• November 1, 2019

    Friday! [Performs 12-ounce curl.]  

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

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

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

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

    Top News

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

    Sponsored By . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

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

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

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

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

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

    Smaller Fundings

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

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

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

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

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

    New Funds

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

    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


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

    Essential Reads

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

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

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


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

    Retail Therapy

    Coffee for closers.
  • October 31, 2019

    Happy Halloween!

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

    Much more tomorrow.:)

    Top News

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

    Sponsored By . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     More here.

    Massive Fundings

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

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

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

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

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

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

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

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

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

    Smaller Fundings

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Sponsored By . . .

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


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

    Essential Reads

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


    Twenty-seven classic Halloween movies

    We love Katie Couric

    Get that deep sleep.

    Retail Therapy

    Timeline clock.
  • October 29, 2019


    Top News

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

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

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

    Sponsored By . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Smaller Fundings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Funds

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

    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


    How much CEOs and CFOs get paid at late-stage private companies.


    Kapor Capital is seeking a director of investments to join its investment team and manage investments in venture capital funds to complement and be compatible with its direct investing activity. The job is in Oakland, Ca.

    Essential Reads

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

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

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


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

    An unlikely ally for elephants. 

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

    Retail Therapy

    Gifts for tennis lovers.

  • October 28, 2019


    Top News

    Google’s parent, Alphabet, today reported third-quarter revenue of $40.5 billion, a rise of 20 percent from the same period last year but a number that trails Google’s pace historically. Ad revenue rose to a record $33.9 billion, contributing to an overall profit of $7.1 billion, but that number, too, disappointed, given profits were 23 percent higher a year ago. The company cited the cost of new employees, but as the WSJ notes, Alphabet’s equity investments also seemingly played a role, with Alphabet reporting paper losses of $1.53 billion from such investments, compared with gains of $1.38 billion a year earlier. (If you missed it, we interviewed GV CEO David Krane a few weeks ago at TechCrunch Disrupt and he said the unit was still deciding whether to sell its stake in Uber when its lockup period ends next Thursday.) 

    Beyond Meat fell today late trading despite an increased sales forecast and its first quarterly profit. Investors are bracing for a selloff tomorrow, when early backers of the faux meat maker will finally be allowed to cash out. Bloomberg has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

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

    Steve Case Does It Again, Raising Another $150 Million for Revolution’s Second Rise of The Rest Seed Fund

    Revolution, the investment firm cofounded 14 years ago by entrepreneur-investor Steve Case, has closed its second Rise of the Rest seed fund with $150 million in capital commitments, just like the debut fund it announced two years ago. 

    Rise of the Rest — which fund startups outside of the biggest U.S. tech hubs in an effort to foster innovation and momentum elsewhere — has rounded up some of the funding from institutional investors, presumably, but also from numerous very wealthy individuals. 

    According to Forbes, which is currently hosting a summit where Case announced the new fund, some of the new fund’s backers include Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Sara Blakely of Spanx, hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, Under Armour cofounder Kevin Plank, former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, and Apollo Global Management cofounder Joshua Harris. 

    Some of these investors backed the first fund, too, including Bezos and Dalio. 

    Very notably, Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, who ran the first fund with Case, has stepped back, and longtime Revolution investor David Hall will manage the second fund instead. 

    Certainly, that first fund kept its investors busy, with stakes in 125 companies. Barely a week passes without a startup announcing some funding from the Rise of the Rest team. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

    ACV Auctions, a five-year-old, Buffalo, N.Y.-based online platform for franchise and used-car dealerships to buy and sell wholesale inventory through 20-minute auctions, is reportedly looking to raise $150 million in Series E funding at a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Reuters has more here

    Weave, a seven-year-old, Lehi, Ut.-based developer of patient communications software focused on the dental and optometry market, has raised $70 million in Series D funding at a post-money valuation of $970 million. Tiger Global Management led the round, with participation from earlier backers Catalyst InvestorsBessemer Venture PartnersCrosslink CapitalPelion Venture Partners and LeadEdge Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

    1906, a two-year-old, Denver-based cannabis brand that makes a wide variety of edibles, has raised $18 million in funding led by Navy CapitalMore here

    Aviatrix, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-developer of software that allows companies to build hybrid clouds, raised $40 million in Series C funding. Earlier backer CRV led the round, joined by fellow insiders Formation 8Ignition Partners, and Liberty Global Ventures. VentureBeat has more here

    Choco, an 18-month-old, mobile ordering platform for restaurants and their suppliers, has raised $33.5 million in Series A funding by Bessemer Venture Partners. The company has now raised $41 million to date. Other investors include Atlantic LabsTarget GlobalVisionaries Club and Greyhound. TechCrunch has more here.

    Duffel, a two-year-old, London-based startup that connects travel agencies with airline reservation systems, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from earlier backers Benchmark and Blossom Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    Sensely, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based chatbot that helps users navigate insurance benefits, has raised $15 million led by Aflac Corporate Ventures, with participation from NMCNippon Life Insurance CompanySusquehanna International GroupSojitz CorporationZuelling Pharma and Silicon Valley Bank. MobiHealth News has more here

    ShiraTronics, a 10-month-old, Brooklyn Park, Mn.-based medical device company working on a migraine treatment, raised $33 million in Series A funding. USVPAmzak Health and Strategic HealthCare Investment Partners led the round, joined by Aperture Ventures and LivaNova. American Inno has more here

    Twiga Foods, a six-year-old, Nairobi, Kenya-based B2B food distribution company, has raised $23.75 million in Series B funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from IFCTLcom Capital, and Creadev. Goldman also arranged $6.25 million in debt funding. TechCrunch has more here

    Welcome to the Jungle, a five-year-old, Paris-based recruitment startup, has raised $22.3 million in fresh funding led by Gaia Capital Partners, with participation from BpifanceXAnge, and Jean-Paul Guisset. TechCrunch has more here.

    Smaller Fundings

    EnsureDR, a five-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that makes disaster recovery readiness software, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding led by Awz VenturesMore here

    Own Up, a 3.5-year-old, Boston-based startup that invites promises users a high-touch service if they connect with its team of online mortgage brokers, has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. Link Ventures led the round. More here.

    Young Alfred, a three-year-old, Philadelphia-based home insurance marketplace, has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Gradient Ventures, with participation from Pear VenturesERA, and Newfund Capital. Insurance Business has more hereZamna, a three-year-old, London-based company that has built a GDPR-compliant identity platform for the aviation industry (it helps airlines verify passengers’ identities before they arrive at an airport), has raised $5 million in seed funding co-led by LocalGlobe and Oxford Capital. TechCrunch has more here.

    (Other) New Funds

    Qualcomm‘s venture-capital division is setting aside $200 million to invest in 5G wireless startups. The firm will aim to write checks of up to $10 million, targeting startups in sectors including health care, robotics and autonomous vehicles, according to head honcho Quinn Li. The WSJ has more here.


