• StrictlyVC: July 31, 2018

    Hello, and happy Tuesday.:) We have to keep things short and sweet today as we’re juggling a little bit. More tomorrow . . .
    Top News
    Facebook says it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November’s midterm elections. The New York Times has more here

    Morgan Stanley is worried the stock market rally may have exhausted itself.
    Sponsored By . . .
    Underwear has finally evolved, and it’s ridiculously comfortable. Mack Weldon‘s Try-On Guarantee promises a full refund, with no return required if you don’t love your first pair. Try a pair today and find out why guys are obsessed with this underwear. You’ve never felt anything like it before.
    Scalar Capital, a Hedge Fund for Crypto Assets, Plants Its Flag
    Scalar Capital is a San Francisco-based hedge fund company specializing in crypto assets. In fact, it is one of roughly 300 crypto-focused funds that have sprung up in the last year or so. 

    That kind of market zaniness makes it hard to carve out a niche, but Scalar has a bit an edge on this front, thanks to its founders’ backgrounds. Linda Xie, who studied economics at UC San Diego, spent a couple of years out of college as a portfolio risk analyst with the insurance giant AIG before joining Coinbase as a product manager, a role she held for more than three years before leaving last fall to start Scalar. 

    Her cofounder, Jordan Clifford, has a computer science degree from Carnegie Mellon and spent a few years as a business analyst with Capital One before bouncing around a couple of startups and landing at Coinbase, where he worked as a software engineer for roughly 18 months, meeting Xie in the process. 

    Though it’s far too early to say whether Scalar can, well, scale, a source close to the firm says the duo has already raised $20 million from investors that include VC and crypto enthusiast Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase cofounder Fred Ehrsam, and angel investor Elad Gil. We spoke with Xie recently to learn more. Our chat has been edited lightly for length. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    Blueprint Power, a year-old, New York-based platform to help buildings sell their excess electricity into numerous energy markets, just raised $3.5 million in Series A funding led by Congruent VenturesMetaProp Ventures, and Union Square Ventures founders Fred Wilson and Brad Burnham. Earlier backers Lennar and Fifth Wall Ventures, also joined the round. More here.  

    BlueVine, a five-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based startup that provides invoice factoring and small business lines of credit, has raised $12 million in new funding from Microsoft’s M12 and Nationwide Insurance. The capital is an extension of a previously closed Series E round that brings the round to $72 million altogether. Crunchbase News has more here

    Brandless, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based e-commerce company that sells hundreds of products for $3 each, has raised $240 million in fresh funding from Softbank‘s Vision Fund at a valuation of just more than $500 million. Brandless had previously raised roughly $50 million from investors RedpointNew Enterprise Associates, and Cowboy Ventures, among others. CEO Tina Sharkey spoke at a StrictlyVC event earlier this year. Bloomberg has more here

    California Dreamin’, a year-old, San Francisco-based cannabis drink that comes in four flavors, including tangerine and grapefruit, just raised $2.3 million in funding. Among its backers: Y CombinatorPaul Buchheit, and Justin WongMore here

    Espressive, a year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based AI-driven enterprise service management platform, has raised $23 million in funding, including from General Catalyst and Wing Venture CapitalMore here

    Freshworks, an eight-year-old, San Bruno, Ca.-based company that offers a variety of business software tools that range from IT management to CRM for sales and customer support, has raised $100 million in funding round co-led by Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners, with participation from CaptialG. The company has now raised $250 million altogether, at a post-money valuation that’s north of $1.5 billion, it says. TechCrunch has more here

    Gusto, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based payroll, benefits and HR technology platform for small businesses, has raised $140 million in Series C funding. T. Rowe Price Associates, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, General CatalystMSD Capital (Michael Dell), Dragoneer Investment GroupCapitalGKleiner PerkinsEmergence Capital137 Ventures and others participated. More here

    Labelbox, a year-old, San Francisco-based company that builds artificial intelligence training data labeling software, has raised $3.9 million in seed funding led by Kleiner Perkins, with participation from First Round and Google’s Gradient VenturesMore here

    Mammoth Biosciences, a year-old, San Francisco-based, CRISPR-based detection platform that says it’s capable of sensing any biomarker or disease with DNA/RNA, has raised $23 million in Series A funding led by Mayfield with participation from 8VC and early backer NFX. TechCrunch has more here

    Skyline AI, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based real estate investment startup, has raised $18 million in Series A funding led by earlier backer Sequoia Capital, a returning investor, and TLV Partners, with participation from JLL Spark, a division of real estate investment management firm JLL. TechCrunch has more here

    Xwing, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based autonomous aviation company, has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Eniac Ventures, with participation fromArray Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.  

    ZecOps, a year-old, San Francisco-based stealth mode cyber security startup, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by KPN Ventures, with participation fromEvolution Equity PartnersPlug and Play Silicon ValleyWISE Ventures,Array Ventures, and angel investors. More here.
    New Funds
    Blue Lake Capital, a four-year-old, Shanghai, China-based venture capital firm, raised $138.9 million for its second fund, according to an SEC filing that shows a$200 million target. More here.
    The flood of IPOs is expected to slow to a trickle this week. But deal flow may also be reduced by cracks that are appearing in a key part of the IPO market: the less-than-stellar performance of tech stocks, and especially Chinese internet companies. MarketWatch has the story here.
    LegalZoom, an online platform for connecting small business owners to various legal services, has raised $500 million at a $2 billion valuation, including to help pay out some investors and employees. Francisco PartnersGPI CapitalFranklin Templeton Investments and Neuberger Berman acquired shares, while Kleiner Perkins, IVP and the company’s largest shareholder, Permira, sold into the deal. Bloomberg has more here

    Viacom has confirmed that it’s acquiring digital media company AwesomenessTV, whose network reaches 158 million subscribers and approximately 300 million monthly views. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the property sold for $25 million, plus “some debt.” Awesomeness had previously been assigned a valuation by its investors of $650 million. TechCrunch has more here.
    Jeff Bezos‘s parents invested $245,573 in Amazon in 1995. Now they could be worth $30 billion.
    Essential Reads
    Cadre, the young real estate tech company (whose CEO, Ryan Williams, also spoke at our SVC event earlier this year), has reportedly failed to win backing from Softbank. According to Bloomberg, other investors are now talking with the company about a funding round that would value it at $2 billion. More here

    Genetics-testing companies are setting new rules for how they assess and share consumers’ DNA. The latest category to get the e-commerce treatment: adult diapers.
    “House of Cards” is moving on without Kevin Spacey

    How a notorious gangster was exposed by his own sister.
    Retail Therapy
    A billion-dollar(!) L.A. property. (House sold separately.)
  • StrictlyVC: July 30, 2018

    Hi, happy Monday, all. Hope your week is off to a good start.:)
    Top News
    Tech shares are losing momentum right now. The Nasdaq Composite Index sank 1.4 percent today, posting its biggest three-day loss since March. The FANG cohort (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) tumbled almost 3 percent, leaving the group down more than 9 percent since Facebook stunning earnings call last week.
    Sponsored By . . .
    Oracle just launched a Startup Growth Program in the U.S., a dedicated initiative to enable startups to scale with Oracle enterprise customers. If you are interested in the equity-free program, you can attend the final Ask Me Anything Webinar on Friday, August 3rd and apply here by August 7th.
    Optoro Raises $75 Million More to Help Brands Resell Returned and Excess Inventory
    As the economy has chugged along, so have retail sales, which last year capped their strongest year since 2014. Online sales has been especially brisk, growing 16 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, which estimates that consumers spent $453.5 billion online last year. 

    Of course, with every booming market comes supporting cast members that benefit. Such is the case with eight-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based Optoro, which itself just rang up $75 million in new funding. A logistics company, Optoro’s software helps retailers — both online and off — more easily re-sell inventory that has been returned by customers. 

    That’s a big number. The overall amount of merchandise returned as a percent of total sales last year was 10 percent in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation. In dollars, that’s $351 billion. 

    Right now, that includes sales from big box retailers and many other “legacy” companies that allow shoppers to buy items — and return them — in their stores. But as online sales rise, so do online returns. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    AntWorks, a three-year-old, Singapore-based business process outsourcing and technology startup operating in the healthcare and financial services spaces, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by the Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings. The Economic Times has more here

    Byju, a 10-year-old, Bangalore, India-based company behind an immensely popular K-12 learning app, is in talks with SoftBank and other investors to raise $200 million to $250 million to fund its global expansion plans, according to the Economic Times. The company has previously raised $244 million, including from the Chan-Zuckerberg InitiativeTencentSequoia CapitalLightspeed Venture PartnersSofinaVerlinvest, and Times InternetMore here.  

