubiquity Ventures. The Robot Report has more here

    Fyle, a three-year-old, Bangalore, India-based expense management platform, has raised $4.5 million in funding, including from Steadview CapitalTiger Global Managment, Freshworks, and Pravega VenturesMore here

    Mon Ami, a nearly two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company focused on social isolation in aging, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding co-led by Freestyle Ventures and Cowboy Ventures, with participation from Maverick VenturesFelicis Ventures, and Benchmark’s Bruce Dunlevie. MobiHealth News has more here

    Orbit Fab, a year-old, Silicon Valley-based startup that’s developing a space-based robotic refueling technology, has raised $3 million in seed funding from Type 1 VenturesTechStars and others. TechCrunch has more here

    ReFirm Labs, a two-year-old, Fulton, Md.-based maker of IoT and firmware security software, raised $2 million in funding co-led by DataTribe and New Dominion Angels, with participation from TEDCO and Tysons Angel InvestorsMore here

    Verisart, a 4.5-year-old, L.A.-based startup that uses decentralized technologies to help artists certify and document their work, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Galaxy Digital EOS VC Fund, with participation from earlier backers Sinai Ventures and Rhodium. TechCrunch has more here

    Waycare, a three-year-old, L.A.-based, AI-based connected mobility platform for transportation agencies, has raised $7.25 million in Series A funding. SJF Ventures led the round, joined by UpWestNext Gear VenturesInnogySpider CapitalGoldbell, Zymestic Solutions, and Janom.

    New Funds 

    Notion Capital, a 10-year-old, London-based seed- and early-stage venture firm, has taken the wraps off a new, $150 million fund that it aims to invest in European business-to-business startups. TechCrunch has more here.


    Apple may have recently acquired the U.K-based motion capture company IKinema, based on evidence from company filings and information shared by a MacRumors reader. IKinema offers animation technology that’s used for games, virtual reality, and more. More here

    Vice Media Group has acquired the women’s lifestyle publisher Refinery29 for a reported $400 million, including mostly stock with some cash. Refinery29 had raised roughly $133 million from investors, including Turner Broadcasting, the Stripes GroupScripps NetworksWPP VenturesFloodgate, and Hearst Communications. The New York Times has more here

    Salesforce has completed its $1.35 billion acquisition of a 41-year-old, Israel-based workforce management software company called Clicksoftware Technologies, the former announced yesterday. The company first disclosed the acquisition in August. Calcalist has more here

    Taboola and Outbrain, rivals that both operate advertising-based content recommendation engines for publishers, are forming a single company, says TechCrunch. The two companies, both founded out of Israel but headquartered in New York, describe the deal as a merger but the combined entity will be called Taboola, with Taboola’s founder Adam Singolda securing the CEO slot. Further, Taboola is paying Outbrain investors $250 million in cash plus a 30 percent share of the combined companies. More here.


    Alphabet cofounder Sergey Brin has secretly been married to his girlfriend Nicole Shanahan since 2018, if you should care. More hereHewlett Packard says it’s cutting between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs—13 percent to 16 percent of its workforce. More hereWeWork’s leaders told staff today that job cuts are coming as soon as this month. Bloomberg has more here.

    Sponsored By …

    In every industry there’s someone building the future, whether it’s technology, architecture, food, cars or space rockets. In clothing it’s Vollebak. Our Graphene Jacket is built with a Nobel Prize winning material. We’ve designed clothing that can store and re-emit sunlight, built t shirts made entirely from plants and algae grown in forests and bioreactors, and created 100 Year clothing designed to outlive you. See the future at Vollebak.

    Essential Reads 

    Already under fire for advancing Chinese foreign policy by censoring topics like Hong Kong’s protests and pro-LGBT content, the Beijing-based video app TikTok is now further distancing itself from U.S. social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with a ban on political ads on its app. TechCrunch has more here. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, along with officials from the United Kingdom and Australia, is set to publish an open letter tomorrow to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking the company to delay plans for end-to-end encryption across its messaging services until it can guarantee the added privacy does not reduce public safety. BuzzFeed has more here. Tech’s most controversial startup — Anduril — now makes drone-killing robots.


    Graffiti artist Banksy has launched his own merchandise line, with items on sale for as little as £10, to protect his brand against a greeting-card company that he says it trying to seize legal custody of his name. Birds are vanishing from North America. Give this one a minute.

    Retail Therapy 

    Who is the target market for this, exactly?

StrictlyVC on Twitter