    ByteDance, the seven-year-old,  $75 billion Chinese start-up that owns the short-form video app TikTok, is eyeing an IPO in Hong Kong as soon as the first quarter of next year, according to the Financial Times. As it notes, ByteDance’s valuation hit $75 billion a year ago, when it closed a $3 billion round led by SoftBank that doubled its valuation from a year earlier. An IPO would help the Japanese conglomerate at a time when many of its other investments are cratering in value. More here


    Alphabet has made an offer to acquire U.S. wearable device maker Fitbit, as it eyes a slice of the crowded market for fitness trackers and smartwatches, according to Reuters. More here

    The Players’ Tribune, a two-year-old, New York-based website started by former baseball player Derek Jeter, is exploring a potential sale, according to Bloomberg, which says the the media company could be sold in the coming weeks. Though it isn’t clear what it’s worth, the company —  which would become part of a wave of digital media mergers — has raised $58 million in venture funding, including from NEA, IVP, GV, and GenTrust. More here

    The dog-walking and pet-sitting startup Wag has been exploring a sale to potential buyers, including Petco, says Recode. The two companies already struck a partnership deal just a few months ago, but Wag, last valued at $650 million by the SoftBank Vision Fund Fund in a $300 million round that SoftBank led single-handedly in January of last year, has reportedly stumbled with scaling its business since. More here.


    Lightspeed Venture Partners has hired four new partners to help with this and that: Mercedes Bent (consumer), James Ephrati (growth), Anoushka Vaswani (growth) and Rytis Vitkauskas (Europe). The firm has more here

    Barry McCarthy, the CFO of Spotify, is retiring from the role in January and rejoining the streaming media company’s board of directors. McCarthy is credited with pioneering the direct listing. He also spent a decade as the CFO of Neftlix. Recode has more here

    Elon Musk will have to go to trial in December after a federal judge rebuffed his latest request to throw out a defamation lawsuit filed by a caver who Musk referred to as a “pedo guy.” Bloomberg has the more here

    Sridhar Ramaswamy has joined GV as an entrepreneur in residence. His focus is on next-generation oncology companies. Most recently, Ramaswamy was senior VP and the head of research and early development at Tesaro. Endpoints News has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

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

    Essential Reads

    Hundreds of employees recently signed an open letter, pleading with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and company leadership to address misinformation in political ads

    The reviews for Apple TV Plus’ first four (very expensive) original series — “The Morning Show,” “See,” “Dickinson” and “For All Mankind” — dropped this morning and . . . they’re not great.


    A haunted house with a 40-page waiver

    Tom Hanks on vacation, and other Halloween costume ideas.  

    Thinking to dress like Elizabeth Holmes instead? You’re too late.

    Retail Therapy

    Apple just rolled out its most expensive AirPods product yet. We’re pained already at the prospect of buying, then promptly losing, them. 

    $15 million fixer-upper in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood.
  • October 25, 2019

    And it’s Friday! [Throws frisbee into tree.] 

    Before we dive into the newsletter, one more bit of great news about our upcoming event (which we promise we’ll stop talking about soon): Michael Grimes, the star tech banker from Morgan Stanley at the center of Uber’s IPO (and Facebook IPO, and Slack’s and Spotify’s), has been persuaded to come and talk about direct listings, which we’re very excited about. If you’re as confused as we are about whether these make sense for more than a couple of companies each year (current status: we don’t think they do), you won’t want to miss this rare conversation with “Wall Street’s Silicon Valley whisperer.” 

    Note that seats are almost gone. Giant thanks to NextWorld, the early-stage enterprise-focused firm that’s hosting all of us; to KCPR, the boutique tech PR and strategy firm; and to Carta, a platform that helps companies and VCs manage their cap tables, valuations, investments, and equity plans, for their support. 

    See you Monday.:)

    Top News

    Microsoft just won a heated competition for public cloud resources for the U.S. Defense Department, beating out market leader Amazon Web Services. The contract could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade. Donald Trump had expressed opposition to giving the lucrative award to a company led by sometimes nemesis Jeff Bezos, who has suggested sending Trump into space. In a statement announcing the award, the Defense Department said: “The acquisition process was conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.” All parties “were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria,” said the statement. “We’re surprised about this conclusion,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in a separate statement. “AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion.” The Washington Post has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

    Got funding? Treble has you covered. Headquartered in Austin with senior-level talent in San Francisco, we are a PR agency with expertise in funding launches. Our VC Portfolio Funding Launch Accelerator Program is a 5-week sprint that ensures your funding news gets the business & tech press coverage it deserves. Beyond funding, we collaborate with both startups and enterprises to meet your business goals (with 15 exits under our belt). Interested? Let’s talk.

    VC Ben Horowitz on WeWork, Uber and One Cultural Value His Employees Can’t Break

    Ben Horowitz,  the co-founder of the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, has a new book coming out this coming Monday titled “What You Do is Who You Are,” that takes a look at how to create “culture” at a company. 

    It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot but that’s very hard to grasp, let alone implement in a sustainable way. Horowitz learned firsthand as a CEO how elusive it can be when he took stock of his company, only to discover it was made up of “screamers who intimidated their people,” others who “neglected to give any feedback,” and at least one compulsive liar who excelled at sucking up to Horowitz and also making up stories from whole cloth. 

    Horowitz says creating culture was a missing part of his education, and in this new book — a follow-up to his best-selling “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” — he does his best to fill that gap for other CEOs, using his own experience, as well as lessons gleaned from historical figures Toussaint Louverture and Genghis Khan, along with Shaka Senghor, a contemporary who served time for murder and today is a criminal justice reform advocate. 

    It’s an instructive and novel combination, and we suggest picking up the book, especially if you love history. In the meantime, we sat down recently with Horowitz to talk about its timing and whether some of the biggest cultural blow-ups in the startup industry — Uber and WeWork — could have been avoided. These excerpts have been edited for length and clarity. Note that we’ll have more of the conversation — including Horowitz’s thoughts about dual-class shares —  for readers of Extra Crunch on Monday. 

    You’ve just written a book about culture that’s coming out just as a lot of questions are being raised about culture because of WeWork. What happened there? 

    [Cofounder Adam Neumann] had a certain kind of culture there. He had some holes — some great strengths and great holes. And sometimes that happens. When you’re really good at part of it, you can delude yourself into thinking that you’ve got everything you need when you have some massive incompleteness. 

    Adam is so amazing. Like, the way they got all the money and everything. And the vision was so spectacular. And everybody there believed it, and they recruited some phenomenal talent. But when you’re that optimistic, it does help to have something in the culture that says [allows] people to bring you the bad news, like, if the accounting is all over the place or what have you. 

    As with Uber’s Travis Kalanick, whose culture also came under fire, Neumann operated in very plain sight. He wasn’t hiding who he was or what he was spending.  

    Right, everybody knew how Travis was running the company. Everyone in Silicon Valley knew, let alone everyone on the board. The culture was published. You can look up Uber’s values [from that period]. 

    Travis designed, I think, a really compelling culture, and believed in it, and published it. And the consequences of what he was missing were also super well-known. It’s only when board members think people are coming after them that [they take an interest in these things]. 

    What are the biggest lessons in these two cases? 

    I obviously know more about Uber [as a Lyft investor who follows the space]. In Uber’s case, it’s a very subtle thing. Travis had a really good code. But he had a bug in it. 

    I think it was reported that, like, Travis encouraged bad behavior. I don’t think he did at all. I just think he didn’t make it clear that legal and ethical [considerations] were more important than competitiveness. As a result, when left to their own devices, in a distributed organization where there was a lot of distributed power, that combination had people doing things that were out of bounds. 

    And he was making everybody so much money. And the company was growing so fast that, for the board members, I suspect they were like, ‘As long as it’s making money, I’m not going to worry about what happens next.’ 