    C88, a five-year-old, Jakarta, Indonesia-based company that works with financial institutions to help them reach segments of the population that aren’t addressed today, just raised $28 million in Series C funding led by Experian, with participation from DEGInterVestFengHe Fund ManagementPelago CapitalFuchsia VC and earlier backers Monk’s Hill VenturesTelstra VenturesKickstart Ventures and Kejora Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Grover, a three-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based startup that offers individual tech products via monthly and yearly subscriptions, has raised €37 million ($43.3 million) in Series A funding led by Circularity Capital, with participation from Coparion, Samsung NEXTVarengold Bank and Commerzbank’s Main Incubator. TechCrunch has more here

    Igengmei, a five-year-old, Beijing, China-based platform company that provides community, e-commerce and financial services to plastic surgery, dental, ophthalmology, and other consumer medical offices, has raised $50 million in Series D-1 funding from Meitu Dianping and DH Fund. China Money Network has more here

    MobLab, a seven-year-old, Pasadena, Ca.-based startup that develops interactive games and experiments that augment high school and college lectures, has raised roughly $3 million in new funding, shows an SEC filingMore here

    Olive, a six-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based healthcare-focused robotic process automation and artificial intelligence company that streamlines repetitive tasks, has raised $32.8 million in Series D funding, including from Oak HC/FT and Ascension VenturesMore here

    Omniome, a five-year-old, San Diego-based biotech that’s developing a DNA sequencing platform, has raised $60 million in Series B funding led by Decheng Capital and Hillhouse Capital Group, with participation from Lam Research Capital and Nan Fung Life Sciences and earlier backers ARCH Venture PartnersDomain AssociatesBiomatics Capital Partners and Altitude Life Science VenturesMore here

    RaiseMe, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based-based incentive program for students to earn financial aid, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Teamworthy Ventures, with participation from Chan Zuckerberg InitiativeSalesforce Ventures and Strada Education Network. Fast Company has more here

    Serverless, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose framework aims to empower developers to build and operate serverless architectures, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here

    Shuttl, a three-year-old, Gurgaon, India-based company whose app is used to find bus seats in India, has raised $11 million in Series B funding led by Amazon IndiaAmazon Alexa Fund and Dentsu Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Sequoia CapitalTimes Internet and Lightspeed Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here

    SkinVision, a seven-year-old, Amsterdam-based mobile app that tracks skin spots to aid in the early detection of skin cancer and other conditions, has raised $7.6 million in funding, including from LEO Pharma and PHS FundMore here

    Swift, the parent company of esports organization Team SoloMid, has raised $37 million in a first round of funding. The backers include round leader Bessemer Venture Partners, as well as NBA star Stephen CurryAME Cloud VenturesTelstraYifang Ventures, Twitch chief strategy officer Colin Carrier, and Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang. Forbes has more here

    Troops, a three-year-old, New York-based Slackbot for sales teams, is raising $12 million in fresh funding and has at raised at least $7.7 million toward the end, shows a new SEC filing. The company has previously raised $9.6 million from investors, including First Round CapitalFelicis VenturesSlack, and Susa Ventures. More here

    Waldo, a 1.5-year-old, London-based direct-to-consumer contact lens brand, raised £3.7 million ($5 million) in Series A funding, including from PROfounders Capital,YYX VenturesTectonic Capital and Tinder co-founders Sean Rad and Justin MateenMore here.
    New Funds
    Two former managing directors from Sequoia Capital India – V T Bharadwaj and Gautam Mago have joined forces to create a new venture firm called A91 Partners that’s looking to raise the equivalent of $290 million for its debut fund. The idea is to back emerging companies across sectors such as consumer, healthcare, financial services, and technology. Inc 42 has more here

    A new Bay Area firm called Counterpart Ventures was quietly cofounded five months ago by Patrick Eggen, the former head of U.S. investments for Qualcomm Ventures, and Joe Saijo, the former president of Recruit Strategic Partners, reports Axios. The duo don’t appear to have a site up and running just let, but according to Eggen’s LinkedIn profile, Counterpart is a “stage-agnostic” firm that will write initial checks of between $2 million and $8 million.” 

    Reach Capital, a three-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based venture fund that invests in early-stage ed-tech startups, has closed on a new, $82 million fund. Forbes hasmore here.
    The bitcoin mining company Bitmain is reportedly planning an IPO. Fortune hasmore here.
    ARM Holdings, the U.K.-based computer-chip designer owned by SoftBank Group, is reportedly acquiring the privately held, Mountain View, Ca.-based data analytics firm Treasure Data for some $600 million. Treasure Data has raised roughly $54 million in funding from investors, including Scale Venture PartnersSierra Ventures, and AME Cloud Ventures. Bloomberg has the skinny here.
    Elon Musk‘s latest offering: $1500 Tesla surfboards

    An honest Facebook ad by comic John Oliver. Google just promoted its top lawyer — Kent Walker — to senior vice president of global affairs, where he will oversee its policy, legal, trust and safety, and corporate philanthropy teams.
    During the first six months, Chinese private equity and venture capital funds saw fundraising plummeting significantly. Tight liquidity conditions, mostly due to tightened financial regulations, has led to more concentrated investments as GPs become more cautious in where to put capital, says ChinaVenture. China Money Network has more here.
    Essential Reads
    Uber’s self-driving trucks division is dead
    Feeling off your game? You could be mildly dehydrated

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she has “at least another five years” left in her Supreme Court career.  

    The man behind the global avocado toast phenomenon

    Italian race car as room divider? Why not.
    Retail Therapy
    When you care enough to get the very best for your AirPods and their charging case.
  • StrictlyVC: July 27, 2018

    Friday! [Rides bicycle into sunset.]

    Hope you have a terrific weekend, everyone. We’ll see you Monday.:)

    If you’re looking for a distraction in the next couple of days, this week’s “Equity” podcast, with our charming co-hosts Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase News and Matthew Lynley of TechCrunch, along with the very funny Alexis Ohanian of both Reddit and Initialized Capital, is here.
    Top News
    Twitter shares plunged dramatically today after the company disclosed that it lost one million monthly users between the first and second quarters of this year, and said it expected a continued drop-off as it works to eradicate spam bots, fake accounts, and other garbage on the platform. Bloomberg and TechCrunch have more here and here.
    Sponsored By . . .
    Oracle just launched a Startup Growth Program in the U.S., a dedicated initiative to enable startups to scale with Oracle enterprise customers. If you are interested in the equity-free program, you can attend the final Ask Me Anything Webinar on Friday, August 3rd and apply here by August 7th.
    A First of Its Kind, Direct-to-Consumer, Urine-Testing App (with FDA Clearance)
    Urinary tract infections are highly uncomfortable and distracting, and they are very common for women because of the female anatomy. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, many women experience more than one infection during their lifetimes. 

    Many of the afflicted try resolving the infection on their own — using heating pads, drinking more water, taking pain medications. But often, these infections become quickly more advanced, a doctor is called, an in-patient visit is made, and the whole terrible episode is only ended after a trip to the pharmacy for some antibiotics. Until now, at least. 

    A young San Francisco-based startup called Scanwell Health just this week began selling directly to consumers the first and, for now, the only FDA-cleared urine testing app that allows someone to test their urine at home using a test strip and their camera phone. (It uses sophisticated color metrics to analyze the strip and determine what’s what.) 

    The kits are just $5. A call to Scanwell to confirm the results — it relies on outside physicians — will cost another $25. But that prescription service will also call in an order for antibiotics immediately if there’s an infection. (Users can also order the antibiotics, but it takes a couple of days for them to arrive.) 

    The startup — which has so far raised just $120,000 from Y Combinator  but will be looking to raise a round soon — was founded by Stephen Chen, a Harvard MBA who has the kind of backstory that makes investors slobber. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    Improbable, the six-year-old, London-based startup that has developed a platform for third parties to build vast virtual and simulated worlds, just doubled its valuation to $2 billion after raising $50 million in strategic funding from the Chinese gaming giant NetEase, which bought both primary and secondary shares. Business Insider has more here

    RaiseMe, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based college readiness platform, has raised $15 million in funding led by Teamworthy Ventures, with participation from The Chan Zuckerberg InitiativeSalesforce Ventures, and Strada Education Network. Fast Company has more here

    Survata, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based advertising measurement and market research company, has raised $14 million in Series B funding led by Conductive Ventures, with participation from Industry VenturesUncork Capital, PivotNorthRidge VenturesBloomberg Beta and Initialized CapitalMore here

    Sutro Biopharma, a 15-year-old, South San Francisco-based cancer therapeutics company, has raised $85.4 million in Series E funding co-led by Samsara BioCapital and Surveyor Capital, with participation from MerckEventide, Nexthera CapitalVida VenturesTekla Capital and return backers Alta PartnersAmgen VenturesCelgeneLilly VenturesSkyline Ventures and SV Health Investors. FierceBiotech has more here

    Tikin Media, a 1.5-year-old, Beijing, China-based in-building advertising company, has raised $18 million in new funding led by Sequoia Capital China, with participation from IDG Capital. China Money Network has more here

    WeWork, the eight-year-old,  New York-headquartered global network of shared work and living spaces, has raised $500 million in fresh funding for its Chinese subsidiary from Trustbridge PartnersTemasekSoftBankSoftBank Vision Fund and Hony Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
    Investors are still betting on fast growth in China’s more rural cities, if Pinduoduo’s IPO offering yesterday is anything to go by. From Fortune: “Sometimes dubbed the Groupon of China, discount e-commerce company Pinduoduo soared 36 percent on its first day of trading Thursday, after raising $1.63 billion in an offering of American Depository Receipts priced at $19 a share. That gives the three-year-old company a fully diluted valuation of about $32.4 billion.”More here.
    Slack has agreed to acquire two competing products from Atlassian — Hipchat and Stride — in exchange for shares in the company. The move seems to signal the end of the office messaging wars, with Slack emerging victorious. Techcrunch has more here.
    People Yesterday, the SEC rejected, again, a proposal for a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund from the Winklevoss brothers, but one commissioner dissented, warning that the decision “sends a strong signal that innovation is unwelcome in our markets.” Axios has more here.
    Publicly traded Twilio is looking to hire a corporate development associate. The job is in San Francisco.
    Essential Reads
    Essential Reads The parent company of MoviePass got a hastily arranged short-term loan to resume operating after failing to pay key business partners, and customers werebarred from theaters yesterday and today
    Detours Motherhood in the age of fear

    Everything we know (so far) about season three of “The Crown.” 

    The plot thickens!
    Retail Therapy
    Forty things on sale today that you could maybe want to buy.
  • StrictlyVC: July 26, 2018

    Thursday! Woot. We’re a little car sick as we write this en route to San Francisco from Marin, where we just finished up a discussion on public finance that was super interesting. More on that to come.  

    In the meantime, we’re headed to TC headquarters to help record this week’s “Equity” podcast with the ever interesting Alexis Ohanian of Initialized Capital and, before that, Reddit.

    Yes. We also want to ask a million questions about his amazing wife, who has more newly become an advocate for parental leave and is a *monumental* inspiration for working mothers. We probably will not, but more on that to come, too.:)
    Top News
    Facebook just suffered its worst day ever as a public company. 

    Meanwhile, Amazon just announced that it killed, again, with earnings up a whopping 39 percent over the first quarter.
    Root Ventures, a Young Firm Focused on “Hard Tech,” Just Raised a Much Bigger Second Fund
    Root Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture firm that closed its debut fund with $30 million in 2015, has raised a second fund, closing it with $76.7269 million dollars in capital commitments. Why? Because Root is proudly composed of engineering nerds, and 767.269 miles per hour is the speed of sound. In dry air. At 20 degrees Celsius. 

    Of course, more mathematically significant to its investors is how the firm is faring, and on that front, Root’s backers must like what they see. 

    Though Root’s investments are mostly too new to judge yet — its debut fund took stakes in 27 companies — it can easily back up claims that it invests in “deeply technical founders” who are tackling “interdisciplinary engineering problems,” including in robotics, machine learning and software for physical industries. 

    Among Root’s many interesting bets to date: Creator, a hamburger-making robot that can craft a burger from start to finish in five minutes; Nautilus Labs, which sells machine learning-based analytics to maritime shipping companies, including to help them reduce their fuel costs; NordSense, whose ultra low-cost sensors sit inside garbage bins to monitor how full they are; and Wild Type, a young startup focused on creating lab-grown meat. 

    Firm co-founder Avidan Ross tells us that with the firm’s new fund, he and investing partners Chrissy Meyer and Kane Hsieh will be writing slightly larger initial checks, ranging from $1 million to $2 million, up from the $500,000 checks it was writing with its first fund. He adds that the firm plans to stay firmly rooted (ahem) to its mission of supporting seed-stage founders whose companies may ultimately require a lot of resources, yet which Root can help because of its collective engineering and investing muscle. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    Beddr, a two-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based sleep improvement startup, has raised $5.6 million in Series A funding led by Three Leaf VenturesMore here.

    Chartbeat, a nine-year-old, New York-based content intelligence platform for publishers, has raised $7 million in new funding led by North Atlantic Capital. More here

    Flywire, a nine-year-old, Boston-based company that enables big institutions like colleges, hospitals, and other businesses to be paid in foreign currency, has raised $100 million in Series D funding led by Temasek, with participation from F-Prime Capital Partners and Bain Capital Ventures. Forbes has more here

    Groundspeed Analytics, a two-year-old, Ann Arbor, Mi.-based startup that sells automation and analytics services to commercial insurers and brokers, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Oak HC/FTMore here

    Healx, a four-year-old, U.K.-based biotech that’s focused on drug matching for rare and genetic diseases, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Balderton Capital, with participation from other backers, including Amadeus Capital PartnersMore here

    Inversago Pharma, a three-year-old, Montreal-based drug developer focused on metabolic diseases, has raised C$7 million ($5.4 million) in Series A funding co-led by Genesys Capital and Amorchem, with participation from JDRF T1D Fund,Accel-RxAnges Québec CapitalAnges Québec and Tarnagulla Ventures. More here

    LeoLabs, a three-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based startup that builds and operates radars to track satellites and the debris that threatens them, has raised $13 million in Series A funding. WERU Investment and Airbus Ventures co-led the round, with participation from Space Angels and Horizons Ventures. SpaceNews has more here

    New TV,” a roughly year-old, L.A. -based mobile video platform that will reportedly feature long-form content broken up into shorter segments and which back in January snagged Meg Whitman as its CEO, has reportedly raised $1 billion in funding. With a B. According to CNN, investors include Disney21st Century Fox, Warner BrosEntertainment One and other media companies, along with (still unnamed) institutional investors in both the U.S. and China. More here

    ODX, a Mataki, Philippines-based blockchain-based data marketplace hoping to help solve for internet access in emerging economies, has raised $60 million in funding, including from Pantera Capital, BlockTower CapitalDNA FundKenetic CapitalWavemaker Genesis and Strong VenturesMore here

    OpenInvest, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based digital investment advisor for socially responsible investing, raised $10.4 million in Series A funding. QED Investors led the round, and was joined by investors including Andreessen HorowitzSYSTEMIQWireframe VenturesYard Ventures and Abstract VenturesMore here

    The RealReal, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace for authenticated luxury goods that its users and shop owners consign, has raised $115 million in Series G funding led by PWP Growth Equity, with participation from Sandbridge Capital and Great Hill PartnersScandit, a nine-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based enterprise barcode scanning company, has raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by GV and NGP Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Snap40, a four-year-old, Edinburgh, Scotland-based maker of a monitoring wearables that helps detect when the wearer’s health is deteriorating, has raised $8 million in new funding led by ADV, with participation from MMC VenturesMore here.
    New Funds
    Hippocrates Ventures, a new, physician-funded, social impact, venture fund focused on digital therapeutics opportunities, is launching a debut vehicle that it expects will be no smaller than $10 million in size. Already, 250 physicians are involved. Laurence Girard founded the outfit. The former pre-med student is also the CEO and founder of Fruit Street, a digital health tech startup focused on diabetes prevention. More here.
    Ascletis Pharma, a five-year-old, Hangzhou, China-based biotech, has raised $400 million after pricing its IPO in the middle of its expected range, according to Reuters. The outlet notes that Ascletis’s IPO is the first such Hong Kong listing under rules designed to attract early-stage biotech firms. More here

    Tenable, a Columbia, Md.-based cybersecurity and compliance monitoring platform, raised $251 million in its IPO yesterday. The company priced 10.9 million shares at $23, compared with its original plans to sell 9.2 million shares at between $17 and $19. The shares, which began trading on the Nasdaq this morning, still jumped almost immediately by 40 percent. CNBC has more here

    We’ll have more on the performance of two China-based companies that just went public in the U.S. — Cango and Pinduoduo — for you tomorrow.
    Facebook has acquired Redkix, an email startup that combines email, messaging and calendar features into one app, the company said. Facebook made the purchase in hopes of building out its own communication features inside Workplace, the enterprise version of Facebook that it hopes to compete with Slack. No word yet on terms of the deal.  Redkix has raised $17 million from investors. Recode has more here.
    Felix Capital is looking for a “highly motivated and talented individual” from a top-tier university with at least three or four years of relevant work behind him or her to join its team as an investor. The job is in London.
    Via Bloomberg: The U.S. housing market appears to be running out of steam. Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months. Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values. Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance AgencyMore here.
    Essential Reads
    Facial recognition technology made by Amazon, which is being used by some police departments and other organizations, incorrectly matched black lawmakers, including representative John Lewis of Georgia, with people who had been charged with a crime, the American Civil Liberties Union reported this morning. More here and here

    Qualcomm has dropped plans to acquire Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductorafter failing to secure Chinese regulatory approval. The companies’ CEOs lamented the development afterward via private texts
    Amelia Earhart’s pleas for help may finally have been discovered

    The untold story of Otto Warmbier, American hostage. 

    Pranks and masculinity in “Who is America?”
    Retail Therapy
    Colored speakers, going fast.
  • StrictlyVC: July 25, 2019

    Hi, happy Wednesday, all.:)
    Top News
    The CEO of Nextdoor, the social network for local neighborhoods, plans to step down from his role after almost eight years, reports RecodeNirav Tolia, one of Nextdoor’s founders, emailed employees today that he is beginning a search for his own replacement and will move into an “active” chairman role on the company’s board once the new hire is made. Tolia, a serial entrepreneur who has had some ups and downs during his now decades-long career, dismisses any notion that the decision is anyone’s but his own.
    In a Hot Market for Secondary Shares, One Player, Equidate, Raises $50 Million
    Equidate, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace that makes privately held shares available to accredited investors wanting to buy them, is announcing a whopper of a round this morning: $50 million in Series B funding from Financial Technology Partners, Panorama Point Partners, and Operative Capital. The company had earlier raised only very small seed and Series A rounds from renowned investors Scott Banister, Tim Draper, and Peter Thiel.