    To me, the unfair part is, like, they shouldn’t get any credit at the end. Whatever you’re blaming Travis for [you should blame them, too] because they didn’t see it, either. I think that’s a charitable way of putting it. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

    Fountain Medical, a 12-year-old, Beijing, China-based contract research organization for pharma, has raised $62 million in Series D funding led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from Lilly Asia VenturesMore here

    IonQ, a four-year-old, College Park, Md.-based quantum computing startup, has raised $55 million in Series B funding co-led by Samsung Catalyst and Mubadala. Other investors in the round include ACME CapitalAirbus VenturesHewlett Packard Pathfinder, Tao Capital PartnersCorrelation VenturesA&E Investment and earlier backers AmazonNEAGV, and Osage University Partners. Bloomberg has more here.

    Pollen, a nearly six-year-old, London-based invite-only marketplace for group experiences and events, has raised $60 million in funding led by Northzone. Other investors in the deal include Sienna Capital and earlier backers Draper EspritBacked, and Kindred. The WSJ has more here.

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

    Current, a four-year-old, New York-based mobile banking app that began as a teen debit card controlled by parents and has since expanded to offer personal checking accounts, just raised $20 million in Series B funding. Investors include Wellington Management CompanyGalaxy Digital, and CUNA Mutual Group. TechCrunch has more here

    DAZN, a three-year-old, London-based over-the-top subscription sports streaming service, is reportedly in the middle of raising at $500 million from investors, according to Bloomberg. DAZN is owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik and led by former ESPN President John Skipper, and the capital will “mostly likely be used to support DAZN’s expansion efforts,” says the outlet. More here

    Modern Animal, an 11-month-old, L.A.-based veterinary startup that charges a membership fee in exchange for unlimited exams and other perks like in-app prescription requests, has raised $13.5 million in seed funding. Founders Fund led the round, joined by Upfront VenturesSusa VenturesBAM VenturesBoxGroupDCMLJ Ventures, and Wonder VenturesMore here.

    Smaller Fundings

    Ginger, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based behavioral health coaching app, has raised $7.5 million in funding from Health Velocity CapitalMore here

    HowNow, a three-year-old, London-based workforce learning platform, has raised £2.4 million in seed funding led by Fuel Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Incode, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based facial recognition company designed to verify identities, has raised $10 million in seed funding from investors the company has declined to disclose. VentureBeat has more here

    Speechmatics, a 10-year-old, Cambridge, England-based developer of speech recognition software, has raised £6.35 million in Series A funding led by AlbionVC, with participation from IQ CapitalMore here

    StepLadder, a four-year-old, London-based savings platform that helps users set aside a deposit on a future home, has raised £1.5 million in seed funding from the Spanish banking giant BBVA and the fintech-focused venture firm Anthemis. TechCrunch has more here.

    Tonkean, a 4.5-year-old, San Francisco-based robotic automation and management platform for workflows, has raised $7.2 million in seed funding led by Foundation Capital, with participation from Magma Venture Partners and Slow VenturesMore here.


    From the WSJ: “Barneys New York is moving forward with the sale of its brand and assets to a licensing company, but the bankrupt retailer hasn’t completely shut the door on a rival bidder that would keep its stores open. A lawyer for the luxury retailer, which filed for chapter 11 protection in August, said Barneys will cancel an auction next Monday after no other qualified bidders emerged to challenge a $271 million offer from Authentic Brands Group and investment firm B. Riley Financial.” The deal will receive approval next Thursday, Halloween, unless something better materializes. 
    Will.i.am’s technology company i.am+ is running out of money, according to current employees, company emails, and documents obtained by The Verge. More here.


    Sequoia Capital founder Don Valentine passed way at his home in Woodside, Ca., today at age 87 of natural causes. Sequoia posted a tribute to Valentine shortly afterward, calling him “one of a generation of leaders who forged Silicon Valley.”  A native of New York, Valentine majored in chemistry at Fordham University before joining Raytheon in South California, then moving north to the Bay Area to work at Fairchild Semiconductor, where over the years, Valentine began investing his own small checks into technology companies that he was meeting. According to Sequoia Capital, he soon attracted the attention of an early mutual fund group, Capital Group, which staked Valentine, allowing him to form a $3 million venture fund in 1974. Among his first bets from that pool of capital: Atari and Apple. More here

    DoorDash Tony Xu confirmed at a WSJ conference this week that DoorDash will join ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber to spend a combined $90 million on a ballot measure focused on AB5, the new California law designed to classify independent contractors as employees. “It would have disastrous results if it’s implemented because it’s trying to impose an imperfect solution into a very big problem,” Xu told the audience. “The net impact of AB5 would be a lot of lost economic opportunity and income for the state of California.” More here.

    Sponsored By . . .

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

    Essential Reads

    Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in a leaked video published by the Washington Post, says the company is “genuinely struggling” with employee trust, including over its hiring a former government official who backed the Trump administration’s travel ban. In the video, he adds that he tries “to understand when I feel there is something which caused breaking of trust and see what we can do to improve,” adding that “it’s definitely gotten harder to do this at the scale we are doing it.”


    “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is returning to cinemas with four previously deleted scenes included

    Your job will never love you back

    Emotionally haunted house.

    Retail Therapy

    A solar-powered, energy-neutral home, and it floats.
  • October 24, 2019

    Almost. Friday. [Closes computer. Crumples.]  

    We’re kidding! We are tired but we’re also more excited than ever about our November 13th event, having just visited the San Francisco gallery owned by our hosts, NextWorld Capital, whose current exhibit centers on the work of the hyper-realistic French sculptor Elisabeth Daynes. (It’s jaw-dropping, trust us. Her work is also on display right now at the California Academy of Sciences.) Lucky for us it will still be there when we collectively head back next month.:) 

    More tomorrow.

    Top News

    Amazon shares fell by nearly 7 percent in after-hours trading today after the company reported its first earnings miss in two years. The company also gave fourth-quarter revenue guidance that’s far below the street’s average estimate, indicating Amazon expects a slower holiday season. TechCrunch has more here

    Twitter also shares dropped today after it reported quarterly results that fell short of Wall Street’s estimates. Bloomberg has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

    Got funding? Treble has you covered. Headquartered in Austin with senior-level talent in San Francisco, we are a PR agency with expertise in funding launches. Our VC Portfolio Funding Launch Accelerator Program is a 5-week sprint that ensures your funding news gets the business & tech press coverage it deserves. Beyond funding, we collaborate with both startups and enterprises to meet your business goals (with 15 exits under our belt). Interested? Let’s talk.

    SoftBank Says It Has Now Invested $18.5 Billion Altogether in WeWork; “We’re Basically Betting SoftBank”

    Yesterday, in addressing nervous WeWork employees at an all-hands, the company’s new chairman, SoftBank  executive Marcelo Claure, told those gathered that their days of worrying are over, says Recode, which obtained a leaked recording of the meeting. 

    In comments that may stun industry observers who haven’t done the math — and upset at least some percentage of SoftBank investors — Claure is quoted as telling employees: “We have guaranteed the future of WeWork, but more importantly is we’re putting the future back into our hands. There’s no more days needed to go fundraising. There’s no more days needed to go prove to the investor community that we’re a viable company. The size of the commitment that SoftBank has made to this company in the past and now is $18.5 billion. To put the things in context, that is bigger than the GDP of my country where I came from. That’s a country where there’s 11 million people.” 

    Claure, a native of Bolivia who was named chairman as part of SoftBank’s rescue of the beleaguered co-working company, has been a SoftBank lieutenant for the last five years, and currently holds a variety of titles on its behalf, including COO of SoftBank Group Corp, CEO of SoftBank Group International and CEO of SoftBank Latin America. 