    The round is entirely unsurprising, given the circle of life for many venture-backed startups, which is to raise capital, raise more capital if your company takes off, then . . . raise even more capital — sometimes a staggering amount — while pushing off an IPO or sale for as long as possible. (At this point, you need to ensure that when you do make a move, your company is valuable enough to return all that money and then some.)

    The cycle won’t change any time soon, given the amounts of late-stage capital being raised to support it. Sequoia Capital is well on its way to closing an $8 billion fund. Insight Venture Partners last week closed a $6.3 billion fund. Lightspeed Venture Partners announced $1.8 billion across two new funds earlier this month. Index Ventures closed on two funds totaling $1.65 billion earlier this month index. It goes on and on.

    While an interesting and complicated and controversial trend for many reasons, including that many more “unicorns” are being minted than will be giant success stories, the shift toward pushing out potential liquidity events has been very propitious development for  secondary players — outfits like Industry Ventures andEquityZen and Saints Capital — that help employees and early investors in privately held companies sell their “pre-IPO” holdings to someone else.

    It’s been good news, too, for Equidate, whose profile has been rising behind the scenes, including in part to its role in working with the streaming music service Spotify ahead of its direct public listing in April. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    Alector, a five-year-old, South San Francisco, Ca.-based biotech company hoping to fight Alzheimer’s disease with immunotherapy, has raised $133 million in Series E funding from Deerfield ManagementAbbVie VenturesFederated Kaufmann FundSection 32GV and a dozen other investors. Forbes has more here

    Awfis Space Solutions, a three-year-old, Mumbai, India-based co-working space company, has raised $20 million in Series C funding from its earlier backers, including Sequoia CapitalThe Three Sisters: Institutional Office and InnoVen Capital. The Economic Times has more here

    Ciitizen, a nine-month-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that’s focused on helping cancer patients access their data (and was founded by former Apple Health director Anil Sethi), has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz. CNBC has more here

    ClassPass, the six-year-old, New York-based, monthly gym membership company, has raised $85 million in Series D funding led by earlier backer Temasek, which also led the startup’s Series C round. L Catterton, the private equity firm, also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here

    ColdQuanta, an 11-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based company focused on the development, design, and manufacture of instruments and systems destined for quantum technologies, has raised $6.75 million in a round led by Maverick Ventures and including Global Frontier Investments. TechCrunch has more here

    FinAccel, a three-year-old, Singapore-based digital credit card startup, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Square Peg Capital, with participation fromMDI VenturesAtami Capital and earlier backers Jungle VenturesOpenspace VenturesGMO Venture PartnersAlpha JWC Ventures and 500 Startups. TechCrunch has more here

    GlobalWebIndex, a nine-year-old, London-based market research company focused on consumer insight data, has raised $40 million from New York growth fund Stripes Group in its first outside round of funding. City A.M. has more here

    Guild Education, a three-year-old, Denver, Co.-based education benefits platform, just raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Felicis Ventures. Other participants in the round include Salesforce VenturesWorkday Ventures,Rethink Impact & EducationSVB and earlier backers Bessemer Venture PartnersRedpoint VenturesHarrison Metal and Cowboy Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    HealthCrowd, a seven-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based healthcare communications platform-as-a-service, has raised $7.2 million in funding led by TVC Capital, with participation from Startup Capital Ventures and Healthy Ventures. MobiHealthNews has more here

    Impraise, a four-year-old, New York-based maker of feedback and performance software, has raised $10.6 million in Series A funding led by Keen Venture Partners, with participation from other investors, including HenQMore here

    Metromile, a seven-year-old, Tempe, Az.-based car insurance platform that allows drivers to pay based on their actual number of hours on the road, has raised $90 million in Series E funding co-led by insurance giants Tokio Marine Holdings and Intact Financial. Other participants in the round include NEAIndex Ventures, Future Fund, and Section 32. VentureBeat has more here

    Patientco, a 10-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based patient billing and payments tech company, just raised $28 million in Series B funding led by Accel-KKR, with participation from earlier backers BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners /Sandbox Advantage FundMore here

    Prescient, an 11-year-old, Durham, N.C-based design and building platform that uses a patented light-gauge and cold-rolled steel structural system and framing technology, has raised $50 million in Series E funding led by Eldridge Industries. More here.

    RFPIO, a three-year-old, Beaverton, Ore.-based startup that develops request-for-proposal response automation software, has raised $25 million from K1 Investment Management. GeekWire has more here. Siemplify, a three-year-old, New York-based maker of security operations and incident response software, has raised $14 million in Series B funding led by Jump Capital, with participation from G20 Ventures and 83North. Reuters has more here

    Tally, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based automated debt-managing app, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Earlier investors Shasta VenturesCowboy Ventures, and Sway Ventures, also participated. More here

    TradeGecko, a six-year-old, Singapore-based SaaS inventory and order management platform for small- and mid-size businesses, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Aura Group, with participation from Perle Ventures and 33 CapitalMore here

    VSiN, a year-old, Las Vegas, Nv.-based provider of sports betting information content that was founded by CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from SeventySix Capital. Technical.ly Philly has more here.

    Zorroa, a four-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based visual search and analysis platform, has raised $7 million led by Gradient VenturesMore here.
    New Funds
    SaaS Capital, an 11-year-old, Cincinnati, Oh.-based firm that offers debt-based growth financing as alternative for SaaS companies (instead of venture debt, venture capital, or term loans), is looking to raise $75 million for its third fund, shows a new SEC filing. The outfit had closed its second fund with $58 million in capital commitments in 2015. More here.
    China Tower, the world’s largest telecoms tower operator, held a news conference yesterday about its Hong Kong IPO of up to $8.7 billion. The offering could eventually be the world’s biggest listing in four years. Reuters has more here.
    The publicly traded food ordering company Grubhub says it’s acquiring seven-year-old, Boston-based LevelUp, a company whose tech platform manages digital ordering, payments, and loyalty programs on behalf of customers like KFC and Taco Bell. LevelUp had raised $108 million from investors, including Highland Capital PartnersGV, and Balderton Capital, according to Crunchbase. Grubhub is paying $390 million in cash. TechCrunch has more here.
    Lyft has hired Karim Bousta, Tesla’s now-former VP of worldwide service and customer experience, to serve as its VP of driver experience operations. TechCrunch has more here

    Pinterest’s head of engineering, Li Fan, is leaving the company to become head of engineering of scooter company Lime, reports CNBC. Fan was previously the head of Google Image search. 

    Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Obama who last year led a sexual harassment investigation at Uber, is considering running for U.S. president, he confirmed yesterday

    Sergio Marchionne, the executive who pulled two ailing carmakers from the brink of collapse and led the improbable transformation of Fiat Chrysler into an automotive giant, died earlier today at age 66. More here

    Facebook’s  chief legal officer Colin Stretch has announced he’ll be out by the end of the year. On Facebook, he said that he and his wife made a decision to move back to Washington from California “a few years ago . . . we knew it would be difficult for me to remain in this role indefinitely.”
    Millennials think cash is the best long-term investment. Unsurprisingly, they’re not seeing good returns, reports Bloomberg. According to a survey conducted for Bankrate.com that culled data from 1,000 Americans age 18 to 37, almost one in three said cash instruments like savings accounts are the best place to invest money they won’t need for the next 10 years. More here.
    Essential Reads
    Venmo is really lousy at keeping secrets

    Dropbox just made it easier to find your files in Gmail.
    The mistakes you make in a meeting’s first milliseconds

    Welcome to Anxiety Dream High School.

    The best beer cocktails for your summer drinking needs.
    Retail Therapy
    Forget those other guys. Buy and rent your own damn dockless e-scooters. (Note, you may need to convince a city to give you a permit first.)
  • StrictlyVC: July 24, 2018

    Look, we love you, but it’s the last week of July and it’s busier than ever on the deal front. Can you please go on vacation? They’re fun!

    Speaking of vacations, next week we will be working while watching our children and visiting our parents, so do not expect “a lot.”  Also, of actual importance: the week of August 6, we won’t be publishing StrictlyVC. Apologies in advance. We need quality time with the kiddos before they get sucked back into the new school year. (We’ll send out another reminder or two about this next week.)
    Top News
    Both AT&T and Verizon reported earnings today. AT&T disappointed investors. Verizon’s news was better.  

    23andMe, maker of those direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits, has authorized the sale of up to $300 million in new shares, says Pitchbook. More here.
    Sponsored By . . .
    A better electric toothbrush. Quip was created by dentists and designers to guide the good habits that matter — starting at $25. Brush heads ($5) are delivered for an automatic refresh every 3 months. Get your first refill free.
    BlockFi Was Just Given $50 Million to Lend to Bitcoin and Ethereum Holders Who Don’t Want to Sell (Yet)
    Because cryptocurrency prices are almost comically volatile owing to challenges involved in valuing them, it’s hard to know when or why to sell.

    Enter crypto-asset backed loans, around which a small but growing number of startups is beginning to spring up. The idea is to lend money to cryptocurrency holders who don’t want to offload their holdings but also don’t necessarily want so much of their assets tied up in cryptocurrencies.

    Among these is Lendingblock, a London-based startup that enables holders of crypto assets to lend them out and accrue interest on their holdings. Other outfits — and we aren’t vouching for these so much as letting you know they exist — includeCoinLoan, a 1.5-year-old outfit in Estonia that is itself trying to raise money through an initial coin offering; Nexo, a Switzerland-based platform powered by a Bulgarian consumer finance company called Credissimo; and SALT Lending, a Denver-based outfit that started crypto lending earlier this year, and recently told American Banker that it has already made just shy of $40 million in loans and has had no losses. (AB notes that the company’s founder, Blake Cohen, refers to himself at “The Blockchain Cowboy.”) 

    Still, it’s already looking like if there is one to watch in this new world, it might be BlockFi, a year-old, 12-person, New York-based non-bank lender that had raised roughly $1.5 million in seed funding earlier this year from ConsenSys Ventures, SoFi, and Kenetic Capital and just today, quietly announced a massive infusion of capital — $52.5 million — led by Galaxy Digital Ventures, the digital currency and blockchain tech firm founded by famed investor Mike Novogratz. 

    Most of the capital — $50 million — will be used to loan to BlockFi’s customers.  

    More here.
    New Fundings
    Agora Images, a two-year-old, Barcelona, Spain-based photo contest app, has raised €2 million in new funding from backers, including Mnext VCWildinvest, Soller Invest and Kabche Real EstateMore here

    AllCloud, a three-year-old, Israel-based cloud consulting company, has raised $7 million in funding led by existing and new investors Discount Capital and Hallett Capital. The company has now raised $15 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    BinaryVR, a three-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based startup focused on computer vision face-tracking capable of translating a user’s facial input to a virtual reality avatar, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding. Backers include Atinum InvestmentKT InvestmentPearl Abyss and Kakao Ventures. BinaryVR  has now raised about $5.8 million to date. TechCrunch has more here.

    Brightpearl, a two-year-old, Bristol, U.K.-based maker of cloud-based inventory management and ERP software for retailers, has raised $15 million in funding. Cipio Partners led the round with participation from earlier backers MMC Ventures and Notion CapitalMore here.

    Campfire, a two-year-old, Hong Kong-based co-working space operator, raised $18 million in Series A funding from Kwai Jung GroupFast Global Holdings and Sa Sa. TechCrunch has more here

    Knock Knock, a two-month-old, Bay Area-based startup that’s building games for platforms like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Raine Ventures, with participation from London Venture PartnersLudlow Ventures and Gregory Milken. TechCrunch has more here

    League, a four-year-old, Toronto-based online platform that helps employees manage their health plan and benefits, has raised $47.1 million in Series B funding led by TELUS Ventures, with participation from Wittington Ventures and returning investors OMERS, Infinite Potential Group, RBC Ventures and BDC Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Outlier, a three-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based business intelligence startup, has raised $6.2 million in Series A funding by Ridge Ventures, with participation from11.2 CapitalFirst Round CapitalHomebrewSusa Ventures and SV Angel. The company has now raised a little more than $8 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Rescale, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that wants to bring high performance computing to the cloud, just raised $32 million in Series B funding. Initialized CapitalKeen Venture Partners and SineWave Ventures led the round. Other participants in the funding include such recognizable individuals as Sam AltmanJeff BezosRichard BransonPaul GrahamRon ConwayChris Dixon, and Peter Thiel. Rescale has now raised $52 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    ScaleFactor, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based startup selling accounting and payroll management software as a service, has raised $10 million in new funding led by led by Canaan Partners, with participation from Citi VenturesBroadhaven Capital and earlier backers. The company has now raised $12.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Skillshare, a seven-year-old, New York-based online learning community with thousands of classes in creative, business and tech disciplines,  has closed on $28 million in new funding that includes $20 million in equity and $8 million in venture debt. Earlier backer Union Square Ventures led the equity portion of the round. Other participants include Burda Principal Investments and other earlier backers Amasia and Spero VenturesMore here

    SpotAngels, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based app that uses crowdsourced data to help drivers find parking and avoid tickets, has raised $2.3 million from a group of investors that includes Google Maps co-founder Lars Rasmussen. TechCrunch has more here

    Supermedium, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose app lets users browse hundreds of VR experiences on the web (as long as they also have a VR headset), just raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Y CombinatorGeneral CatalystBoost VC, and a bunch of others. TechCrunch has more here.
    New Funds
    The U.K.- based, Europe-focused, early-stage venture firm Mosaic Ventures — which bills itself as “a Silicon Valley-style venture capital firm based in London” — looks to be raising a second, larger fund, four years after closing its debut $140 million fund. According to a new SEC filing, Mosaic is aiming to raise $150 million this time around. TechCrunch has more here

    Josh Mohrer and William Barnes, two former Uber  executives, are working on an investor syndicate to invest in startups led by fellow former Uber employees, says Axios. More here

    Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based public company that creates and invests in tech startups, is trying to raise a new billion-dollar fund, a significant amount of which will eventually be invested in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. Its reports says Rocket Internet will be the lead investor in the fund but that it’s looking for other partners to join and that the fund, which could reach upwards of $2 billion when all is said and done, could close as soon as December. More here.
    ezCater, a Boston-based corporate catering company that recently raised $100 million in fresh funding, has acquired the much smaller, Paris-based corporate catering platform GoCater, which had raised seed funding from Kima Ventures,Cabiedes & Partners and U-Start. TechCrunch has more here

    File sharing veteran BitTorrent has finally confirmed that it has a new owner: “We are excited to announce that Tron has officially closed its acquisition of BitTorrent,” the company said in a blog post earlier today. Tron is a blockchain startup founded by Chinese entrepreneur Justin Jun. The company has issued it own crypto-currency, dubbed TRX, which had a market cap of $2.4 billion as of this morning. Variety has more here

    The mental health startup Lantern, which raised more than $20 million in funding, is winding down its commercial operations after a couple of acquisition deals fell through, TechCrunch has learned. More here.
    VC Joshua Kushner announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend (and supermodel) Karlie Kloss earlier today. Kushner co-manages Thrive Capital in New York. (You do care, so do not write us saying otherwise.) More here

    Writer Ben Mezrich, whose wrote the book that became “The Social Network,” has sold another book about the Winklevoss twins. 

    Mark Randall, the vice president of hardware at Snap and the person overseeing the Snap Labs team, is leaving.
    Essential Reads
    Startup CEOs in China are beginning to get ten-figure bonuses with their companies’ IPOs, notes Bloomberg. The CEO of Shanghai-based Pinduoduo received at least $1 billion of stock without any performance hurdles as his e-commerce company prepares for a U.S. IPO. Lei Jun, the head of Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi, similarly saw a $1.5 billion payday, with no strings attached, when his company went public in July. More here

    For good or bad, Bain Capital and Vista Equity Partners, two multi-billion-dollar private equity firms, just created a company that provides software and services for public safety and government management, and whose technology is expected to touch roughly three-fourths of the U.S. population. TechCrunch has more here.
    How the fleece vest became the new corporate uniform. [*Coughs. Jeff Clavier.] 

    How to make a perfectly passable margarita.  

    How to make sunscreen from scratch.  

    To remember, the brain must actively forget
    Retail Therapy
    File this Mercedes under “we want.” (But seriously . . .)
  • StrictlyVC: July 23, 2018

    Monday! Hello!  

    Quick mention before we dive into things: We finally have an event site for our upcoming INSIDER series on Tuesday night, September 25th, in San Francisco, and we are getting excited, people. 

    If you missed last week’s news, Juul founders Adam Bowen and James Monsees, are now coming to discuss the explosive growth of their sleekly designed nicotine vaporizers and all that goes with it — a huge valuation, eye-popping revenue, and loyal users, as well as growing parental concern, new lawsuits, and an FDA that’s not all that sure what to do with the company. We can’t wait to sit down with the design duo for a wide-ranging discussion about their company’s growing dominance. 

    We’re also  thrilled to be hosting MasterClass cofounder and CEO David Rogier, who has managed in just a few short years to build what is basically the Netflix of e-learning, giving everyone with an internet connection direct access to experts in a wide number of fields, including star chef Gordon Ramsay, filmmaker Spike Lee, and comedian and writer Steve Martin. How did Rogier pull it off? Where does the company go from here? And what’s the biggest threat to MasterClass going forward? We’ll cover it all. 

    There are other announcements coming, so stay tuned. In the meantime, because we couldn’t host the evening without their help, we’d like to thank our partners in the evening, including, most of all, Norwest Venture Partners, which is playing host to all of us. (Thank you, team Norwest!) We also want to thank KCPR, a boutique public relations and strategy firm specializing in venture capital and startup clients founded by Silicon Valley publicist Kelsey Cullen, and MobSquad, a startup that’s helping U.S.-based companies win the war for engineering talent by creating remote teams of high-caliber software engineers in Canada

    More tomorrow.:)
    Top News
    Tesla asked some suppliers to return a portion of its payments to them in an attempt by the electric-car maker to turn a profit, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, citing a memo sent to a supplier last week. Today, Tesla’s shares are (unsurprisingly) dropping following the report. 