    He has said he first met SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son after building up his own business, Brightstar — a  cellphone reseller — then selling 57% of it to SoftBank in 2013 in a deal that valued the company at $2.2 billion. SoftBank later acquired more of the company before deciding to explore a sale of the low-margin business last year for $1 billion

    By then, Claure was running Sprint, a SoftBank-backed property that installed Claure as CEO in 2014, where he presided over a massive share slide that began before he joined the company and ended only last year when T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to merge. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

    Arcutis Biotherapeutics, a three-year-old, Westlake Village, Ca.-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that wants to commercialize treatments for immune-mediated dermatological diseases and conditions, has raised $94.5 million in Series C funding. HBM Healthcare Investments led the round, joined by Vivo Capital, funds and accounts managed by BlackRockOmega FundsPivotal BioVentures, and Goldman Sachs. The company’s many earlier investors also joined the round. The company has now raised $160 million altogether. The San Fernando Business Journal has more here

    Total Expert, a seven-year-old, Eden Prairie, Mn.-based marketing and customer engagement technology platform for banks, lenders and financial services, has raised $52 million in Series C funding. Georgian Partners led the round, joined by Emergence Capital and Rally Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Viz.ai, a three-year-old, San Francisco- and Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that’s using artificial intelligence to more rapidly identify stroke victims in order to ensure treatment faster, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Greenoaks, with participation from Threshold Ventures and CRV, along with earlier investors GV and Kleiner PerkinsMore here.

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

    Ally, a two-year-old, Bellevue, Wa.-based maker of performance management software, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global. Crunchbase News has more here

    Augmedix​, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based developer of health-centric applications for Google Glass, just raised $19 million in Series B funding. Investors include Redmile GroupMcKesson VenturesDCM Ventures, and Wanxiang Healthcare Investments. Crunchbase News has more here

    AVIA, a seven-year-old, Chicago-based company that tries helping its healthcare customers navigate the threats and opportunities created by the digitization of healthcare, has raised $22 million in funding. First Trust Capital Partners led the round. More here

    Coople, a 10-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based on-demand staffing platform, has raised $32 million in Series C funding, including from Goldman Sachs Private Capital and One Peak Partners. Tech.eu has more here

    Grafana Labs, a five-year-old, New York-based company behind open source projects including Grafana and Loki, has raised $24 million in Series A funding. Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, joined by Lead Edge CapitalMore here

    Shipwell, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based maker of supply chain management software for shippers, third-party logistics companies, and carriers, has raised $35 million in Series B funding. Georgian Partners led the round, joined by Fifth WallGlobal Founders CapitalBox Group and Aspect Ventures. The company has now raised $47 million in funding altogether. TechCrunch has more here

    Very Good Security, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based data security company, just raised $35 million in Series B funding. Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division led the round, joined by Andreessen Horowitz and Vertex Ventures US. TechCrunch has more here

    The Yes, an AI-powered shopping platform cofounded by the former COO of Stitch Fix, Julie Bornstein, has raised $30 million across two previously undisclosed rounds of funding. Its seed round was co-led by Forerunner Ventures and NEA. The Series A was led by True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

    Smaller Fundings

    Foundries.io, a two-year-old, U.K.-based maker of software platforms for embedded product development, has raised $3.5 million in funding. Crane Venture Partners led the round, joined by Backed VCMore here. ​

    Shiru, a months-old, San Francisco-based food tech company that wants to create protein ingredients that could be used in alternatives to cheese, yogurt, milk, and eggs has raised $3.5 million in funding led by Lux Capital. Founder Jasmin Hume was formerly the director of food chemistry at JUST, formerly known as Hampton Creek. Business Insider has more here

    Taskade, a two-year-old, New York-based collaboration tool for startup teams, has raised $5 million in seed funding from Grishin Robotics and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here

    Tines, a year-old, Dublin, Ireland-based startup that lets companies automate aspects of their cybersecurity, has raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Blossom Capital. TechCrunch has more here.


    Amazon has acquired Health Navigator, a five-year-old startup that develops APIs for online health services. According to CNBC, Health Navigator will become part of Amazon Care, Amazon’s pilot healthcare service program for employees. This is the second health startup acquired by Amazon. The first was online pharmacy PillPack, purchased by the company in 2018 for slightly less than $1 billion. PillPack’s services have also been integrated into Amazon Care, which offers deliveries of prescriptions with remotely communicated treatment plans. TechCrunch has more here

    Naspers, the South African tech conglomerate, has tried to “gatecrash a merger of two of Europe’s biggest food delivery groups,” reports the Financial Times. Specifically, it has made a hostile bid for Just Eat in the U.K., which is currently planning to merge with rival Takeaway.com in an all-stock deals. Just East has already rebuffed the offer for now, but Naspers is offering cash and it’s offering a higher price, so stay tuned.


    With Amazon getting hammered for its performance, Jeff Bezos may lose his of world’s richest person to Bill Gates. He would still be ranked number one if he and MacKenzie Bezos had not divorced, Bloomberg notes.  

    Fair.com, a SoftBank-backed startup building a flexible car ownership business that is valued at $1.2 billion, said today it will be laying off 40 percent of its staff. It’s also removing its CFO, Tyler Painter, the brother of the CEO and co-founder Scott Painter. (Ouch.) He’s being replaced in the interim by a former Hertz VP, Kirk Shryoc. TechCrunch has more here

    Saudi Arabia’s giant, upcoming investment conference — dubbed “Davos in the desert” until Davos organizers strenuously asked people to stop calling it this — has a tony guest this year despite the kingdom creating what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. According to Axios, among those slated to attend the event is Blackstone Group CEO Steve Schwarzman, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters, and Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam

    Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak said at a tech conference that he does not expect fully autonomous cars “in my lifetime.” NBC News has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

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

    Essential Reads

    SoftBank has to announce its second-quarter earnings on November 6, and it’s reportedly planning to take a write-down to its Vision Fund of at least $5 billion to reflect a plunge in the value of some of its biggest holdings. Bloomberg has more here

    Investors betting against Tesla collectively lost an estimated $1 billion-plus today as its stock headed for its best day on Wall Street since 2013. CNBC has more here



    The staying power of the Bearbrick

    Outsourcing murder is easier said than done.

    Retail Therapy

    Black truffle oil for the win.
  • October 23, 2019

    Wednesday! Woot!

    Top News

    That WeWork deal could fall apart yet, suggests a new Bloomberg report that states SoftBank Group will seek approval of its bailout package with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which has stymied SoftBank before. As the report notes: “SoftBank won approval from the panel to buy Sprint Corp. and U.K. chip designer ARM Holdings. However, the committee put conditions on its ownership of Sprint, and restricted its control of alternative-asset manager Fortress Investment Group. More recently, SoftBank was unable to fill two board seats at one of its portfolio companies, Uber Technologies, because it did not have Cfius approval.” 

    Tesla delivered a strong third-quarter earnings report after the bell today, posting a surprise profit and telling shareholders it’s ahead of schedule with a new factory in Shanghai. Shares rose more than 20 percent after hours. CNBC has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

    Got funding? Treble has you covered. Headquartered in Austin with senior-level talent in San Francisco, we are a PR agency with expertise in funding launches. Our VC Portfolio Funding Launch Accelerator Program is a 5-week sprint that ensures your funding news gets the business & tech press coverage it deserves. Beyond funding, we collaborate with both startups and enterprises to meet your business goals (with 15 exits under our belt). Interested? Let’s talk.

    LinkedIn’s Degree Problem

    A couple of years ago, the cofounder and CEO of a blood-testing company was publicly taken to task for implying in articles and professional profiles that he has a PhD when in reality, he’d left a prestigious graduate group three years after enrolling, without a degree. 