    Google parent Alphabet is expected to report earnings after the market closes today, and investors will be waiting to learn more about how that hefty EU fine impacts its business.
    Sponsored By . . .
    Unlike other expensing systems, Divvy uses virtual and physical cards to track your employees’ purchases and automatically files expenses as they occur. So you can control company spending as it happens. Best of all, Divvy is completely free. Eliminate the need for expense reports. Take control of your company spending.
    New Fundings
    Click Therapeutics, a six-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company that develops and commercializes software as prescription medical treatments for people with unmet medical needs, has raised $17 million in funding led by Sanofi Ventures

    Cogito, an 11-year-old, Boston-based company that uses artificial intelligence to understand sentiment and apply it in a business context (for example, its helps customer service reps gauge the mood of a customer who calls them), has raised $37 million in Series C funding led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. Earlier investors Salesforce Ventures and OpenView also chipped into the round. TechCrunch has more here

    Gideon Brothers, a 1.5-year-old, Croatia-based startup that’s building autonomous robots for use in warehouses and other industrial spaces, has quietly raised $765,000 in funding led by TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus. TechCrunch has more here

    HerdDogg, a three-year-old, Ashland, Or.-based maker of “smart tags” for tracking livestock and remote animal health monitoring, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding led by Serra VenturesMore here

    indus.ai, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based construction analytics platform that counts trucks and material arrivals and measures equipment productivity, has raised $3.7 million in seed funding led by the seed-stage venture UP2398More here

    Madaket Health, a six-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based company whose software aims to simplify the administrative data exchange between payers and providers, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Qiming Venture Partners, wit. Other participants in the round include Experian Ventures, The PNC Financial Services Group, and Salesforce VenturesMore here

    Megvii, a six-year-old, Beijing, China-based developer of the facial recognition system Face++, is reportedly raising at least $600 million in fresh funding from investors, including Alibaba Group and Boyu Capital. The company already counts billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Financial as one of its backers. Bloomberg has more here

    Rethink Brands, a two-year-old, Columbia, Md.-based beverage company that sells a zero-calorie, zero-sodium, and zero-sugar boxed water line for kids, has secured $6.7 in funding. AccelFoods, an outfit that invests in natural food and beverage companies, led the round. More here

    SessionM, a seven-year-old, Boston-based customer engagement platform that aggregates loyalty data for brands to help them better understand their users, has raised $23.8 million in Series E funding led by Salesforce Ventures. Earlier investors also joined the round, including Causeway Media PartnersCRV,General AtlanticHighland Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The company has now raised roughly $97 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Volta Charging, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based network of electric vehicle charging stations, has raised $35 million from investors led by the Invenergy Future Fund, the technology investment arm of renewable energy project developer Invenergy, and Activate Capital, which is a relatively new $200 million investment fund raised by clean tech veterans including Raj Atluru. TechCrunch has more here

    Xage, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based blockchain security startup aiming to secure industrial internet of things devices on the blockchain, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by March Capital PartnersGE VenturesCity Light Capitaland NexStar Partners. TechCrunch has more here.
    New Funds
    Long Hill Capital, a nearly two-year-old venture firm that’s based in both Shanghai and Beijing and focused on healthcare and consumer startups, has closed its second fund with $265 million, according to a press release. More here

    Ridge Ventures, the San Francisco-based early-stage venture firm formerly known as IDG Ventures, has raised over $130 million for its fourth fund, shows an SEC filing that doesn’t list a target. The outfit had closed its third fund with $120 millionin 2015. More here.
    Eventbrite, the 12-year-old, San Francisco-based event-planning company, has filed confidentially for an IPO and plans to go public later this year, according to the WSJ. The eventual listing will place cofounder and CEO Julia Hartz in a tiny but growing list of female tech founders to steer their companies onto the public markets. TechCrunch has more here

    Pinterest has taken a long time to justify its monstrous private market valuation, but the social media company is finally approaching $1 billion in ad revenue and is pushing toward an IPO in mid 2019, reports CNBC

    High-end speaker company Sonos revealed more about its IPO plans earlier today, stating in a new filing that it plans to offer roughly 13.9 million shares that it expects will price between $17 to $19 each. After the offering, Sonos would have a market value of about $2.14 billion on a fully diluted basis.
    WSJ reporter Dan Neil deleted his Twitter account after receiving so much blowback from that Tesla Model 3 review he’d posted (and we’d pointed you toward) on Friday. We thought it was pretty glowing, but hard-core Tesla fans apparently interpreted it otherwise. 

    Bust out the china. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are reportedly making plans to travel to California early in 2019, with a stop in the Bay Area to meet with tech entrepreneurs

    Susan Fowler, the engineer who blew the whistle on Uber’s culture of sexual harassment, has a new role: tech opinion editor at The New York Times. 

    SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son blasted Japan’s ride-sharing ban late last week at the company’s annual event for customers and suppliers, calling the country “stupid” for banning ride-hailing. Japan doesn’t allow unlicensed private car drivers to operate as taxis. Reuters has more here.
    Tola Capital, an enterprise-focused venture firm, is looking to hire a venture capital associate. The job is in Seattle
    Essential Reads
    How e-commerce is transforming rural China

    Amazon’s newest Alexa Fund recipients are less consumer-focused.
    Airbnb reviews of my childhood home. 

    A likely small but unsavory new issue for Uber: vomit fraud

    Fifteen podcasts that will make you feel smarter.
    Retail Therapy
    Wheel pants.” For your little baby.
  • StrictlyVC: July 20, 2018

    Friday! [Prepares chilled martini pitcher.]

    Hope you have a great weekend in store. If you’re looking for a podcast at any point over the next couple of days, we were over at TechCrunch yesterday, recording its “Equity” show with the charming Matthew Lynley of TC, Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase News, and Lux Capital Partner Renata Quintini, who was a great guest, not least because we talked about a Lux-backed company, Zoox, the autonomous driving company that somewhat audaciously thinks everyone else — Uber, General Motors, Tesla — is doing it wrong. (It just raised a ton of money to prove its thesis, too.) You can listen here.
    Top News
    Senate Republicans have dropped their attempt to reimpose U.S. sanctions on the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, lawmakers said this afternoon, a victory for Donald Trump as congressional Republicans abandoned a rare effort to thwart his agenda. The Washington Post has more here.
    Sponsored By . . .
    Investors from top VC firms like Union Square Ventures and Bessemer read The Altcoin Transmission to stay on top of the latest trends in cryptocurrency. Click here to subscribe now and have a chance to win three best-selling cryptocurrency books.
    Public Shareholders are High on Tilray, the First Cannabis Company to IPO on Nasdaq
    Tilray, a five-year-old, British Columbia-based medical cannabis company that sells its products to patients, researchers, pharmacies and even governments, saw its shares get high (sorry) on the Nasdaq yesterday, after the company priced 9 million shares at $17 apiece and watched them soar, closing at $22.39, a jump of slightly more than 32 percent.  They climbed even higher today, closing above $29 per share.

    Tilray is the first cannabis company to conduct a U.S. IPO, and it will reportedly use in part to fuel its marijuana growing and processing facilities in Ontario.

    The momentum behind Tilray is a huge win for the cannabis industry, which has been growing like a weed (sorry again). Related startups attracted $593 million in funding last year, twice what they raised in 2016 and a meaningful jump from the $121 million invested in related startups in 2014, according to CB Insights. Among the different types of companies to garner investor dollars, shows CB Insights’ research, are: startups focused on research or distribution of medical marijuana products (as with Tilray); tools for ensuring compliance with state and federal marijuana laws; startups focused on payments for marijuana companies; startups collecting data and producing marketing insights about the industry; and companies creating novel strains and types of marijuana using new farming techniques.

    Tilray’s performance today is also a very positive signal for Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that owned 100 percent of the startup as it headed into its offering. In fact, Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, is also the CEO of Tilray. (Cannabis companies are weird.)

    Privateer has itself raised more than $200 million since its founding in 2010, including from Founders Fund and Subversive Capital, and it has used that money to finance, acquire and incubate companies. While it incubated Tilray, for example, it also owns Leafly, a large cannabis information resource that it acquired in 2011. Another of its portfolio companies is Marley Natural, a Bob Marley-branded cannabis line that it launched in partnership with Marley’s estate and that sells a line of cannabis strains, smoking accessories and even body care products.

    It isn’t exactly clear how much Privateer had sunk into Tilray. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    AnyVision, three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based designer of face, body and object recognition tech and the underlying system infrastructure to help companies deploy smart cameras for various purposes, has raised $28 million in Series A. 