    The CEO is hardly alone in intentionally or otherwise sowing confusion around his credentials, however. Over the years, we’ve mistakenly believed that a number of founders have obtained specific college degrees based on their LinkedIn bio, only to learn offline that they enrolled for some period of time in a particular program that they didn’t complete. 

    It happened most recently with the cofounder of a startup who one would might surmise based on his LinkedIn profile has a master’s degree from Harvard but does not. We also misunderstood the CEO of a robotics company to have a PhD based on her LinkedIn. It was our fault; it mentioned under the credit that she’d left to start a company. But anyone scanning the site might have come to the same wrong conclusion. (We pointed this out to her team, and mention of the PhD was deleted.) 

    In a higher-profile case, James Damore, the fired Google engineer who authored that infamous memo about the company’s diversity practices and whose LinkedIn page cited under “Education” a “PhD, Systems Biology,” removed mention of those doctoral studies after Wired confirmed with Harvard that he was enrolled in the program but didn’t complete the doctorate. 

    Damore tried to defend his own LinkedIn profile, tweeting at the time, “I never told anyone I have a PhD. LinkedIn can’t distinguish between being in the PhD program and having a PhD (I forgot to update it).” 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

    Fabric, a four-year-old, New York-based startup that wants to make automated logistics available to retailers of all sizes, has raised $110 million in Series B funding. Corner Ventures led the round, joined by AlephCPPIBInnovation EndeavorsLa MaisonPlayground Ventures, and Temasek. TechCrunch has more here.

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

    Disperse, a four-year-old, London-based startup whose computer vision-driven construction software aims to identify issues on a site, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Northzone. VentureBeat has more here

    Fairmarkit, a two-year-old, Boston-based procurement platform that tries to find the best vendors for its enterprise customers, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Insight Partners. Built in Boston has more here

    Lemon Way, a 12-year-old, Paris-based payment processor for marketplaces and crowdfunding platforms, has raised €25 million from Toscafund Asset Management. Tech.eu has more here

    Literati, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based subscription book service for kids, has raised $12 million in funding led by Shasta Ventures. Crunchbase News has more here

    PeerNova, a six-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based company that aims to enables financial institutions to perpetually synchronize their data across multiple internal and external systems, has raised $31 million in funding. Mosaik Partners led the round, and was joined by Medici Ventures and Intuitive Venture Partners. Tech Startups has more here

    Starling Bank, the five-year-old U.K.-based challenger bank founded by banking veteran Anne Boden, has raised an additional £30 million in funding led by earlier backer Merian Chrysalis, with participation from JTC, another of Starling’s existing investors. Starling has now raised £263 million to date. TechCrunch has more here

    Triller, a four-year-old, L.A.-based music video platform that’s trying to compete with TikTok, has raised $28 million in Series B funding led by Proxima Media, founded by veteran film producer Ryan Cavanaugh. More here

    Truebill, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose personal finance app helps users track subscriptions, automates their budgeting, and more, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Eldridge Industries, with participation from Evolution VC, and earlier backers Cota CapitalLucas Venture Group, and YouTube cofounder Jawed KarimMore here.

    Smaller Fundings

    Bizly, a four-year-old, New York-based enterprise software company that empowers individual employees to build their own meetings and events from start-to-finish, has raised $1.5 million in funding from JetBlue Technology Ventures, Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan, and Hone CapitalMore here

    Demodesk, a three-year-old, Munich, Germany-based early-stage startup whose meeting software features advanced screen sharing options and that doesn’t need to downloaded, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding. Backers include GFCFundersClubY Combinator,  Kleiner Perkins and numerous angel investors. TechCrunch has more here

    Firedome, a 1.5-year-old, New York-based endpoint cybersecurity startup, just raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Two Sigma Ventures, with participation from World Trade Ventures and Silvertech VenturesMore here

    Flip Fit, a six-month-old, L.A.-based social shopping platform, has raised $3.75 million in seed funding led by TLV Partners, with participation from Lool VenturesMore here

    Koan, a three-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based performance management platform that’s looking to help teams achieve their objectives and stay engaged, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Uncork Capital and Crosslink. TechCrunch has more here

    Logixboard, a two-year-old, Seattle-based freight logistics startup, raised $4.2 million in seed funding led by Social Leverage. GeekWire has more here

    Raydiant, a 3.5-year-old, Bay Area-based startup promising to turn TVs into interactive digital signs (its customer include hotels like Westin and a restaurant chain owned by the Wahlberg brothers), has raised $7 million in new funding. 8VC led the round, joined by AtomicBloomberg BetaLerer HippeauSV Angel and Transmedia Capital. TechCrunch has more here

    U-Nest, a 1.5-year-old, Burbank, Ca.-based mobile app that helps parents save for their kids’​ education via tax-advantaged college savings plans, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Backers include The Artemis FundDraper DragonUnlock VenturesVested Ventures, and Band of AngelsMore here

    Vendr, a 16-month-old, Boston-based startup that’s selling subscription-based software that helps businesses buy and manage enterprise SaaS, has raised a $2 million seed round. F-Prime Capital led the funding, joined by Sound Ventures, Joe Montana’s Liquid2 VenturesGarage VC and angel investors, including Canva co-founder Cliff Obrecht. TechCrunch has more here

    Voca.ai, a two-year-old. Herzliya, Israel-based company behind an AI-driven call center agent technology, has raised strategic funding from American Express Ventures that brings its total funding to $3.5 million. The company had earlier raised $2.6 million from Lool Ventures and Flint Capital. Calcalist has more here.

    Winnie, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based childcare and preschool marketplace, has raised $9 million in Series A funding. Rethink Impact led the round,  joined by Impact America FundUnusual VenturesLudlow VenturesAfore CapitalDay One VenturesKairos, and Slack’s former chief product officer, April Underwood. EdSurge has more here.


    Pando, a venture-backed tech site, has been acquired by a company called BuySellAds for undisclosed terms, says its founder, Sarah Lacy. Lacy says the sale marks the end of her journalism career and that she’s now focused entirely on her new startup, Chairman Mom. More here.


    Mike Adams, whose startup, MissionU, was acquired in May of last year by WeWork, described the payoff to its former CEO, Adam Neumann, as an “injustice” before later deleting the tweet. Other employees of WeWork, up to one-third of whom are facing layoffs, are fuming, too

    Eric Tse, the 24-year-old son of one of China’s richest families, was just given a $3.8 billon gift — one fifth of their corporation, Sino Biopharmaceutical — making him one of the world’s richest people overnight

    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

    Essential Reads

    Google says it has built a computer that is capable of solving problems that classical computers practically cannot. According to a report published in the scientific journal Nature, Google’s processor, Sycamore, performed a truly random-number generation in 200 seconds. That same task would take about 10,000 years for a state-of-the-art supercomputer to execute. NPR has more here

    Tesla continues to produce the Model S and Model X more for “sentimental reasons than anything else,” CEO Elon Musk said today during that same call with investors, calling the electric vehicles “niche” products. “They are really of minor importance to future,” Musk added. (Sales of the Tesla 3 are far outpacing sales of its predecessors.) TechCrunch has more here

    Mark Zuckerberg performed a high dive over an empty pool today. Despite six hours of questioning by members of the House Financial Services Committee over Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans, he seemed incapable of accomplishing much more than invoking the threat that China could overtake U.S. technology if Congress blocks Facebook’s digital currency plans. “Frankly, I’m not sure that we’ve learned anything new here,” said ranking member Patrick McHenry afterward.


    The motivating power of staying pissed off

    Booze-filled advent calendars

    TV reporter fired after climbing on cars at auto show says it was totally worth it.


    The New York townhouse of renowned architect I.M. Pei is now on sale. The asking price: $8 million
  • October 22, 2019


    Top News

    SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son vowed tonight to “double down” on its investment in WeWork as he confirmed plans for a $9.5 billion rescue package that will provide up to $1.7 billion to WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann in exchange for cutting most ties with the company and will give SoftBank an 80 percent stake in the business. In a statement tonight in New York, SoftBank said it would “accelerate” WeWork’s path to profitability and positive free cash flow. More here in the Financial Times. 

    Forty-six attorneys general have joined a New York-led antitrust investigation of Facebook, officials announced this morning, raising the stakes in a sweeping bipartisan probe that could result in massive changes to the company’s business practices. The Washington Post has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

    Got funding? Treble has you covered. Headquartered in Austin with senior-level talent in San Francisco, we are a PR agency with expertise in funding launches. Our VC Portfolio Funding Launch Accelerator Program is a 5-week sprint that ensures your funding news gets the business & tech press coverage it deserves. Beyond funding, we collaborate with both startups and enterprises to meet your business goals (with 15 exits under our belt). Interested? Let’s talk.

    Have We Reached the Tipping Point?

    Limited partners or LPs  — the pension funds, the university endowments, the family offices that largely provide venture firms with their spending money — are receiving a lot of attention from venture capitalists, some of it unwanted. VCs have begun knocking down their doors with requests for fresh capital commitments so they’ll have money to invest if the market cools down. 

    The problem is, many of these LPs are already over-allocated. LPs traditionally invest in many asset classes, such as public equities, and they allocate a small percentage of their portfolio to venture capital. Suddenly, they’re finding they’ve forked over more than they’d intended to VCs. 

    There are several reasons for this situation. First, VCs are returning to them ever faster for more capital  — sometimes in less than two years’ time  — because they are in vesting at such a furious pace. 

    Compounding the problem, not all LPs have received returns from their VC investments that they can recycle into new venture capital allocations. In some cases, this capital is still tied up in startups that are raising much more money than in the past and staying private longer. “We have some large exposures to blue chip names where IPOs have been rumored to be coming for a long time already, and now it’s maybe 2021, maybe 2022,” says one manager who asked not to be named. In other cases where startups have gone public, falling prices have prompted VCs to hang on to their shares instead of distribute them. 

    The result is that LPs are having to cut back on the number of managers they can fund, and that could mean bad news for venture capitalists and startups alike. These LPs don’t have much choice. As the LP explains it, “We have a pretty structured allocation process, and we’re really trying to be creative,” she says. One venture manager who reappeared too quickly for more money was  “easy to walk away from,” says this person. “Others, we’re having to do financial backflips for them to remain strong partners.” Either way, this LP adds, “We can’t add any new relationships right now,” meaning new venture teams in particular are out of luck. “When [VCs] shorten their fundraising cycle by nine months to a year, you can only squeeze the balloon so much.” 

    SoftBank’s $100 billion “Vision Fund” is one big reason LPs find themselves in their current predicament. From the moment SoftBank began waving money around several years ago, it launched a vicious cycle. According to Chris Douvos, whose investment firm, Ahoy Capital, owns stakes in such venture funds as True Ventures and First Round Capital, “When Andreessen Horowitz hit the scene a decade ago, they changed the tempo of investing and everyone got more aggressive in their dealmaking as a response. Then SoftBank entered the picture in a big way, and it was like a16z on steroids.” 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings

    Blueground, a six-year-old, New York-based startup providing turnkey flexible rental apartments, has raised $50 million in Series B funding, roughly six months after raising $20 million in Series A funding. WestCap Investment Partners and Prime Ventures co-led the round. More here

    Databricks, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based SaaS business that’s built on top of a bunch of open source tools, has raised a massive $400 million in Series F funding at a post-money valuation of $6.2 billion valuation. Today’s funding brings the total raised to almost a $900 million. Andreessen Horowitz led the round with new investors BlackRock,  T. Rowe Price Associates, and Tiger Global Management also participating. TechCrunch has more here

    IonQ, a four-year-old, College Park, Md.-based startup that uses charged particles suspended in a vacuum, as the basis for its hardware, has raised $55 million in funding. Samsung and Mubadala Capital co-led the round, joined by AmazonGV, and New Enterprise Associates. Fortune has more here.

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

    Aurora Insight, a three-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based startup that provides a “dynamic” global map of wireless connectivity that it built and monitors in real time using AI combined with data from sensors on satellites, vehicles, buildings, aircraft and other objects, has raised $18 million in Series A funding. Alsop Louie Partners and True Ventures co-led the round,  joined by Tippet Venture PartnersRise of the Rest Seed FundPromus VenturesAlumni Ventures GroupValueStream Ventures, and Intellectus Partners. TechCrunch has more here

    Benevity, an 11-year-old, Calgary, Alberta-based company that makes corporate social responsibility and employee engagement software, has raised $30.5 million in Series C funding from General Atlantic and JMI EquityMore hereEV Connect, a 10-year-old, L.A.-based company that sells software to manage electric vehicle charging, has raised $12 million in a Series B round led by Mitsui & Co. and Ecosystem Integrity Fund. The company has raised $25 million to date. TechCrunch has more here

    Octave, a year-old, San Francisco-based tech-based behavioral health practice, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Greycroft, with participation from Obvious Ventures and earlier backers. The company has raised at least $14 million to date. Crunchbase News has more here.
    Signal AI, a six-year-old, London-based business intelligence and media monitoring startup, has raised $25 million in Series C funding. Redline Capital led the round, joined by MMC VenturesGMG Ventures, and Hearst Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

    Smaller Fundings

    AllWork, a 3.5-year-old, New York-based on-demand work platform that’s targeting large enterprise customers in need of temporary workers, has raised $3.8 million in seed funding from Great OaksLightspeed Scout FundThe FundFernbrook, SmartHub, and numerous angel investors. More here.  

    Beem, a year-old, Boston-based CBD company that’s marketing its branded oils, protein bars, and a salve to athletes who may be looking for alternatives to chemically derived pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Obvious Ventures. TechCrunch has more here

    Intrepida Bio, a newly launched, San Diego-based biotech focused on modulating innate immune systems, has raised $9.5 million from Sofinnova and Canaan Partners. FierceBiotech has more here.  

    LabGenius, a seven-year-old, London-based startup that’s applying AI and robotic automation to protein drug discovery, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Lux Capital and Obvious Ventures, with participation from Felicis VenturesInovia CapitalAir Street Capital and earlier investors, along with numerous notable individuals. TechCrunch has more here.

    Margin Edge, a four-year-old, Falls Church, Va.-based maker of restaurant management software, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Osage Venture Partners, with participation from Good CompanyMore here

    Medinas, a two-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based company that helps healthcare organizations resell their surplus medical equipment and supplies, has raised $5 million in seed funding led by NFX. Additional investors in the round include Precursor VenturesSound VenturesFJ Labs and Bryan Frist (of HCA Healthcare’s founding family). Crunchbase News has more here

    MediView XR, a two-year-old, Cleveland, Oh.-based medical device company working on a surgical navigation system that leverages augmented reality and spatial computing to provide surgeons with advanced visualization, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Backers include Inside View Investment,Plug and Play Ventures and Northwest Ohio Tech FundMore here

    Reibus, a year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based online marketplace for industrial materials, has raised $3.25 million in seed funding led by Bowery Capital, with participation from Initialized Capital and Stage 2 CapitalMore here.