    Bosch, the German multinational technology group, led the round, with the participation of two prominent (but unnamed) U.S. private equity groups. TechCrunch has more here

    Blavity, a four-year-old, L.A.-based digital lifestyle media company geared toward black millennials, has closed on $6.5 million in Series A funding led by GV, with participation from Comcast VenturesPlexo Capital and Baron Davis Enterprises. TechCrunch has more here

    Culture Amp, an eight-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based employee feedback platform, has raised $40 million in Series D funding led by Blackbird Ventures, with participation from Felicis VenturesIndex VenturesSapphire Ventures, Skip Capital and Grok Ventures. Business Insider has more here

    Diveplane, a months-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based startup that aims to make artificial intelligence more understandable, accurate, and safer (and was launched by former Epic Games president Mike Capps), has raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Investors include Steve NelsonAnna Spangler Nelson, and Lee Roberts. VentureBeat has more here

    Galvanize, the six-year-old, Denver, Co.-based computer coding training school, has raised $32 million in Series C funding led by Catalyst Investors, with participation from New Markets Venture PartnersABS Capital Partners,University Ventures and the Colorado Impact Fund. In related news, Galvanize is acquiring Hack Reactor, a San Francisco-based operator of immersive coding programs. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Hack Reactor had raised less than $1 million in funding from investors, including Mobile Makers Academy and MakerSquare. Reuters has more here

    LoanSnap, a months-old, San Francisco-based mortgage startup that was co-founded by serial entrepreneur Karl Jacob and aims to make getting a mortgage faster and easier while also helping customers to make better financial decisions during the application process, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. True Ventures led the round; other participants include Baseline VenturesVirgin GroupCore Innovation PartnersLiquid 2 VenturesOVO Fund and Transmedia Ventures. Bloomberg has more here

    Points, a year-old, Singapore-based startup looking to build a credit scoring protocol integrating AI with blockchain, has raised $8 million in seed funding from a number of traditional and blockchain venture capital firms. These include: DHVC,Cherubic VenturesCe YuanOntology FoundationNest.Bio Ventures, and Zhong Cheng Xin Credit Technology. DealStreetAsia has more here

    SenseTime, a four-year-old, Hong Kong-based developer of facial recognition technologies, is in talks to raise around $1 billion in fresh funding from SoftBank Vision Fund, says Bloomberg. More here

    Ursa Space Systems, a 3.5-year-old, Ithaca, N.Y.-based maker of geospatial intelligence software, has raised $5.7 million in funding led by RRE Ventures, with participation from S&P Global and Paladin Capital Group. Forbes has more here.
    New Funds
    The Westly Group, an 11-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture firm, has raised $130 million toward its third fund, which will focus on clean energy and mobility. The outfit’s second fund closed with $160 million in 2011, according to Thomson Reuters data. More here.
    China’s hottest new online bazaar has had a whirlwind year, but it just hit a snag, reports the New York Times. From its report: “The number of people shopping on the app, Pinduoduo, has grown more than fivefold since the beginning of 2017, and its parent company is preparing to list shares on the Nasdaq, one of a wave of Chinese tech companies tapping international capital markets this year. But by taking its business global, Pinduoduo has exposed itself to a new kind of stumbling block: a trademark infringement lawsuit in the United States.” More on the suit, filed yesterday, here.
    Nan Li has been promoted to managing director at Obvious Ventures. Before joining Obvious in 2015, Li helped manage the early-stage investments of Alphabet’s former executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, through his Innovation Endeavors fund. 

    Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is reportedly weighing different strategies in order to tap the fast-growing, and increasingly innovative, Chinese tech market. It’s a reversal for Thiel, says Bloomberg, noting that in Thiel’s 2014 book “Zero to One,” he wrote that the “easiest way for China to grow is to relentlessly copy what has already worked in the West. And that’s exactly what it’s doing.” 
    Salesforce Ventures is looking to hire a senior associate. The job is in San Francisco.
    Essential Reads
    As part of its “ongoing mission to close the barn doors after the cows have got out,” Facebook has suspended the accounts of British data analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over concerns that it may be improperly handling user data

    Uber just lost a “precedential” victory, as some New York state drivers win “employee” status

    Fortnite has now made more than $1 billion from in-game purchases. 

    Shared electric scooters from Bird and others probably won’t return to San Francisco until August.
    A look at the FT’s “unashamedly ostentatious luxury magazine.” 

    Confessions of a celebrity spray tan artist. “They just close their eyes, and I spray.”
    Retail Therapy
    The Tesla Model 3 Performance model, with dual motors. It’s a “thrilling, modern marvel,” gushes the WSJ. 

    Nike Vaporflys. No kidding, they may actually make you faster, says the New York Times.
  • StrictlyVC: July 19, 2018

    Hi, happy Thursday, all.:)
    Top News
    Project ‘Fuchsia’: Google is quietly working on a successor to Android.
    Sponsored By . . .
    Investors from top VC firms like Union Square Ventures and Bessemer read The Altcoin Transmission to stay on top of the latest trends in cryptocurrency. Click here to subscribe now and have a chance to win three best-selling cryptocurrency books.
    Worried About a Slowdown? It Already Happened in 2016, Says One New Venture Study
    In today’s market, it’s hard to make sense of what’s what. Deals have grown incestuous for the first time, with outfits like GV investing alongside Uber last week — just months after its parent company, Alphabet, was at Uber’s throat. A $10 million-plus round of seed funding is no longer a joke. Venture firms continue to raise record-breaking amounts of money, despite what feels like creeping uncertainty about how much longer this go-go market can continue.

    Unsurprisingly, there’s been some talk lately about deal flow and the possibility that some of the most well-regarded early-stage investors in the industry have quietly applied the brakes. Yet new analysis out of Wing, the 7.5-year-old, Silicon Valley venture firm co-founded by veteran VCs Peter Wagner and Gaurav Garg, draws a conclusion that might surprise nervous industry watchers. After tracking the investment activity of what Wing considers to be the 21 leading venture firms, it discovered that a pullback already happened . . . in 2016. In fact, Wagner, who oversaw the analysis, tells us there’s been so sign of a slowdown since then.

    We caught up with Wagner last week to learn more about Wing’s findings — and what might be causing some confusion in the industry right now.

    First, why do this kind of study right now?

    There’s been a lot of analysts and reporters and LPs and VCs asking us about our investment pace lately, and I think it owes to talk of Benchmark and Union Square Ventures slowing down, so we thought we’d look at some parameters and see what’s going on.

    Why not just refer to industry-wide statistics? It seems like there are plenty of these.

    They’re kind of swamped with the data of less discriminating investors, though. You really want to focus on the signal, which is why we track what the 21 leading venture firms are doing. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    BookMyShow, an 11-year-old, Indian online entertainment ticketing service, raised $100 million in Series D funding led by TPG Growth. TechCrunch has more here

    Embark, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based self-driving trucking technology company (whose CEO, Alex Rodrigues, dazzled the crowd at one our StrictlyVC events last year), just raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital. Forbes has more here.  

    Even.com, a four-year-old, Oakland, Ca.-based financial app that helps users pay their bills, balance their budgets and invest and save, has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by earlier investor Khosla Ventures. The company has now raised $50.5 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Fattmerchant, a four-year-old, Orlando, Fla.-based payment tech company for small business owners, has raised $10.5 million in Series C funding led by Fulcrum Equity PartnersFramebridge, a four-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based custom framing startup, has raised $30 million in Series C funding led by T. Rowe Price, with participation from earlier backers NEASWaN & Legend Venture Partners and Revolution Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Giant Oak, a six-year-old, Arlington, Va.-based threat protection platform for government and financial services organizations, has raised $10 million in growth funding led by Edison PartnersMore here

    Kenzie Academy, a 1.5-year-old, Indianapolis, Ia.-based user experience design and coding school, has raised $4.2 million in seed funding led by ReThink EducationMore here

    Lifebit, a 1.5-year-old, London-based startup that’s promising reproducible genomics analysis in minutes, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Pentechand Connect Ventures, with participation from Beacon Capital and Tiny VC. TechCrunch has more here

    Orbex, a three-year-old, London-based spaceflight company that’s constructing a lighter orbital launch vehicle to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit, has raised £30 million ($39.6 million) in public and private funding. Backers include Sunstone CapitalHigh-Tech GründerfondsElecnor Deimos Space, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the European Commission Horizon 2020 program. More here

    Proggio, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based maker of cloud-based project management software, has raised $2 million in funding led by Mangrove Capital PartnersMore here

    Quantapore, an eight-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based high-throughput DNA sequencing platform, has raised $15.6 million in new funding led by Northern Light VC, with participation from Tsingyuan VenturesSangel Venture CapitalBaidu Ventures and Cloudstone VCMore here.  

    Reali, a three-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based real estate platform that replaces traditional real estate transaction fees with a flat-fee model, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Zeev Ventures, with participation from Signia Venture Partners. TechCrunch has more here

    Swivel, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based online service where companies can find and design their own plug-and-play workspace and pay for it on flexible terms, raised $4.75 million in seed funding led by First Round Capital. Other investors in the round include Fuel CapitalCorrelation VenturesGreat Oaks Venture CapitalHack VCCapital FactoryAbstract Ventures, and earlier backers Floodgate and Next Coast VenturesMore here

    The Ken, a two-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based subscription business news site, has raised $1.5 million in Series A funding led by Omidyar Network. VC Circle hasmore here.
    New Funds
    Insight Venture Partners, the 23-year-old, New York-headquartered venture and private equity firm, has raised $6.3 billion for its latest — and largest ever — fund, as technology investors continue to amass increasingly large war chests. TechCrunch has more here

    Valor Equity Partners, the 23-year-old, Chicago-based, growth-focused private equity firm, has raised $1.05 billion for its fourth fund. Some of the firm’s venture bets include BirdHarbor, and Chowly (whose newest funding we linked to last Friday). Pensions & Investments has more here.
    China Tower, a four-year-old, Beijing China-based mobile infrastructure firm, plans to raise up to $8.8 billion in an IPO in Hong Kong, says Reuters. More here

    Canadian medical marijuana company Tilray made its debut on the Nasdaq today — becoming the first pure-play marijuana company to go public on a major U.S. exchange. CNBC has more here.
    Knotel, a 2.5-year-old, New York-based office rental service that has raised $95 million from investors, is reportedly on the cusp of acquiring 42Floors, a seven-year-old, Francisco-based commercial real estate search engine that had raised $17.4 million from investors, including NEABessemer Venture Partners,Initialized Capital and Thrive Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
    Food delivery startup DoorDash has named Prabir Adarkar as chief financial officer, poaching the most senior leader of Uber’s finance department. Bloomberg has more here

    L.A.-based angel investor Paige Craig has stepped down from his post at the e-scooter company Bird just four months after joining the company on a full-time basis, he tells Axios. We’d been in touch with Craig about something separately yesterday morning, and he characterized Bird as “just one of my projects. I’m spending my time with a couple of growth-stage companies these days.” 

    Tom Gruber, Siri’s last remaining cofounder, is out at Apple, reports The Information. 

    Alex Lim has been promoted to vice president at IVP. Lim joined the firm in 2015 as a principal focused on later-stage deals. He’d previously worked in the tech investment banking group of Credit Suisse. 
    E.ventures, the global early-stage venture firm, is looking to hire an analyst. The job is in San Francisco.
    Essential Reads
    Fukushima’s nuclear signature was just found in California wine made at the time. Gulp

    Best Buy should be dead, but it’s thriving in the age of Amazon.
    The messy future of connected bathrooms

    The untold story of Lung King Heen, the world’s first Michelin three-star Chinese restaurant.
    Retail Therapy
    Here’s the story of the Brady Bunch home in Studio City, Ca., now for sale for$1.9 million.
  • StrictlyVC: July 18, 2018

    Wednesday! Hope yours is going well.:) 

    News: The founders of the e-cig startup that’s taking over the world —  Juul  — are now coming in September to our second and last INSIDER event of the year in San Francisco. More on the fuller agenda as it develops, but we’re incredibly excited to sit down with them.
    Top News
    Today, at its Texas launch facility, Blue Origin successfully performed a live separation test of its crew capsule from the rocket booster — its most critical test to date. Company owner Jeff Bezos credited his lucky boots in part. 
    Sponsored By . . .
    Investors from top VC firms like Union Square Ventures and Bessemer read The Altcoin Transmission to stay on top of the latest trends in cryptocurrency. Click here to subscribe now and have a chance to win three best-selling cryptocurrency books.
    Kindly Care Scores $5.4 million to Place Caregivers — Then Help Families Pay for Them
    There are roughly 45 million unpaid eldercare providers in the United States, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau. It’s tough on these family caregivers, many of whom are working women who are also raising their own children.

    There are alternatives to family members doing it themselves. For example, there’s no shortage of agencies willing to place a rotating cast of caregivers into the homes of the elderly, though they can be prohibitively expensive for many families. There are also upstarts trying to address the challenge — and opportunity — that an aging American population presents. One startup, Honor, places full-time employees in the homes of seniors with an eye on maintaining a consistent experience for the seniors with whom they work. 

    Now, another startup in the space, three-year-old, San Francisco-based Kindly Care, is taking more of a marketplace approach, pairing vetted caregivers with families who need them, then helping both sides manage their financial and tax arrangements by acting as their back-office provider. 

    The company, as with many similar companies, was born of the need of its founder and CEO, Igor Lebovic, a native of Croatia who’d moved to the U.S. to nab two aerospace engineering degrees and stayed, starting a company with a college co-founder. 

    They later sold their startup to About.com, then a property of The New York Times. Despite the happy outcome for Lebovic, however, he worried about his parents, thousands of miles away, as the realization set in that he might never again be as available to them as he was when they lived in close proximity. 

    “Like a lot of people who leave their parents behind, it’s one of those things that I’ve wondered about over time. We don’t have a lot of plans for our parents, and there’s this guilt.” 

    Whether the 12-person company eventually expands into Europe is a distant unknown, but Kindly Care seems to be resonating with caregivers in the U.S. According to Lebovic, more than 100,000 caregivers have registered with the platform in hopes of finding an assignment through it, and 20,000 have been fully vetted and are now available to contact through the platform. 

    More here.
    New Fundings
    Brat, an 11-month-old, Beverly Hills, Ca.-based production studio behind scripted dramas for teens and twentysomethings on YouTube and elsewhere, has raised $30 million in new funding led by Anchorage Capital. The company has already raised $40 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Centivo, a 16-month-old, New York-based startup behind a new kind of self-funded health plan, has raised $34 million in Series A funding led by Bain Capital Ventures. Other investors in the round include F-Prime Capital Partners, Maverick VenturesBessemer Venture PartnersIngleside InvestorsRand CapitalGrand Central Tech VenturesOxeon Investments, and several individual investors. More here

    Light, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based maker of advanced computational imaging software, has raised $121 million in Series D funding led by the SoftBank Vision Fund (whose investment will be made in tranches, subject to certain conditions), with participation from Leica Camera AG. TechCrunch has more here

    Lygos, a seven-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based startup that’s generating microbial catalysts to convert agricultural feedstocks into commodity chemicals, has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding led by IA Ventures and First Round Capital, with participation from Y Combinator Continuity Fund and OS Fund. The company has now raised a total of $40 million, including non-equity government funding from the US Department of EnergyUS Department of Agriculture, and National Science FoundationMore here

    R4 Technologies, a three-year-old, Ridgefield, Ct.-based artificial intelligence startup that’s trying to make AI available as a service for business users, has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Pilot Growth Equity. The company has now raised $75 million altogether. VentureBeat has more here

    Seeq, a five-year-old, Seattle, Wa.-based company whose software applications aim to help manufacturing organizations quickly find and share data insights, has raised $23 million in Series B funding. The Altira Group led the round, with participation by Chevron Technology Venturesnext47Second Avenue Partners and other existing investors. GeekWire has more here

    Standard Cognition, a year-old, San Francisco-based startup that sells an AI- and camera-based system that allows retailer shoppers pay without waiting in line, scanning or stopping to check out. has raised $5.5 million in fresh seed funding led by CRV. The company has now raised $11.2 million altogether. More here

    SWIM.AI, a three-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based edge intelligence software firm, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Cambridge Innovation Capital, with a strategic investment from Arm and further participation from earlier backers Silver Creek Ventures and Harris Barton Asset ManagementMore here

    Venminder, a 17-year-old, Elizabethtown, Ky.-based financial services startup focused on third party risk management, has raised $5 million in Series B funding led by MissionOG, with participation by earlier investors, including Bain Capital VenturesMore here.
    New Funds
    Greycroft, the 12-year-old, New York and L.A.-based venture firm, has raised $250 million for its fifth flagship fund. TechCrunch has much more here.
    Okta, the publicly traded cloud identity management company, announced today it has purchased a three-year-old startup called ScaleFT to bring the Zero Trust concept to the Okta platform. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. ScaleFT had raised. $2.8 million over two rounds, looks like. TechCrunch has more here

    Slack announced today that it has acquired Missions, an enterprise software company whose app allows Slack users to build tools that automate simple routines without code. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Mission is the third company that Slack has acquired to date. TechCrunch has more here.
    “If you don’t start layering in HR once you’ve passed 50 people on your way to 150, something is going to go badly wrong,” founder-investor Marc Andreessen says in a new book about high-growth companies. 

    Another chipmaker’s CEO has gotten sacked over personal conduct violations. This time it’s Brian Crutcher of Texas Instruments, who assumed the role this year after spending two decades with the company

    Google has removed Marwan Fawaz as CEO of its Nest unit, two years after installing him in the role. His ouster reportedly followed employee complaints about his leadership.  

    Colin Huang’s decision to quit Silicon Valley and return to China is proving one of the more lucrative career moves in recent years, reports Bloomberg. As it notes, “The former Google engineer, who founded Shanghai-based Pinduoduo three years ago, could soon have an $8.3 billion fortune, based on his holdings in the e-commerce operator.” (It’s on the cusp of an IPO.)

    Uber has hired its first chief privacy officer in Ruby Zefo, who formerly led Intel’s global  privacy and security legal team. 

    Recode talks with Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s very bad year.
    Essential Reads
    A new Android antitrust decision handed down today threatens to shake the mobile industry — and Google‘s very business model.
    The secret Facebook Groups for shocking DNA tests

    Jeff Goldblum as you’ve never quite seen him before

    Ronaldo really pays for himself. (We know, not exactly. But over time!)
    Retail Therapy
    An $85 million island in the Bahamas, anyone?

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