    New Funds

    Mubadala, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates and headquartered in Abu Dhabi, has earmarked $150 million for a fund-of-funds strategy targeting funds that will invest in the Abu Dhabi-based Hub71 regional tech ecosystem and it says three recipients of these investing dollars include DCVC, the Palo Alto-based firm led by Matt Ocko and Zachary Bogue; Global Ventures, a Dubai-based growth-stage investor in enterprise tech startups; and Lebanon-based Middle East Venture Partners. Pitchbook has more here.


    Roku is beefing up its advertising business with the acquisition of Boston-based dataxu, a demand-side platform that will allow marketers to plan, buy and optimize their video ad campaigns that run on Roku’s devices and services. The deal, a mixture of cash and stock, is for $150 million and has been approved by each company’s board of directors. It’s expected to close in the fourth quarter. TechCrunch has more here.


    Marcelo Claure, the chief operating officer of SoftBank Group, will assume the position of executive chairman of the board of directors of WeWork when the company receives a planned $1.5 billion payment from SoftBank. TechCrunch has more here

    John Donahoe, the current president and CEO of ServiceNow, is taking over as the CEO and president of Nike in January, replacing Mark Parker who has been since 2006 and lived through numerous controversies over the years. Donahoe knows Nike well, having joined its board, where he will retain a seat, since 2014. In the meantime, Parker will become the company’s executive chairman and Bill McDermott, who abruptly resigned as the longtime CEO of SAP earlier this month for reasons that weren’t clear, is taking over as CEO of ServiceNow. The company’s shareholders apparently prefer Donahoe, who is also the chairman of PayPal and a former CEO of eBay, which he led from 2008 through 2015. At least, shares of ServiceNow dropped in price on the news.  

    Zaz Floreani has joined the Austin-based venture firm Next Coast Ventures as a principal. Floreani was most recently the VP of corporate development at the same-day delivery company Dropoff. More here

    Manuel Henriquez, founder and former CEO of Hercules Growth Technology Capital, and his wife Elizabeth have both pleaded guilty for their roles in the college admissions cheating scandal. She is to be sentenced Feb. 7 and her husband on March 5. The San Jose Mercury News has more here.

    Sponsored By . . .

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

    Essential Reads

    Facebook has pledged $1 billion to help address the affordable housing crisis in California. Vox’s Kurt Wagner notes the announcement is timely, given that tomorrow, “Zuckerberg will speak before the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees housing and urban development issues.” 


    The 50 best movies on Netflix right now. 

    Why the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys are not ready for they and them

    A machine-learning system that’s betting the Astros will win the World Series (though our money is still on the Nats).

    Retail Therapy

    Ninjabread cookies. Consume stealthily. 
  • October 21, 2019

    Monday! Hope you had a wonderful weekend. No column today (no time). 

    First! Apologies to James Cham of Bloomberg Beta for mucking up his name in Friday’s newsletter.  

    We also have news about our November 13th event, where two new additions to the program are investors Maryanna Saenko and Steve Jurvetson of Future Ventures, who are coming in their first appearance together to share where they’re shopping and to answer questions, including around their new firm’s 15-year investing horizon and whether their shoot-the-moon strategy is a money-making one. They join the angel investor and VC Cyan Banister of Founders Fund; Jim Collins of the GV-backed cloud kitchen company Kitchen United; and Alex Stamos, the outspoken former chief security officer of Facebook. With much-appreciated help from journalists Lora Kolodny of CNBC and Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times. It’s going to be a great night (and there may be *one* last development in the works). 

    Giant thanks again to NextWorld Capital, KCPR and Carta for their support. More soon . . .

    Top News

    NordVPN, a virtual private network provider that promises to “protect your privacy online,” confirmed today that it was hacked

    Facebook said today that it has recently found and taken down four state-backed disinformation campaigns, a sign of how foreign interference online is increasing ahead of the 2020 presidential election. 

    According to Axios, SoftBank will pay former WeWork CEO and current non-executive chairman Adam Neumann around $200 million to leave the board of directors, give up his voting shares, and support SoftBank’s takeover bid, which WeWork’s board is apparently slated to discuss tomorrow. The Japanese conglomerate has already invested many billions of dollars in WeWork. The WSJ says its bid would see it lend WeWork $5 billion more and accelerate a $1.5 billion investment in the troubled company that it was scheduled to make next year. 💸💸In the meantime, notes CNBC, if SoftBank’s deal goes through, JPMorgan, which is WeWork’s third largest external shareholder, will collect nothing for months of work, along with potential hefty losses on its exiting equity and debt investments.

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    Massive Fundings

    Commercetools, a 13-year-old, Munich, Germany-based company that makes cloud-based e-commerce software, has raised €130 million ($145 million) in funding from Insight Partners. TechCrunch has more here

    Instabase, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that aims to help businesses build customizable apps to automate different parts of their business, has raised $105 million in Series B funding led by Index Ventures, reportedly at a post-money valuation of more than $1 billion. The company, whose investors also include Greylock PartnersNew Enterprise AssociatesAndreessen HorowitzSpark CapitalTribe CapitalSC Ventures, and Glynn Capital, has now raised $132 million altogether, according to Crunchbase. Crunchbase News has more here

    Zoox, a five-year-old, Foster City, Ca.-based self-driving startup at work on building entire vehicles, has raised $200 million in a convertible note that will folded into an upcoming Series C round, reports Axios. The company had previously raised $800 million, per a 2018 Bloomberg story that dove deep into the company . . . right before cofounder and then-CEO Tim Kentley-Klay was elbowed out. More here.

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings

    Athena, a two-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based online lending startup focused on home loans,  has raised the equivalent of $48 million from country’s largest industry fund, AustralianSuper, along with earlier backers Square Peg CapitalAirTree Ventures and Hostplus, as well as Salesforce Ventures and NAB Ventures. The country’s Startup Daily has more here

    Bayzat, a six-year-old, Abu Dhabi, UAE-based company that makes a free platform for human resources, payroll and employee benefits, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. Point72 Ventures led the round, joined by Mubadala CapitalElmGreyhound CapitalEndeavor Catalyst, and Tech Invest Com. Wamda has more here

    Plexium, a year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based biotech focused on protein degradation, just raised $28 million in Series A funding. DCVC and The Column Group co-led the round, joined by M VenturesCRV, and Neotribe Ventures. FierceBiotech has more here.  

    Thinksurance, a four-year-old, Frankfurt, Germany-based insurance distribution platform, has raised €13 million in Series B funding from Eight Roads VenturesMore here.

    Upstream Security, a two-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based cybersecurity startup focused on connected vehicles, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. Renault led the round, joined by VolvoHyundaiHyundai AutoEverNationwide Ventures, and earlier backers CRVGlilot Capital, and Maniv Mobility. VentureBeat has more here.

    Smaller Fundings

    E.fundamentals, a five-year-old, London-based e-commerce analytics company, has raised $6.9 million in funding led by Maven Capital Partners, with participation from Downing Ventures and Scottish Enterprise. The Herald has more here

    GreenPark Sports, a year-old, Calabasas, Ca.-based publisher and developer of fan-forward, digital experiences and mobile games for sports and eSports fans (it has some heavy-hitting cofounders, too, including YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley), has raised $8.5 million in funding. SignalFire led the round, joined by Sapphire Sports and Founders Fund, among others. TechCrunch has more here

    Nymbl Science, a five-year-old, Denver, Co.- based startup with an app-based digital balance training program for older adults (to keep them from falling), has raised $2.8 million in seed funding led by Rockies Venture ClubMore here

    Speechmatics, a 10-year-old, London-based speech recognition technology engine, has raised $8.25 million in Series A funding. AlbionVC led the round, joined by IQ CapitalMore here.

    New Funds

    Airtree Ventures, a  five-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based venture firm, has closed its third fund with $275 million in capital commitments. AirTree had closed its second fund with $250 million fund in 2016 and its debut fund with $60 million in 2014. TechCrunch has more here

    According to the WSJ, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund is raising nearly $3 billion across two new funds, including its first dedicated fund for late-stage companies, which the firm intends to pour into existing investments like the payments business Stripe and the data-analysis company Palantir Technologies. More here

    Neotribe Ventures, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based venture firm focused on biotech, weather tech, AI, IoT and enterprise infrastructure startups, is in the process of raising $205 million for its second fund, suggests an SEC filing. Among Neotribe’s founders is the serial entrepreneur and longtime NEA investor Kittu Kolluri (he cofounded Healtheon/WebMD and Neoteris). More here.  

    Refactor, the three-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based seed-stage investment firm that was cofounded by VCs David Lee and Zal Bilimoria and is now run by Bilimoria alone, has raised $30 million in capital commitments. Crunchbase News has more here.


    Apple CEO Tim Cook is the new chairman of the Advisory Board of the School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. 

    Nadiem Makarim, the cofounder and CEO of Gojek, Indonesia’s biggest startup, is resigning to join the cabinet of Indonesian president Joko Widodo. Fortune has more here

    Jonathan Roosevelt has been promoted to managing director at Industry Ventures. Roosevelt had joined the firm in 2017 as a venture partner. He most recently spent roughly two years as vice president of sales at the lending company SoFi. To take on Microsoft Office, Google has hired former Outlook boss Javier Soltero. Axios has more here

    Justin Sunshine has joined General Atlantic as a managing director. He spent the previous decade with the Blackstone Group, where he was also a managing director.

    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

    Essential Reads

    The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined.


    HBO just released the official full trailer for the 6th and final season of “Silicon Valley,” which begins airing this coming Sunday. 

    Netflix has released the trailer for “The Crown: Season 3,” coming November 17th. 

    What true friendship looks like.

    Retail Therapy

    Prices start at $13 at Banksy’s store, if you can answer a simple question.
  • October 18, 2019

    Friday! [Thwacks the ball.] 

    Hope you have a stellar weekend! If you haven’t signed up for our upcoming event on November 13th, don’t wait too long. Featuring former Facebook CTO Alex Stamos in conversation with NYTimes reporter Sheera Frenkel; Jim Collins of the GV-backed dark kitchen company Kitchen United in conversation with CNBC reporter Lora Kolodny; and renowned angel investor turned VC Cyan Banister, in conversation with this kid. We’ll have one more conversation to announce. In the meantime, we’re very excited to see those of you who are coming.:)  

    Thanks so very much to NextWorld Capital for generously hosting us; to the boutique PR and strategy firm KCPR for its early support of the program; and to Carta — the platform for investors, founders, and employees to manage their cap tables, valuations, investments, and equity plans — for joining us as our newest partner in the evening.  

    P.S. We’re also headed to Berlin soon, including to interview Klarna’s Sebastian Siemiatkowski, who we last sat down with at a tiny coffee shop in San Francisco (before his company became Europe’s most highly valued private company). Hope to see some of you there, too.

    Top News 

    Mark Hurd, who until last month was one of two CEOs leading the database software giant Oracle, passed away this morning at age 62, one month after telling employees in a letter that he was taking a leave of absence owing to health reasons. TechCrunch has more here

    SoftBank Group is assembling a rescue financing plan for WeWork that may value the office-sharing company below $8 billion, according to Bloomberg. The new figure is a fraction of the $47 billion valuation the startup commanded as recently as January, and yet it *still* seems a little high when compared with its bigger, profitable, publicly traded rival IWG, whose valuation is roughy half that amount.

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    Adam Neumann Planned for His Children and Grandchildren to Control WeWork 

    WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann didn’t plan for his family’s control of WeWork to end at his death but instead expected to pass that control to future generations of Neumanns, too, says Business Insider

    The outlet reports that in a speech Neumann gave to employees in January of this year, footage of which it says it has viewed, Neumann is seen saying that WeWork isn’t “just controlled — we’re generationally controlled.” He reportedly goes on to say that while the five children he shares with wife Rebekah Neumann “don’t have to run the company,” they “do have to stay the moral compass of the company.” 

    According to BI, Neumann even invoked his future grandchildren, telling those gathered: “It’s important that one day, maybe in 100 years, maybe in 300 years, a great-great-granddaughter of mine will walk into that room and say, ‘Hey, you don’t know me; I actually control the place. The way you’re acting is not how we built it,’” he said. 

    These may sound like more outlandish proclamations from Neumann, who has a flair for the dramatic. (Talking to Fast Company earlier this year, he compared WeWork to a rare jewel, asking, “Do you know how long it takes a diamond to be created?”) 

    But before WeWork began coming apart at the seams, Neumann had every reason to believe that he could pass power down to his heirs. 

    More here.

    Massive Fundings  

    ArsenalBio, a year-old, South San Francisco-based biotech outfit that hopes to improve the ability of T cell therapies to better fight a broader range of cancers, has raised $85 million in Series A funding. Investors include Westlake Village BioPartners, the Parker Institute for Cancer ImmunotherapyKleiner Perkins, the University of CaliforniaSan Francisco Foundation Investment CompanyEuclidean Capital and Osage Venture Partners. TechCrunch has much more here

    Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings  

    Madbox, a 4.5-year-old, France-based mobile games studio, has raised $16.5 million in Series A funding from Alven. TechCrunch has more here.

    Smaller Fundings  

    Tenfold, a four-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based maker of customer service software, 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. Pulse 2.0 has more here.

    New Funds 

    Bloomberg Beta, the six-year-old, San Francisco-based outfit that uses Bloomberg LP’s money to make bets on startups, has closed its third fund with $75 million, according to Roy Bahat, who’d previously run the online media company IGN and who operates the fund as an equal partnership with Karin Klein and James Chan. (Klein formerly ran Bloomberg’s new initiatives; Chan was formerly a principal with Trinity Ventures.) We talked with Bahat briefly last night about the new vehicle to ask how its capital will be deployed.


    The Kik messaging platform has been bought by MediaLab, a holding company which operates Whisper and a number of other apps, the company announced earlier today. CoinDesk has more here.


    Di-Ann Eisnor, a WeWork exec, has left the company, says The Information. Eisnor reported to Adam Neumann and had “hired a group of designers, researchers and engineers focused on urban problems such as housing affordability and constructing buildings with sustainable material,” says the outlet, adding that her team of about 30 employees have left the company or are planning to depart.  

    Bill Gates on why he thinks we can predict the future

    Ilana Stern has joined Peterson Ventures as general partner. She was previously CEO of the made-to-order dress store Weddington Way. 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 

    The Alphabet-owned drone delivery spin-out Wing is starting to service U.S. customers, after becoming the first drone delivery company to get the federal go-ahead to do so earlier this year. 

    Lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate criticized Apple CEO Tim Cook today for “censorship” at the behest of China.


    The stunning escape of El Chapo’s son

    Conan and Dave. ️ 

    One giant leap for womankind. [Buh-bam.]

    Retail Therapy 

    High-tech spacesuits, by Under Armour.

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